Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Do We Need A New Political Literacy? Part 1

I take much comfort in reading the political views expressed by many members of Progressive Bloggers, giving me as it does a sense of community, shared purpose and the knowledge that passion for politics and love of our country is alive and well.

Nonetheless, I cannot help but be discouraged by poll results showing strong ongoing support for the Harper Conservative Government, despite its regular and unapologetic attacks on what many of us see as the fundamentals of democracy and good governance.

While there is hardly a need to provide a comprehensive list of those attacks, a few of the more recent and egregious examples will serve to illustrate that my antipathy toward this government goes well beyond philosophical disagreements:

- The request by the opposition members for the Afghan detainee documents was met by deep resistance and cries of confidentiality. Even a ruling by the Speaker of the House ordering those documents be made available was met with an unsatisfactory compromise, foolishly accepted by The Liberal Party.

= The unnecessary proguing of Parliament by Stephen Harper to avoid defeat of his Government in the House was a gross misuse of privilege, sadly abetted by former Governor-General Michelle Jean

- The contempt shown to Parliament by speaking lies about the need to reform the Census with the claim that many hundreds had complained about its intrusive nature when, in fact, there might have been no more than a dozen objections.

- The refusal by the Government to permit Ministers' aides to testify before Parliamentary Committees, despite the fact that the latter have the power to compel such testimony.
The entire tissue of lies surrounding the cessation of funding to KAIROS by Bev Oda.

I have asked myself why, despite these serious offences, they are dismissed so readily by so many. Of course, there are several combinations of possible answers, ranging from people's inertia, indifference to, or alienation from the political process to being too busy working and maintaining a family life to have the time for such concerns. I wonder, though, if there might be an additional factor at work: an ignorance of and therefore an inability to understand the very principles that are the foundations of our government.

We hear many cries coming from government and business that it is time to teach financial literacy at a young age so that people can avoid falling into crippling debt in the future. While I don't disagree with that notion, in my mind of equal if not greater importance is the imparting of a kind of political literacy by our schools that will help to bring about a more knowledgeable and engaged citizenry.

In future posts, I will try to suggest what such a model might look like, and some of the changes that would be necessary to bring this about.

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