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Political Education is Sorely Lacking
An Essay by Edgar Foster - 2014
Is it just me, or are people getting dumber and dumber when it comes to politics and their knowledge of politics? Let me start by doing a bit political trivia - questions so easy any American or Canadian should know these things. Then I will tackle the concept of standardized educational testing and what purpose it has. Then I will compare education in Asia to North America, and lastly I will talk about post secondary education in colleges and universities and how many students are cheating on essays / using essay writing services.
Presidential and Prime Minister Trivia
The average person in North America can not tell you who was the President of the USA during the 1980s. Some of them even say Nixon (1969 to 1974).
If they said Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, or George H. W. Bush they would score a point, 3 points if they knew Bush was only president in 1989 and Jimmy Carter only president in 1980, and that Ronald Reagan was president from 1981 to 1988. thus making Ronald Reagan the clear answer most people should say when asked.
Should, but ask the average American and they won't know.
Now repeat the process for Canada and ask them who was the Prime Minister during the 1980s?
The correct answers are
Considering the short length of time Joe Clark and John Turner were in power the average Canadian should be able to name at least 2 of the 4 prime ministers that were in power during the 1980s. Should be able to.
I would wager some Canadian Tire money that most Canadians can only name 1 of the 4.
The 1980s weren't even that long ago. The vast majority of adults in the USA and Canada should be able to name these political leaders - assuming that their education was adequate.
Education Standards and Standardized Testing
Educational standards in North America have dropped rapidly during the 1990s and 2000s. And these standards have dropped radically as parents and governments have been sticking their noses into the domains of teachers, with politicians using education as a political football to win votes - all while making educational standards in America dumber.
For example George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind Act" during his presidency (2001 to 2008) introduced standardized testing for each state at specific grade levels, forcing schools to go along with their plan if they wished to receive Federal funding for their schools.
The standardized tests however were dumbed down and focused on very basic skills like simple arithmetic, spelling and basic grammar, and in order for their schools to do well on the tests teachers were forced to focus on test taking skills as opposed to teaching practical knowledge in their class. Knowledge of history, geography, science, what happens when you mix sulfuric acid with calcium - all ignored in the standardized tests.
Schools that were listed as having the lowest average test scores saw their funding cut - not through any fault of the staff or students - but simply because there was bound to be some schools which were below average. They can't all score the same results after all - unless every school scores 100% perfectly, and that is simply unattainable.
So what is the whole point of doing standardized testing in schools anyway? If it was to work it would give extra funding to schools which get the lowest scores, giving them more teachers, more individual attention, etc. But that has not happened. Instead it is just a political football and a complete waste of time.
Thus if we go back to my first point, if you asked the kids a political question on standardized tests most of the kids would likely get the answer wrong because they simply are not being taught anything about modern politics in school except a brief mention in history class. Most of the time history classes in the USA focus on George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and people who lived and died hundreds of years ago. Rarely do they talk about the current president and politics of the world today because they are worried parents will get upset about teachers espousing their political views.
The clear result is that "standardized testing" results in a lowering of educational standards so more students can pass the test.
Education Levels in Asia
Meanwhile over in Asia students are seeing a very different standard in education - a two-tier approach that is giving Asia an educational advantage over the rest of the world. How are they doing this?
First, all students attend schools and the education they receive is roughly equivalent to what is happening in North America - except the math questions are harder, they are learning English and other languages in addition to their own language, they are learning World History as opposed to just American History or Canadian History, and the end result is that students in Asia are getting a better education than students in North America. And yes, they do talk about politics - and while they might not be able to name all of the Canadian Prime Ministers, they can probably name quite a few American presidents - and they would at least know the names of the political leaders in their own country.
Second, after they are done attending regular school all of the students go to a second school known as a Cram School. In Korea this is known as a Hagwon, in Japan they are called Juku, and in China they are called Buxiban. This is not something just for wealthy parents to send their kids to either. Every student in Asia is either going to a Cram School or if they are wealthy enough, they are getting private tutors. Which Hagwon the students go to is really up to the parents, but they're basically a necessity because of the testing that goes on before getting into their desired high school or university - and because many of these "after-school schools" offer advanced mathematics, English-learning with native English speakers who were imported on 12 month contracts to teach English, other languages with similar native speakers of that languages, and so forth.
The end result is that students in Asia have very little free time. They don't have very much time off to play or do things for fun because they spend an extensive amount of their time in school or cram school learning as much as they can.
And what is more the Cram School system is being imported to North America. Go to any major city in North America with a strong Chinese, Korean or Japanese population and you will find Buxibans, Hagwons and Jukus popping up all over the city and Asian parents sending their kids to cram schools so they can get an edge on the competition.
On the political level this means politicians have been groping around and fumbling with the wrong political football. It also means we should not be surprised if we see an Asian president of the USA sometime in the next 20 or 30 years because political knowledge and influence is always tied to higher education.
Cheating in Universities and Colleges
The desire to get an edge on the competition comes to full fruition in university and college, especially when you see the number of students who are buying essays online from essay writing companies like MasterEssay.com. Such companies offer other legitimate services too, like proofreading and editing, resume writing services, but they also offer to do simple course work, case studies and even write dissertations on complex topics. This means there is a wide range of ways for students to cheat if they have the money to do so.
The exact numbers of cheating going on in North American universities is unknown, but what is known is that vast majority of students who are hiring such services are middle-class or upper-class (cough cough* anywhere from well off to extremely wealthy). Anonymous surveys suggest that some form of academic cheating is happening amongst at least one third of students. They might be cheating during tests, using plagiarism to write essays, or even hiring a fellow student to show up to the class for them for the duration of the school year and do all the assignments, tests and essays for them.
