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Posts Tagged ‘political correctness’

. . . no, not Canada Day, but Dominion Day, the true name of the day that commemorates Confederation, the founding of our country, whose full, legal name is the Dominion of Canada. Its ersatz replacement, “Canada Day” or “Jour Fete du Canada”, was passed one late Friday after noon in Parliament but less than the thirteen member legal quorum by Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals.

It will never be “Canada Day,” at least not in my heart, damn it!

And that’s not the worst of it. Beginning with his predecessor, Lester Pearson, Canada’s traditions have been destroyed, one by one, by the Liberals, starting with the flag. Canada’s true historical flag is the Red Ensign, with a Union Jack in the upper right, for the simple reason that Canada was and is a British product, but all traces of our British heritage are being removed, starting with the flag, now replaced by that insipid red maple leaf.

And why attack our British heritage? Supposedly because it offended French Canadians, and subsequently because it was deemed not inclusive enough for newer, non-British immigrants.

It is beyond ironic that, in the name of multiculturalism, which is supposedly so inclusive and respective of people’s heritage, the Left is working so hard to exclude the British component our national heritage?

Can you say “hypocrisy”?

A full catalogue of the process is simply too painful to type out, so here is a summary:

  • replacing the flag
  • changing the national anthem (can’t mention the Queen, now, can we . .  . ?)
  • changing our system of weights and measures (from British to – drum roll, please! – French)
  • changing the name of the country (from the “Dominion of Canada” to plain old “Canada” because “Dominion” was thought to sound too British – it’s not; “Dominion” is a Canadian invention)
  • changed the name of the national holiday (can’t have that pesky old Dominion, now, can we . . . ?)
  • erased symbols of the Monarchy wherever possible (stamps, money, the names of the armed forces and Crown corporations . . . Papa Trudeau even tried to get rid of the “Royal” in “Royal Canadian Mounted Police”)
  • And yes, I could go on . . .

And where does it all lead? To the Republic of Canada, sans (French chosen to make a point) all traces of our British heritage in order to fully realize Trudeau the Lesser’s Brave New World of the New Multicultural World Order. Little Justin has already gone on record as saying that “Canada has no core traditions” and so is destined to be “the world’s first post national state”.

And so, what is there to celebrate for a traditional Canadian?

Not much.

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Lorrie Goldstein, former editor of the Toronto Sun, once gave me a definition of political correctness that I rather liked: good intentions gone berserk.

And so it is in education – certainly in the TDSB.

I can believe that their intentions were good, and I can see that results were disastrous.

Looking back over my recent posts, I can see that pattern in all of them.

There’s nothing wrong with starting the day off with a little music and giving the students some say in what is played, but when the song choices glorify mental illness, crime and promiscuity . . . ? The good intention has morphed into something has morphed into something sick.

One understands the wish to abandon the strict regimentation of the 1950s, especially after the revolution of the 1960s, but when all sense of order is abandoned so that students, at least in “high needs” schools are allowed to come and go, almost at will, from classes, how can they get a reasonable education?

Similarly, I don’t think very many people mourn the passing of corporal punishment in the schools – remember the strap? – but when all consequences are removed, so that a student can scream obscenities at a teacher and need only mouth an insincere “apology” to saunter on down the hall and brag to his friends about it, no-one is served, not even the potty-mouthed student.

Straight lecture style can be deadly boring, but insisting on the preponderance of another style of teaching – differentiated instruction – that is less effective in achieving true depth in learning, is folly. The best teaching is, and always has been, eclectic.

There are cases where allowances need to be made for students not being able to get an assignment in – life happens, as they say. But that should be the exception, not the rule. Obviously, a death in the family, serious illness, etc. should warrant understanding from the teacher, but if a student chooses not to hand in an assignment or plagiarizes, he should get a good old-fashioned zero: that’s called taking responsibility for your actions – and we still believe in that, don’t we?

And educators want to make this a better world as much as anyone else does, but they should have the decency to leave their politics outside the classroom. Schools should be used to educate, not indoctrinate. And political correctness – a tragic mistake that our society is just beginning too wake up to – looks as though it will blight education for another generation.

In trying to modernize education, we went to far. Having received my own elementary and secondary education in the 1950s an 60s, I can say that it was better then than it is now – by a lot. And in trying to address its deficiencies, we diminished what it did well.

