Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 12: as anyone could have predicted......

It was a restaurant in Guanzhou, China. I couldn't speak enough Chinese to order anything. (My Chinese is limited to "Excuse me, foreigh devil.") The waiter couldn't speak English. So he brought me sweet and sour pork. (They've learned that's a safe bet with westerners.)

I didn't eat there again. No hard feelings. And the pork was okay. But I wanted to be able to order from the whole menu. So, in future, I made sure to pick a place with an English menu.

On a related topic, there are two good letters from Sebastien Emard and Sylvain Cyr in Letters to the Editor. I don't agree with them in that I don't agree that the language of commercial signs should be imposed by law. But the two letters are reasonable in tone, and well-written. They're discussable.

However, there is also a third letter. Sign Law is use of force. This one shows how far off the rails such an argument can get. It invokes how our veterans fought for freedom of expression. Well, that's a crock from the start. Our freedom of expresseion was never threatened in any war. That has nothing to do with the issue.

Nor is bilingualism forced on us, at least not if we're English. French pretty well have to learn English to survive. That's not law, just a practical matter.

Then we  get the reference to culture. Please, if we must get into a language debate, let's forget the word culture. Nobody know what it means. Exactly what is the Acadian culture of the ;province? What is the English culture?  If any of us were to meet any of our ancestors of 500 years ago, we'd have almost nothing in common. Heck, it can be tough enough with parents.

For that matter you can find masses of cultural differences between any two social groups of Acadians - or any two social groups of English. I don't have the same culture as Mr. Alward. (Thank God for small mercies.)

There is no such thing as a neat, little culture, a sort of package. There is also no such thing as preserving a culture. If we did, we'd still be cutting down trees with stone axes. The world changes. You and your culture change with it. If you don't, then neither you nor your culture survives at all. Both sides in the language debate should understand that.

That said, I oppose resort to a sign law for private business. I should certainly like the signs to be there. But doing it by law breeds precisely the over-the-top reaction we read in "Sign law is a use of force."

I had hoped the business owners of Dieppe would have the intelligence and courtesy to make that small and simple guesture on their own. I was wrong to hope. Let's forget the language war. Nobody can win that one. Let's all concentrate on the civilization deficiencies and juvenile behaviour being displayed by those businesspeople in Dieppe.

(I will forgive Jody Dallaire for using the word culture in her column. She writes a solid column every time. I cringed when I saw 'culture' in her headline. But the column is still a good one - just don't do it again, Jody.)

Norbert Cunningham, alas, goes back to writing a harsh column on a subject he knows nothing about.
I don't have space to go into all that he doesn't understand - the student strike in Quebec. But briefly, the universities are a mess. They are weighted down with education ideas that developed centuries ago, when only the rich got to university - and when getting a degree was pretty much routine whether you went to classes or spent your time drunk. (That was still true well into the nineteenth century.) Universities are also mired in pretension, status-obssession, and public posturing that have driven their costs skyward - while  they fail to address even the simplest issues of teaching.

That has also, and increasingly, led to them falling under the control of the billionaires of this world - whose interest in freedom of thought (and of most learning of any sort) is minimal.

Some of the poor get to university (even to Queen's. I did - eventually), but most don't. And it's not just money. It's also because so much of our education from kindergarten is affected by social class. Some go to private schools (commonly those kids who are both rich and slow because they need more help). Some go to public schools in districts where the parents provide an environment that encourages learning, and which sees advanced learning as natural. Some go to schools where most of the kids come from quite a deprived background. And that makes one hell of a difference in academic performance - and in getting to university.

Social class, family background, income, expectation, university posturing and indifference to education, business interest in converting universities into places of serving business rather than encouraging free thought ( along with the incompetence of the universities to teach thinking) are all bubbling away in the same pot.

It's worse in New Brunswick where governments have made it clear they don't give a damn about stimulating (or even allowing) intellectual life and independent thought, where libraries don't have enough money to provide adequate programmes, where nobody seems to give a damn about intellectual life outside the cities (or even inside them.)

Yes. If you look at the specific demands of the students in Quebec who are striking, it is easy to dismiss them. But they, too,  like Norbert, don't grasp all the forces that are at work here.

There are huge problems coming crashing down on education in Canada. The public schools, to their credit, have made efforts to address them. Universities and governments haven't lifted a finger. Like it or not, this is going to get worse.

Incidentally, I was just reading a British paper, The Guardian. It has several columns on education, all written by reporters and commentators who had studied education, who really knew what they were talking about. I have rarely seen such a column in North American newspapers, and never in the Irving Press.

Except for the columns of Alec Bruce and Jody Dallaire, there's really no reason to read today's TandT.  In fact, if your have an e reader, you can buy excellent papers  from all over the world for the same price as the TandT.

Of course, they don't carry Moncton news. But then, neither does The Moncton Times and Transcript.

Oh - today's lead story is another one pimping for the  "Metro events centre". There's a show on for "public input". I'm sure it's just a coincidence that the city council election campaign is on.

Again, the story is a Brent Mazerolle special - essentially a press release from the promoters, with no questions asked.  Mike Wallace he ain't.              

No comments:

Post a Comment