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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - September 22, 1971, Lethbridge, Alberta -Wednesday, Seplcmbtr It, THE trTHBRIDGt HCRAID S V filer 11 mil Mafricu ation cnsis-a challenge T AST MAY, Caesar spoke and all obeyed. Caesar is- sued a directive, in laclful though plainly definile terms, that henceforth Ihe department of education would run all ma- triculation exams. The Lelh- bridge cily-wide exams were lo be no more. No consultation of teachers was held. Administra- tors here passed on the com- mand with the sort of calm that denoted fixed, unalterable law. And so we moved resignedly into the slimmer vacalion, a few of us, perhaps, sensing futility. Now, much smoke and dust appear on the horizon. To the distant observer, il seems that Don Quixote or St. George, or a band of chivalric knighls, are entering into battle with Ihe giant, the dragon of bureauc- racy up there Edmonlon. And those of us who have tried lo convey some warnings of the approaching danper are now called to arms. But unless we observe the scene more closely we may fight for a vain cause. Ik- First, let us see as clearly as we can how Ihe present mounting conflicl between Leth- bridge school administrators and the dcparlmenl arose. II can be stated as a probable truth that the clash over the dales of departmental exams, dates which they have so far refused lo change, precipitated the conflict For the difference between the dates of Ihese ex- ams and Uie schedule of Uie divided school year posed a real threat lo the Lethbridge experiment. One wonders whe- ther Ihe administrators here would have challenged the right (if the department to re-impose ils exams if this purely admin- istrative issue had not arisen. Would Dr. Bcckel have em- erged to lead the bailie had Uie case been otherwise? Further- more, one may ask whether the influence ot Ihe universilies on the departmental decision would have been recognized had there been no clash over dates. The question nf univer- silies' admission policies has come to Ihe cenlre of Ihis con- troversy, and behind it lies the deeper question of evaluation, with all ils implications for leaching and learning and standards of excellence. The present situation is lhal schools arc responsible for 50 per cenl of Ihe student's assess- ment and the departmental fin- als for Ihe olher half. This may seem fair enough. Bui even if il were, there slill remains Ihe problem of the dales. To require a local school syslem to dislort ils whole schedule simply lo fit inlo a deparlmenlal decision about exams, a decision which is questionable on olher grounds, is to acl lyrnnically. However, il is important to ex- amine closely Ihe whole question of evaluation; it is far more important lhan to quarrel about administrative problems, though one must be thankful lhat concern with these has led to concern with the deeper is- sues. -A- The case against assessing students' ability and imder- slanding on the hasis of brief, external, final exams alone is clear enough. They are poor predictors, unfair samplers and cramping lo teachers and stu- dents. And statistical pass-rates lake no account of actual stand- ards reached. Failure is built- in for some, accepted as a kind of Tale; while, on the other hand, an overall mediocrity is also encoui-aged because a cer- tain proportion are going lo pass, willy nilly. The allotment of half the marks to internal teacher as- sessmenl, of course, modifies this picture. Indeed, it would seem a fair arrangement. But, provided it were soundly ap- plied, continuous assessment in the schools is better. The issue is complicated. Personally, I would prefer departmental writ- ten (essay-type) exams lo city- wide, multiple-choice ones. I have expounded elsewhere, and in season and out of season, the case against multiple-choice (csts, especially for the human- ities. May 1 suggest again that everybody read Hoffman's The Tyranny "of Testing. But (here is no substitute for examined experience in the classroom. In a sense, the administrators here have Ihemselves to blame for the departmental decision, and for its intransigence on the matter of exams and dales. No planned, concerted allempl was made here in Lelhnridgc lo make the best use of the free- dom obtained. At matriculation level, the practice, for the most part, was simply to imitate the departmental exams. Adminis- trators here actually opposed ,-illcnipls lo modify Ibis prac- licc, and failed eillier lo lead or lo Irusl the teachers ado- qualcly. Jusl before Ihe bulletin from the department last May, administrators here were dc- dcveloping a semi-departmenl- al walch-dng committee. The idea of a communily efforl, in which teachers could use Ihe freedom lo develop melhods of assessment more valid and bel- ter edncalionally lhan those the departmenl, was hardly ad- verted to. Outside the malricu- lalion classes Ihe position was much worse. Teachers were en- couraged to award honors, pass and failure, according to a nor- mal distribution pattern, irre- spective of actual standards reached. It is obvious that, with a very limited sample of, say, 30 studenls, such an ar- rangement can produce grave anomalies. Consultation be- Iween teachers on evaluation, a mailer which is inseparable from Hie whole auricular struc- ture, was negligible, 2nd even intense effort lo develop "mod- erating" melhods lo ensure equity, was not encouraged; though one must add that in our own English department we had worked on the problem in recent months