From My Perspective – Fellow Student Shares Term Paper!

AU students are often able to benefit from sample term papers that professors and other students have shared with them. These examples give us an idea of what kinds of things the professor may be looking for, and can be a mark of excellence that we strive to meet. I’ve often been asked by my professors if they can retain a copy of one of my papers for this reason.

So AU students might be interested to note that they can read an online term paper by none other than Alberta Premier Ralph Klein! It is his final term paper for CMNS 402 – Communications Studies: International Media Systems I – The Americas. How did this come about?

During last week’s question period debate in parliament regarding auto insurance rates with Liberal leader Kevin Taft, Klein made a comment linking public insurance to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup over Salvador Allende’s democratically-elected Communist government. According to the transcript of Hansard’s (official Government record), the exchange between Taft and Klein went as follows:

“Taft: Does the premier expect Albertans to be satisfied that under his government’s plan premiums won’t go up, when under a public auto insurance plan like we’re advocating, premiums could go down by thousands of dollars a year?

Klein: Mr. Speaker, maybe the honourable member will explain to the media outside the house – I know he won’t here – how he plans to dismantle all of the insurance companies that exist here in Alberta, and say: with the great hand of government, the Liberals will now socialize all insurance. It sounds like Allende in Chile, you know, when he took over all the copper mines, all the minerals, all the resources, all the mining, all the newspapers, all the… you know. Pinochet came in, Mr. Speaker, and I’m not saying that Pinochet was any better, but because of the only elected Communist in Chile – Allende and the socialist reforms he put in – Pinochet was forced, I would say, to mount a coup. As a dictator, he was no better than Allende. Of course, the debate still goes on. All you need to do is to go to the website. As a matter of fact, I did a paper on it; I’ll give it to you.”

After local Chileans responded in anger at what many perceived to be Klein’s defence of a bloody coup that had forced many of them to come to Canada as political refugees, Klein had more to say. As reported by the Edmonton Journal on May 8, 2004:

“I did a paper on that and I studied it and I don’t care if (Chileans) are impressed or not impressed,” said Klein, who is studying communications at Athabasca University. He had accused Liberal Leader Kevin Taft of having the same kind of socialist policies that provoked General Augusto Pinochet to overthrow Chilean president Salvador Allende in 1973. “It’s a simple fact of history,” Klein said Friday, “Allende was the first democratically elected communist. I’m not going to give you a lesson. Pinochet was a general who overthrew Allende and both had their problems. All you have to do is look at the website.” (Klein”s comments outrage Chileans: Premier Provocateur, Tom Barrett, Edmonton Journal, May 8, 2004).

On Monday, Klein attempted to do some damage control. He has demonstrated his willingness on previous occasions to apologize after the fact when he has committed some sort of gaffe. However, although he attempted to explain himself during Monday’s question period, he decided to “bite his tongue,” instead reading a prepared script in which he denied that his comments suggested any personal support for the Pinochet regime. He also tabled a copy of his term paper for inclusion into official government documentation of the meeting.

When I first read Klein’s comments, I couldn’t help but smile. I took CMNS 402, and I knew immediately what he was referring to. I also couldn’t help but sympathize with the manner in which he brought the issue into a seemingly-unrelated discussion on auto insurance. When I took the course two years ago, I recall being intrigued by the whole historical account of the revolution in Chile and the role the media played. Although I have Chilean friends who had given me a perspective of what had occurred, I didn’t really have a good grasp of the background until I took the course. I found it fascinating and was eager to share what I was learning with others. No doubt Klein was in the same position – as a fellow student I sympathized with his eagerness to translate something he was learning into his “everyday life” – since after all, learning to use applied knowledge is one of the reasons we go to university in the first place.

Klein proudly announced that his professor had given him a 77 on the paper. I don’t recall what mark I received (I wrote mine on the Media and Distance Education in Latin America), but I do remember the course as being quite challenging. As a fellow student, however, I’m not sure I’d be quite so eager to share a term paper that is really not that well-written. Klein has shared his paper, not just with fellow students, but with the world. It has become an official government document, tabled in the Alberta legislature. I certainly don’t envy having to be the professor who marks Klein’s papers – particularly now that we see Klein’s willingness to share!

There may be some interesting repercussions for Athabasca University – one Chilean newspaper refers to the paper as a “rambling 13-page school essay he once wrote” (chilepost.com), obviously not really grasping the notion that the premier of a Canadian province might still be “going to school.” I know that Athabasca University takes the position that all publicity can be good publicity – and certainly our university is getting a lot of press over this. Perhaps we will see increased enrolment in CMNS 402 now that students see what a practical application can be made of the course – after all, who would have thought Alberta auto insurance and Chilean politics had anything in common!

NOTE: These links are provided for reference only. They are only accessible if you are a seven-day Journal subscriber:

Allende, Pinochet & the Chilean media, by Ralph Klein. The Edmonton Journal, May 10, 2004, Online Extras:
http://www.canada.com/edmonton/edmontonjournal/features/onlineextras/story.html?id=04adaa00-f0c1-4669-a05e-13b351927072

Klein’s comments outrage Chileans: Premier Provocateur, Tom Barrett, Edmonton Journal, May 8, 2004
http://www.canada.com/edmonton/edmontonjournal/news/archives/story.html?id=6503c46c-7f16-4cf9-b272-b2843729a523

Klein bites his tongue over Chile: But without an apology to Chilean community, he won’t win any friends. Graham Thompson, Edmonton Journal, May 10, 2004:
http://www.canada.com/edmonton/edmontonjournal/news/opinion/story.html?id=aab2803e-d59c-407f-aef2-2c1feade36a0

Listen to the Legislative proceedings:
http://www.assembly.ab.ca/pro/Audio/index.htm

Read the Hansard transcript:
http://www.assembly.ab.ca/ISYS/hansard/hansard.25/session.4/20040506_1330_han.pdf

A Chilean newspaper comments:
Chile Post: Klein clarifies his dictator comments, says he didn’t mean to offend Chileans:
http://www.chilepost.com/
http://www.mytelus.com/news/article.do?pageID=canada_home&articleID=1607844

Debbie is a native Edmontonian, and a single parent with four daughters. She has worked as a professional musician for most of her life, and has enjoyed a rich variety of life experiences – with many more to come! Debbie is working toward an eventual doctorate in psychology.

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