Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Oct. 27: School days....

My first year of teaching was grade 7. As I entered the room on that first day, what I saw was six rows of desks, six perfectly straight rows with the teacher's desk in the place of authority at the front of the room. As the students came in, I helped them arrange their desks in any way they liked - circles of friends, small groups of two or three….

Then the principal came in to see how I was doing.

“Oh, no, Mr. Decarie. They must be in rows. Six rows. And rows so straight that when I look at the head of a child in front, I shouldn't be able to see the other heads at all.”

Well, of course. The early public schools were designed to operate like factories, a sort of educational assembly line. The board members who planned them were commonly factory owners, and they saw the public schools as, essentially, training children to work on the assembly line. Thus the six, straight rows, all the bells, and the rigid curriculum.

The government of New Brunswick, like most governments, still thinks that way.

But school should not be just about training robots. It should also be about creativity, about socialization, about thinking. (But God forbid you should teach children to think unless you teach them to think exactly like their parents. I shall never forget the storm of protest from Godly parents when a student asked me about Darwinism. So I explained it, and I also explained creationism as a differing belief. Every Baptist in town wanted my head on a spike. For the same reason, much of the history taught in schools is lies. Any teacher who told the truth would soon be out of there.)

Memorizing and thinking are not the same. One creates robots. The others create, open to seeing the truth, making reasoned decisions, sometimes wrong, but always open to new ideas and intellectually aware.

Bussing for two hours a day is an expansion of creating robots.

This is a serious education problem which affects half the population of this province, both children and adults. The key to learning, to making judgements, to being a part of action in this world is to know how to read, to want to read, to want to discuss. And the problem is most pronounced in rural New Brunswick.

But the government can think only in terms of the assembly line, as if the children and adults were all robot parts waiting to be assembled. And the Irving press series on education (P. A1), instead of looking at what the problems are and exploring answers, simply wastes everybody's time with long stories on how sad it all is.

This is a problem for both children and adults. So, thinking about education, think about both; think about extension courses; think about public radio and TV. (Radio is very effective as a learning tool. TV is less so.)

When we make mistakes with education, the students and us have to live with those mistakes for the rest of our lives. We need a sense of exactly what it is we expect education to do, and how it can be done. What we don't need is a government that treats this as nothing but a budget issue.

And that's it for news in section A, unless you really, really care that Whoopi Goldberg thanked our firefighters again – and unless you really, really think that having an events centre with 9,000 seats will make Moncton a “big league” city.

The editorial is small town boosterism.

Norbert has a good, if sometimes flippant, column about how to deal with poverty, and how small demonstrations like the two dozen people who paraded for Eradicate Poverty Day have no effect. He suggests a more focussed cause – like a guaranteed minimum wage – might be more effective. It makes sense. The eradication of poverty is a very, very broad topic. It gives people nothing specific or tangible to work on.

The guest column is from Troy Media – again – and like most of the columns from that source, it smells of propaganda. This one is about the Trans-Pacific trade deal and how wonderful for Canada it is. Amazing how so many writers can praise this document when none of have seen it yet.

Alec Bruce has an interesting column on we should integrating our older people into our work force, something that has worked in Sweden, Norway and Finland. For himself, he doesn't plan to retire, not ever. Bang on. Retirement is boring.
Again, most of the Canada&World section is about Canada, and most is trivial (including yet another long story on the Oland trial). It's also stuff that people have seen on TV or heard on radio a day ago and even more. Much of this could be scrapped, replaced with the commentary that would make us think about the news, and help us to understand why these things are happening. Do you know, for example, why Saudi Arabia has invaded Yemen (with U.S. support and after years of American drone-bombing of Yemen?) The Irving press doesn't even seem to know this is happening.

There's also nothing on Russians fighting for Syria, though this could be the beginning of a decline in U.S. dominance of world affairs.

Nor do they have the story on the very provocative sending of a U.S. fleet into waters claimed by China. They surely aren't doing it to help Vietnam's claim to some of those waters. So why risk a war that could turn nuclear over waters that are nowhere even close to the U.S.? Because the U.S. wants those waters to complete boxing in China by the American fleet and by missile bases. That's the same reason the U.S. is encouraging Japan to rearm for an attack on China.