Today’s students are being cheated.

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One of the worst aspects of the education system is that it conspires, implicitly and explicitly, to indoctrinate rather than simply to educate, specifically, to create generations of left-wing voters – and it’s working.

To some extent, this is innocent and unintentional, but by and large, it is both intentional and insidious, an policy to “mold young minds” – the mold is unabashedly socialist.

Teachers, as workers in the so-called “helping professions”, tend to be relatively sensitive to the needs of other and, while that sensitivity is not the exclusive realm of the political left, teachers do tend to be drawn in that direction. Unable to be 100% impartial, they tend to impart that bias in their teaching. Combined with official Ministry and and Board policies which encourage them in that direction, they become the foot soldiers of political correctness.

In doing so, they go against the grain of Canadian sensibilities for while the schools promote multiculturalism, anti-homophobia, anti-racism, etc., Canadians are by no means in favor of pursuing these agendae (correct Latin plural). In fact, majority sentiment runs against some of them.

For instance, the majority in Canada favor retention of the Monarchy, but schools have been taking down their pictures of the Queen, in some cases replacing Her with portraits of Martin Luther King – who is not even a Canadian. In my first school, over twenty years ago, my principal expressly forbid me from putting up a picture of the Queen in my classroom. In my last school, my principal opposed my donating a portrait of Her Majesty to the school as She was “not relevant”.

The schools teach an overly-liberal sex education agenda that is not favored by the majority of Canadians. The innocence of children regarding things like anal intercourse does not seem to be important to the Board or the province. There is talk now of renaming Mothers‘ Day and Fathers‘ day.

Multiculturalism is front and center. Immigration? Any teacher can tell his class that Canada should accept more immigrants, but the teacher who advocates lowering the immigration level – something that even David Suzuki favors – would find themselves in the principal’s office pretty quickly.

I distinctly remember hearing teachers railing against then Conservative Ontario Premier Bill Harris – overt political propaganda in the classroom. When my own students asked me, during the height of tensions between his government and the teachers’ unions, what my feelings were about Harris, I replied that I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to use the classroom to advocate my political views. There response was, “All our other teachers do.” My colleagues railed against Bush senior over Kuwait and Bush junior about Hurricane Katrina . . . some considered their desks to be their political pulpits, something that I, as a conservative, would not dare have done.

But nothing matched the Board’s approach to racism, which was, essentially, to vilify white people – I know that sounds extreme, and they would deny it, but I can demonstrate it, and will.

At one school, a group was brought in to give a presentation to the student body in an assembly and then fan out into the classrooms to indoctrinate the students further. Their presentation consisted of a number of skits that showed discrimination in action. After three or four of these, I started to keep score. If it concerned something sexual orientation, the heterosexual was “the bad guy”; racism, the white guy; sexual harassment, the male . . . without fail. And it occurred to me: a new stereotype was being created and advertised – the white, able-bodied, heterosexual, anglophone male. And what will happen when Toronto becomes majority non-white, as the demographers tell us will happen? Whites will face discrimination, fueled by generations of educators and other politically correct sorces telling non-whites that whites discriminate against them. I went to – in fact, was forced to attend – a workshop on racism, in which I and my fellow teachers were told that the only people who could, by definition, practice racism were whites because racism, by definition, equals discrimination plus power, and whites are the only group that has power. That’s circular logic combined with a definition that you won’t find in Oxford or Webster. When I pointed out that the them director of the TDSB was black, I was informed, straight-faced, that he was the exception, and so, in short, did not count.

The overall effect of this is to create and foster a stereotype of white people as being racist to non-whites, while non-whites are incapable of being racist, which fosters antipathy towards whites who, quite rightly, resent that – hardly a formula for reducing racism.

What little true racism exists in our society, of course, exists on all sides. I have seen black students show prejudice against Asians, Asians against blacks, aboriginals against whites . . . like I said, it’s on all sides.

I once had to deal with a group of black girls who were playing loud music in the hall, disturbing students in the Library. The hall monitor, who was also black, asked me to help because the girls would not listen to him. When negotiations failed, I simply unplugged their boom box. One of them started screaming at me. My ears literally hurt because she got so close and so loud. She called me a “fucking white racist”. For this, she received a one day suspension – one day! I asked the vice-principal what discipline he would have handed out if a large white male student had screamed obscenities at a small black female teacher, calling her a “fucking black” anything. The only answer I got was a glare.

