Marching for freedom in 1944 vs marching for free tuition in 2012

Photo # 1: Marching into France on D.Day, June 6, 1944.

There are three photos in this post. The first was taken during WWII and shows young soldiers marching down a village street in France in 1944.

The other two were taken recently in Montreal in May of 2012.

In the 1944 photo, the young soldiers were marching to free the people of the village because it was the start of the liberation of France. 

It was a great day. It was D.Day, June 6, 1944. However, a full year would go by before the war would actually be over and they could go home — assuming they even survived.

Those young people fought against tyranny for both individual and collective freedoms, free and democratic elections and the rule of law.

Photo # 2: Student blocking students.

Photo # 3: Montreal Protest May 23, 2012.

Now compare the 1944 photo to the other two taken in Quebec recently. The differences are striking.

Heroes versus petulant and spoiled narcissists.  

The 2012 young people are not fighting against tyranny and for freedom.Rather they are tyranizing others by taking away person freedoms (by wearing masks and blocking their fellow students from attending classes).

And, judging by the riots and mayhem, the 2012 young people are completely ignoring the rule of law.

The crux of the matter is that, whereas in 1944 thousands upon thousands of young  people were willing to give everything they had in the fight for freedom (including their lives), in 2012, thousands and thousands of Quebec’s student protestors fight so that they might have free tuition. 

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Update 1 May 25th 12noon: It seems the Quebec student unrest has spread. (H/T JNW #1) Meaning, that we have whiny, spoiled, entitled children all over Canada, instigated by the student union movement and big labour. Mind you, it is not all young people by a long shot. In fact, it is likely a noisy minority.  But, as I said in the above post, narcisissm is alive and well in far too many young people who feel society owes them everything.

Remember John F. Kennedy said: Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. In our protesting youth, it would be: Ask not what you can do for your country but what your country can do for you.

Update May 25th, 5pm: Check out Blue Like You’s post on a related topic – that Wilfred Laurier faculty are going to contribute to the Quebec riots. Marxism and fascism is alive and well and it is very scary.

Are Fanshaw College rioters vandals or bullies or both?

Fanshaw Riot Courtesy CBC

A bully is “a person who uses strength or power to charm or intimidate others who are weaker. ” So, whether destroying property or someone’s reputation, let’s call the Fanshaw St. Patrick’s Day riot what it is at its core  — an extreme form of bullying.

Yet, one of the first articles I read on the topic had a thread of comments, from what sounded like students, openly complaining that the college president had no “right” to suspend anyone because the riot did not happen on school property — that it was solely a police matter. 

What ever happened to personal responsibility and integrity? Why does everything have to come down to  the perpetrators’ “rights?” What about the rights of others? Next thing you know we’ll be hearing that one of those kicked out of Fanshaw will claim their suspension violates their human rights and either go to the Ontario Human Rights Commission or sue the college for wrongful suspension. And, if they actually won, what message would that send?

Thankfully, nowever, as the days have gone on since the riot, most  people agree that it was correct that the local police have made a minimum of thirteen arrests and that eight Fanshaw students received suspensions.  Interestingly, other colleges piped up soon after the dust settled (literally) to say their institutions had rules about such behaviour as well (e.g., Sault College and Algoma University).

The reality is that society is very different from what it used to be. Publicly funded universities and colleges can be located anywhere. And, thanks to unnamed entrepreneurs who buy up property for the sole purpose of renting to students, even when bylaws forbid it, those students usually live near the colleges.  That reality, unfortunately, is not just a problem for Fanshaw.

In St. Catharines, for example, a formerly very lovely community has gradually become ugly because of the “Brock Houses.” In neighbourhoods wherever there is a Niagara College campus, it is similar. Municipal governments and non-student residents spend a great deal of time, energy and money trying to get the school in question to do something, anything to stop property values from plummeting. Yet, legally, what can the schools do apart from asking the municipality to enforce by-law infractions?

Well, we now know that students can besuspended for breaking rules beyond a school’s property. So,  just remember that whether the Fanshaw students were vandals or bullies, there needs to be “a zero tolerance” policy regarding post-secondary students and regulations or legislation in place much like the Mike Harris Safe Schools Act (which the McGuinty government undid by the way saying expulsions should be the last resort).

