I Haven’t Read The Book, Either, But I Did Read The Comments



I’ve been delaying reading this piece because of the anticipation of sheer pain at another shot at someone trying to do something to ensure that we have a planet to live on a couple of decades down the road. I can understand that Margaret Wente, as an apparently very well-off US citizen living a fairly cosseted life as a columnist in Toronto, might take exception to the existence of the economic system that set her up in the life of Riley, but her column was written without, apparently, the benefit of reading the actual book.

(Full disclosure: I, too, hold US citizenship, and lead a different version of that cosseted life out here in the last remaining low-rent district on the Wet Coast. Neither have I read Naomi Klein’s latest tome, though it’s on the list. Unlike Ms. Wente, I came to the conclusion long ago that we are staring down both barrels of the apocalypse on a number of counts and have been actively engaged in local initiatives to do something about the endless wars, resource extraction follies, over-consumption and possible disasters related to food/water shortages and disease.)

MW’s contention is that Klein is clueless on a number of questions relating to both capitalism and climate change and in the rather snide way of discounting the thought that went into the book, labels her the It-Girl of climate change, rather a low blow for someone with pretentious to intellectual status. I was curious to see what the mood was amongst the commenters ( I didn’t get too far, but was surprised to see how vehemently the commenters protested Wente’s not having read the book and proceeded to point out flaws in her argument, specifically that Klein hadn’t addressed issues relating to China and India, stating that those who read the book would find that it was all there. The sad thing is that the Globe and Mail would leave the impression that Wente was on the right side of it all, except for those intrepid enough to dive into the comments.

I’m glad that I delayed reading the piece and glad to get this thought out where I can now ignore it. We all have some pretty important tasks to attend to.

It’s My Education



Update: Just ran across this on Facebook, and how eloquent it is!


In various places in the mainstream media, there are articles along these lines: Teachers and government are both wrong to hold my education hostage.

From the Globe:

With the cancellation of summer school and distance education offerings, student Cole Poirier says he’s felt as though students have been “held hostage” as negotiators from both sides have claimed that they are representing the best interest of students.

“I don’t think it’s right to suspend our education for a labour dispute,” said Mr. Poirer, a student at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in the southern end of Vancouver.


This statement speaks to the kind of education being promoted generally in North America, that is to say, job training, and demonstrates something of a lack of perspective on what it means to be educated. When students (and parents) insist that they are being short changed, they need to look at the potential outcomes of the conflict at hand.

If the teachers win in labour negotiations (an unlikely prospect) as they already have twice in court, students will be in smaller classes with staffing made available for students with special needs (these needs carry on right through secondary school: most disabilities can’t be fixed). This does not mean that the education system will be all fixed, but it ensures that there will be a functioning public education system, a framework on which to build some form of education that will extend the notion beyond job training and general grooming for the workforce and allow for analysis to be part of the curriculum so that we won’t be stuck in the same kind of closed loop that brought us to this untenable situation.


If the current provincial government gets its way, either through labour “negotiations” or through a stunning legal reversal (that would essentially void the value of any contract), the school system would continue to be starved for the resources it needs to function until there would only be the skeleton childcare and warehousing service, and even this might be turned over to the private sector. Meanwhile, those who could afford it, along with the few poverty cases that showed themselves worthy of scholarship assistance, would funnel into the private school system, which, oddly enough, is pretty generously subsidized by the province, i.e., you help pay for the fancy campuses, the uniforms and the IB programs.


The net result of Mr. Poirier getting his education at the expense of the BCTF would be to effectively cheat future students out of the whole of their education, not just the part of a year or, Clark forbid, the whole year. I wonder if he and his ilk are willing to consciously shoulder the responsibility for that prospect.


Ultimately, the responsibility for getting educated rests with the individual. Current curriculum is laced with pap and limited perspective. A lot of it is aimed at extinguishing creative impulse and dissent and on imposing restrictions as it sorts out the young folks who aren’t appropriate fodder for the workaday world. It is incumbent on learners to recognize this and to ensure that they accomplish those parts of the curriculum they need to find their niche in society, but to never stop at that point and wander off into the maze of consumerism and social myth that bombards them from all quarters. Learners have many potential partners,parents, peers, the community and, yes, teachers. The remarkable thing about many young people who choose to be educated is that they find the peers, relatives, community leaders and teachers who have something to offer and take from those people what they need to move in the right direction. Some of this may not come from agreeing with what someone says, but from the sense that they’ve been misled and from refusing to accept blindly what issues from the mouths of the anointed. It isn’t the easy path, but a dedicated learner needs to revisit and question whatever comes before him and to constantly reformulate and resynthesize the body of knowledge and ideas that he has accumulated.

It would be wonderful to have a public school system that was a knowledgeable and supportive partner in this undertaking, but it won’t happen with the current governing régime, nor with people whose concern for education ends with their own education and with the loss of the current academic session.