Month: September 2014

A Few Thoughts In Passing

A few odds and ends gathered while researching other matters and good enough to pass on as useful words of wisdom long after they were first recorded.
In this 21st century since BC ended and AD started one of our constant laments is the overwhelming amount of injustice there is in the world. It isn’t a new lament. Plato had this to say to people who loudly complained about the injustice so prevalent in their times: “Mankind censure injustice fearing that they may be the victim of it – and not because they shrink from it.”
Think about it before you click delete.
The ancient (400 years or so BC) Greek mathematician and philosopher had advice for young people starting to feel their oats and not at happy with the way adult generations are running their community, their province or their country. Many of them don’t think their parents too smart, either, and their bosses in the workplace downright dumb. They are young, proud, and all knowing.
Plato advised: “You are young, my son, and as the years go by time will change and even reverse many of your personal opinions. Refrain therefore awhile from setting yourself up as a judge of the highest matters.”
Tell the young folk in your orbit to read it – and to think before they click delete.
Two thousand years later a Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) became the darling of the chattering class which has now morphed into the twittering crowd. He lacked the power of Plato and his gentle, sometimes too sweet, thoughts got buried by the maelstrom of World War 2. But he did leave much good advice in his garden of words: “I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, kindness from the unkind; yet, strangely I am ungrateful to those teachers.”
Think before clicking delete.
I thought about Gibran when the government and the teachers were dancing their idiotic charade with both sides shouting their stands were right and honourable and for the sole benefit of the students and many teachers’ – but not all – were chanting “we love our jobs and our students but harsh classroom conditions make our jobs a trying burden.”
Gibran: “Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple to take alms from those who work with love.”
Just think before you click delete.
A quick leap to Sir William Osler, (1859-1919) a Canadian revered as a medical doctor, not so well known and respected as he should be as a philosopher. He offered this to each of us:
“We are here to add what we can to, and not what we can take from, life.”
Which is another way of saying what Samuel Johnson wrote in the 1700’s:
“Life is very short and very uncertain; let us spend it as wisely as we can.”
Or as Etienne De Grellet (1773-1855) is credited with writing so eloquently:
‘’I shall pass through this world but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
You can click delete now. But don’t stop thinking.

Just Wondering

Post Sept. 23,2014

Let’s see if I can get things straight;
Canada is in the process of scrapping four ships from its naval fleet but will have replacements in place five or six years from now. Better make that “hopes to have replacements in place” because as a nation we’re a bit slow when it comes to bringing anything military up to date.
Does this mean Canada has no standard replacement program in place? No plan to replace ships,aircraft,tanks,trucks,weapons or any other essentials the day they are launched or roll off an assembly line?
It would appear so, even though the life of any man-made item can be estimated at creation.
Amazing. Ships launched in the 70’s were given a 30-year life span give or take a year or two, and here we are in 2014 finally recognizing four of them are well past their best before date – but with replacements still four or five years away.


Two items from the education file:
Local newspapers, radio and TV stations have been wall to wall in laments over our children being deprived of two weeks education by the recently concluded, ill-mannered, strike. Pessimists say the
students will never catch-up and mutter gloomily about young lives ruined.
Teachers seem divided. The good ones are confident that a little extra work and effort by themselves, their students and the parents of their students, the two week gap can be closed. Dissatisfied teachers who lean easily toward the philosophy of being hard done by at the best of times, forecast ruin.
I’m left wondering how students in less fortunate nations manage when natural or man-made disasters close their schools for months.
My second question: How come some teachers were complaining how frantically they had to work between the strike settlement vote and the return to the classroom to get ready for opening day? Does it mean they just sat around for a couple of weeks telling each other how wonderful pre-strike summer had been without a thought on preparation for return to class? For sure they were unable to decorate their classrooms in usual warm welcome fashion, but they had two weeks on picket lines in which to prepare themselves for the day they knew would come.
Or did the BCTF tell them prep thinking was the same as working and they must resist the temptation.
Two postscripts: What kind of example do teachers who dress scruffy and can’t be bothered to comb their hair think they are setting? Independence of thought and action? Or that lack of discipline to at least start the day neat and tidy no longer matters?
And is there any hope that teachers, parents, and media print and electronic, could once again call children children or students instead of using the dismissive, slang-based, derisory sounding, “kids”.
No? Thought not. Too old fashioned. Too polite. And who cares, anyway?