Update (1): Police have now named those charged. Some, however, who joined in, were only 15 and can’t be named under the Young Offenders Act.

Update (2):  I used the word suspended and expelled interchangeably at first because that is the way it was when I was teaching secondary school. However, as a regular commenter pointed out, the Fanshaw students are not expelled yet, just suspended.  So, I made the applicable corrections in text.  However, it appears that Fanshaw administration is considering how they might make the suspensions permanent expulsions.

Quebec’s univ students protesting tuition hikes get failing grade

Student Protest March 13,2012. Click image. Courtesy CBC.

Updated March 13th, 2012. It is unbelievable that Quebec university students are not only continuing to protest, but they say they will strike until the Quebec Liberals relent and not raise their tuitions. Is that their idea of democracy – when they get their way? Windows were also broken in office buildings, although according to the CBC the protest ended peacefully. Clearly the notion that some maturing is needed comes to mind, as does the phrase “spoiled brats.” Harsh? Perhaps. But, all of us need to learn that government can’t do everything we want.

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Original post starts here: Read this column by the Calgary Herald’s Licia Corbella.  It is quite an eye opener, even for someone like me who spent half my teaching career at the university level. What Corbella proves, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is that Quebec’s post-secondary tuition structure is subsidized by all the have-provinces — which are currently Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and BC, albeit primarily Alberta. Yet, Quebec students continue to protest over a $325.00 hike

Now, while it may be their democratic right to protest, are the Quebecers who are protesting so self-absorbed they have no idea that: (1) they already have one of the lowest tuition fee structures in Canada; and (2) it is tax revenue from other provinces, through the equalization program, that is making it possible for them to maintain such low rates?

Then, there is the unfair fact that Quebec charges out-of-province students a higher rate than Quebec residents. Check out this McGill Student Accounts page, for example, and it shows “Residency Status” — Quebecer, Non-Quebec Canadian & International. Odd, because as this York University link shows (scroll half way down the page to “Domestic Tuition Fees Category”), it is not apparently the same in reverse. To attend York, you need only be a Canadian citizen or a child of one.  

However, as Corbella writes, if an Albertan were to attend McGill University in September 2012, probably the most prestigious university in Canada, he or she would have to pay the out-of-province total tuition of $7417 a year compared to a Quebec resident who would only have to pay $3727.00 — just over half. 

Clearly, there is something wrong with this picture. Sure, all non-Quebecers have known that Quebec is treated differently. However, I had no idea Quebec universities had discriminatory tuition fees.  Meaning, perhaps that it is the university students studying in Quebec but considered “Non-Quebec” who should be out there protesting — for equal treatment for all Canadians. 

The crux of the matter is, therefore, that Quebec’s protesting university students get an “F” for their unrealistic and discriminatory demands.

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Endnote:  If you do a Google search on the topic of equalization, you will find some who complain that Alberta does not give transfer payments to other provinces. While that is technically true, the result is the same. What happens is that, as Corbella explained happened in 2009, Alberta sent $35.990 billion gross taxes to the federal government. They received $19.997 back in transfer payments. So, no matter how you do the numbers, the rest of Canada got to keep $15.993 billion of Alberta tax dollars. And, of that amount, Quebec got $13.641 billion in equalization payments. Which means, that no matter how you spin it, Alberta makes it possible for Quebec university students to get a break on their tuitions that no other Canadians get.

Public school system fails when university students fail mid-terms

For some time now I have been saying that elementary and secondary school districts who have dropped, or are considering dropping, the fall report cards for “progress reports” are taking the easy way out. Why? They are not preparing students for life beyond high school when they give them grades like “Needs improvement.” That is a cop-out because, while it may not offend the student or his or her parents, it doesn’t teach the child a thing. Whereas, a C grade with accompanying comments on how to actually improve to a B or better, would actually mean something.  

