Monday, December 31, 2012

How to not teach physics

No one learns physics from being taught physics. Therefore, the best way to teach physics is to not teach physics.

It took me twenty years of teaching university physics to finally learn this about teaching physics.

I would kill myself trying to explain the concepts, patiently and step by step, repeating and re-casting, and on and on. I would grasp any sign as a proof that my efforts were being rewarded. I would read books about teaching and about interesting demonstrations, and go through all the stages of improving my method.

But, in the end, there was a final exam, which I had painstakingly tried to make as clear and as graded in difficulty as possible, to allow all to answer to some degree. And then I would look at the examination papers for hours, for days, for weeks, looking for evidence that someone had understood something or could communicate some idea that showed something about physics...

Or even just show me that they had understood my question. I told my students that if they could explain the question, explain what it was about, something about the conceptual context, then they would pass.

And, well, year after year, I found that no one learned anything from my courses. The few exceptions who did well on the final examination would have done equally well, in terms of understanding and reasoning, on the first day of class, and learned what they learned from engaging on their own terms with the subject, not from my classroom presentations and antics.

And half-way through I found that there was a whole research area called "physics education research" (PER) which proved that the students really do not learn anything, no matter what traditional methods are used. And the PER researchers tried to refine methods that were expected to work better. So I tried several of these. But I found that there were no improved results, not really.

I still had a sense that students were not getting it, not understanding the concepts, and not caring about the ideas. Even if I trained them to describe the concepts with proper words and alerted them to the importance of understanding the concepts, still nothing. Even if they got better at answering multiple-choice problems, still nothing really. Even if they could do the math to get good answers by practicing a lot with similar problems. Most who could, could do all this without ever really learning anything.

I mean, how many students sit down and figure things out? And which method catalyses such behaviour? How does reasoning develop in a life of artificial stimuli?

So I thought: "They don't learn from being taught. That's the mega-lie. So let me try not teaching. I mean really not teaching. Go in the other direction to let the learning do the walking..."

It's frightening when you first think of it because you might not know all the material you are not going to teach. You can't even predict what material you don't know that you are going to have to not teach. Frightening.

But I was so tired of living the lie that I decided to swallow my fear and boldly move forward. And this is what I did in my introductory university physics course, winter 2007. Little did I know, it was going to be the last time I would be allowed the privilege of "teaching" first-year physics students.

I told the students to close their books and not read them, unless they thought they might find something of interest in there that they wanted to know. I told them they could look anywhere they wanted and ask anyone questions to find what they wanted.

I told them that first we needed to figure out what was worth knowing, and what it means to know.

I got blank stares. They worried about how they would be graded in such a system. They wondered what I really meant and what did I want them to do. But they gave me a chance and, luckily, I didn't know what I was doing, so it was quite authentic.

So I said: "Let's see. There must be every day things that we want to know, that we can understand...? Things we are curious about?"

They couldn't find any. Some of them said they had a lot of work to do in their other classes so they did not want me to be too demanding. Many shared that view. But as the conversation continued and as it became clear that, well, it was a conversation; they relaxed. But they still could not think of anything they wanted to know, beyond the latest homework in the other courses. Sad really.

So I said: "Why is the sky blue?" "No really, how does that work?"

Well many of them had heard something about that in high school so we started a class-wide discussion about how and why the sky is blue. And for every answer that did not quite work, we were able to find a flaw in the answer, or a dead-end, where the word answer was not really explaining anything beyond "something something".

I told them that it maybe had something to do with why the evening sky can be red and also asked why clouds are white, when they are not red.

So this led us to what is light...? Now you can spend a lot of focused time asking yourself what light is if you want to know why the sky is blue. So I discovered... I helped them see, through questions, what it was to truly know or understand something versus just repeat the words...  that they could search and explore and critique themselves. So they did.

To achieve this, however, I needed to boldly risk humiliating or challenging or teasing or pushing each one of them, at various times, with a "Really?" "How do you explain that?" "Does that make sense to you?" And others would come to the rescue with "He means this I think..." or "No, that can't be because...".

And they could see that I really enjoyed the conversation and that, well, I was a good person even though I was frightening, in a good way. So we developed a relationship in physical phenomena. And well things just took off. There were almost fifty of them. They researched on their own and brought new ideas back to class.

We moved from topic to topic and never really finished anything. A very difficult one was "Why is it cold on mountain tops?" That question is rich with possibilities. I mean rich. And, is it hot in a deep mine shaft?

We learned about molecules, electromagnetic waves, perception, ... always coming back to things we wanted to know. And we kept explaining it to each other to test if we really understood. And we did simple calculations to see if it made sense. And, well, if you pardon the expression: No child was left behind!

The teacher assistant (TA) was asked to fully participate and observe the classroom dynamics and individual reactions, rather than do mindless grading of cookie cutter assignments. She was fascinated by the positive student reaction to the experiment and left physics soon after to do education, something she already loved.

The students were bringing their friends into class and telling their parents in glowing terms about the physics course.

And we had a final examination. And, honestly, it was like no final examination I had ever seen before. It was the opposite of depressing and fun to grade. It was full of intelligence and independent thought and evidence of significant research. I had a sense that the students had understood things, could explain them, and owned their knowledge.

I went back to the previous year's examinations and saw a huge difference. I lent the two piles of examinations to the TA and she concurred that, yes, there was a significant qualitative improvement that could not be denied.

Now know that I was not comparing "bad" teaching to "anything would be better than that". I was considered one of the best traditional method teachers, by the usual standards. So I was comparing certified bad teaching to something much better.

That was the only year that I felt I had done a good job in first-year physics. And they never let me teach introductory physics again, after twenty years. As soon as I figured out how to make it work, they deprived me of practicing my hard-earned trade. And I was fired from my tenured full professorship two years later, under the false pretext of fraudulent grading in one advanced physics course (LINK)(LINK). The latter was a separate course at the fourth-year and graduate levels, given in 2008 using the same kind of pedagogical method, and the circumstances of the institution's reaction are described in this 2008 TV-Ontario video interview: HERE.

