Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What the teacher's strike, voter apathy, political campaigning, and disenchanted kids have in common..

     Everybody has that one favourite teacher, just as Nazi Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler posited that "everyone in Germany knows at least one good Jew."  But, with the teachers of Ontario headed towards illicit strike action on Friday, January 12th, one begins to wonder at one point enough becomes enough.  Bill 115, the Putting Students First Act, was ratified effective on Tuesday.  Bill 115 freezes teacher wages for two years, prohibits 'sick-day banks' (transferring a quota of 'sick days' from one year to the next') and has created a two-year strike ban.  Although teachers have been ordered back to work by the Ontario government since classes resumed after the holiday break, provincial elementary schools will be closed on Friday so that teachers can express their displeasure with the government's ruling.
    This is the second time since 1997 that Ontario teachers have walked out of classrooms despite legal action abrogating strikes.  Ontario residents are beginning to wonder where the hell all of this is going to end.  In 2007, Carleton University support staff went on strike, leaving new students pretty much out in the cold for their first semester of classes.  Given the fact that high school was somewhere in between useless and actively annoying, first year was pretty well a recap for me anyway.  Nobody likes public schools anymore.  The age-old conundrum is simple; kids who exhibit potential from an early age don't tend to be challenged enough, and instructors must endlessly pander to the one or two 'high maintenance' kids in the class.  Most kids get lumped somewhere in the middle.
    The teachers want to strike?  Good, let them strike.  Fire them, replace them all.  According to the teachers I've personally questioned about this, they find it very importune that students, parents, etc are affected by all of this.  Some have openly referred to this move of the government's as 'fascist,' thus warranting the preceding quote, or as 'undemocratic.'  Maybe these teachers should start listening to their own colleagues in the Social Sciences departments, or take a seat in a grade 8 social studies course sometime.  Newsflash, morons: YOU ELECTED DALTON.  Or rather, didn't, because voter apathy on the October 26th, 2011 provincial election between Dalton McGuinty (Liberal), Tim Hudak (Progressive Conservative), and Andrea Horwath (NDP) was at an all-time low of 49.2%.  This isn't very hard to believe, because the 2007 provincial election between Mr. McGinty and John Tory (Progressive Conservative), Howard Hampton (NDP) and Frank DeJong (Green) was a smearfest imbroglio which boiled down to the issue of publicly-funded Muslim schools in the weeks preceding the election.
    The 2007 election hinged on an arcane issue which nobody much cared about because Mr. McGuinty's campaign team realized that, if the average voter has no clue what the real issues are but still feels an obligation to perform his civic duty, he will typically vote for the incumbent.  You want to make people go for the status quo?  When it comes to politics, the best conceivable way to do this is boredom.  Make the public interest seem convoluted, complicated, far beyond the mental breadth of the common man.  This is rarely, if ever, true, but let's face it, folks.  We live in a country where tax seminars involving millions of people are not held behind close doors clandestinely, but are beamed via satellite TV into thousands of homes.  Let's face it, they're just about as fun to check out as watching paint dry.  The main problem here is not voter 'apathy,' or stupidity, or any sort of failure to grasp the central issues.  The problem is lack of time.  Most people have precious little spare time, and dislike utilizing what little they do have on content which requires higher brain function.  Unless you're someone who has lots of time on his hands, like me, then you will rarely take the time to watch every debate, or read every brochure, or highlight every article. 
    You all remember 2007, the years after Monsieur Cretchien left federal politics and the federal scene turned into a knife fight involving more minorities than an inner-city public school.  In those years, the average Canadian cultivated a sense of 'election fatigue.'  I remember it well.  At the time, I belonged to a lobby of 'anarcho-syndicalist' university students who propounded something in between the doctrines of Noam Chomsky and Immanuel Kant.  These were the sorts of people who believed (I myself the worst of them, at the time) that, the moment they walked away from the city university with their liberal-arts degrees, that they would go out and change the world.
    But the average Canadian began to realize around this time that, no matter who we put in Parliament Hill, things never really changed.  We got complacent, got used to politicians crying wolf.  The point of this is that there's a very good reason behind the abysmal votert turnout of 2011.  All of this was a carefully contrived plot by the Liberals over the last several years...and Ontarians, you fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.
    The real problem here is not the voter apathy, or the government 'boredom' itinerary, or the fact that a few thousand employed 'adults' have decided collectively to start acting like a bunch of spoiled children.  What do all of those issues have in common?  Simple.
    The problem is the mentality that we're cultivating in young people today.  When I was young, I was taught to believe that the world was basically an unrelenting, unforgiving place, one where nobody got free handouts or second chances and everybody was protected by the speciously airtight reality of 'family.'  I was taught that, if I worked hard and long enough, that I could be (basically) anything I wanted to be.  This same mentality pervaded suburbia everywhere, and has for a long time.  The reason this fails is because it produces a country of administrators.  It creates a plethora of university students who will be disenchanted in a few short years when they realize that their liberal arts degrees aren't worth the paper they're printed on, who give their childhoods to public school systems which waste years on the most basic of principles.  Then, when you get to university and start shelling out the big bucks, you get to spend the first year or two learning all of it again.  Perhaps it gets better later.  I for one did not stick around to find out.
    Public schools have assumed the roles that governesses, maids, and, once upon a time, parents did.  Beyond perhaps a rudimentary formative education involving literacy and basic mathematics, up to perhaps age 8 or so, I see zero need whatsoever for public schools.  They create far more bad habits than good ones.  Rip out 'middle school' and 'high school' programs entirely, and create a program which streamlines kids into one of several groups.  The EU has had the right idea in this respect for many years.  Very early on, children are evaluated and categorized into scholastic, vocational, and athletic streams.  We in North America should have a similar system.  Instate fees and scholarships for marginally better classroom environments.
    Then, 'academically inclined' kids will thrive, more hands-on and active kids will be able to exemplify their skills, and more contumacious kids will learn their lessons the hard way, end up as career convicts creating jobs throughout the judicial, healthcare, and other industries.  Everybody will walk away at 18 with a certification that they can actually use, rather than a useless piece of paper called a 'high school diploma,' and teachers who take issue with a given school's policies will be free to find another. 

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