Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Letters: X-Factors, rhetoric, biases, mismanagement and elitism

Daily Gleaner Letters
'X Factors' aren't enough to save immersion plan

It seems that when you don't have science on your side, you turn to pseudo-science.

Education Minister Kelly Lamrock's French language instruction plan has been given the thumbs down by a long line of language learning experts, including the two who devised the intensive French program on which he is banking so heavily.

And so the minister attempted to buoy his sinking plan by announcing that "people have missed the plan's 'hidden X factor.' "

He said they missed this in two parts of the plan.

First, by "integrating more conversational French opportunities into school life," something that will be hard to do in the only province in Canada whose elementary school setting will not offer a single hour of French language instruction.

The second element is "events that introduce students to the bilingual and French culture in New Brunswick." Indeed. Listening to Acadian stories told in English for half an hour a month will do much more for our province's understanding of French than actually learning the language.

Education is no different from health and finance: when it comes to making plans for our future, the province's citizens expect something better than "X factors."

We'll settle for nothing less than a plan devised by experts. Science, not pseudo-science.

Sarah Wilby, Fredericton

N.B. - No. 1 in rhetoric

The Liberals' war of words on the people of New Brunswick has got to stop.

It is simply unconscionable that a minister of state would refer to one optional educational program, early French immersion, as "segregated," while praising other proposed optional programs, such as enrichment and late French immersion, as suiting students' needs.

Segregation is a word that stinks of racial prejudice and sexism, and it has no place in this debate. When most people use it, they mean that people are forced into separate groups, like African-Americans on public transportation in the 1950s.

Early French immersion is an option, and if anyone was unable to take it, this was because the minister has never made good on the Liberal campaign promise to fulfill the recommendations of the McKay report and provided sufficient resource help for the existing French program.

Until he can use less loaded words, the Liberals should stop Lamrock from tinkering with the subjects that really matter to the fabric of our province and set his sights on improving our scores in the one topic on which he is an obvious expert: rhetoric.

If the Liberals don't stop, at least we'll be the number one province in that field by 2010.

David James, Fredericton

French immersion coverage is biased

I, like so many other New Brunswickers, have been actively following the ongoing public concern regarding the minister of education's abrupt decision to eliminate early French immersion.

I am fascinated, however, at how the Miramichi Leader continues to cover "both" sides of the story (please refer to page A7 of the May 23 Miramichi Leader).

Joseph Dicks is a leading expert in French second language research and has presented the government with an alternate plan for French instruction.

This alternate plan has attracted a lot of attention, yet nothing has been mentioned in neither The Daily Gleaner nor the Telegraph-Journal.

I once subscribed to the Gleaner, however when I read its biased reporting of news lately, I am reminded why I no longer do so. Please remember the importance of providing facts to your public.

Susan Jennings, Fredericton

Telegraph-Journal Letters
Management is the real problem

While the Minister of Education has spent the last two months demonizing the early French immersion program, he has blatantly ignored the real problem in our system - the poor management offered by the Department of Education itself.

For example, the minister claims he had to eliminate EFI because it caused streaming and almost all students who require extra support were found in the core program.

Another reason was the high attrition rates from the EFI program since students were simply not staying in the program. Yet nobody at the Department seemed to be able to put these two facts together and realize that if they provided the required support in the EFI program, many students would not have had to transfer into core to get the help they needed and hence, there would be no streaming.

Over the past few years, by the time a cohort reaches Grade 5, 30 per cent of those originally enrolled in EFI were transferred into core, the same percentage students that enrol in EFI in Grade 1. That tells us in Grade 1, there is an equal proportion of students who are going to require support in EFI and by definition, streaming doesn't exist if all programs have the same proportion of students who require extra support. The fact the minister blames the EFI program for this shows his lack of understanding of the system he is supposed to be in charge of and the incompetence of those working for him.


Mirimichi Leader Letters
Letter to the editor EFI destined to be “elitist”

A central tenet of Minister Lamrock's embattled plan for French language instruction in our province is that children currently in the early French immersion program will be "grandfathered."

Recent events suggest it will be more like "orphaned." Children in Grade 1 should expect to have 11 more years of their program, yet District 2's website has complete expunged any mention of the program. As a hint of worse to come, District 18 has removed all remedial help for EFI students, and similar programs are being cut in District 8. Studies over the past decade have argued that the proper way of reducing streaming out of EFI is to provide it with better support, as is done today in Nova Scotia.

However, when Lamrock apportioned funds from the joint commission on classroom composition last year, over a million dollars were provided for special help in the Core program, and only $4,000 for EFI students. No wonder parents of struggling students are encouraged to migrate to the Core program. It seems if Lamrock is allowed to continue down this uncharted path, he will do even more to ensure EFI becomes the "elitist" program he has criticized.

Stephanie McCarty

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