Critique of a Book Used by Many Psychologists and Psychiatrists to Oppress Patients, Part One

Introduction

This is the first of a five-part series of posts that criticize a book that serves to oppress individuals, whether they have mental health problems or not.

As I indicated in another post (A Worker’s Resistance to the Capitalist Government or State and Its Representatives, Part Nine), I engaged in a partial critique of the book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David Burns, M.D. (1999). This book is used by many psychologists and psychiatrists as a basis for the psychological technique called “mindfulness”–and with reason since Dr. Burns defines human problems independently of social context–quite convenient for the class of employers since the economic, social and political oppressive and exploitative contexts are thereby ignored–or rather suppressed.

The reason why I read the book was that I was required to see a psychologist as a condition of receiving disability benefits from the Manitoba Teachers Society (see A Worker’s Resistance to the Capitalist Government or State and Its Representatives, Part Ten). Mr. Alan Slusky, a psychologist in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, recommended the book and, in fact, it was supposed to be part of my “therapy”–bibliotherapy. According to Wikipedia:

Bibliotherapy is a creative arts therapies modality that involves storytelling or the reading of specific texts with the purpose of healing. It uses an individual’s relationship to the content of books and poetry and other written words as therapy. Bibliotherapy is often combined with writing therapy.

I refer occasionally to John Dewey’s philosophy of science, which I will look at to some extent in the fourth post but especially in the last post of this series. I also refer occasionally to my dissertation. My doctoral dissertation compared the philosophies of human nature of John Dewey (an :American philosopher of education and author of, among other books, Human Nature and Social Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology, Democracy and Education and Logic: The Theory of Inquiry) and Paulo Freire (a Brazilian philosopher of education and author, among other books, of Pedagogy of the Oppressed).

Critique of the Contents of the Book

Let us now turn to the contents of the book and some of my criticisms.  I do not present my criticism in the order in which I wrote it since the initial points are fairly abstract (I leave those for the fourth and fifth posts in this series). My critical comments are usually either in square brackets or separate points  as a continuation of my comments: 

    1. p.xxx: “Depression is one of the worst forms of suffering because of the immense feelings of shame, worthlessness, hopelessness and demoralization. Depression can seem worse than terminal cancer, because most cancer patients feel loved and they have hope and self-esteem. Many depressed patients have told me, in fact, that they yearned for death and that they prayed every night that they would get cancer, so they could die in dignity without having to commit suicide.”

    2. P. 9: “In fact, depression is so widespread it is considered the common cold of psychiatric disturbances.” [Would that not be evidence of a social problem for a scientist? Would not even the lay person who is curious wonder why it is so common?]

    3. Page 10: Note: “The idea that thinking patterns can profoundly influence your moods has been described by a number of philosophers [why did he not name a few?] in the past 2500 years. More recently, the cognitive view of emotional disturbances has been explored in the writings of many psychiatrists and psychologists including Alfred Adler, Albert Ellis, Karen Horney, and Arnold Lazarus, to name just a few. A history of this movement has been described in Ellis, A., Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy.”

    4. Page 11: “2. Understanding: A clear understanding of why you get moody and what you can do to change your moods. You will learn what causes your powerful feelings; how to distinguish “normal” from “abnormal” emotions; and how to diagnose and assess the severity of your upsets.”

    5. Page 11: Self-control: You will learn how to apply safe and effective coping strategies that will make you feel better whenever you are upset. … As you apply it, your moods can come under greater voluntary control.

    6. Page 12: “The first principle of cognitive therapy is that all your moods are created by your “cognitions,” or thoughts. … You feel the way you do because of the thoughts that you are thinking in this moment. [One of the categories that he uses is “overgeneralization.” Here is a good example of overgeneralization. What is a thought? What is a feeling? What is the relationship between the two? Do feelings cause thoughts? What is the specific causal mechanism that leads from thoughts to feelings? What narrative structure, in conjunction with the descriptive structure? Furthermore, the “self” of human beings is constituted by a set of ways of acting, which are linked to how others act. Money. A set of habits is generally unconscious until a problem arises.] [Which came first? Thoughts or feelings in the process of evolution?]

    7. You create those feelings [feelings are products of the self—the environment plays no part for Burns. The subject of the action of creating feelings is “you”—apparently, you do not consist of feelings—they arise out of thin air. You are feelingless, and the feelings then are magically produced by something completely different from the feelings—thoughts.” Does Burns explain anywhere how people create feelings? Unlikely. This is mysticism, not science, or rather it is mysticism parading as science. How do thoughts “create” feelings? What is the difference between thoughts and feelings?] by the dialogue you are having with this book. [Presentation of the individual self as purely internal. There is no relation to an environment. Feelings are purely internal as are thoughts. But if both are purely internal, are they not the same in some way? This is idealist—and subjective idealism at that—by reducing the individual to purely internal processes. Anti-evolutionary.] [Burns is inferior to anything that Dewey has to offer. Burns assumes the “you” without inquiring into what he means by the “you” Does he mean the person or the body? The formation of the human person? If the “you” is itself a social process that has its focal point in an individual who becomes conscious of processes between the environment and the living being, then this “you” is itself a product and a cause. This one-sided reduction of the “you” to pure thought cannot begin to grasp the complexity of the nature of human beings. Burns does not even reflect on the use of his terms—a lack of critical thinking.]

    8. If “you” are a product of a social process, what then is the relation between the “individual” and the “social”? Burns does not even try to determine the relation since he reduces human nature to the isolated individual who is already formed—and assumes that this isolated individual is the point of departure.

    9. He assumes, in effect, that the human individual is a formed individual, and simply ignores the environmental conditions that contribute to the construction of the “you.”

    10. From Burns’ point of view, prehistoric people merely had to change their way of thinking and they would be like us.

    11. Is not the “you”—and thoughts and feelings—linked to the kind of society in which we live? Would Burns have the you that he does without the Gutenberg press?

    12. Your emotional reaction is generated not by the sentences you are reading but by the way you are thinking. Your thought actually creates the emotion. [creates? How? There is an organic aspect to all reactions, and that organic aspect, when grounded in the cns (central nervous system), can be called feeling. Feeling becomes emotion (something with an object attached to it. Feeling has organic roots and is quite independent of “thought.” Let us see whether this “scientist” explains how thought “creates ”emotion.”]Thought does not create emotion; it is a necessary condition for emotion to arise, but then so too is the environment. This person is an idealist and so too is his theory—despite the “scientific research” he claims. As for science, if thoughts “cause” feelings—in a real scientific sense and not in his pseudo-scientific conception of science, then he should be able to link up the “cause” with the “effect” in one narrative structure such that the beginning and the end form a history. See my dissertation.]

    13. The second principle is that when you are feeling depressed, your thoughts are dominated by a pervasive negativity.” Really? Such a generalization independent of context? His principle must be a physical principle since only physic-chemical principles are universal. Even if it were true—and? The implication is that “negativity” is an unreasonable or unjustifiable response to conditions. Such an assumption is unjustifiable. See the article on justifiable depression.] Social science that pretends to be universal is ideological—except for a few generalities that cannot grasp any definite, concrete relation (cannot exist independently of determinate, concrete relations).

    14. p. 13: “This feeling is absolutely illogical, but it seems so real that you have convinced yourself that your inadequacy will go on forever.” [Does this person live on this planet? There are many individuals who live in hopeless situations. How many children die each year throughout the world from malnutrition and starvation? Should their parents not be depressed? Has he ever experienced depression? This “scientist” becomes ever more pompous and lacks any depth of understanding of what people in this world experience.] [In any case, his statement that it is “absolutely illogical” is itself illogical. No rational scientist would make such a categorical statement independently of circumstances. [Watched a movie recently called “Guilty,” in French. The man was accused falsely of sexual abuse; he was imprisoned; his children were taken away from him (his children were his life); his wife eventually was let go, but she began seeing another man. His mother died while he was in prison. He stayed in prison for almost two years. Despite the recantation of the woman who accused him of sexual abuse, the judges condemned him to 18 months of probation. He tried to kill himself several times. Was it his negative thoughts that led to his depressed feelings? Was it the total situation? “Negative thoughts” may be a contributing determinant of depression, but to reduce depression to just this aspect is a fallacy—a fallacy of reducing a total process and situation to one event within the process or one aspect of it.]

