Thursday, September 20, 2007

SMARTER THAN A HARVARD STUDENT

I took this 60-question quiz on topics of American history, government, foreign policy and economics. Apparently the same test was given to students at fifty American universities and at no school did the average score crack 70%. Harvard students performed the best with an average of 69.56%. The group who administers the test claims the results are proof that American universities are failing to teach their students fundamental knowledge of American citizenship.

A few things:

1. Its good to see that the Dominion Institute isn't the only organization out there whose raison d'etre seems to be, not just proving, but manufacturing a decline in civic historical knowledge. I thought this self flagellation was strictly a Canadian phenomenon.

2. Though I am skeptical of tests of this nature, especially when they are obviously being used for a particular agenda, nevertheless the results are somewhat sobering. A 70% average would be perfectly reasonable as a result for society at large, but for university seniors at America's best academy? Did the engineers drag down the scores of Arts students?

3. The test overall and some of the question in particular are skewed toward a libertarian-conservative world view. Perhaps if there had been more Marxists questions the students would have done better - but perhaps that part of the point?

My personal results:

Here's were we get to the claim of the title of the post.

1. I scored 56/60 for 93.33%, not bad for a Canadian.

2. The questions tend to focus on the colonial period, American intellectual history, and foreign policy, all of which I have a pretty good education in, though having NEVER taken a course in economics I was impressed that I only got one of the economics oriented questions wrong.

3. Again, based on personal experience, the results of the test are somewhat surprising. Most of my American friends from undergrad would have scored well over 70%, and several I'm sure would have scored in the 95-100 range. But then again, we went to McGill and not Harvard for a reason.

[link to the test via The Tiger in Somerville]

Posted by Matthew @ 11:11 AM :: (7) comments

Thursday, September 06, 2007

MULRONEY vs. TRUDEAU

Two of my regular morning blogs have already made quick posts about this. Both Andrew Potter and Alan seem to be somewhat humoured but dismissive of Mulroney's comments about Trudeau. I imagine Mulroney's comments will create a fair amount of partisan back-and-forth, to put it politely, in the Canadian political blogosphere.

Setting aside the substance of Mulroney's criticism for the moment (a post on that topic will be forthcoming) I think these comments are poor form and ill-conceived on Mulroney's part. It is unbecoming of a former prime minister to criticize another though this standard is not as highly maintained in Canada or other parliamentary democracies as it is in the United States, likely as a result of the different constitutional status of presidents versus prime ministers.

Nevertheless, Mulroney's attack, though not entirely unfounded (again more on the substance later) implicitly lessens his stature in comparison to Trudeau. Mulroney and Trudeau were two of Canada' longest serving Prime Ministers; both their terms in office shaped the country significantly. Their impact and legacies as PMs are open to equal historical judgment in a way that those of Mulroney and Clark or Trudeau and Turner, for example, are not.

Mulroney should leave the reasonable historical judgment of past prime ministers to historians and others. But Mulroney's recent comments undermine his stature as a past prime minister and lower it closer to that of the undergrads in the Liberal and Conservative youth wings.

Posted by Matthew @ 10:21 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

MMP's LACK OF INDEPENDECE

James Bow recently wrote a good post about impartiality and partisanship in contemporary government. The post focuses on former MP and Speaker of the House Lucien Lamoureux.

One of my favourite things about James's site is how unabashedly and conscientiously he promotes independence and non-partisanship in the blogosphere and politics generally. This is why I find it remarkable that James is also a supporter of altering Ontario's electoral system to a mixed-member-proportional model.

To my mind the MMP model can only harm the advancement of reasonable independent and non-partisan ideas in government. The MMP system will further incentivize voting for a party and a slate of collectively defined policies, rather than an individual and a set of independent principles. It will also further shift power from the individual MPP to corporate party structures.

Both our provincial and federal systems of government need some reform, however the reform should be focused on giving more power to our individual representatives rather than the executive and party bodies.

Posted by Matthew @ 9:18 AM :: (1) comments