Maxed out 

Of educations and institutions

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School days, school daze, dear old golden….

I have an unabashed bias toward schools and learning. Like most people in this part of the world, I spent most of the first 18 years of my life in school. Aside from family values, nothing shaped and/or distorted most of our lives quite like the experience of going to school. School forged our social skills, academic interests — or, far too often, lack thereof — penchant for lifelong learning and ability to navigate our way successfully through life.

My relationship with school was so positive I hung around for an extra decade, pinballing through various programs at various universities. Richard Nixon’s inability to grasp peace with honour in Vietnam accounted for only a part of that time, full-time student status being the ultimate safety net between me and an inglorious army career. Procrastinating against the inevitable, grinding duties of adulthood was likely a subtext. But the simple joy at learning new things was, ultimately, the motivating force.

Not surprisingly, that joy outlasted my time in school. Attempting to figure out things I don’t know has been the organizing principle of my life. Fortunately, there are so many things I don’t know — a point repeatedly driven home to me by people who disagree with almost everything I say on this page — that I’ll run short of breath and heartbeat long before I run out of curiosity.

One of the things I do know, or am at least pretty certain of, is that the University of Whistler makes about as much sense as taking brand new skis up the mountain on opening day this year. The UofW likely gasped its last breath during the recently concluded municipal election but I suspect its proponents will kick the can a few more times before this turkey dies.

The UofW is a real estate play wrapped in a cloak of academia housed in an impenetrable shell of diversification. Surprisingly, motherhood wasn’t woven into its myth to provide a final layer of respectability against which no opposition could be mounted.

The question was put to several of the hopefuls at the all-candidates meeting during the campaign, “Are you in favour of diversification?” Well, duh. Fortunately, the ruse didn’t work. The intention behind the question — are you in favour of the UofW proposal — was tickled out, making opposition easy.

Even assuming Whistler is a one-trick pony — it’s not — we would be wise to choose carefully the paths to our diversification. One of the overlooked knocks against an institution of higher learning is the obvious clash between the school year calendar and the seasonal dance of a ski town… which we still are. Whether on the semester, trimester or quarter system, universities tend to be busiest between September and May. While that schedule embraces our shoulder seasons, it also runs full-bore against our bread and butter season.

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