Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June15: home again, home again, jiggety jog...

I have had a useful reminder that the daily papers of Ontario and Quebec have their own bloody awfulness when it comes to bias and omissions. But it was nice, at least, to read papers with decent arts sections. The even greater disappointment than their bias, though, was the low quality of their commentary columns.

The Globe, though one of the best, has only a few columnists worth reading. Ditto for The Montreal Gazette and Le Devoir. So far as such columns go, the The Moncton Times and Tribune performs at a decent level. That's something like being one of the more virtuous hookers in a brothel - but it's at least a step above The National Post.

I was dismayed, but not surprised, to see the T@T still beating the drum for a new hockey arena, (yes, it is really just a hockey arena no matter how much how they tart it up as a dozen other things.) The paper has still not produced a single article of informed criticism of the project.

We canot afford to fund our schools  well enough to maintain even the structures. We demand that the schools charge fees and waste time selling chocolate bars to meet basic requirements. We can't afford decent parks with equipment for children or with programmes for them. Our libraries are the worst funded n Canada. We talk of cutting health and social services.

But spend a hundred million (and more) on a hockey rink? Yeah, man. Basic need.

It's a scam let by politicians at all levels to suck up to the owner of a hockey team who wants us to pay for his place of business. And why not? New Burnswickers have  been lining up for generations like sheep waiting to be sheared by their masters.

Downtowns across North American began to die soon after 1945. The first shopping centre in Canada was Norgate, built in a suburb of Montreal in the late forties. It was built because the traditional downtwon could not accomodate a society that travelled by automobile. You can have cars. Or you can have a thriving downtown. You can't have both.

As well, "greater Moncton" as the T&T is fond of calling this largish town, has something over a 160,000 people. They will be going into debt for over a hundred million (some of it, admittely shared by Fredericton and Ottawa    to whom we also pay taxes). This is for an arena that will seat 9,000. If every game sells out,, it will take 160 games for each person in "greater Moncton" to see one game.
In fact, of course, most of the 160,000 who will pay a lifteime of taxes for this venture will probably never see the inside of it.

This is a scam. New Brunswickers are getting ripped off. Hockey is a big buness and, like big buinesses all over North America, it lives on social welfare from our taxes. To build a hockey arena for a professional hockey team is like promising to build and equip a factory for anybody who wants to set up a buisness in Moncton. (Actually, we have come close to that.) The T&T is being unethical and even dishonest in its reporting of  this story. Luckily, New Brunswickers don't seem to mind getting ripped off and being lied to.

For relief, I went back to the Saturday edition and the youth page. This time, I'll disagree with two of the columnists; but my disagreement has nothing to do with any lack of ethics on t heir part. I take the trouble to disagree with these two columns not becuse they are foolish but because they are intelligent and well-written, and worth discussing.

Jana Giles (who, I hope, will become a teacher and will, in any case, surely become a very valuable person in this world), discusses the case for bribing students with gifts or money for educational achievement.. Actually, I don't quite disagree with her because she ends by saying she is undecided about the merits of bribing. The only difference we have is that I am decided. Bribing does not work in education.

The children who know they will not win (most of the them) will simply give up rather than be humiliated. The result will be that they will be turned off by education, and actually turn in work that is far below their abilities. You can put these idiotic reading contests into that category - you know - who can read the most books in a month.

I read almost constantly because I had parents who read. Reading was natrual and enjoyable. Most of my friends seldom read. Most of them were, in fact, functionally illiterate. It had nothing to do with the schools or with contests. It had to do with our parents, and with the social environment we grew up in.

For the same reason, neither me nor any of my friends finished high school. We all flunked out. We weren't stupid. We were poor. We grew up in a social environment in which finishing high school wasn't even on our radar. Only rich kids (who, as I later learned, were not parrticularly smart) lived in an atnosphere in which finishing high school and going to university was accepted as normal. So they did it.

I have a related quibble wih Tess Allan who writes in favour of children with high grades being exempted from final exams. Again, it's based on personal experience.

I failed grade ten. The second time around, I was a top student. It was a piece of cake, so my grades shot u p to the A range. Alas, this encouraged me to continue a habit of skipping school to go through the local musuem, the art gallery, etc. (I always had a note, of course, in writing that looked like my mother's.)

By final exam time, I knew there was no way I could pass most of the exams. But my A record had made me exampt. So I was promoted to grade eleven - which I was hopelessly undready for. It was close to Easter when the principal called me down to his office.

"Let's fact it, Decarie. You have no brains at all. It's time to get a job."

Tess Allan refers to the exam free privilege as an incentive. It's really closer to what Jana Giles calls a bribe. It works, at best, for very, very few students. For most students, it has no effect or, most commonly, makes them write themselves off as failures - and so they actually become failures - because if incentives and bribes and competition.

Competition seems to work in business. But what it commonly leads to is financial success for the greedy and unscrupulous. Those who lack sufficient greed or who are too ethical end up as losers. That's why we have thousands living in poverty for each CEO in this country. That's the the US gave almost a trillion dollars to banks and financial houses whose greed and lack of ethics had just driven the world into recession while, at the same time, it compansated for this generosity by cutting almost two million destitute Americans from national aid. (The banks, meanwhile, flush with new money, gave $139 billion of it to senior execs, the same ones who had caused the recession,  as bonuses in addition to their high salaries.)

But I have a comforting word for ms. Allan. Don't worry about university exams. I wrote nine years of them with ease. The final three exams were each eight hours long, followed by a two hour oral exam. Nothing to it.

But I'm pretty sure I'd still flunk high school.

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