Tag Archives: education

Oil or Nothing: Alberta’s false dichotomy

Leduc1_WesternExaminerImage_GlenbowAs long as I can remember in Alberta our defining narrative has been oil or nothing. Which, given that I was born in Alberta in 1968 and came of age in Alberta in the 1980s, rather coincided with how the rest of the world saw the story of modern human prosperity.

Fossil fuels, the industrial revolution, automation. We used to think of it as an uphill journey we had come to the end of. But it wasn’t an uphill climb, it dipped and soared. And the journey isn’t coming to an end, the resource is.

These booms and busts became the Alberta story. In the boom everyone celebrated oil, in the busts everyone became nostalgic for oil. Getting stuck in today’s self congratulation is not future forward. Nostalgia is not future forward. Oil is not future forward.

As decades have rolled by the global mindset has shifted, and there are significant swaths of the global physical and ideological landscape that have begun to look past oil (past fossil fuels in general) and toward a future we need to prepare for.

We lag behind in Alberta. We still tell ourselves that our future is oil or nothing. Sadly our stubborn refusal to lift our heads and look down the road has meant that we have not adequately prepared for our future on the immediate horizon.

This is why I am less concerned with Alberta’s current deficit than some are. I’m not happy about it. I think it absolutely could have been avoided, but that avoidance horizon was 20 years ago. It can’t be avoided now if we want our province to be prosperous into the real and looming future.

windturbinecropWe need to bring our infrastructure up to a level that makes us competitive. We need to educate our youth to a level that makes them competitive. We need to build an economy that is competitive.

Yes, we are creating a debt that will be handed down to our children, but at least this time the debt we are creating will be offset by their prosperity gain. Debts past were handed to next generations who had less to pay the debt off with.

Our young people, and our own generation, can and should invest now in alternatives to oil. For reasons of economic stability. For reasons of environmental preservation. For reasons of lofty ambition and creativity and what makes the humans unique as a species.

Close up of a graduation cap and a certificate with a ribbon --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

So, thank you Alberta NDP for reinvesting in education. Our kids will have the means to pay back the debt because we borrowed to give them the skills for future jobs.

No more boom and bust. No more oil or nothing.

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A pedant’s place (musings on work and work spaces)

A friend of mine recently posted a retrospective of the ‘typical’ office desk as it has changed over the last 30 years. It got me thinking about how what I do and why I do it has changed over the last 30 years.

I graduated highschool in 1986, 30 years ago. In 1986 I was expected to get a job, find a husband, buy a house, have some kids and blend into a suburban life. Post-secondary education was not on the radar in my family sphere but I bucked that trend and went to university, albeit it took me 5 years to do so.

Smith_Corona_4000DS_Word_Processor_Electric_TypewriterLiving on my own, my first ‘home office’ was in the unfinished basement by the hot water heater, furnace and washing machine. Half the desk top was cluttered with my art supplies. I remember writing term papers on my electric typewriter. In my second year of university I got a computer and I was able to word process. Aside from finishing the last term paper and graduating university, this is how my life stayed for the longest time. All my best laid plans sat in a dark corner of the basement gathering dust.

For the past 20 years my life has been more concerned more with my pay cheque and benefits and less with my dreams and ambitions.

Things have finally changed. What I want and what I will accept from both work and my free time has changed. I care a whole heck of a lot less about my pay cheque than I do about meaningful work. To be fair, my husband makes a good living so my priority shift is being financed by his desire to see me happy. We both choose to prioritize happiness and meaning for both of us, he just got there before me.

When I quit my government job to go back to school full time I made a conscious break. I re-trained for something new. I hated the old box. Hated being a cog in the big wheel. Hated the corporate speak. Hated the long sentences short on meaning. Hated, hated, hated, HATED every minute of it.

I loved my second round of term papers, and was giddy about my plan to reemerge into a world of meaningful, fulfilling employment. I got a contract right away and at the end I had a chance at full time employment, but I let it go.

Rent-Office-Cubicles-CharlotteIt turns out it wasn’t just the type of work (although it absolutely was the way they did the work), it was the work environment as well. Seriously, who the hell can be happy in a drab cubicle with no access to natural light for 7 hours?

Since letting that opportunity go I have applied for a few jobs. The few interviews I have had haven’t gone well because I chafed during them. I bloody hate the interview. I think I am just refusing to say what I know they want to hear. Three times now on my way out my interviewer has said “Thanks for your candor”. I’m pretty certain that’s code for “you went off our script”. Off script is good. It doesn’t equate to out of control, it equates to exploring new possibilities and thinking on your feet. The person who eventually hires me will want a person who thinks, and thinks a lot.

I have found some odd work here and there, and have lent my skills to some not-for-profit organizations. Oddly enough I communicate better with them because I think I just respect them more because they live outside the box by their very nature.

Long story short, I’m not working right now.

I’m OK with that because tof what has changed. I will work. But I will  not work in a box. I will be creative. I will take risks. I will make a difference. I will have access to natural light.

So that’s it, 2016 and 47 years of chasing ideas from a dingy, dark, dusty second hand desk wedged in a corner next to a furnace to this:

where i sitI think it’s an improvement. Certainly the office politics have improved. I think 2016 bodes well for outside the box.

 

Confirmation bias

I have a few fears that come with behaviors attached, and high on my prioritized list of scary things I could do is the fear of not taking into account as many vantage points as are presented to me. As Aristotle wrote – It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. I aspire to an educated mind.

The ability to present our own views without being blinded by them is fundamental to effective communication. The key to not being blinded by our own attitudes is avoiding confirmation bias.

For the sake of clarity, confirmation bias is defined as the tendency to interpret evidence or points of view that are presented to us only as they confirm our own pre-existing world view, and to disregard and/or avoid any evidence or point of view that would lead us to question the same. It involves purposefully seeking out only the information that confirms what we believe and ignoring what calls our beliefs into question. Confirmation bias is strongly ingrained into human nature.

Avoiding this pitfall is important for me, and sometimes it is hard work.

After all, who doesn’t want to unfriend that one idiot who posts all the (not thought) provoking tea party, anti-climate change, you’re either ‘with me or against me’ tripe on Facebook?

Or the ninny that posts about meditating to cure illnesses; who likes  and shares every bit of drivel that Deepak Choprah spews out?  (FYI, I always get a giggle out of this: http://www.wisdomofchopra.com/)

Who would it hurt to end what is obviously not a true friendship, but what is probably at best an acquaintance based on some perverse intellectual voyeurism?

Therein lies the rub. It would hurt me.

I keep my circle wide because it helps me maintain my mental acuity. How else would I encounter a daily challenge to my ability refute inanity? What other reason do I have to keep that logical fallacies poster by my desk or to maintain solid knowledge of Graham’s hierarchy of disagreement? I could end up being one of those people who defends her opinions with the lazy way out “Because that’s the way I was raised/the tradition/how we’ve always done it”

More importantly, I keep my circle wide because disagreeing with one person’s one point of view does not mean that that same one person does not have something to teach me, because we don’t just learn from agreement. I particularly cherish the people who do really think critically and rationally, but still arrive at different conclusions from me.

Confirmation bias is a real danger.  When all our contacts and information are selected from sympathetic sources it is too easy to become intellectually compromised, and maybe even to become one of the nitwit someone else blogs about.

So I thank all the nitwits, simpletons, cretins and nincompoops that exist within the parameters of my network. You keep me sharp. My family, however, may not be as grateful because thanks to you they get to listen to a lot of frustrated raving about the sad state of society and how much I despair for the future of the human race.