I found out several years later that the chairman of physics wrote to the dean of science that he had heard I was doing something unusual in my 2007 first-year course and that the dean should probably know about it. They never asked me about it or brought it up during that magical year of not teaching first-year physics.

I would have been pleased to tell them about my discovery: Avoid all teaching. Class time is too precious to waste on such a numbing activity.

Other essays by Denis Rancourt are here: LINK.

The web site to Rancourt's new book "Hierarchy and free expression in the fight against racism" is here: LINK.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Exactly 54 years ago today

Paris. 22 December 1958.

Everything seems to confirm a single observation: we are living fake lives, absurd lives in today's cities. Nothing actually exists of these so-called "acts" and "opinions" of ours. Truly important decisions are made beyond our observation, beyond the control of ordinary citizens. Everything we see is fake, a stage drowned in movie fog. We come and go like puppets in search of their own strings.

I long to send this message to a wiser man somewhere in time, far away: "You should know that down here we are managed, surveyed, and classified like insects by police and publicity men, or simply by the mechanical stupidity of our own bureaucracy."

Slowly, revolt after revolt, torture after torture, this earth will eventually emerge into its true history. In the meantime I am eager to learn what is outside all these events, I want to see the mechanism beyond time itself.

- Jacques Vallee (age 19)
Source: HERE, from a comment on this blog.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Self-represented litigant discovers the truth about the "justice system"

My name is Denis Rancourt. I am self-represented in a $1 million defamation lawsuit against me. The lawsuit is described HERE. And many of the legal documents are posted HERE.

The lawsuit has been on-going since the Statement of Claim was filed on June 23, 2011. I filed my Statement of Defence on July 22, 2011.

Since that time, some twenty four (24) motions (or mini-trials) have been filed in the action.

For the first time in my life, after a 23-year career as a university physics professor, I had to stand in front of a judge, over and over again, and try to be heard and understood. I had to write legal documents of all kinds, and learn the complex rules of litigation, on-the-go, always in a rush, as best I could.

For the first time in my life I was aggressively cross-examined out-of-court, without a lawyer, and did the best I could to preserve my rights. For the first time in my life, I had to cross-examine witnesses, five in a row in three days, and then more. I had to cross-examine the university president who fired me, the dean of a law faculty, and lawyers.

I learned about the grand principle known as the "open court principle" (said to be a Charter right) and how it does not apply, by some twisted logic on the mobius strip of legal "principles", to out-of-court cross-examinations where it would be most needed, where the bright light of public scrutiny would be most beneficial.

I learned that there are rules, but that these rules are not followed, and that the judge can make up all the rules he/she wants in order to achieve "a fair and efficient administration of justice": HERE.

I learned that, contrary to the the judicial mantra of "objectivity", at first instance the whole exercise is one of weighing the relative power and status of the opposing parties.

If there is somewhat of a balance in power and status of the opposing parties, then the court becomes an arbitration process to find the compromise that is least likely to be appealed to a higher court or to be negatively criticized within the legal establishment.

If there is a significant imbalance in power and status of the opposing parties, then the court becomes an outright instrument to maintain and strengthen the said imbalance, to preserve "the order of things", and to preserve the reputations and statuses of the illustrious members of the legal establishment (judges and lawyers) involved in the choreographed mobbing that will unfold.

The noncompliant element is processed by the system, using the full force of public (in-court) intimidation, enforcible exorbitant cost orders (for every "failed" step in the process), threats of contempt of court (a criminal offence), direct management of the litigant's time for preparation, and so on.

Public (and/or media) interest in the case provides some protection, but only to the extent that the thus exposed "processing" might impact intra-establishment reputations and statuses of the mobbers, or is perceived by the legal establishment to unacceptably put the entire "justice system in disrepute", thereby making maintaining "the order of things" more difficult.

I may be totally in error in my observations and perceptions and I may have learned false conclusions, but this is what I have learned. (It is a sad state of society that I must add the latter sentence, which is an obvious truism about learning.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How easily a genocide can be ignored

This is a stunning video about the well-documented NATO genocide in Iraq that killed one million children, for racist geopolitical gain. The video is made by surviving North American aboriginal freedom fighters, who know something about genocide.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Rancourt blasts the Canadian judiciary on Progressive Radio Network USA -- Radio interview

PRN (October 19, 2012; 11:00 EST) Denis Rancourt gave a riveting live interview with radio host Stephen Lendman, based on his personal experiences with the Canadian courts as a self-represented defendant in a private lawsuit funded from public money by the University of Ottawa...:::

Saturday, October 13, 2012

CLASSE analysis of Quebec student movement tactics

The Coalition large de l'Association pour une solidarité syndicale étuduantes (CLASSE) is a vibrant and inspiring non-hierarchical student activist collective that, more than any other group, catalyzed and ran the revolutionary "Maple Spring" ("Printemps érable") which recently shook Québec society and its political elites. It is the largest student union in Québec. This year, it engineered the largest, longest, and arguably most effective student strike in Québec (and Canadian) history.

One must admire this organic, yet disciplined and thoughtful organization. It has shown North America how unity and persistence can halt a government agenda. Nonetheless, I wish to make a critique of its "working principles", which can be surmised from its 2012 Manifesto.

There is a major critical flaw in the CLASSE's analysis about education.

The CLASSE takes education to be a "service" and argues that the point of justice is accessibility of this essential service. Its struggle is thereby focused on securing equitable access to education as a vital societal service, by making an analogy with health services (see CLASSE Manifesto).

This is equivalent to arguing that justice is being exploited fairly.

The CLASSE is making a fatal flaw of paradigm assignment since its assignment prevents the student from correctly seeing herself/himself as a worker, through her/his work within and constrained by the educational complex. The student is not a patient accessing a service. The student is a citizen being forced by economic "reality" to be processed by an institution -- in the same way that a laborer is forced to sell her/his labour and be processed into a life of productivity, except that the laborer is paid rather than being extorted into paying.

If the student were simply a free paying client, then this student-client could choose to buy or not buy the service, and could determine the nature of the service through her/his buying power.

