All Posts Tagged With: "democracy"
Q&A with a professor after his outburst
At a recent lecture on democracy at St. Thomas University in Fredericton N.B., Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson asked a room full of journalism and political science students why young people don’t vote. A journalism student raised her hand and said it’s because the political system is complicated and many don’t understand it. Shaun Narine, an associate professor and international relations researcher, blurted out that she should, “Read a book for God’s sake!” Some clapped. Some were angry. Jane Lytvynekno spoke to Narine over the phone from Ottawa.
You told [that student] to “read a book.” Why?
I was as surprised by my outburst as anybody else. I was listening to the student speak and I became increasingly frustrated with the fact that she seemed to be saying that she did not know anything about politics. It wasn’t the arcane facts [she didn't know]. It seemed to be the most basic things like what does it mean to vote? What is Parliament? All those sorts of things. My frustration was very great. I guess I felt that this was the sort of stuff that every responsible citizen should know. … Out of that frustration I ended up doing something which I sincerely regret doing. I apologized to the student. … I sincerely believe academia is a place where we should have rational and reasonable discussion. I don’t believe in heckling people and I don’t believe in embarrassing students and I don’t believe in screaming at people in frustration and in all of those respects I certainly did not live up to my own standards or expectations.
New report shows how we ‘get political’ between elections
A new national survey on the ways Canadians “get political” between elections contains good news and bad news about youth participation in democracy.
The good news is that, contrary to the stereotype, people aged 18 to 34 say they are more engaged in civic activities any other age group.
The bad news is that Canadians in general have become “lightweights” when it comes to political participation and that fewer young people bother to formally engage in the party system which, as the report points out, has the power to make the big decisions about how tax dollars are spent.
The Twitter generation is engaged and deserves a say
Should 16-year-old Canadians be allowed to vote? The Parti Québécois thinks so. Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, speaking in London, hinted as much following a quiet meeting in Scotland with First Minister Alex Salmond, whose governing Scottish National Party plans to lower the voting age to 16 for the country’s 2014 referendum on independence.
Members of Marois’ party have indicated their support for lowering the age to 16 in the past, and countries like Austria, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil have made similar decisions over the years to combat flagging voter turnout. Considering young people are the biggest drag on Canada’s overall decline in turnout, it’s something we should consider nationally too.
Elections Canada reported 38.8 per cent turnout among people age 18 to 24 in the May 2011 federal election, well below the 75.1 per cent of those aged 65 to 74 who voted. Considering the under-25 set is told from the get-go that they’re apathetic, this isn’t surprising. Civics courses don’t help: I drudged through Ontario’s— a well-known online bird course at my high school.
Bank robbers? Embezzlement? A former executive reflects.
Two years ago, I was a second-year student considering running for Vice-President Academic of the University of Alberta Students’ Union. Though I expected to learn plenty if elected, it was impossible to predict just how much I did learn on the job. If you are a student considering running at your school, I encourage you to give it a try. It could totally alter your life’s trajectory. Here are eight of the most memorable lessons I learned.
1. Unpredictability is just part of the job.
Unforeseen events can often get in the way of platform goals. In June 2011, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry plagiarized his speech to the graduating class, which packed my days with television interviews. A few months later, our executive learned that a student from the business students’ association was accused of stealing $27,000, so I did more interviews. Media relations wasn’t how I’d planned to spend my time.
Prof. Pettigrew on why he’d rather not vote
It’s democracy week, and that means that democracy enthusiasts have revved up for that heady mix of hand-wringing, admonishment, and cheerleading that characterizes all such events.
So forgive me for saying so, but the only thing I’m more sick of than being told how important it is that I vote, is voting. People like me tend to remain unheard at times like this, so I’m weighing in on behalf of those who don’t vote or would rather not vote, and responding to the well-meant clichés that we hear so much of these days.
Cliché 1. If you don’t vote, you don’t have any right to complain.
Nonsense. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees my right to complain and access to charter rights is not dependent on whether one voted or not.
Alison Loat on the power of asking
We at Maclean’s get excited about democracy. I mean, who else would make a video eagerly anticipating the fall session of parliament and publish a post on five political stories we’re watching this week, just as our cover declares “Stephen Harper has finally met his match” in Mulcair?
Joking aside, not everyone is as enthused about their civic rights as we are, and some folks are trying to change that by pumping up the volume during Canada’s Democracy Week. In case you can’t make it to an event, we thought we’d share some of the wisdom smart people shared with us.
First, we gave you Max Cameron’s address at UBC on Why don’t more good people enter politics? Now, here’s Alison Loat, co-founder of Samara Canada, on what she’s learned about the power of asking. Join the conversation on Twitter: #demcda, #cdnpoli, @maconcampus and @SamaraCDA
Ask not what your country can do, but what you can do for your country.
This is among the most famous lines in the history of modern North American political speeches. Delivered on a cold morning in January 1961 by a young president who would live only another 34 months, it became a call-to-arms that rallied a generation into public service.
Pursue the Penguin Dictionary of Canadian Quotations and you’ll find no such rallying cries. “I love Canada because the politics are so dull,” reads one. “What the masses want are monuments,” said another.
Hundreds protest on Parliament Hill
Hundreds of scientists donned in black made a sober march to Parliament Hill today, where they gathered to mourn the ‘death’ of something they knew well and loved: evidence.
Ottawa scientists organized the protest, which was orchestrated to look like a funeral, to oppose was what they say is a deliberate campaign by the federal government campaign to reduce the capacity of federal institutions to collect evidence and bring it forward to inform citizens.
They were provoked by the elimination of the mandatory long-form census last year, and recent closure of a laboratory that monitors climate change in Nunavut.