with some suc- cess. Marks arc a public en- lily, rightly or wrongly, and we must make them as valid and just as we can. II musl, be slressed thai con- tinuous assessment can pro- duce the best type of evalua- tion, not merely for measur- ing pasl performance, but as a teaching instrument and a fore- caster of Mure success. The needs here are for; (1) close consultation betwefln teachers; (2) frequent correction and con- slant review of written work ranging over the broad spec- trum of the subject, but focus- ing on essentials. Experience anrt research show that com- position assessment in English, for instance, can Ire quite con- sistent and valid under the right conditions. Moreover, the training of teachers in sound methods of evaluation inevit- ably leads lo belter methods of leaching and questioning, and a belter overall grasp of Ihc re- sources available lo the thoughtful and enterprising tea- cher. (3) dissemination of our ideas and the fruits of our methods to a wider public; (4) closer consultation between uni- versities and jchools. This last point brings me to a vital as- pect of this whole controversy. It seems clos'- pressure io reinstate Ihe departmental exams came, not merely from Ihe desire of politicians lo re- tain conlrol of a siluation which, in Iheir view, may have been gelling oul of hand, bul from Ihe Universilies of Alberta and Calgary. This pressure is nainral enough. Universities oughl lo be concerned wilh matriculation exams. After all, they have to deal wilh Ihe peo- ple senl up to them by the schools. Now, it is clear that these Iwo universilies exercised such pressure in ignorance of what was happening here in Lethbridge. For, despite whal I have said about the failure of local, highly-paid and presti- gious administrators to act cre- 'atively, Ihe standards of achievement at matriculation level here have been reason- ably good, and probably better than before we bad this degree of local autonomy. In English, we had produced mulliple- choice tests which were almosl as valid as these poor tests can ever be, and we had planned lo use essay-type exams for finals in the future. We would have had a sound arrangement here. Class work counted for 50 per cenl; written exams would have counted for the rest. Still better would have been properly moderated, con- tinuous assessment alone. The work required of students in one's class was far superior to any that Uie department might demand, and a general raising of standards could have de- veloped. Studenls can achieve much more here than the sys- tem expects, and life is more .interesting for them when Ihey are challenged to raise their sights. A good deal depends, of course, on teaching method, and contrary lo popular pedagogic notions, good teaching depends on knowledge as well as on any techniques. In a sense, the best techniques grow out of real understanding. It is the duly of teachers here to demonstrate lo universities thai Iheir sland- ards are sound, and belter lhan those shaped by departmental policies. The University of Lethbridge presents a problem here. There is the foolish notion in this area that assessments are not necessary or that Ihey cannot FINAL 3 DAYS! B E Hardware Harvest Sale HUNTERS SPECIALS RUKO SHOT GUN 12 gauge single shol. Reg. 38.95. 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We have the prevalent stupid notion that there are no criteria by which work in particular subjects can lie gauged. This suits well with the desire of some studenls Lo opt out from rational thought and Ihe discipline of study while, at the same time, enjoy- ing the privilege of being a member of the university com- munity. At Ihe malriculation level, students should be made aware of all of these matters. One has to show them the juslice and wisdom of one's educalional policy by openness lo the con- leir.po.rary world and hy an interaction between explana- tion, discussion and rigorous challenges. The capacity is there but the ethos does not en- courage its flowering. Teachers have to break through the crust of mediocrity and narcissism lo sound altitudes in studenls. It is simply not enough, then, to attack the universities of Al- berta and Calgary and lo de- clare that the University of Lethbridge wili accept teacher assessments here. We want (o know what the motives of this university are. If they are bound up with the commonly expressed idea that entrance requirements oughl not be strict or that they arc not even important, then let us reject such embarrassing support. Our sludenls may want lo allend the other universities, and we have to convince these univer- sities that our standards are high ones, or at least equal lo those of the departmenl. Lclh- bridge could acl as a leaven in the whole of Ibe province, rath- er lhan as a source of decay. Matriculation teachers should be in the forefront of [his bat- tle, rather than semi-passive recipients of directives, consull- ed belatedly about matters which involve them so closely. They should not merely throw Ihe weight of their support be- hind the public school board in its conflict with the depart- ment, but must become leaders on their own account. -A- But if teachers (and Ihe ad- ministrators who should help them) are to develop a worth- while alternative to the depart- mental exams, they will have lo grapple wilh Ihe problems of teaching and learning and eval- uation together. Moderating committees within and between schools could easily be set up. They work well in England and Australia. All of Uus would be very healthy