Such is not the case. Rather, the student is an unpaid and exploited worker, a slave that is forced to buy her/his own freedom. The chains are the debt load and the coercion is the real social/financial/class status that is sought through being processed by the educational system for further (higher level) service to the economy.

If the student were simply a free and paying purchaser of a service, then the problem of government impositions would be solved by simply withholding payment! If students could survive and/or thrive in the economic "reality" without education credentials, then mass non-payments of fees would solve any dispute between the purchaser and provider of the educational "service".

After all, it is the student that must write the cheque. Yet students absolutely do not have this option. They must instead use the less effective pressure tactic of a strike. The fact that the strike is the effective tactical option of the circumstances shows that the student is a worker and that the "education" is an intrinsic component of the economic structure and activity.

Why do students accept slavery, degrading and dehumanizing work conditions, no salary, and confinement via a debt load which persists into mid life? Paulo Freire would say "because the slave cannot see that he is a slave" [1].

Students should be striking for a fair salary and to define their working conditions. No fees. No students loans. And no need for another job. Period. There is a desperate need for student liberation [1]. Abolitionism or bust! And that would be an education.


[1] See: "Need for and practice of student liberation" by Denis G. Rancourt, Activist Teacher, June 2010.

Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He practiced several areas of science which were funded by a national agency and ran an internationally recognized laboratory. He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals and many social commentary essays. He developed popular activism courses and was an outspoken critic of the university administration and a defender of student and Palestinian rights. He was fired for his dissidence in 2009.

Friday, August 31, 2012

An analysis of the Hackland ruling in Guergis v. Novak et al.

By Prof. Anatole French

Professor of Laws
Law Society of Up Canada University
Capital City
Ontario  K1S A5S

[Guest blogger]

As a legal academic, I have been called upon to review the recent (August 24, 2012, ruling of Regional Senior Justice Charles T. Hackland of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in the matter of Guergis v. Novak et al., and to articulate my review in plain language understandable by a discerning public. Senior academics such as myself have academic tenure, which is why we frequently provide cutting edge criticisms of current court rulings of public interest where others, such as journalists and their editors, might not be so daring.

The main facts in the case, concerning Prime Minister Stephen Harper, are simple. The Prime Minister, through his senior officer Mr. V. Raymond Novak, Principle Secretary, wrote to the RCMP to suggest that a criminal investigation be made of, at the time, Member of Parliament, Minister, and member of the caucus of the Conservative Party of Canada, Helena Guergis. The letter alleged: an existence of evidence relevant to fraud, extortion, and prostitution, that the writer and the PMO did not have first-hand knowledge of the said evidence, that a named third party (private investigator Derrick Snowdy) was available to provide the said evidence, and that the PMO had not communicated directly with Mr. Snowdy.

The RCMP found no evidence worthy of acting upon, did not even question Guergis, and closed the case. If the allegations in the Novak letter had any truth then the RCMP’s reaction should be of great concern to all Canadians.

The plaintiff (Guergis) claims that the entire episode was designed to impair her reputation sufficiently to remove her and/or justify her removal from all her positions, including her party candidacy in the Electoral District of Simcoe-Grey.

On the face of it, the plaintiff’s claim is not outlandish. If it can be proven then the actions of the defendants would constitute a conspiracy to harm, and other torts including defamation and misfeasance in public office. That is, if the claim can be proved, then there was illegal behaviour on the part of the defendants and just remedy to the plaintiff should follow.   

This was a (Harper et al.) defendant’s motion to strike the (Guergis) plaintiff’s pleadings (or claim to the Court). Therefore, the question before the Court was: Assuming the plaintiff’s alleged facts to be true, should the claim be allowed to proceed, in that it could possibly lead to some just remedy in law? In legal jargon: “The court must assume that the alleged facts can be proven, and ask whether it is “plain and obvious” that the Statement of Claim discloses no reasonable cause of action?”

To the lay person, it is obvious that of course the action should be allowed to proceed, in order for justice to be found. Ah, but the legal landscape in the eyes of Justice Hackland is sufficiently rocky for there to be a deep enough crevice that this action should never see the light of day…

Hackland’s argument is as follows. A decision of a Prime Minister to can a Minister, remove a party candidate, and so on, is a decision for which the Prime Minister is not answerable to the courts. It is a political decision, the merits of which cannot be questioned by the courts. This established principle is called “Crown Prerogative” or, depending on the type of decision, “Parliamentary Privilege”.

Since the decisions at issue were entirely protected under say Parliamentary Privilege, Hackland argues, then the Court has no jurisdiction to examine the circumstances or reasons for the decisions and the case should not be heard: The pleadings must be struck.

Hackland argues that to allow a Prime Minister’s privileged decisions to be questioned in the courts on the basis of mere allegations of illegal behaviour would render the principle of say Parliamentary Privilege meaningless and, therefore, the practical operation of the legislature impossible. To the lay person, this would mean that illegal behaviour as part of a Prime Minister exercising his/her privileged authority is not subject to the rule of law.

Hackland arrives at this nonsensical conclusion by lack of discernment. A correct analysis would discern all the legitimate political dimensions of a Prime Minister’s privileged decisions, which cannot be questioned by the courts under the true principle of Parliamentary Privilege, from any illegal components of a Prime Minister’s privileged decisions, which must be subject to the rule of law. In this correct analysis, the just remedy may or may not include reversals of decisions, even if the illegal behaviour is proved. But the plaintiff has a right that other remedies also be considered in order to achieve justice.

There is no case law that states that illegal behaviour, involving the misuse of a public officer’s power and influence, can be shielded from the court’s consideration using Parliamentary Privilege. The case law cited by Justice Hackland (Canada (House of Commons) v. Vaid) is consistent with a Parliamentary Privilege which protects political and legislative executive decisions from judicial review, not a Parliamentary Privilege which shields executives from the law in performing illegal acts.

