Monday, September 24, 2012

Sept. 24: News to come?

When I began this blog something over two years ago, what started it was a long series of editorials attacking New Brunswick public schools. For venom, rant and ignorance, I had never  see its equal. And it was frequently made worse by op ed pieces from Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, a propaganda house for big business.

It wasn't hard to figure out why it started. Big business wanted the public schools. It wanted them for the only reason it could want them - personal profit. That's why business "think tanks" gave prominence to "scientific" studies which showed the schools were producing poor results. Commonly, these studies were conducted by statisticians.

Of course. The wonderful thing about statistics is that if you torture them enough, they'll say whatever you want them to say. Usually, the first wiggle into the public schools for private business was to get their "think tanks" into the schools to conduct standardized tests, and to use those tests to compare schools and even individual teachers. That first step had already taken place in New Brunswick - and the standardized tests are still in place, doing their damage.

The statistics they produce are useless since the performance of students does not usually reflect the school or the teachers. The reality is that children from working class families usually do not do as well in school as children from middle class families. Schools in working class districts will usually produce lower grades than those in middle class districts.

Students with parents who read, have wide interests,have high expectations of their children will do better than those whose parents reading consists of Ann Landers, Hollywood gossip, and TandT editorials. Students with parents who are intellectually acitve will do better than those whose parents tell the time according to what TV programmes are on.

I learned that the hard way. I grew up in a district which was poor, and in which expectations were low.Result - nobody in my beginning class finished high school. A success was anybody who a)finished grade 9 and b)got a steady job. b) was more important than a). When I hit grade 10, I found myself in a class whose students came from quite a different background. They weren't rich. But they came from families with active minds, and with high expectations. With the exception of me, they all finished high school and went on to university, many of them to become quite distinguished.

The problem isn't in the schools. It's in us parents; it's in the social environment; it's in economic status. It's in a newspaper; it's in private radio and private TV that breed ignorance and triviality. It's in those who think we absolutely must borrow a hundred million for a new hockey rink while, at the same time, we  have the worst funded libraries in Canada.

The US has plunged into privatization with so-called Charter Schools. It has public/private partnerships - public schools for which parents pay fees to make profit for private operators. Private/Public partnership. It's not hard to understand. Think of cat/mouse partnership. Children whose parents can't afford the fees get dead-end schools that might as well have a sign on them, saying "Abandon hope all ye who enter here".

It's colossal waste of lives and of the intellectual talent the US needs if it's going to survive.

Creeping privatization hs done so much damage, that  recent ratings by UNESCO show the US way down in its world ranking for quality of education. Britain's Conservative government is going the same route. In fact, it is privatizing everything in sight, including police and prisons. Well, why not? The US has privatized prisons, and it's well on the way to privatizing its armed forces. Harper shows all the same leanings. He would like to get rid of CBC, to privatize prisons, to get rid of medicare....

Ever notice that whenever Norbert gets into a rant he almost invariably attacks CBC? And he attacks government run organizations as inefficient? In fact, it's more commonly private corporations that are inefficient. Compare, for example, the cost of Canadian medicare to American private care. Compare the cost of private prisons to public ones. (But, unless you have a strong heart, don't even look at the tremendous cost and corruption of the private suppliers who have taken over so much of the American military.)

After a rant that last for months, the Times and Transcript suddenly went quiet on education. I don't know why. Certainly, the people behind both the TandT and AIMS were the same people - so we can be sure they supported the ranting tones of the TandT's anti-public school tirade. It's quiet for now.

But it won't stay that way. We're in the middle of a huge struggle for privatization and for personal profit. There are no limits to. Their battle cry is "efficiency". But their motive is greed. And their target is our children.

AIMS still exists. We haven't seen it on the op ed page for quite a while. But it shall return.

As you might guess from all this, there isn't much in today's paper worth talking about. There is a news item worth reading at the top of NewsToday. "Iran warns of risk of 'World War Three'". Take that one very seriously.For Reuters, it's also a quite decent reporting job.

What Iran threatens is it might make a pre-emptive strike on Israel if it seems Israel is going to attack it. Well, why not? Surely, the US and Israel are not the only countries in the world allowed to make pre-emptive strikes. Netanyahu is quite foolish and irresponsible enough to make his try before the US election. Failing that, he still has the chance that would be provided by a Romney win.

Norbert has a pretty good column about privacy, and the ease of invading it in this electronic age. It starts with the story of nude photos of Kate Middleton. Unfortunately, it does not mention the most serious invasions of privacy - the massive information on millions of us held by government spies, and gained, often, through illegal means. In the US, it goes way beyond the excesses of Stalin's NKVD - and it's moving that way in Canada. You think it protects us? Well, rermember that it can also be used by any government against its personal enemies. That's that sort of espionage is common in dictatorships and police states.

I particularly recommend the section of Norbert's headed Islamophobia. That one, in Moncton, takes courage. (I think it's also very true.)

As well, there's an excellent letter to the editor "Oh yes; we need to accept change."

There was also a letter I found vicious, unjustified, ruthless, malicious, insulting and stinky-poo. . "Elderly drivers need retesting."

Okay, so I'm sensitive...."


  1. As the mayor (and planning department) seem determined on jerking us right into the '70's, with their multi-lane roads (and traffic circles), not to mention the dreaded 4 way stop (where most seem unaware who goes next), then at the very least some driver education (re-education?) is in order. Like it, or not, the retesting of drivers, elderly, or otherwise, is one way to achieve this.
    Driving "in this place" makes me crazy, I have even been run into stopped at a red light, something should be done.

  2. I guess Big Brother IS watching hein ? Very scary...Andie C.