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While you are cheering Russia’s World Cup 2018

Photo: Poster by the Ukrainian artist Andriy Yermolenko, who created a series of powerful posters dedicated to 2018 FIFA World Cup hosted by Russia   Soccer is the world's game. Soccer transcends our cultural and ethnic differences, language barriers and economic status. Soccer unites us and promotes peace. Not surprising, it is the most popular sport and the FIFA World Cup is the biggest and most watched sports event on the planet. As billions of viewers are glued to their screens cheering their favourite teams and feeling a tremendous sense of pride and passion, families of the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 victims outpour their grief before the World Cup 2018 in an open letter to the Russian people: "[...] a shadow hangs over this event. We are painfully aware of the dark irony that the Russian leaders who will profess to welcome the world with open arms, are those who are chiefly to blame for shattering our world. And that it is these same leaders who have persistently sought to hide the truth, and who have evaded responsibility ever since that dreadful day in July 2014." Their children, partners, parents, brothers, and sisters were among 298 people who were blown out of the sky four years ago on July 17, 2014 with a BUK-TELAR missile system that came from Russia’s 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade, a unit in the Russian army. Despite mounting evidence, Russia continues to deny involvement carrying out a “vile and deceitful campaign” of disinformation. Russia’s leaders also cover up their ongoing crimes against Ukraine, Syria, other countries and against their own citizens both in the territory of Russia and overseas.   Photo: Stepan Chubenko, a teenage goalkeeper before being murdered in the occupied territory of Ukraine   Like many teenagers, the 16-year-old Ukrainian high school student Stepan Chubenko was a goalkeeper of Kramatorsk's “Avangard” youth… Read More

The Mortgaged Decade: 1998-2008 and the Long Hangover

Angelo Mozilo (left) and Alan Greenspan (right)   On July 11, 2008, Countrywide Financial, a huge California mortgage broker, bankrupted. It was one of many financial industry blowups of that disastrous year. Bear Stearns had already collapsed in March, nearly bringing down its largest Wall Street investment banking rivals, even Goldman Sachs, and by fall epidemic devastation required multi-billion dollar government bailouts. But Countrywide, and its once-admired but henceforward reviled CEO, Angelo Mozil0, perfectly incarnated the financial folly and hubris of the whole preceding ten years. Countless books and TV documentaries about the 2008 Crash have since appeared, full of explanations and accusations. The best ones have identified most of the proximate causes of the disaster, all including the proliferating 'subprime' mortgages and complex derivatives based on them. But most were deficient in providing historical context. The most dubious claim, made by many academic economists and governmental authorities, was that 'no one had seen this coming'. In reality, lots of people had, including me, with a 2003 Policy Options article, 'Risky Business and Rocket Science', about dodgy 'mathematical' models to justify many dazzling baubles. I drew on my studies in the history of science, but also on more personal experience. Ever since 1980, I had spent breaks from academia working with a financial research consulting firm. I had learned on the job, interviewing financial executives and synthesizing their opinions and plans, but also using familiarity with mathematical statistics, and doing much reading, year after year, on all aspects of the money business. I started in 1980-82 , interviewing institutional investors, the administrators of tens of billions of dollars held in Canadian trust, insurance, and pension funds; in later years, I analyzed similar information from institutions worldwide. These big investors made up the 'Buy Side' of Bay Street and Wall Street.… Read More

The Left’s long march through our classrooms: can it ever be reversed?

When I started teaching in the late 1960s there were still unresolved issues between “traditional teachers” and “progressive educators”. Traditional teachers usually held academic degrees in particular disciplines; like history, literature, math or chemistry. Progressives typically held degrees in “education”.   With regard to the curriculum, the two camps differed over the relative importance of “what to teach” and “how to teach.” The traditionalists focused on the content of the lesson. Progressives professed to be interested in how students learn. Traditionalists commonly used direct instruction and Socratic discourse. Progressives sought to organize “cooperative learning experiences” that were to produce “critical thinking” skills.   Over the years, serious academics on both sides of the political spectrum, claimed that progressive teaching practices dumbed down the curriculum and emptied the content of the humanities. For whatever reason, academic standards over the last half century tumbled faster than a Soviet gymnast on steroids and the spirit of open-ended, rational inquiry sunk to an all time low. Over the same period political consciousness among students rose to 18th century revolutionary levels. Teachers' unions became more radical and more partisan. We aligned with left-wing political parties from which we won higher salaries. We sought graduate degrees from progressive education faculties; which qualified us for even higher salaries and influential positions in the educational establishment. By the end of the 1970s we had transformed teaching from a low-paying, rather prestigious, “vocation” to a relatively well-paid, adversarial “mission”.   The 20th century progressive education movement was inspired by the thinking of American philosopher, John Dewey. Dewey was, in large measure, a disciple of Marx, and his own disciples co-opted our schools throughout the radical decades of the last century. His so-called “pragmatism” and “activity methods” captured the imagination of educational theorists at Columbia University; and throughout my own… Read More

Two Psychological Televangelists

Steven Pinker (left) and Jordan Peterson (right) Canada has long been an incubator of 'public intellectuals' achieving international acclaim, from Marshall McLuhan to Malcolm Gladwell. Lately, two academic psychologists have cast nearly all rivals for public attention into the shade: Steven Pinker, evolutionary psychologist, language theorist, and popularizer of science-based humanism, and Jordan Peterson, psychoanalytical analyst of of individual abnormality and political pathology. Both have Montreal connections. Pinker was born here (1954), and studied at Dawson College and McGill, before parting for several American Ivy League appointments and settling into a Harvard professorship, Peterson, eight years younger, after growing up and beginning his college life in Alberta, took his Ph.D. at McGill, He spent some years of his own at Harvard, but returned to Canada to teach at the U. of Toronto. Both show some stigmata of their age cohort. Pinker is a baby boomer from the classic boomer years, those entering late adolescence in the great upheaval decade of 1965-75, while Peterson is from the tail end of the boom, he and others in this age group entering their university years as the radical fevers of the late 1960s, while still burning, were being accompanied by second thoughts and multiple disillusions. Ever since the 1920s, psychologists and psychoanalysts have made a great noise in the U.S. as a secular or quasi-secular new clergy. Most of the older generation were e'migre' Europeans, Freudian or near-Freudian. Throughout the century, bookstores, newsstand magazines, and even mass circulation newspapers featured regular pontifications from Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow, Bruno Bettelheim, Viktor Frankl, and Erik Erikson, all born around 1900. Maslow's 'hierarchy of needs' invaded business courses in marketing; Bettekheim and Frankl drew on personal experience in Nazi concentration camps in theorizing about victims and their victimizers.  Erikson entranced some readers and exasperated others by… Read More