A two-pronged attack on creativity

If you want to see the kind of mind that supports closing arts programs, in this case at Mount Royal University, have a look at two recent opinion articles. One by the Calgary Sun ’s Ian Robinson is a barely coherent demonstration of ignorance and simple-mindedness. The other, by the Calgary Herald ’s Karin Klassen, is an intellectually inconsistent, logically faulty and evidence-averse column that should make her editor blush with embarrassment. Those are the kinds of intellects that celebrate such things. That should scare you.

Although maybe you should be more frightened by the intellects in charge of the province, seeing as they actually make these kinds of decisions. Okay, so Advanced Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk and Premier Alison Redford didn’t order Mount Royal to close its jazz program, its theatre arts program or even reduce its engineering and nursing programs, but they did slash the budgets of Alberta’s post-secondaries to the bone, dropping the blame for the government’s incompetence on the doorstep of higher learning. That should scare you.

I’m almost at a loss for words that a case needs to be made for why we should have robust post-secondary schools with a diversity of programs, including ones that aren’t “commercially viable.” Have we really reached the point where I have to argue for the inherent value of things like philosophy, literature, theatre and music? Do I really have to highlight how important these supposed economic laggards are to our society? That should scare you.

It seems like the government is hell-bent on establishing a bland monoculture of a society, one focused on destruction for profit, rather than creativity and critical thinking for purpose. When a government decides that it wants to start lecturing schools on the types of programs offered, we’re in trouble. The fact that Mount Royal decided to pluck the low-hanging fruit of arts programs is shameful, particularly when it could probably find savings that would prevent any programs from being cancelled altogether. Is this a strategic move on behalf of the school to highlight the true costs of the Conservative cuts? That’s the only palatable theory.

When the provincial budget landed with a thud in March, Alberta’s cultural organizations and workers let out a collective, though quiet, sigh. At least arts and culture wasn’t decimated like in the Klein years. Sure, Epcor Centre operational funding is up in the air, the Student Temporary Employment Program that many organizations rely on for summer help was cut, and so too were the Community Spirit grants, but it could have been worse, right? Well, it is. First we have the Mount Royal cuts, then what? What will the Alberta College of Art and Design do to get its budget under control? What of the University of Calgary? It seems to be fine for the time being, but what if Redford and co. carry on cutting? There’s an arts department at the U of C that doesn’t get enough respect from the administration….

So while the government occasionally offers some meek statement on the need for economic diversification, we see their true colours in this short-sighted budgetary decision and its outcomes. While they continue to dole out hefty subsidies to the oil and gas industry, including lax royalty rates while those companies shatter what’s left of our ecosystems, they cut the very institutions that can contribute to a complete society, one where arts and critical thinking attract great minds, build a better city and retain workers, including those in the soaring energy towers downtown.

If all we’re left with at the end of the day are the kinds of intellects that pen missives celebrating a loss of culture, that should really scare us all.

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