    15. P.13: “The third principle is of substantial philosophical and therapeutic importance. Our research has documented that the negative thoughts which cause your emotional turmoil nearly always contain gross distortion. [Why the emphasis on “always.” Obviously because negative feelings have no real basis—always. But what happens if they do have a basis in reality, but that Burns and company have neglected to determine this in a scientific manner? Do they consider the context in which people live? That is to say, the environment? Or do they act like pre-evolutionary scientists and pretend that human beings are isolated monads, cut off from their environment?] [Who determines what constitutes gross distortions? Burns has such a grip on reality that he does not live in a distorted world? If capitalist society is by its very nature a distorted world, then what are the implications, psychologically?] Although these thoughts appear valid, you will learn that they are irrational or just plain wrong and that twisted thinking is a major cause of your suffering.” [If so many people have twisted thoughts—at the beginning, Burns claims that depression is like the common cold for psychiatrists since it is so prevalent a problem for them, then is not the educational system a possible cause for such twisted thinking? Is not education supposed to teach people how to think? See John Dewey, How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Education Process—the need for reflective thinking (not rationalism as usually defined as pure reason independently of context. Would it not be rational for a person who finds that depression is common to inquire into the conditions of its emergence? But Burns has the magic answer in his cap—negative thoughts. Why so many people have negative thoughts never enters his “scientific” mind, which seems to involve a curious lack of desire to inquire into anything that may contradict his theory. If schools contribute to the lack of a capacity to think, then individual solutions of “changing” thoughts will not do. Burns will have none of that, of course.] [It can be concluded that Burns’ theory ‘nearly always contain[s] great distortions.]

    16. : “Some of the major symptoms include… the conviction that external forces are controlling your mind or body….” [There are—necessarily—in a society characterized by commodity production—a lack of control over forces that determine our body and mind.]

Critical Education Articles Placed in the Teacher Staff Lounge While I Was a Teacher, Part Twelve: The Mondragon Educational System

This is a continuation of a series of posts on summaries of articles, mainly on education.

When I was a French teacher at Ashern Central School, in Ashern, Manitoba, Canada, I started to place critiques, mainly (although not entirely) of the current school system. At first, I merely printed off the articles, but then I started to provide a summary of the article along with the article. I placed the summaries along with the articles in a binder (and, eventually, binders), and I placed the binder in the staff lounge.

As chair of the Equity and Justice Committee for Lakeshore Teachers’ Association of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS), I also sent the articles and summary to the Ning of the MTS (a ning is “an online platform for people and organizations to create custom social networks”).

As I pointed out in a previous post, it is necessary for the radical left to use every opportunity to question the legitimacy of existing institutions.

The attached article for the ESJ Ning is prefaced by the following:

The authors of the following article [Christopher Meek and Warner Woodworth], “Technical Training and Enterprise: Mondragon’s Educational System and its Implications for other Cooperatives,” outlines the importance of the educational system for the success of the Mondragon cooperative system in the Basque region of Northern Spain.

There are two key components to the Mondragon educational system: the Escuela Politecnica Profesional (EPP) and Alecoop (a student-owned manufacturing firm). The EPP has provided the basis for the development of highly advanced engineering skills, and Alecoop has provided the basis for students applying emerging engineering  and managerial skills to real-life problems in the context of running a company that aids them to finance their own education.

The ideal of an egalitarian social and economic system has not led to a sacrifice of concerns for efficiency. Both are possible.

The roots of the Mondragon cooperative system lie in the extreme class division characteristic of the town, with a wealthy minority and a poor majority. Despite the level of poverty, the production of quality steel characterized the town. So too did a common language (the Basque language of Euskera) and social solidarity.

Don José Maria Arizmendiarrieta, priest and founder of the Mondragon cooperatives, arrived in Mondragon in 1941, when the fascist dictator Franco was in power. Some considered Arizmendiarreta to be a communist.

Arizmendiarrieta was asked by the Union Cerrajera to teach religion at the only school available for working-class youth, the Escuela de Aprendices. However, Arizmendiarrieta soon realized the inadequacy of the school. On the one hand, access was limited to the sons of the employees of the capitalist firm (excluding about 85 percent of eligible youth) and, on the other and, on the other, no son from the working class ever attended university. Arizmendiarrieta attempted to persuade the Union Cerrajera to open up the school to more youth, but the capitalist firm refused.

Arizmendiarrieta then initiated the establishment of an alternative school, with a proposal to tie the establishment of such a school to the buidling of a soccer field—tying the school to community interest.

Arizmendiarrieta initiated a technical school rather than a traditional liberal arts school because he considered the impoverished parents and students would do better to learn practical skills that would aid them to overcome their poverty. He also considered manual labour could be a dignified practice in the context of a cooperative organization. Technical skills, the dignity of the practical arts and principles of democratic social cooperation (economic democracy) formed key elements of the Mondragon cooperative system; social justice was linked to all three elements.

Emphasis on technical skills involved investment in machinery rather than limiting production to labour-intensive processes typical of many workers’ cooperatives. To incorporate technical skills into the production process, education that respected the importance of the practical arts and theoretical considerations linked to those practical arts became necessary.

The Spanish technical system of education is organized into three levels: 1. “Oficialia,” leading to an equivalent of middle-years education; 2. “Maestria,” which consists of traditional academic courses with, however, the capacity to engage in skilled technical work linked to electricity, electronics and mechanics; 3. “Perritos Industriales,” the equivalent of a bachelors degree in engineering and mechanics. EPP expanded as the number of students increased. In 1953, the Escuela Politecnica Popular (EPP) was established.

By 1947, 11 of the original students started the advanced stage of technical education. Dissatified with the way Union Cerrajera contradicted the principles that they had learned, in 1956, Ulgo, a cooperative manufacturing company, was established by five of the 11 original graduates of “Perritos Industriales.” They obtained funding from the community through word-of-mouth. Several other manufacturing cooperatives were initiated and so was a consumer cooperative.

In 1959, the Caja Laboral Popular, the “Working Peoples’ Bank,” was founded, aiding workers to establish other cooperatives. By 1987, it had aided in funding almost 200 cooperative organizations throughout the Basque region of Norther Spain.

The EPP was reorganized as a student cooperative that functioned for the industrial cooperatives. The General Assembly of the EPP is composed of three sets of stakeholders: 1. Students and parents; 2. the teachers; and 3. the cooperative and capitalist firms that subsidize the EPP budget. Due to expansion, more modern facilities were built in 1966, with workshops and laboratories.

The teachers at EPP are responsible for the creation of their own curriculum and write their own textbooks. Graduates of the EPP are highly skilled and in high demand. In the 1978/1979 school year, it had over a thousand students enrolled in the three levels of technical education.

The other piece of Mondragon education is Alecoop. About half of those attending EPP apply their learning to an actual manufacturing environment owned by students—Alecoop. It permits a closer alignment of theory and practice (and practice and theory)—and enables students to fund at least partially their own education. It was established in 1966. Alecoop struggled to continue to exist as it faced many problems. By about 1987 it had 601 students and 33 teachers.

As the authors conclude, education has been a key element in the success and expansion of the Mondragon cooperative system. Such an education is integrated in numerous ways: technical, academic, financial and managerial education are closely linked to the principles of economic democracy and the dignity of workers. Unlike many other cooperative movements, managers in the Mondragon cooperatives share the same vision with the other workers and teachers—rather than imposing their own vision on the workers and teachers. The unity of an educational strategy, linked to technical education and financial education on the one hand, and a cooperative economic principle on the other enabled the Mondragon cooperative system not only to survive but to thrive.

Rather than relying on experts, a cooperative system would be more effective if it relied on an internal analysis of local needs and values and then develop an educational plan. Experts, government agencies and so forth could then be consulted on ways in which the educational plan could be realized. A cooperative monitoring system would ensure that objectives are being met (or modified as required, depending on unforseen circumstances), costs are controlled and the cooperatived system expanded.

Democratic control of the economy (social justice) and the respect for persons can be combined with technical and financial education and efficiency—in a cooperatively organized economic system.

 Fred

A Worker’s Resistance to the Capitalist Government or State and Its Representatives, Part Nine

Introduction

This is a continuation of a previous post that illustrates how politically biased the capitalist government or state and its representatives (such as social-democratic social workers) are when it comes to determining real situations–especially when a person self-declares as a Marxist.

Just a recap (more details can be found in earlier posts in this series): I filed a complaint with the Manitoba Institute of Registered Workers against a social worker who had written a court-ordered assessment concerning my wife at the time, myself and my daughter, Francesca Alexandra Romani (ne Harris). I am using the initials S.W. for the social worker. Mr. S.W., claimed that my claim that the mother of my daughter was using a belt and a wooden stick to physically abuse her, was “somewhat ridiculous.” Mr. S.W. was much less concerned about determining the truth of this claim (which is in fact true) than with my so-called indoctrination of my daughter in my “Marxist ideology.”

Since the civil trial in April 1999, my daughter complained of the following  (as of February 18, 2000—it should be noted that the following does not include the many times Francesca told me that Francesca’s mother had hit her before Feburary 18, 2000): 1. Her mother was using a wooden stick on her buttocks; 2. Her mother used a belt to spank her on the same area; 3. Her mother grabbed Francesca and forced her into the apartment building; 4. Her mother had grabbed Francesca’s throat in the elevator and warned her not to tell me that her mother had hit her; 5. Her mother shoved Francesca to the floor on two separate occasions; 6. Her mother hit Francesca on the head with a book; 7. Her mother pulled Francesca’s hair; 8. Her mother scratched Francesca with a comb.

