Saturday, May 5, 2012

May 5: oooooh! Another royal tour story...

This time, the tour was by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales in 1860. (It was to St. John because you could breathe the air in St. John in those days.) 1860. think about that. It is the lead story in the section called NewsToday. Who says the editors of the Moncton Times and Transcript don't have a sense of humour?

The other big NewsToday story is that ex con Conrad Black has been kicked out of the US and is now living in Toronto - even though he never did anything wrong in the first place.

Oh, Reuters has its usual misleading story on Syria. The story is that the Syrian army has been breaking the truce; and that the only sources who say otherwise are the Syrian government's "international friends" (note that choice of words and its implications),

In fact, anyone who takes a broader look at the press around the world, including those who are not friends of any sort of the Syrian government, will read quite a different story.
1. Those who want a democratic government have been pretty well squeezed out of the rebel movement.
2. The rebels are being at least as violent as the Syrian government. And they don't want a peaceful settlement.
3. The rebels are being financed, armed, trained, and supplied with mercenaries by freedom-loving people like the king of Saudi Arabia.

Reuters is still quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as a source for its version of the news, even though it has long been public knowledge that the grandly named observatory is really just one man living in England, a haberdashery owner who is a front for the rebels.

One of the letters in letters to the editor is about teachers and PD days. I don't usually caution readers about letters to the editor. But this one contributes to the sort of misinfomration encouraged by the TandT.  It is a letter complainingl of our low quality of education, of the disappearance of cursive writing, of poor reading skills, and how failing grades would encourage children to work harder.

Oh - and how teachers should teach nothing but reading, writing and math.

Wrong on all points.

1. the UN ranks Canadian schools among the top ten systems in the world. The best ranked is Finland - which does not fail students and, in fact, rarely even tests them. (For comparison, the US, last I looked, was down around 138).

2.Cursive writing  has been disappearing for at least thirty years. Even more sadly, very few schools provide training in the use of the quill.
Cursive writing is dying because of the spread of the keyboard. Schools can't do much about that. You can, though. You can scrap all the computers in the house, and make the children write everything by hand. Problem solved.

3. They can't read? Well, there's some truth in that. But it's not the schools. This is a province with low literacy and low interest in reading among parents. When that happens, you get poor literacy among children. Children imitate their parents. The parents sit around staring at a TV screen? So will the children.

This is a province that cares so little abour reading that its libraries are the worst funded in Canada. The Times and Transcript cares so little about reading that it is one of the few daily newspapers that does not have a book review page at least once a week. It's a newspaper so out to lunch that it gets all excited about a contest for children to see who can read the most books in a week. What a waste of time!

Reading is not a race. There is no point to reading 20 books in a week if you're just racing through the motions. In graduate school, I had to read so many books and articles that I learned to speed-read so that I could do a page in seconds. Result? I got a superficial idea of what the books were about - enough to pass an exam - but not enough to remember very long. And my old joy in reading was destroyed for years.

4. Failing grades will encourage children to try harder? No, it won't. In fact, quite the opposite. Again, I can speak from experience. I failed twice. It didn't make me try harder. It just made me a dropout. That's why Finland avoids failing students. In almost fifty years of teaching, I never saw one student who tried harder after failing.

5. Anyone who can say that learning reading, writing and math will cause the rest to follow naturally has no idea what "the rest" means.

Why do teachers need PD days? They need them to figure out how to teach reading to the children of parents who don't read in a society that really doesn't give much of a damn about it, how to teach political awareness in a province in which the Irving press encourages political ignorance, and where the major parties fight elections without bothering to have platorms and, if they win, spend the next  four years breaking what few promises they made.

They need PD days to figure out how to cope with the constant interference of private corporations in what is none of their business - largely done through their puppets - the Atlantic Institue of Market Studies, and whatever unqualified dud is the latest minister of education.

They need PD days to figure out how to do all this on budgets that get smaller and smaller so we can keep taxes down for billionaires.

Why don't our children learn better? Because everywhere they look what they see is a society that is trivial, one which accepts newspapers (and other media) that encourage them to be trivial and unthinking, a society that worships materialism and that reserves its highest regard for its greediest amd most self-serving members.

Teachers need all the PD days they can get to cope with that. Even better, we could all use PD days. After all, education doesn't happen just in the schools.

For a sample of where the problem is, read today's editorial, obviously written by somebody who knows nothing about education. (Lord, I would love a public debate with that clown. But he won't even tell us what his name is.)   It closes on its usual, politically bigoted note. It's glad to see bureaucracy is being cut back because bureaucracy is bad. Really?

Well, Irving industries are run by private sector bureaucrats. So why don't we see an editorial      about cutting them back? And why don't we see an editorial about their bloated salaries?

Ah, well, that took a lot of space. 

Columns worth reading are by Belliveau, Dyer, and the students in Whatever section.

Shooting blanks again are Norbert and Brent Mazerolle. (Well, in fairness, Norbert has an intelligent pair of paragraphs on the scandal of press mogul Rupert Murdoch. However, if you want to get enough to understand the story, you'll have to use Google or get The Guardian on your e reader because the TandT largely ignored it.

de Adder once again proves he's a good cartoonist. but hasn't a clue about what's going on in Syria. That's what happens when you read the Irving press with reports from Reuters and the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights..

Oh, fans of the TandT will be disappointed in this copy. The usually mandatory page of pictures of a group of minimum wage workers holding up giant cheque for some charities (really free ads for their employer), is missing. Probably one of them there terrorist attacks.


  1. Hi, Im looking for a source about nb's libraries being the most poorly funded in Canada

  2. it's a more complicated business than you might think. there are many kinds of libraries - public, private, academic, specialty, etc. As well, there are various methods of funding.

    However, three jurisdictions are at the bottom of the heap, Newfoundland, Nunavut - and New Brunswick. And they're at the bottom by a considerable margin.
    The easiest way to check is to google "public library funding Canada per capita New Brunswick".

    There you will find detailed reports, some covering all, some covering by province. But they all agree on the status of Nunavut, Newfoundland New Brunswick.

  3. I should add that for 15 years I gave monthly talks at a library that served a community with less than one fifth the population of greater Moncton.

    The library was bigger than the Moncton library, with a far wider and more up to date collection - and it was packed with people all day.

    There were several of us who spoke at monthly meetings - for current events, books, all sorts of topics. My current events group was always at least 150, and was commonly at 300 (full capacity). The other speakers had similar numbers. (In Moncton, my current events group will typically be five or six.) There was no time when that library for a community far smaller than moncton was not filled with people of all ages.

    New Brunswick doesn't bother to fund its libraries because it knows that relatively few people care.

    If students in Moncton are below the Canadian average in reading (and I'm not sure they are), the cause is not in the schools. It's in the example set by the parents, by most of the news media, and most levels of government in this province.

  4. "Fancy book learnin'? That's a Toronto thing. This is New Brunswick!"