Thursday, April 24, 2008

Postive Message about Afghanistan

I am currently reading Blatchford's Fifteen Days. I took it on the plane with me on my recent trip home and I took it with me to the dentist appointment this afternoon. It has sparked some conversation with the strangers I meet.

The impression thus far I've had with the people to which I've spoken in the past few days is a lot of the negativity surround the mission.

It's unwinnable.

We will never be able to separate politics and religion in that end of the world.

We shouldn't be there.

I hope many people read this article in the Windsor Star that demonstrates, if we really saw what was going on, instead of what the MSM are telling us (which is mostly the negative stuff) we could see the progress we are making):

The success of the war that Canada is fighting in Afghanistan is going to depend on the intelligent use of weapons. But not the kind that kill people.

All Canada's automatic rifles and rockets and grenade launchers will have been wasted if Afghans don't soon gain access to the weapons they need the most: education, justice, and job opportunities.

When I entered Afghanistan with four other members of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence last week, I had real doubts about Canadians fighting a war on behalf of a population so clearly in disarray - riddled with corruption, saddled with a medieval mindset and skewed by a drug trade running wild.

When I left Afghanistan four days later, my primary image was no longer of brave Canadians trying to prop up an ineffectual government and a hopeless society, and I believe my colleagues also came away with a different impression than we went in with.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Is Post-Secondary Education a Right?

The entire "insert-social-program-here IS A RIGHT" are really starting to get on my nerves. Our entire society has gone "right" crazy and no one is talking about anyone's responsibilities.

This summer, I plan to take Education Policy and hope to have some interesting and productive discussions about problems and solutions to the problems currently facing our education system. Afro-centric schools to French Immersion programs have be my interests lately. Aside from these two issues, I am reminded about my entitlement- riddled-peers who insist on protesting tuition rates every February and rant and rave about education being a right. I'm not sure what Emile Durkheim would have to say about it (not that most students protesting tuition would have heard of this sociology theorist). Nevertheless, Carson Jerema has an excellent article called, "What right to an education?"

Free education advocates might point to state subsidization for primary and secondary school. The state is obligated, most would agree, to not only provide an education for children but to compel parents to send their children to school. It is not in the interests of the rights of the child per se, but in the interests of the adult he/she will become. In order for adults to exercise their autonomy and make appropriate choices, it is important that they be endowed with a minimal level of education so that they may function in a modern economy and participate in a liberal democracy.

But this cannot be true of higher education, because not only can we not compel adults to go, but that the function of lower levels of education is more basic, than the often career oriented aspects of post-secondary education. If one could credibly argue, in a country where upwards of 40 per cent of the 18-24 cohort goes to university, that students are not being suitably prepared to function in society the focus should be on primary and secondary education. To argue that higher education is an entitlement is only marginally different than arguing if I want to be a doctor than I have the right to be.

Do go and read the rest.

Also take a look at interesting commentary from Yoni Goldstein's "Canada's biggest mistake: Funding higher education for all and sending marginal specimens to university":

Yet most Canadians refuse to accept this possibility because our system of publicly funding universities and colleges has ingrained in us the message that going to college is a right, not a privilege and responsibility. So we pretty much all go. And why not? It’s cheap (yes, even at $5,000 a year), it’s fun and there are virtually no expectations placed on you — just do what you please, study (or don’t) what you want and we’ll see you in four years. Maybe you’ll have gained a skill, maybe not, but either way at least you’ll have “experienced” university.

This is nonsense; taxpayers should not be forced to pay for marginal specimens to have a four-year vacation from reality. Those who truly benefit from university — the ones who use what they learn to become businessmen, teachers or continue studies into law and medical school or academia — are being held back by a system that is designed to accommodate lower-calibre students.

And the kids who don’t belong in university are losing out, too. Instead of languishing in a four-year program, struggling for a B-minus average, they could be learning a trade in half the time that would lead to a solid, and often quite lucrative, career. (Have you noticed how trade schools have resorted to basically begging for students on TV and radio ads?)