To this observer, Hackland’s error of discernment and broad brush approach depriving the plaintiff of access to justice is so egregious that it needs to be questioned in the public sphere. Such questioning, in Canada, is protected by a Charter guarantee to the Open Court Principle and constitutes an exercise of democracy.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On the individual psychology of food: Against calorie management

By Denis G. Rancourt

Modern society is structured as a highly stratified dominance hierarchy. The present superior global human hierarchy is maintained -- in its depth and breadth -- by advanced transportation, communication, information, and military technologies, and is unprecedented in the hundred million year history of mammalian life on the planet. Consequently, the degree of top-down control of the individual, in his/her every thought and attitude, is also unprecedented, whether conscious or not.

The latter control is essential for maintaining the hierarchy against the destabilizing natural impulses for individual freedom and for individual influence in local community. Independence must be actively suppressed and individual health, which is premised on independence, is always sacrificed for the benefit of maintaining and increasing hierarchical control [1].

Consequently, individual health is a problem for hierarchy and is only allowed in (self) indoctrinated individuals, to the degree that the indoctrination is seamless.The main determinant factor of individual health is the individual's perceived position or status within the dominance hierarchy, which is often largely determined by the individual's actual position within the dominance hierarchy [2]. This perceived position is, in turn, fundamentally a question of the individual's self-image of utility, place, and power.

Since the individual can only have utility, place, and power as prescribed by the dominance hierarchy, and since most individuals occupy lower strata of the hierarchy, then necessarily most individuals are unhealthy, have sub-ideal health levels.

Unhealthy overweightness and obesity are caused by over eating. The science of metabolic energy budgets is incontrovertible on the latter point! Over eating is caused by low self-image and the associated psychological pain.

Here, I suggest two solutions: A radical solution anchored in personal politics, and a practical solution that is ridiculously easy to implement. The two solutions can be combined, or actuated independently.

The personal political solution is to eye the enemy that actually has its hand on your throat and to fight the bastards. A true fight avoiding windmills will make you both active and healthy. Take power to get power. The food thing will work itself out if your primordial target becomes the fight for your influence and dignity, against the real enemy. This solution is extremely difficult to implement because the system has done everything to incapacitate you regarding any type of self-defense, and has even made you blind regarding the actual physical appearance of the enemy.

The practical solution, which can be implemented immediately, is to make one brisk continuous 10-minute walk every day. This can be increased to 20 minutes per day if you feel so inclined.

Peer reviewed medical research shows that such a 10-minute walk per day may be the single most healthy thing one could ever do, and that this health therapy far outweighs virtually all other medical interventions known to modern science... [3]

Here, keep in mind that "brisk walk" is specific to you. Don't push too hard but don't sleep walk either, in such a way that it doesn't even get the juices flowing. Be confident that your body will repair itself if the joints hurt at first, and so on. This won't kill you.

The idea here is not that the calorie burning from the walking itself is of any use. It is not and that is not the point. The idea is twofold, in my opinion.

First, a million years of human evolution would never have predicted that humanity could come to a point where one actually has to think about walking at least 10 minutes a day. In that sense, it is fundamentally bad for one's metabolism to not have at least this degree of animal activity. And science has now provided the answer about the quantitative minimal degree that is required to avoid a slow meltdown into immobility, depression, and early death [3].

Secondly, and as importantly, walking is a physical expression of independence and power. You and your body go where you want to go, say hi to those you want to greet, go at the pace you want to have, and choose everything about the walking. In this sense, walking gives one a psycho-physiological experience of independence and power, one that directly nurtures self-esteem.

This is the missing link in calorie intake theory as a paradigm for weight loss: Physical activity, if chosen and self-directed, directly impacts self-esteem which, in turn, mediates compulsive over eating. As a result, the calorie balance sheet is affected far beyond the energy consumption value of the physical activity itself.

Why is the latter point such a secret? Why all the emphasis on calorie counting, which acts to mask this truth about the real benefits of physical activity? How is it that the most important advice is never clearly given as being the main point? One answer is that the professional behaviours of medical doctors and nutritionists are necessarily aligned with maintenance of the dominance hierarchy. Independence threatens hierarchy.  


[1] 2011-12-20::: A Theory of Chronic Pain, by Denis G. Rancourt
[2] 2011-11-21::: Is establishment medicine an injurious scam?, by Denis G. Rancourt
[3] 2011-12-02::: "23 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?", video by Dr. Mike Evans, University of Toronto.

Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He practiced several areas of science (including physics and environmental science) which were funded by a national agency and ran an internationally recognized laboratory. He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals and several social commentary essays. He developed popular activism courses and was an outspoken critic of the university administration and a defender of student and Palestinian rights. He was fired for his dissidence in 2009. His dismissal case is scheduled to continue court hearings into 2013.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Climatologist Dr. Tim Ball on the politics and professional ethics of global warming agitation

On July 12, 2012, CHUO 89.1 FM (Ottawa) The Train's Denis Rancourt interviewed Professor Dr. Tim Ball, climatologist, about climate science and the politics of global warming. Fascinating history of the climatology profession... Dr. Ball is being sued for defamation in regard to his criticisms of other climate professionals. The lawsuits are on-going and Dr. Ball is committed to getting to the truth and justice.

This is a remarkable interview where you can hear what it is like to respect the memory of decades of acquired scientific knowledge, as opposed to re-defining reality for careerist goals.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why donate to my Legal Fund?

I was fired from my tenured full professorship at the University of Ottawa, Canada, because I stood for my principles in every facet of my professional life, and because I was an outspoken critic of the university administration and its executives. I stood for rational education based on proven research rather than obedience training, and I stood for ethical management rather than careerism. I was fired under the false pretext of fraudulent grading in a one-semester advanced physics course. I was handcuffed, arrested, and dragged off campus in front of my students for attending the weekly public discussion seminar that I had created and run for many years. Now the University of Ottawa is fighting in court to not allow me back on campus and is funding a $1 million private defamation lawsuit against me.

This is an appeal to donate to my legal fund (the Denis Rancourt Legal Fund) in order to provide a moderately fair trial in the private civil lawsuit that some observers have characterized as a SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) against me.

I am committed to obtaining justice but justice is illusive when there is a large asymmetry of means between the opposing parties. At this point I will have exhausted all my financial savings within a month or so.

