Archive for the ‘GARY MASON’ Tag

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: STILL MORE ABOUT MERIT PAY FOR TEACHERS : A TOTALLY UNWORKABLE IDEA IN PRESENT DAY PUBLIC SCHOOLS – PUBLIC SCHOOLS’ CULTURE OF DISHONESTY   Leave a comment


JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY GARY MASON IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

“Handled carefully, merit pay for teachers might work.”

A profoundly silly statement, Gary Mason.

First, when did school boards or public schools ever handle anything carefully?

If you can cite a significant instance, you will earn a footnote in history.

Our school boards are run by teachers who no longer want to be teachers.

And who are our teachers?

Generally, they start teaching right out of teachers’ college, young people with no experience of the world, aware of none of the complexities of dealing in the real world of business.

At the grade school level, they are mostly not well educated, being generalists having taken a lot of easy-to-pass courses, specialists in nothing, and then they spend a year in that most anti-intellectual, anti-academic, and anti-real world of institutions, the teachers’ college.

The atmosphere in public schools and in school boards is one somewhere between a monastery and the post office.

Just read the language of the education establishment, and you will read, not so much the jargon that goes with any profession, but a lot of puffed-up language saying almost nothing and high-sounding euphemisms for avoiding problems or making hard decisions.

Further, there is an almost suffocating sense of cloistered society in our school bureaucracies, of “ins” and “outs” and favoritism and “hush, you musn’t say that.” It is not an atmosphere conducive to fair and open evaluation of anything.

This includes a kind of prevailing bureaucratic dishonesty. For example, the subject of bullying is talked about endlessly and expensive materials are purchased for presentations. Yet the real solution to bullying is never, never touched: that is, every teacher’s taking responsibility for the acts which occur before his or her eyes.

Another example of this institutionalized dishonesty is the effort to deal with genuine problems by inventing some new temporary nostrum rather than dealing directly with a problem which requires sleeves rolled up and hard effort. The examples are countless.

There is the fraud of Afro-centric or other forms of segregated schools as a solution to poor academic performance. Essentially, if these succeed – as measured by grades – it will be because of reduced demands and high marks for projects which are of little value to a good education, all conducted in the “safe” atmosphere of a place with no genuine scrutiny.

There is the fraud of social promotion: a way to make no extra effort for difficult students and a way to kiss your problem good-bye at the end of term.

Ontario has report cards that are almost a joke from a Monty Python skit. Pre-written, bureaucratic phrases are pasted into each kid’s report from a list. Their actual performance is not even properly graded.

Ontario has literacy tests – created and graded by teachers themselves – rather than grappling with teaching kids to read in the first place. As they exist in Ontario, and I have both read them and experienced a foreign student’s exposure to them, they are a complete fraud, accomplishing nothing.

Literacy closets – things filled with costly special-purpose, forgettable, throwaway books created just to the purpose – rather than attending to libraries and seeing that there is good literature kids will enjoy and learn from and teachers who help introduce them to it.

The teacher-librarian – a bizarre creation which is neither a qualified librarian nor a teacher with expertise in anything, but a body sitting around to fill in holes for various teachers away for one reason or another, spending their remaining hours supposedly taking care of the library. One good look at the state of these libraries will tell you how effective they are at their job.

Now, on top of all this, add the teachers’ union, defender of dead-wood, hero organization of the non-performer.

Finally, add a school system under direct political control, whose politicians are concerned only with getting re-elected and avoiding any serious conflict, no matter what their rhetoric.

So this is an environment in which conscientious, impartial evaluations of performance can occur? Only in your dreams.

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: ARE THE VANCOUVER OLYMPICS TO BE A FINANCIAL DISASTER OR NOT? AND OTHER OLYMPIC MATTERS   Leave a comment

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY GARY MASON IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

 

“But if you’re going to suggest, as Olympic critics do, that the Games have cost $6-billion, at least have the decency to say that a good chunk of that amount – $4-billion, in fact – has gone to things that were going to get built anyway.”

This is just a roundabout updating of Mayor Drapeau’s infamous line about Olympics and deficits and having babies.

Of course, in the case of Montreal 1976, we were left with a whopper of a deficit, and some of the infrastructure was poorly designed and built in the rush, yielding far less utility in the future than structures carefully done over time.

