Tag Archives: lies

Scholastic Books: Greed Trumps Literacy, No Surprise

Another example of corporate moral whitewashing emerged yesterday when I found out that a small elementary school in Vancouver is not worthy of a Scholastic book fair this year because their order last year was only $800, much much lower than the $1200 necessary for the corporation to bother with them.

Of course, it would be inappropriate to hold this corporation to any kind of significant moral standard as a champion of literacy. They are a corporation with a bottom line to worry about, after all.

The neoliberal defunding of public education in BC that we are struggling under for this decade is in part designed to open up space for private corporations to take over aspects of public education. Early in my teaching career, before I really started to think of the political implications of this kind of corporate intrusion into public education I used the Scholastic order forms in my classroom to give students a chance to order books. My “commissions” were in extra books that I would keep for students to read in the classroom or cycle over to the library.

For every venture like this, we see one more government excuse for why it is just fine to continue defunding education: people and corporations will pick up the slack.

In Vancouver, there are a number of annex schools, small sites located between larger elementary schools to allow younger students an opportunity to have more of a neighbourhood school as opposed to travelling too far. Small schools have many intrinsic advantages, but lack economies of scale to the point of falling under the profit radar of Scholastic.

Part of the reason I left teaching was to work more in the political arena to oppose the forced fundraising for schools that comes from the intentional defunding of the system to justify massive tax cuts. Not coincidentally, one week ago, the desperate, haggard BC premier just tossed out the province’s second largest tax cut in history which will go mostly to the rich, to shore up his pathetic level of support.

This will create another funding crisis for public services which will lead to the “tough choices” required to balance the budget with a voluntary reduction in revenue. It’s quite shameful.

Back to Scholastic and their slogan, “Helping Children Around The World To Read And Learn,” they are more than happy to trumpet noble claims about pursuing literacy, but like many corporate social responsibility projects, that kind of altruism is not at the expense of profit goals; they aren’t a non-profit, after all.

But it’s when I read how Scholastic defines themselves that I become even more disturbed with the funding crisis and back-door privatization of BC’s public education system:

For over 50 years Scholastic Canada has introduced young people to the joys of reading, and has enlarged their understanding of Canada and the world.

Just let’s be clear here. Parents, families, public library, communities and schools are the ones introducing young people to the joys of reading. Scholastic offers inexpensive books that, among a small percentage of really good literature, largely promote popular entertainment brands already bombarding students in other media. In one sense, the books could be free because they are essentially ads for Taylor Swift and Captain Underpants.

By the way, yesterday, Scholastic’s stock price on the NASDAQ exchange rose by US$1.02 to close at US$30.59. This makes their 34.5 million shares worth just over one billion dollars. Clearly, the private delivery of books into public schools is big business around the world. Scholastic should be sending kickback “commissions” to the BC Liberal Party.

By the way, yesterday on the NASDAQ, Microsoft closed at only US$27.39.

So while the BC Liberal government is contributing to manufactured funding crises in public education, many schools’ Parent Advisory Committees have turned into de facto fundraising committees to soften the blow. But one of the social costs of this arrangement is a massive disparity in funding, which undermines the universality principle: one Vancouver west side school’s PAC last year collected 30 times more revenue than a school only one-fifth its size on the east size.

One solution might be to turn Parent Advisory Committees from fundraisers into the other kind of PAC, Political Action Committees. As the Liberals’ massive defunding of the education system forces school boards to choose which schools to close, perhaps we need more political action, even from schools that aren’t facing closure in 8 months.

A little solidarity can go a long way. And we desperately need it now.

And while fundraising and funding crises are not unique to BC or to public education itself, our solidarity must span the sectors where citizens are having to make the difference when governments want to cut taxes for the rich.

The sooner we get organized, the sooner we can stop the fiscal beatings.

BC Liberals DO Intend to Deceive With Misleading Charts

There is nothing new under the sun with the BC Liberal government constructing misleading charts, graphs and visuals to spin “factoids” into something covered in roses, like this piece of fiction from the premier’s TV infomercial Wednesday night.

One of B.C.’s leading experts on tax policy says the charts Premier Gordon Campbell used in his TV address gave such a misleading picture of tax rates in this province that, had they been turned in by his students, he would make them do the assignment over again.

“If a student did this, I would say this is deceptive, maybe intentionally deceptive,” said Jon Kesselman, an economist with Simon Fraser University’s School of Public Policy.

via Premier’s tax charts misleading, deceptive, experts say.

The BC government sent out a mailing to everyone in the province 7 years ago with equally misleading graphics. I had a wonderful time writing about how fortuitously inaccurate the visuals were.

“If you’re asking, did we deliberately put the baseline at $1,000 and then not put the number on it so we could create a false impression, that was not the intent,” [Hansen] said.
I simply don’t believe that the government’s intent was not to deceive. After all they have been doing it for years, like this graph.

Making the Liberals Eat their HST Lies

Before we explore how the BC Liberals are going to spin their extended lie about not having the HST on their radar before the 2009 election, based on FOI records released Wednesday, let’s first take a look at how the National Post bungled its BC reporting today.

In this piece, they pick up the Jordan Bateman story, where Minister Coleman’s riding president wrote a blog piece calling for Hansen’s resignation.

That part they got right.

Then they decided to not follow the story, for like an hour, when it became a much bigger story as Bateman retracted his piece and apologized to the minister after a personal phone call. But the National Post stopped caring and let that part of the story go. Maybe it’s because they are run from 3 time zones away.

The minister is Colin Hansen, who is not the person in the picture.

Finally, lacking insight, information, context and background, the Post decided the precipitating event of Bateman’s call for Hansen’s resignation was the $780k wasted on the HST pamphlet, not the FOI release the day before proving that the Liberals had been lying for 14 months.

Fail. Monstrous fail. But not surprising.

So now, on to the Liberals’ spin factory, the point of which is to let everyone know that if we let this blow over by September 13, it’s our fault for being our part in a bigger failure.

  1. The minister personally phoned a bunch of reporters on Wednesday. I don’t expect that made them feel special, but the personal touch is touching.
  2. There was a 4pm embargo of the release of the FOI story on Wednesday. If the media who issued the FOI request arranged that, that’s their business. If Hansen orchestrated the 4pm time, that’s some hefty spin.
  3. Does the premier’s office interfere with the timing of FOI records release? If so, releasing the information on a Wednesday before Labour Day has some advantages.
    1. That leaves one day for media juice. Fridays are dead in the news cycle; doubly so for Fridays before long weekends [Note the millions who aren’t reading this post this afternoon!]. If the government set up the 4pm embargo [doubtful], they eradicate most of Wednesday for blowback.
    2. A long weekend happens and everyone’s brains reset. Last year they released a budget before Labour Day when billions of British Columbians were still at the cabin.
    3. Next week is school. The media will be obsessed with full-day kindergarten and other traditional fluff and not-so fluff back to school stories.
  4. Then when Bateman went rogue and lit a fire, he got a call from the minister. Bateman was converted and born again to the righteousness of the minister, apologized to him on the phone and in a blog piece, and he took down his rogue blog piece. Was Bateman threatened? Was he rationally convinced in a way that he chose not to explain in his apology blog piece, which has no explanation as to why he felt the FOI release was irrelevant to Hansen’s integrity? Will Bateman become a Liberal candidate at some point?

All this means that if we still care about the HST lies by Monday, September 13, 2010 and the media decides to continue caring and the BC Recall campaigners can stoke the embers, the Liberals will have failed at spinning the FOI evidence into oblivion.

If we don’t, it’s our own fault for letting the media let the government bury this.