I have also been saying that too much emphasis on standardized tests and rote learning can result in cheating or hinder individuals once they come face to face with the real world –i.e., they are not prepared to think independently, abstractly or creatively when faced with essay exams on university mid-terms in October and November of their first year. Funny that. How come universities can have serious mid-term exams in October and November and yet elementary and secondary teachers apparently don’t yet know enough about their students’ progess by then?

Well, its long past time for the political correctness in the school system to stop and for lawmakers, school administrators and teachers’ unions to recognize and restore the notion of individual differences. Remember the Bell Curve and normal distribution? Yes, in our Western societies, we all have an equal opportunity to succeed, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, culture, colour or religion. But, and here is the politically incorrect but, we are not all created equal intellectually. 

Which is why there is currently a post-secondary dilemma. Yes, professors are now being pressured to give higher marks than they used to. And, yes, first year mid-terms have a way of getting rid of students who are not going to do well. However, they also tend to get rid of very capable students who simply don’t know how, either to prepare for their exams or how to complete them successfully.

Remember the problem I mentioned above about rote learning. University exams require abstract and creative thinking and you are either right or you are wrong. No fuzziness. No social promotion. Get it or get out. Just like employers. For those in business, time is money. New employees either learn their jobs or they are fired. There are no accommodations. I once saw a sign on a staff room bulletin board that said: “Be good or be gone.” Yes, it’s a cold competitive world out there. But, that is reality!

In any event, when first year university students do badly or fail their mid terms, it is the universities that are having to come up with programs and strategies to stop students from dropping out — essentially doing the work that those in the regular public system have abrogated.

Endnote: Given that the comment full moderation feature is activated at the moment, there may be a short delay in approving them. My thanks for everyone’s patience!

UofT accepts thesis that Holocaust education programs racist

As an alumnus of the University of Toronto (UofT), I feel I should let the blogosphere know that the content of a Master’s thesis has made the mainstream press. Why? Because someone dared to write something considered negative and controversial about the Holocaust.

The thesis under attack was written by Jenny Peto who, apparently, concludes that two Holocaust education programs are at their core, “racist.” As such, there are complaints that the thesis should not have been accepted by UofT.

Now, let me be clear. I disagree with the way Peto defines her problem. However, we have freedom of speech in this country and while many of us may disagree with her premise, she has the right to express it, particularly in a thesis.  I mean, disagreeing with the rationale behind the Holocaust education programs or even calling them racist is not, in my opinion, a hate crime.

I mean, where do we draw the line? The argument that the thesis is not scholarship, but ideology holds no water either. All scholarship reflects the researcher’s world view and beliefs, upon which all ideology is based. In fact, that was the subject of my own doctoral thesis. Even the complaints in the ShalomLife.com article are based on ideology because our world view can be both implicit or explicit in what we say or write.

Speaking of ideology, full disclosure: I am a conservative (of the Red Tory variety), pro-Israel, pro-free speech and pro-free scholarship. And, if I was still an academic, I might even write a rebuttal to Peto’s premise. But, that said. She has the right to her views which are no more ideological than those who disagree with her.

For more information, read the ShalomLife article and/or check out some of these Google sources.

Prof. Lukacs exposes Univ. Manitoba “no-fail” policy at Ph.D level

Can you believe it?  The University of Manitoba’s Mathematics Department has succumbed to the politically correct policy of promoting a student who was not ready to graduate. Only, this time we are talking about a student who has already had their Ph.D conferred — even though they did not pass one of their required comprehensive exams.

No big deal you say? Sorry, but it “is” a big deal because it is the comprehensive exams that decide whether or not a Ph.D candidate is ready to be identified as a scholar and a professor.

Been there and done that. Tough? Stressful? You bet it is.  Did I suffer from test anxiety? Absolutely. The thing is, there were only four of us in a large room. At the doctoral level, there are not hundreds of students, or even dozens. Likely, the student involved wrote their exam alone. But, because they are usually timed (anywhere from three hours to eight hours), you have to think fast and you have to know your research paradigms. My guess is that this student still doesn’t understand the purpose for the exam.

