Monday, October 15, 2012

Oct. 15:..a waste of paper

There is only one opinion column in today's Times and Transcript worth reading. That makes the editorial page the strong part of this edition because there is not a single news story worth reading.

There seemed a possibility of a story on p. 1, "Metro food banks balk at central system". Unfortunately, the headline said pretty much all the story had to say. It was cut and paste journalism with the reporter covering a difference of opinion simply by writing down whatever various people involved had to say about it. Some said the central system of food distribution through Food Depot Alimentaire was inefficient. Some said it wasn't. That was it.

There was no attempt even to inform readers exactly what Food Depot Alimentaire is, how it's funded, how much food gets distributed by it, and how much by independent food banks, and some estimate of what the cost per day to feed one person is. The result is a story that has no story. There is no information in it. One organization of which Monctonians know little, if anything, is arguing with other organizations of which Monctonians know little if anything. And there is no information about either side to give the reader any idea who might be right. This is like a report on a hockey game about two teams playing a game, in which four players suffer serious injuries - but the story does not mention the names of the teams, of the injured players, about how the injuries occurred - and gives no score.

Any reporter who submitted such a story would be gone from the sport section within minutes. (Of course, if it was the Times and Transcript, he would probably be promoted to editor.)

Pictures and a story about the Grey Cup being on display in Moncton occupy all of p. 3. Almost all of p. 5 is about the start of the lobster season in the Bay of Funday - and half of it pictures at that. Very exciting for somebody who has never seen a lobster boat.

p. A6 is taken up with a retired businessman making a speech, a very powerful one, on a subject he knows nothing about. Nor, apparently, does the reporter.

Richard Currie, a retired CEO, was invited to give a speech to Dalhousie medical alumni. Well, of course he was invited. He donated $250,000 to them. If he gave that much to me, I would listen to his opinions with rapt attention, and give him a standing ovation.

His theme was that all New Brunswickers should be bilingual, (curiously, the money he gave was for English medical research only), that there should be a single school system for both English and French, that everything costs twice as much when you have French and English systems - as in education and hospitals -
and he cited Holland as a country in which people commonly know as many as three languages.

The reporter summed up the speech as hard-hitting. Thick-headed is a term that occurs to me more readily.

 For openers, it's not going to happen. It is both difficult and useless to teach a majority population to all become fluent in the minority language. In the case of New Brunswick, it's even more difficult since most English have no need whatever to learn French. Those who do learn it in school will soon forget it as they grow up in a world in which they have no need for it. To say that New Brunswickers should all speak French and English is like saying all Americans should speak English and Spanish.

Schools are not factories.Students will learn, in the long term, only what they have a need for. Today, I could not pass a grade nine algebra test. Of course not. I've had no need for it since grade nine. It is not possible to teach people something they don't feel any need for.

In New Brunswick, there is not the slightest chance of making the whole province bilingual. Nor would anything be gained by it. It would be like Quebec with its very similar situation. The French, with the exception of professionals and leading business people, don't need English. Result? The products of French public schools, despite the enormous impact of English TV, movies have an abysmal record of bilingualism.

Then, he says the Dutch seem to easily learn several languages. Quite so. That's because Holland is a small country surrounded by big ones it has to deal with every day. The Dutch need and use several languages on a daily basis. New Brunswick is not Holland.

I have no idea where he got the notion that have French and English networks for hospitals and education.doubles their cost.  And, as usual, the reporter doesn't ask.

Currie concludes it would be wonderful if all children in New Brunswick were bilingual. "Imagine," he said, "the skill level New Brunswickers would have in the world."  What world? Do we have huge trade with French-speaking countries? Will the Chinese be impressed?

I've spent a lot of time on this speech, but only partly because it was so silly and uninformed. It's also a dangerous one. Language is a divisive issue in New Brunswick. We need discussion led by people who know what they're talking about, who avoid injecting emotionalism into it, and who direct their thinking into reasonable and achievable goals. New Brunswick has come a long way on language. It still has some way to go. We need more people with a sense of reality. Instead, we have too many English who are far too emotional in their reaction against French; and far too many French who have not come to grips with the nature of the challenge facing them. The last thing we need is a report of a dreadfully incompetent speech - just the sort to bring out the idiots on both sides.

It's also a story in which the reporter utterly failed to ask questions or to give the speech any context and meaning.

So why did the Times and Transcript even consider covering a speech about the learning of languages delivered ty a grocery CEO? Would they have carried a story of a speech by a language teacher on how to run grocery stores? Hey! You know why they printed it. He's rich, one of the gang. And this is a province where the money divide is even bigger than the language divide.

The whole section has not a word on anything serious. It's bits of entertainment news, human interest trivia, harmless, feel-good events like fund-raisers, meaningless photos...and all of it written up in amateurish style.

Time yourself. If it takes you more than two minutes to read section A, you need a life.

NewsToday hits a new low. Almost half of it is pictures and story about a skydiver. There's a story that says Obama has problems. Who would have guessed? To be fair, there's an amusing story about Stephen Harper on the last page or NewsToday. He expressed some discomfort in attending a conference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is, he says. not really as democratic as it should be - and there are terrible abuses of human rights.

Aw, shucks.

He must feel really, really bad when he talks trade deals with China, or local tensions with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. And he must feel just terrible that both the lack of democracy and flourishing of abuse in Congo
have some connection with the activities of his buddies in the Canadian mining industry who have quite a record in Congo and Central America for abuse of the people, of the environment, and interference with civil government.

Norbert Cunningham writes a column on column assuring us it is not true your blood will boil and your eyes pop out if you ever step into outer space. Way to tell it like it is,Norbert.

In this whole, wretched edition, the only thing worth reading is Alec Bruce's column.

Oh, and check Heloise for advice on what to do if you lose one of your stud-type, pierced earrings. Use it as a thumb tack.

We could build a series on this crucial problem of the 'only one earring' syndrome. For example, you could have one of your ears amputated. Or, if you're a man, you could used it to meet strange women on the street - "excuse me,  miss, I just found this beautiful earring, and your ears are so exquisite I thought it must be yours...."

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