Saturday, November 14, 2015

Nov. 14: The Paris killings.

I'm going to save comments on the Paris killings for tomorrow. It's a difficult topic; and there are people who are going to intensely dislike what I have to say about it.
The front page has a story about a businessman who is angry because his taxes have been increased. Wow! What a flash! Ever heard of a businessman who was pleased because his taxes WERE increased? This isn't a front page news story. It's not a news story of any sort. At best, it's aletter to the editor. And there's nothing else in Section A news.

The editorial, for the first time, shows signs of human intelligence.

Norbert Cunningham's column is beneath contempt. It's a rant against politicians, educational civil servants and teachers. When I first arrived in the province, I saw a disgusting series of ranting editorials about the education system. Later, when Norbert became a  columnist with his name on the column, I was convinced from his style that he was the one who wrote those editorials. Now, I'm sure of it.

1. He detests politicians and bureaucrats, Why? Well, I'm not sure he really destests politicians. But he knows he can dump on them because they don't really have any role in this New Brunswick version of democracy.

As for bureaucrats, he dislikes them because the big bosses whose rear ends he kisses see bureaucrats as getting in their way. Norbert is one of those people - like Donald Trump and Stephen Harper - who think that big business should rule the world without any interference from us peasantry.

2. What is Norbert's training and experience in education? He's never given us any evidence of any. So I think I can safely say that with six years of teaching elementary school and high school, and some 35 years of teaching  university both in Canada and abroad, I have more training and experience than he does.

Why do children do poorly in school? Sometimes, it's because of poor teaching and underfunded schools - particularly the underfunded schools part. That's why U.S. education has been in decline. But those aren't the major reasons.

A major reason for poor performance is parents who don't give a damn. And even that isn't quite the reason. Often, those who don't give a damn are those who don't see any hope no matter what they do. They're stuck wherever they are, and they know they can't get out. And their children can't get out.

That's related to poverty, of course. And it doesn't even have to be deep poverty.
I've seen it in many lower-middle class families.

All this is closely related to social background. The children grow up in families that are indifferent to education. Usually, the parents have little education. They don't read. They don't discuss. They don't even think much.

I've also taught poor children who were born into social cultures that prized learning. Notably, this has been true of students who were Jewish. And even more so in China.

But New Brunswick, perhaps because of its history of rule by lumber barons and their like, are highly conformist. They don't discuss, and they don't think because that might make them 'different', and they fear being 'different'. This is the only city I've been in where a rock concert is a 'cultural event'. It's also the only place I've ever taught in which not playing the national anthem at the start of the day caused a provincial turmoil. I guess that's the only thing the parents think is important.

And all of this is solidified by newspapers that encourage ignorance and conformity. They encourage the population to remain ignorant with news and columnists that isolate them from the rest of the world and, most importantly, keeps them ignorant of the power that the newspapers' owner holds over their lives.

By the way, Norbert, the Canadian average quality of education is higher than you seem to think. It's consistently rated among the top ten in the world. But you
wouldn't know that, would you?

So New Brunswick does badly in relation to the rest of Canada? Gee. Its teachers have the same training as the rest of Canada. The course contents seem much the same as the rest of Canada.

So I wonder if the problem could be, not  the fault of the teachers, but something wrong with New Brunswick, something that is at least partly due to ignorance-inducing news media, and a concentration of capitalist power that lets people know only what the boss wants them to know.

Students will learn what they want to learn. Making them want to learn is a challenging business - and there isn't much in the attitude of this province or its press that encourages learning.

Norbert's column today is ignorant, destructive, insulting and crude. But it will undoubtedly be approved by his keeper.

En passant, there's another problem - the near-disappearance of after-school clubs like film, public speaking, current events, writing... The school bus makes them impossible. and my experience convinces me these clubs have a major impact.

Is it impossible to use other venues for them?

The other columns are at least worth a read. But, oh, Brent Mazerolle, you say Canada was built on Christian values? Oh? Christian values like destroying the people and culture of those from whom we took this land? Christian values like redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich? Christian values like refusing to let Jewish refugees from Germany get into Canada?

By the way, Norbert, if I were a public school teacher, and discussed questions like the four above, there would be a mob of parents at the door demanding my dismissal. One of the first things I learned in public school teaching is that it can be dangerous to tell the truth.
During the election campaign, Justin Trudeau made some big and precise promises about what  he would do as prime minister. On B2 of today's paper, he issues instructions to his ministers to set those promises in motion. But the instructions are decidedly gentler and vaguer than the promises.

We're pulling our aircraft out of Syria? Yeah. Sort of. Maybe. Perhaps in a year or so. A year or so will almost certainly be much too late. By then, the middle east wars will be even more severe - and possibly a world war. We won't be able to withdraw. In fact, we'll have to extend ourselves to fight a much bigger war - and one we are in no position to fight.

Why can't he withdraw them right away? It's only six aircraft, hardly a vital component. And why endanger the lives or our pilots for another year? A mission is worth fighting or it's not. There is no middle ground.

And we were going to return to peacekeeping. That was a biggie. And we are - sort of. But it's not actually going to involve any peacekeeping. Of course not. How can it? We are a colony of the U.S.; and the U.S. has no interest in peacekeeping. No. We won't be doing much of that UN stuff. We're NATO   folks, and NATO is under U.S. ownership. We can't be friends of both the UN and NATO.

As for the F35 fighter that Trudeau said he would never seems this rerquires further study. You bet it does.

The American defence industry is very, very rich and influential. And it's corrupt and corrupting. And it has a lot invested in the F35   though its development has revealed nothing but years of problems - the latest being that ejecting from it could break the pilot's neck.

It's also ruinously expensive. After all, somebody has to pay for all that corruption.

It's not as if the U.S. is the only country in the world that makes military aircraft. There's France, Britain, Russia, China, all of whom have produced excellent aircraft. But we just have to buy from the U.S. defence industry because that iswhere our political and economic pipelines are.

My guess? There'll be sudden news that the problems of the F-35 have been overcome. Praise the Lord.

B7 has the story on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's principled stand on  helping refugees. But I'm afraid she's doomed. We've made such a mess of the Middle East that there is going to be no end to the millions of refugees. And Europe, Canada, and the U.S. have shown very little interest in helping them.

And that's about it for Canada&World news. It's hard to get much news into 8 pages, especially when ads fill half the available space.

And, tomorrow, the attacks in Paris.

Today's faith page is even worse that usual - drab and boring and irrelevant.
So, for todays religious reading, try the poem below by Joseph Howe, premier of Nova Scotia and a father of Confederation. It's called To Mary - but not That Mary. It's a poem that gives a reason for going to church - sort of.

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