It ‘aint over ’til it’s over

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”. Yogi Berra said that about a baseball game, I use it as a postscript to the September 18th Scottish Independence referendum. Leaders on both side of the simple “yes” or “no” vote on whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom of England, (northern) Ireland, Scotland and Wales or stay in the centuries old partnership, warned four million plus eligible voters the decision would probably be their last opportunity to vote “yes” to leave the UK or “no” to reject the siren call and stay with the old firm.
Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, First Minister in the Scottish Parliament and emotional champion of the “yes” vote said if the “no” carried the day it would be at least a generation before another vote could be called and “maybe never.”
David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, Prime Minister in England’s parliament, echoed the theme. The vote would end the debate and settle the question for a long time “maybe for ever.”
Cameron, graduate of upper class Eton School and Oxford University can be forgiven for not knowing too much about the inhabitants of the country lying north of the Tweed River. Salmond, a Scot with a romantic view of Scotland’s destiny, should know that “never again” is not an option when Scotland’s future – to leave or stay with the United Kingdoms – is at stake.
If Cameron thinks his latest promise of more power to Scotland under his program of devolution will mute the cries of half the population who voted for independence on September 18, he is sadly mistaken. And if Salmond thinks the multi-thousands of fervent, dedicated but defeated Scots will regard the vote as the final say has forgotten his Scottish history.
Eight years ago the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted an online poll to see if they could get a firm opinion on what hymn, song or piece of music should be adopted as the Scottish National Anthem. Five choices were offered: Flower of Scotland, Highland Cathedral, Scotland the Brave, Scots Wha Hae and Is There For Honest Poverty – better known as Robbie Burns’ A Man’s a Man For All That. All five had strong overtones of Scotland as an independent nation and the winner with 41 per cent of the vote was Flower of Scotland.
It is a new song composed as recently as 1965 with lyrics and music by Roy Williamson. It has never been declared as Scotland’s national anthem but it is the first choice when Scotland is on the international stage and an “anthem” is required. It has been the pre-game anthem for Scottish international rugby since the early 1970’s, is now played and sung at soccer games. It became a familiar refrain to millions when the Commonweal Games were held in Glasgow during high summer and each time a Scot won gold the band played Flower of Scotland and Scottish fans sang:
“O flower of Scotland/ When will we see/Your like again/That fought and died for/Your wee hill and glen/And stood against him/Proud Edward’s army/ And sent him homeward/ Tae think again.”
Proud Edward was Edward II of England whose army at Bannockburn in 1314 greatly outnumbered the Scots led by Robert the Bruce. The English fled the battlefield after losing heavy casualties and Bruce became and remains a legendary victorious figure in Scottish history.
Flower of Scotland has but three short verses. The first I have just quoted, the third should be read – or sung if you know the music – carefully:
“Those days are passed now/And in the past they must remain/But we can still rise now/And be the nation again/That stood against him/Proud Edward’s army/And sent him homeward/ Tae think again.”
On September 18 Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom family. A much more satisfactory way of settling a dispute than Bannockburn. But the battle for more independence from a government in far away London is far from over. We can just pray that as it continues to unfold the Scots will continue to vote with their heads and listen to their poet hero (he finished last in the national anthem poll) who wrote in A Man’s A Man For A‘That:
“Then let us pray that, come it may,
(As come it will for all that)
That Sense and Worth o’er all the earth
Shall take the prize and all that.
For all that and all that,
It’s coming yet, for all that,
That Man to Man the whole world o’er
Shall brothers be for all that.”
(Purists will note I have changed a word or two from Burn’s dialect to understandable English)

Together – or apart

The front page headline in Monday’s Globe and Mail newspaper read “Britain takes aim at Islamic state”, and it left me wondering if it could be the last time I would ever again read of Britain aiming at anything.
On Thursday citizens of Scotland go to the polls to decide whether they want to remain an integral part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, or whether they want to journey on through the 21st century independent and alone. Thursday is the day of the great referendum vote seeking a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question asking Scottish voters if they want to sever close to four centuries of unity with England, Ireland and Wales, or if they prefer to remain a strong partner in the UK.
A “yes” vote will be for independence; “no” will be to stay with the UK. And by all accounts the outcome appears too close to call for even the boldest pollsters – who are all too often wrong with their predictions anyway.
A few things are clear: if the separatists prevail the rest of the world will be witnessing the final collapse from greatness of the British Empire on which a hundred years ago “the sun never set.” The old empire began to shrink when strong colonies, governed from and by London, severed their governance ties with the mother country but remained strong members of the Commonwealth and loyal to the heartbeat of the United Kingdom’s of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
On Thursday the voters of Scotland will decide whether to keep the core of the old Kingdom united and with still strong voice in world affairs, or whether to remove a key foundation stone – Scotland – and and precipitate further damaging collapse of the UK. The “stay united” supporters stress that four nations united are a force that England, (Northern) Ireland, Scotland or Wales could never be on their own.
Prime Minister David Cameron continues to make his plea for Union with pledges of further powers for the already established independent Scottish parliament and warns there can be no turning back if the “yes for independence” vote prevails. Others on the “no, let’s stay united” side echo the warning that the vote is not like voting for a five year government. This is a decision for a long time, they say: The economic problems created by a “yes” vote will be irreversible.
Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party and First Minister in the Scottish Parliament, issues a similar warning to his “yes” supporters. There will be no second chance he tells them if the “Yes” vote fails. A stay united vote, he warns, will be “no” for at least one “political generation” maybe forever…
Salmond is banking heavily on support from 16-year olds recently given the right to vote by his government, and from thousands of recent immigrants now residing in Scotland. It is estimated that of the 4.5 million eligible voters at least four percent are of Asian, African, Caribbean, or Polish descent with many thousands located in Glasgow in lower paid working class areas.
It is safe to forecast the Thursday vote will, internationally, be the most watched political event ever monitored by millions of Scottish-UK loyalists with birth or ancestral connections now scattered to every corner of the world but holding firm “Yes” or “No” opinions – and frustrated because only current residents of Scotland can vote.
Things to watch for as the day unfolds (remember the time difference): The experts say if the vote in Dundee is less than enormous, it will indicate an overall win for staying united. Another belwether will be voters along the eastern borders of Scotland and England. The “no” vote will need to win big there, or lose it overall.
A forecast? For sure. The Scots are a canny lot and know the value of a penny. They’ll vote to stay with the Union because it is economically sounder to stay than to leave. And the Lowlanders of the eastern borders will swing the vote.
A narrow but binding win to keep the Union strong – and forecast more in hope than in confidence.

