Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sept. 5: Page one....

In most newspapers, page one is for the big news of the day. But the front page of The Moncton Times and Tribune is always one that would stun a moose in heat. We are reminded, once again, that Highfield Square - where nobody goes, anyway - will close at the end of the month. And a Moncton car dealership has been sold. Wow!

At the top of the page is a self-promotion. "Up-to-the-minute breaking news every day"

The breaking news on p. 2, is that city council approved  a name for the street the new high school will be on. Why? Well, that was the name the developer wanted. In Moncton, city planning means doing whatever a developer wants. And, as councillor Pierre Boudreau said, with all the oratorical flair of Perry Mason addressing a jury, "I sincerely believe that any further delay approving this subdivision would be contrary to the law of natural justice, the best interests of the city, and in the long term, would send a bad message." Then he gathered his cloak about him, and ran out to the Batmobile.

(Never trust a person who opens a sentence with I sincerely believe...  They're like the ones who open with, "I'll be truthful with you..."   It carries the clear hint that they usually lie - and still are lying.)

Oh - the street  name - it'sLongfellow, the American poet. Well, they had to do that. New Brunswick has never produced a poet or any of them there writin' folks.

There's a long column of pure gush about Wayne Gretzky coming to town, and how the whole world is talking about Moncton. But, with a return to sanity, there is a slightly longer one about the visit of locked out transit workers to city council. There were, of course, largely ignored by council - except for one of the speakers. He was not a locked out worker, he was a man who appeared with his guide dog to explain what a hardship the lockout was to people like him, as well as to students and the elderly and many others.

City council gave him a standing ovation - a move that was pure, self-righteous hypocrisy since they declined to do anything for him. I'm sure that standing and clapping made them all feel saintly. But it did nothing to help a man who, with a great many others, is severely handicapped by their insistence on a lock-out.

By the way, how much does the city pay those transit planners who are not locked-out? You know, the differently advantaged ones who designed the bus routes.

NewsToday has, as always, lots of great ads and pictures of smiling people giving each other cheques. Page C8 has what looks like a story, but isn't. It's about a book by a member of the assassination team that killed Bin Laden. The story claims to tell about why the American government is angered by the book - but it doesn't really tell anything. The real story, as reported in newspapers around the world, is that  the book leaves the impression that there was no attempt to capture Bin Laden, just to kill him. The TandT's uninformative report comes, of course,  from Reuters.

The editorial looks sensible. But it isn't.

The theme is  how schools should teach students how to manage their money - and how business should be brought into the planning and teaching of it. It sounds reasonable. But it would be one hell of an irresponsible thing for us to allow.

1. Business has no business being in our schools. We don't allow students or teachers to play any role in deciding how business is run. Businesses are not educational institutions. They are not charitable institutions. They exist to make money for themselves. That is what they know how to do. That is all they know how to do. The notion that business should have a direct role in every area of life, including government and education, has already gone way too far, dangerously too far in this province. It has already gone so far that democracy has effectively ceased to exist.

2. Business is the last institution in the world which wants people to manage their money wisely. It wants people to spend their money - on what business has to sell. They don't give a damn if it's wise for you to buy it. Just spend it. We are now living in a world-wide recession that is almost certainly going to get worse. That recession was caused by the greed of big business, and by it's short sighted encouragement of wild spending.  We are now watching private business making huge profits and paying skyrocketing bonuses to top executives while poverty rates, even in North America, are reaching record levels, and the middle class is being destroyed.

But, of course, we know whose side the Times and Transcript is on. Get expert advice from business? Right. Let's start with the thriving payday loan business in Moncton. They have lots of experience managing income.

I often wonder whether editorial writers for the TandT are lacking ethics or brains. I think this editorial indicates it's both.

Norbert's ranting again. It could be tolerable, if silly. The problem is that nasty question of ethics again. Norbert never writes criticisms of big business or of private business of any sort. For all his stridency, he's just another TandT kiss-up who dresses in armour like a St. George going out to fight butterflies.

Alec Bruce has an intriguing column on universities and the future job-market. I'd just like to add to his final point about how universities train the mind. The trouble is - they don't - and that's not just the artsy-fartsy classes.

I'll start with my own field, History. Most of the history taught is simple, rote-learning. For those (most) who don't go on, most of it is forgotten within a few years. History could teach lifetime skills important for a changing market - reasoning power, judgement, organization of ideas and work time, skills of presentation -----  But, for the most part, it doesn't. Teachers take pride, instead, in teaching the latest, most up to date information. And, since most of it is soon forgotten, that's a waste of time. The teachers have no training to teach anything but information (and really no training to teach even that.). In forty years of teaching university, I cannot recall ever hearing an informed discussion of teaching, or of exactly what it is we should be teaching under the various subject titles.

Business courses are just as bad. In fact, they are frequently worse because they are wide open to the teaching of political and economic propaganda. I was once chaired a large meeting of business leaders, economists, political scientists and mid-level executives (the latter were doing MBA degrees for a major university, and the conference was aimed at them.0 I was appalled to realize that the programme was largely one of teaching bias and propaganda.

Nor did it seem the quality of teaching and learning was any better than it was in the arts. I saw no evidence that these students were learning the flexible skills they needed for a changing job market, skills like analysis, judgement, reasoning. In fact, the pro-business propaganda was so heavy it was like being caught at a faith-healing rally. In university, as in other levels of education, the interference of business has not been helpful.

The op ed page is for people who are bored and lonely, whose TV is broken, and who can't afford a cab to go anywhere in this city.


  1. Don't forget Alden Nowlan. Though NB can't claim his provenance, as he was born in Nova Scotia and spent his early developmental years there, he prospered here in NB.

    However, he's mostly forgotten now by most younger people. For all his output in the Fiddlehead and elsewhere, is this the legacy left to a writer when they fail to write that one, seminal work that lives on?

  2. I remember Alden well, though it's many years ago that I heard him reading from some of his work. He was an impressive writer- and an impressive person.
    I've also come across an Acadian poet named Raymond-Guy Leblanc. And I intend to read a good deal more of him.
    But you have to have sympathy for the developer. I doubt whether he's ever read Longfellow - but that's the only poet he's ever heard of.