We Have ALL Pooped the Bed :: Arts Education – Why You Can’t Get One In Canmore, Alberta

First Day of School – Delicious or Disaster?

No one could have possibly predicted how ugly the day would turn as we watched our children shine in the sunlight of  the first day of school for 2012.

Shiny new pencils and children headed off, their heads filled with thoughts …not of digging into that first science or math quiz, but of seeing their friends, meeting their new teachers and getting a chance to do some FUN (and valuable) things that will propel their learning and build the generation of the future.

We watched as other parents, grandparents and children gathered in the school yard as we saw to the first day of school for our budding Grade 3’er.

We watched, innocent  and unaware of the disaster ahead,  as Ben got on the bus to head to his first day of official highschool – Grade 10.

We saw to it that they were prepared with the proper footwear, backpacks, pencils, markers, erasers, scientific calculators, paper and pens.

We remembered our very own “first days at school” and the excitement that comes with it all. Grace was ecstatic to see that the “bully” was not in her class this year and we all breathed a little sigh of relief, knowing this was the biggest stressor we thought she would have to face.

How wrong we were.

We thought we’d done everything we could to prepare them for a great educational year, filled with learning in all sectors of the Alberta curriculum spanning the gamut from science and english to outdoor studies, music, art and drama.

For the first year EVER in Ben’s life after Grade 1 (another horrific educational muff-up), he was EXCITED to go to school.

Every parent was excited for their child….teachers excited to meet their pupils. After all, this is Alberta! The richest province in all of Canada. The gorgeous mountain community where the world enviously comes to visit. How could we possibly fail in a province that has so many resources – in a magical place where the world comes clamouring to it’s door for the slippery black mud left by decaying trees and dinosaurs to feed it’s hungry appetite for goods made in China.

No one could have possibly predicted how ugly the day would turn as we watched our children shine in the apparent bright sunlight of a that new day….or that we are doomed to repeat the legacy of the dinosaur in our failure to adapt.

We Have Pooped The Bed – All of Us. Teachers, Trustees, School Boards, Administrators, Governments and Parents.

Author unknown.

That all exploded in our faces with a call at 11 am from our son Ben. “Mom, they can’t make the schedule change that I asked for in June. I have to take Mechanics instead of Art. Apparently Art is all full. Mom – I got 30% in Mechanics last year. I can’t take this! I’m going to fail!” Words a mother never wants to hear a child utter.

“What? How could this possibly be?” I asked myself. I was told that the switch in Ben’s schedule could be easily accomplished (This, by his LRT – Learning Resource Teacher) through countless emails from June to August.)

“Don’t worry – we’ll make the scheduling change”

I don’t really think I need to say how important learning through the arts is in our family and particularly how important and helpful  it is for the learning capability of our son Ben whose learning style is different. (Please see my TEDx Talk on The Language of The Creator)….but I am anyway.  I am constantly having to advocate with the school system on his behalf, and it’s been an ongoing battle. I know I’m not the only parent who has to do this -but that doesn’t make it okay. We are better than this! I know it!  I know that my parents never had to be this involved in ensuring that their child received as good an education as their own or better. And wow….did I ever get a great education. (Ontario – literal “old school”)

I quickly felt the blood boil in my veins, and fired off an email to the LRT. Knowing that that this was the first day of school, and that I wasn’t likely to get a timely response, I followed up immediately with a call to the Principal and put it out on Facebook that something was amiss with scheduling at the local high school. After all…I can adapt. I can use FB, Twitter and social media to communicate on the same level as governments and large organizations, can’t I?

I received a call just before noon from a new LRT who was now “handling Ben’s case”. Oh. News to me. I’ve been corresponding with the OTHER LRT all summer and not a whiff of that was communicated. Fine. Am I critical of the system? You’re damned right I am.

Summer art mentoring at my kitchen table.

