College Kids Home For the Summer

FTLComm - Tisdale - June 8, 1999

Summer employment back home, is a Saskatchewan small town tradition and whether its working at the golf course, planting the flower beds, or mowing the grass, the community pitches in to find work for these skilled and maturing people. In their world the summer home is part of the process that blends right into the expansion of their world as they progress through college. They keep connected to their families and friends, are assured that there is a direct association between what they are doing and where they came from, and in so many ways, have time to reflect and set their sights on the coming year.
The unsettling situation at university the last few years has  
really shaken young people as they have seen tuition rising at an astonishing rate, as the federal government has all but abandoned its support of post secondary education and provincial governments have simply been unable to meet the demands on them to cover the costs of reduced spending from Ottawa. The danger our society faces is that we may be destined to settle for lives as clerks and wash room attendants because education during this decade has become more elitist then in any time during my half century of life.

The expectations and productive capacity of a society is based on our ability to have creative educated individuals on which business industry and technical innovation can develop. If post secondary education continues to become more and more restricted to only those of high income we
will experience the immediate decline in our society's pluralistic wide based involvement by people from all levels of society.

There are some unsettling ramifications that are awaiting us as my generation, the baby boomers, leave the working economy and move on in age and expectations to another phase. Though this year there still seems to be an over abundance of teachers, the next three years will see a huge number of them leave the work force and we will have an instance teacher shortage. The low pay and difficult working conditions have already created a nurse shortage in this province forcing closing of hospital wings in Yorkton and Weyburn this summer and the universities are reluctant to continue offer many programmes because of the tight situation in which they find themselves.

The way the constitution was designed, or evolved, was that education was to be a provincial matter, but since post secondary education was not a factor at the time of confederation, it became one of those things that developed with no sound economic base and as such, fell under the "residual" powers of the federal government. But with the tight economic situation that develop during the Mulroney years, which may or may not have been the result of his policies, Canada had large numbers of unemployed people who were not paying taxes and the federal government was short of money. It solve its problems by reducing spending, almost ending its involvement in post secondary education funding and cutting in half its contribution to Medicare One can say that this is all history, but the effects are to alter our society.

With high unemployment Canadians expect less and are grateful for little and in many business circles this was exactly what they wanted. We have the unusual situation of high unemployment and deflation as a permanent fixture in our society and have come to consider it normal. Without the public looking toward something and young people feeling a bit desperate finding themselves in college is a luxury and fewer and fewer are going to follow that path. With our level of technology, this is a disaster for our society because it will transfer power and progress away from everyone into the hands of a few.

This problem is so serious that it threatens democracy itself. As a young person growing up in the boundless times of the 60s, I and my generation, pretty much expect things to be fair and that everyone should have equal opportunities. That is no longer the case. We anticipated it becoming the norm for everyone to go to college and instead we see a generation that is more reminiscent of pre-world war one. Privilege, power and position are determining far more then was the case when I was a summer student and for these young people, I worry that they will be more willing to give up other elements of a democratic society, just as their children will have less and less choices.

But alas it is not all gloom and doom, you can make a difference yourself, individually, we still have elections and we still have politicians, tell them what we expect of them in no uncertain terms. If they tell you they can't deliver because of Free Trade or the power of corporations, you will understand why I am concerned.