If the Board blows the race issue – and they do – they do an even worse job with the other “R” issue they have waded into: religion.

As long as I am relating personal anecdotes, let me relate another. For about a year, once a week or every ten days, I wore a black t-shirt with white writing that said GOD IS COMING – LOOK BUSY. I got a lot of comments, all positive, not to mention amusement over it because of the obvious irony: you can’t fool God by looking busy. It was a J – O – K – E, and certainly not a religious statement. Everyone got it . . . or so I thought.

I got hauled into the principal’s office with my union rep in tow and a vice-principal acting as court reporter, taking notes. Apparently, my t-shirt was “deeply offensive”. I agreed to stop wearing it.

I called the human rights office at the Board, and found that, indeed, I was violating a Board policy. When I asked for more details of the policy, I found out the following: I could wear a cross around my neck – no-one had ever complained about that – but someone had been ordered not to wear a t-shirt that had a number of crosses in the shape of a heart. (Either multiple crosses or hearts are not allowed – you figure it out).

I was told that the schools were secular institutions – is this starting to sound like the Quebec “values charter” we’ve been reading about in the papers recently? – so these things were not allowed.

However . . .

Muslim students were allowed to miss class time to attend prayers. In one school, they did so in the school cafeteria with boys in the front, girls behind them, and menstruating girls at the very, very back. I guess religious rights trump women’s rights, but there are so many contradictions in the politically correct philosophy that it’s hard to tell.

This is what I have seen: women must have equal rights unless they are muslim; all races are equal except for whites (who are a bunch of racists); homosexuality must be respected, but if Muslims or Jamaicans disagree, that’s their culture; all cultures must be celebrated except for British; religions should be accommodated except for Christianity . . .

And this is what they teach the kids, either overtly or implicitly.

Ouch!

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You would expect that if student attendance fell, lateness rose, discipline went south, and teaching methods became less effective, student performance would suffer, and the ultimate indicator of performance, student marks on report cards, would plummet.

Well, they have.

But . . .

This has happened disproportionately in the “higher needs” schools (see earlier post for guide to eduspeak euphemisms). Parents of students in “good” schools tend to be more demanding of their children, so it is the most needy students who suffer the most for these misguided policy shifts.

But education is a sneaky beast, and it has found a way of hiding the drop in performance. They simply changed the way they evaluated student “success”, claiming that it was more fair and “equitable” (I’ll get to that bugaboo in a later post) to students. The truth is, they moved the goalposts.

It used to be that if a student did not hand in an assignment, he did not get a mark. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? If you don’t do any work at your place of employment you don’t get paid any money – because you are fired.

Not so in schools.

A TDSB policy statement had this to say about it: zero evidence is not evidence of zero. Cleverly put, but pure nonsense, as is so much else in education.

When report card time rolls around. rather than give a student an honest zero for not handing in an assignment, teachers are expected to find a similar assignment and use that to “measure the same competency”. Even if the original zero resulted from plagiarism. (Is it not supremely ironic that the former director of the TDSB, “Dr.” (for now) Spence, was forced to resign when it was discovered that he was a serial plagiarist?)

Students quickly learn that they do not have to hand in every assignment, which represents learning opportunities lost and hardly encourages a good work ethic.

Teachers are expected to bend over backwards to accept late assignments, even when they have handed back marked assignments to the class, which gives students the ideal opportunity to hand in someone else’s work with near-impunity.

“Credit recovery” allows students to hand in missed assignments long after every due date, including final exams, in order to save what any reasonable person would deem a doomed credit.

All of these measures were put into place to lower failure rates using the smokescreens of fairness and equity. I haven’t even gone into all of the measures put into place for ESL and Special Education students, including accommodations and course modifications that lower the bar even further.

But lowering the bar has backfired because too many students have responded by finding ways to limbo under the bar, no matter how far we lower it.

Thus, students, ultimately, pay for educrats lowering standards to hide how they have made education less and less effective.

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Assuming that the students are in class and behaving well enough that the teacher can teach effectively – quite an assumption in some cases – what is being taught?

Sadly, this is another area where we are failing our students.

