Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Letters June 10th -- the letters keep coming

Daily Gleaner
N.B. should be embarrassed of French immersion decision

On May 29, the federal commissioner of official languages, Graham Fraser, released his annual report.

In it, he specifically mentions the New Brunswick minister of education and the changes made to French second-language education.

Specifically, the report reads: "... the Commissioner is concerned about the recommendations made by the commission charged with reviewing French-as-a-second language programs and activities in New Brunswick and the decision of the province's Minister of Education to end early immersion programs.

"A very larger majority of experts still agree that immersion, and early immersion in particular, is the best way to learn a second-language."

Premier Shawn Graham should be embarrassed that his Department of Education has been specifically and negatively named in the commissioner's report.

Personally, I'm tired of hearing expert after expert prove how wrong it was to eliminate early French immersion. Premier Graham, it is time to prove that you know what the right decisions are:

* reinstate EFI;

* and remove Education Minister Kelly Lamrock.

Jenny Doucette, Fredericton

Why wasn't Genesee part of team reviewing immersion?

In a letter published in a recent edition of The Daily Gleaner, Dr. Fred Genesee of McGill University took Education Minister Kelly Lamrock to task for misquoting him in some arguments for making New Brunswick Canada's only province without a public early French immersion program.

Genesee points out many flaws in Lamrock's use of his research, but he never mentions the greatest flaw of all. If Lamrock believes that the opinions of experts such as Genesee need to be consulted to justify these decisions, why didn't he hire at least one of them at the beginning of this process, as a member of the panel studying FSL in New Brunswick?

Then, instead of misquoting Genesee's research in a vain attempt to prop up his ill-conceived ideas, he could simply let Genesee speak for himself, and we New Brunswickers would have the benefit of a truly well-thought-out plan for French education.

Debbie White, Fredericton

Even government's lawyers don't support decision

Weeks ago now, when Education Minister Kelly Lamrock decreed that all French instruction would be removed from kindergarten to Grade 4 in schools, he attempted to characterize it as the result of a proper consultation.

When the Croll-Lee study, on which he based that decision, was discredited by wave after wave of criticism, he thereupon tried to suggest that by brushing off opposition as not "Christian" or arguing that the new plan contained a "hidden X factor," he was undertaking a "time of discussion" which should lead to decisions.

If one thing is clear from the recent judicial review of this decision, it is that nobody believes Lamrock's story, not even the government's own lawyers.

It was recently reported that the government's defence will not follow Lamrock's story; instead, they will argue not that he has done his proper duty as a minster, but merely the much safer point that "Lamrock had no obligation to consult the public before making the decision."

It seems that Lamrock, who once wrote the NDP election platform, is leading the way in forming two new Liberal policies: consult only when necessary by law; and admit to a lack of consultation only when sworn into a court.

Kelly Black, Oromocto, N.B.


Liberal popularity drop may be costly

Recent polling suggests the Liberal government has suffered a 12 per cent drop in popularity, but are still ahead of the leaderless Conservatives.

Some will claim 12 per cent isn't much and that it's normal for this point in a mandate when difficult decisions have been made. However, a closer look at the numbers would be warranted.

First, popular vote does not always equal victory. In 2006, the Liberals lost the popular vote but were elected anyway. It has to do with winning seats. Twelve per cent doesn't mean 12 per cent in every riding - in all likelihood the drop is higher in places where people are most angry.

In 2006, 10 Liberal MLAs won by a margin of 15 per cent or lower, and six of these won by less than 10 per cent - ridings where French immersion participation ranges from 37 to 49 per cent. If anger is even slightly concentrated in these areas, their problems are compounded.

Second, this poll was conducted before it was revealed that the government appears to have hired consultants (Croll and Lee) who were looking for data to match their pre-determined conclusions, rather than drawing conclusions based on data.

Third, people have long memories when it comes to their children. Every year parents will have to watch as their children lose out on opportunities to become bilingual. The Liberals are in trouble over this, whether they want to admit it or not. They need to undo the damage now before it's too late.


Lamrock's reality even more elitist

An elementary school still needs to hire the same number of teachers for the same number of students. The number of textbooks will not change. There is no extra cost to early immersion. In fact, costs will skyrocket as communities formerly served by French immersion now assert their constitutional rights for their own francophone schools. This will cost tens to hundreds of millions of dollars.

There is no denying that French-language training in early years is crucial for success. Lamrock concurs, explaining his own child's success in early immersion. Now he deems it better to have more students obtain a mediocre French proficiency evaluation than pay a non-existent cost for an "elite" few to score high. This is not a fix. This is making the problem even worse. A nefarious regression to the mean is no longer good enough. We must also lower the mean.

Lamrock continues that elitism inherent in the status quo is responsible for New Brunswick's terrible scholastic results. He ignores Canada's top performing provinces; all have early French immersion.

Lamrock's new reality is even more elitist and more unjust than before. New Brunswick will soon have two tiers: bilingual francophones and unilingual anglophones. It gets better: a privileged few anglophones may enrol their children into favoured francophone schools, while neighbouring taxpayers cannot. This year, our own local francophone school has dedicated one of four kindergartens entirely for anglophone children.

We can take small comfort; at least the Péquists in Quebec applaud Lamrock's folly.


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