I recounted the issues and told her that the only response I wanted to hear was that there was a place for Ben in Art class. Why? OTHER than all the reasons that are obvious as to why an education in the arts is important to critical, innovative and creative thinking…one of the things that has focussed him and gotten him excited about school (FINALLY) is thinking about how he could take a course at the local college upon graduation in game design. Art and a good portfolio basis is one of the perks in getting prepared for entry in this program. He was pleased that Drama was included on his schedule, and I was pleased that he was pleased. Last year he took it, and despite what he thought it might be like, he pleasantly found that it really helped build his self-esteem and ability to speak out in groups. Good. Thank goodness he’s in drama. It’s accelerated his learning curve and opened up new possibilities. Isn’t that what education and life-long learning is all about?

The new LRT told me that she would investigate this with one of the two guidance teachers who were working on schedule changes…however, the lineup was very long so she might not be able to get back to me right away. I told her that Ben would NOT be going to school until it was solved, so please do everything to get this right before the end of the day.

Little things started to niggle in my mind. Why couldn’t they fit art AND drama into his schedule? Why was I just learning about this now, given that we’d requested it back in June and ongoing discussions had occurred via email in the summer.Nothing else was really that difficult regarding his schedule. He was on a stream-2 path with all the entry courses that are required for Grade 10.

About an hour later, she returned my call. “Are you sitting down?” I admit, my temper flared right away. “No, I’m not sitting down for this and I WILL NOT accept anything but

Ben works on a colour wheel. Summer art school in my home.

a positive affirmation that Ben is in Art class.” She proceeded to tell me that it was absolutely impossible with Ben’s schedule to allow him to take art.”Oh….so the course isn’t FULL. It’s just IMPOSSIBLE.” Really? I’m an artist. Nothing is impossible in my world. She continued to tell me that because of declining enrollment, scheduling, required courses….that Ben could not possibly TAKE Art and graduate. Really? Tell me this again, because I am just about to blow my smokestack. And on it went…the usual “party line” about declining enrollment, small schools……….I told her that was NOT acceptable, and they had to fix it. I did blow my stack. CLICK. I hung up on her. I feel bad about that 18 hours later. No…I take it back. I don’t feel bad about it at all. I’m sick and tired of no one taking accountability for the mess that education is in for this province and the pat, prepared answers at all levels of this issue.

Art Sleuth On The Case

You’re damned right I’m in a crusty mood on this!

I was furious. I think I said that already. I started calling and writing trustees, school principals, MLA’s, Ministers, The Premier….and then I thought – wait a second. This can’t just be my kid. What are some of the other kids dealing with. I contacted one of Ben’s friends – a talented and budding young artist also in his Grade who was looking forward to her art class this year. In fact, we had worked a bit together over the summer and have begun to mentor her. Katharin loves art. I contacted her and discovered that she too had been denied Art as part of her schedule, and had to take Mechanics in it’s place. I asked her what stream she was in. Her answer was “2” – the same as Ben. She was very upset and had gone to talk to the new art teacher about it, but as yet had been told by the guidance councellor that she could not take it.

I began to wonder if there was something “bigger” to this and continued with my calling to trustees, superintendents, principals and the like. Katharin put it out on Facebook to her schoolmates to see how many of them were unable to take Art and we quickly discovered that it looked like anyone in “2” was denied ART, and anyone in “1” was denied DRAMA.

Oh boy…this is smelling to high heaven. And yet, I could still not find anyone in the system to answer me as to why this was occurring. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE? WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE?…..apparently no one.

Finally, the Principal called me near the end of the day, and he confirmed what we had discovered – ART and DRAMA were being “segregated” according to the stream which you were in. Do you know what this means?

Any student in Stream 1 (university bound) who wants to take Drama, cannot. Any student in Stream 2 (college/alternative) who wants to take Art….cannot. Simple and plain.

Effectively, we have wiped out a whole generation of potential critical, creative thinkers. Cut them off at the knees and told them….sorry, we can’t do this.

