Sunday, May 24, 2015

May 24: catching up.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/03/the-death-of-american-universities/

A reader sent me the article above. It really caught my eye because, some twenty yeas ago I was asked by the chairman of a board of university governors to become president of the university. I was reluctant because I had no wish to be an administrator. So he sat me down with three of his lawyers to explain the terms to me.  I was astonished.

The pay was scandalously high. Even better, if I turned out to be a stinker as a president and had to fired, I would still get that salary until retirement. And then I would retire with a much, much higher pension than I now receive. Oh, and my mortgage would be interest free - and lots of other goodies.
I wanted all those things very much. But I just felt, without knowing why, that I didn't want the job. It was party because my love was teaching - but there was something else...... I knew there were things I detested about universities. One was the contempt (and ignorance and arrogance) they have toward teaching. And I knew that one university president was not going to change that. But I didn't really understand my feelings until I read the article above.

Universities are controlled by boards of governors, usually drawn from the business world - and, if possible, connected to very big business. The president's job is to do what the board says. And what the board says is that the university is a business, and should be run like a business. That's how universities became knee deep in absurdly overpaid CEOs (presidents) and knee-deep in
 oversized, overpaid and generally useless middle management (deans).

As in business, their job is to keep employee salaries down, to achieve "efficiency" by, say, enlarging classes to a hundred students, even as many as a thousand. The large classes are certainly a saving in money - but, from a learning point of view, they are largely a waste of time.  To teach means interaction with students; and you can't have that in a class of a hundred. Also popular is hiring "part-time" teachers. They come very cheap, have no job security, no pensions and, commonly, have inadequate training in their fields.

And since neither the administrators nor the board nor the professors know much about teaching, they waste everybody's time pumping information into students, most of which is of no use, and will be forgotten. University should be about training minds, not stuffing them with information.

Like a health care system, a university is not a business. And it does not respond to business methods.

(Forget the MacLean's annual rating of universities. MacLean's knows even less about education than the university governors and administrators do.)

As the article above suggests, the situation in the US is similar - but is at the disaster level. Sadly, Canada is close behind.  Getting a PhD took me some nine years of very little income. Then I started teaching at a salary level less than I wold have had if I had remained in high school teaching. And I had a debt that would take me fifteen years to pay.

Things are far, far worse for today's students. In the US, college debts are commonly still being paid into retirement (and that doesn't count graduate school.) For much of the population, university is simply out of the question. Canada is rapidly approaching that. And not producing university graduates has its own price for all of us as we become a backwater in an educated world.

So far, I have heard no comment on this from any New Brunswick university president. And I don't expect any. Not unless the Chairman of the board tells him what to say.
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Another topic I've wanted to touch on is my own field, history, and how we misunderstand  events in Canada and the world because of our skewed view of history. A prime reason for that is that we get much - perhaps most - most of our history from the propagandist history that school boards think suitable for children, from movies and TV, and from newspapers which tell us that this is and always has been a world of  good guys and bad guys.

For example, the UN, with British and American encouragement, generously gave a large part of Palestine to Jews fleeing a Europe (and Canada and US) that would not accept them. That was especially convenient for Canada and the US which were then VERY anti-Jewish.

But, gee, those Palestinians had the nerve to get mad at being kicked off their land, out of their homes, and out of their country. Obviously, Palestinians were not good guys like us. They were bad.

Let's see now. Let's suppose the UN had decided to give Jews a homeland in Alberta, perhaps half of the province. I'm sure Albertans would have been happy to move out of the newly designated Israel, and wouldn't even mind when the new Israel regularly annexed neighbouring parts of Alberta, and kicked them out all over again.

How about that, Stephen Harper? You're always saying how you support Israel. Wouldn't this be a great way to show it? Offer it a chunk of Alberta.

No. I guess he wouldn't do that. But we don't see our own bigotry because movies and TV and news media present a one-sided view with becomes the true history.

In the same way, we see, read and hear constantly about how we fought two world wars to save and spread equality and democracy to all. That was president Wilson's famous doctrine in WW1.

Now. The US of WW1 had an empire that covered Central America and The Philippines. Now, name me a single country in all of those that got freedom and democracy and equality after 1918. (There isn't one.) I might add that Hawaii was an imperial conquest, too, because the Hawaiians certainly never voted to join the US. For that matter, the whole of the US was land stolen from native peoples and, later, Mexicans.

And name a single colony that Britain freed after WW1. Here, in Canada, we are told every Nov. 11, that out of WW1, we got the right to declare war on our own. Whoopee. But that's not quite true; and I'll come back to that later.

So why was World War 1 fought? It was because a united Germany was becoming a major industrial power. Big business in Britain feared that could be a threat to  its profits. That's why the war was fought. It had nothing to do with rights or freedom. The US entered the war probably because it feared a loss on the loans it had given to France and Britain. (I mean, really, if president Wilson cared at all about rights and freedom, why did it take him over three years to enter the war?)

