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JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN BY LYSIANE GAGNON IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

“Our new culture of compulsive communication”

I like the expression even though it is highly inaccurate.

Tweeting is not our culture.

It represents the habit of a portion of our population, and I’m not sure that it qualifies even as a “culture” for them.

Likely they represent the same portion that has always had a compulsive problem with communication.

Young folks used to talk for hours on land-line phones, generally about nothing of any import.

The expression “verbal diarrhea” is quite old: I remember it in a university psychology course in the early 1960s.

Sadly, too many of our columnists and radio hosts suffer with a form of the same complaint: they write about trivia and passing fads and elevate them into the substance of “culture.”

Apart from Ms. Gagnon and, of course, Margaret Wente, much of our new Radio One CBC is of just this nature.
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“My younger colleagues used Wikipedia as a source for everything, were unwilling to spend time reading the texts or accessing the libraries, and I spent hours editing our written projects. The ability to write a concise, grammatically correct sentence (let alone a paragraph) seemed to be beyond the other contributors…”

I recognize the problem the writer describes, but it, in fact, has little or nothing to do with technology.

The truth is that technology is, in general, not yet in our schools, at least in any meaningful way.

We are badly behind by world standards.

It is simply amazing how many teachers do not know how to use a computer or know about good data sources on the Internet.

The problem you describe has several actual causes.

First, social promotion now sees people quickly rising to the levels of incompetence in schools.

High school grades have become a poor indicator of ability or performance.

Second, our colleges and universities are taking in students who simply should not even be in those institutions.

The institutions do this for purely monetary purposes, as when Ontario’s schools of education graduate 12,000 each year and only 7,000 get jobs (I even doubt that number).

Teachers at all levels are frequently lazy and indifferent. That’s the main explanation for “group work” despite all the blather about team work.

They only have to mark a third or quarter of the number of projects.

What you find often in assigned groups is one or two who work conscientiously and the others “ride their coat tails.”

So far as the ability to write, no demands are made by many teachers in Ontario.

The so-called literacy test is a pathetic little game, and the game allows teachers to avoid being tougher in classes about writing skills, as they once were.

Many teachers’ ability even to explain to students principles of research – such as confirming a source with another source – are often non-existent, as you see with Wikipedia (a good source but one that requires other source confirmation).

Many of our current teachers are themselves the products of this poor system, and they enter the system only to further degrade it.

It’s a sad situation, and we are wasting huge costs to no advance of education.

Your comment also confuses – as does the columnist’s piece – what really is technology.

Yes, Tweeting involves the use of a technology, but then so does answering the telephone or the doorbell.

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