Are you kidding me?

I think I would have literally died if art and drama were not available to me in highschool.


I’m damn worried. This is the generation that will manage my nursing home, deal with clean energy puzzles, sustainability in a growing population, global warming….and these are the folks that will manage the nursing home, hospitals and health care system as I enter my geriatric years. I doubt that with my past record, I’ll be easily managed and I’m already feeling sorry for the nurse that will empty my bedpan.

These are the great problems of our society today – sustainability in food source, energy source, health resources and seniors care and social management.

I’m sick and tired of running around in circles trying to get answers. Trustees say…well, we have a meeting on September 19th, and go to your School Council on the 26th. Hello? Did you miss time management in school? The semester is a third over and there will be no chance for this cohort of students to repair the bad decisions made by others in negating arts education.  The time for waiting is over….and why the heck, on the first day of school are we finding out that our arts tracks have been completely sideswiped by the system?

School Council President had no idea when I contacted her last night. Neither did several of the trustees. All of these folks are sympathetic to the situation, as are the Principal. I’m still waiting for any answer from the MLA’s office, the Education or Culture Ministers.


Savage Chickens. © Doug Savage.

We are. Just us chickens inside this here coop. We are the ones that have to make this happen in some way. I’m tired of the boxes that organizations, unions, governments and “the powers that be” put on themselves and on others. They are shackling our ability to be nimble, to think, to find those “innovative, inspiring” solutions that we are all so very thirsty for in the complexity that is our world today. I’m tired of the finger-pointing between teachers, school boards and government.

Social & Community Entrepreneurship

Let me ask the question…..if I were to step up and volunteer to teach the curriculum in ART and DRAMA (which MUST be delivered)…to this cohort of Grade 10 students, would the school, the teachers, the government turn me down because I don’t have a teacher’s license? What are the barriers, beyond funding? Classroom space shouldn’t be an issue – if we have declining enrollment, surely there must be space? We bend over backwards in this community for our sports and Olympic athletes….how do we bend to ensure there is a well rounded education in the arts as well as the sciences? No…I don’t want to do this for free. You know how I feel about artists being paid for their work. I have to support my family, but I’m also aware that somehow, there has to be a solution.

The irony of this is that currently, the Town of Canmore has a task force working on a new arts centre in the old library space, and a meeting of the Board for the Alberta Foundation of the Arts is about to take place in town this week. We are to be a “shining example” of a prospering arts town. Really? What a horrible lie that is. We are building infrastructures  but not providing the education for the future users. That is not “creating the conditions to prosper” which is the job of our government in a recent discussion with a former Minister of Arts and Culture in Alberta, Lindsay Blackett. How sustainable is THAT? I can’t support any of it.

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. Are you? Are you accountable? Do you REALLY want the best for your children?…or maybe you just want to let it slide and complain in your old age about the “new generation” that can’t seem to empty your bedpan. Slide quietly and fearfully into the future. Savage chickens….just a form of an adapted dinosaur.

Excuse me while I go get my son ready for failure in his Mechanics class and figure out this bedpan thing.


UPDATE!! – Thursday, September 6th – It has also just come to my attention through another parent that if you opt to take French, you cannot take Music and visa versa. I’m still not sure why it is that kids are being segregated by stream. In addition to this, there are many, many other problems and issues with the system.  Step up! Write your CRPS Public School Trustees, MLA, and contacts below TODAY. Let’s find a solution! We CAN!

Three days into this, and I still have not received a peep out of Banff/Cochrane MLA, Ron Casey or his office staff, despite the letters. Anyone else hear from him? 

That’s not sticking well in my crusty craw right now. I have heard that he did have time to attend both an elite soiree with the AFA Board, artists, other elected officials right here in Canmore. Hmmm….just what are our MLA’s doing these days? Touting transparency? Opening hospitals? Partying with artists? If I thought he was trying to learn about the issue with some sense of real concern to address it with solution, I think I could cut some slack…but I don’t think that’s the case given he’s been so busy toasting the town. Helllooooooo…………..earth to the mighty…………..we have some problems down here in the muck.