Why did Canada get the right to declare war on its own? It didn't. Previously, it was required to be legally at war when Britain was. But it didn't have to do anything. Here's what happened.

With the unification of Germany in 1871, British business  feared the new Germany would out-compete it and maybe even threaten an empire that Britain was no longer strong enough to hold on its own. That's when British leaders started talking about what a shame it was that there had been that misunderstanding about the American revolution, and how they should be really good friends. If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan, you'll find a reference to it in one of  his stories. And that's why Churchill wrote a History of the ENGLISH-SPEAKING Peoples. That's why he kept on such good terms with Roosevelt. That's why, before the US entered World War Two., Churchill and Roosevelt jointly announced that the war was being fought to make all people free and equal. (In fact, the only colony of either Britain or the US that was freed was India - and that only because because Britain was too poor and weak to hold it.)

But there was a problem - Canada. While Canada was a colony, Britain was obligated to defend it. Now, Canada had only one, possible enemy - the US. Britain well remembered the War of 1812, the Fenian raids of the 1860s, and the great danger of a dispute over the Alaska/Canada boundary in the early 1900s, when Theodore Roosevelt threatened to send troops into Canada. Any such act would be a disaster for Britain. That's why it graciously gave up its obligation to defend Canada, and gave Canada the right to declare war all by itself.

1871 because the beginning of difficult times for Britain. In the 1890s, Britain knew a war with Germany was coming. And it knew it would need the help of the empire, including Canada. That's why it put pressure on Canada, Australia and New Zealand to take part in the Boer War - to set a precedent. But it soon realized that the US was far more important to it than Canada was. So it lost it's eagerness to keep Canada in the empire.

So what was Roosevelt thinking when he took the US into war? I mean, if he wanted to save Britain, the time to do that was 1940 or even 1939, not the beginning of 1942, In fact, American business was allowed to supply Germany with whatever it wanted right to the end of 1941. Worse, when he declared war on Japan, Roosevelt didn't declare war on Germany. It was the other way around. It was Germany that declared war on the US - and several weeks AFTER Pearl Harbour.

Roosevelt did NOT got to war in Europe simply to be a "good guy". He did it to destroy Britain as a world economic power. A war in Europe and in Asia was the chance for American big business to weaken the European empires, and to take over their colonies so the very very rich American businessmen could become very, very, very rich.

After the war, though, the US needed a stable western Europe as a block to the communist USSR which, exactly like the capitalist US, was trying to occupy and control as many markets as it could. So it helped western Europe to recover from the war by sending it aid under 'The Marshall Plan". But Britain got no such aid - though it, too, had suffered enormous damage.

Worse, the US pressed Britain to repay its war loans very, very quickly. That was a major reason the US had gone to war - to destroy Britain as an economic competitor. That's why it joined Britain in 1953 to overthrow the democratic government of Iran and impose a dictator - to get a major share of what had been British-owned oil.

The US hope for a world empire was dampened a bit as France tried to hold onto Indo-China, and as Britain defied American orders and re-took Hong Kong. But both Britain and the US were checkmated by the rise of a united China. And France and the US both lost in the war for Indo-China (Vietnam).

Since then, there have been several major changes.
1.American foreign policy and domestic policy are in a chaos.
2.The abuse of free trade has created a human crisis within the US - which Canadian big business is trying very hard to duplicate in this country..
3.Most of the world has fallen under an economic system called oligarchy. Oligarchy means that big money controls not only economic markets, but controls all government functions, including both domestic and foreign policy.

That means that all the world is ruled by businessmen who understand only 'business methods'.And business methods aren't working. Of course not. Government is about meeting the needs of people. Business methods are about meeting the greed of the richest. Giving the rich even more money will not encourage investment. It didn't work in the depression of the 1930s, and it won't work today.

What we are facing as a result of decades of uncontrolled greed is uncontrollable and unpredictable violence around the world. At the same time, we are almost certainly facing domestic violence whose outcome is as unpredictable as the global violence.

Most western leaders and news media and movies have responded with propaganda to generate hatred and fear. As well, they have turned to very high levels of domestic spying and torture and disregard of constitutional rights.

Harper is a prime example of the  modern puppet prime minister. He struts with his declarations of support for Israel, though he gives Israel nothing, and I doubt whether his threats are causing any Arabs to shake in their boots. And what he says doesn't help Israel in the international world because the international world has no respect for Harper. The last prime minister with international respect was Lester Pearson and maybe, to a lesser degree, Trudeau. But the world knows that Harper is Canada's colonial governor under the US.

There's no good news here. That's because I had to tell the truth. And I had to cut through the lack of understanding of the world because of the historical myths we get in movies and news media.














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