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Showing posts from 2013

Parti Québécois Hypocrisy Has a New Face

PQ hypocrisy has a new face:  Jean-François Lisée, elected as the PQ Member for Rosemont in 2012.  When he was a journalist with L’actualite , I don’t remember ever feeling that he was unmeasured or unreasonable in the presentation of his ideas.  When he debated Mordecai Richler on English-language television, he seemed not only more on top of the issues but the more reserved and rational of the two.  I was therefore very curious to see how he would defend the Charte des valeurs in his press conference on RDI this week.  His presentation and responses were brisk, vague and evasive:  sure signs of a politician who knows he is skating on very thin ice, or just a man forced to defend a policy that he doesn’t believe in. When I quoted Premier Lucien Bouchard’s address to the Anglophone community of Quebec at Centaur Theatre, March 12, 1996, in my last posting, what I didn’t mention was that Jean-François Lisée was the Premier’s speech-writer at the time, as well as  the organizer of

According to the PQ, "Loving Your Mother" Is Not a Québécois Value

Since first hearing about the Parti Québécois’ proposed “ Charte des valeurs ,”  I have gone through the typical range of emotions that I keep hearing all around me:  outrage, shame, embarrassment, anger, frustration, fear.  What most continues to bewilder me is the idea that any democratic government feels that it can legislate the values of its people.  If a Taliban government announced that it was planning to legislate a charter of values for Afghanistan, I could at least recognize a level of coherence.  But who ever heard of a western democracy announcing plans to legislate people’s values? Every law, every constitution, every judicial proceeding emerges from and is a reflection in some degree of the people  governed by those laws.  The laws change as a culture and its values evolve.  Laws are the purview of legislators, but values belong to the people.  Attempting to legislate values directly is by definition reactionary conservatism; that is, it is an attempt to stop any chan

Do No Harm Part III: Don’t Joke about the Bible

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Do Not presume I hope I have made it clear that I have not lived up to my own recommendation that teachers should avoid irony.   The best I have been able to do, and I suspect this will be true for most teachers, is to be careful and to be wary of the pitfalls of irony.   In recent years I saw a dramatic increase in the multicultural mix in my classes:   students from Africa, the Caribbean, the former Yugoslavia, Iran, China, Japan and various Arab countries.     Over the years, I had learned from lecturing on feminism and what used to be called “women’s liberation” not to presume to know what individual women want or, worse still, should want.   Even though, I was supposed to be the expert on “culture” and “intercultural communication,” I think I knew enough not to presume that I understood my students' lives, and to recognize that I had a lot to learn from them.   In general, I was in awe of their openness and resilience.   H.G. Wells’ short story “The Country of the Blind”

Do No Harm Part II: Avoid Irony

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In Education, sometimes less is more I used to teach a course on Public Speaking.   It took me three years to figure out how to properly organize and deliver the course.   I think I finally did it right in the third year.   The trick was to abandon my teacher ego (a subject for a future post), get out of the way, take care of administrative and secretarial necessities of the course, and allow the students to perform and to educate each other—as much as I could (which was never easy for me).   A majority of the students who took this course were from the Faculty of Education and consequently destined for careers as educators.   One message I passed on to all the students, especially those planning to become teachers:   avoid irony.   Every Joke has a victim This is very complicated advice because if you ask students to list the five features they appreciate in teachers, a “sense of humour” is bound to appear consistently in the list.   (Here is another issue that I suspect teach

Do No Harm

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"Do no harm" It was always my intention and ambition as a teacher to honour the basic tenant of the Hippocratic Oath :   “Do no harm.”   It sounds simple enough, and I assume most teachers feel as I do, but for people with sadistic impulses the classroom must seem like a tempting playground.   Since the oath was intended for doctors, much of what it proposes would not apply to teachers, but even some of its tenants like honouring gods and mentors, not using a knife on patients, and not providing abortions seem odd promises even for ancient Greek doctors.   On the other hand, the proscription of having sex with patients or revealing their confidences could and should also be applied to teachers with their students.   (These proscriptions, in my mind, go hand and in hand, and will be discussed in a future post.) "Spare the rod and spoil the child" But I’ve never been able to get passed the basic “Do no harm.”   It is a burden and a challenge for any teac

Time to Blow the Whistle

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What does "education" mean? Teachers, past, present and future, and students, it's time to blow the whistle.  Complaints and confessions are needed.  Name any problem--crime, depression (economic and psychological), sexism, racism, drug abuse, the breakup of marriages and families, etc, etc--and someone has already proposed that "education" is the solution.  Does anybody ever stop to consider what these specialists (politicians, administrators, sociolgists, ecologists, psychologists, pedagogues and functionaries) mean by "education"? New myths for old The world renowned literary theorist and educator, Northrop Frye, described education as the process of getting rid of old myths, in order to replace them with new ones.  Frye was a great believer in "myth," so his declaration isn't quite as cynical as it sounds.  So let me play the cynic, although as you might guess, like most cynics, I'm really just a slightly bruised idealist.