This contrasts with Mr. S.W.’s allegation, as noted in the last post, that ” Mr. Harris’ explanation for contacting the Agency [Winnipeg Child and Family Services] was somewhat ridiculous. He said that the child had made some vague indications that she may have been spanked.”

Mr. S.W. was much less concerned about the truthfulness of Mr. Harris’ claim (which is true) than with Mr. Harris’ Marxists ideas.

The Manitoba Institute of Registered Social Workers rejected my complaint, claiming that Mr. S.W. did not contravene the code of ethics of registered social workers in Manitoba.

I then filed a complaint against Winnipeg Child and Family Services (WCFS) with the Manitoba Ombudsman, and during their so-called inquiry, the WCFS threatened me in a letter with consulting their legal counsel and phoning the police on me. The Manitoba Ombudsman found the actions of the WCFS to be reasonable both before the letter and the letter itself: 

Our office has investigated the concerns you raised and have concluded that the position taken by WCFS as outlined in their letters of January 13, 2003 and January 22, 2004 is not clearly wrong or unreasonable. Accordingly there is no recommendation that can be made on your behalf.

So far, the Winnipeg Child and Family Services, the Manitoba Institute of Registered Social Workers and the Manitoba Ombudsman proved themselves to be anything but institutions that reflected any kind of fairness or equitable treatment. Quite to the contrary. They either involved oppression in one form or another or justification of such oppression by vindicating an oppressive institution. 

The social-democratic left rarely take this integrated nature of the oppressive powers linked to the capitalist government or state into account when formulating tactics and strategy. Indeed, many on the left even idealize such oppressive features by calling for, without qualification, the expansion of public services–as if such public services were not riveted with oppressive features. 

I then outlined how I tried to homeschool my daughter, how I failed my daughter by acting as an oppressive father and teacher while trying to teach at Ashern Central High and finish my doctorate in the philosophy of education; this included getting into many arguments over her lack of progress in her studies and physically controlling her when she threw a metal lid at me by putting her in a headlock and forcing her to the ground until she promised not to threw anything else (which I do not regret since she could have seriously injured me). It also included throwing hot tea, some of which hit her face. I also indicated that a mitigating factor was that I had, unknown to me at the time, invasive bladder cancer, but with chemotherapy treatment there was no further visible cancer.

I then indicated how the Anishinaabe Child and Family Services, located in Ashern, engaged in oppressive actions by falsely accusing me of choking Francesca and throwing her to the ground and forced me to inform the principal, Randy Chartrand, that I was under investigation. I also pointed out how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the RCMP–the national police in Canada) had me under surveillance before arresting me for allegedly physically abusing Francesca. Finally, I described the oppressive working situation that I experienced at Ashern Central School, in Ashern, Manitoba, Canada, and I outlined how I came to be receiving short-term and then long-term disability benefits.

Going on Sick Leave, Short-term Disability and Long-Term Disability: Another Form of Oppression 

I mentioned to the math teacher that I was to be put on intensive clinical supervision (where the superintendent, Janet Martell, would control my work); the math teacher suggested that I go on sick leave. However, given my former experience with cancer, I did not have sufficient number of accumulated sick days that would bridge the time from the beginning of sick leave until long-term disability benefits started (a period of 80 working days). Coincidentally, short-term disability benefits had been recently negotiated so that Lakeshore Teachers’ Association members would be eligible for short-term disability benefits provided that they worked at least one day after the start of the policy (March 1, 2012)–which was later than when I started my sick leave.

MTS and Lakeshore School Division made a deal; if I agreed to resign from the school division, the school division would allow me to work one day in order to qualify for short-term disability benefits. I worked at the board office on March 23, 2012, performing a superficial search for information for the Division (I forget the details of the work)–another humiliating experience.

In order to receive at first short-term disability benefits and then long-term disability benefits provided by the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, if the issue is not purely physical, it is presumably necessary to be subject to psychiatric evaluation in order to justify not being able to work for an employer. To receive such benefits, the worker must “agree” to the evaluation.

I also was to have an initial “psychiatric assessment”, performed by Gisele Morier, a psychiatrist at PsychHealth at the Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.. This was on March 15, 2012. I also was obliged to begin to see a psychologist–Alan Slusky.

Adelle Field Burton also obliged me to engage in voluntary work, progressively, once half-a-day per week at first, increasing it as time went on. Since I depended economically on disability benefits, if I had refused to “volunteer,” I would have jeopardized my receiving such benefits since one of the conditions for receiving such benefits was cooperation with a plan for rehabilitation. The term “volunteer” in this context, of course, is an oxymoron.

I decided to “volunteer” at Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, a social-democratic organization that addresses poverty issues. The organization evidently functioned on the basis of defining poverty exclusively on the basis of the level of income. It had no intention of addressing the problem of the power of employers as a class. 

Near the end of November, 2012, I had to have a reassessment–again by Gisele Morier. However, several months before the assessment ,Francesca, my daughter, was in another city north of Winnipeg (Arborg, I believe), with a friend (Katy Corder, I believe). Francesca’s heart apparently started to race, so she went to the local hospital with her friend. I do not know exactly what happened, but she (or someone else) called me, indicating that she was at the psychiatric ward for minors, located in the same building as Ms. Morier, who had her office there. Apparently, the hospital doctor in Arborg wanted Francesca to stay for tests, but Francesca refused. The upshot was that an RCMP officer forced her to go to Winnipeg and was placed in the psychiatric ward for the night (probably at the Intensive Child and Adolescent Treatment Service (ICATS) at the Health Sciences Centre (HSC)).

There was a meeting of many adults, to make a decision whether Francesca was to be released from the psychiatric ward or not–an oppressive situation for Francesca. I was invited to attend, which I did. I advocated for Francesca’s release, which is what happened.

When I was to have a meeting with Giselle Morier for my own assessment on November 29, 2012, I was still upset at having my daughter forced into a psychiatric ward against her will. I indicated this to Ms. Morier. She evidently found my “attitude” of questioning the authority of psychiatrists and other government “experts” to be non-plus.

Ms. Morier’s assessment was. like the court-ordered assessment in 1998, biased and full of distortions and unsubstantiated judgements. Thus, Ms. Morier considered that I suffered from “paranoid personality disorder.” Her evidence? Mainly my account of what transpired at Ashern as well as her own distorted interpretation about what I said.

Response to an Oppressive Psychiatric Assessment

Here is my response to the psychiatric assessment:

Context: An interview of Dr. Harris (Ph. D. in the philosophy of education, with four publications) by Dr. Morier on March 15, 2012.  Another interview on November 29, 2012.

Dr. Morier, in her report dated December 18, 2012 (based on an interview with Dr. Harris neglects to include how the interview started). 

Before the interview began, Dr. Morier requested that Dr. Harris sign a permission form.

Dr. Harris indicated that he did not want to sign it but that he had to if he was to continue receiving disability benefits through Manitoba Teachers’ Society. Dr. Morier immediately stated, in a tone that Dr. Harris found offensive, that he was free to sign it or not do so. When Dr. Harris replied that he disagreed with her but that he did not wish to get into a debate with her, she replied, in an offensive manner, that Dr. Harris would probably win since he knew how to debate. The way that Dr. Morier stated this was not meant as a complement.

Dr. Harris leaves it to the reader to decide whether the above is true.

Page 1 from the December 18, 2012 report:

“When asked whether he had noted any inaccuracies or had found discrepancies in what the writer had understood and reported from what he had stated or had any comments, he stated there were no errors, but that he objected to the term `paranoid’ being used to describe him.”

Dr. Morier reiterates this view on page 5:

“I refer the reader to my IME of March 28, 2012 for family and psychosocial history, as according to Mr. Harris, he did not find any errors or needed to make any correction to the information.”

This is untrue. Dr. Morier asked whether Dr. Harris had read the report, and Dr. Harris indicated that he had. The issue came up in the context of whether Dr. Morier had provided written recommendations about medication. Dr. Harris did not recall any such written recommendations in the report itself. He did recall Dr. Morier writing the recommendations on one of her business cards.

Dr. Morier then consulted the report and indicated that she indeed had provided such recommendations.

Dr. Harris did not say that there were no errors in the previous report; Dr. Morier never asked Dr. Harris such a question. There were errors in the previous report, but Dr. Harris simply did not bother to correct such errors—he did not believe that any purpose would be served at the time. He now sees that he was in error.

As for the issue of paranoid, Dr. Harris never indicated that he objected to such a term because Dr. Harris does not recall that such a term was in the first report. Dr. Harris no longer has a copy of the report. He was rear-ended in a car accident on July 20, 2011, and Dr. Morier’s report was in the trunk. Dr. Harris did not bother trying to pull out several papers from the trunk (he had to use a pry bar from the inside to gain access to the contents in the trunk since the trunk would not open from the outside). One of those papers was Dr. Morier’s previous report. Dr. Harris left the report in the trunk since he did not consider that report to be all that important when he delivered the car to Manitoba Public Insurance.