Organizer Katie Gibbs told the CBC that regardless of political ideology, the importance of facts is something all Canadians should agree to preserve:
“Regardless of the decisions that the government decides to make, our democracy depends on an informed public.”
Not a political decision: York University
A four-metre high goddess statue meant to honour the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre in Beijing has been removed from York University’s student centre, reports the Toronto Star.
Its disappearance had Cheuk Kwan, chair of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China, asking whether it was removed due to political pressure from the Chinese government. After all, Cheuk Yan Lee, an outspoken critic of the Chinese government was to visit York this week.
In fact, the board of the student centre had thrown the statue away. “The materials used in its construction have exceeded their life expectancy, ” Scott Jarvis, the centre’s director told the Star.
Still, Kwan isn’t pleased. “The goddess replica is an iconic symbol of China’s democratic movement. We’re upset that they just threw it into a scrap pit,” he said. The original Goddess of Democracy statue was built by Beijing Fine Arts Academy in honour of the democracy movement. The gold-coloured replica at York University was created by Fine Arts students in 1992.
The Tiananmen Massacre occurred on June 4, 1989 when the People’s Revolution Army used live fire to make its way to Tiananmen Square and clear it of pro-democracy protesters who had been demonstrating for liberalization. At least several hundred people were killed by the army.
Is the hermit kingdom afraid of uprisings on campus?
University students in North Korea are preparing for a very long summer vacation — ten months of manual labour on farms, in factories or at construction sites in order to prepare for the 100-year anniversary of their dead founder’s birth.
Peter Hughes, British Ambassador to North Korea, told University World News from Pyongyang: “I can confirm that students from all the universities in Pyongyang have been mobilised to work at construction sites in the outskirts of the city until April 2012.”
Universities are still open, but foreigners have noticed the very small number of students left studying there in recent months.
Hughes also said: “Some two years ago the DPRK announced that it would build 200,000 units of accommodation in the city to ease the chronic housing shortage. To date only some 10,000 units have been built, so the students have been taken out of universities in order to speed up the construction of the balance before major celebrations take place in April 2012.”
But analysts from Japan and South Korea told University World News that Pyongyang may have dispersed university students for another more nefarious reason: they fear of demonstrations. They noted that North Korea purchased tear gas and batons from China earlier this month and has increased police levels on city streets.
Is our education system producing citizens who can’t make a tough call?
A recent poll suggests that on the issues of capital punishment and decriminalizing marijuana, Canadians are split. On capital punishment, 40 percent would like to see it come back. 46 per cent oppose the reintroduction.
Fair enough: it’s a tough issue, and though I myself oppose capital punishment, I can see how a reasonable person might favour it. What bothers me about the poll, though, is that 14 percent neither support nor oppose reintroducing the death penalty. On an issue of such importance, an issue that has been debated so thoroughly, why are there so many — more than one in ten — who can’t make up their minds?
My hope is that for most of them, the issue is so thorny, they just cannot find a way through it, struggle as they might. My fear, though, is that most of them haven’t thought much about it at all, or, worse, imagine that on difficult issues there is no point trying to come down on one side or the other. Indeed, I worry that many of them think it is foolish to try.
I worry about it because I frequently see the same quality of mind in my first-year students. They confuse critical thinking with pure open-mindedness. That is, they want to be open to all points of view (which is good), but they think it close-minded and intolerant to finally accept one and reject others. As such, it is difficult to teach them to write a persuasive essay, since they not only resist convincing someone else of their position, they resist taking a position in the first place.
On the issue of decriminalizing marijuana–not a life and death issue– the undecideds are even greater. Fully 20 percent of Canadians can’t or won’t take a stand on the issue. Why not? If democracy is to have any value, it must be premised on a population capable of reviewing the facts, weighing the arguments, and deciding which position is better. What is the point of a jury of one’s peers if one’s peers can’t take a reasonable position on your guilt or innocence? It is worth pointing out here that for both questions, the numbers of undecideds have increased compared to ten years ago.
Creating a population capable of thinking well is, it seems to me, the main justification for a public education system. If these polls — and my first-year students — are any indication, that system may be failing us.
Bad decision is a small part of the bigger picture, as democratic deficit on Carleton’s campus grows
The student who proposed a controversial motion declaring cystic fibrosis only affects “white people, and primarily men” is back as a councillor with the Carleton University Students’ Association, bringing back memories of the scandal which tarnished the university’s reputation last year.
For those who don’t know, last year Donnie Northrup proposed a motion to replace a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis with one that is more “inclusive.”
The motion, despite being factually inaccurate and offensive to most, passed quite easily at council. The students’ association suffered through weeks of intense media coverage and public scrutiny as a result, deservedly so.
Northrup resigned at the next council meeting as students presented signatures to impeach him. It was quite clear that the students did not want him back.
Yet somehow, he finds himself sitting on CUSA council again, this time as a councillor for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
To me, this is an absolute proof of a democratic deficit that exists on many campuses today. The students would likely never support the man who embarrassed their school on an international scale.
But it wasn’t up to the students. After the last election, three seats remained vacant for Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences students. And instead of leaving them vacant until the majority of students returned to school and holding a by-election, the three seats were filled in the summer.
And what kind of fair, democratic method was there for selecting the students who would fill those seats?
Students were given 10 days to apply and collect enough signatures to get nominated, and council would vote. Well, students who walked by the CUSA office every day were given 10 days. Or those who checked obscure sections of the rarely updated CUSA website.
And funny enough, only four people applied for those three CUSA seats. Three of them, including Northrup, are CUSA employees. The other applicant was told their nomination papers were forged.
And sure enough, those three CUSA employees became CUSA councillors.
Sound fair to you? It gets worse.