Canmore Arts Education Burns While MLA Ron Casey Fiddles



Please contact the following “authorities” to effect some change in our systems:

Canadian Rockies Public School Trustees

Kim Bater – kbater@telusplanet.net
Esme Comfort – ecomfort@crps.ab.ca Twitter: @esmecomfort
Amanda Kelly – No email available
Carol Picard – canmoron@shaw.ca
Arlene Rheume – No email available
Sheila Snowsell – slsnow@telus.net

Canadian Rockies Public School Superintendant: Chris MacPhee

Via email to his assistant: scollyer@crps.ab.ca
Board Office: 403 609 6072


Rocky Mountain Outlook:

Twitter: @rmoutlook

Phone: (403) 609-0220
Mail: Box 8610Suite 201 – 1001. 6th Avenue,Canmore, AB T1W 2V3 Canada

Publisher: dwhitfield@outlook.greatwest.ca
Reporter: ralexander@outlook.greatwest.ca
Photojournalist: cdouce@outlook.greatwest.ca













MLA – Ron Casey, Banff-Cochrane

Constituency Office

Unit 109, 1205 Bow Valley Trail
Canmore, AB
Canada T1W 1P5
Phone: (403) 609-4509
Toll-Free: 1-866-760-8281
Fax: (403) 609-4513


Legislature Office

630 Legislature Annex
9718 107 Street
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 1E4
Phone: (780) 415-8429
Fax: (780) 415-0951


Minister of Education – Jeff Johnson

Constituency Office
4807 – 50 Street
Athabasca, AB
Canada T9S 1C8
Phone: (780) 675-3232
Fax: (780) 675-2396

Legislature Office
424 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-5010
Fax: (780) 427-5018


Minister of Arts and Culture – Heather Klimchuk

Constituency Offices

Constituency Office
10649 – 124 Street
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5N 1S5
Phone: (780) 455-7979
Fax: (780) 455-2197

Legislature Offices

Legislature Office
107 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 422-3559 Fax: (780) 427-7729

Premier of Alberta – Allison Redford

Constituency Office
6, 22 Richard Way SW
Calgary, AB
Canada T3E 7M9
Phone: (403) 252-0346
Fax: (403) 252-0520

Legislature Office
307 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-2251
Fax: (780) 427-1349


OPPOSITION CRITICS (In no particular order……Please also copy them on email/correspondence you send to your MLA. This is how our democratic system works…so WORK IT!)

Laurie Blakeman – Liberal Opposition Critic (Arts & Culture)

Constituency Office

#3, 9908-109 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 1H5

Phone: (780) 414-0743
Fax: (780) 414-0772


Kent Hehr – Liberal Critic for Education

Constituency Office

#130, 1177 – 11 Avenue SW
Calgary, AB
Canada T2R 1K9
Phone: (403) 244-7737
Fax: (403) 541-9106

Legislature Office

201 Legislature Annex
9718 107 Street
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 1E4
Phone: (780) 427-2292
Fax: (780) 427-3697

NDP Opposition/Caucus Contact Information:

Alberta NDP Opposition
Room 501, 9718 – 107 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 1E4
Phone: 780.415.1800
Fax: 780.415.0701

Wild Rose Opposition/Critics:

Blake Pedersen – Culture Critic
Constituency Offices
Constituency Office
620 – 3rd Street SE
Medicine Hat, AB
Canada T1A 0H5
Phone: (403) 527-5622
Fax: (403) 527-5112

Bruce McAllister – Education Critic

Constituency Office
215-175 Chestermere Station Way
Chestermere, AB
Canada T1X 0G1
Phone: (403) 207-9889
Toll-Free: 1-866-843-4314
Fax: (403) 216-2225


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