Wednesday Night #1654

Written by  //  November 13, 2013  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

The return of Susan Hoecker and John Drysdale  of Concordia and American Universities to Wednesday Night this week offers an opportunity to focus on the important topic of Education. Some of you will remember that they put together a discussion paper on a financial fix for Québec universities last May  which elicited thoughtful comments from Tony Deutsch, Guy Stanley and Herb. We welcome more comments and will no doubt continue this discussion. However, we hope to go beyond the world of  Québec universities this Wednesday.
We have gathered a number of items of interest under the not-particularly inspiring title Education: demographics and trends . The topics include everything from MOOCs to rural high schools and TV for toddlers. Please browse to pick and choose among them for areas of specific interest. The Khan Academy is in our view a fascinating success story and we recently discovered its American Civics courses, including one on how Obamacare works and one on the fiscal cliff. Brilliant!
For your homework, we highly recommend Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity in which he makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. A TED Talk that is both wise and extremely entertaining. If only more people with important ideas to convey were able to convey them with humour!

What a week!

The terrible toll of Typhoon Haiyan will not be calculated for weeks, possibly months. The BBC quotes the head of the Red Cross in the Philippines who has described the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan as “absolute bedlam”. The storm affected some nine million people and authorities estimate that as many as 10,000 may have died. The world is responding quickly and with generosity, but the task is almost beyond comprehension.
Foreign Affairs reports that the United Nations has released $25 million in emergency funds to assist in the relief effort. The United States has also donated $20 million and the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, along with four other U.S. Navy ships, is en route with supplies and is expected to arrive on Thursday. The British navy is also sending ships. [In contrast, China Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the government and local Red Cross will collectively donate $200,000]
As supplies trickle into Leyte and other storm affected areas, relief workers are increasingly concerned about the spread of disease, as many people remain exposed the elements without food or clean water in areas where uncollected bodies pose significant health risks.
In a curious coincidence, the climate talks (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Meeting of the Parties) opened in Warsaw on the 11th. Inevitably, the Philippines Plight Takes Center Stage … The diplomats are discussing how to limit fossil-fuel emissions that are blamed for damaging the climate, making storms more intense and boosting sea levels.

Fiona's Remembrance Day Poppy 2013

Photo Fiona Nicholson

November 11 – Remembrance Day in Canada or Veterans Day in the U.S. – we prefer the former which is more inclusive. However, amidst all the expected traditional commentary from the politicians, the glaring fact is that Canada has let down her veterans. Among the many articles published, in our opinion, Barbara Kay’s Ottawa fails veterans with cynical displays of show over substance does a good job of summarizing the issues. But if you need more fuel for rage against bureaucratic bungling, the HuffPost offers Former Soldier Who Lost Part Of His Brain For Canada Says Sacrifice Being Demeaned while the CBC production  Canadians mark Remembrance Day focuses on the issues raised by the fact that Veterans from WW II and Korea are fewer in number, and some are angry at the government’s plan that gives younger disabled veterans a one-time payout instead of a disability pension. Let us hope that the will to change Ottawa’s policies does not disappear as quickly as the poppies politicians so prominently display during Veterans’ Week (WHEN did Remembrance Day morph into Veterans’ Week?).
If you missed it, CBC has a two-hour special of the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa, with Peter Mansbridge and Brian Stewart.

“The Great Escape” is one of the all time great movies.  But now, a new book details how “The Great Escape” is actually a Canadian story. Its author, Ted Barris, was Peter Mansbridge’s guest on “One on One” . The movie was/is one of our favorites, but the story Ted Barris tells is fascinating.

Happily for all of us, Remembrance Day has temporarily replaced the Senate scandal in the headlines, but the debate over the Senate – abolish or reform – is bound to continue for some time. Tuesday, the Supreme Court begins hearings on Senate reform and without Justice Marc Nadon, a situation that poses its own set of problems. No doubt that there will be more attention than usual paid to what is happening there.
We feel sorry for our Conservative friends who have loyally supported the party in the firm belief that it was the party of good governance (lower taxes, smaller government) and probity. The revelations of the last months and weeks have embarrassed those good people and likely enraged the base. This is neither good for the Conservatives, nor for Canadian democracy.

More embarrassing for the country is the sad story of Rob Ford – a figure that has been held up to ridicule on all the late-night shows and in more sober media. Generally, Canadian media have been kinder, recognizing that this is not a figure of fun, but a tragic one who, at least for now, steadfastly refuses to take any steps to address his addiction problems. On Wednesday, the city council will consider a motion calling on him to take a leave of absence which he seemingly has no intention of doing. So the saga will continue.

Then there is Justin Trudeau’s infamous e-vite to the “Ladies” of Toronto – not to mention the furor created by his remarks about admiring China’s government; why could he not have played it safe and cited a Scandinavian country? Trudeau stalwarts claim that the event was all in good fun and, after all, was planned BY women FOR women, so could not possibly be offensive, but others see it differently. Celine Cooper: The Trudeau brand needs a rethink concisely describes just why so many people (not only women) are up in arms, and Andrew Cohen: Where Trudeau goes from here is a thoughtful analysis of  the dangers  for the party if it does not move swiftly to remedy the situation. For more on this, please see Canada: Liberal Party and Justin Trudeau

Oh, yes Ten words to cut from your writing – please note that Justin Trudeau’s team should probably have avoided the word ‘really’ in the e-vite.

 

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