Monday, June 30, 2008

Signs of the Apocalypse

A hodgepodge of horror for you today. It's handy that most of these speak so well for themselves as they're so depressing that I don't think I have the energy to comment.

1) A formal complaint has been made to the Swedish Parliament regarding an 8 year old boy who did not invite two of his classmates to a birthday party. (h/t Ghost of a Flea)

2) Under the question "Describe the room you’re sitting in" a British student writing his GCSE English examination wrote the words "Fuck" and "off". The rest of the questions were not answered. For this, the young man received a mark of 7.5%. If he had punctuated the phrase, he would have earned 11%.

The chief examiner, who is responsible for standards in exams taken by 780,000 candidates and for training for 3,000 examiners, told The Times: “It would be wicked to give it zero, because it does show some very basic skills we are looking for – like conveying some meaning and some spelling.

“It’s better than someone that doesn’t write anything at all. It shows more skills than somebody who leaves the page blank.”

Mr Buckroyd says that he uses the example to teach examiners the finer points of marking. “It elucidates some useful points – it shows some nominal skills but no relevance to the task.”

It's amusing to note that even if the examiner had taken offense at the obvious wickedness of the examinee, his/her only recourse would have been to committee:
“If a candidate’s script contains, for example, obscenities, examiners are instructed to contact AQA’s offices, which will advise them in accordance with Joint Council for Qualification guidelines. Expletives in a script would either be disregarded, or sanctioned.”
3) The Conference Board of Canada has released a study measuring our nation's socio-economic performance as compared with that of 17 other first worlders. We placed 11th overall, demonstrating considerable decline from our 3rd place ranking of the 70s.

We are, however, meant to take heart from this (my emphasis):
Canada is rated No. 2 in education and skills, behind Finland. Canada earns top marks for high-school and college completion rates, but still "four in 10 Canadian workers lack the basic literacy skills to cope with the demands of work in the modern economy" ...
The Conference Board itself is a little more forthright:
Canada’s adult literacy rate is worse than it was a decade ago: Seven million working-age Canadian adults—about four in ten—do not have the literacy skills necessary to function in the workplace. Canada’s economic boom in the last 10 years has so far protected many of these people.
4) Never mind the fact that marijuana smoke is considered to be much more toxic than the kind produced by tobacco, Amsterdam's impending anti-smoking legislation will require that anyone who insists on cutting their weed with tobacco will have to leave the company of their fellow pot-heads to partake in an air-tight, state-mandated smoking room.

5) The Ontario Human Rights Commission has taken to heart the public outcry against its mandate and methods (my emphasis):
Of the 2,300 complaints filed to the Human Rights Commission in 2006 and 2007, seven per cent were rejected before being passed on to the tribunal. The cases that were referred could then take up to five years to resolve, Bentley said.

Now, Ontario residents will bring their concerns directly to the tribunal, bypassing the commission. The Ministry of the Attorney General estimates the new system should complete hearings within one year.


"People who were bringing complaints to the Human Rights Commission realized that the law is pretty complex," he said. "They needed some legal support.

"[Complainants are] going to have the type of legal support that they've never had before."

The legislation also removes a $10,000 cap on awards for "mental anguish" caused by discrimination.

Ray-Ellis says that's important "because if you look at the United States, you can get millions of dollars in damages for human-rights issues.

"They only protect a few things, but they give you big awards. In Canada, we protect a lot of things, but traditionally we have given out small awards."

The law also outlines that individuals can now be compensated for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.

... We are losing!