Thursday, February 28, 2013

Feb. 28:

In a comment you can find at the foot of yesterday's post, a reader asked why our schools don't seem to teach critical thinking. It's worth checking that comment to get his full question. And it's a question I can answer from experience.

When I taught grade seven, a student asked me what Darwin and evolution were all about. So I answered, giving no opinion as to which one I thought was right, just giving the theory of evolution as outlined by Darwin and then the conflicting view expressed by some Christians.

The next day, the school principal was visited by two, furious parents. They agreed that I had not pushed either side in my presentation. But they didn't want their children even to know there were two sides. They demanded I should teach only their side of the story.

Now, if there is one thing school principals and departments of education hate, it's a fuss. I was called in to the principal's office and given a clear list of topics to stay away from in my teaching. In the end, just those two parents got an effective veto on what I was allowed to say.

Remember a couple of years ago when a  New Brunswick school principal discontinued the playing of O Canada at the start of the school day? There was an immediate howl of outrage. I don't know whether the outraged were only a few or many. I don't know whether the outraged themselves were in the habit of standing every morning before breakfast while O Canada was played. But it was a fuss. And that's all that counted.

The minister of education immediately intervened on the side of the outraged. (I wonder if  the ministry offices begin every day with the staff standing to listen to O Canada on a scratchy PA system?)

In public education, no fuss is the first rule. And that, quite seriously, is why you don't hear much about students learning to think critically.

University are little, if at all better. They all kid themselves that they teach critical thinking. But even it they tried to they couldn't because almost none of the profs have training in the teaching of critical thinking - or of anything else.

As well, people who have power in our society - through money or politics - are not keen on producing a generation of critical thinkers. No. Schools, in their view, are not for producing critics. They are for producing useful and submissive employees and citizens, not thinkers.

And the TandT is deliberately designed keep people unthinking and plodding for the rest of their lives. That's why it's full of trivia. That's why it leaves out any information you need in order to think.

From the cradle to the grave, thinking is a bad thing.
That takes us naturally to yesterday's (and today's) front page story about how private business is getting involved in literacy - and probably in other subjects - in our schools. Again, the story gives us no useful information. And the reporter writes it as pure propaganda - with no questions.

Mr. Irving, it seems, is a man of wonderful community spirit who wants to help children to learn. Yes. (see my note above on what business leaders think of critical thinking.)

This time, the story doesn't even mention that our money, two and half million dollars of it, has been handed over to a group headed by Jamie Irving. There are some obvious questions here.

What, exactly, is the two and a half million for? Hell, it's our money. Aren't we allowed to know who's getting it? and why?

What qualifications, exactly, do young Jamie and his business friends have to operate such a learning programme?

We have trained teachers in our schools, and skilled researchers on the teaching of literacy in our education faculties. Shouldn't they be the ones to institute such a programme? And isn't it likely the bill for them would be a lot lower?

Then there is news in the article that even further intrusions into the schools are in the works for this Spring - with business leaders playing a big role.

We are watching something we have seen over and over again. A group out of control in its lust for more power and more money. They are going to break into our schools; and they don't give a damn about the damage it causes - just as they don't give a damn what damage they do to the province with resource "development". All that counts is now, now and power and money.

And our children and our children's children are going to pay one hell of a price. The big push to privatize education in New Brunswick is on. Get ready for schools that are going to be a lot less effective, and a lot more expensive. And get ready for a school system that just dumps the poorer kids on the rubbish heap. It's a vicious and incompetent system that has already ruined millions of lives in the US.

Expect no help from Alward. I don't know whether he's stupid or simply a puppet or a hypocrite. Whatever the case, don't expect help from Alward.

Don't expect any help from your school district commissions or from Home and School or Parent associations. They were utterly stunned and useless the last time such a takeover was attempted - about two  years ago.

No. Best just to take a moment to respond to an Irving offer that appeared in the TandT some months ago.  Visit the Irving Chapel. And sit. And reflect.
The main headline is Mr. Flemming again. It is a story that Mr. Flemming was a little confused in yesterday's story when he said the issue of ambulance fees is no big deal. It seems now it is. He got confused because a scrum (interview session) in which the tough questions got him all nervous and tangled up.

There was a tough scrum in New Brunswick? Come off it, Flemming. I've seen real scrums by reporters who know what they're doing. And most of the reporters I've seen in this province are wimps compared to real ones.

Vitalite has a story that tells us a lot about its methods. It says New Brunswick has too many nurses because it is over the national average. Oh, is that how needs are determined?

Well, we shall have to cut the salaries of all the Irvings to bring them down to the national average, won't we? We'll also need to import several hundred polar bears to get us up to the national average.

Look. Needs are not determined by national averages Needs are determined by, you know, what is needed. That's the trouble with bringing business methods into non-business situations. Business people are simplistic. They like a simple formula, lots of statistics. And business programmes encourage that sort of simplemindedness. And Sigma Six lives by it.

Our need for nurses in New Brunswick is determined by how much work we have for which nurses are essential. The national average has nothing to do with it.

But you watch - the government of New Brunswick is being revolutionized. With no exaggeration, this is a real revolution, aimed at shunting government and our wishes aside.  We're about to see our lives being run by statistics-happy twits whose only objective is to make billionaires even richer. And it's our lives and our children's lives they're playing with.

And that's section A.

Section C2 has a lead story about how the European Union would like to force Canada to dump its banking controls. I'll be writing about this in Sunday's blog because the big move is on to get rid of virtually all government controls on business. And, so far, Harper as acted in favour of the big move - not in favour of us.

There's a lot of power lust,and greed, and irresponsibility going on.
Editorial and op ed pages are pretty much as usual.
Well, actually, the editorial is unusual in showing almost human intelligence.
Norbert is irrelevant.
Alec Bruce's topic is light - but it's interesting.
Rod Allen is his usual, unique self.
And there's a new column by Beth Lyons who will be alternating with Judy Dallaire on what we (wrongly) call women's issues. It looks as though they'll make a good team.

This is late because I was speaking to a history group this morning. That's why a rushed through the editorial and op ed pages. Sorry. (But the history group is a nice group; and I enjoy them.)
A reminder. Tuesday, March 5 at 7 p.m. will see the Current Events group gathering at the Moncton Library. We had a good time last month. I look forward to seeing you this coming Tuesday.

1 comment:

  1. Page A5 re ecole Champlain....false....there was no fire alarm pulled and the children were NEVER evacuated....they were gradually sent home from their classrooms or back to daycare in the am.
    ....adn no school was not open again as usual today....cancelled.
    PPEASE get your facts striaght T and's embarassing....are the people in the obituaries really deceased or do we need to check on the truth of those too?