First of all, the system in general (and the TDSB in particular) worships at the altar of political correctness, which will be the subject of a later post. Suffice it for here to say that it has abandoned the idea that schools are responsible for transmitting Canadian and Western values and traditions to the next generation of Canadians. For example, in the teaching of English, books like Lord of the Flies and Great Expectations are being mothballed in favor of The Kite Runner (multicultural literature) and The Hunger Games (more on that later in this post).

Secondly, there has been a de-emphasizing of the teaching of content and skills to something more . . . “creative” – yes, I am rolling my eyes as I type that. That means that the formal teaching of grammar is not advocated and cannot be tested, not at the high school level, anyway. Predictably, student grammar is getting worse, as is spelling along with writing skills in general. Sadly, I discovered that a simple and highly reliable indicator of student plagiarism a correctly used semicolon.

Similarly, things like learning the times tables simply isn’t done. I have amazed students with my ability to do mental arithmetic when explaining or estimating their marks, and I owe it all to leaning the times tables by rote – but teaching by rote is considered reactionary, and is thus deeply frowned upon. Too many students cannot manage long division, not to mention the higher math operations, with pencil and paper because they are allowed to use pocket calculators – even in exams! Sometimes, I wonder if this is how turning the human race into cyborgs begins.

In general, education is losing touch with the idea that some things are learned best through memorization and repetition, and student skills have gone down in the past few generations, particularly in literacy and numeracy: what we used to “the three Rs” – reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic.

Another area in which we fail our students is pandering to their tastes, even their whims. That’s what I was referring to earlier when I mentioned The Hunger Games – which is a fun read, especially if you are a teenager, but it’s hardly what you would call literature – and high school is the one chance that many of our students get to examine great literature. I guess that’s not considered important anymore.

The preferred method of instruction has also changed in recent years. The old model is straightforward: the teacher teaches; the students learn. Now, the teacher is seen more as a facilitator or, as I have often heard it put, “the guide on the side”. The students have been elevated in the learning process and the teacher de-emphasized.

Combined with the new model is something called “differentiated instruction”. Teaching one novel is out; a book club approach (the students choosing a novel that appeals to them and working in groups) is in. It’s another one of those ideas that sounds interesting on paper – students are more likely to buy in to texts that they choose for themselves – but the sobering reality is that the rich classroom experience that comes out of class discussions that are only possible when everyone is reading the same book – being on the same page, as it were – is lost. Prep time for teachers is increased due to having to prep multiple sources, and it takes much longer to teach the same course material. I will admit that differentiated instruction can be an interesting “change-up” to class routines, but just as a major league pitcher should not throw nothing but change-ups, neither should a teacher.

I found it supremely ironic that in a workshop given for teachers on the implementation of differentiated instruction, that method of teaching was not used – not even once. My colleagues and I noticed this, but no-one asked about it at question time: we knew which way the wind was blowing.

And so it is with education: a teacher must watch which way the wind is blowing, and steer their course according or they are asking for trouble from their administrators. Over twenty-three years of teaching (and longer as a student), I have seen the fads come and go.

Sadly, over the past few generations, the overall direction has been down.

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In School #3, I wrote that not attendance and lateness was a problem in many schools due to the lack of consequences. In other words, if the students know that they can skip a class at will or saunter in whenever they want to, they just might do that.

That same lack of consequences has many other ramifications in education. While you can’t teach a student who is not present, it’s pretty hard to teach one who is acting up in class, and it’s not that easy to teach the class, either, when the teacher has to do something that I call “split-screening”, a term I use to describe staying half-focused on what I’m teaching and half-focused on students who are disruptive.

You would think that in any reasonable school, you could just send a student who was acting up down to the office, and they would straighten him/her out, and I guess that’s true, but by that definition, too many schools are “unreasonable”.

In one school I taught at, a female student deftly placed a thumb tack on my chair, but I saw her – thank God. The principal sent her home for the afternoon, and I voiced the opinion that I thought more should have been done. He stared at me like I was some kind of pervert, and asked, incredulously, “What do you want me to do? Punish her?!” Actually, yes, I did.

On another occasion, I wouldn’t let a student use a staff phone, and he looked at me with hate in his eyes as he left, and said, “I’m going to knock you out.” To me, that sounds like a threat, and should warrant a suspension at the least, but no, he was asked to apologize – that’s it! The principal said, “I don’t want to suspend him because he’s a good kid and it’s close to exams.”

