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.
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.
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
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
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.
WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE LOSS OF ARTS EDUCATION IN AN AFFLUENT MOUNTAIN COMMUNITY?
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 – email@example.com
Esme Comfort – firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @esmecomfort
Amanda Kelly – No email available
Carol Picard – email@example.com
Arlene Rheume – No email available
Sheila Snowsell – firstname.lastname@example.org
Canadian Rockies Public School Superintendant: Chris MacPhee
Via email to his assistant: email@example.com
Board Office: 403 609 6072
Rocky Mountain Outlook:
|Mail:||Box 8610Suite 201 – 1001. 6th Avenue,Canmore, AB T1W 2V3 Canada|
EDITORIAL – The CANMORE LEADER:
TOWN OF CANMORE – COUNCIL:
MLA – Ron Casey, Banff-Cochrane
Unit 109, 1205 Bow Valley Trail
Canada T1W 1P5
Phone: (403) 609-4509
Fax: (403) 609-4513
630 Legislature Annex
9718 107 Street
Canada T5K 1E4
Phone: (780) 415-8429
Fax: (780) 415-0951
Minister of Education – Jeff Johnson
4807 – 50 Street
Canada T9S 1C8
Phone: (780) 675-3232
Fax: (780) 675-2396
424 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-5010
Fax: (780) 427-5018
Minister of Arts and Culture – Heather Klimchuk
10649 – 124 Street
Canada T5N 1S5
Phone: (780) 455-7979
Fax: (780) 455-2197
107 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 422-3559 Fax: (780) 427-7729
Premier of Alberta – Allison Redford
6, 22 Richard Way SW
Canada T3E 7M9
Phone: (403) 252-0346
Fax: (403) 252-0520
307 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
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)
#3, 9908-109 Street
Phone: (780) 414-0743
Fax: (780) 414-0772
Kent Hehr – Liberal Critic for Education
#130, 1177 – 11 Avenue SW
Canada T2R 1K9
Phone: (403) 244-7737
Fax: (403) 541-9106
201 Legislature Annex
9718 107 Street
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
Wild Rose Opposition/Critics:
Blake Pedersen – Culture Critic
620 – 3rd Street SE
Medicine Hat, AB
Canada T1A 0H5
Phone: (403) 527-5622
Fax: (403) 527-5112
Bruce McAllister – Education Critic
215-175 Chestermere Station Way
Canada T1X 0G1
Phone: (403) 207-9889
Fax: (403) 216-2225
This Post Has 14 Comments
Well said, Janice! I could have written segments of this. Take heart that it’s not just Alberta. My younger son graduated in June and I’m glad it’s over. I used to be a teacher and though i miss the kids I don’t miss the erosion of the system and the truly ugly politics that came to a head in BC this year. (We were a little luckier because though he went to a small high school, he was still able to take art, drama and creative writing — which made a huge difference to both his self confidence and GPA as he’s super creative — in Grade 12. I don’t think it would’ve been possible this year.)
Thank you for your comment, Andrea. I know that it’s not just Alberta…nor is it just “my kid”. It’s the bigger issues that we need to all address and hold ourselves accountable for in regards to this. Politics, party or otherwise have to be set aside. It’s no longer acceptable to say….”That’s the Principal/School Board/Superintendent/MLA’s job….” It’s up to us.
Yes, this is definitely a problem in this lovely mountain town of ours. Can we raise money for an artist to teach more art this year at the high school? How about an “art club?” I’ll throw in some $$$, not that I have a lot to throw around because I’m a writer… I suppose it would make the point if we could get the scholl board to do it, but by then (and probably not anyway) we’ll be lying around with our bedpans full.
Thanks for the comment, Kat. Please be proactive and contact our MLA, the NDP, Liberal and Wild Rose critics for Education and Arts/Culture as well as the school board, superintendent and trustees as well as the media. This could actively help it turn around.
When I was going to school, even though I did very well in all subjects, it was drama that kept me going and excited for the day. I had a challenging home life and my social life at school was often a source of stress, and so it was drama that gave me strength to put up with everything else. Moreover, it was an outlet for me to channel my angst and worries . . . and to let go and create. Drama is what motivated me to get out of bed in the morning and was often the only thing I looked forward to in the day. Most importantly, those skills learned in high school drama laid a foundation that I would return to on multiple occasions in my adult life, both professionally and personally. I can very easily see how art could be the same for your son.
