Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Can anyone tell me . . .

. . . did any of Justin Bieber, Jim Carrey, Anne Murray, Shania Twain, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Michael J. Fox, Robert Bateman, Paul Brandt, Sarah Chalke, Emily Carr, Lorne Michaels, Norman Jewison, Chantal Kreviazuk or Stompin' Tom Connors . . . receive any arts funding? Just wondering.

I believe that it's a good idea to encourage new artists, but hey . . . let's face it . . . Canada is a small market. No matter how good, how popular, how talented any artist is, the money is south of the border and only a few will stay ... and not because they aren't receiving financial support from the government.

And truly, no government gives grants to just anyone ... you have to be published, have credits, credentials. It isn't enough to make pretty pictures, you have to prove that you have a market . . . that someone has actually bought into your talent. Emerging artists should be encouraged, but realistically, there is no credible or fair way for the government to dole out money just because someone perceives themselves to be an artist . . . so it doesn't.

If talent is our #1 export as Charlie Angus says, it isn't because Justin Bieber didn't get an arts grant. Nothing the government can do is going to stop our best and brightest artists from seeking fame and fortune across the border or around the globe when that's where the real money is.

From the above link:
Short on specific numbers, the four MPs talked instead about the need for income averaging to help starving artists, whose average income is $13,000 a year – well below the poverty line.
Income averaging? I support my family by working a crappy job, for a crappy wage, but still pay my share of taxes . . . and the NDP thinks some of my tax dollars should go to *top up* the income of someone who fancies themselves an artist? Thanks NDP. I suppose a case can be made for a government bureaucrat to hand you cash to support you as you struggle with your craft, but realistically, the market decides if it will support you while you create. It's a drag, but if you can't draw the crowds, the fans, the readers, the buyers, then maybe you should get a day job.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Teaching moments

*** This is not a political post. It's about a personal matter. Just so you know. **

Personal responsibility is an important issue to me. Cause and effect ... everything you do has consequences.

My 17 year old daughter won't be going to her prom in two weeks. It's a decision made by her school administration this week. They say that she is the author of her own misfortune and that she has to pay for the errors of her ways. I say she is a kid, learning her way in this world and their withholding this privilege is more about control than correction. I believe there was a teaching moment available, but that maybe, if they cared to think about it, the administration should be taking a lesson from my daughter, rather than the other way around.

You be the judge:

During grades 9 & 10 Mia (not her real name) was a typical highschooler. She was average B+ student, had a lot of friends, did her homework regularly, went to class regularly and generally, had a positive attitude.

Things started to change near the end of Grade 10. She had an uncharacteristic clash with a teacher. She ended up not turning in a key assignment, and despite having had 80s in that course in the first two terms, she failed the class by a couple of marks. I had some health issues and was unable to advocate for her. She was devastated. Other circumstances exacerbated things. My health got worse for a nearly a year before it got better and money became tight because I had to be off work. It caused stress for all of my kids.

At the beginning of Grade 11, Mia wanted to change schools because things didn't feel right. She wasn't happy, but she didn't know why. She didn't see it, but I knew the signs. Depression. She had started to withdraw from her friends, deactivating Facebook, appearing offline on MSN to all but a few people. We talked about it, but although she was sad, she didn't see it as a big deal. She started skipping school, not individual classes, but missing whole days just staying at home.

Over the next few months, my dad, who lived with us throughout her whole lifetime, died. He had been like a father to her. Shortly after, Mia left school altogether and tried one of those alternative schools so she wouldn't be losing credits. The kids were all *troubled*. Drugs, alcohol, etc. She didn't fit in that kind of environment but she managed to get a credit there and then moved to a semester school out of the area. She couldn't get out of bed in the morning. She tried for a little while, and got good grades on the assignments she did, but she missed a lot. When it became apparent that she wouldn't get the credits, she stopped going altogether.

She spent the summer mostly alone or with my other kids and my mother. I'd gone back to work, but I knew she spent most of her days in bed. She refused to go to a doctor or admit that there was anything wrong. She just thought she was down because she'd messed up her previous school year. She tried focusing on getting into another school, but because of her Grade 11 year, no other school would take her.

Last September, on the second day of school, she called her old high school and spoke with a Vice Principal who told her that she could go back, and to call Guidance the next day to make an appointment. When she called the next day, the Guidance secretary told her that no, she could NOT come back, that she had officially changed high schools the previous year and that this was no longer her home school.

