Monday, November 14, 2011

Medieval Education

In a recent report (Deliver us from the universities), National Post columnist George Jonas wrote that the "origin of schools and scholars is ecclesiastical, not liberal." This implies a difference, if not a dichotomy, between ecclesiastical and liberal.

History illustrates otherwise. In the Western World, the liberal arts began in Catholic institutions. Refusal to acknowledge this fact still handicaps victims of the Enlightenment who speak of "bookish monks looking for heresy", and use the word medieval as a pejorative.

What was actually taught in these places of learning?

Erasmus (1466-1536): "The task of fashioning the young includes instilling a love for, and thorough knowledge of, the liberal arts."

Required reading for Thomas More (1478-1535) while at Oxford included Aristotle, Boethius, Cicero and Ovid.

The curriculum of the sixth century cathedral schools consisted of the seven liberal arts. Boethius (475-525) listed them: grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bicycle Safety

Email to the Toronto Star. Unpublished

Re Woman killed when bike collides with large truck, Nov. 8 (2011):

There are ways of reducing such tragedies. One would require the installation of turn signals every two or three meters along the sides of large vehicles, and that they be operated well in advance of the intersection where the driver intends to turn. Similarly with cars, turn signals should be incorporated into the outside rear mirrors. And rear turn signals should be mounted on the roof corners of cars, as with the DS model of the French Citroen.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Food Engineering

A November 2, 2001 newspaper report tells of food experiments in the American military. "The U.S. army wants its soldiers on the battlefield alert and performing well," the report begins. "Our mission it to assure the U.S. fighters are the best fed in the world."

Soldiers receive a variety of foods, from caffeinated meat sticks to baked goods containing omega-3 acids. The latter reduce bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol, we are told. The caffeine would keep them alert. Another experiment involves a complex carbohydrate called maltodextrin. This source of "extra energy" is served in apple sauce, dubbed Zapplesauce."

Is this the cold hand of big business directing the Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center of Massachusetts? In time, soldiers coming home from war may be addicted to these concoctions.

Coming soon to a grocery shelf near you will be "nutritious and battle-tested (fill in product name)."

On the other hand, this food manipulation may be kept secret in order to get the public addicted to certain products. Business interests have already successfully lobbied governments to enact laws to keep consumers unaware of food products that have been genetically modified. These same interests may keep the public ignorant as to which products are laced with caffeine, Omega-3 acids, maltodextrin, or whatever.

Note: The European Union proposed that sugar and fat content be included on food labels. This initiative was snuffed out by food industry lobbyists.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Indian Residential Schools

Email to the Toronto Star, October 31, 2011, Not published.

Re A century of RCMP ignorance (Oct 30):

Media reports of the Indian residential schools has left the general public with the belief that 150,000 aboriginal children were "torn" from their families, "forced to lose their culture", "brutally punished",  and "sexually abused." Without minimizing what harm was done, there is an untold aspect to the story.

The Mt. Elgin Indian Residential School in south western Ontario was built in 1849 by an Ojibway chief, Peter Jones, also a Methodist minister. Jones visited England to raise building funds, while local aboriginals donated land for the school and model farm. As there was no federal government at that time, the school was totally church-financed.

Mt. Elgin and other schools in the area were located on land donated by Aboriginals. School was a short walk from home. Attendance required no compulsion.

Chief Jones intended that classes be taught in English. No talk or fear of "cultural genocide."

The James Bay treaty, among other treaties, was signed by Indian chiefs who realized the benefits of a European education. They knew the operative language was English -- the common language among children of different tribes. To state the signatories were unaware of what they were doing smacks of paternalism.

Discipline in these schools differed little from that in public and parochial schools of the time.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been informed that some of the sexual abuse was perpetrated by senior students and band elders.

Lea Meadows, a worker in human rights and conflict management for 20 years, and an Aboriginal, wrote in the Calgary Herald that her mother's time in a residential school "included some of the happiest days of her life," that her education helped her through university where she became a teacher, and that she returned to teach at a residential school "to provide the same opportunity for other aboriginal girls and boys".

Common media opposition to the contrary, it is also to be hoped the Commission learns of those who benefited from their residential school experience.