Saturday, May 7, 2011

May 7:: bin thinkin' 'bout the kids...

Every Saturday, The Moncton Times&Transcript has two pages of commentary on pp. F2 and F3 written by middle school and high school studetns. It is consistently good reading. In particular, it far outshines the editorials and "special" reports of the regular staff for thoughtfulness and tone.

That's not just idel flattery to say something cutesie about the kiddies. They're good.  For today's examples, take a look at the columns by Tess Allen or Christina Korotkov - or any other columnist on these two pages. There's a thoughfulness, an honesty, a reognition of human  strength and human weakness  that I have never seen reflected in the editorials, the commentaries, the "think tank" hacks, or ever by the reporters.    The  two pages don't try to budgeon you into thinking their way. They actually invite you to think.

By taking part in these pages, the students who write these commentaries are getting a wonderful opportunity to broaden and mature intellectually.

But what about all the other students? Moncton does not offer much in the way of nourishment for the mind or for intellectual stimulation.

The schools can't do enough of it because 1.We don't give them enough money. 2.Our school population, like our general population, doesn't give them much of the stimulation that comes from variety. 3.The spread of school bussing over the past fifty years makes it difficult for teachers to provide after school groups for special interests.

My sons are, as I write this, hugely enjoying and learning from a UN conference in Fredericton. They can do it only because a)interested parents (or those with enough money) paid the cost. And because their teacher gave up a sick day and his whole weekend (including Mother's Day) to take them. (You might try writing a column about that, Norbert, or at least a report that would be as big as the story about how Moncton is all agog over free comics day.)

Can we use this section as a starting point for something that would include more students, give more of them the chance to find out how interesting and challenging the life of the mind can be? To learn that they, too, can speak interesting sentences that don't consist simply of endless exchanges of  "holy f...?

It's an opportunity that has special meaning to mme. I grew up in a community in which we had no sense of any possibility of ever being more than the poor, ignorant, and hopeless people we were. Few seriously thought of finishing even high school. My grades, which had been high up to grade 6, soon began their death slide. Then, for grade ten, I attended a school that mixed kids from all over Montreal. Among those who had gone there before me were the very rich  Christopher Plummer,  and the very poor Oscar Peterson.

One of my best friends (he still is) was a Japanese Canadian boy who had to start school in grade seven because the Canadian government had taken his family's home and possessions, sold them, kept the money, and thrown the family into a concentration camp.

 Dr. Yosh Taguchi is now an internationally respected physician.

I also met Jewish boys. Most were as poor as I was. But all had been raised in the stimulationg atmosphere for debate and exercise of the mind that characterized the synagogue. For the first time, I saw theatre and dance and film and novels and ideas as exciting and absorbing things.

Since we travelled to and from school on our own, teachers could offer us after school groups -  current events, theater, music...I was president of the writing club. Our Frnech teacher took us to a symphony concert. (Unlike Moncton, our city spent money on more than just aging rock groups.) I also saw professional actors for the first time.

It was too late, of course. I failed grade ten, repeated it, then was kicked out in grade eleven. I managed to work my way back. But it was a long and expensive way.

Surely in Moncton we can do more the minds of our children. After all, this is the city that thinks $84 million a reasonable price for a hockey rink. So why do we  have one of the worst-funded public libraries in Canada? Why is there so little intellectual life in this city for anybody - childrfen or adultsz/ Why are the churches so intellectually dead?

Hats off to The Moncton Times&Transcript for a solid start on pp. F2 and F3. But we should all  be doing more, much more.

And,, before you get all mushy about the T&T, check out p. D1, News Today. Note the story headed "Harper sheds 'scary' image". It doesn't report anything. This is not a new report. Is is essentially an opinion piece disguised as news. (More accurately, it is not even an opinion piece, but a propaganda drool. Not suprisingly it comes from Postmedia. No respectable paper would allow that to appear iin a news section. The National Post would, though, as would all the Brunswick Media.)

Coming sometime sooon - a  mystery story - The riddle of why, after all these years, Irving is making very public moves to show he is the government of New Brunswick.


  1. congrats on finding some good news to write about! its always so easy to criticize as there is so much to criticize but to offer solutions and encouragement takes creativity and courage. thank you for this effort.

  2.'ll be able to praise all the winners on today's front page. (In fact the incident won the awards...not those receiving the plaques).

  3. The awards are for best reporting in the Atlantic region. That's like getting a prize for being the tallest person in Lilliput.

  4. Tut,tut.....Mr. Irving(s) wouldn't like that!!