idealism politics

Ayn Rand Institute on the Dole

Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand

Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum, or Ayn Rand, as you may or may not know, is an atheist responsible for extolling her invented philosophy called “objectivism”, as detailed in her doorstopper work of fiction called Atlas Shrugged. Her nonfiction works included titles such as “The Virtue of Selfishness” and “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal”. While objectivism never worked as a serious branch of philosophy, her philosophy of “what’s good for ‘me’ is good for mankind” resonated with those invested in capitalism. In recent decades many in American government saw it as a way of promoting themselves to say that they had read Ayn Rand. By far the most notable American politician who claims to have read any of her works is American congressman Paul Ryan, who claims it formed the basis of his entire political career, according to a speech he made to the Atlas Institute in 2005, the 100th anniversary of Ayn’s birth. Senator Rand Paul, contrary to rumors, wasn’t named after Ayn’s pen surname (his full name is actually Randal Paul, with one “l”), but is also another big fan of the late Ms. Rand since his teen years. Both elected officials extoll “free markets” and decry “socialism” in all of its forms, in the spirit of Ayn Rand. Another prominent supporter of Ayn Rand was Alan Greenspan, who chaired the Federal reserve between 1987 and 2006. None of these people have any significant background in philosophy.

Ayn was in the twilight years of her life ironically making use of medicare and social security after suffering from medical problems related to her smoking habit. She died in 1982 at age 77.

A week ago, Reuters reported that the Ayn Rand Institute was among those who applied for the American government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which under the current pandemic, gives it access to up to 1 million dollars of government money. It is indeed ironic that an institute dedicated to “ending the welfare state” would find it within their philosophy to actually embrace the welfare state as they do here. Oh, and they embrace this wholeheartedly, making it a “matter of moral principle”. The argument is roughly: because we pay taxes, we therefore must all apply for any handouts we can get our hands on as a form of restitution for the theft of taxation. On the other hand, those who support the welfare state have no right to claim such access to handouts, since they are in support of theft (taxation), and therefore lack any moral justification to be so compensated. This means that, according to the website, the fault lies in the contradictions of the welfare state, and not in the Ayn Rand institute, who merely claim what was taken from them.

It is very convenient that members of the Ayn Rand Institute do not feel the need for living up to their own convictions. The institute is not out to make a profit; indeed it is a right-wing think tank that receives private donations, and as such it is registered in Irvine, California as a nonprofit organization (under tax code 501(c)(3)), thus avoiding taxation altogether. It has no real moral claim to restitution of any such government thievery, since nothing was ever taken from them. Nope. They’re just sponging off the government.

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The new OCT designation (Ontario Certified Teacher)

I have seen the OCT promo video (looks expensively done) that justifies the new letters which are touted to put me on some kind of a footing with doctors and engineers, and others who pay exorbitant fees to have letters placed after their name, like FRCP, and so on. In this designation, “OCT” stands for “Ontario Certified Teacher.” OCT also stands for the Ontario College of Teachers, so it can be a bit confusing.

The promo was received by teachers without a single positive comment that I could find. But in the defense of the OCT, there are some things about the designation that I think would set me apart from say mom or dad who may decide on a whim to give their own children credit courses. The OCT accreditation, to me, says that I am qualified to give credit, I know my ethics, and I can deliver it fairly and with confidence that your kid will be prepared for further education in the career of their choice. Someone with no designation has no such guarantee, and they can’t award credit anyway. It means that both public and private schools can’t just hire anyone off the street, they have to have an OCT crtificate also.  Anyone teaching any high school credit from Calculus to Cosmetology will need this.

But they always have, since the college was first started in 1996. The new letters after my name which they encourage me to use will change nothing. It also hasn’t stopped school boards from hiring “emergency supply” teachers (teachers with no such certs, and often no union representation), or from hiring fulltime teachers from “off the street”, and certifying them later. It also doesn’t appear to stop the growing practice of universities and colleges offering high school credits, and using entirely non-accredited staff to deliver them, even as entirely accredited (and horribly underfunded) adult schools exists all across Ontario with certified teachers in its classrooms.

But since its inception in 1996, the Ontario College of Teachers have acted more like the policing arm of the Ontario government more than an upholder of standards. If they were really serious about teaching standards, then they ought to vigorously defend our profession from practices mentioned above. But they don’t. However, they make a big deal out of taking teachers to court and of publicising the fact in their Professionally Speaking publication (many teachers know them as The Blue Pages). I am not against taking legal action against teachers to defend and uphold a standard for professional ethics, but I am against the “public hanging” approach that is taken by the publication of their names and locations in the Blue Pages. I don’t need to know the names of anyone buy cheap tramadol overnight being found guilty of some abuse of power or other.  I don’t even want to know that it’s happening, unless it is a major social issue. It only serves to demoralize. It would be better, if ethics are such a big deal (and I agree it is), to educate us on ethics in a positive way, if that is the supposed lesson of these blue pages.

The Ontario College of Teachers was formed on an act of the Harris government in 1996, called “The Ontario College of Teachers Act.” Many teachers at the time felt that the OCT was imposed on them, against their wishes, serving only a coercive role.

The link to the YouTube promo is festooned with teachers calling for the banning of the Blue Pages and even an end to the College of Teachers, which seem to serve no useful purpose. One colleague quipped to me that our College fees are being used to finance their lawsuits against us. They are also used to finance a large office building near Bloor and Yonge, which will soon be owned outright by the College, thanks to our fee payments, which we have all paid on time like good little soldiers. Meanwhile the other tenant, who obviously is not making as much money (Alliance Atlantis!) is going to have to find another place to set up.

I have a vision for the OCT that they will not, and cannot, justify themselves as a policing arm of the government, because we pay the dues. In that vein, I can forsee a major change in the role of the OCT, in that it can and should separate itself from the government and become an independent body. That way, it can have the teeth to monitor and do something about government decisions that lead to the watering down of standards, such as allowing non-certified teachers to teach credit courses as they do in the college and university system. That should be regarded the same as allowing a non-certified doctor to treat a patient, or an uncertified engineer to build a bridge. If we don’t do the latter, then we shouldn’t be allowed to do the former. At the same time, it can monitor abuses of power among teachers as before, but I don’t need the constant reminders in The Blue Pages. If I am really interested, I can go to OCT’s professional library and check it out. Or maybe they can give me login access to such filthy details. But I don’t feel that the Blue Pages makes me a better teacher. But the OCT designation? Well, I see possibilities, but the OCT has to change its emphasis.