Monday, March 18, 2013

March18: Damn it, Norbert....

...will you please stop pronouncing on subjects you know nothing about.

You have never studied education. You have never taught a day in your life. It is possible you have the clear and scientific mental processes you claim to have in today's column. But those processes aren't much use when have have not even the rudiments of an understanding of what you are talking about.

I don't doubt that we can and should cut university costs. Similarly, we can and should cut business costs by reducing the obscene salaries and bonuses handed out to executives and board members.  But you wouldn't dare write that, would you? No, because if you did the boss would take a leather strap to your little bottom.

1. Following your formula, we could cut university costs by having just one, giant university for the whole of Canada.  In reality, I suspect that would cost even more. And it would certainly do a lousy job of educating.

2. What costs should be cut depends on what a university is for.  You can't  just go in with an axe
and slash everything in sight - as our government is doing with  health and social services. (Of course, the government approach here has nothing to do with efficiency. It has to do with destroying public services, and then privatizing them as much as possible.

3. A major problem with our universities is not that they are failing to follow business practices. The problem is they ARE following business practices. The businessification of universities, usually forced by business men on their Boards of Governors,  in the last 30 years has been phenomenal. Administrators are now far too powerful, and grossly overpaid - just as in the business world.

The university has two functions - to do research and to teach. These are quite different from each other. Some, probably most, university teachers will insist that good researchers make good teachers. That is rubbish. But many an ego depends on believing such rubbish.. So it is that universities build themselves around the central purpose of  doing research, an emphasis that creates enormous costs  both obvious and hidden, and which greatly reduces their teaching effectiveness.

Tackle those problems, and you will reduce costs - without creating massive institutions that are almost invariably inefficient and inflexible.

But above all, Norbert, please stop writing down to us as if we were all idiots. You have your admirers, I know.  But surely you want to spread wisdom for the majority, and not just to appear as prophet before the simpletons.
NewsToday has an important story on the Canadian sale of military weapons to Colombia. This is a country that has been fighting a civil war for some 50 years, and has done so
with a  lack of democracy and a lack of respect for human rights that was there even before any fighting started. It is also effectively a US puppet state, and so important to the maintenance of Us control in Latin America.

So we are now officially involved in helping to maintain the American empire. The bait is that we are let in on a share of the business that normally goes to the American Defence complex. Aren't we lucky? And won't our weapons be a big help in bringing democracy to Colombia, and helping little girls go to school?
The same section has yet another trivial story about the pope. It seems he took a stroll in public and shook hands with some people.

And that's pretty much it for world news.
Other columns on the editorial page offered a stunning range of choice - from the perceptive and useful one by Alec Bruce, to the quite acceptable one by Craig Babstock, to the utterly irrelevant by Allen Abel.
In reference to my Sunday blog, let me reassure enraged socialists, capitalists, communists and libertarians that I don't believe in any of those things. I don't believe in any system because all systems are designed and run by people - and us people are terribly flawed. Given tim, they will ruin any system.

At this time, it is capitalism that was twisted out of shape, and is now crashing. It can work. Capitalists need to learn they have to work under rules set by the people of Canada through their governments. What we probably need is a blend of all the isms. And big business has to learn it is not a partner of the government. Big business as a partner to government is the basic principle of fascism.  

The only fundamental systems I believe in are democracy and morality, especially that morality which dictates our concern for each other. Forget the party labels. Look for democracy and morality.

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