Of course, empathy alone doesn’t change anything for your son or for my kids. Accordingly, I am offering up my voice, for whatever it is worth, to help. Since the matter is not within municipal jurisdiction, I am doing so not as Town Councillor but rather in my personal capacity. I honestly believe that the School Board of Trustees, the school administrators, and teachers are doing the best they can with what they have been given. I believe the problem is higher up and many of us have to let the powers that be know how much arts education is valued and needed for healthy development of our kids.
Sean, thank you so much for your comment and passion around this topic. This is a universal issue for all of us in this area, and I suspect in many other areas and schools in Alberta where declining enrolment and the funding model are at odds with each other. It’s important that we all take on the responsibility of finding the solutions to the problem instead of finger-pointing. Accountability and having the guts to stand up and do what is right is what we need at every level. “Doing the best with what you’ve been given” isn’t enough in my opinion any longer. If we are to be true social entrepreneurs, it requires going beyond what is “given” – digging, discovering, collaborating, failing, trying again….and THAT is what we really need. Everyone working the solution.
I’m wondering. Sean you say that the matter is not within municipal jurisdiction. I wonder though why this couldn’t sit within municipal jurisdiction in some way. Of course not in the sense that you can walk into the school and start moving classes around but as the saying goes It takes a community to raise a child. In one area of our community we have an issue that directly affects the people living in our community. With some thinking outside the box why can’t the town get involved? The town has been quite happy to put money into a non-profit group to allow kids to climb walls so why not money into a non-profit group (a school) to allow kids to explore the arts.Why not other resources? Why not advocacy? Why not ….well or sorts of ways can come to mind if there is willingness.
One hopes the school sorts out the ridiculous “rule” of – not Art AND Drama and only if………and one hopes it comes to its senses. This is an immediate and hopefully short term problem. The bigger problem is the way the Arts are seen within the education system – and how it’s lacking within our school systems and thus lacking within our community – and that makes it a community issue.
When I was on School Baord it was a great frustration of mine that the School Board and the Municipality hardly connected – and when they did it was with more confrontation than mutual benefit. (Due to personalities and history and an attitude on both side of “not within my jurisdiction) )I’m really hopeful that with the new mayor and council members and especially with Vi now on Council that this will change.
Jane, I like it! Indeed it is within everyone’s responsibility. I am tired of the boxes that we put ourselves into. “We have no funding….we have no jurisdiction….it’s THAT person’s job vs. mine….” Of course there is a solution here. We could lead and set a model for other communities to follow. It has been my experience that fear is always the biggest deterrent to action and decision, and wow…..are we afraid to give our kids an arts education or the best education that we possibly could? I don’t think so. If there is something wrong with the systems and organizations, it behooves us all to get in there with the wrench and fix it. If you get a little dirty along the way, all the better for it – we’ll all learn how to make things work better and get rid of the practices that do not. Thank you again for your comment.
Might I also add that it IS the responsibility of this town in that we are spending a great deal of time and money on the arts – proposing a new arts centre in the old library building, public art funds and projects. If, in fact, we are spending public town funds on bricks and mortar initiatives to support the arts, we should look very closely at the entire system itself. If we cannot foster a feeder system then why are we spending on facilities for end-users? I’d be very much against the arts centre if we cannot support a sustainable model through education that will eventually develop that.
I am willing to teach the art and drama sections and I’m sure there is a lot of support if that is a solution here in the short term, but we do have some barriers to overcome in order to make that happen. We have a rich community in the arts which we celebrate each year at the Mayor’s Awards….really? Council can’t get involved. Let’s think this through a bit more please.