I was wrongly fired in 2009 from my tenured full professorship in physics at the University of Ottawa by a president, Allan Rock, who had a personal mission to get me.  He instructed his executives and hired lawyers to fire me, and this was executed without due process.

Under false pretence, in November 2008, my students and I were locked out of our laboratory and offices without warning.

My research associate of 12 years was summarily fired (she sued and won a settlement).

The laboratory was dismantled before I was even informed of the mock procedure to fire me that was initiated in December 2008 when I was banned from campus, again without notice, under police escort. 

The false pretext used was that I had fraudulently assigned grades in one advanced physics course in the winter 2008 semester. The University’s main witness at a recent hearing admitted under oath that the university had no evidence for this for any student.

The real reason that Allan Rock wants to shut me down may be my “U of O Watch” blog and its persistent criticism of university management and executives, including: criticism of the university’s treatments of students, criticism of Rock’s on-going career dealings, criticisms of administrators and colleagues who, in my view, act against public and/or student interests, exposing executive malfeasance such as doctoring documents “to make a point”, and so on.

The true reasons for firing me may also include: my development of a new and highly popular “activism course”, my weekly “cinema politica” public event on campus, my weekly on-going campus radio show, inviting critical speakers into my classes, my liberating pedagogical methods focussed on learning rather than obedience, my continued invitations in university classrooms as an invited intervener, and so on.

Rock hoped that firing me would be the end of me:

“With any luck, firing him will get him off campus …”
       -- December 15, 2008 email, Allan Rock to staff

After firing me at an executive meeting that he chaired on March 31, 2009, Rock continued to express his views about me and to search for ways to “get the facts out”:

“Far from having had ‘an impeccable pedagogical career’, Rancourt has spent the last several years undermining pedagogy, denying students access to an education and engaging in a cynical mockery of the whole education process; and

Rancourt is trafficking in fictions to try to save his own skin while recklessly and irresponsibly creating tensions in Ottawa’s religious communities. (As to ‘fiction’, I refer to the example of his lying about me going to Israel last July.)

How best to get the facts out?


      -- April 19, 2009 email, Allan Rock to Bruce Feldthusen (then VP, now dean of common law)

In what I believe to be the latest episode to “get Rancourt”, Allan Rock has, following a “recommendation” from Bruce Feldthusen, personally agreed to entirely finance – without a spending limit – a private $ 1 million defamation lawsuit against me, for a blogpost on my “U of O Watch” blog. The private litigant did not contact a lawyer until after the agreement for unlimited funding was made – according to sworn testimonies given in my recent court motion to dismiss the action (ref).

Irrespective of the legal merits of the defamation claim and irrespective of the legal merits of my defence, the plaintiff’s unlimited funding is such that, as an unsalaried self-represented defendant, I find myself pitted against two major law firms (Gowlings and BLG), thus creating a Charter breach to my fundamental rights (ref, at paragraphs 61 to 67).

The legal process is complex and expensive. I am working hard to learn the theory and practice of litigation.

Even if I do not pay legal fees to a lawyer representing me, there are court and proceeding costs, and, most importantly, each time I lose an interim procedural motion I must pay the legal costs of the opponents. On some motions, the University of Ottawa itself is a second opponent (using the BLG law firm).

There have been over ten such motions (or mini-trials) to date and I will soon (this month or next) have exhausted my life savings at this point. If I win a motion, the other side argues that I need not have costs because I am self-represented.

It is obvious to me now that a minimum degree of justice requires at least a minimum of funding.

At stake is freedom of expression on matters of public interest (here, namely, the possibility of systemic racism at the University of Ottawa). At stake is access to justice. At stake is fundamental fairness in the justice system itself in treating self-represented litigants. At stake is the need for SLAPP-informed funding rules in private civil litigation in Ontario.

Please contribute to my legal fund. All donations go to my legal costs to obtain a just treatment before the courts. All court documents are posted to the web (e.g., ref).

(LINK: Donate, Legal Fund -- donate web page)

Related articles:

This is what targeting a dissident tenured professor looks like in Canada

Hearings into dismissal of Rancourt reveal much

TVO (TV Ontario) interview with Denis Rancourt:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

On who killed Malcolm X

I just finished reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told by Alex Haley and the epilogue by Haley, and the endnote "On Malcolm X" (reproduced below) by Ossie Davis who had delivered this moving eulogy.

I am thoroughly shocked by the brutality of the military-style execution that ended Malcolm X. (And immensely moved by who Malcolm X was, and his absolute dedication to justice by exposing the paired crimes -- at the societal and individual levels -- of organized oppression and of accepting one's own oppression.)

I'm also stunned by Malcolm X's depth of understanding of societal phenomena as historically formed and sustained by individual psychology and the degree to which he constantly pursued this understanding. I am awed by his intellectual honesty and by his incessant quest for meaning in action and in influence. Nothing in Haley's or Davis' words come close to the truths that X was perceiving about the nature of societal and individual forces.

In my opinion, this was no simple honour killing by sectarian opponents, as Malcolm X himself came to understand. The murder's planning and precision and evasion by most of those involved strongly suggest the dominant presence of a powerful military organization, experienced in political assassinations. Similar assassinations include those of Kennedy and King.

The US industrial-military-complex thrives on war and continental exploitation. Malcolm X created international outreach to solidify ties with independent African and Asian governments and he was assassinated. Kennedy moderated attacks against Cuba and moderated war-machine diplomacy and he was assassinated. King moved to direct black civil power against the Vietnam war and he was assassinated.

Below one can witness in words the personal impact Malcolm X had on at least one intellectual (Ossie Davis).

Tirelessly insisting that oppressed people stand up for themselves, as did Mother Jones in a previous era -- who also focused her relentless agitation on the "paired crimes" (my term). There was that unique kind of depth in Malcolm X. In that sense, I see him as a black brother of the white sister Mother Jones.

Each of us who recast and do not wish to understand Malcolm X are contributing to his death. Each of us who instinctively feel the necessity to defend oneself and who by practice experience this struggle for dignity contribute to keeping him alive.

