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Surveillance: a Liberal Perspective

by Cosmin Dzsurdzsa

PM hopeful Justin Trudeau has propelled himself into the spotlight once again. Arriving at the SLC on the 10th of September, he was greeted to a liberal cheer-fest. Already a better public speaker than during his leadership debates; his rhetoric is almost as well-groomed as his hairstyle (almost). I entered a crowd of fan-boys-and-girls alike, just in time for question period. This was my first vocal encounter with a national politician and unfortunately for him, I had come somewhat prepared.

I was eager to ask a question regarding national surveillance and government data collection, but somebody beat me to it. It was time for me to improvise and revise. The question asked was along the lines of will the government’s involvement continue in data collection programs. Justin’s answer in a nutshell: yes, more than ever.

He did mention civilian oversight in government decision making (something Harper has almost entirely cut out of the democratic process) and the importance of a continued discussion about the issue. Not laws or reform, just discussion, more particularly discussion between corporations (such as social media giants) and the government. His mention of corporations was an interesting one, but still nonetheless a failure to address the underlying problem.

It is well known that Google and social media websites knows an uncomfortable amount of information about us. His point was: that businesses use this information to generate a profit for their shareholders, not like our benevolent government who uses it for our own ‘security’. He continued to say that the government has a responsibility to ensure our security in a wider world due to an exposure to risk. A lot of talk about discussion, yet he failed to actually discuss the issue at hand.

When we sign up to any website or agree to use a service online, we are presented with a document called the “terms and conditions”. Although, many of us fail to read this document, it is widely available on all major platforms. In the terms and conditions, a lot of legal terminology is used to explain what kind of data they collect from you and how it’s being put to use. If I understand correctly, when you enter a voting booth, or become a citizen of this country, we are not presented with a terms and conditions as to what is being done in the name of our security and what sort of methods we are subject to. No, we have to hear it from somebody else, like our friendly neighborhood, Edward Snowden.

I politely raised my hand and after he commented on my tie (it was a nice tie, thank you), I asked him exactly this, “You said civilians approve to the collection of information by corporations and the government has a responsibility of security to the population. But as I understand, when you sign up on FB and social media, you approve to a terms and conditions. How would civilian oversight, show us the terms and conditions to our government surveillance and data collection?” Now, I was expecting an evasion but not to the magnitude he gave me.

A slight frown appeared on his face and in a defensive tone he cut me down in a single sentence. I couldn’t have been happier about the answer; it was exactly what I wanted. More than I wished for actually, it was a gift to solidify my disdain for big party politics. According to Trudeau, if you vote a particular party into government, you approve to whatever measures they take to ensure your security. So there you have it voters, if you vote Liberal, you approve of continued data collection.

I was surprised by the bluntness of his answer and can only think that it was the only question he was hoping to avoid, but maybe I’m giving myself too much credit. Maybe I just have a personal vendetta towards Justin Trudeau for rejecting my smartly worded questionings. My ego was defeated in the face of such a political giant and superstar, a distinguished veteran in the area of meet and greets. Regardless of my own opinion, when will we as Canadian people have an option to vote for somebody that offers actual change regarding issues that affect all of us? When will we as Canadians have the right to not be subjects of intrusive data collection methods by our own government? Justin, we are not the threat here, you and the government you support is.

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Learning without suffering

Author: Vismit Joshi

Have you ever asked yourself “”Why do most students abhor university?”” or “”Does university, especially at the post-secondary level, really teach anything to students?”” or” “What is the whole purpose of real learning and are today’’s schools fulfilling that purpose?”” In this complicated world that we call home, a world filled with dark pasts, politics, rigid norms, and corruption, the answers to these questions are simple but at the same time difficult to understand for some people.

Lectures … do you secretly feel that they are an unproductive way to learn? Or that in today’’s fast-paced and rigid curriculum you can’’t truly learn something or remember it once exams are over? Or that you wish school was a bit more satisfying and joyful? Or that you had more to your school memories than just movies, hanging out, and complaining about school? No one really talks about these things because we have all come to accept the education system as the norm, just as we undeniably accept life and death.

Do you realize how much of an impact the education system has on our world? It determines the quality of engineers, doctors, psychologists, scientists, artists, teachers, and even politicians that we will get in the future. It is that fundamental. Realize that everything starts with education.
The truth is that the education model we use today has long expired. What we consider the modern model of education was created about 150 for a world that had a smaller population, lower dependence on advanced knowledge, and different priorities. Back then, the goal was to teach children to read and write so that they could become factory workers, farmers, or sometimes academics – —who would go on to learn further if they chose. I define academics as people whose sincere passion is to study, research, and draft reports of their discoveries so that the world can use their knowledge. And these academics went to university. And it was perfect. University was the perfect place for academics, and the rest of the system worked as well.

But today, our world has transformed significantly. Our priorities as humans have changed. However, nothing about the way we teach our children has changed. No matter how much technological bling we add to our classrooms, students still find themselves copying text from a 2-D surface and superficially demonstrating their skills by filling out an exam paper. What’’s worse is that most students go to university or college in order to become artists, athletes, businesspeople, doctors, engineers, and manual workers. But we just determined that universities are only meant for academics, not for people who want to do practical things in the world. I am not conveying that learning in general is not meant for practical people. I want to let you know that we have had the wrong image of what a university is, all along! Students must learn what is necessary to pursue their dream, but that place may not be university for most people because the purpose of a university is something different.

There are many problems with today’’s teaching and learning methods. I will not state all problems because you have most likely experienced them as a student. I can say from my experience that today’’s school educate students inefficiently. Knowledge has grown, but the timeframe in which we teach our children using this inefficient approach has not. Also, there exists very less actual learning and a lot of institutional torture and policy politics in a student’s daily life. For instance, no person ever becomes truly successful by doing what today’’s education system asks you to do: attend class and score high marks on exams. One has to join extra-curricular activities, practice their passion at home, participate in conferences, and take a lot of initiative. Most of the time, successful people— – namely Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg – —have had to “”hack”” the education system in order to do what they really wanted. Now we are starting to see how the whole structure starts to crumble.

Our students need a temple (no dramatic effect intended) of skill-development which does not exist today. We need it badly because yes, this is an emergency. It is an emergency because students feel trapped and frustrated, happiness is not a priority in today’’s learning, and education is seen as an industrial process rather than an organic one, and you know this if you’’ve ever been a student. So let us begin to look at learning in a new, more correct perspective and tell ourselves that learning is beautiful and that students’ lives – —especially of those who study engineering —must – not be hindered and crippled by the gross view our policy-makers have of excellence and success.