Since Dr. Harris no longer has a copy of the report, he can only recall one element from the first report that was “in error.” Dr. Harris had previous heart palpitations when he was a union steward in British Columbia. As a union steward, he filed a union grievance against his immediate supervisor for having written a job description that only personnel in the library where he was working could fulfill since only those who had job training in the specific library could obtain the specified skills. Since a job posting is supposed to be for all union members as far as possible, and since the rewriting of job descriptions to suit managerial will could, potentially, undermine the union as a viable structure, the union business manager agreed with Mr. Harris (Dr. Harris did not obtain his doctorate until afterwards) that a union grievance should be filed. Of course, Mr. Harris’ immediate supervisor did not like this and harassed Mr. Harris. As a consequence, Mr. Harris was subject to substantial pressure to resign, which he eventually did. Dr. Morier, however, failed to understand the situation and her first report reflects such a lack of understanding. If Dr. Harris recollects correctly, Dr. Morier personalized the issue in British Columbia rather than contextualized it in the context of the employer-employee relation (a relation of power). Dr. Morier persistently ignores context.

Dr. Harris would never have said that the first report was without error. It is untrue. Dr. Harris leaves it to the reader to determine which version is true and which version is false.

“She [Francesca, my daughter] was released the following day after being evaluated by a psychiatrist.” Dr. Morier either does not know or chooses to ignore the fact that there was a meeting of about nine adults, including Dr. Harris, a social worker from Child and Family Services and several others. After some discussion, Dr. Harris stated: “To sum up, this should not have happened.” No one contradicted him. Dr. Harris informed Dr. Morier that he had stated that the incident should not have happened.

“Mr. Harris appeared exceedingly angered and insulted by this. He states that both his daughter and his mother were abused by the psychiatric system.”

Dr. Harris’ mother was forced to undergo electric shock treatments against her will, forced to take so-called medication against her will and so forth. Perhaps Dr. Morier could explain what a rational person would feel when a person whom they love has been abused—unless of course psychiatric care in so-called mental institutions in the 1960s could not be characterized as an abuse. If they were not an abuse, why not reinstitute them?

As for Dr. Harris’ daughter, no one at the meeting indicated why Dr. Harris’ daughter was involuntarily incarcerated. Apparently, Dr. Harris should trust in the judgement of those in “authority”—because they are in authority—rather than in terms of understanding a situation. Why was his daughter incarcerated against her will? What damage did that do to his daughter? If a private person did that, it would be considered abuse and kidnapping. However, if the government does that, why is it is considered to be legitimate by some? Is this the attitude of a scientist? Dr. Harris leaves it to the reader to decide on Dr. Morier’s degree of understanding of the situation and the right of a parent to be angry when parent or child is possibly mistreated at the hands of “authority.” Until Dr. Harris knows the facts, he will presume his daughter’s innocence.

Furthermore, given the quality of Dr. Morier’s report, the reader can surmise the possible quality of care that Dr. Harris’ mother and daughter received.

Page 1:

“He was `well aware of their game.’”

This quote is out of context and therefore distorts the meaning. By decontextualizing the statement—which Dr. Harris did indeed make—Dr. Morier distorts its meaning. The context was in terms of his life in Ashern—a town of 1,400, where he was arrested on April 4, 2011 (by two members of the RCMP personnel in Ashern), with the charges dropped on November 16, 2011. Dr. Harris was arrested on a Monday. Since September 2008, Dr. Harris had a habit, on Saturdays, of going to the bakery/coffee shop at 12:30 in this small town, to read the Saturday Free Press and have a coffee and sticky bun and then study or do some work for his profession as a teacher until around 2:30. He would sit at the same table near the window every time (unless, of course, there were other customers who were already sitting there).

The RCMP never once sat across from Dr. Harris—until Arpil 9, 2011 the Saturday following the arrest). The father of one of Dr. Harris’ former French students was in plain clothes, but there were two other RCMP officers in RCMP uniforms seated with him. They arrived about a half hour after Dr. Harris arrived.

The same thing occurred the following Saturday, but this time the father was dressed in RCMP uniform—along with a couple of other RCMP personnel.

Dr. Harris was referring to this situation when he made the comment that he “was well aware of their game.”

Page 2:

“He chooses to eat take-out chicken two to three times a week in his car, which he parks at the same location on a public street. He believe that someone complained about this behaviour, reporting him to the police. He stated that late one night police came knocking at his door, which he did not answer. They left a City of Winnipeg Police business card, asking him to phone the police about an incident. He remembers his heart pounding.”

Dr. Morier neglected to mention that they arrived at the place where Dr. Harris was staying—at 11:45 p.m. (when, in fact, he was in bed and doing his breathing exercises as suggested by Dr. Slusky). She also neglected to mention that they flashed their lights in the window—a tactic which the RCMP also used in Ashern (in addition to stomping in the snow so that Dr. Harris would look out the window—in which case they would know Dr. Harris was there.)

Dr. Morier also neglected to mention that Dr. Harris had called the police at the number on the card left by the police the next day, but no one returned the call despite the fact that Dr. Harris left his telephone number.

“Since that time he has become more aware of police all around him.”

Also, page 4: “He does believe that the police are targeting him and harassing him. He has searched for evidence in his environment to validate these thoughts.”

Page 2:

“He questions whether they are stalking him and every time [Dr. Harris’ emphasis] he sees a policeman, he states that `I ditch them.’” Actually, Dr. Harris did indicate that once he felt that police in a police car were following him and that he did indeed ditch them. He also indicated that his heart was pounding. He categorically denies, however, saying “every time.” One instance hardly constitutes “every time.” This is a generalization made by Dr. Morier.

Dr. Harris is certainly more aware of the police around him—when he sees them, of course. As Dr. Harris discussed with Dr. Alan Slusky, clinical psychologist, when a person has experienced what he experienced in Ashern in relation to the police—the arrest and the subsequent harassment–increased awareness of the presence of the police is natural.

“…however, he is unhappy with his daughter’s choices, particularly her interest in Amway, because he believe that this organization is a waster of her time and is a `religion.’” Dr. Harris’ daughter invited him to attend a session of Amway with her, and he observed close at hand its operation. As a consequence, he did some research on this organization and sent it to Francesca. Francesca subsequently stopped attending such meetings. Dr. Morier, however, made the comment at the time, when Dr. Harris indicated disapproval of this organization and his daughter’s participation in it, that perhaps Dr. Harris was disapproving of her independence and was trying to control her. Attached is what Dr. Harris sent Francesca that he found on the Internet concerning Amway. 

“He [Dr. Harris] is well aware, however, that the vice-principal at Ashern School refused to give him a reference, as did the principal.”

Dr. Morier failed to pursue why the vice principal refused to provide Dr. Harris with a reference. The vice-principal was the former principal and was demoted to vice-principal the same time that Dr. Harris was demoted to being a de facto educational assistant after having his senior-high French classes stripped from him. The vice principal may well have refused to provide a reference out of fear for his own position. The year before, the vice-principal, who at the time was the principal, had evaluated Dr. Harris’ teaching positively. It is, moreover, Dr. Harris’ understanding that the vice principal would like Dr. Harris to call him since he stated that he had nothing to do with the situation that occurred at Ashern Central School.

“The main reason for this he believes was that these individuals disagreed with him on the value of John Dewey’s philosophy on education and their poor appreciation of Mr. Harris’ skills in teaching French.”

Dr. Harris does not believe this with respect to the vice-principal. With respect to the principal, Dr. Harris and Dr. Slusky have discussed how it is possible that the principal may have been intimidated by Dr. Harris’ doctorate and reacted accordingly. Undoubtedly the principal was concerned about the French program and attributed the problem to Dr. Harris’ apparent incompetence as a teacher. However, when the principal evaluated Dr. Harris’ French teaching, Dr. Harris responded with a 43-page reply, edited to 30 pages by Roland Stankevicius, MTS staff officer. Mr. Stankevicius also stated that the principal did not come out looking very well in his evaluation.

Page 3:

“Dr. Slusky has also prescribed the cognitive therapy book, called Feeling Good by Dr. Burns. Mr. Harris has read parts of the book but he stated that he has to disagree with many issues in this book, in particular in that he believes that there is no scientifically proven cause and effect relationship between thought and emotion.”

This is inaccurate. Dr. Burns claims that negative thoughts cause negative emotions. Dr. Morier failed to understand Dr. Harris’ assertion.

“He tried to engage the writer in a discussion defending this belief. When the writer would not participate and pointed out that he was being argumentative and pedantic, he stated that he feels that he needs to criticize everything.”

Dr. Harris denies this account of what transpired. Dr. Harris merely indicated that Dr. Slusky had recommended that Dr. Harris read this book as a prelude to engaging in cognitive behavioural therapy. Dr. Harris had already indicated to Dr. Slusky that, philosophically, Dr. Burns’ assertions are questionable. Dr. Harris did in fact write up a critique of parts of the book (attached).

