Odd Thoughts: Press release mark of an iron

I often get a chuckle out of the myriad self-serving government press releases that come across my desk at a rate of about a dozen or two per week.

It’s sometimes downright amusing how stupid some of those government lackeys assume we mere plebes of the press are.

But this one inspired a full belly-laugh.

It’s hilarious – but only because I love irony.

Most people remotely involved in education – teachers, students, parents, sundry people who pay taxes – might not find it as funny.

The core of the release is (as is often the case) laudable.

It is an announcement from B.C. Education Minister Peter Fassbender that his ministry is providing $500,000 in support of the Vancouver Sun’s Raise-A-Reader literacy campaign.

An announcement that anyone anywhere is spending $500,000 to boost literacy is always very good news to someone who works in the newspaper industry.

We thrive on literacy the way that government public relations flaks thrive on irony… well, the difference is that we are conscious of our dependence on literacy, while the PR dudes (and dudesses – don’t want the government’s political correctness police dumping on me now) don’t seem to realize how deep their own penchant for irony runs.

Forget about the parts of the release where everyone is “sincerely” thanking everyone else – I have yet to see any press release in which anyone offers “insincere thanks” to anyone who is giving them huge wads of money.

The real laugh came early on, in the second paragraph, where Decoda Literacy Solutions, the real beneficiary of the $500,000 provincial grant – to be funneled into the Raise-A-Reader program, to be sure – is identified as “the only province-wide literacy organization in British Columbia.”

I have in my possession a Ma Murray Community Service Award received from the BC and Yukon Community Newspapers Association in recognition of a community literacy undertaking that we called, “Bonkers,” and a Governor General’s Award for Literacy Innovation for an initiative we called, “Building a Community of Readers.”

Both recognitions came through projects built with the cooperation of several local partners, including a component of one that I would think shouldn’t have slipped Education Minister Fassbender’s mind when conferring the title of “the only province-wide literacy organization in British Columbia” – B.C.’s public school system.

My own pleasant experiences interacting with the folks of that particular province-wide literacy organization led to my indulgence in a profession that I often have difficulty calling “work.”

And thousands upon thousands of others have benefited similarly, to greater or lesser extent, from the dedication of members of that province-wide literacy organization for many decades.

Decoda’s own website description of itself as “the only province-wide literacy organization in British Columbia” is a bit of private-enterprise, self-promotion hubris that can be overlooked.

But Mr. Fassbender’s staff’s failure to recognize an organization that exists literally right under their noses will do little to dispel any of the hard feelings that remain after the long and bitter dispute which paralyzed that province-wide literacy organization for the past several months.

One of my favourite quotes of all time comes from famed science fiction writer Spider Robinson: “If a person who indulges in gluttony is a glutton, and a person who commits a felony is a felon, then God is an iron.”

Apparently, so is Peter Fassbender.

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