Solidarity's gonna give a lot less than it'll take

Police brutality? Check. Gutting hospitals? Check. Mega racists? Check. Suppressing the strike? Check check. Kafka? Czech. This newsletter has it all, folks, and we’re glad you’re here for it because, honestly, if you weren’t we would have thrown our bodies into a volcano like some sort of ancient virgin offered up for grain and potency. Okay, let’s hit it harder than a Saskatchewan premier hits a bottle before driving.

The language of freedom under neoliberalism is a tricky thing. It's now known as the freedom to buy and sell in the marketplace, unencumbered by state interference or regulation. It's a negative freedom, a freedom from the state. But it is also a rhetorical freedom. The captains of industry don’t seem to mind too much when the state enacts environmental policies that green-light pollution, jails protesters, purchases pipelines, and creates tax loopholes. They see these as welcome state interventions.

Where then is this realm of freedom? Well, you certainly won’t find it anywhere in Alberta’s educational system, if Kenney’s UCP has anything to say about it. Government announcements over the last since their election have made it clear that Jason Kenney envisions a state with a watchful eye. They aim to measure, discipline, test, and guide Albertans, from first grade through university. Every adult grown in Alberta will be shaped through eighteen (or more) years of careful work. Alberta’s children must be taught how to be free.

Let me explain. Alberta’s Blue-Ribbon MacKinnon Report — tasked with finding cuts but never looking at revenues — declared in September that education funding ought to be tied to performance and “strategic outcomes.” Alberta’s education minister recently announced a recommendation that Alberta’s students be subject to standardized testing through grades 1 through grade 5. Provincial Achievement Tests are already in place for students in grade 6 and grade 9, and then of course diploma exams in grade 12. On top of this, Alberta’s advanced education minister recently announced that post-secondary funding will also be tied to performance outcomes. This means that universities, colleges, and their students must focus on meeting their key performance indicators, lest they be brow-beaten by a bean-counting manager and their future careers imperiled.

What's being set up for us is a wonderful system where everyone will have to concentrate on The Test that occurs that year, which will determine the entirety of their future. You better hope that little Jackson or Sophia don’t pee their pants or get roughed up in the schoolyard that day, because it might ruin their entire career track. And if they happen to be late bloomers, or have experienced trauma, or have a disability? Well, you should have paid for a tutor. Oh, you’re part of half of Canadians that probably can’t afford it? Turns out that this system is actually an elaborate plot designed to favour students whose parents can afford a tutor — in other words, to replicate our existing class system.

The broader social, political, and environmental context is worth considering here. With our financial and political systems already buckling under pressure, unprecedented income inequality and looming climate change will need people that can think through complex, intertwined and multifaceted problems. That’s why it makes total sense that we’re training an entire population to concentrate on how best to fill out a multiple-choice bubble sheet for twenty straight years. It’s great practice for marking an “X” alongside whatever name is next to “Conservative” on the ballot.

Besides, it’s not like anyone tried this before and watched it fail. George W. Bush introduced standardized testing through the No Child Left Behind Act (when he wasn’t busy killing people in forever-wars), and the pressure to “teach to the test” became so great that it created a widespread test-cheating scandal. It also helped widen existing inequalities. Fraud is an important growth industry in Alberta, so it makes sense we’d want to incentivize it.

Folks, this isn’t going to get better unless we push for something different. The world Jason Kenney wants to create is one where we are all competing with one another for very scarce resources: jobs, access to education, healthcare, housing, or any number of essential ingredients for existing as a human being. Constant worry about how to get through the next week is a great distraction which prevents us from thinking about and fighting for the world we actually want.

“Freedom to” —positive freedom, in other words— is also a kind of freedom we can build and achieve. We have a medical system that you can pretty much count on to put you back together if something happens (notable exceptions include your teeth, eyes, and medication). We could build an education system that equips us to help build the world we want: one that is truly democratic, one where we can rely on to care for one another, one that might afford us the option of trying something new, of failing, of learning. Rather than send our children through a high-stakes conveyor belt to riches or ruin, maybe we can let them experience a little bit of freedom.

-Joël Laforest

💸Calgary city council is asking the province to let them more easily raise funds to give it to their billionaire criminal (parody) friends in the hockey business (satire) who probably abduct the homeless to do weird experiments (parody).

🔨A federal Conservative donor and Harper appointed judge told Unifor to let the wheels of commerce roll over their livelihoods.

👿Yeah cool you can’t do conversion therapy in Calgary, whoop de doo, I’ll just step over here into Airdrie or something where I can brutalize gay teens to my heart’s content.

🏴Manlet Kenney got a lil’ treat so he didn’t bark at his master today.

