Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 19:Will Montreal come to Moncton?

First, just a quick look at the Times and Transcript.
1. Four pages of pictures and story about Prince Charles and Duchess Whatever. And they aren't even here yet.
2. A two page spread of identical photos of various companies getting awards for energy efficiency. This is, presumably, an ad paid for by New Brunswick Energy Efficiency whose new CEO is a fervent advocate of shale gas. What do these awards mean? Who knows? All we know is it's a great ad for our government's concern for preserving our environment, and for nice people like Mr. Irving who want to keep New Brunswick green no matter what it costs him.
3. A full page ad with the mandatory photo of eight people holding up a giant cheque, this one for $57,000 dollars for Moncton Hospital.  Wow! That's 3 cents for each and every person in greater Moncton. It also prominently displays the logos of all their sponsors so we'll know to bank at Royal Bank and drink Molson's.Let's see - big ceremony, expensive ad...Wouldn't it be better if they sent alll the spending to the hospital - and cut down on the self-praise?
4. The letters to the editor are a storm of protest against the de Adder editorial cartoon about Miramichi and E Coli. And rightly so. But de Adder was not the one who decided to run that cartoon. No editorial cartoonist makes such a decision. That is decided by the editorial page editor. The person who should be apologizing is that editor. So who was it? The paper does not seem to have someone with that title. But Rod Allen's name appears in the usual title slot.

And now back to the real meaning - and consequences - of the Quebec student strike.

Part of the big problem begins with the Quebec universities - because they are just like univeristies across Canada and the US.

Our universities are obsessed with status and intellectual snobbery. All of this is made worse by the grossly misleading ratings by MacLean's magazine. Indeed, the rating are so influential that the hopelessly unqualified editors of MacLeans' Magazine actually run our universities much as the hopelessly unqualified "thinkers' of AIMS have been trying to run our public schools.

We need universities built around the idea of producing a thinking public - also a skilled one, of course - but thinking above all. And they aren't doing it.

That's because univesity teachers are the only teachers who have no training in teaching whatever - and very little respect for it combined with almost no understanding of even what it means. They are good at training people to - oh, to become professors just like them, to train people in certain skills.

But they do not, except by accident, teaching reason, judgement, communication or even reading comprehension to any degree in most of their students. Their general method seems to rest in a belief that if they lecture their students for an hour at a time on the facts and theories that they are so clever as to know, and if the students memorize those for an exam, they will become thinkers.

But that's not, in their view, the main purpose of being a professor. They exist to do research. Research is the path to status, self-esteem, promotion.Often, it is quite useless research but, oh, it is expensive. Research demands a high proportion of those millions of books that cost over $25 dollars a year just to keep them on the shelves.  Research means professors can teach only nine hours a week (usually less)  for only an eight month year.  That leaves all those hours they aren't teaching to be paid for by somebody.

That someobody is the student they hardly teach at all - and then do it badly. Nor do most show any desire to learn how to teach. There's no status in it.

Ignorance, status-seeking and now a weak economy are pricing univerities out of the market, not only for the poor who have always been frozen out, but now for the middle class, too.

The wonder is not that Quebec students are striking but that students across Canada are not striking.

Oh, I know. If you're serious, you can work while going to school; you can borrow. Been there. Done that. It was always a close thing - and I never did make up financially for those lost years. (I left public school teaching to get a doctorate in history. When I at last landed my first university job, it paid exactly what  I would have received if I had stayed in public school teaching. The only difference was that now I had a large debt and five years of lost salary.

Is free tuition an unreasonable, spoiled brat demand? Other countries don't think so. Finland, no economic giant, readily offers free university tuition. They do so because private education discriminates against the poor, and that causes us to lose a vast pool of talent. (People who have money do not necessrily have brains.)

Our news media have largely ignored the other issues the strike is about - things like governments that don't give a damn what the voters want. They do only what their wealthier donors tell them to do. (New Brunswick has never had that problem, of course.) It's about a greedy assault on the environment that they will suffer for in their lifetimes. It's about the rapid disappearance of democracy as corporations take over reall power. It's about the demonstrated incompetence of corporations to run socieites. Despite the opinions of nutbars and professional liars, the poor did not cause the economic collapse we are living through. It was caused by the greedy and sometimes illegal behaviour of large corporations. Now the rest of us are paying for their greed, while the corporations continue to get even richer at our expense.

The students are on strike not because of language or nationalism or spoiled bratism. They are on strike because of the rapid disappearance of the world of the future we thought we were building.

Here in New Brunswick, for example, gas companies don't give a damn what we think of the dangers of shale gas. Nor does our government. (Nor will the Liberals if we are foolish enough to elect them again.)  If we object, we are trouble makers. And if our objections are sufficiently annoying to the corporations, the police will be called out to "maintain law and order".

The future of Canada is being played out in the streets of Montreal.

The future is that we will increasingly, especially under the pressures of recession, oppose our governments, many of which are profoundly corrupt. (Charest's Quebec is certainly an obvious place to start.)

Governments will refuse to listen.

People will, in desperation, turn to demonstrating. At that point, government will become repressive - in stages - police, riot squads, army, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment.

It is already well under way.Harper has already declared environmenalists to be radicals and even terrorists. Charest is proposing legislation so repressive that it has lawyers worried. The US, within months, will pass legistaion giving the army the right to arrest and imprison people without charge or trial. It already has the biggest domestic espionage system in history - and don't kid yourself that it's just watching Moslems. Watch for Canada to follow suit. We have already given American police the right to act freely in Canada. (They act freely in Honduras, too, where they recently shot half a dozen innocent people, two of them pregnant women.)

The age of big brother has arrived. The students in the streets of Montreal are not spoiled brats. They are simply reacting to the destruction of all the democratic values we once had.

If you want to find the real spoiled brats, look for the ones who are not rioting, the sleek and comfortable - and greedy and indifferent- occupants of executive offices. They never riot. Spoiled brats don't have to riot to get what they want.

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