The Dark Side of the Fork

With grateful acknowledgment of Dominique Cimafranca’s mordant wit

I wrote a longish comment in reply to some of Dean Bocobo’s concerns regarding the spoon-and-fork scandal in Montreal, Canada. Because I am such a pack rat when it comes to putting words together, I thought I’d post an alert (or a warning!) here. (I hate anything, even words, going to waste.)

PS as of Friday, May 12, 4pm: Here is a copy of the Canadian school board’s statement, which I think is dated May 10; I got a copy in the mail today, from my brother in Canada. Download csmb_memo.pdf



Filed under Readings in Politics

4 responses to “The Dark Side of the Fork

  1. John:

    Care to make a little bet on this? As I have insinuated all along, when all is said and done, the issue here will boil down to how food was being masticated and ingested, and not because the boy used two metal utensils to deliver food to his mouth. Thus, the elicited comment about swine-like behavior.

    I have noticed that Westerners here tend to be either circumspect or maybe just coy about dealing with matters like this. If it can be avoided, they’d rather turn away. But in such a public environment, like a public school’s lunch room? Maybe they had to face up to it.

    In my blog entry about this issue, there is a revealing look into how your typical Westerner would like to deal with what he considers rude eating behavior – look away and stay away, if possible. I have seen this in action in the place I worked for for almost 20 years.

  2. Sorry, no bets! Journalism is already chancy as it is 🙂

  3. DJB

    Thanks for indulging me with a reply in the previous post, John. I was just going to point you to that School Board Statement which I actually saw on Dominique Cimafranca’s blog (Village Idiot Savant) earlier today.

    The French and English versions of this statement are now below. If the PDI Editorial Pigs in Canada had published the bolded part of the statement below, I would never have commented on its being one sided or one sourced.

    But I feel that I must concede to you in their entirety your points (4) and (5). We are indeed well within our rights to criticize others for faults we may or may not find in ourselves.

    But really, on first read, I was not sure that the editorial had kept its sense of proportion, and still suspect that the language difference involved between French and English could put a different color on even the “word for word” quotation of the school principal and lunch monitor. Which was, perforce in English, a translated word for word rendition. Now, as we all know, what was quoted in the editorial was quoted from another media source who quoted the mother who quoted the two French speaking officials of Ecole Lalande. Here however is what the School Board which includes Ecole Lalande had to say recently, first in French, then in English, (via Dominique):La Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys – CSMB – tient, par la présente, à assurer à ses 45 000 élèves, à leurs parents et aux citoyens de son territoire son plein respect des cultures, pratiques, us et coutumes de chacun. De fait, la CSMB compte des représentants de pas moins de 197 pays d’origine au sein de ses 88 établissements. Cette diversité nous emplit de fierté et constitue, au quotidien, à la fois une source d’émerveillement et une invitation au dépassement dans la cohabitation harmonieuse. La CSMB utilise également cet espace afin de supporter la direction et l’équipe-école de l’école primaire Lalande de l’arrondissement Pierrefonds/ Roxboro happées, au cours des dernières semaines, par le tumulte entourant la gestion d’une intervention éducative impliquant un élève, à l’heure du repas du midi.Tant la direction de l’établissement que le personnel de l’école Lalande se sont sentis et se sentent directement interpellés et blessés par les propos et les intentions qui leur ont été prêtés. Il importe également à la CSMB de rappeler que l’intervention éducative en question ne visait aucunement les pratiques d’une communauté culturelle. Elle était strictement et uniquement liée à la façon dont un enfant ingérait son repas, ce jour là; d’aucune façon à la méthode et aux ustensiles utilisés. La CSMB ayant offert aux parents de l’élève d’aborder l’éclaircissement des faits, des incompréhensions et des interprétations par la mise en place d’un dialogue, elle a par ailleurs choisi d’agir sobrement dans la gestion de ce dossier. D’abord, parce que la transmission d’informations relatives aux élèves placés sous sa responsabilité scolaire relève du bris de confidentialité. Ensuite, parce que le maintien à la fois d’un lien éducatif respectueux de l’enfant et d’une ouverture au dialogue avec les parents est demeuré et demeure une préoccupation de premier plan. En espérant que ces éléments sachent apporter un nouvel éclairage et assurer tous de notre plus grande considération. LE DIRECTEUR GÉNÉRAL, LA DIRECTRICE GÉNÉRALE ADJOINTE – ÉDUCATION PRÉSCOLAIRE

    Here is the English Translation:

    “To Students, Parents and Citizens, The Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys – CSMB – is writing this letter in order to reinsure its 45,000 students, their parents, and all the citizens within its territory that the School Board fully respects the culture, the customs and the practices of all its constituents. In fact, the CSMB has representatives from no less than 197 different countries attending its 88 different schools.We are very proud of this diversity, which not only represents a source of awe, but also a challenge to ensure our harmonious cohabitation on a daily basis. The CSMB would also like to use this space to support the principal, the staff and the school team of Lalande primary school in Pierrefonds/ Roxboro, who have been overwhelmed in the last few weeks by the turmoil caused by the way an educational intervention involving a student during the noon lunch hour was handled. Both the staff and the principal of the school felt and feel that they have been directly challenged and are hurt by the comments and the intentions that have been imputed against them. The CSMB must also point out that the educational intervention in question was not aimed in any way at the practices of any cultural community. It was strictly limited to the way a child was consuming lunch on that particular day and had nothing to do with the way of eating or the utensils used. The CSMB has invited the parents of the pupil to enter a dialogue to clarify the facts, the misunderstandings and the interpretations. It has wishes to intervene thoughtfully and soberly on this issue. It must first and foremost be remembered that the disclosure of any information regarding the students that have been entrusted to its charge may constitute a breach of confidentiality. Its overriding concern is to preserve a respectful educational link with the child and openness to dialogue with the parents. We trust that this information will shed light on the issue and demonstrate to all our sincere concern. EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ASSISTANT EXECUTIVE”

    If the editorial had quoted this statement along with the mother’s, I might not have commented on it at all. For here, it is quite clear, the entire school district stands behind its 88 schools that have to handle 197 different cultures and nationalities, including Ecole Lalande. They firmly deny that there was any cultural bias aimed at the entire Filipino culture embodied in young Luc Cagadoc.