💰I don’t get the safe injection site logic. If you are going to pour money into enriching your friends in the rehab business, why would you want to kill addicts that could funnel more money into them? And why would you spend so little money on it? A bigger fraction of your dumb propaganda wing would have gone a long way to purchase pleasures for your poverty profiteer pals. Someone should see if any of that money is going to the pockets of Brother Kenney, who ran treatment centres of a sort (by treatment I mean torture over sexuality).

🚱Toxic process water being released into waterways has never backfired ever in the history of human industrial activity. Nope, never, not even once, nope.

🤑For the purposes of Alberta politics, I present a translation guide: “savings” is Tory for “dead people”, “efficiencies” is code for “lay-offs”, “trimming the fat” means “grandma should have had a better job in her youth”, “nurse” means “abnormal NDP plant”, and “doctor” still actually just means doctor, actually.

🤝Municipal governments will do exactly whatever they want, any time they want, always. If you think your input means anything to them you’re a sap.

🤬Nobody wants to live here because it’s hard to start a life in a pit of lava where the people in charge want you to go just die already.

🤲If your boss just up and changed your payday without notice it would probably fuck you up for months. Enmax would be at you for your failed pre-authorized payment, late fees would accrue, overdraft, the works. Your government did that to the most vulnerable people in the province this month.

👺Similarly, if you didn’t pay your rent you’d get your ass evicted. But if you’re an oil company? Nothing happens. I bet a lot of their equipment is flammable. Just saying.

🗳️It costs less than $500 Canadian dollars to subscribe to a service that allows you to have more than 200 users in an iOS app beta, and that money would also enable things like end-to-end encryption and other fancy usability features. These Silicon Valley dickheads didn’t do that and that’s what we in the (newsletter) biz call “willful and pointed ignorance at the behest of a powerful sponsor”, probably. That’s okay, it’s just setting the tone for a democratic bellwether with international import, not a big deal, save the bucks.

🙎Damn it’s almost like people don’t like a product that kills billions. Touchy, much.

🔱If you see a truck with a “Molon Labe” sticker on it, run.

😱If you want to fuck over some kids and their education, at least have the courage to put your name on your bullshit.

💡Neoliberalism depends on slavery of some kind, so if you get rid of one you have to invent some others.

😕The surveillance state has an opt-out clause, apparently?

🔥Lebanon is on fire (literally).

🎖️Standing up for your rights? Have skin that isn’t the proper alabaster hue? Oh you best believe the Other Military is coming for your ass. Good job, Canada.

🥯Canada has no Bernie Sanders because Canada has no Brooklyn (with apologies to New Westminster) and only a Brooklyn Jew could kick so much ass.

🤢Nobody wants your shitty pipeline, Justin.

🌽Noted regional comrade Jeremy Appel got way under the skin of the Minister of Education, but she insists she is not mad at all.

📰The Guardian has stopped accepting advertising from fossil fuel companies.

📉Don’t buy a cloud connected camera doorbell for the love of Christ, say Nima and Adam.

🎧Breht is extremely On One on this episode of RevLeft and it kicks ass.

🔇We should super have a general strike, say the good folks at The Progress Report.

✊Our provincial Dummycrats (trademark, don’t steal that) will be in Grande Prairie for a party where they will, I dunno, play with the blood of the innocent while trading Steely Dan records or something. You should go protest them on February 10 if you live in those unseemly latitudes. Prairie is a word I will never spell right on the first try. I am a horrible wheat socialist.

👊The Women’s Centre is hosting a talk on a just transition to a green economy on February 19. It’s free and open only to woman-identifying people.

🤛Get on a bus in Edmonton on February 12 with some cool (and attractive) people, stop in Red Deer to pick up more hotties, get to Calgary and canvass the city for comrades against cuts to our health system. Sound good? Get on the bus, comrade.

🤜TransCanada Tower is going to host a Yintah protection protest on February 10 in Calgary. Details here on Facebook.

⚔️The United Nurses of Alberta are leading protests against austerity on February 13. Locals will be present at multiple locations in Alberta. More details in this tweet and on Facebook.

A Quick Note: if you want us to include an article or a petition or a link to an event or just a really funny joke, drop us a quick line at albertaadvantagepod [at] gmail [dot] com. We make no promises, but many hands make light work, and we’d love to hear from you! If you want to send us in the mail, grab those stamps and send tributes/cake/not anthrax to Alberta Advantage Podcast, PO Box 52167 Edmonton Trail, Calgary, AB, T2E 8K9.
This newsletter contains writing by Kate Jacobson. Our editor is Clinton Hallahan.

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