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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Anticipating Alberta's Inspiring Education Report as a Game Changer

I know it is tough to herd cats.  Imagine trying to do that with informed, articulate and engaged cats.  That is a near impossible challenge but only if you are presecriptive about the desired outcome in advance.  These kind of cats are near impossible to direct in any predetermined way once they are deployed.  That has to be a metaphorical description of the task of the committee reporting on the outcomes of Dave Hancock's Inspiring Education consultation process.

Will we get a distilled report from a department perspective that is designed to be politically safe (a.k.a. bland and pointless).  Or will the informed, articulate and engaged cats from the larger community have the pen and rule the day?  If so, then I expect we be given a feast for thought and a call for further citizen engagement in public education.  I will then anticipate some definite declarations of what ought to be our educational aspirations for Alberta moving forward..

Alberta's political culture is in turmoil and turbulent.  It has retreated from good governance into a command and control topdown governing philsophy motivated by partisan political survival.  Intimidation, coersion, pressure and threats from politicians, power brokers and even program managers against vulnerable citizens, community organizations, agencies and public service providers are becoming all too prevalent.  It is more proof of the mounting evidence that our government, and many of our governing institutions, have lost their way; policy-wise, politically and morally.  

In such a corrosive political culture we can expect meaningless double-speak and obfuscation if the government gets to politically frame the outcomes of an Inspiring Education report.  On the other hand, if educators, Trustees and community members hold the pen, I hope for an expansive, inclusive, dynamic, comprehensive, generative warts-and-all aspirational and challenging report. I want to know from the report on the Inspiring Education process what our best minds think we need to do about the protecting and adpating public education in Alberta so our students are ready to face the future.

There are thousands of Albertans who know and care about the future of public education and many of them came together in the Inspiring Education process.  We in Alberta, and Edmonton in particular,  have a public education system that is the envy of the world.  It has survived the attacks from those shallow thinkers who imposed simple minded "solutions" like competition and test standardization. That was no way to adapt a complex systems like public education to meet the changing world of the 21st century.

The open question going forward is will those Albertans who know and care about public education become engaged and rise to the political and public policy challenges ahead?  In particular will they have the courage and character to rise to resist the partisan, self-preserving, politically motiviated challenges that are emerging and threatening to undermine and destroy public education in Alberta?

The great paradox of self-preserving political "leadership" is its tone deafness and ineptness for authentic communication with citizens.  The problem, and the solution, is always seen by those who see their power and authority in decline, as a failure to communicate.  When the citizens are way ahead of the politicians and the bureaucracy in understanding the problems, priorities, preferences and solutions the self-preserving politicians become paralyzed. 

That is the cause of the real failure to effectively and authenticaly communicate.  It is pretty much the political situation in Alberta today.  It is not new.  It was this way in the late 80's early 90's over debt and deficit.  The Alberta population was way ahead of the political class on those issues.  The communications broke down and the population expressed their displeasure.  It eventually lead to the end of Don Getty's Premiership.

Polls tell us public confidence in the institutional powers-that-be and the political leadership in Alberta is now at, or approaching, an all time low.  Systems are breaking down at a time when Alberta is poised to be one of the most compelling, renoun and quite possibly most celebrated places on the planet, thanks to the oilsands. All of this transformational possiblity can and will be squandered if Albertans don't get seriously re-engaged and reaffirm the rights and responsibilities of our citizenship. 

We have to Reboot Alberta.  We can do this by Progressive citizens taking Control back from the politicians, the media and the behind- the door power-brokers in the energy industry.  We have to create Alternative 21st century institutions based on horizontal inclusive governance models that is citizen based and working in networked connected inclusive communities.  We have to Delete concentrated political power that is centralized topdown command and control by reckless and feckless leadership supported by anemic and self-serving political parties. 

How do we Progressives do it?  There are a number of ways.  One way is to take over the existing political institutions and change them from within.  Another is to create new political institutions that can replace the old, tired, tedious and self-serving groups we have now.  Then there is a citizens movement that is reminescent of the many social change movments of the 1960s.  But now, thanks to the Internet, such movements can be more effective, dynamic and generative. They can actually create and deliver new ideas and express the citizen-based aspirations for the next Alberta.

We have to be up for all of these efforts, and more.  But time is a-wastin' and times are a-changin'.  Reboot Alberta is becoming a gathering place for Albertans who are not only mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, but who may be ready to do something to change the world or at least Alberta's place in it.  If this describes you, then I suggest you join the citizen's movement known as Reboot Alberta.  Dust off your citizenship, park your cynicism, bring your best self and start to Press for Change about where Alberta is going and how we will get there.