Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April 2: Watch your schools...

....the Irving press is on the warpath - and that means the Irvings have something in mind.
but first.....
Page A1 has another winner of the Who Would Have Guessed? trophy.  "Plow operators keep busy in storms"

Now, these headlines are written by page editors; and they're supposed to give the reader an idea of what the story is about. This is a quite decent report by reporter Cole Hobson. But the editor does him no favour with that headline - because it's not about plow operators keeping busy. No. It's an intelligent story about rising costs for snowplow operators. But what we get is lazy and sloppy editorial work that makes this look like a story that isn't worth reading.

Page 6 is entirely pictures of snow, and one of Premier Alward talking to somebody who hadn't had power since early Monday morning. Boy, I'll bet that talk with Alward really helped.

And that's it for section A.
NewsToday has two,  hysteria articles.

NATO is considering options to scare Russia. Baird is in favour of cutting all our ties with Russia. Brilliant. Yep. If you want to preserve peace and avoid nuclear war, then punish people, threaten them, and isolate them.


And, on B4, just in case you aren't hysterical enough yet, there's a story about how NATO is beefing up its defences against you-know-who.  Never mind that Russia has carefully avoided making any threats against anybody, and has made no move to suggest it is thinking of attacking anybody.

The story has a photo of "self-defence" activists in Ukraine. "Self-defence". It describes this group rather as our press describes "rebels" in Syria who are really hired, foreign mercenaries. For these "self-defence activitists", they are really extreme right wing groups (something like the Harper Conservatives) whose self defence activism consists of rioting and shooting people at random in the streets. Way to tell it like it is, baby.


Then there is the ugly part of the paper, the editorial. It's really Norbert's column of yesterday on getting rid of teachers. It's source of information is two, far-right wing propaganda "think-tanks" sponsored by big business - AIMS and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

It's argument is that dropping student enrolment should mean we need fewer teachers. Get this...
1. The enrolment figures come from 1999-2000. Now, is that dishonesty or stupidity? It's hard to know with these think tanks and this editor.
2. It ignores  (and is probably ignorant of) another factor. Schools across Canada have historically, suffered from too few teachers. Even with that 14 years ago drop in enrolment, they still had too few, so of course they kept hiring.

Can you the drooling twit who wrote that editorial understand that? No. Probably not.

Then he raises the old, production issues. If we have more teachers, we should be getting better results in such things as literacy - and here he shows himself as ignorant about education as Norbert is.

The statisticians who measure to decide if literacy is improving can do so only with criteria they establish. Sound simple? It isn't.

They decide, for example, that literacy is demonstrated when a student can identify the theme of a book. They, of course, decide what that theme is. Then they have to ask that in a standardized way in an exam.
So the question might be "In Romeo and Juliet, is the theme a)don't go out with Italian girls or b) don't go out with Italian boys.  Put an X beside a) or b)"  And this is what they call an objective test. 5 points if you get the right answer. 0 for the wrong one.

And there are two, terrible faults with that approach.

One is that, quite  often, there is no clearly identified theme to a book. Some people will see one theme - and they are right. Some will see another theme - and they are right.

That is a problem with all these objective, fill in the missing blanks or choose a), b), or c). That's why I never used them, and thought history teachers who did use them were being lazy as well as inaccurate in their grading.

They work fine in some fields, like math. They don't work at all in others.  Think tanks love to use them because they give seemingly scientific results that appeal to the simple minds of editorial writers - and because the think tanks, themselves, are clueless about education.

The other problem is that when you teach some courses, especially English, and use such tests, the teacher has to teach ----for the test. And that's not the same as teaching literature.

As a child, I read heavily from the age of six. I did it because I loved reading. Reading is an intellectually free thing to do. You can think what you like of what it is you're reading.

But now you can't. Now, you have to think what some obscure authority thinks. And  you have to memorize it for an exam.

So what you get is an exam system that really measures nothing useful for a course that is made boring because the teacher has to teach that that damned exam in mind.

I suppose it can be a useful system in business where creativity is not common. But it destroys literature.

As well, of course, reading is affected by living in a province that does not encourage reading or free-thinking. This is a remarkably passive society. And it's very, very hard to teach anything to people who live in passivity and fear and obedience.

So what's this coincidence of today's editorial being yesterday's Norbert column? These things happen for a reason. I have a strong feeling that they got a note from the boss - probably with hints of the points to make from a company spin doctor.

What we are left with is two, ignorant columns by two people ignorant of the topic. Our schools and our children will suffer. But some greedy person will do well out of it.
Page D 6 has a column on forestry by Greg Adams who works for J.D.Irving. 'Nuff said.

Eric  Lewis contributes a 'goody-goody' column about a trivial exercise in giving somebody a Community Spirit award. Lord, this province just loves giving awards. When one of the Irvings got an award by being entered into some Philanthropist's Hall of Fame, I thought it just reflected bad taste on both sides. But it's a real passion here.

Brian Cormier has a column on old underwear. No wonder New Brunswickers don't like learning to read.
Obvious stories the Irving press has not covered - after all, it has lots of reporters in all its papers for resources.
1, Why did Alward choose this time to make the forestry deal that will hurt him in the election?
Has Irving decided Alward and his party are expendable? After all, he has another toady ready to go.

2. In light of UN reports that climate change is here, and growing quickly, has city council given any thought of how it will react? I mean, we know Harper and most provincial premiers will do nothing because nothing is what the oil industry wants done. Let's not kid ourselves about that. We are not going to prevent climate change. Are there things it will do to us, at least, that a city council can prepare for? What preparations do we have for food shortages, for example?

3. Why did Harper take such an aggressive and threatening stand on the Russians taking Crimea? We have no direct stake in that. We have no significant military force to contribute. We have no capacity to defend ourselves in a nuclear war. So why was he the raging bull?

4. Why did Obama keep such a low profile through the Crimean crisis?   He handed over public leadership to people like Kerry and Harper. Is it possible that Obama has very little power in Washington? So who does have the power?


1 comment:

  1. Nice blog. I'd just like to say though, that in my day they didn't teach for exams, they taught a curriculum...and it was STILL boring. A boring teacher is a boring teacher. History is one of the most exciting subjects there are, but I had history teachers that killed any desire to learn history for years. There ARE bad teachers out there. I like the montesorri model better, but I've had some teachers who would have bored me even as facilitators!

    And actually, even in NB there was a pilot project last year of doing exactly that-getting rid of teachers. However, they did act as facilitators, which in this day and age you could easily argue is all you need-and which virtually guarantees that any progressive models like that will be short lived.