Ossie Davis, ON MALCOM X:

Mr. Davis wrote the following in response to a magazine editor's question: Why did you eulogize Malcolm X?

You are not the only person curious to know why I would eulogize a man like Malcolm X. Many who know and respect me have written letters. Of these letters I am proudest of those from a sixth-grade class of young white boys and girls who asked me to explain. I appreciate your giving me this chance to do so.

You may anticipate my defense somewhat by considering the following fact: no Negro has yet asked me that question. (My pastor in Grace Baptist Church where I teach Sunday School preached a sermon about Malcolm in which he called him a "giant in a sick world.") Every one of the many letters I got from my own people lauded Malcolm as a man, and commended me for having spoken at his funeral.

At the same time-and this is important-most of them took special pains to disagree with much or all of what Malcolm said and what he stood for. That is, with one singing exception, they all, every last,black, glory-hugging one of them, knew that Malcolm-whatever else he was or was not Malcolm was a man!

White folks do not need anybody to remind them that they are men. We do! This was his one incontrovertible benefit to his people.

Protocol and common sense require that Negroes stand back and let the white man speak up for us,defend us, and lead us from behind the scene in our fight. This is the essence of Negro politics. But Malcolm said to hell with that! Get up off your knees and fight your own battles. That's the way to win back your self-respect. That's the way to make the white man respect you. And if he won't let you live like a man, he certainly can't keep you from dying like one!

Malcolm, as you can see, was refreshing excitement; he scared hell out of the rest of us, bred as we are to caution, to hypocrisy in the presence of white folks, to the smile that never fades. Malcolm knew that every white man in America profits directly or indirectly from his position vis-a-vis Negroes,profits from racism even though he does not practice it or believe in it.

He also knew that every Negro who did not challenge on the spot every instance of racism, overt or covert, committed against him and his people, who chose instead to swallow his spit and go on smiling, was an Uncle Tom and a traitor, without balls or guts, or any other commonly accepted aspects of manhood!

Now, we knew all these things as well as Malcolm did, but we also knew what happened to people who stick their necks out and say them. And if all the lies we tell ourselves by way of extenuation were put into print, it would constitute one of the great chapters in the history of man's justifiable cowardice in the face of other men.

But Malcolm kept snatching our lies away. He kept shouting the painful truth we whites and blacks did not want to hear from all the housetops. And he wouldn't stop for love nor money.

You can imagine what a howling, shocking nuisance this man was to both Negroes and whites. Once Malcolm fastened on you, you could not escape. He was one of the most fascinating and charming men I have ever met, and never hesitated to take his attractiveness and beat you to death with it. Yet his irritation, though painful to us, was most salutary. He would make you angry as hell, but he would also make you proud. It was impossible to remain defensive and apologetic about being a Negro in his presence. He wouldn't let you. And you always left his presence with the sneaky suspicion that maybe, after all, you _were_ a man!

But in explaining Malcolm, let me take care not to explain him away. He had been a criminal, an addict, a pimp, and a prisoner; a racist, and a hater, he had really believed the white man was a devil.

But all this had changed. Two days before his death, in commenting to Gordon Parks about his past life he said: "That was a mad scene. The sickness and madness of those days! I'm glad to be free of them."And Malcolm was free. No one who knew him before and after his trip to Mecca could doubt that he had completely abandoned racism, separatism, and hatred. But he had not abandoned his shock-effect statements, his bristling agitation for immediate freedom in this country not only for blacks, but for everybody. And most of all, in the area of race relations, he still delighted in twisting the white man's tail, and in making Uncle Toms, compromisers and accommodationists - I deliberately include myself - thoroughly ashamed of the urbane and smiling hypocrisy we practice merely to exist in a world whose values we both envy and despise.

But even had Malcolm not changed, he would still have been a relevant figure on the American scene, standing in relation as he does, to the "responsible" civil rights leaders, just about where John Brown stood in relation to the "responsible abolitionists in the fight against slavery. Almost all disagreed with Brown's mad and fanatical tactics which led him foolishly to attack a Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry,to lose two sons there, and later to be hanged for treason.

Yet today the world, and especially the Negro people, proclaim Brown not a traitor, but a hero and a martyr in a noble cause So in future, I will not be surprised if men come to see that Malcolm X was,within his own limitations, and in his own inimitable style, also a martyr in that cause.

But there is much controversy still about this most controversial American, and I am content to wait for history to make the final decision.

But in personal judgment, there is no appeal from instinct. I knew the man personally, and however much I disagreed with him, I never doubted that Malcolm X, even when he was wrong, was always that rarest thing in the world among us Negroes: a true man. And if to protect my relations with the many good white folk who make it possible for me to earn a fairly good living in the entertainment industry, I was too chicken, too cautious, to admit that fact when he was alive, I thought at least that now when all the white folks are safe from him at last, I could be honest with myself enough to lift my hat for one final salute to that brave, black, ironic gallantry, which was his style and hallmark, that shocking _zing_ of fire-and-be-damned-to-you, so absolutely absent in every other Negro man I know,which brought him, too soon, to his death.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

On the specific meaning of "house negro"

Arguably the first definition of "service intellectual" was given in my 2006 essay "Gradual change is not progress" [1]:

"Comfortable First World liberal and left intellectuals claiming to work for change often project the opinion that positive change is best achieved by incremental improvements, gradual progress, dialogue, and negotiations that acknowledge the legitimacy of the other side. They assert that confrontation is ‘counter productive’. There is an army of academics, managers, and professionals, who will argue this point quite strenuously. They are the service intellectuals.

Their job is to block any model that would involve people of the disadvantaged side actually demanding change in the structure that keeps them at the bottom. Instead, they promote a dialogue model in which the disadvantaged side enters into loaded and unwinable negotiations with players that hold all the cards. These negotiations ensure that institutional structures of inequity are reinforced rather than progressively dismantled. [...]"

In retrospect, the term is exactly a race-neutral version of the "house negro" term defined for modern use by Malcolm X. [2]

Both these terms, "service intellectual" and "house negro", are precise, needed, and powerful. And it is important to preserve their meanings without allowing dilution or imprecision or re-casting.