Dr. Harris then indicated that he considered Dr. Burns’ assertions about the relationship between so-called negative thoughts and negative emotions to be unsubstantiated. Dr. Morier responded “Not yet” very emotionally.

After having felt abused by Dr. Morier, Dr. Harris felt inspired to do some research in educational journals that involved, implicitly or explicitly, the premises of cognitive behavioural therapy (which is linked to Dr. Burns’ assertions about the relationship between so-called negative thoughts and negative emotions). Dr. Harris came across Dr. Falkenberg’s article (attached), published in the Canadian philosophy of education journal. Dr.Harris submitted a short criticism of the article in the dialogue section of the journal (attached).

Dr. Harris has more appropriate outlets than debating with a psychiatrist who has economic power over him, indirectly, since the report, Dr. Harris knew, would influence whether he would continue to receive disability benefits from Manitoba Teachers’ Society.

Dr. Harris never stated, during this interview, that “he feels that he needs to criticize everything.” Such a view is simply stupid, and Dr. Harris would never say such a thing. On the other hand, he does have a Ph. D. in the philosophy of education and he agrees with John Dewey’s definition of philosophy as critique—and critique does not mean criticize everything—but criticizing what deserves to be criticized and that has importance in this world.

John Dewey was the greatest American philosopher of the twentieth century. Perhaps Dr. Morier would find John Dewey “pedantic and argumentative.”

Dr. Harris had no desire to engage in debate with Dr. Morier. He was not at the interview with Dr. Morier to debate with her.

Dr. Harris leaves it to the reader to judge whose version is more accurate.

Dr. Morier neglected to mention that Dr. Harris also stated that Dr. Burns argued, in his book,  that his book constituted bibliotherapy. Dr. Morier herself ridiculed such an idea. Dr. Harris leaves it to the reader to question why Dr. Morier permits such ridicule by herself but not by others.

“He stated that he often tried to have these philosophical discussions with Dr. Slusky.”

Actually, Dr. Slusky has been open to discussing a number of things. Dr. Harris need not “try to discuss”—he does discuss them. Dr. Harris also provided Dr. Slusky with a couple of his published articles.

Dr. Harris denies that he tried to discuss anything with Dr. Morier. He felt abused by her. Dr. Harris had no desire nor intention of trying to convince Dr. Morier of anything. He wanted the abusive process to stop—period.

Is it credible to maintain that someone wants to debate the other person if the person is feeling abused?

“He reported that Dr. Slusky is also trying to help him improve his interpersonal interactions by teaching him that there can be many ways of looking at and interpreting things which differ from his own view.”

Dr. Harris reported no such thing. Dr. Slusky and Dr. Harris have been discussing how Dr. Harris needs to understand how those in power are often threatened by the fact that Dr. Harris has a Ph. D.

What is sauce for the goose, apparently, is not sauce for the gander. Do psychiatrists display an understanding “that there can be many ways of looking at and interpreting things which differ from” their “own view?”

Dr. Morier implies that Dr. Harris’ views are dogmatic. Her views, of course, are not—according to Dr. Morier.

“He is also learning how to analyze his effect of his behaviour on other people.” The same issue again: the issue of Dr. Harris’ impact on those in power because he has a Ph. D.

Does Dr. Morier understand the impact of her behaviour on other people? Dr. Harris felt abused during the course of the interview.

“Mr. Harris seems to appreciate how flexible Dr. Slusky can be.” Dr. Harris certainly appreciates the respect that Dr. Slusky has shown Dr. Harris—unlike the extreme disrespect and indeed abuse that Dr. Harris experienced during the two-hour interview.

“When asked about his daily activities and his vocational rehabilitation planning, Mr. Harris spoke very disdainfully about how he was being `treated as a thing, as a machine’ by the disability insurance plan. He indicated that he was resentful that volunteering was forced upon him and increased by half-days on a weekly basis.”

This is inaccurate. Dr. Harris was forced to increase volunteering every half-day each month without any assessment of how the process was proceeding.

Dr. Morier, on page 1, decontextualized Dr.Harris’ assertion about being “well aware of their game,” thereby overgeneralizing. She here inaccurately reduces the timeframe for increasing the volunteering.

“He also disliked that he was told he needed to have an exercise program.” Dr. Harris believed that he had a right to express his dislikes to Dr. Morier. However, at one point, Dr. Harris queried whether Dr. Morier then expected Dr. Harris to subordinate his will to those in power. Dr. Morier’s response was, ”Exactly.”

Dr. Harris, during a meeting with Adelle Field Burton, case manager for MTS, and Kathleen Moore, employment counsellor, indicated that he had always hated physical education in school. They agreed with him. They saw nothing wrong with his choice of taking martial arts.

“Although he chose a form of martial arts training called Wing Chun for physical conditioning, he resents this as he does like being told what to do in class, feels exhausted after his weekly lessons and is in some pain because of recently developed bursitis. As well, he does not enjoy the sensation of having his heart pounding during the exercise.”

Dr. Harris at no time indicated that he was resistant to taking Wing Chun Kung Fu. Dr. Harris had taken such a form of martial arts when he was younger, and he is eager to learn this system. It is untrue that Dr. Harris “resents this as he does not like being told what to do in class.” Dr. Harris never stated such a thing. Dr. Harris recognizes the superior skill of his sifu, and he would never say such a thing. There is no evidence to suggest that Dr. Harris dislikes being told what to do in class. His sifu would undoubtedly confirm that Dr. Harris tries his best while in class.

Dr. Harris did indeed indicate to Dr. Morier that he often woke up in the early morning the next day after having attended the Wing Chun class. Dr. Morier’s response was rude: she indicated, in a very brusque manner, that Dr. Harris was out of shape.

“He clearly stated that he resents the Disability Benefits Plan telling him what to do and controlling his rehabilitation plan.” Dr. Harris talked to Dr. Gene Degen, counsellor in the EPA plan for Manitoba Teachers’ Society, while still working as a teacher. Dr. Degen indicated that, although one was expected to do certain things during rehabilitation, ultimately it was the person who formed the center of the plan and who was the driver.

“Upon reviewing the rehabilitation plan and the correspondence, the writer actually believes it is a quite gradual, gentle, generous rehabilitation program.” Dr. Harris is unsure what this means. Is Dr. Morier claiming that she reviewed the plan with Dr. Harris and stated that it “is … program?” Otherwise, the following sentence makes little sense: “He [Dr. Harris] abruptly stated that he wanted his family physician and him to negotiate the rehabilitation process.”

If Dr. Morier claims that she reviewed the plan with Dr. Harris and stated that it was a gradual plan, this claim is false. If she means that she reviewed the plan and found it gradual—that is her opinion. Dr. Harris was under the impression that he had a right to voice his views. Dr. Morier’s attitude that any negative attitude expressed by Dr. Harris was illegitimate shines through in this passage and was evident throughout the interview process. Her evident hostility towards Dr. Harris’ views formed the basis for Dr. Harris’ feeling of being abused.

Since Dr. Morier claims that the rehabilitation program is gradual when volunteering is increased a half day every week, she must, logically, consider the fact that volunteering was increased once every month to be even more generous.

Page 4: “The anger and irritability are much more prominent than sadness, which he acknowledged but has difficulty acknowledging that it is severe or disabling.”

This is false. Dr. Harris provided the examples to illustrate that he was less patient than before and that the impatience could be a problem for teaching since it was necessary to be patient as a teacher. He specifically stated that to Dr. Morier.

“…he clearly ruminates about the injustices he has suffered because he is a Marxist, as well as about his mistreatment and the mistreatment of his daughter at the hands of the police.”

Dr. Harris’ response is: And? Ignoring injustices is hardly healthy. Apparently, Dr. Harris is expected to view the world the way Dr. Morier does (despite the claim, in cognitive behavioural therapy, of viewing the world in diverse manners). Dr. Harris prefers a quote from the preface to Capital, volume one, by Karl Marx: “Perseus wore a magic cap that the monsters he hunted down might not see him. We draw the magic cap down over eyes and ears as a make-believe that there are no monsters!”

Page 5: “Content was significant for his preoccupations with all of the injustices in his life perpetuated by Child and Family Services….”

As for injustices in the world—Dr. Harris’ daughter has certainly experienced such injustice via the negligence of CFS and the Selinger government  [the NDP premier) (and, before that government, the Filmon government). [Gary Filmon was the Progressive Conservative Premier before Mr. Selinger.]

See the attached complaint against the Child and Family Services. Dr. Harris leaves it to the reader to determine whether the Child and Family Services has looked after the best interests of his daughter.