    Btw can u imagine what it would be like to run a school with dozens of different nationalities (or even a 100)? I mean, chopsticks, forks and forks, knives and spoons, spoons and spoons and all kinds of unnatural combinations would have to be tolerated. It would be an animal sacrifice of reason to the god of politically correct cultural diversity. I think such a school district has the right to enforce some uniformity, even for logistical reasons.

    Regarding “the victim” however, I stand pat on the notion that we are too quick to assume that position, if not necessarily for our newspaper or blog, why for some poor oppressed brethren of ours.

    Heck, in da Pilipins, the teachers feed kids like Luc pencil shavings, di ba? (parity rights on international criticism). And yet they die of parental neglect, even then.

    They’re real good sports around here at the Newsstand though!

    Thanks John. I gotta look at points 1-3 some more…

  4. DJB

    Regarding the West Island Chronicle article that you claim has not been contravened, look at this post on a Filipino California forum that indicates the word PIG might not actually have been used, certainly not as the PDI and imitators linkers used it. Also a rather graphic description of Luc stuffing his mouth full of food and making the other children laugh:

    Instead of jumping to conclusions like we did and rather than becoming mad at everyone and everything – Veritas1911 (a member of a Fil-Am forum that I moderate) did the most reasonable thing; find out more information before passing judgment. Although right now, nothing is concretely resolved but rather it’s more of a “he-said-she-said” deal – at least it is now safe to assume that this fiasco has more to do with bad communication and misinformation than complete racism if there was even any. So before anyone shoots their mouths off – know what you are talking about first. Merde!

    Originally written by Veritas1911

    I didn’t sleep well last night. As a father of a second grade boy myself, it disturbed me to hear how that little boy was treated. On the surface at least, this appears to be a blatant disrespect to the Filipino community. So, this morning, I cleared my meetings to make a few phone calls.

    First, I called the Commission Scolaire Marguerite Bourgeoy, school board for the Quebec area, to talk to Brigitte Gauvreau who is the spokesman for the CSMB. Second, I called Ecole Lalande primary school to talk to Normand Bergeron who is the principal of the school. Last, I called The Chronicle to talk with Andy Blatchford the reporter of the article. In all cases, I only got voice mail. I left my contact information and let all know that the Filipino community around the world is watching this with great interest.

    So I get a phone call back from the CSMB school board and talked at great length with France Pilon, Vice Director General for the CSMB. I suspect the principal called the CSMB spokesman and the spokesman called her boss when I left voicemail messages. I spoke freely and candidly about my concerns of what appeared to many the suppression of Filipino ethnic and cultural practices not to mention my concerns around the poor handling of this issue by the educators of the school.

    She assured me that the accounts that were written in the newspaper are grossly inaccurate. The use of the word “Pig” was never used by the principal (according to him) but admits she was not there. The disciplinary action of separation from other students did happen by the monitor but was a result of the boy’s behavior not the use of utensils in our Filipino way. According to her, the boy was in a hurry and was stuffing food in his mouth. Food was getting all over him, the floor and other students who were watching and laughing. She was quick to point out that the boy has been in this school for three years and in that time not once was he ever disciplined for how he used his spoon and fork. She also points out that the school system comprises of anywhere between 50-60% immigrants representing at least 30 countries and that the system respects all cultures.

    In Ms. Pilon’s belief, communication is partly to be blamed as well. On one hand we have a heavy French-speaking community (most I spoke with spoke to me in French first and later with not the best English). And on the other hand they have a newspaper that wants to sell. The mother speaks very little French I was told as well.

    At this point, without speaking to the principal and the reporter and even the mother, I don’t have a complete picture. I do question the media and at the same time I think the Vice Director General has to defend her board. Regardless, I think we need to all keep on our guard when there’s even a hint of ethnic or cultural suppression in my humble opinion and question it aggressively and to hold others accountable to at least explain themselves.

    I’ve yet to get a phone call back from the newspaper or the school. If I do, I’ll let you know.

    If you’d like to call to make some “noise,” here are a few key numbers.

    France Pilon – CSMB Vice Director General – 514-855-4500
    Normand Bergeron – Ecole Lalande Principal – 514-855-4238
    Andy Blatchford – The Chronicle Reporter – 514-685-4690

    Regarding the empirically observable effect (“the meme effect”) of the “Pigs In Canada” editorial, one only needs to peruse the proliferating titles in the blogosophere that reference, link to, or are otherwise progeny of the editorial:(google search for “ecole lalande pig”)
    “Who’s the Pig” – Sun Star

    “Pinoy’s Eat Like Pigs?!” — Pinoy Pundit

    “The Pinoy Who Ate With a Spoon”

    “You Guys Know What Should Be Done To Those Racist Pigs” — ClikMoMukamo
    “Now please explain how a pig can use a fork and spoon…”

    Perhaps a follow up editorial to set things straight and put a damper on the proliferating Art Bell effect would be in order.

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