Now ask yourself, when these students graduate - having cheated their way through 3 or 4 years of university - how competent do you think they will be at their job, and how much knowledge about politics or history do you think they will have?
And worse, knowing that many students are now smoking / snorting drugs during university (George W. Bush for example snorted cocaine during university), is it any surprise that the quality of politicians has gone down in recent decades and voter turnout has become so low because students are either uneducated, stoned or both?
I can only conclude that things will probably get worse before they get better. Education and politics in the North America are swirling down into a cesspool. And if you don't know what a cesspool is, it is time you learn to use a dictionary. We need to reach the deep end of the cesspool before we can climb out of this filth and strive for something better.
Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation
In roughly 5 months Canadians will be able to sue other Canada's for receiving spam from them (up to $200 per email), the Canadian government will be able to fine spamming companies up to $10 million CDN, and the term "email marketing" will gain back a measure of respect as spammers are punished for the crimes and email marketeers (who run newsletters, email marketing campaigns that are 'opt in' and have obtained consent from the receiver) will distance themselves from the people who are operating illegal scam / phishing operations.
Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) will come into effect on July 1st 2014 and it has people in the online marketing business looking very happy, and people who are operating fraudulent activities will have to be more cautious about their operations.
One of the companies that is quite happy about the changes is a company called Vigorate Digital. Vigorate Digital does email marketing in Toronto and was a major contributor to helping the new laws get made in the first place. On the morning of January 23rd, 2014 Vigorate Digital hosted a live event at the Toronto Reference Library, in one of the conference halls, talking to local SEO experts, email marketeers and more - answering questions about the new laws and how it will effect people who use email marketing as a means of advertising.
The companies that keep newsletters, have opt-in programs, etc, will be largely unaffected. All they need to do is prove that the person expressed their consent to have the emails sent to them by subscribing to the newsletter, opting in to an email program, signing up for email notifications, etc.
What is not okay however is companies emailing you out of the blue, asking for money in some form - or asking for you to sign up with their social media website - because those emails will be deemed illegal because you did not sign up for them.
Those caught by the CRTC will be issued a fine of up to $10 million CDN - and individuals now have the right to sue companies or individuals in small claims court for up to $200 per spam email received.
It also gives the government more teeth to go after mafia organizations running phishing operations to illegally gather the banking info of Canadians. (Although they might want to be carrying firearms with them when trying to catch members of the mafia and shut down their operations.)
If it was up to us we would like to see the government cut off the fingers of people operating phishing attacks on Canadian banks - and no doubt Canadian bankers would like this too - but fines at least will be a step in the right direction.
So what happens when a mafia member refuses to pay the fine and skips town? Presumably they just set up a new operation in a different town and continues to operate their phishing attacks against Canadian banks - robbing Canadians of their life savings by tricking them with phony emails.
The USA and other G8 countries already have their own anti-spam laws, but it will be interesting to see if they can cooperate to pursue spammers across international borders.
And if we could just ban all emails coming from Nigerian princes that would be nice too.
Do you know who Joseph Kony is?
If you watched the video above you will know Joseph Kony is a power-hungry warlord from northern Uganda who enslaves children and turns them into butchers and rapists. He is one of the most despicable people in the history of mankind and has been doing this for three decades.
And yet comparatively few people in North America know who Joseph Kony is. It is because in North America we are sheltered from the rest of the world, we watch movies and listen to music and our lives are focused on our own selfish entertainment and greed. Meanwhile halfway across the world a mass murderer has an army of child soldiers doing his bidding.
Spread the word. Joseph Kony can be stopped if enough people know about him and voice their opinion to politicians that such mass murderers should be stopped. Learn more about Joseph Kony.
The Race for Arctic Oil
North of Russia and Canada, in the Bering Sea and Baffin Bay inbetween Canada and Greenland is vast regions of International Waters, with vast resources of oil lying below the earth's crust.
The problem with International Waters in the Arctic Ocean is that no one owns the sea, so basically anyone can drill there, tap it for oil and ship it to whatever country willing to pay the most (or hoard it to themselves for economics reasons).
With the speedy progress of global warming previously ice-jammed areas of the arctic sea are now safe to explore and map, don't think it is yet safe to drill for oil. Icebergs floating down from the high arctic can still do considerable damage to an oil rig (Titanic anyone?).
So in the meantime the lower reaches of the arctic are available for oil exploration, but like lake fishing the best spots usually get taken pretty quickly. In the next few years the lower arctic regions are going to be abuzz with test drillings, oil rigs and tug boats escorting dangerous icebergs.
The environmentalists are going to be spitting hellfire by the time it gets into fullswing and preaching the virtues of hydrogen cars.
But there are other issues as well.
Denmark (which owns Greenland) has laid claim to Canada's most northern reaches of land (which geologists believe may contain gold, uranium and other precious metals). Canada says that land is clearly theirs and occupied by Canadian people, but this is not entirely true. The most northern Canadian settlement is Resolute. Beyond that, at the extreme tip of Canada's sovereign territory is Alert, a military base and radar tower. Denmark argues that the region inbetween Alert and Resolute (the Queen Elizabeth Islands) belongs to Denmark and is part of Greenland.
But if settlement equals ownership where is Denmark's settlements in Northern Canada? There isn't any. It is a stupid argument. The closest Danish settlement is Qaanaaq on Greenland itself.
And this dispute is now becoming a military issue as the Canadian coast guard patrols the region and has spotted submarines breaching the surface ice. Is Denmark sending its submarines to explore the region? Currently only Canada and its NATO allies are supposed to have submarines in that region, but military records show that other countries (not just Denmark) seem to be exploring and mapping the region.