From McCarthyism to Harry Reid: Harsh words lead to deep divisions in USA

Edward R. Murrow once said: “To be persuasive we must be believable, to be believable we must be credible and to be credible we must be truthful.” Murrow is fondly remembered by American liberals as the 1950’s CBS journalist whose criticism of “McCarthyism” and the “Red Scare” helped speed the political downfall of Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy.

McCarthy is said to have abused his position as a US Senator by making unsubstantiated claims that there were large numbers of communists and Soviet spies in the US Government and other American cultural institutions. Today, the term “McCarthyism” is generally used to describe demagogic, reckless and unsubstantiated accusations, as well as public attacks on the character or patriotism of a political opponent.

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Plus ça change: Renewing Discourse in the Age of Aquarius

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose …” said nineteenth century French journalist, Jean-Baptiste Karr; and such may be the feeling of many sixty to seventy year-old citizens of western democracies who have watched the disposition of our societies evolve over the past several decades.

As wide-eyed students in the 1960’s; scores in our cohort felt connected to the ascendance of a cosmic new era. In the early years of that decade, “the progressive movement” spoke to young people in the language of personal liberation, human equality and “social justice.” In the USA, Martin Luther King’s non-violent campaign led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In Canada, a charming young bachelor prime minister promised a “just society” in a united, bilingual, multicultural nation.

In the young ranks of the working and lower middle-classes we felt our stars were rising. In 1969, uniformly turned out in tie-dyed T-shirts and bell-bottom dungarees, we sang along with the 5th Dimension. “Let the sun shine in” we intoned: “Harmony and understanding …sympathy and trust abounding …no more falsehoods or derisions …golden living dreams of visions …mystic crystal revelation …and the minds true liberation.” It was the dawning of the “Age of Aquarius” and the universe was unfolding as it should.

By the late 1970’s, however, a decade-long reality check raised some disturbing questions about the conventional wisdom of our time.

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Remembering a Missed Opportunity – Father Richard Neuhaus drew people together

This article was written in fond memory of Father Richard John Neuhaus, Editor of First Things magazine who died on January 9, 2009. It was published in The Atlantic Catholic, January 31, 2009.

Writers and public leaders well above my pay grade have already had much to say about the life and death of Father Richard John Neuhaus.

Born and raised in Pembroke, Ontario, the young Neuhaus moved to the United States where he became a liberal Lutheran Leader of the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960’s. In 1968 he was a delegate to the Democratic Convention in Chicago where he clashed with police and was arrested for disorderly conduct.

In the mid-nineteen seventies his ideas about religion and politics evolved. He was profoundly affected by the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision and began to vigorously defend a more conservative position on the sanctity of life and the place of religion in public affairs.

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Quebec has its own divisions

This article was written in the wake of Lucien Bouchard’s move to the leadership of the Parti Quebecois and his vow to continue the long march toward Quebec independence. It was first published in the New Brunswick Herald Telegraph, January 17, 1996 as it appears below and again in The Gazette, Montreal, Monday, January 22, 1996 under the headline: Partition answer to irreconcilable differences.

Faced with the imminent arrival of Lucien Bouchard and his vow to complete the long march to independence, more and more Quebecers are coming to accept that they live in a deeply divided political society. Two radically different dreams are trapped in the confines of a single territory called Quebec.

The dominant political forces see a future independent, ethnic state, preserving a French-speaking culture which they view as unique and threatened by the English-speaking societies of North America. An indistinct opposition longs to return to a bilingual, liberal state supporting a cosmopolitan society in which the use of language and the free evolution of culture is a personal, family, business or neighborhood affair.

Neither of these political divisions is new, nor have they been played out on the modern historical stage without demonstrating their own particular strengths or inherent weaknesses. But two such adversarial concepts cannot live securely and comfortably under the same roof.

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Was Dewey a Marxist?

This article was developed as a proposal for a Ph. D. thesis at the Faculty of Education, McGill University. It was published in Discourse, The St. Lawrence Institute, Winter, 1994.

In 1975 I published an article entitled “Some Reflections on Canadian Education” in the History and Social Science Teacher. I argued then that Canada had never produced an indigenous philosophy of education but had accepted imported ideas, first from Europe and later from the United States.

I pointed out that, by the late nineteenth century, the classical curriculum of the British grammar school, imported in the early years of colonial North America, gave way to the ideas of European social revolutionaries like Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Herbart and Froebels. These philosophers changed our perception of the school’s purpose, slowly eroding the traditional concentration on formal literacy and the acquisition of knowledge, and giving way to an increasing concern with the methods of teaching and the interests of the child.

