Thursday, July 12, 2012

July 12: a real news story on p. A1

Breaking with its tradition of the top story of the day being something about a cute budgie, The Moncton Times and Transcript led with a well written story by Brent Mazerolle about how the Canadian Teachers' Federation released a poll showing that teachers want more freedom in the way they teach. It's a good story. To bad they couldn't find a good editor to write the headline.

The poll reports on Canadian teachers. The headline reads "N.B. teachers..." Good reporting. Bad editing.

The teachers have a point. When I taught elementary school and high school, I was tied down by all sorts of rules that limited how and what I could teach. But, in university, where nobody knows how to teach or cares, I had a wonderful freedom to learn what my students really needed to learn, what it was a waste of time to teach (because it was useless and would be forgotten after the exam); and I learned ways that would be most effective in helping them to learn.

Universities are lousy teaching institutions. But if you want to teach, you can have freedom in them. Public schools are far better teaching institutions; but they could better still if teachers had more freedom and less interference.

One of the worst examples of interference is the intrusion of a right wing "think tank" (Atlantic Insitute of Market Sudies) into our public schools. It sets quite worthless exams to conduct scientifically fraudulent rankings of schools and teachers. The existence of those exams forces schools to teach For the exams. Goodbye freedom and goodbye learning what's best for the students.

The Irvings, incidentally, are not unconnected with this scheme. It originated in the US as a sort of nose of the camel.  The intent there was to open the way for privatization of the public schools. It worked.  Creeping privatization in the US now makes it almost essential to go to fee paying "public" schools if you want to get anywhere. At the same time, the US has dropped from its educational ranking of 18th in the world to somewhere below hundredth. (136 was the last number I saw.)

When you visit your child's school, does it have posters saying something like "Our goals for the year - 10% improvement in reading skills - 12% improvement in math...."? That's part of the game - as if the school were a factory, and children were toasters going along an assembly line.

This lead story is important, and worth reading.

The rest of section A is for insomniacs.

The biggest news story in News Today is on the defection of a Syrian ambassador. Actually, it's two days old. Reuters must be having a sale of old stock.

More interesting is the news that didn't make it at all. For example:

The TD bank has frozen the bank accounts of Iranian-Canadian citizens. Notice the word Canadian. These are Canadians. Some of them have been Canadians for ten, twenty years or more. I commonly had Iranian-Canadians in my classes twenty years ago and more. So why are the accounts frozen?

Because the US wants the world to impose economic sanctions on Iran. So Mr. Harper saluted and said, "Yes, sir."

There are some problems with this.

1. To impose economic sanctions is, arguably, an act of war. When did parliament approve a war? Or even discuss this? It most certainly can lead to war - and by having imposed the sanctions we shall then have comitted ourselves to take part in the war - with no legal approval. You know, the right of Canada to declare war for itself? That, according to what I hear every November 11, is what our soldiers died for in World War Two.

2. The reason given for al this is that Iran is building a nuclear bomb. There is no evidence it is. In fact, senior figures in the Israeli army, Israeli intelligence, and American intelligence have publicly said it is not.

3. The last time Canada did this was in World War Two when Japanese-Canadians, most of them born here, had their property confiscated and were put into concentration camps. I know many of them well. I have watched them shake with pain and humiliation, to this day, whenever I can get them to talk about what they suffered.

4, So far, only the TD has announced freezing acounts. Why only the TD?

Hey, don't worry. If you get your news from the TandT, you don't even have to know it happened.

A film called The Last War Crime was shown at Cannes. But you will see it - if you see it at all - in heavily censored form. The US government does not approve of it.

No, no. It's not sex. It's about Bush's vice-president, Dick Cheney, and how he was the man who set up the wide use of torture by the US  army and its intelligence agencies. But don't worry. You're not likely to see it in Moncton - or anywhere else in North America.

Canadian mining companies, with their world-wide record of environmental poisoning, dreadful working conditions and low pay, are being kicked out of Bolivia. But if us Canadians want to read about it, we have to go to a middle east news source, Al Jazeera.

There is chaos in Britain as 14 major banks have been caught in irresponsible and, according to the British government, illegal behaviours which have stolen billions of dollars. It's very similar to the behaviour of American and European bankers which has driven tens of millions - probably many more - into debt and poverty for generations to come.

The American and European response has been to blame the poor, and to give money to the banks and to bankers, while leaving the poor to pay taxes and to starve. The British prime minister is talking criminal charges.

That may be tough. His own government is up to its ears with close ties to banking. And one-fifth of the members of the House of Lords are directors or advisors to the banks.

Oh - a little item. Republicans in the US are running hard on the platform that they are Israel's best friends. In this, they have the support of the powerful Israeli lobby in the US and Canada. The lobby is powerful because it's a major source of propaganda and party funding. In fact, that lobby is the reason Harper has made it a point to commit Canada to war if Israel ever goes to war - even though he has never bothered to consult parliament on it. And if you disagree with the Republicans or Harper, then you're an anti-semite.

Funny thing. Recent polls show that a large majority of Jews in the US vote Democrat. I guess that makes them anti-semite. I wonder whether Canadian Jewish Congress would rank me an anti-semite if I were to say that a majority of Jews in Canada do not vote for Harper.

Oh, what the hell. CJC already calls me an anti-semite. Almost all Jews I have known - and I have known a great many - vote Liberal or NDP.

Excellent columns, as usual, by Alec Bruce and Jody Dallaire. Trivia, as usual, by Rod Allen.

Norbert. A very sensible and well-written column. But he cannot use the words government and bureaucracy as anything but swear words. He does it just once this time; but oh,  it's annoying - and simple-minded. As well, I cannot respect a columnist who routinely pours contempt on government and civil servants, but would never dream of doing it on corporations or their executives.

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