Apart from the above, there is further evidence of the inaccurate nature of Ms. Morier’s assessment. From Kathleen Moore, Rehabilitation Consultant, employed by MTS Disability, dated September 11, 2012: 

Fred made clear to me he has no interest in a gym program overseen by a therapist. I asked him what type of exercise programs he has done in the past and he stated he participated in martial arts programs. He has an interest in learning a martial arts program called Wing Chun. Fred found out the following that is of interest to him in terms of martial arts programs: 

  • Fred and I found one instructor who will instruct in Wing Chun but there were no others in this particular form of martial arts in Winnipeg. This instructor does it as a way of introducing the art to others and will only charge for the cost of the facility rental which is $30.00. Unfortunately he does not start a new class until November. The classes run for 3 weeks at 2x per week.
  • Fred has registered for a martial-arts and self-defense course with the Winnipeg School Division called “Personal Defense Readiness.” The cost is $89.00 total. It starts October 1st and runs for seven weeks 1x per week.

How anyone could claim that I resented participating in Wing Chun is beyond me. Perhaps it is due to stereotyping? As for the bursitis, the MTS Disability Plan actually paid a physiotherapist in order to solve that problem. I attended several sessions with the physiotherapist and engaged in exercises recommended by him at home in order to be able to participate in Wing Chun. That I felt tired while taking it is true–as was my pounding heart when I tried to sleep at night. I leave it to the reader to determine whether it is rational not to “enjoy” such sensations as a pounding heart that prevents one from sleeping properly. 

Conclusion

The oppression I experienced at the hands of Dr. Morier forms just one example of the oppression that many regular–and powerless–people experience at the hands of “experts” and “professionals” related, directly or indirectly, to the capitalist government or state. Such oppression is largely ignored by the social-democratic left, who idealize public services in general. 

In another post, I will further show how oppressive “psychological” therapy can be. 

Co-optation of Students at School Through We Day, Part Two: The Social-Democratic Left Share Some of We Day’s Assumptions

In a previous post, I outlined how We Day is a form of indoctrination and that schools form vehicles for such indoctrination. What is the social-democratic left’s position in relation to  this indoctrination and its incorporation into schools?

I already mentioned the Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS) decision not to promote We Day since some of the corporations that sponsor the event act in contradiction to some of We Day’s professed principles (perhaps, by way of example, Cadbury’s use of cocoa produced with child labour from Ghana). MTS writes:

MTS Bows Out of We Day

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society will no longer be involved in promoting or participating in We Day events.

Delegates to annual meeting agreed with a recommendation from the organization’s Equity and Social Justice Committee and provincial executive.

“The Manitoba Teachers’ Society model of social justice is not reflected in We Day,” the resolution said. “We Day doesn’t promote, support or include a model of social justice that the Society identifies as effective in advancing social change. We Day is more of a charity model that doesn’t address the roots for systemic inequity.”

We Day is a yearly concert and speaker series attended by tens of thousands of students in Canada, the U.S. and Britain.

In recent years it has attracted controversy because of the number of corporate sponsors involved in the events. Some of those sponsors have been accused of actions in other countries that run counter to the messages on which We Day is based.

The decision by delegates does not extend to the involvement of schools and students. In the past, both MTS staff and elected officials have promoted and been participants in We Day.

Would MTS, however, have decided to not support We Day if all the sponsors were consistent with the professed principles of the creators of We Charity, Craig and Marc Kielburger? It is difficult to say, but since they consider a charity model to be insufficient to address the problem of systemic inequity, they would presumably still oppose the model characteristic of We Day. When I searched for the meaning of “systemic inequity” on their website, the only hit that came up with that term was–the item on We Day. (Replacing “equity” by “equality” resulted in zero hits.) Hence, the reader of their site cannot determine why specifically they do not support We Day. This vagueness prevents a reader from determining whether MTS’s position is reasonable in diverse social contexts, such as systemic racism, systemic sexism, systemic ignoring of the power of employers as a class, and so forth.

When I searched The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) website for “We Day,” I found zero hits. Nonetheless, I did find some hits when I searched using “Kielburger”–the surname of the founders of WE Charity and organizers of We Day held annually at many schools throughout Canada, the United States and elsewhere. Some of the material refers to Craig Kielburger as a model “hero,” as an example of a person who has made a difference, and a “high” recommendation of the book Take Action! A Guide to Active Citizenship by Marc and Craig Kielburger for activism advocacy.

For the many students who attend We Day, the vague reference to “systemic inequity” and the idealization of the Kielburgers as persons and as activists will probably confuse more than enlighten.

Lisa Howell, in an article written in 2015 “A parent & teacher’s reflections on “WE DAY”
how can a social movement feel so meaningless,” expresses her contradictory experience of expecting an inspirational day while attending We Day in Ottawa and experiencing a consumerist and anti-environmental day.

This contradiction between rhetoric and reality should not, however, surprise anyone who understands the nature of capitalist relations at work. In The Money Circuit of Capital, the end of the process of obtaining more money (the goal of private employers) results in more money in relation to the initial process but in itself it is merely a sum of money. To become capital, both the principal and some of the profit must be invested if the employer is to continue to function as an employer (since otherwise competition from other employers will result in being undercut and eventually going bankrupt). This whole process is infinite and can never be reached–it is a goal that can never be satisfied–the infinite process of the accumulation of capital.  How much money is enough? Never enough.

To state it differently: the birth of capital is simultaneously its death; consequently, the being of capital is a process that is only through it always reaching beyond itself.

In a finite world characteristic of the environment, capital is contradictory. There must be a contradiction between the environment and the nature of capitalist social relations. To resolve this problem requires surpassing this infinite process of capital accumulation. It requires a socialist society.

The Kielburgers, as seen in the first part of this two-part series of posts, do not question the legitimacy of this infinite process. They revel in it when they refer to “corporate and social responsibility.” The solutions which they offer, at best, a slight reduction in the impact that this accumulation process has on human beings, on human life and on the environment. Since they fail to question the legitimacy of the process of the process of capital accumulation, their solution actually diverts attention away from the pressing need to go beyond this accumulation process if the problems of child labour, poverty and environmental destruction are to be resolved.

The social-democratic left do seem to object to We Day on occasion. Thus, Molly McCracken, Manitoba director of the social-democratic Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, wrote a short article published online at Rabble.ca (We Day Sidesteps the Real Issues of Child Poverty). She points out the bias of We Day of pandering to corporations, who get free publicity and appear to be socially responsible. The problem of child poverty, she points out, is not addressed in such a forum.

However, let us look at some of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ own attitude towards corporations. I did a search, using the terms “fair share taxes.” Several hits came up, with such titles (and dates) as:

  • Demanding a Fair Share (July 20, 2017)
  • Replacing MSP with fair taxes would mean savings for most BC families: economist (July 6, 2016)
  • Change in direction on tax policy needed to escape budget crunch, ensure high-income British Columbians and corporations pay fair share: study (January 29, 2013)
  • A decade of eroding tax fairness in BC (June 30, 2011)
  • Fair Shares (April 27, 2011)
  • Canada’s rich not contributing fair share in taxes: study (November 8, 2007)

The criticism of corporations is restricted to the level of taxes that they pay. Neoliberal governments have reduced corporate taxes and taxes on the rich unfairly whereas the rest of the Canadian population has to pay a disproportionate (and unfair) level of taxes relative to the corporations and the rich.

The implication is that if progressive taxes are re-instituted, then fairness will be realized. This is a social-democratic  point of view, of course. One of the strategies of he social-democratic point of view is to focus on distribution after it has been produced and to disregard the process by which it has been produced (and, when it does focus on the process of production, it neglects the issue of the whether workers are free or not by using such cliches as “good jobs,” “decent work,” “fair contracts” and the like).

This does not mean that the left should not criticize skewed tax policies–but why do they simultaneously do so by implying that a change in tax policies will somehow magically convert the social world into a fair world? If corporations were to pay their “fair share,” then they should have the right to dictate to workers what to do, when to do it and how to do it, should they not? Would child labour, poverty and environmental destruction end if corporations paid their “fair share.”

This idea of “fair share” forms another cliche that the social-democratic left use to hide the reality of the social dictatorship that prevails when working for an employer.

What does the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives mean by “fair share” of taxes? Presumably the following (from the above 2007 article):

The study finds the top 1 percent of families in 2005 paid a lower total tax rate than the bottom 10 percent of families.

“Canada’s tax system now fails a basic test of fairness,” says Marc Lee, senior economist with the CCPA’s B.C. office and author of the study. “Tax cuts have contributed to a slow and steady shift to a less progressive tax system in Canada.”

Paying a fair share of taxes would then mean that the bottom 10 percent of families would pay a lower tax rate than the top 1 percent of families. As long as this is the case, then We Day promoters would then be justified in having corporate sponsors for the event. Of course, some may object that some sponsors may still contradict the principles of We day, but assuming that no corporation exploited child labour (for example), would the social democrats then criticize We Day? Presumably not. They believe, implicitly, that there can be such a thing as corporate fairness and corporate responsibility–just like the Kielburgers. Social democrats and neoliberals share certain assumptions together.