This decision, by the school, makes no sense – other than it suits the scheduling requirement of making sure students are somewhere in some class, no matter what that class is. The decision is not student focused. It also shows up the bias systemic in the system towards the sciences and math . To actually graduate from High School you need english 30, social 30, math 20, science 20 (only one science at 20 level is actually needed) and then 10 credits coming from any 30 level courses. To graduate it can be balanced between the arts and the non-arts but in reality it isn’t balanced becasue of the bias towards the sciences. If you look at the CCHS handbook the courses offered are heavily biased towards the science and math subjects. Students in grade 11 can take biology AND physics AND Chemistry – but students in grade 11 can’t take ART and DRAMA and …oh where are other arts focused courses?? Thanks Janice for rabblerousing. and for the contact info.
Jane, thank you for your comment. I agree with you on the “non-sense” of the scheduling, in fact with the “nonsense” of it all. With a birds eye view, there has to be a better solution than what is being offered. That is was not brought to the attention of parents and stakeholders prior to the start of the school year is suspect and negligent. When we are asked to be involved in our student’s education, to advocate and inspire, and then left with no choice and little time to grasp a complex situation, one can only think that either a “fast one” is being pulled, or that competency is lacking.
Sense is the watchword here, along with accountability and solution.
Might I also add that there needs to be some flexibility in systems and organizations for innovative solutions to occur. What are those? Where can we be flexible at all levels – municipal, school board, provincial. ???? Any solutions or area of flexibility that come to mind for anyone?
Pingback: Canmore Arts Education Burns While Banff-Cochrane MLA Ron Casey Fiddles...in a very nice artsy purple shirt and matching tie! | Janice Tanton :: Full Time Human Being
Pingback: Nursery Rhymes, Facts & Figures, Dreams & Accountability - Let Them Eat Cake! | Janice Tanton :: Full Time Human Being
There are a great many problems in the public education system in Alberta the first of which is that the Tories have been tenured by Albertans and now believe that they are the boss of us rather than understanding that they are employees hired by citizens who are required to do as we say.
Of course it doesn’t help that they are poor managers of the public purse and are in fact, giving every evidence of using the public purse as a spare change fund for their own odds and ends (see Calgary Health Region’s expense account scandals).
What will change the sense of superpowers of our MLAs and MPs? Citizens.
We have to monitor our elected managers and fire them if necessary.
They also need to know that we no longer blame our schools and our school boards for not having money to pay for our special education kids because we understand that the real problem is that these folks aren’t getting enough money from our government.
Why aren’t they getting enough money from government?
Government is in the oil industry’s pocket.
They get contributions from oil companies and other corporations and so citizens who don’t contribute beans are last in line for services and help from our elected folks.
There is also a sense that the citizen is no longer a significant matter unless it is election time.
Money has to be obtained through royalties which are lower than they should be.
Oil prices are down. The US is producing more oil so demand is less.
So with a lower than what we should get price for our oil coupled with the lower demand there is less money to pay for schools (also after paying for all the MLA salaries and pensions and severances ….there is even less money).
Also Alberta has a flat rate system that gives the rich in Alberta a break but this means that there is less money coming in.
The solutions to these problems? Not the FIPA with China which would give our resources to a human rights abuser and leave us with an environmental disaster to clean up on the tarsands. But it would be productive to have a higher royalty rate. If the oil companies don’t want to pay, fine. Let them go look for oil somewhere else. The flat rate tax business can change as well.
The bigger issues?
We have all voted for the same crew decade after decade and they haven’t given us value for our money.
After hearing about the Merali scandal, the amount of money spent on the Olympics and the recent expenses of the various folks in AHS and the Grey Nuns….well, that makes me mad. The money that was used in these indulgent ways could have paid for special education services in schools.
The biggest issue is the failure of the Progressive Conservative Party to go beyond myth making, their agenda of privatizing health care (so that it is now a big mess), subsidizing the private sector with odd notions such as Networc Inc. and the P3 projects as well as their poor stances on social issues (think of the removal of health services from refugees).
I am disappointed in the party and no amount of spin and fairy tales is going to get me to vote for them again. They have ripped off us and worse than this –they are leaving a toxic legacy for our children –that I have only just been reading about.
Transparency is very minor in this party, accountability is poor and the failure to address their anti-democratic acts is an ongoing citizen headache. Where do we start as citizens? Write to all of them and tell them that after four decades of being in a coma in Alberta, citizens are waking up and will be voting them out.