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A postcard in public domain that provided the inspiration for Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman. c. 1910s. Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a joke that goes over well at holiday parties:

Is it true that Alberta Government values higher education?

In principle yes, only their funding is called “budget cuts” and their student assistance is called “tuition raises.” Now they talk about showing how much they care for educators by wanting to slash faculty salaries.

Yes, MAKE ALBERTA STUPID AGAIN. Where’s my ballcap?

What in the world is Alberta government thinking in cutting funding to education?

According to the Parkland Institute, “The UCP government’s 2019 budget promises direct cuts to post-secondary education funding, with a 5% cut in 2019, another 2.8% cut in 2020, a 2.2% cut in 2021, and a further 2.3% cut in 2022. When compounded with population growth and inflation, these reductions amount to a cut of about 30% over the next three years.” (1) And this is on the back of previous cuts to Alberta institutions of education that the government has mandated over the past few years.

In light of these current cuts, let’s recall the $25 million, yes that is $25 million, that Alberta spent in 2009 on a rebranding campaign that completely fizzled, The final slogan was: “Freedom to create, spirit to achieve.”

Then government hated it. By 2011, Premier Alison Redford called it “useless.” (2). It’s not clear to me whether the province currently has an official slogan now or not and this worries me.

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Float in the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade that satirizes public schools. 1999. Wikimedia Commons.

So in the interests of supporting Alberta and saving money I’m willing to help (provided I get my MASA ballcap in the mail.)

And here’s the great news: I won’t charge a dime more than $24 million, a savings of exactly 20 million nickels (Canada doesn’t use pennies anymore.) So take your pick.

Alberta education’s death by a thousand cuts.

Meanwhile caps have been lifted from university senior administrative salaries, even as the MacKinnon Report showed that university senior administrative salaries in Alberta were way above those in British Columbia, one of the comparison provinces in the report.

I’ve petitioned the estate of Dr. Seuss to rewrite his book for Alberta:

“The less that you read,

the more things you will know,

the less that you learn,

the more places you’ll go.”

Malls are hiring. As a colleague once said about the hiring interview at malls: “Can you breathe? You‘re hired.”

I think of the old line, a father says to his son, “I told you not to be stupid, you moron.”

Alberta post-secondary cuts “kneecapping” a generation, wrote Sarah Lawrynuik in the National Observer, November 2, 2019. The word had been used by Carolyn Sale, associate professor of English and film studies at the University of Alberta.

Meanwhile, the government lifted the caps on tuition as a means to fill the gap. The U of C said incoming students will have tuition raised 7% and international students will see their tuition raised 10% (https://www.su.ucalgary.ca/about/faq/budget2019/).

The Provincial Budget Impacts UCalgary Students, wrote the Students’ Union at the University of Calgary. The article continued saying that if as suggested these increases are implemented over three years, we will see effectively a tuition raise of 21% and for international students 30%. Add that to the annual approximately 3% increase in cost of living.

A spoof in The Beaverton quipped that in order to avoid cuts, schools had started rebranding themselves as oil companies. “‘…educators have to adapt to government priorities,’ said Hal Gershin, former Principal of East Edmonton Secondary School, now CEO of Eastern Energy, Chemicals, and Resources Limited.” (3)

But I’m not naysayer. Let’s join with a united goal make education more unaffordable than it currently is. Let’s tailor our education toward plumbers, electricians, car dealers and developers.

As for everyone else, McDonald’s needs line staff. Superstore needs check out staff. Newspapers need part time delivery people. Baristas are in high demand.

Let’s be clear all you gen-zees and gen-alphas, electricians, plumbers, car dealers, and developers need their coffee now, not five minutes ago. Your job is to hand it to them and say, “No problem.”

Welcome to a new Alberta that a cynic might say will become the land of the stupid, made stupider by government defunding of education.

Someone less cyincal would argue that these cuts to education were done after careful consideration, and they would demonstrate that consideration. In other words, as pointed out by Rory Gill, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees these cuts followed a decision to reduce corporate taxes from 12 % down to to 8%, on the back of the public sector. (4)

In 1826, the Goethe wrote, “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” We’ve shot up our hand. “Ooh Ooh. Did you call me? I’m here!” Don’t worry, soon nobody in Alberta’s future will know who Goethe was, or how to pronounce his name, or that he was from Germany let alone where Europe might be on a map.

References

(1) McIntosh, A. And Hussey, I. (October 25, 2019). What you need to know about Alberta Budget 2019. https://www.parklandinstitute.ca/what_you_need_to_know_about_alberta_budget_2019).

(2) Wallace, K. (October 27, 2011). Alberta’s ‘useless’ official slogan headed for the dustbin. Toronto Star.

(3) Huntley, A. (September 4, 2019). Alberta schools to avoid provincial cuts by pretending to be an oil sands company. The Beaverton.

(4) CBC News (November 2, 2019). ’The message is solidarity’: Rally takes aim at Alberta budget. CBC News.

Novelist, poet, a post-studio visual artist, and the founder of The Invisible Art Collective International. Recent novels include “Sundre” and “Garbage Head.”

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