In any event, good on Professor Gabor Lukacs! Suspended without pay for three months, you sure have to hand it to him for exposing all this! I have taught in two universities. I know only too well the fortitude it would require to take on the administration and the politically correct “let’s lower our academic standards in this case” attitude, particularly since the student had a medical letter.

While this matter may be happening in Manitoba, it is also alive and well in Ontario. The McGuinty government call their lowering of academic standards at the high school level, their  “success” initiative — which I call their “no-fail” policy.

Odd isn’t it that the person who exposes this travesty is suspended but the person who failed the comprehensive test is out there somewhere pretending to have successfully completed all of their doctoral program. For full details, read yesterday’s special to the National Post. Written by Joseph Brean, it just has to be a wake-up call to everyone.

Obviously, what started out as well-meaning accommodations for students with average to above average ability, who also had learning or other disabilities (including severe math or test anxiety), has now become a crutch and a detriment to academic accomplishment.

And, unfortunately, nearly twenty years ago, I had a hand in that process when I wrote a text-book about accommodations and compensations — used world-wide in university special needs departments. I also worked with dozens of college and university students in my private practice who needed help learning essay-writing techniques, study and test-taking strategies. However, I never would have suggested waiving an exam, most especially a failed comprehensive exam. Nor, would I have suggested accommodations at the doctoral level.

Recommendations:

While no one at the University of Manitoba has asked for my opinion, I intent to give it anyway.

  1. The President of the University of Manitoba and the Math Chair have to stop blaming the whistle-blower, Prof. Lukacs.
  2. While they can’t take away a Ph.D once it has been conferred, they can insist the person involved rewrite the test as many times as it takes for them to pass it — marked by an outside neutral source.

Otherwise, all those who have a part in this fiasco have ruined the University of Manitoba’s reputation, as well as put in question “all” previous Ph.D’s conferred there.

For the rest of society, it is long past time to stop promoting students who are not ready, for whatever reason. If that means, a higher drop out rate, so be it. And, yes, having taught sociology, I know there will be those who say dropping out creates strain and the likelihood of higher crime statistics. Well, young people have choices and those choices have consequences. My point is to stop making excuses for them because  chances are most will return to school once they find out they can’t get meaningful work.

I am just glad that someone said “enough is enough” and exposed the University of Manitoba’s implicit “no-fail” policy.  Thank you Professor Lukacs!

Endnotes: Professor Lukacs was a child prodigy, meaning he was a “gifted” child. The fact that he is willing to buck his university’s administration shows he is made of different stuff and not afraid to rock the boat. Check out Paul Bennett’s blog EduChatter and his latest post on where gifted education should be going. While you’re at it, read the comment thread as well because there is an excellent discussion going on that deals with the “lowered academic standards” we see in this situation.

Ontario university students’ “notewagon” website innovative

The first time I read this London Free Press article by Kate Dubinski, titled “Slacker Students Get Help” (H/T Catherine), I was shocked and appalled. A team of students at the University of Western Ontario, Waterloo and Guelph had started up a website for sharing (buying and selling) lecture notes. Meaning, as the LFP column title implies, it sounded like slacking off, or even worse, cheating.

Yet, on second reading (and therein lies the reason students should be taking their own notes), I came to the conclusion that this was not, in fact, slacking off at all. Rather, it was a very creative and innovative solution to a chronic student issue — having to miss classes for one reason or another.

Look, I manage this blog myself, so I know how time-consuming setting up and maintaining a website can be.  However, bloggers have templates they can use, as do website developers of course. But, clearly, setting up a complex website like www.notewagon.com must have been incredibly complicated and time-consuming. So, kudos to the developers!

Now, a fair question would be: Why did they not use all that creativity and energy simply to go to class and take their own notes? I don’t know, although I can guess — boredom and not seeing the relevance of lecture content to what they want to do with their future lives. So, perhaps university professors can learn something from this and make their classes so interesting that no one will want to miss anything.

In any event, the note sharing website is not likely to slow down since students from Toronto, McMaster, Waterloo, Guelph, Ryerson and Laurier have now joined in as well. So, here is my point. The developers and managers need to realize that learning anything new is a process that involves attending (concentrating), digging into our long-term memory for what we already know, adding to that pre-requisite knowledge, and then retaining enough of it in long-term memory for later use.