The social-democratic left cannot deal with the contradictory nature of the society in which we live; their inadequate way of dealing with We Day illustrate their inadequate capacity for dealing with this contradictory society.  They either vaguely refer to “systemic inequity,” or they find their expectation and reality contradictory, or they imply that as long as corporations pay their “fair share” of taxes, then We Day should be supported.

Since the social-democratic left cannot deal adequately with the nature of We Day, it is necessary to go beyond their point of view–to a socialist point of view, where the intent is to overcome the infinite process of the accumulation of capital and its corresponding conflicts, struggles and contradictions.

What of the radical left? As far as I can tell, they are, at least in Toronto (and probably elsewhere) oblivious to We Day and the extent to which students in schools are bombarded with employer ideology through such events. The radical left here in Toronto does not even bother to engage in ideological struggle; it accepts such ideologically loaded phrases as “decent work,” “a fair contract,” “fair labour laws,” and so forth.

What is the social-democratic left like where you live? The radical left?

 

Co-optation of Students at School Through We Day, Or School Indoctrination, Part One

I thought it appropriate to post a couple of comments on WE in light of the WE scandal. Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, supported WE, and his wife personally participated in it–and his mother was paid by WE. However, rather than looking at the scandal, it is better to look at WE itself since, from my personal observations, school bureaucrats and many school employees, including teachers, accepted the hype from WE without any critical distancing or investigation of its nature.

We Day is an event promoted in many schools in the more developed capitalist world, organized by We Charity. It is supposed to be an effort to energize students in such countries to change the world and to make it a better place through performing acts of social justice.

The website for We day has the following to say (We Day Website):

WE Day is the manifestation of the WE movement: an unparalleled celebration of young people and educators who have made a difference. Held in over 15 cities across the United States, Canada, the UK and the Caribbean, the event series features an inspiring line-up of world-renowned speakers, award-winning performers and real-world stories of change. You can’t buy a ticket —you have to earn your way. All it takes is one local and one global action through WE Schools.

Wow. Does this not sound encouraging?

There is further information about We Day for Toronto in September, 2019:

 Click here to apply for media accreditation to attend WE Day 
 WE Day Toronto is free to thousands of students and teachers thanks to partners led by National Co-Title Sponsors RBC and TELUS 

TORONTOSept. 12, 2019 /CNW/ – Today, WE Day, the greatest celebration of social good, announces the initial dynamic lineup set to hit the stage at WE Day Toronto taking place at Scotiabank Arena on September 19, 2019. Held in 15 cities across North America, the U.K. and the Caribbean, WE Day Toronto will unite 20,000 extraordinary students and teachers who have made a difference in their local and global communities. Together they will enjoy a day of unforgettable performances and motivational speeches with WE Charity co-founders Craig Kielburger and Marc KielburgerEmilio EstevezRupi KaurSarah McLachlanNoah SchnappDavid SuzukiTegan and Sara and more to be announced in the coming days.

“We can achieve so much more together than we can alone and knowing that we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves is a great feeling,” said singer-songwriter, Sarah McLachlan. “Every student and teacher at WE Day is making a difference on their own, but when they come together under one roof, you can feel the massive impact of their collective efforts. I’m proud to be a part of such a powerful movement of change.”

More than a one-day event, WE Day is connected to the free, year-long service learning program WE Schools. Designed to enhance a school or community’s existing social initiatives or spark new ones, WE Schools provides teachers with educational resources and action campaigns to encourage students to further their curricular learning and develop life skills to succeed beyond the classroom. In the 2018/2019 school year, over 6,920 schools and youth groups along with 8,125 educators across Ontario improved the world through WE Schools, creating socially innovative solutions to some of today’s most pressing issues. Through WE Schools students and teachers volunteered over 1.7 million hours creating an estimated social impact value of more than $45 million in support of global and local causes including hunger, poverty, bullying, well-being, access to education and access to clean water in communities around the globe.

“The youth at WE Day are at the forefront of change. They are committed to tackling some of the largest issues the world has ever faced; including bullying, climate change, and mental well-being, to name a few,” said WE Charity co-founder, Craig Kielburger. “WE Day demonstrates how important it is to empower our youth to be leaders of change by providing them with the tools and resources they need to chase their dreams—both in the classroom and out in their communities. We are honoured to celebrate the efforts of the next generation and we can’t wait to once again commemorate their incredible achievements at WE Day Toronto.”

The initial list of WE Day Toronto speakers, presenters and performers in alphabetical orderannounced to date, include:

  • Appearances by: Nav Bhatia, Celebrity Marauders, Jessi CruickshankMaddy DimakosTyrone EdwardsEmilio EstevezMohammed FaizyJordan FisherSarain FoxConnor FrantaReina FosterJacob Grosberg, Jade’s Hip Hop Academy, Theland KicknoswayCraig KielburgerMarc KielburgerAiden LeePenny OleksiakJames OrbinskiJenna Ortega, Dr. Pamela Palmater, Marissa Papaconstatinou, David Patchell-Evans, Regent Park School of Music, Navia RobinsonNoah SchnappWali ShahDavid SuzukiMaddison ToryAlia YoussefSpencer WestChloe Wilde

  • PerformersScott HelmanRupi KaurSarah McLachlan, SonReal, Tegan and Sara

WE Day is free of charge to teachers and students across Canada thanks to the generous support of partners led by National Co-Title Sponsors RBC and TELUS. This means students can’t buy a ticket to WE Day Toronto— educators and youth from across the province earn their way by taking action on one local and one global issue of their choice.

WE Day magic continues beyond the day through WE Day Connect, a free 60-minute interactive online event taking place on October 8, 2019.

WE Day is supported in Toronto by Co-Chairs Kris Depencier, Regional President, Greater Toronto, & Vice President, Personal Lending and Client Strategies, RBC; Sarah Davis, President, Loblaws Companies Limited; and Jon Levy, Chief Executive Officer, Mastermind Toys. WE Day is supported nationally by Co-Chairs, Darren Entwistle, President & Chief Executive Officer, TELUS; Jennifer Tory, Chief Administrative Officer, RBC; Chief Perry Bellegarde, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations; Mark Dervishian, Chief Operating Officer, Ardene; Nelly Furtado, Canadian Singer/Songwriter; Jeffrey Latimer, President, Jeffrey Latimer Entertainment; Elio Luongo, Chief Executive Officer, KPMG Canada; The Honourable David C. Onley, Former Lieutenant Governor of OntarioBill Thomas, Chairman Elect, KPMG International & Chair, KPMG’s Americas Region, KPMG; James Villeneuve, Former Consul General of Canada to Los Angeles; and Andrew Williams, Chief Executive Officer, DHL Express Canada. WE Day is supported globally by Co-Chairs David Aisenstat, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer & President, Keg Restaurants Ltd.; Hartley Richardson, President & Chief Executive Officer, James Richardson & Sons Ltd.; Dave I. McKay, President & Chief Executive Officer, RBC; and Craig Burkinshaw, Co-Founder, Audley Travel.

School districts or divisions support We Day in various ways. For example, the Toronto District School Board (the largest school board in Canada), has the following on its website on Social Justice:

Social Justice

The TDSB is strongly committed to principles of fairness, equity and human rights. We believe we all have a shared responsibility to contribute to positive social change both locally and globally. Learning about and engaging in social justice issues (such as equity, diversity, abuse against women, poverty reduction and environmentalism) empowers everyone as 21st century global citizens.

The goal of our Social Justice Action Plan that every school will participate and report on one local action and one global action each as part of school plans.

Ways to get involved:

We Day

Unfortunately, We Day is really school rhetoric that fails to address the real issues facing students, employees and many others throughout the world. It is a controlled movement to indoctrinate students into believing that they really change the world through micro changes in the present social system.

Fortunately, some teachers’ organizations, such as the Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS) (in 2017) have seen through some of the rhetoric (though the inclusion of the last sentence weakens the criticism):

MTS Bows Out of We Day

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society will no longer be involved in promoting or participating in We Day events.

Delegates to annual meeting agreed with a recommendation from the organization’s Equity and Social Justice Committee and provincial executive.

“The Manitoba Teachers’ Society model of social justice is not reflected in We Day,” the resolution said. “We Day doesn’t promote, support or include a model of social justice that the Society identifies as effective in advancing social change. We Day is more of a charity model that doesn’t address the roots for systemic inequity.”

We Day is a yearly concert and speaker series attended by tens of thousands of students in Canada, the U.S. and Britain.

In recent years it has attracted controversy because of the number of corporate sponsors involved in the events. Some of those sponsors have been accused of actions in other countries that run counter to the messages on which We Day is based.

The decision by delegates does not extend to the involvement of schools and students. In the past, both MTS staff and elected officials have promoted and been participants in We Day.

The rhetoric of We Day can be seen in various ways. Consider the following statement by Craig Kielburger, one of the founders of We Day:

The urgent need for more stable funding eventually led to the creation of Me to We, a for-profit social enterprise that sells ethically produced goods and services, and funnels half its earnings to Free the Children.