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Deconstructing High School Economics

By Yarema Kelebay and William Brooks

Originally developed as a presentation to the 1987 Canadian School Trustees Association in Charlottetown, PEI, this paper was later published in The McGill Journal of Education Vol. 26 No. 1 (Winter 1991)

Abstract: When economics was implemented as a compulsory subject in Quebec high schools during the late 1970s, the then reigning demand-side Keynesian assumptions were written into the new curriculum. With the coming of the Austrian School’s supply-side revolution in the early 1980s, the government set economics curriculum was ideologically inhospitable to supply-side insights. This has left the current economics curriculum outdated and an obstacle to quality economics education. Curriculum reform is recommended.

The introduction of economics as a compulsory subject in Canadian high schools has occurred over the past five to ten years and it has happened at a very dynamic and volatile period in the intellectual history of the western world. So before considering what is actually taught in economics classrooms, it might be useful to consider the intellectual trends which have influenced teaching over recent decades?

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Trade protectionism limits our futures

This article was developed as a case for free trade during the first Mulroney administration and published in The Gazette, Montreal, Tuesday, February 9, 1988.

As the final debate on free trade rages in Parliament and the nation, Canadians continue to be confronted by conflicting statistical forecasts about the future of our economy.

Some reports present attractive prospects for growth under a free trade agreement. Others paint disparaging pictures of lost jobs and dying industries. The growing mosaic of political, cultural and commercial opinion has probably produced more confusion than conviction.

Given a somewhat conflicting array of “hard facts” and “information based” reports from a wide variety of interested parties, perhaps we should take a moment the general question of trade at a more philosophical level.

Regarding the free-trade proposal Canadians might begin by reflecting on some generally accepted economic principles. The case for trade is really the case for specializing in certain types of production and trading for goods in which we do not specialize. Most economists agree that living standards would be drastically reduced if we tried to replace specialization and exchange with complete self-sufficiency.

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New education bill will spin fine web of authority

This article focuses on PQ Education Minister, Camille Laurin’s proposal to weaken the mandate of locally elected school boards and transfer important decision making powers to the Quebec Minister of Education. It was published in The Gazette, Montreal, September 14, 1983 under the headline: “New education bill will spin fine web of authority” and again in the News and Chronicle, Montreal, Wednesday November 16, 1983 under the headline: Bill 40 will not develop new form of democracy.

Camille Laurin, Quebec’s education Minister, may claim to be developing a new form of democracy, but his most recent blueprint still displays a determination to create a web of authority that reaches into every corner of the province.

If Bill 40 is enacted into law it will create a new and important vehicle for a political party whose primary aim is the wholesale reconstruction of Quebec society. A new system will be developed through which all substantive elements of Quebec education can be controlled and monitored by the minister.

Laurin’s original intention to eliminate locally elected school boards was not well received by the Quebec public. As a consequence, Bill 40 has introduced some new elements in an effort to make the Minister’s original plans more palatable.

Instead of entirely abolishing locally elected school boards, the bill would simply remove their authorship to develop educational policy. A cursory examination of the responsibilities and powers being allotted to the “new boards” indicates an abrupt end to any role they have been able to play in the more formative aspects of public education.

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Reflections on Quebec’s “Regime Pedagogigue”

The following presentation was delivered to a Community Conference for Parents sponsored by the Department of Administration and Policy Studies in Education, McGill University in collaboration with the Quebec Anglophone citizens’ organization known as “Alliance Quebec.” It was first published in the editorial section of The Gazette, Montreal, March 4, 1983 under the headline: “Quebec moves to influence courses and young minds” and again in the News and Chronicle, Montreal, Wednesday, June 13, 1984 under the headline: Quebec Curriculum will promote obsolescence.

During the long struggle against former Education Minister, Camille Laurin’s plans to realign and centralize Quebec’s education systems a profound public concern developed over the question of what is to be taught in our schools.

That concern revolved around two fundamental issues which have yet to be satisfactorily resolved.

The first is a growing suspicion among Quebeckers that the role of the state in Quebec’s schools is reaching proportions beyond the requirements of our democratic pluralistic society. The second is a deep seated concern that heavily centralized mechanisms for the development of school curricula may be generating programs that are unable to satisfy the future needs of our children.

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Quebec parents about to lose their say in education

This article was published in the News and Chronicle, Montreal, Thursday, April 22, 1982 under the headline “Laurin should not call the tune on education” and again in The Gazette, Montreal, September 16, 1982 under the headline: “Quebec parents about to lose their say in education.”

Education Minister, Camille Laurin’s recent white paper entitled The Quebec School, may not make great summer reading, but his proposals should be fully understood by all Quebecers.

The Minister proposes to eliminate two strongly established elements of our education system with one stroke of his pen.

First he intends to change the present denominational alignment of Quebec’s school boards in favour of an essentially unified school system. Secondly, he aims to eliminate the democratic and truly “public” character of the school boards themselves.

By claiming to make the school the focal point of Quebec’s new educational order, Laurin’s plan will eliminate the historic recognition of two complementary yet culturally independent education systems in the province.

For all intents and purposes, the Minister proposes to create a common education system through which the provincial government will control all major functions such as the development of the school curriculum, the certification of teachers and the distribution of the budget.

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