Sunday, March 23, 2008

Debate tactics, theoretical musings and taking risks

by Andre Levesque, St. Stephen

Ever wonder how a seasoned debater would try to defend the proposed changes to French Second Language education in New Brunswick. Look no further than our Minister of Education, Kelly Lamrock. It’s true. In high school Mr. Lamrock won a number of national debating competitions, and the evidence for this is not hard to find. For instance, Mr. Lamrock has, on at least two occasions, changed the premise upon which he recommends eliminating Early French Immersion. This represents debate tactic number one. When the Croll and Lee report was first released, the reasons for eliminating EFI were high attrition, poor achievement of French proficiency results, high cost of the program, and lower literacy scores of Core students as a result of streaming. The statistics used in the report were quickly shown to be biased, misleading and inaccurate. A review and recalculation of the statistics has led to alternate conclusions. Attrition in high school is equivalent between Late and Early Immersion, the highest French proficiency scores are attained by Early Immersion students, Early Immersion is actually more cost effective than Late Immersion, and literacy scores of EFI and Core students are essentially equivalent in grades 2 and 4. Mr. Lamrock quickly altered the premise for his objection to EFI, stating subsequently that EFI actually teaches French very well, but that under the present model of FSL instruction, only 20% of all students are receiving quality French education. Why then would you want to eliminate the only program that you are now admitting is working well? In a recent article appearing in the Times & Transcript on March 21/08 (Change is best route to a bilingual New Brunswick), Mr. Lamrock has once again altered the focal point on this issue. The article represents a personal consideration of the merits of simply increasing more resources versus improving structure (adopting a universal way to teach French) as a means to remedy FSL woes. Which do you think Mr. Lamrock demonstrates is most reasonable? Unfortunately, the entire exercise represents a false premise as few people, if any, would subscribe exclusively to either solution. Regardless, Mr. Lamrock invokes additional examples of debate tactics to solidify his position.

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1 comment:

Berkeley Fleming said...

Liberal Reform in New Brunswick

1) Suppress and ignore the recommendations of a previously commissioned study of French Second Language programs by recognized FSL experts.
2) Commission another study by two individuals with no FSL expertise.
3) Release the second report for public comment.
4) Assure concerned citizens, parents, and Liberal Party insiders that Early French Immersion will continue.
5) Disregard critiques of the report authors’ ignorance of the literature, shoddy statistical analysis, one-sided use of qualitative feedback, and drastic recommendations for New Brunswick FSL, recommendations based on a “leap of faith” concerning a relatively untested new program.
6) Write off negative public reaction as the work of a supposedly selfish parental lobby group.
7) Ignore a letter to the Premier from one of the authors of the first report identifying significant problems with the second report’s recommendations.
8) Inform Cabinet colleagues of one’s intention to accept those recommendations, with little or no ensuing discussion within Cabinet.
9) Precipitously announce the intention to implement the recommendations, presenting them as daring and creative solutions to (falsely defined) problems with FSL and (supposedly) non-inclusive implications of (so-called) “streaming”.
10) Dismiss as unconvincing expressions of concern from Canada-wide research advisors to the Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers.
11) Gag New Brunswick teachers, school administrators, and civil servants dismayed by the decision.

The result? Upset civil servants, frustrated administrators, and shocked teachers; anxious students and outraged parents and grandparents; concerned provincial and federal Commissioners of Official Languages and an apprehensive Provincial Ombudsman; animated blogs, letters to the editor, and radio commentaries; public meetings, divisive debates, and marches on the streets; the revival of public expressions of anti-French sentiment; anticipated out-migration of highly qualified personnel; and (on the positive side) discontinued Liberal Party memberships, withdrawn donations, and foregone votes. What a proud legacy!

Berkeley Fleming