On behalf of Minister of State (Sport) Bal Gosal,Alice Wong, Minister of State (Seniors), today announced the Government of Canada will provide the Canadian Fencing Federation with $50,000 through Sport Canada’s Hosting Program. Funds will support the organization’s hosting of the 2014 Vancouver Men’s Epee Grand Prix, which will be held in Richmond on March 22 and 23, 2014.
But then there's more:
"We are pleased to support the Canadian Fencing Federation's hosting of the 2014 Vancouver Men’s Epee Grand Prix, which provides world-class competition for our elite athletes, in addition to promoting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle to the local community
– Bal Gosal, Minister of State (Sport)
Tell me, Minster Gosal, how many people in Vancouver fence?
The elections office in Quebec is throwing cold water on a theory put forward by the Parti Quebecois on Sunday that students from elsewhere in Canada could be trying to steal the provincial election.
The PQ expressed concern about media reports that an influx of English-speakers and other non-francophones from outside the province were trying to vote in the April 7 election.
By late afternoon, however, the province's chief electoral officer brought forward numbers showing there were no signs of an irregular increase in voter registration.
"The abnormally high number of requests doesn't exist," said spokesman Denis Dion.
Lord they are desperate. Give the Pequistes some credit. The creation of this particular myth took a fair amount of chutzpah. If we're talking about election irregularities shall we take a stroll through some of the PQ's marginal ridings? Hmm. Perhaps an inquiry into some of the closer precincts in the 1995 referendum? When it comes to fudging the democratic process Quebec separatists have raised an old art to new heights.
On the positive side this moment of panic is hopeful. A party desperate enough to start spinning fables that are easily disproved, that will gain traction only with their hard core supporters eager to believe any Anglo conspiracy, is a party likely going down to defeat. It's been sixteen years since the PQ last won a majority government in a provincial election. Should the Liberals gain a majority this time the separatists will have been out of real power for nearly a generation. The Marois episode becoming a conveniently forgotten footnote.
Kevin Macfie, a Bergen County father, has been incarcerated over 400 days since he was arrested for child support arrears in January 2013. Macfie spent another 344 days incarcerated between December 2011 and November 2012. Macfie has only been a free man for 55 days in the past two years and during part of that time he was the subject of an arrest warrant which is automatically issued when two support payments are missed.
Macfie was being held in the Bergen County Jail for over a year with the court demanding he pay $7,500 to be released. Recently his “condition of release” was reduced to $1,000 which Macfie does not have. “It might as well be $10,000” Macfie told the Bergen Dispatch. If he could find employment Macfie would need to save the $1,000 plus pay his weekly support amount of $284 plus the work release fees before being released.
College is becoming increasingly easy, yet still a third of students still can’t hack it.
The admissions people are failing their job. One-third of people entering university are not capable of completing even the dumbed-down modern university curriculum.
Think about how many more would not be capable of completing college if standards were similar to those 50 years ago.
Which nails it perfectly.
Years ago, when I was at university, I asked one of the older professors of history what he thought about the changes in the student body over his career. This gentleman, a word entirely applicable to him, said that when he started teaching in the early 1960s he would flunk between a quarter and a third of his first year classes. Faster forward to the early 2000s and he rarely flunked a student. I jokingly asked him if that was because young people are smarter now than they were forty years earlier. He found my little joke rather too funny.
He confided in me that in the late 1960s the president of the university did the rounds. He explained that he was receiving pressure from the provincial government. Too many students were going off to university and then failing to graduate. The logical inference would have been that the high schools had either failed to prepare these students, or that the students were not academically capable or inclined. Political logic, however, is not like ordinary logic. It works by different rules. A government minister couldn't admit that many public high schools just weren't good enough, or that little Johnny was a bit daft. That would have contravened the egalitarian ethos of the age. So if the high schools couldn't be fixed, they'd fix the universities instead.
Now by fix they didn't mean improve. Nope. They meant dumb down. Now this was at one of the most prestigious universities in the land. You can well imagine that dumbing down at such a place was bad enough, dumbing down at less academically selective schools would be the equivalent of destroying virtually all academic rigour. This dumbing down also had the added advantage of filling in all those empty spaces left when the Baby Boomers graduated.
The art of dumbing down something as complicated as a university is a tricky one. If you dumb down the engineering program you get falling bridges and dead people. If you dumb down political science, well you just get more NDP voters. The thing that politicians and the university presidents failed to grasp is that while creating more NDP voters is not a good thing in the short-run, it's a disastrous thing in the long run. There is nothing more dangerous to the future of a society than half-educated liberal arts majors.
What do you do with a liberal arts degree?
You rule over people who didn't take liberal arts.