BCTF – Be careful what you wish for

A quick note to British Columbia school teachers before tomorrow’s (Sept. 10) vote to end their current strike – if the government will agree to binding arbitration:
Be careful what you wish for.
Before marking your ballot do a quick review on why in our form of democracy we have a parliament. Shouldn’t take long. In simplest of terms we have a parliament because the people, a few centuries ago, decided they wanted to take control of the spending of their tax dollars. They no longer trusted the King, the sole arbitrator to spend wisely.
It’s why in British Columbia we have a provincial parliament which, every spring, presents its spending budget for the next fiscal year. Every item in that budget is presented to the Legislature in session for full debate, spending item by spending item.
To make sure the votes are properly spent there is an oversight committee – The Public Accounts Committee – which vets every substantial dollar spent.
While it is all done “in the name of the Crown” only parliament through a duly elected government can authorize public spending.
The government can appear politically compliant in times of dispute and agree to let an arbitrator act on its behalf, but that’s a dangerous game and surely in violation of all parliament was created for: to control the public purse, not to hand control to an arbitrator – or even the courts.
It’s why the government must reject binding arbitration. It may be a great, and sometimes only, way to settle industrial labour disputes. But decisions on the spending of public tax dollars belongs to the duly elected government – not the King, not the BCTF, not a third party arbitrator however wise and fair.
Every four years the people of BC will decide whether their government’s actions have been in the best interests of the majority. And that’s the way it should be in a democracy.

Come now, let us reason together

A few questions from a nonagenarian who readily admits his mind is not as sharp as it used to be in grasping facts and/or situations.

Premier Christy Clark seemed to get a little carried away when she decided to join the mud-slinging troops in the forefront of the current unseemly shout-fest between the provincial government of British Columbia and the school teacher’s union. She waxed eloquent on her claim that the BC Teachers’ Federation was trying to bargain for “unlimited massages” for those suffering classroom stress in addition to demanding a $5,000 per teacher signing bonus.

Union President Jim Iker loftily replied teachers had never asked for unlimited massage benefits, but for only $500 to $700 and only up to $3,000 for members in chronic pain but “we had to take that off the table.”

So I’m wondering, and rank and file union members should be wondering, who put “massage benefits” on the table in the first place? Surely not the teachers who insist they hit the bricks solely to benefit their student?

Then there’s the matter of the $5,000 signing bonus. It started last June when the conflict was in its infancy and the government dangled a $1,200 carrot to every teacher signing a deal to end the strike. Many teachers expressed disgust, termed the offer an insulting bribe and suggested the money be rolled into a wage increase.

Jim Iker echoed his membership’s  protest ­and then bewildered both membership and government negotiators by asking for the signing bonus insult to be increased to $5,000 for every teacher. Was he suggesting teacher’s couldn’t be bribed with $1,200 but that $5,000 might be acceptable?

Signing bonuses are not new in industry or sport where rival companies or teams bid for rare expertise. The fewer the experts for a specific position, the larger the signing bonus enticement. A line-up of qualified people for the job, the lower or non-existence of the bonus.

The government withdrew its monetary carrot some weeks ago; the silly BCTF demand appears to have faded in the haze of summer. Is it possible that both sides have suddenly realized there is no shortage of teachers flowing annually from BC Universities and looking for work in BC classrooms where the average pay for a Category 5 teacher (a bachelor’s degree) is $47,359 up to maximum of $74,353 for roughly a nine month year.  

Not a King’s ransom, but in job scarce times plus a decent medical-dental plan, a pension at age 60 averaging $35,400 a year (2013), with a few extra bargained benefits, not a bad occupation and life style. And lots of recruits ready to apply.

Seems to me the BCTF needs to focus on one main priority: class composition and the need solve the dilemma of how to best teach children with special needs. And the government needs to listen to the teachers on that serious classroom problem – and between them, with students back in the classrooms, resolve it.

After that they can decide who gets the best massage.