Therefore, I want to stress the difference between a "service intellectual" and what I will call a "service manager"; or between a "house negro" and what one could call a "manager negro".

Many critics will be outraged at my alleged disrespect as a white man to be defining terms such as "house negro" and "manager negro" and would have me chastised, fired, sued, or jailed. To you I say four things:

  1. Good sense is where you find it.
  2. Would you prefer that a service intellectual--of any colour--define the terms?
  3. Most whites when they talk about race say shit but a white can be right on race.
  4. Suppression of freedom of expression is harmful.

Unlike a "service intellectual" ("house negro"), a "service manager" ("manager negro") is not primarily concerned with image and mental environment maintenance but instead has the primary assigned task of managing some sector or enterprise for the hierarchical bosses.

In a "race conscious" racialized hierarchy of dominance it is useful for white masters to employ black managers. But it is more than useful in terms only of "race relations" it is also simple recruitment from the appropriate class base and it can be strategic in terms of the sector or enterprise to be managed.

Given these distinctions, I would say that figures such as US president Obama are more "manager negroes" than they are "house negroes"; just as the modern white presidents were mostly manager whiteys rather than service intellectuals (no argument there!). To call Obama a "house negro" is to dilute and weaken the term. He is primarily a manager.

I suggest we preserve the meaning intended by Malcolm X, following his years of study in a unique prison library and years of battle in the public arena [2]:

Since slavery, the American white man has always kept some handpicked Negroes who fared much better than the black masses suffering and slaving out in the hot fields. The white man had these "house" and "yard" Negroes for his special servants. He threw them more crumbs from his rich table, he even let them eat in his kitchen. He knew that he could always count on them to keep "good massa" happy in his self-image of being so "good" and "righteous." "Good massa" always heard just what he wanted to hear from these "house" and "yard" blacks. "You're such a good, fine massa!" Or, "Oh, massa, those old black nigger fieldhands out there, they're happy just like they are; why, massa, they're not intelligent enough for you to try and do any better for them, massa -- "

Well, slavery time's "house" and "yard" Negroes had become more sophisticated, that was all. When now the white man picked up his telephone and dialed his "house" and "yard" Negroes -- why, he didn't even need to instruct the trained black puppets. They had seen the television program; had read the newspapers. They were already composing their lines. They knew what to do.

I'm not going to call any names. But if you make a list of the biggest Negro "leaders," so-called, in 1960, then you've named the ones who began to attack us "field" Negroes who were sounding insane, talking that way about "good massa."

"By no means do these Muslims represent the Negro masses --" That was the first worry, to reassure "good massa" that he had no reason to be concerned about his fieldhands in the ghettoes. "An irresponsible hate cult" . . . "an unfortunate Negro image, just when the racial picture is improving -- "

and avoid most of the newer "hogwash" meanings proposed by the ever growing army of service intellectuals and manager academics. [3][4]


[1] "Gradual change is not progress" by Denis G. Rancourt, Global Research, May 3, 2006.

[2] "The autobiography of Malcolm X" told by Alex Haley, Random House, 1964; Chapter 14.

[3] "Critical race theory, in the service of whitey" by Denis G. Rancourt, Activist Teacher blog, 2011.

[4] "'Anti-racism' in support of racism" by Denis G. Rancourt, Activist Teacher blog, 2011.

Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He practiced several areas of science (including physics and environmental science) which were funded by a national agency and ran an internationally recognized laboratory. He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals and several social commentary essays. He developed popular activism courses and was an outspoken critic of the university administration and a defender of student and Palestinian rights. He was fired for his dissidence in 2009. His dismissal case is in court hearings that will extend into 2012. He is presently being sued in a $1 million defamation action entirely funded by the University of Ottawa, over a use of the term "house negro".

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Students: Plan your escape from academia before you enter it

The undergraduate degree is a brutal endurance test for obedience. It is an imposed gateway into graduate or professional school where you hope things will be somewhat more sane.

Actually, graduate or professional school will rob you of you. Powerful structural forces will draw you into the profession where you will be pushed to brainwash yourself into accepting an ideology of service to the established order, at the expense of your moral values.[1]

Most of your colleagues will accept this personal transformation and its associated benefits of high social status and financial rewards. They will believe the mythology of the profession because this mythology facilitates preserving a positive self-image in spite of the reality of the oppressive system that they are being groomed to serve and maintain.

They will also increase their class bias (class-ism) in order to cope with the class oppression that they are trained to support. And they will begin to practice ancillary donations of their time (vanity volunteerism) aimed at medicating lower class "suffering", "public ignorance", "poverty", and so on -- by serving on various committees, boards, and with public lectures and conference papers about social problems. All part of the needed guilt alleviation and maintenance of positive self-image.

They will learn to accentuate extreme aversion to in-class injustices (age, gender, race, sexual-orientation, and so on) while doing nothing to address the gross inter-class inequities that dominate the social landscape. The greater the aversion, the better one can avoid the obvious.

They will "think globally and act locally": Perceive sanitized planetary-scale threats and act within their class to address these perceived threats via their every day lifestyle and consumer choices and via weekend political "agency". Or form some other self-supported social network of validation.

If you foresee that you will have significant difficulty with the imposed personal transition required in graduate and professional training, then you can plan your escape before you enter.

Expect to be shocked by the requirements of the profession, by the definition of "professionalism". Recognize that you are being subjected to a cleansing. Know that it is wrong and that you are right. Find friends who, like you, want to survive with their personalities and values intact, rather than "adapt".

Plan to weather the storm without buying into the lies. Cynicism is only a face-saving way to buy into the lie. It won't save you. You need to actively push the limits of your resistance every step of the process in order to discover yourself and preserve yourself. This will also expose the true nature of the beast that wants to eat you.

You won't make friends with the bosses and you won't be rewarded with high grades and praise but you will learn more and be more authentic. You will prepare yourself for a real life in the real world, not a class-secluded life in a superficial world. You will be more able to love yourself and to love others. It's not called "the good fight" for nothing.