Another student shoved me . . . for the second time. The first time, he had wanted to leave the class during a lockdown – a fairly serious event with police all over the building, and I, standing in front of the door, said no. He pushed me out of the way so that he could leave. The second time, was similar. The first time, he was suspended two days, and the time, it was going to be for five days. I was getting tired of being shoved around, so I called the police. As I knew they would, they charged him and he was not allowed within a hundred yards of me, which meant that he had to change schools.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to F___ off. I’ve had other teachers sniff, “Well I’ve never had a student talk to me like that. Maybe you should handle them differently.” In fairness, there is such a way, I must admit, and it is the method which they have adopted – it’s very simple, too: stop enforcing school rules. But that doesn’t strike me as very professional or any favor to the students in the long run.

When we have rules and do not reinforce them, what we are doing, ultimately, is to teach the students not to respect rules or those who do try to enforce them, which his hardly the way to teach good citizenship. Furthermore, it contributes to a less safe environment in the schools. Lastly, it diminishes the quality of the students’ learning.

A few years ago, when Jordan Manners was shot to death in a Toronto school, the Board investigated. Several teachers at the boy’s school wrote op-ed pieces complaining that his death was the result of a generation of de-emphasizing discipline. I remember thinking, “How tragic that a boy had to die for the Board to finally do something about a situation that had been deteriorating for a decade or more.

“More fool, me!” as the English say.

The Board appointed a civil rights lawyer, Julian Falconer, to investigate, and instead of recommending a return to some for of reasonable discipline, he recommended that we de-emphasize it further! He said this: “You cannot punish students into engagement.”

I know that students today, even in the “good” schools, are receiving an education that is inferior to the one the would have received back in my day, and lack of discipline is a major (though not the only) factor.

When students have no respect for their teachers, their fellow students, and ultimately, themselves, their education has to suffer.

Sorry, Mr. Falconer, but you’re wrong. If you punish a student to deter him from doing wrong things, he will eventually be left with nothing but right things to do – like engagement, for instance. And if that doesn’t work, he will not benefit from being in the building, anyway.

Falconer and the vested interests who weaseled him into the position – his sister is a TDSB superintendent, by the way – want to save every student, which is admirable on paper, but does harm in practice, including the death of students like Jordan Manners.

Some students should be expelled.

When I was in high school, I never heard a student tell a teacher to f___ off. Come to think of it, I never heard of a student doing anything like that. And the reason is that we all knew, without being told, that to do so would mean immediate expulsion.

Sorry, Mr. Falconer, but reasonable discipline works.

And saves lives.

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It’s nine o’clock and the students have arrived in class . . . or have they?

It depends on the school, or rather, it depends on the parents, as do so many things.

“Good” schools work in this and many other regards. What is a good school? Ones in neighborhood where the parents have money, more or less. The parents are successful and expect the same from their children. If their kids don’t do well, the parents are all over the situation, and Jonny or Suzy produces. If the kids were to do something so foolish as skip school, the would be in trouble.

Schools in poorer neighborhoods are not as “good”. The parents don’t have a lot of money, their are a lot of single parent (usually mother only) households, and they are too busy working long hours to stay on top of things, so they leave it largely to the school to discipline their kids if problems arise.

But there is no discipline.

There are virtually no consequences in secondary schools in the TDSB for lateness and non-attendance, especially in what we in the profession call “high needs” schools, not having the honesty to call them what they are: schools in poor neighborhoods.

In one school I taught in, one of the teachers came up with a plan that involved consequences. Surprisingly, the principal went for it. After three lates, the student got a detention. After three detentions, the student got a one day suspension.

It worked! Things got BETTER! Consequences . . . WORK!!!

Student punctuality rose significantly until . . .

Students figured out that if they  simply skipped the class, they were marked “absent” rather than “late”.

Things got WORSE!

A number of teachers asked the principal to close the loophole that the students had so cleverly found, but he wouldn’t. Attendance plummeted. And, predictably, the whole program was scrapped the next fall. Our fearless principal – a very nice man, by the way – snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

You can’t teach students who are not there, whether it be through absenteeism or lateness (which is just another form of absenteeism, if you think about it).

The underlying problem is a lack of discipline – the D word – and the consequences of having no consequences are profound. As an old friend of mine used to say, “The wheels are coming off.”

And that will be the subject of my next post.

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