So, while I can appreciate that the “notewagon” site developers are making sure the content of lectures are thorough and complete, they also need to find a way to highlight the main ideas, key points or concepts before they are available for sharing.

Why? Because, as I explained above, the student getting the notes needs to be able to learn what is relevant and important without having been present at the lecture. Students reading this might want to check out what I have written here about organizational strategies because knowing what to do to remember notes is not automatic. They could also check out Chapter Six in my book, which is specifically about notetaking strategies, and likely available in most university libraries. There are also some excellent Internet sources, such as College Board and Alamo’s Notetaking Strategies, as well as a number of links via this Google page. 

So, in summary, note sharing by itself is not necessary slacking off, although it can be for some students. However, in my opinion, the developers and managers of this service are hardly slackers, particularly if their “notes” service includes the necessary highlighting and follow-up summaries. By so doing, they can actually be of some benefit for students who: (1) have to miss a class for some reason, (2) are not good at writing notes, (3) have learning disabilities, or (4) have some kind of a physical challenge whereby they do not have full use of their hands.

Endnote: Although I have turned the comment feature off for awhile, I would be interested in receiving feedback from university students involved in this project or using it.  To do so, please use the Contact Form on the header bar.

Update: Here, then, are examples of messages received:

  1. From fh: “Sandy, I think the students are very creative we all remember trying to get notes for missed lectures notes are guarded like a pot of gold. I remember my friend getting his notes back and they looked like they had been in a hurricane and he was in a fraternity where notes were more easily obtained. Kudos to the students it is about time. I just hope that they keep up the quality of the notes. (Time: Thursday November 25, 2010 at 12:47pm)”
  2. From Janalee: “I think another benefit is getting a second set of notes. I remember sharing notes in my university days with other students in the class and noticing that they emphasised things in thier notes that I missed in mine. Particularly in history courses where the lectures consisted of a professor talking for the entire class it was easy to miss something as you were attempting to keep up. (Time: Thursday November 25, 2010 at 6:57 pm)”
  3. From Saif Altimimi: “Hey Sandy, I’m Saif, the Co-Founder of Notewagon. I read your article about us, just wanted to say thank you very much for the positive input. I want to assure you that we are indeed not incentively students to slack off but in fact we are working hard to provide a learning management system for students by students. A Peer-2-Peer network of sharing knowledge specific per classroom. We have other product launches that will make this vision come true! (Time: Thursday November 25, 2010 at 5:58 pm)
  4. Saif also clarified the following: “One of our co-founders goes to western, but the core team is actually in Waterloo&Guelph Ontario.” (Time: Thursday, November 25, 2010 at 8:05pm)


Why are today’s univ students disengaged?

University professors and researchers call the phenomenon “student disengagement.” Which makes me wonder whether or not there a correlation between that issue and elementary and secondary “no-fail” policies? I mean, it has long been suspected that today’s university students do not have the same commitment to their schooling that their parents or grandparents had, but until now, few have asked why.

I have my suspicions of course, that the culprit is the education system’s trend away from any type of real competition at the elementary and secondary levels, combined with no-fail policies (e.g., such practices as not taking marks off an assignment for lateness or incompleteness or promoting or “transferring” a student to the next grade when a student is not ready).

I mean, you can’t give all children a medal or a ribbon for effort, or promote students when they haven’t earned that right, and then expect them to want to excel or be fully engaged in learning later in life.   

The blog “Ivory Tower Blues” is writing an historical series on this issue, which I will be writing about as they go along. To begin with, they discuss a report released last month from the National Bureau on Economic Research in Cambridge MA,  that found that students in the 1960′s treated university as a full-time job and put in an average of 40 hours a week, course time and studying combined compared to 27 hours in total now.

When thinking about 27 hours, remember that full-time university is usually five full courses of 6 hours each or the half-course equivalent (for a total of 30 hours for lectures, seminars and labs). Meaning, that 27 hours doesn’t even cover all the course time, let alone opportunities for studying and doing assignments.

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