for the whole schooling experience. Finally, if I iboughl. that wresting control from the de- partment were to result in nolh- ing more than departmenlal- type arrangements here, in- cluding multiple-choice tests in English, I cannot see dial Ihe struggle would be worthwhile. Bul one always has the hope, despite past experience, lhat local administrators and teach- ers will work towards some- thing better. If ive cannot do this, then the next best thing i.'ould be to persuade Ihe de- partment to abolish mulliple- choice exams. There is no doubt, judging from at least Ihe content of their recent pilot test in English, that the depart- ment provides some guarantee of enlightened approaches lo English. Icthbridge faces a crucial challenge. Body wisdom service A FEW years ago people in the biology department at the Universily of Chicago no- ticed a funny Ihing: Tiny gold- fish from home aquariums dou- bled or tripled in size when placed in Botany Pond on the campus. It was laler noted lhal some breeds of fish would also in- crease in size in small lanks if Ihc water n'.is constantly changed. It is now suspected that, cer- lain goldfish have an flriaplivr mechanism that prevents them from growing too large in a .small space ,ind I heir food supplv. Specifically, Nicy secrrle some kind of suii- slancs which inhibits prou-lli when it is concentrated in Uie in a small aquarium. Aficr a millcnium or livo of emulating the wnys of the. in- d u s f r i o n s ant, oyererowdcd mankind might do worse ( lo study Mil1 hody wisdinn of the. versatile goldfish. Canada: act two The Christan Science Moiiiior SURPRISE lias ils obvious good uses in L theater, but in the arena of interna- tional diplomacy it can be a two-edged sword. Tlie political reverberations now re- sounding across (he length of Canada arc lire prolonged aftcnualh of President Nix- on's turnabout announcement of August 15, in which he cut the dollar loose from ils gold anchor and slapped on a 10 per cent import surcharge. The economic impact on Canada was to some extent mitigated in that it was limit- ed lo only 25 per cent of thai nation's experts 1o the United Stales, or around S250 million worth by 1S70 figures. But the psychological, and therefore political, im- pact is something else. In the context of growing unhappincss among Canadians with their neighbor to the south, Mr. Nix- on's surprise move was bound [a be mag- nified anrl distorted beyond its purely eco- nomic implications. And so it has been. Despite Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's inilial relaxed reaction to the announce- ment, there is serious speculation about a general election that could undo the sauve and dashing French-Canadian politician. If all this seems exaggerated to Amer- icans, it is because they are and always have been insensitive to Canadian pride and nationalism. For several years there lias been growing discontent in Canada over Ihe cultural ovenvash from their huge neighbor to the south. Neither the English nor the French Canadians take kindly {a the "made in America" cast that stamps itself on their daily lives in the goods they purchase, in the television programs they watch, in the books and magazines Uicy read, Add to that a high unemployment Df 0.3 per cent and a nc-iv incipient iulla- lionary leaning, and the political ramifica- lions Irecome clearer. Also the fact Ihat of the 2o per cent of Canadian goods affected liy the president's import surcharge, most are made by small businesses in the prov- inces of Quebec and Ontario, which avn Prime Minister Trudeau's strongholds. Fi- nally, put these facts into a historic cast. Back in 1930, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Ad threw Canada into a depression deeper and longer than lhal experienced in Uie Slates. Considered together, it all adds up to trouble for Ihe Canadian govemincnl. It is in this context that UK latest Ca- nadian move to counter the 10 per cenl surcharge has lo be viewed. Jean-Luc Pc- pin, minislcr of industry, Irade and com- merce, has asked Ihe House of Commons lo fund million as ''a kind of um- brella lo prolccl Canadian jobs." With Ihe money, the Canadian government would pay up [o (wo-lhirds of the surtax on exports to the United States. The bill will probably gel sympathetic hearing. In view of the circumstances, it is well that Presidenl Nixon has scheduled a per- sonal visit lo Ottawa next spring, (hough it is hoped that Canadian-American rela- tions will have been smoothed out before that time We cannot help but feel that fewer surprises and more long-range inter- national policy planning and advance no- tice lo our friends would go far to prevent such crises in international confidence. While surprise does make for good the- aler, il usually marks Ihe denouement of the play. And in the theater of international relations, the curtain never falls. Time ior Canada to decide By Claude Ryan, in Montreal I.e Devoir ACCORDING to figures cited by NDP leader David Lewis, about two-thirds of Candian exports lo the United Slates come from mullinational companies, or lo be more precise, from Canadian subsi- diaries of foreign firms controlled for Ihc most part from head offices in the United Stales. In addition, a good part of the exports of Ihese subsidiaries lo the United States is composed of merchandise destined for the parent company or ils oilier subsi- diaries located in lire U.S. Should this type of export benefit withoul close examinalion from Ihe subsidies en- visioned in the Pepin bill? To say so would be