Schooled in educational opportunities 

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School daze, school daze. What to do about school daze.

The Whistler Task Force on Learning & Education — yes, that's learning & education, not learning and education, meh — delivered its report to Council last week. We shall hope the report and its recommendations do not join the storied archive of other documents collectively referred to as "dust collectors" somewhere in the labyrinth of muni hall.

The L&E was formed in October, 2012 and given the task of developing recommendations for a strategic framework for the RMOW to advance and evaluate education opportunities for the benefit of the resort community.

Two things will immediately strike the reasonably astute reader. First, the task force managed to do its job in eight months or, as they like to say around the hall, "Only eight months?" This is remarkable but not surprising.

It's remarkable given the second thing that may strike reasonably astute readers, which is the language of the mandate seems uncomfortably familiar to anyone who has ever read an instruction manual for a Japanese device written by someone with only a passing familiarity with English. It is not surprising though given the impressive and intimidating credentials of the task force members. I'm humbled to know such talent walks among us and hope the RMOW keeps their numbers on speed dial.

The task force laid out a road map for this, and with any luck, subsequent councils to follow when contemplating learning and education opportunities dangled before it by well-meaning and hopeful entrepreneurs, as well as those with less noble intentions.

Those of you with History Deficit Disorder or Compromised Short-Term Memory Retention Syndrome may be asking yourself, "Why does the RMOW care about opportunities in learning and education?" Good question. Let me refresh what's left of your memory.

There are two reasons council is/was/may be interested. Okay, there may well be more than two reasons but I'm sure you're not interested in the others and wouldn't remember them anyway.

The first reason is Whistler U, a.k.a .Whistler International Campus a.k.a. the Zen lands, an idea that's been kicking around so long it may be eligible for CPP. It's an idea, not unlike alchemy, that would turn a marginal piece of land with zoning for a handful of Really Big Homes into a university campus with housing for 1,500 students and all the learning and hard drinking that goes along with them. Notwithstanding the uncomfortable analogy of quacking like a duck, it is not, as the proponents stress, simply a real estate play disguised as a university. It is more like B.C.'s LNG strategy, designed to make us all wealthy and debt-free in our lifetimes.

The second reason is money. Okay, nothing as crass as money. Let's call it economic diversification. Learning and education is becoming indistinguishable with living and leisure, and where better to live and leise than Whistler? And let's be honest, Whistler's been in the education business for as long as there have been people who wanted to learn to ski and people who were willing to encourage them by saying, "Nice turn."

This may be a good time to reference the Economic Partnership Initiative committee report that also came out last week. Then again, I don't want to lose the HDD and CSTMRS kids. Oh well, nothing ventured....

The EPI committee, after 10 months of work, or, as they like to say around the hall, "What took you so long?", discovered winter visitors spend more per day than summer visitors. While this is not surprising, given lift tickets cost $100 and sunscreen costs $5.99, it does raise some interesting questions important to L&E.

Do winter visitors have enough money left to spend on L&E or are we better off targeting summer slackers for learning? Do summer visitors really want to learn anything more challenging than how to find Lost Lake? Are summer visitors a good target market for financial education? If we had free concerts in winter would winter visitors spend less?

Fortunately, the task force has provided a framework to evaluate such questions. Even more fortunately, I'm not going to tell you what that is. If you're interested, go read the report. Here's a link: http://www.whistler.ca/sites/default/files/related/rmow_learning_and_education_task_force_final_report.pdf

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