Friday, February 22, 2013

Feb. 22:bits good, bits of bad.....

Before beginning today's blog, I really must add a few words to yesterday's. This concerns the editorial on the new high school. It was an editorial that combined ignorance and smug confidence to a degree I have rarely seen. And there's a bit toward the end that is really infuriating. This is the section in which the editor defends the decision not to put an auditorium in the school. The reason?

Well, says the editorialist, most parents aren't big fans of plays, anyway.

Look, whichever twit wrote that editorial. it is not the purpose of schools to produce children who are duplicates of us. The purpose of schools is to broaden our children's minds beyond the levels we had a chance to reach.

So far as I can tell from priorities set by Moncton City Council and the provincial government and the TandT, the intellectual and artistic life of the adult population of Moncton consists of only three interests.
1. Watching rock stars sing through their noses while wearing lights that flash on and off.
2. Watching hockey.
3. Producing revenue for government liquor stores.

Maybe we don't give much of a damn about plays. But we owe it to our children to make sure they get the opportunity to understand and enjoy a breadth of cultural and intellectual experience so they can understand more  than we can, enjoy more than we can, and think more than we do. (I can see why that point blew past the TandT editorial board.)

And I can't help noticing that the educational experts who designed a major high school without an auditorium made sure there were two sports fields.

Section A for February 22 is its usual mixed self, some important news, lots of trivia (a hockey player made page one by winning $5000 in a coffee shop promotion). There is nothing at all on major issues a newspaper is supposed to keep us informed on - shale gas, urban planning, rationale for placement of schools, full disclosure on land sales......
Section C, NewsToday, is the usual smorgasbord of scraps of news both national and international which don't offer any sense of what is really going on in the world. Notably, I have yet to see a news report on the extent of suffering in the US as the recession goes on. Nor have a seen anything on the extensive militarization of American police forces, or the tremendous rise of domestic espionage in pursuit of "terrorist" environmentalists and "unAmerican protestors who are against the overwhelming power of big business in that country (and in this one).

There is, however, the usual page of smiling people (mostly businessmen getting cheap publicity) holding up giant cheques for various charities.

And so to the editorial page. Today, the editorial is at least amusing. It seems that the writer is very concerned that New Brunswick will be hit harder than other regions as the federal government tries to save money by laying off civil servants.

Is this really the same Times and Transcript whose attitude to the civil service is usually summed up in the cro-magnon grunt, "Civil servants useless? Too many of them. Big business good. Government too big.Fire people. Give money to big business."

Harper is there kind of of guy, straight out of the darkest corner of the cave. So here he  is doing what the Norbert's have insisted on for years. But, suddenly, efficiency has nothing to do with it. Suddenly, it doesn't matter if civil servants are lazy, incompetent and overpaid. The important thing is we must get our fair share of them. After all, there are important things our incompetent and lazy and overpaid civil servants have to do for us.

Hey, guys - think you can get your act together?

Gwynne Dyer writes an excellent and thoughtful column. I don't agree with him. I think the western empire is in a serious decline; and I think American foreign policy (no matter who is in power) guarantees that the decline will be a very serious one, indeed.  Much of what Dyer says is probably quite true. But there's far too much he doesn't say.

However, Gwynne Dyer is no fool. Even when one doesn't agree with him, it's well worth paying attention to what he says.
For contrast, we have Norbert Cunningham's series on planning the future of New Brunswick. This is one is the last of the series (which, if nothing else, proves there is a God.)

His first point is that we should support and cooperate with our politicians. Well, I'm afraid Norbert doesn't understand the basic concept of democracy.

There have been governments in which people have been required to support and cooperate with their politicians. Hitler's Germany springs to mind. - Stalin's Soviet Union. - Mao's China.

However, the general idea of a democracy is that politicians are supposed to support and cooperate with us. They aren't supposed to lie to us by promising to release impartial information on shale gas - then do the reverse. They aren't supposed to appoint a senior health officer to report on how gas development could affect our health - and then ignore her advice, appoint an academic hack to say the opposite, and then put him in charge of the whole operation.

Most politicians are honest, says Norbert. Okay. This government has lied and cheated and misrepresented on almost every issue it has handled. In such a case, an honest politician would resign from the party and sit as an independent. Any politician who sticks with his party through all that dishonesty is, by definition, himself dishonest. So, Norbert, give us a list of all the NB politicians who have resigned on matters of principle over the years.

