Sunday, February 24, 2008

Support Ezra Levant against the HRC's

Love Ezra Levant or hate him, he has revitalized the discussion about free speech and the role of governments in promoting or limiting it. How one thinks of free speech in Canada and the world depends on whether you think the free speech glass is half full or half empty. Do governments give us the right to speak freely or do we naturally have that right except when governments take away this right from us sometimes or all the time?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Kos-ovah to you, bud

First, Slovenia left Yugoslavia.

Next, Croatia left the "southern slavic federation."

Then, the Bosnians wanted to leave. The Croats in Bosnia wanted to leave Yugoslavia and Bosnia. The Serbs in Bosnia wanted the Muslims and Croats to leave Bosnia.

After, The Macedonians wanted to leave. The Greeks wanted Macedonia--or at least the name of McDonald's.

Later, the Albanians of Kosovo wanted to leave Serbia to either form an independent Kosova or become tongue-tied with their brothers and sisters in Tirana (No, not Toronto).

The Montenegrins got to leave even though the Serbs of Belgrade grumbled.

No pun intended. The Serbs "balked" at every act of independence. The Serbs want to claim their ancestral Heimat of Kosovo even though most of them have probably never set foot in their fabled homeland.

The Serbs had no intention of negotiating some kind of settlement with respect to Kosovo. If I were an Albanian Kosovar, I would have supported the unilateral declaration of independence by the parliament of Kosovo. Why wait until the Serbs and Russians are happy?

I am not naive to think that the Serbs and Albanians can live peacefully in Kosovo in some kind of arrangement. I do think that a better solution would be to partition Kosovo with the Serbs in the north remaining part of Serbia. I can't see the Serbs in Mitrovica accepting rule by the Albanians of Pristina.

I don't think that the disputes in the Balkans will end after this week. The Serbs in Bosnia may want to reunited with Serbia. The Albanians in southern Serbia and northwest Macedonia may wish to join with the newly independent country of Kosova.

The Serbs gambled practically everything since 1991. They lost practically everything.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Learning French in school

Canada's official languages comissioner, Graham Fraser, wants to see some kind of standardized tests for second language learning for students. While I do not think that standardized tests are the best way to assess language learning, I do like the idea that students and their families may be able to know their French language fluency levels.

I do think that students should be given a clear indication on the fluency level by the time they complete high school French. In Europe, there is a six-point scale that goes from A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2 which is the highest level of fluency.

The Czech Republic will be using the European Language Portfolio to assess their students on their foreign language learning.

From Industry Canada on the Czech Republic:

"Several education frameworks have already been proposed aimed at making every European citizen tri-lingual i.e., able to communicate in their native language plus two others. The Framework Educational Program for Pre-school Education and the Framework Educational Program for Primary Education have already been approved, and as a result, all students in primary schools will be taught English. The initial English language teaching will focus on integrating English language education seamlessly from kindergarten through secondary school. In accordance with the CEFR for Languages, A1 has been designated the mandatory skill level to be achieved by the end of grade five, A2 by the end of grade nine and B2 by the end of secondary school. The objective of the Action Plan is to create a language learning environment that will prepare EU citizens to communicate with each other easily."

If Canadian students in Core French start learning in grade-four, then by the end of grade-six, they should be at level A1. By the end of grade-nine, they should be at level A2. By the end of grade-twelve, the students should be speaking French independently at a high B1 level for several minutes in long unscripted basic conversations that may not contain too many technical words.

I do not suggest standardized written tests for fluency in the French language. I do think that the provincial curriculums (or whatever the Latin plural is) should give students and their parents a clear indication of the fluency levels that the students will achieve by the end of key grades.

I am critical of French language learning in our schools because I graduated from high school with a grade 13 credit in French. I did not consider myself fluent or even functional in French. I do understand why students drop French after grade-nine in Ontario. Why should students learn a subject in which they are set up to pass the courses in high school, but fail to understand in the end?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

First Nations School of Toronto: Poor Results from Grade 3 Students?

I welcome myself back to the blogosphere!

I have read many comments by Blogging Tories that none of the grade-three students at the First Nations School of Toronto achieved levels 3 or 4 (B or A) on the EQAO tests. Nothing could be further from the truth. What is true is that while the students wrote the tests, there were not enough students writing them to fairly gage how the students as a whole were doing. Also, since very few students wrote the tests, individual students can be indentified within the school community if one or two performed poorly on the tests. When the Blogging Tories compare Black-focused schools with the existing First Nations School, their comparisons are not fair.