You'll get true feedback from your environment. If they are not coming after you then you are faking it.

You can figure out how to graduate while pushing back. That is the challenge; that will preserve you rather than destroy you.

Or, just kiss ass and you will "succeed".


[1] "Disciplined Minds" by Jeff Schmidt.

Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He practiced several areas of science (including physics and environmental science) which were funded by a national agency and ran an internationally recognized laboratory. He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals and several social commentary essays. He developed popular activism courses and was an outspoken critic of the university administration and a defender of student and Palestinian rights. He was fired for his dissidence in 2009. His dismissal case is in court hearings that will extend into 2012.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Reflections of a self-represented litigant as an old man

At my advanced age of 54 I find myself being sued for $1 million for a blog post on a blog (not this blog, another blog) critical of the University of Ottawa. All the blog posts (on the other blog) in the matter are HERE-link. The lawsuit against me is entirely funded by the University of Ottawa -- a public university in Canada's capital -- and the funding was directly approved by university president Allan Rock, who is amply criticized on the (other) blog in question (e.g., LINK).

I would characterize the legal action against me as aggressive, with a heavy use of procedural motions before the court and a less-than-cooperative lead opposing counsel, arguably one of Canada's leading defamation lawyers. It's been called a SLAPP.

I am self-represented and I have never done this before. To say that it is a learning experience is a vast understatement. At "mandatory mediation" I was alone facing five opposing lawyers, including the Plaintiff-on-record who is a law professor at the University of Ottawa. I was not allowed to bring an adviser or an accompanying person.

To date nine motions have been filed and I have appeared before the court six times. I have been cross-examined twice out-of-court on my affidavit evidence for motions. I'm starting to truly understand what Foucault was talking about in his analyses of state institutions. I don't think I could have learned this any other way.

So let me summarize some first observations -- preliminary conclusions, if you like.

(1) The court is balanced in terms of applying the law when the opposing litigants are both of high societal status and of equal societal status; like two corporations, or two billionaires, etc. Otherwise, the asymmetry in status is mapped into an asymmetry of treatment.

(2) The entire court hearing (on a motion or at trial) is a contest of impressions. The judge does not read and only asks to be impressed by the slogans and spin of the parties that resonate with his/her self-image. The competing shots to impress are received or deflected in a self-organized phase transition from initial position to coalesced final opinion. This is followed by a technical step of providing "reasons" for the final opinion.

(3) There is some measure of care with parties who have the means to appeal decisions. Otherwise, it's all purely an exercise of the establishment preserving the established order. It's a class war in most cases, and this is overt in family court with state intervention agencies or with corporate landlord v. tenant disputes.

(4) The lofty principles expounded in Supreme Court decisions are barely perceivable in the every day judicial decisions of establishment maintenance; and are often contradicted without a second thought. The court archives are stuffed with hand-written "endorsements" on the backsheets of motions that are at odds with "established" norms of justice and with any semblance of logic -- pure oozings of coalesced opinion.

(5) The rules of procedure are rationalized in terms of honorable motives but actually provide structural support for establishment maintenance. For example, mandatory mediation is said to provide a desirable mechanism for resolution by mutual consent. Yet it is overtly used as an instrument of intimidation by dominant parties with the full consent of the court.

(6) The rules are only a trap for self-represented litigants because only the lawyers and judges know which rules must be followed and which can be ignored and which rules are superseded by unwritten practice. And the first rule is that the judge can make up the rules "to provide a fair administration of justice".

There is no solution. Only navigation with a changing destination. They are as bad as we let them be.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Activist Teacher authors most downloaded free-access scientific article about planetary warming physics

This article has now been downloaded 500 times.

It is the most downloaded free-access (open-source) scientific article about planetary warming physics.

One reviewer said:
"Follow the link to a 22 page article which is a tour de force of simple physics demonstrration. [Denis Rancourt's] presentation puts me in mind of Pauling or Feynman lectures in my Caltech days. At least cruise over the hard stuff and savor the commentary. This guy is a keeper prof who got sideways with authority at U of Ottawa and was canned. My kinda guy!!!"

Hunter Paalman
Walnut Creek, CA

It was first posted on Climate Guy (link) on June 3, 2011, and is available in full pdf version at here:

Radiation physics constraints on global warming: CO2 increase has little effect

(And direct link to PDF file HERE.)

Abstract – I describe the basic physics of planetary radiation balance and surface temperature, using the simplest model possible that is sufficiently realistic for correct evaluations of predicted surface temperature response sensitivities to the key Earth parameters. The model is constrained by satellite absolute integrated intensity and spectroscopic measurements and the known longwave absorption cross section of CO2 gas. I show the predicted Earth temperature for zero atmospheric resonant absorption of longwave radiation (no greenhouse effect in the otherwise identical atmosphere) to be –46 C, not –19 C as often wrongly stated. Also, the net warming effect from the atmosphere, including all atmospheric processes (not just greenhouse forcing), without changing anything else (except to add the removed atmosphere) is +18 C, not the incorrect textbook value of +33 C. The double-layer atmosphere model with no free parameters provides: (a) a mean Earth surface temperature of +17 C, (b) a post-industrial warming due only to CO2 increase of δT = 0.4 C, (c) a temperature increase from doubling the present CO2 concentration alone (to 780 ppmv CO2; without water vapour feedback) equal to δT = 1.4 C, and (d) surface temperature response sensitivities that are approximately two orders of magnitude greater for solar irradiance and for planetary shortwave albedo and longwave emissivity than for the atmospheric greenhouse effect from CO2. All the model predictions robustly follow from the straightforward underlying assumptions without any need for elaborate global circulation models. The same longwave optical saturation that provides such a large radiative warming of the planet surface also ensures that the warming effect from increasing CO2 concentration is minimal. I conclude with suggested implications regarding warming alarmism, errors by sceptics, research funding, and scientific ignorance regarding climate feedbacks.

Changes to the June 3, 2011, article: Small clarifications were added and several typos were corrected in the December 3, 2011, pdf version.

A detailed peer-review of the article is available HERE.