Friday, May 20, 2011

May 20: Small points on a dreary day...

1. The Moncton Times&Transcript frequently rants about functional illiteracy in New Brunswick (which, in fact, is not much different from the rest of Canada. The US is even worse.) When it rants, it puts all the blame on the schools, nicely ignoring the reality that the children are not illiterate. It's the adults.

As a reflection (or a cause ) of that, The Moncton T&T is the one of the very few daily newspapers that does not have a book review section. Instead, it will babble endlessly about how schools should have contests in which children race through books to see who can read the most books in a week.

This refelcts the AIMS approach to a business method of teaching, a method featuring competition and measureable results.(A child who reads fifty books is better than a child who reads two.  Right. And a person who own fifty toy cars is a better driver than a person who owns only one.)  Competition doesn't work in education. It never has worked. Nobody who is literate races through books. Readers enjoy the book, not the contest. And the rise of functional illiteracy has more to do with parents and television than it has to do with school.

But, today, I thought I saw a glimmer of light  The T&T had a book review. I eagerly seized on it.

It was a review of a comic book. For adults.

2. Yesterday, I wrote about the presumption of editors that their experience in journalism qualifies them to speak with wisdom on subjects they actually know nothing about. In today's paper, editorial page editor Norbert Cuniingham proved my point. He was writing about the future of the Liberal Party in Canada.

He writes, "It never dawned on them Ithe Liberals) that the reason Stepehn Harper was PM was that  people do like the general direction of the Conservative platform". We shall skip lightly over his misuse of "was", and concentrate on his point. Canadians liked the general direction of the Conservative platform.

This is not even a matter of having a difference of opinion with him. It doesn't reach that height. His statement is just inane and obviously false. If Canadians liked the general direction of the Conservative platform, why did only 23% of the eligible voters vote for it? And why was it only 40% of those who actually voted?

In fact, if the general reporting and analysis of politics is as bad across Canada as it is in New Brunswick (and much of it is),  how could most voters even know what the conservative platform was?

"They (the Liberals) need to shut out special trendy apecial interests...." Wow! I admire your  courage, Mr. Cunninghan. You've got....you know....what  you've got.

Does that mean they should shut out special interests like Atlantic Institute of Market Studies? The Canadian Council of CEOs?  New Brunswick's Corporate bosses? Newspaper owners?

Even an editor cannot be that ignorant of the workings of our political system. Even an editor must know where both the Liberals and Conservatives get their money from.

"Most Canadians know the gun registry doesn't, and can't possibly, work."

Nonsense. Most Canadians have no clear idea of what the gun registry is, and most certainly have no idea of whether it is possible for it to work. I'm not arguing a point here. I'm saying that Mr. Cunnigham's statement is not supported by any data I  have ever seen. He has no idea what 'most' Canadians think. If he does, this is a man who can see around corners.

"Leave the heartbleeding to the NDP."

Right. Medicare was just heart bleeding. Minimum wage is heart bleeding. Balancing the budget when we really need a new hockey rink is heart bleeding. Being concerned that the development of shale gas - which has been proven to poison water aupplies (and for which an American company just paid a fine of over a million dollars) is being a bleeding heart. So the Moncton Times won't even mention that testing for shale gas has already begun in New Brunswick.

Stock up on bottled water.

This is not a column to argue about. This is simply intellectual trash and prejudice and ignorance. It's a striking example of why editors are generally not qualified to talk about anything but editring.

3. It's proven again in the editorial. "New Brunswick's strong presence in the federal cabinet can only benefit New Brusnwick".
a) This is assuming that the New Brunswick cabinet ministers actually represent New Brunswick, and not just Mr. Cunningham's bosses.
b) This is assuming Mr. Harper pays any attention to what his cabinet ministers say.

4. Check out the NewsToday section for the story on Ashley Smith.That's what getting tough on crime means, If more people in prison will make us safer, then the US must be the safest place on earth. It has more people in prison than any other country in the world, incluing brutal, dictatorial China. It even has more people per capital in prison. So feel free, Norbert. Take a midnight stroll through Central Park.

The news section also misses what I thought was a kind of big story. Mexican drug gangs launder some 400 billion dollars a year - though major US banks. They use some of it to corrupt politicians and police - on both sides of the border. It is surely not possible the banks don't know it. Billion dollar accounts sort of stick out.

But only 'bleeding hearts' would criticize those nice, rich people who own banks.

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