Saturday, March 26, 2005

Some Reason for the Season

I wanted to publish this as an op-ed piece in one of the local papers but they seem to have some law/policy/half-assed prejudice against using pen names. I once had a connection with the provincial government (who does not in this country?) and I don't want to cause any trouble for former colleagues until I get a commitment from the teachers union on this issue (Yeah right!) so I will post it here. It won't be seen by anyone who needs to see it but it will help me blow off some steam. This at least means that I do not need to keep it down to 400 words.

On March 16th my clock radio woke me up by informing me that the New Brunswick teachers' union has voted overwhelmingly to go on strike. The main issue is wages and the union is asking for 15% over 2 years. Yikes!

Now perhaps the teachers union is unaware that to some people in the province (the unemployed, those in the private sector etc.) this sounds somewhat unreasonable, especially given that this story was followed up later with a story about a student of our illustrious public school system who was ostracized and bullied from grade three to high school. This suggests to me that the public education system has actually deteriorated from the time when I attended which until now I would not have though possible. I did not start getting bullied until I was in grade 7. I guess that learning about the nightmare of public education is a life long process.

Perhaps those 'in the know' about the education system don't care what the public thinks. I however, think that public perception is important since it is something the government will consider when evaluating their demands.

Now before you teachers all respond that you are having to wear a barrel with shoulder straps because of your student loan payments and that the stress of having to supervise the violent and uneducated psychopathic kids that yesterday's generation of violent and uneducated psychopathic parents has delighted in raising and sending out into the world, let me just say that I am on your side. Or at least... I could be. There is no free lunch in this world. You need something from the public, and some of us need something from the government which you are in the position to shake loose. The old saying about scratching backs could apply quite nicely.

You see, I (and I am sure others before me) have tried and failed to find out why the province (and most of North America) refuses to teach logic, reasoning and critical thinking in the public school system. I was exposed to these skills and values outside the formal education system and I have come to the conclusion that they are not some optional subject like life skills courses or music or even math and reading. Logical reasoning skills are the foundation of education. Without teaching them, there is no education system to speak of. When I contacted the provincial government about this I heard no response.

So here is what I propose: I and all other like minded people in this province (I am sure there are at least 40 reasonable people in a province of this size) will actively campaign on your behalf if your little union will include in its collective agreement demands the stipulation that reason and basic logic be a mandatory subject for every student in the province. In other words, no student should receive a high school diploma without knowing how to evaluate an argument, what constitutes a valid argument, how valid arguments are different from true arguments, and what some common fallacies and sophistries are - you know basic stuff that could be taught in junior high but which New Brunswick students are left to hopefully pick up on the street from whoever is teaching them sex-ed these days.

[For the information of non New Brunswickers, there was recently a commotion when it was discovered that the sex-ed curriculum included explicit material like the word "penis" and such lies as the idea that condoms could reduce the risk of pregnancy, AIDS and STDs. It was not enough that parents could ask that their kids be excused from this filth, the very idea that other people's children might hear that pubic hair is not a punishment from God for impure thoughts was horrifying to them also. It was suggested that we adopt one of the "abstinence only" curricula that are popular in some states; curricula like the ones that were recently found to be telling kids that touching another person's genitals can result in pregnancy.]

Forty reasonable people might not sound like a lot but consider that we will be writing our M.L.A.s, writing op-ed pieces for our local papers (without pen names because that would be wrong), bringing you coffee and Tim Bits on the picket lines etc. With demands like 15% over two years you are going to need all the support you can get and it would take very little effort on your part to include this policy in your list of demands.

It is sad for me to realize that I need to cut deals with one political entity to get another one to do the right thing; to do what should have been done without Machiavellian intrigue but this is the world we live in and I can only hope to change some small part of it in my lifetime.

I await your response.

Update: No response came, the teachers implemented work-to-rule for a couple of months until the students and parents could take it no longer and then the Union and the Government came to a settlement without a strike. I do not know, nor do I care about the terms of this new scheme but I think it is safe to say that a commitment to teaching reasoning skills to every high school student is not an item on the contract.


At Sun. Mar. 27, 06:29:00 p.m. 2005, Blogger Robert said...

You’re quite right that most public school systems are sorely lacking in fulfilling their mandate. This may well be their aim. In American colleges and universities, the lower echelons of students are steered towards “teaching certificates”. I’m convinced that the NEA (National Education Association) prefers that its members act without question. Thus logic, reason and indeed critical thinking could well bring about the demise of the NEA. Additionally, the NEA is firmly allied with the Democrats, whose voters are less than our best and brightest. There seems to be collusion in the interest of mass political manipulation.

As a parent of kids in public schools, I’ve taken on the role of “supplemental teacher”. If people were to meet their parental obligations, what you describe would be less pronounced. The problem though, as you point out, is that there are a few generations of mind-numbed “obedient” citizens that react to events instead of employing rational thought. For my part, I’ll start the reversal with my three kids.

At Sun. Mar. 27, 10:50:00 p.m. 2005, Blogger Apesnake said...

Given the quality of political ads that I have seen, both American and Canadian, both campaign related and special issue oriented, not to mention the product commercials, the media pundit shows and the televangelist sermons I get to witness, I wonder if it is in anyone's best interests to promote logic. The economy of the planet seems to be dependent on the ease in which most people are manipulated.

It might be a delicious irony to see human civilization defeated by reason. I don't see it happening soon but like Jessie Jackson and his "warrior" friend Glitter-Fingers would say, "Keep hope alive!"

Jessie - seriously! Get new friends!


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