The U.S. has a habit of provocation as a means of diplomacy. That's not a very good idea because it can lead to a war that cannot produce any victory of anybody. Or it can hurt the U.S. if its bluff is called – as Putin did.

On B2, we learn that the Canadian armed forces will spend two years updating our forces. Good idea, because they've been terribly neglected. But we need something else first – a decision on what the Canadian armed forces are for. If they are simply fodder to fight American wars and to be integrated with U.S. forces, then no. Before we can build armed forces, we have to decided who they are likely to fight, and why. We should never have, as Harper did, send fighter bombers to risk their lives and to kill in Iraq just to please American oil billionaires.

A former NDP MP says the party should alter its organization. That part isn't likely to change anything. But he also calls for it to break off the relationship is has had with unions from its origin in 1961, That was when it formed a deal with Canadian Labour Congress to join the original party, the CCF, with the CLC. The main objective was to raise money for the party from the unions – necessary because neither the CCF nor the NDP could expect money from the corporations who feed the Liberals and Conservatives.

But the unions were more interested in getting political power than in the principles of the old CCF. They steadily forced the party to the right, so far that it could be confused with the Liberals. And that has been a disaster – as shown in the recent election. The CCF/NDP had gradually abandoned its basic principles over the years. And in those over fifty years, it hasn't gained an inch. The CCF was a party that challenged the dominance of big business in controlling this country. It actually began with considering human needs. It is really the party that brought medicare to Canada. But the unions have consistently made it more like the old parties.

The CCF is going to have to reconsider more than reorganizing its structure. It has to reconsider its purpose.

The last page has a story on Netanyahu and the violence in Israel – with its close connection to the more than fifty years of Israeli military occupation of Palestine. Netanyahu, as usual, has decided the answer to violence is more violence which will create….

Former president Jimmy Carter has written an interesting letter about a solution for Syria. It makes sense – and it's followed by lots of comments that make sense.

I have, I think, often suggested that BBC news is not reliable. Here, CBC is restrained by government, and may be killed by the Liberals who have historically been just as hostile to honest news as the Conservatives are. Despite this, the CBC still manages to do a good job.

The site below, though, confirms what I already had decided about Britain's once superb BBC news.

I'm using information clearing house three times today. I'm careful in using it unless It's from a source I respect. Jimmy Carter is pretty respectable. The BBC story provides evidence.

The site below is by a respected journalist who used to work for a terrible newspaper. But his work was usually good. It's a hymn of praise for Trudeau (which I don't entirely agree with), but also throws light on Harper.

Another story at the clearing house is that Edward V111, Duke of Windsor, was an admirer of Hitler, and he betrayed military secrets to Hitler. But that's been known for a long time. Anyway, he was by no means the only one to plan jumping over to the Nazi side.

There's a marvelous novel about Edward and Wally Simpson and Hitler. It's by a Canadian, Timothy Findley, “Famous Last Words”. One of the best I've ever read.

Lots of other news – the UN has condemned the U.S. for its 24 year embargo on Cuban trade. The US intends to continue taunting China with naval exercises off China's shores. Saudi Arabia has bombed a hospital in Yemen run by Doctors Without Borders. The government in Afghanistan (the one supported by the U.S.) has asked Russia!!! to help it against the Taliban. Hint. What does this suggest about the U.S. image in the world?

Lot of this and other news in Haaretz and aljazeera.

But nothing much in the Irving press.


  1. Do you believe in god?


    1. I believe in God. But I'm not a conventional Christian. I don't think of God as a person so much as a presence. I also think most Christians pay far too much attention to ritual - and almost none to Christian pinciples.

  2. Thx for referring Information Clearing House. I just read Margolis who is one of my favourite journalists. The site looks really interesting, so I'll be on it regularly. Another good site that you may not know of is Axis of Logic. Many great articles on world events and not from MSM.

  3. Hi,

    Actually it is technically possible to read the TPP agreement. It was posted on WikiLeaks last week. Now, whether the folks at Troy Media read it or not is another story. I'll be honest, I don't even want to read the damn thing.


  4. Thanks. I missed that. And, to be honest, I don't want to read it, either.

  5. Thanks. I missed that. And, to be honest, I don't want to read it, either.