We can usually trust our politicians to fairly consider our opinions? Get real Norbert. The government has consistently lied and cheated on shale gas - and it has done so with the open help of our lying and cheating journalists. (In fairness, I don't think you're lying or cheating. No sir. Not you. You're not a liar or a cheat. You're just a bigoted crank with a habit of pronouncing on matters he knows nothing about. Who else could be ignorant enough and prejudiced enough to say that people on EI are lazy, or that anybody who opposes your crank notions and your rudeness and your slurs is just being cynical? )

Then there's his helpful advice for the schools, a subject on which he is particularly an ignorant crank, On bullying, he makes a charge against the schools based on just three incidents. Three out of ---how many? But for Norbert, that's enough to slander a whole system.

Then more slander as he quotes some horse's ass of a professor who once said the tells students to forget all they ever learned in high school because it's wrong.

Norbert, if you knew anything about universities you would know that they are stuffed to bursting with inflated egos, and colossal ignorance about they very meaning of education.  And Norbert says they're right. Really? How can he decide some prof is right when he doesn't know anything about education at any level?

That's another subject I've love to debate with you in public Norbert. My experience of university is that, at the Bachelor's level,students don't have to forget anything. Not really. It's no badly taught that it gets forgotten without help.

Occasionally, you will  have a teacher teaching a subject in which he/she has little/no experience, just as Norbert claims. Sure. it happens. It happens in any business I have ever heard of. History is full of generals and emperors who fell into that category. There's a similar, but worse, problem with newspaper columnists.

Norbert ends with a quotation that lights up his ignorance of the subject like a rocket flare. The quotation is that in school grading, the passing grade is B (to indicate competence). But the schools pass children with lesser grades. Meanwhile, in real life the passing grade is competence. (BTW, if B is the passing grade, who can schools be passing students with lower grades? Don't you think when you read, Norbert.

Norbert, not only do you lack a clue in understanding education, the man you quote knows even less than you do and, anyway, if your could read and think at the same time, you would realize his statement makes no sense.

In the first place B is not simply a passing grade. In the second place, it does not indicate competence. In the third place, there is no common standard for what grades mean. That is especially true of universities, where the quality of grading should be a national scandal.

In the US, university grades are such a farce that only dodos get B. When I taught, I used C to indicate competence. I knew other profs who freely gave As for work of the same quality. The most reliable marking I have seen has been in the public schools. The least has been in the universities.

The passing grade in the real world is competence? Exactly what does that mean, Norbert? Was Lord Baden-Powell a competent military officer? In fact, he was one of the worst in the history of the British army, and army that suffered no shortage of incompetent generals over the years. Ditto with General Pershing who commanded the American army in WW1.

Is the Times and Transcript, with its shameless lack of ethics, competent?  Is Mr. Alward competent?
Would you care to send us a list of the academic record of Mr. Irving? Complete with grades?

Norbert, the man you quote doesn't know what he's talking about. Nor, Bert, do you. That could be forgiven if only you weren't so free with slurs and slander.
For relief, I turn to Malloy on op ed. Like most of the staff writers on op ed, he usually seems to put issues in the context of his own life. But, unlike the staff writers, he has some insight to provoke thought about the issues.

Today, he talks about paedophilia. He begins it as a humorous story about explaining sex to his son. But it gradually takes a serious turn as he raises issues about how to protect our children from it.

Most of the staff writers would either play it for laughs all the way, or would write sentence after sentence saying the same thing - paedophilia is bad - which is something we already know.

Malloy goes that extra, important step. He tried to get meaning and response out of the incident. I can see an excellent stimulus to further thought and discussion in this column. And that's what an op ed column should do_______________________________________________________________________

The headline on David Suzuki's column is a little misleading. He talks not so much about farmland as he does about the relationship between city and country. Moncton is a prime example of the urban crisis that Suzuki writes of. Moncton City Council, if it has any urban plan at all, should take this column very seriously, indeed. So should we all. In terms of its present layout and of the profit-oriented plans that are floating around, Moncton is doomed to be a disaster area - and in a very short time. The last things we should be encouraging are developments like Royal Oaks and an "events" centre.

Make it a point read this one.


  1. One of the Kennedy's had said that New Brunswickers were "docile"...but they are becoming less so and government/corporations etc don't like it...people are waking up and it's a good thing.

  2. Anyone know where they're going to dump the wastewater after they frack in Hillsborough? What about Dr. Cleary's report and her measures to protect public health?...does the government REALLY care about NBers or are they being controlled by Harper and big business?...pity.