Friday, October 27, 2006

Willing Ignorance

I've taught high school English, and so I can say with some authority that Sheila Copps' most recent Sun column could not have earned her, at the grade 12 level, anything better than a D. Indeed, it should be said that it would be a D, and not an F, only because the expectations regarding substance of argument are disproportionately lower at that level (and make up only about a third to a half of the total mark) than those for quality of writing ... So, to be clear, the evaluation rubric Ms. Copps would receive from me, attached to her comment-crammed and question-mark-riddled essay, would have C's under the categories of Application and Communication, a D under the category of Knowledge/Understanding, and a request that her parents initial the F under Thinking/Inquiry.* Under 'Comments' I would have written in red and underlined at least three times "Very choppy", "Edit your work, please", "Fatal inconsistencies in your argument", and "Too many serious factual errors".

I won't bother to give examples of the poor writing, given that there isn't a paragraph of the piece that doesn't require rereading at least once. Just read it and you'll see what I mean.

The thing that I find most troubling about this grossly incompetent scrawl--and I'm not being glib here: it troubles me to the lengths of considerable distraction and a very real despair--is the baselessness of almost every assertion of fact that Ms. Copps makes. Behold the true substance of her "passionate voice for a progressive Canada since 1984": pure, pig-shit ignorance! It would be to strain credulity to put it in any milder terms. Her passionate voice is the inarticulate gurgle of someone who has been too long in solitary confinement; her only progress (over the last 22 years apparently) has been to devise ever more resourceful ways to stay the accumulated weight of reality that should, long ago, have toppled the doors of her lightless little cell.

To wit:
  • Ms. Copps claims that the "climax" of Lent is a "religious [really?! -ed.] family-centred feast."
No it isn't, Sheila. Easter is a celebration of the resurrected Christ. Any "feast" is incidental; not, that is, climactical.
  • She claims that "the very notion of Christianity is tied to the belief that we are our brother's (and sister's) keeper."
No it isn't, Sheila. It's all very well to randomly (and loosely) quote scripture, but the very notion of Christianity is Jesus Christ. You know: God?! He died for your sins upon the cross? Rose from the dead three days later, and eventually ascended into heaven--where now, needless to say, he sitteth on the right hand of the Father, and all that? Ringing any bells? ... In any case, the very notion of Christianity is utterly miscarried in soundbites, Sheila--it's a religion after all, not a breakfast cereal.
  • She claims that "religious values are intended to promote social support and communal betterment" and that "communal support is also a core value of Judaism, Sikhism and Hinduism."
Um ... I guess you could say that religious values promote social support and communal betterment. But that's a kind of a conditional promotion. Social support, yes; communal betterment, yes--but in service of the given religion, right? Not out of deference to the overarching authority of early 21st century secular values (that is, à la "a driver's licence is a contract with the larger world" kind of values). And you do recognize, Sheila, that a religion like Hinduism has a pretty radically different concept of social support and communal betterment from the sort of thing you're talking about, right? What with its caste system and everything? What, exactly, is the Judao-Christian analogue for a Dalit again?

... I could go on and on with these--the above covering only four of the first six sentences, and there's much else here that's far riper--but you get the idea.

The problem, I guess, is a fairly simple one. The sort of person best qualified to speak knowledgeably to the finer points of Roman Catholicism, needs be a Roman Catholic. Likewise: the sort of person best qualified to speak knowledgeably to the finer points of the obligations of Canadian citizens, needs be someone with a fairly comprehensive working knowledge of the mechanisms of the Canadian state.

... That Sheila Copps is a Catholic and a former Deputy Prime Minister is, well, an imponderable ...

Honestly. What can you say? Other, that is, than: shoot me now! Please! Yes, with that gun! NOW!

One soon learns of the reputations made in this country--and the kind of weight they carry above and beyond the parametres of their making--that these people cannot be taken with mere grains of salt. You need the strong, ungainly, road-variety version of the stuff. And you need it in spades.


* I am, of course, exaggerating. Given, that is, that F's are pretty much forbidden in today's public schools.