Want to know why there’s no Canadian equivalent to Harvard or Yale or Oxford (and forget it UofT grads, you’re not on the level)? It’s because we don’t have the guts to be exclusive, to pick only the best and forget about the rest. And so the smartest Canadians are forced to travel abroad to get the best possible education. Oftentimes, they never return.

Having kept in touch with many of my colleagues who have recently completed a university degree, I've learned that their fluffy BA in film studies or history has gotten them a job at Chapters or as a personal assistant. Why do I need to complete a Master's degree to do what I want as a career? Supply and Demand. Too many people with undergraduate degrees and credentialism has now made an undergraduate degree the starting point instead of the ending point.

But is post-secondary education a right? I would have to agree with Yoni and Carson that the answer is no.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Society, not solely the judge failed these children

Globe and Mail posted a picture of two of the three children that were allegedly killed by their father, Allan Schoenborn. Up until this moment I've been so upset and angry about this situation that I haven't been able to even blog about it. Seeing this picture of the children sort of set me off with my outrage about. I can't look into the eyes of those children in the picture without tears coming to our eyes. It truly breaks my heart.

How could this have happened?

How could we have let this happen.

Sure it's easy to blame the judge, who, after this man was arrested three times for some not so minor offences:

Mr. Schoenborn was charged with two counts of uttering threats to cause bodily harm or death to a young schoolgirl and a school official.

And then he was deemed stable enough, according to a justice of the peace to be let free. After all, apparently:

The judicial official who released Allan Dwayne Schoenborn on bail over police objections was advised at a hearing last week that there was no friction between him and his wife, B.C.'s top Provincial Court judge said yesterday.

But a publicly accessible court record shows that Mr. Schoenborn, who is being hunted by police after the slayings of his three young children in Merritt on Sunday, had pleaded guilty just five weeks earlier to violating a peace bond that was supposed to protect his wife.

Sure it's easy to go on a rant about our lax and liberal justice system. But that is shifting the blame on someone else. But I must point out that even the people involved are shifting the blame:

Attorney-General Wally Oppal told reporters yesterday he did not know if the justice of the peace had all the necessary information at the bail hearing, but said police should have. The RCMP have stated they did not know about the domestic violence allegations.

"I don't know if the JP had that information or not, but I know the police usually have that information....These bail hearings are done after hours, by telephone. The system operates well, but where you have human beings involved, you are also subject to human error."

On the phone? I've been in a courtroom once for my grade 11 Law class and so my idea of the judicial process has been tainted by too many episodes of Law and Order, not giving me a realistic idea of how the process goes. However, can be granted bail by a justice of the peace by telephone???

Not only do all parties involved need to take responsibility and stop shifting blame or who dropped the ball. We must all take responsibility, because we, as a society, failed these children.

The system failed these children.

Now what are you going to do so that something like this never happens again?

What is the problem?

Details are still coming out about this story, but we know thus far that there may have been mental illness. According to a report in the G&M, the children went from living in a bungalow last year to now living in a trailer, and thus, likely, there was poverty as the mother was trying to raise the three children on her own. Court documents also reveal a history of domestic violence. Despite his history with run ins with police and alcohol, it appears that the mother felt comfortable leaving her children with this man when she went for the store. I am not judging her decision, but we must recognize that domestic abuse does not make one think rationally (inthat we see and hear reports in newspapers or on talk shows about women who thought they could change 'him' etc...).

We must also consider not only the mother, Darcie Clarke, as the victim here, but the father, Allan as a victim too. Women's groups yammer on about violence against women, wanting the majority of money is going to the women/children. Ok, yes women/children need programs/systems so that they can get back on their feet/start a new life. BUT. If we have very little to education and rehabilitation of boys/men we will never solve the problem. This isn't a blame men for society's problems approach though. We must help the troubled boys/men otherwise we will never prevent this type of incident from happening.

This analysis is by no means expert in anyway, I am just throwing my two cents out there.

I must also point out, these three children were not the only children killed this week. In Cornwall, a 5-year-old was allegedly killed by the "acquaintance" of the mother and is in police custody.

In sum, it bears mentioning that strengthening the family unit and poverty need attention in terms of preventing this type of occurrence from happening, and stronger judicial process and rehabilitation is needed to assist with the problems now.

