Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nov 13: evening - what the TandT won't report on Nov. 14..

Associated Press has reported heavy fighting between rebel groups (all on our side) in Libya. You know - the country Harper welcomed to democracy some weeks ago though it had no election or even a constitution yet. I'm confident the TandT won't report it - because it hasn't reported similar fighting that's been going on for a month.

A good news editor would spot that as an important news story for Canadians since Canada played such an important role in killing Libyans to make them democratic.

But, then, I'm not convinced the TandT has a news editor. Not a real one.

Then there's the riot police called to McGill to create a riot at a peaceful protest. It was of personal interest to me since the central figure in denying the right to peaceful assembly at the university is a senior administrator whom I taught early in my teaching days. Apparently, I had no effect on him. I guess that's why he rose so high in university administration.

An editor who knew something about education would know this is an important story across North America - because it's going to happen here some day.

Canadian universities were described by the federal Council on Education just weeks ago as being dysfunctional. The council was being kind.

Universities are packed with intellectual snobs interested only in gaining prestige - and their only idea of prestige is publishing research - much of which is of no value. But all that research is enormously expensive in spending on faculty. As a result of time allotted for research, professors commonly teach fewer than 300 hours in a year.

At that, their teaching is appallingly bad. In forty years of teachinig university, I never even heard of any faculty ever discussing precisely how and why its subject should be taught. The indifference to the needs of students is towering. Any teaching that happens is by rote - pure memorizing, largely to be forgotten. It's the kind of teaching that is effective only in a trade school. As a result, the production of students who can think and express themselves is minimal.

This is made worse by Maclean's idiotic university rating system. (There is no such thing as a best university.) In their scramble for students to give them more money for research, university leaders will spend lots of money and time to run university education in the way magazine editors tell them to.

As well, they scramble to get donations from big business - which is not interested in people who can think. The result has been a great decline in "useless" fields such as English, History, Sociology....

This comes home to students as they see their fees going up year by year - most of the increase going to fund useless research, bad teaching and academic egos.. We're watching the collapse of the university as a place to develop minds. And, yes, even New Brunswick students will some day catch on.

Check out the Israeli paper, Ha'aretz, to read about how Netanyahu is beating the drums for war against Iran. (the one we will be expected to join -  to defend democracy, of course.)  Netanyahu is also proposing legislation against people who have too much freedom - which means people who disagree with him.

There is a substantial peace movement in Israel called Peace Now. It also exists in Canada, though the TandT has never mentioned that, either. I have good friends active in Peace Now. One wrote me just days ago.

She is an observant Jew, a Zionist, lives much of the year with her daughter and her brother, both of whom are Israeli citizens. But she believes Israel must make a far more honest effort than it has to achieve peace.

As a result, she is branded an anti-semite in Canada, subjected to harrassment in Canada, and in danger of arrest and/or personal violence in Israel.

Ever read about Peace Now in the TandT? I never have. And I know I won't read about it in Monday's TandT.

Oh, and make it a point not to catch the current flu. It's awful.


  1. Smart ass question: If universities are such a horrible place, why did you spend your entire career there?

  2. I began as an elementary and high school teacher. Loved it. Went back to school to get a ph.d on an impulse. Then I taught university. I was shocked at the level of arrogance and posturing - but thought that was just because I was new - that I really had to learn to fit in with these great minds.

    Then, as I taught, I came to realize that much of what we were teaching was just memorization - and of almost zero value to the students.

    When I raised the point with other academics, I got a pretty hostile response. And they were scandalized at my notions that doing research did not make them good teachers, and that they were concentrating on their reseach and personal prestige to the neglect of student needs. So I made changes in my own courses and the way I taught them. Not enough. But it was a start. I got excellent course evaluations - but that just made it worse. Universities haven't the faintest interest in teaching quality. (The don't even know what it is.) And good teaching evaluation simply led them to think I must be joking in class and making it easy. They're now paying the price for their conceits as enrolment and money are shifting away from the classical Arts programmes. Instead, it's going to BComms and other job training. But I love teaching. It's the only thing about the university I still miss.