Saturday, January 25, 2014

Jan. 25: Learning to teach...

Before I could teach grade 7, had to get get two years of a BA, and go to teachers' college. Before I could teach high school, I had to finish the BA. Before I could teach university, I had to get an MA and a PhD. Universities then, as now, knew nothing about teaching; so I pretty much had to figure out for myself how to do it at that level. So I spent over 35 years learning how to teach university.

I don't kid myself that I ever learned to do it well. Certainly, I never kidded myself that I understood it. But I love teaching, so I did work at it all those  years.

As for the lower grades of K to four, I have occasionally taught them for a day or so. But I wasn't good at it. Those are the tough grades, the ones for teachers better than I could ever be. So I am mightily impressed by Education Minister Marie-Claude Blais.  She got a profound grasp of how it's done in just one day  of following teachers around.

So quick is her mind that she pronounced herself able to judge which teachers were good. Of the children, she says, "They understand they're part of their  own learning, even at a young age."

I don't even know what that sentence means. But the minister was able to deduce that just by watching them.

P. A1, sub-headline, "Marie-Claude Blais job-shadows two teachers, learning first-hand what it takes to run 'dynamic' classrooms in province's schools."

This is all nonsense and buzz-words. And if one person can learn that much in just following teachers around for just a day, why are we wasting money on faculties of education in universities?

This isn't a news story. This is just babble and free PR for the minister. It's in a class with the "story" beside it that Walmart has expanded one of its stores.

The front page also has two stories about rail service in New Brunswick. Both are worrying.

In one story, Alward has handed over $55 million to a private company (CN) to maintain railway freight service in northern New Brunswick. (In New Brunswick, Giving away sacks of money to private business is what's called "financial planning".)

Maintenance of freight service in that region is certainly important. But Canadian governments operated railways very successfully for 75 years before they privatized CN in 1995. And private railways since then have not run up much of a record of efficiency or even basic safety.

But Alward ignores the obvious solution, and hands over 55 mil.  (Gee. We gotta stop wasting money on all these people in need.)

The news story beside that one strikes a warning note that we still face a very serious railway crisis - especially as that affects passenger traffic. Ottawa is not showing any interest.

It was never clear to me why, in the first place, we sold off the profitable part of a railway we all owned, and kept the money-losing part. Nor do I see any sign that Alward has any idea of the need for rail passenger service that is on the horizon.
Harper and  his 300 closest friends are ending their middle east   tour. The story in NewsToday is that he ended it with substantial grants of money of the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in neighbouring Jordan.

That's very good of him. It would have been even better if he had publicly asked his good friends in the US, in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey not to start that war in the first place, not to supply the weapons and money for it, and not to import jihadist foreigners to fight it.

Then he makes a reference to the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, calling them, " atrocity.." wreaked against civilians. Apparently, nobody has told him that American scientists have announced proof that it was the  "rebels', not the Syrian government, that used the chemical weapons.

Then there's a story that Ottawa defends our Communications Security Establishment Canada against charges it spies on Canadians. Is it possible that anybody believes that spy agencies are picky about who they spy on?

Anyway, though the story doesn't mention it, Canada has THREE spy agencies. The other two are CSIS  and the RCMP. And they most certainly are spying on Canadians - even those who have broken no law but who do not share the opinions of our rulers.
On the editorial page,  Belliveau has a column worth reading on merging municipalities. We do have an awful lot of municipalities that are way too small to have the human or financial resources to do much of anything.

Norbert babbles about the next election. He says people should vote for solid ideas. Yeah. In fact, that's what they usually think they are doing. So what's your point Norbert?

Then Norbert wets his pants in excitement that Mr. Gallant says we should teach computer programming. Wow! I'll bet nobody in the whole world has ever thought of that.

Oh. And we must stop living beyond our means. Norbert, we aren't living beyond our means. We have a class of very wealthy who are living way beyond our means. That's because they're taking so much of the wealth that should be ours. It's because our premiers keep giving multi-million dollar gifts to those people who insist on living beyond our means. And it's because they don't pay much in the way of taxes, so we have to tell the jobless to hold off on eating for a bit longer.

Norbert, will you forever pour out contempt and blame on all those who work hard, and get very little for it? And will  you never have the courage or, perhaps, the brains to criticize all those who walk off with the wealth produced by that hard work?

And, if seems, Norbert feels those against shale gas should have to propose something that will produce the revenue of shale gas.

And if I'm against house fires, do I have to propose something to replace lost revenue for firemen and fire equipment manufacturers?

And if I'm for shale gas, should I have to take out substantial insurance to make good any damage to the environment and health caused by shale gas? Or would we demand that gas companies put up the trillions of dollars that such insurance would require? Has it occurred to you, Norbert, that the damage could exceed the revenue?

On op ed, Brent Mazerolle uses story-telling to good effect to illustrate the presence of sexism in the sports world.

A math professor at UNB contributes a column I can agree on so far as the salaries dispute is concerned (though I fear we would profoundly disagree on what universities should be all about.)

Certainly, the grown of administration in most universities has been phenomenal - and much of it quite useless. And, when I was asked to stand for president of my university, I was stunned to see the enormous cost of those administrators. The offer made to me was absurdly high, with all kinds of perks - like getting an interest free mortgage on my house. And if I got fired within a day for utter incompetence (not at all impossible), I would still get the president's bloated salary for the rest of my career - and a compensation package - and a pension forever oversized because it would be based on a president's salary.

And all those other and largely useless administrators got deals almost as sweet.

What's happened is that universities are now based on the business model - which means they hire large numbers of administrators who have no great competence but are almost sinfully overpaid.

Sorry. In the above sentence, scratch 'almost'.


  1. I *wonder* how many health care workers will be laid off so we can prop up CN?


  2. nice - wetting pants with IT excitement ...