There’s no reason on earth a city the size of Vancouver, not really a terribly large city, would have been spending $4billion on infrastructure.

And the comment on the immense security cost, above, is on the mark: we are at the point where a public event requiring this much security is not worth it.

The excesses of the modern Olympics are beyond counting, but they may perhaps be best symbolized by the Olympic Torch Relay. It costs a fortune to pull off this meaningless quasi-barbaric ritual in a country the size of Canada.

And what are its origins? The 1936 Olympics in Germany, a country under great international pressure at the time over its suitability to host the Olympics and a country then given to lavish quasi-barbaric rituals.

The infamous Joseph Goebbels put the first Torch Relay into the modern Olympics, and we still mindlessly repeat it.

It has no connection to the origins of the Olympics, and, indeed, the entire modern excess called the Olympics has no relation to the ancient, relatively simple event.

Vancouver, as was China, is a gigantic, immensely expensive Las Vegas show, a glitzy, vacuous temporary temple to sports not even paid for by the people enjoying it.

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: CAN AMERICA RISE AGAIN? ASKS A COLUMNIST – THE REAL QUESTION IS: CAN AMERICA GOVERN ITSELF?   Leave a comment

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY GARY MASON IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

Rise again?

You mean as in “The South will rise again”?

This is a silly piece.

First, no matter how badly hurt the US is, a place of that size and wealth is not disappearing. Will it be diminished? Yes, to a certainty.

Second, all of America’s problems are self-inflicted. The wars, the financial crisis, the healthcare mess.

The real problem in America is its inability to govern itself, and it is truly starting to show like elbows through a frayed jacket.

In this it is very much like a huge corporation. When times are good and the operations side of the business is healthy, management appears good and is full of praise for itself.

But when unexpected twists come, when technological leaps forward have made your operations obsolete, or when your main source of wealth is depleted (as oil), management generally is revealed for what it mostly is: a set of well-paid strutters upon a stage.

Despite the horrific fears of financial disaster, amazingly few steps have been taken by the American government to assure a smoother future. Contrast to its insane over-reactions to every hint of terror.

And there are tons of problems yet to resolved. The defaults on mortgages are still going on. The huge cash payout to the financial industry served only as a temporary fix. The very payments to the investment banks really only were a dose of more of the same, spend now and don’t worry about tomorrow.

Obama has waited too late to limit the big investment banks, a step he has just announced. He should have promptly gone after increased regulation when they were down and shamed.

Now they will fight him every step of the way with tens of millions of dollars in lobby money and advertising.

And just look at the Supreme Court decision the other day, rescinding the last campaign-finance reform. It’s back to the jungle.

________________________

“Paraphrasing Lincoln, America is still mankind’s last great hope. What could replace it? Eurabia? China? Let’s have a dose of reality.”

Lincoln was a sentimentalist, or at least indulged in sentimentalism while he built a throbbing war machine and crushed the South’s right to self-determination.

No one, including Americans, regards the country in that way anymore. It is a giant imperial complex with a veneer of democracy. Lincoln was, if you will, the father of what we call the military-industrial complex.

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: COFFIN CEREMONIES: THEY DIE IN AFGHANISTAN AND WE TALK ABOUT WEATHER   Leave a comment

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN TORONTO’S GLOBE AND MAIL

A ridiculous article, Gary Mason.

First, how many times do you think it appropriate to show pictures of coffin ceremonies?

What is the limit? How many years? For every death?

In WW II that would have meant coffin scenes were the only things broadcast twenty-four hours a day in some countries from 1939 to 1945.

In any event, it is also important to understand Canadians have not embraced the “cause” of Afghanistan because they are, for the most part, rational and understand there is no cause.

They know, just as the Europeans who will not subject themselves to further hazard, that it is not truly their cause and that they are there only owing to the paranoid demands of the United States.

Too much going on over coffins gets us into the American paranoid mode of thinking, supercharged, unhealthy patriotism. It makes people think there is something more significant going on than there is.

It also breeds fear, which is why those horrible men who started the whole ugly business, Bush and Cheney, have never allowed coffin returns to even be photographed.