Update: Crux of the matter expressed similar sentiments and has summed up this blame game to silo thinking, but after a comment on both of our blogs from an Anon, we are reminded that we must remember that we are innocent until proven guilty in this country.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Stuff White People Like #94 Free Health Care

Latest entry of Stuff White People Like.

In spite of having access to the best health insurance and fanciest hospitals, white people are passionate about the idea of socialized medicine. So much so that they have memorized statistics and examples of how for-profit medicine has destroyed the United States.

Apparently I've been living under the internet equivalent to a rock the past few months as I never heard of this blog until today. The 29 year old Canadian blogger, Chris Lander has received 21 million hits on his blog and a book deal from Random house.

I can't say that I completely identify with the majority of the entries. It appears that the "white people" Landers is describing are urban yuppies from Toronto, with whom I don't really identify (I don't get the fascination of sushi, vintage or modern furniture). That being said, I do love wine, dinner parties and I am addicted to Starbucks coffee (coffee, not the 4$ frothy milk stuff). I still find it funny because I can see a lot of my friends and my experience at Trent U in this list. Of course, like every stereotype there is no one person that fits this entire mold.

Click here for the full list.

Female Afghanistan Athlete Competing in Olympics

With all the negative attention that the Olympics have received lately, here is a heartwarming story of a brave Afghanistan woman. I will keep an eye out for her in 800M and 1500M races.

Many athletes at the Olympic Games this summer will undoubtedly have overcome numerous obstacles to represent their country in Beijing. But only one has been forced to endure a hate campaign.

Sprinter Mehboba Andyar has received threatening midnight phone calls, been jeered at by hostile neighbors and harassed by police. The anger is directed at the 19-year-old runner for being Afghanistan's sole female Olympic athlete. In a conservative Muslim society where few women have roles outside the home, many Afghan men believe females should not compete in sports.
Her interest in running began under the fundamentalist Taliban government in 1998, when she began jogging around the family's enclosed yard in Kabul to avoid the patrols of the Taliban's religious police. Aside from banning television, movies, music and kite flying, the Taliban prevented girls from going to school or work and participating in sports.

When the family fled to Pakistan, her father couldn't afford to join an athletic club where she could train properly. Instead, she ran at a park in Islamabad.

Today, Andyar trains on a cracked concrete track in the same national stadium the Taliban used for public executions. The track, bordered by a chain-link fence topped with razor wire, circles a patch of dried yellow grass where boys play soccer. She dons a track suit and head scarf and plans to do the same in Beijing.

"I am an Afghan, so I have to dress modestly," she said. "It is my culture."

Friday, April 04, 2008

NB faces probe over Immersion debacle

Furthur update from this and this post

The Globe and Mail reports that New Brunswick ombudsman will take a look at the decision the NB government made to axe the early immersion program in Canada's only bilingual province.

Warning that a generation of would-be bilingual students could be lost, New Brunswick's ombudsman announced yesterday that he will investigate the provincial government's decision to scrap its early French immersion program.

Ombudsman Bernard Richard called on the government to postpone for a year its scheduled cancellation of the early immersion program, saying his office received an unprecedented 250 complaints.
Findings from the ombudsman aren't binding and Education Minister Kelly Lamrock said he will go ahead with his plan. Nevertheless, parents who support early immersion are convinced that the ombudsman's probe will buttress their claims that the government made its controversial decision with little consultation and using faulty research.
The ombudsman is expected to complete his probe in June.

While he said he would look with "greatest care" at the conclusions of Mr. Richard's investigation, Mr. Lamrock said the Liberal government of Premier Shawn Graham was elected with a mandate to improve the province's poor education record.

"Certainly there's not going to be a postponement," the minister said in a telephone interview.

"Waiting a year for an unelected office to give us advice would be a waste of a year of a mandate. . . . The decision is not going to change."

Governments and its representatives are elected to represent us not rule us. This was a very abrupt decision made too quickly IMO. It appears to me that the government was just waiting for this report so that it could back up its already made up mind to scrap early French Immersion. While the Minister is adament that it will not reverse its decision, I am hopeful that enough attention to this issue will force the NB government and education minister to consider another option, instead of getting rid of the only program that is actually working in that province.