lo ask Ihe Canadian people to hear the costs of increases in expenses decreed by Ihc American government for firms or buy- ers located in that country. Already Ihe insane element in such a situation springs lo our eyes. When one remembers, furthermore, that no objective conlrol is exercised by the government on the criteria which deter- mine Uie prices, honoraria and services in internal transactions within multinational companies, one must urge that Ihc organ- ization charged with carrying oul Ihe Pepin law receive a mandate to examine with a particularly vigilanl eye the requests for assislance which il will get from Canadian subsidiaries of American companies. Opposition Leader Robert Stanfield and NDP Leader David Lewis recalled lire olher day lhal il is lime that Canada de- cide on the direction it intends lo lake in its relations with its powerful neighbor to Ihc soulh and on Uie objectives it intends lo pursue in this regard. Tire bankruptcy in wliich numerous Li- beral governments have revelled on this subject and the practical indifference which the present government seems (o have shown explain better Uian any other factor the sort o[ disarray winch Canadian opinion is seized with before the isolationist measures of President Nixon. Politics in their blood The Toronto Globe and Mail JUST when we had become accustomed (o the idea that mood-adjusting drugs were a tin-eat to society and the world, the president of the American Psychologi- cal Association, Dr. Kenneth Clark, has of- fered us a completely different idea. He suggests the development of a drug lo be administered to successful politicians to prevent abuse of power in public office. The proposal is based upon recent stu- dies of eleclrical and chemical control of the brain, which suggest that we might be close to stabilizing and making dominant the moral and ethical propensities of man. Thus we might be able to subordinate, if not eliminate, his negative behavioral ten- dencies. Dr. Clark has proposed using criminals for Uie testing of any such drugs. Our more sensitive politicians will wonder just what is so appropriate about the criminal element as a testing ground for a drug aimed al politicians. Quite possibly our more sensitive criminals will be equally disturbed by this highhanded attempt to link there wilh another class of person. But no matter. The important thing at this stage is lhat difficult details will have lo be worked out before the drug to re- strain power.hungry polilicians can be put (o work. Dr. Clark says it is for success- ful politicians, but at what point does one acknowledge success in a democratic sys- tem? Election lo Parliament? Appointment to a Cabinet post? As leader of the Opposition? Or is il lo be reserved for Uie man at the top? The problem tere is Uial something of the same looth-and claw ferocity we seek to eradicate from those in power is needed by those in opposition, still trying to make it lo the top. Inject some of this stuff into Bob Stanfield and we'll change his tiger into a puddy lal jusl when he needs il most. This would be plainly unfair. Obviously what we need .is a handicap- ping system a kind of dictatorship de- nominator or tyranny index, so that Uio politican can be adjusted up or down ac- cording lo his natural proclivity. A reliable system of administration would have to be set up, of course, to avoid endless wrangling in Ihc Commons about whether any hon. members had skipped their shots. We can see the possibility of great ad- vantages in Ihe field of international peace, of course this being what Dr. Clark has in mind. But we slill shudder al Iho thought of whal it could do to Hansard. Investment arthmetic The Vancouver Province A report that Canadian per capita in- vestment in the U.S. outstrips U.S. in- vestment in C.inarla by almost five-Io-one is enough lo lurn a Canadian nationalist's hair grey. According In U.S. commerce department figures Canadians invested per head in Ihe U.S. while (he U.S. had only SltiO pnr capila invested here. They're book values, but they show a remarkable Cana- dian involvement in the U.S. economy. An economy as sluggish as ours could do wilh some of that Canadian money, not only lo prime Iho pump but (o show confi- dence in ourselves. At the same time the figures should ho kept in perspective. They also show ihat American investment has a far greater re- lative impact on the Canadian economy than Canadian investment has on the U.S. economy. The Canadian investment in U.S. works out at per head of the American pop- ulation. U.S. investment in Canada works out at pci- hend of the Canadian population. By Ihis reckoning U.S. invest- ment outstrips ours 30 lo 1. That's obvious cause for concern. Truileuii us successor? The Winnipeg 'ANADlAiNS of all political stripes will he inlrrr-filci! in a recent Idler in The Times of Ixindon, written hy a Mr. Gordon livans of that cily. It says: "Sir: The question of U Thanf's succes- sor is crucial to Ihe future of the United Nations. A personality is needed of highest calilire and universal Hcccptabilily. "I write lo suRgerl that Ihe one such per- fulfils these criteria is M. Pierre Tnuloaii, al pmsenL the prime minislcr o[ Free Press Canada, who could riouhllrss be .suitably persuaded lo accept the highest, world posl. "Of whom else, of his sLituro, age and experience can il he said it is virtually ccrlain dial be would be acceptable in London, Moscow, Paris, Peking and Wash- ington, to Uie Commonwealth and too lira Yes, indeed. But how acceptable he he in OU.aua? ;