What is “ethically produced goods?” In the book written by Craig Kielburger, entitled Free the Children, there are many references to child labour and opposition to it–and child labour usually takes the form of being an employee of some sort or other (including domestic servants)–but no opposition to the employment of adults. Opposition to children being employed by employers does not therefore go hand in hand with opposition to adults being employed by employers. Why the double standard? Why is it ethically unjust to employ children but ethically just to employ adults? Why is it ethically just to use adults as means for employers’ ends and ethically unjust to use children for the same end? (See The Money Circuit of Capital). Mr. Kielburger has no answer to this question since it does not even come up in his book. This silence reflects the typical silent indoctrination characteristic of schools concerning the power of employers to dictate to employees what to do, how to do it, when to do it, how fast to do it, and how much to produce (see, for example, A Case of Silent Indoctrination, Part One: The Manitoba History Curricula and Its Lack of History of Employers and Employees). For educators, such a lack of critical distancing from the social world is anything but educative.

Let us listen to the founders of We Day and Me to We, in their book Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World, Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger, page 128:

Today, employees want more than a paycheck—they’re looking for meaning. Many successful companies are empowering their employees to reach out to others and supporting their efforts in a host of different ways. Direct Energy bases its charitable giving on the number of volunteer hours put in by its employees. Xerox allows social service sabbaticals. Wells Fargo gives personal growth leaves. LensCrafters empowers its employees with challenging service projects all over the world. The list goes on. From Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to Paul Newman’s salad dressings to the Body Shop, businesses and social entrepreneurs are hearing the call of Me to We and are revolutionizing business practices in a colossal way.

This lack of critical distancing from the power of employers as a class is characteristic of these founders of such a hyped-up employer ideology:

Increasingly, companies are finding that corporate social responsibility has rewards that extend beyond employee morale. In recent studies, socially responsible and community-oriented companies have been shown to do better than their competitors. In 2001, Business Ethics Best Citizen companies did significantly better than the remaining companies in the S&P 500. The ranking was based on eight statistical criteria, including total return, sales growth, and profit growth over one-year and three-year periods, as well as net profit margins and return on equity.10

In other words, indoctrination via the concept of “corporate and social responsibility” leads to greater net profits. It pays for employers to link to the ideology of corporate social responsibility–an ideology that the founders of We Day and Me to We obviously promote.

“Ethically produced goods” includes, then, using adult workers as a means to obtain more and more money. This is indoctrination–not education.

Me to We also promotes “ethics” via consumer choices. On the Me to We website, we read (Welcome Me to We):

ME to WE is an innovative social enterprise that provides products that make an impact, empowering people to change the world with their everyday consumer choices.

One way in which indoctrination occurs is through shifting the focus from defining social problems and their solution in relation production to solutions relating to consumption. As David Jefferess writes, in his article, “The “Me to We” social enterprise: Global education as lifestyle brand,” page 18:

“Me to We” “transforms consumers into world changers, one transaction at a time” (Me to We 2011a); it promotes a way of being good in the world as a consumer identity: “Every trip, t-shirt, song, book, speech, thought and choice adds up to a fun, dynamic lifestyle that’s part of the worldwide movement of we,” (Me to We, 2011b).

We Day and its associated organizations (WE Charity, for example) also set up a dichotomy between the First World children and adolescents and those who live in the so-called Third World. First-World children and adolescents are supposed to be the fortunate ones who are to tend the hands of their fortunate lives to the unfortunate lives of children and adolescents in the Third World. As Jefferess writes (page 20):

Kielburger characterizes Canadians as “some of the luckiest people in the world” (2009). As global citizens, he asserts, Canadians need to “recognize what we have to share in this world” (2009): “As we learn to feel gratitude and act on our good feelings through reaching out to others, we begin to live the “Me to We” philosophy” (Kielburger & Kielburger 2006, p. 146). The solution to the problem of poverty is presented in terms of benevolent obligation: What can we, the fortunate, do to help the unfortunate?

For Kielburger and company, we Canadians are not exploited and oppressed by employers and the associated power structures (such as the police and the courts). We are not dictated to by employers at work; we are not treated as things while we are working. Students are not treated as “learning machines,” with grades (marks) as a weapon in keeping students in line–as well as the administrative structure of schools (the bureaucracy) and the Department of Education.

This exclusion of Canadians (and Americans,  British, French, German, Italian, Japanese and so forth) from the exploited and oppressed is characteristic of a particular kind of nationalism.

To be sure, workers, children and adolescents are relatively better off (with some exceptions, such as many indigenous children and adolescents) than their counterparts in the so-called Third World, but the We Day ideology ignores the forces in the more industrialized capitalist countries that have prevented the so-called Third World countries from resolving their social problems.

Thus, in from 1944 to 1954, in Guatemala (a country just south of Mexico), there were political, social and economic changes that were abolished when the CIA-supported military overthrew the elected president of Guatemala–Jacobo Arbenz. Land that was distributed to over 100,000 Guatemalan families for cultivation were taken back and returned to the powerful and rich land owners. Under such conditions, is there any wonder that many Guatemalan children remain poor, and child labour is common? (See Thomas Offit, Conquistadores de la Calle: Child Street Labor in Guatemala City).

Furthermore, many Guatemalans’ experiences of torture, disappearance, assassination and genocide since the installation of the 1954 military dictatorship also illustrate how the “fortunate” capitalists in the industrialized countries (especially the United States, but also other countries, such as Canada, which fail to oppose the foreign policy of the United States) have contributed to the continued exploitation and oppression of children, adolescents and adults in the so-called Third World.

In addition, it was the United States government that trained many of the Guatemalan military responsible for torture and other atrocities by training them in counterinsurgency techniques. The Guatemalan military  became an efficient killing machine (the extent to which the Guatemalan was organized into an effective killing machine is described, for example, in Guatemala: Nunca Mas).

We Day and its supporting organizations, far from educating youth on the realities of the world in which we live, hides such a reality. Problems that cannot be solved by the methods of its advocates are simply not addressed. The pseudo-solutions which it proposes reflects a world dominated by a class of employers.

The popularity of We Day among Canadian school administrators and school teachers and employees expresses the lack of critical thinking characteristic of such administrators, teachers and employees.

In a future post, I will address how the Left has addressed We Day and its supporting organizations.

 

 

Critical Education Articles Placed in the Teacher Staff Lounge While I Was a Teacher, Part Three: The Academic Versus the Practical

This is a continuation of earlier posts.

When I was a French teacher at Ashern Central School, in Ashern, Manitoba, Canada, I started to copy critiques, mainly (although not entirely) of the current school system.  At first, I merely printed off the articles, but then I started to provide a summary of the article along with the article. I placed the summaries along with the articles in a binder (and, eventually, binders), and I placed the binder in the staff lounge.

As chair of the Equity and Justice Committee for Lakeshore Teachers’ Association of the Manitoba Teachers’ Society (MTS), I also sent the articles and summary to the Ning of the MTS (a ning is “an online platform for people and organizations to create custom social networks”).

As I pointed out in a previous post, it is necessary for the radical left to use every opportunity to question the legitimacy of existing institutions.

 The author of the following article, “Valid Knowledge and the Problem of the Practical Arts Curricula,” argues that practical arts, such as manufacturing (shops), home economics and agriculture are treated as less valid forms of knowledge than the traditional academic forms of knowledge and the attendant skills (science, mathematics, language arts)  in schools and universities. The author traces the historical roots of this hierarchical characterization of knowledge to Plato, and such a hierarchy of knowledge was class based.

The author then queries how the opposition to the integration of practical arts into the school curriculum has been reduced in the U.K. while it has been accentuated in the U.S. The author argues that the emphasis on academic knowledge in the U.S. (and, it may be inferred, in Canada) at the expense of the practical arts has reflected the class structure by enabling streaming students into those classified as more intellectually capable students and those classified as less intellectually capable students. Such a school system perpetuates class divisions, inequality and the control of some (those who supposedly use primarily their body) by others (those who supposedly use primarily their minds).

Although the author provides a summary of the historical roots of the split between the academic and the practical in schools and universities, he does not adequately explore the opposition of the integration of the practical arts into schools because of the fear of those who opposed turning schools into mere functions of the demands of particular sectors of employers.  Furthermore, he does not adequately address theoretically why Dewey considered manual skills as essential learning tools in schools and how his theory was materialized in practice in the Dewey School (or the University Laboratory School , as it was officially named).

Those who believe that equity and social justice can be confined to their particular classroom merely have to consider the relationship between the practical arts and the curriculum that they teach in their classrooms—and the curriculum taught by their fellow colleagues in the school where they work and in the schools of the division for whom they work. Are those students whose parents are in the lower socio-economic  ranks doing as well, in school terms, as those students whose parents are in the higher socio-economic ranks?

 

Fred