Who do you think runs much of the mid and even high bureaucracy? Where do you think the bulk of political staffers, speech writers and high flying politicians come from? What do many journalists study before going to journalism school? It's the liberal arts broadly defined. In the modern sense the liberal arts is no longer just the traditional subjects of History, Philosophy and Literature (English). It has expanded to include quasi-pseudo-subjects like political science, pseudo-subjects like semiotics and making shit up stuff like gender studies. When people complain that liberal arts gets you a job as a barista, they're more often referring to the gender studies major than the history major. The latter is usually a bit more intelligent and far less "unconventional" in their personality.
A point I try to emphasize is that the problem isn't so much useless degrees as useless people taking degrees. Even in our modern sideways moving economy, or down ways if you're an American, the clever and the bold succeed and even thrive. The piece of paper hanging on the wall matters less than the personality of the individual. A university degree in most fields qualifies you to work as a corporate drone. It proves you are somewhat more intelligent than average, somewhat less genuinely rebellious than average and have a proven capacity to absorb bullshit. This is the true value of subjects like gender studies, they allow you to absorb corporate bullshit with relative ease.
Gender studies is about people who don't want to work coming up with elaborate excuses to parasite off the taxpayer. In more highly regulated industries the corporate leadership is dominated by people who come up with elaborate excuses to rent seek off the consumer. Neither group is especially interested in objective reality or providing value for end users. That would require actual thought and effort. Bullshit is the method by which the lazy and moderately clever attempt to rule over the lazy and stupid.
How does a society get to such a state? By turning out endless armies of pseudo-liberal arts majors. What was once an academically rigorous exploration of the human condition has, over the last half century, become a job lot for otherwise unemployable teachers at both the secondary and post-secondary level. It has created a recruitable mass of workers who are fitted for nothing more than shuffling paper around, brown nosing and playing petty office politics. They are unfitted for manual labour because of their years of pseudo-learning and its consequent pretensions. They are unfitted for genuine intellectual labour since most are either too unintelligent, or too poorly educated, to engage in such work.
Mass university education, one of the more terrible ideas to emerge from the quite terrible twentieth century, might very well be what finishes off western civilization. It has generated a massive class of people who are unable, in any real sense, to work. They cannot think and they cannot toil. But Lord how they eat! This is the end result of egalitarianism run amok. Everyone is just as clever as everyone else and all must have their now worthless prize: The B.A.
Pity the poor liberal arts major who still believes in those timeless truths, who wanted to work and think hard in the pursuit of truth and understanding. Gresham taught us that bad money drives out good. The same applies to university diplomas.
I was surprised to find myself choking up when I heard that Tony Benn had died. It's hardly as if we were friends – though he did give me one of the most useful pieces of advice I've ever had: "Young man, never give yer audience yer sheckond besht shpeech just because you're bored with yer besht one."
Still, I can't shake off the sense that we have lost the last survivor of a Homeric age – an age when elections decided the destinies of nations, when ideologies clashed at the ballot box, when politics was a vocation rather than a career.
To put Tony Benn in Canadian terms imagine Ed Broadbent with about 50 additional IQ points, then shift him about twenty feet to the Left. Needless to say that Mr Hannan, despite his obvious respect, is delighted that Tony Benn never got anywhere near the levers of power. Still the deeper point stands, Benn conducted himself on a rather higher plane than modern politicians.
There is a temptation among history minded people, such as myself and Mr Hannan, to look upon the past with a certain wistfulness. False nostalgia is always a concern. A wider view suggests that the quality of men and women in public life waxes and wanes. It would be hard to imagine the inter-war period, dominated by pragmatists such as Ramsay Macdonald and Stanley Baldwin, as a Homeric Age. Yes, of course, Churchill was there too, though for much of the time in the political wilderness. For most of the 1930s the future saviour of the Western world was regarded as an aging crank. Not exactly Achilles in his tent.
All that said the modern age does look a bit threadbare. Mr Hannan is right to point out that our politics, in pretty much every part of the Anglosphere, is about nothing at all. A small outcropping of ideas and convictions does appear from time to time, carefully avoided by the leaders of the large political parties. They are quite content in the morass of pragmatism. This is more than the distemper of the times.
While the birth and reformation of the welfare state was accompanied by great clashes of ideas, and brought to the fore those capable of debating those ideas, its management is an inglorious affair. It doesn't work particularly well and getting it to work with even marginal competence is a dull and thankless job. How many politicians rise to power by slightly reducing wait times for hip replacements?
When the major players in the game all agree on the same basic ideas, there isn't much of a debate. This is why so much of modern political discourse is about personality. Everyone agrees that government should be mother, father and older brother to everyone in the land, the only point of disagreement is to what extent. Petty disagreements lead to petty politics and petty politicians.
Which is why we put them under the control of the dumbest people in our society:
My daughter recently received a Post-it note on her homework that read, “Your [sic] Awesome!” A year or two ago her teacher had written, “No merkers! [sic]” on an assignment. How does one not know how to spell “marker”? Why doesn’t “your” look strange to a teacher when she uses it as a contraction of “you” and “are”? Does she not read? Is she not familiar with what words look like?