Mia was devastated and she held onto that conversation for a few days before she told me. In the meantime, she missed the first week and a half of school. When things were finally straightened out and it was determined she COULD go back, it took well over a week to work out a schedule, and then, the administration refused to allow her to take Grade 12 courses, even when no Grade 11 prerequisite was required. I called. I went in. I tried to explain how emotionally fragile she was without Oprahfying things. Mia hates drawing attention to herself and she only shares her feelings with a select few.

They made a couple of accommodations, but very late. She'd already missed several classes because of their delays in changing her schedule. She still had trouble getting out of bed. She had trouble catching up on the work she'd missed those first few weeks and some of the teachers were downright snarky and would embarrass her in class. She started missing again, sleeping all day. She scarcely talked with anyone outside the house. The school knows this. By December, she'd pretty much determined she'd blown the year again. She knew she should care but she felt hopeless.

In February, something changed. She started smiling again. It was such a change, that you couldn't help but notice. I'd almost forgotten that smile. She bought a ticket for her school's semi-formal, and actually went. She started talking to more people and she started showing up at school -- not to go to class --that was futile, but during lunch or spares she'd see kids she'd kept in touch with while she'd been at home, and when no one had free time, she'd just go to the library and read. It got her out of the house. Sometimes the adult hall monitors would send her home, but she was still registered at the school, so she wasn't trespassing. Sometimes, they'd tell her to go to class, but she knew that would just frustrate teachers who knew she wasn't actually there for their class. Every once in a while the school would send home attendance reports, but we'd talked and they knew her situation.

In April, she reactivated Facebook. Many of the kids in her grade didn't even realize that she wasn't actually attending class, they just thought they didn't have any in common. The adult hall monitors began harassing her every time she went to the school, despite the fact that none of her friends ever skipped class to be with her and she never went anywhere besides the library, the cafeteria or the guidance office. She continued to go, but less often and when she saw them, she'd just leave before they could tell her to.

Prom tickets went on sale in early May. She bought her ticket and then came home and asked what I thought about her inviting her friend Emily as her guest. Emily used to go to the high school too, but she got pregnant and had a baby in January. Mia knew what it felt like to be on the outside and she wanted to give Emily the same brief night of normal that she was going to have. I thought it was a great idea. Ironically, her desire to give someone else a prom is what led to Mia being denied the privilege.

Turns out, guests have to be approved. Mia had her ticket, but she had to fill out a form for the administration to check out non-students before they were allowed to buy a ticket. It was really just a formality. Mia handed in the form and was told she could pick it up and buy the extra ticket in a couple of days, but when she went back to get it, a school secretary told her that she couldn't have a guest because she couldn't go to prom. Mia explained that she'd already bought her own ticket. The secretary said that since Mia didn't go to class, she couldn't go to prom. This conversation happened in front of a crowded office. Mia left the office, uncertain as to whether the woman was correct but angry that her personal circumstances were being voiced loudly in public. Anyway, turns out, the secretary was right. By asking a guest, Mia had drawn attention to herself and the VP in charge of the prom decided to disallow her participation because of her absences.

I called the school, left a message for the VP, but he never called me back. I was advised to try a different VP, which I was loath to do because I didn't want to seem sneaky like I was trying to skip him and get Mia in without him noticing. Finally, I gave up and tried the other VP. At the beginning of the school year when scheduling was the issue, she had helped. Not this time. She blasted me. Her attitude was hard and cold. She resented that I asked that she have compassion for a girl who was painfully aware of the difficult path she had ahead of her. She said she'd exhausted her compassion and that she'd been more than accomodating.

This is prom, not a trip to the museum. There won't be another one. Once it's over, that's it. The VP suggested that this would *teach her a lesson*. I asked, what lesson exactly, given that the girl wasn't truant, but depressed . . . apparently, without a doctor's note, that's impossible. Mia will learn that there are consequences.

Hmmm . . . she's 17 with a grade 10 education. She's no dummy. I think she knows. There will be many years of facing consequences. All Mia was asking for is one night of normal.

Anyway, when I got home from work and shared my conversation with her, Mia shrugged and thanked me for trying. Later, I was still stewing about it and I messaged her on MSN. I asked her if she thought she had learned anything.

She said:
"Jokes on me. They can’t teach me that there are consequences for my actions if i already knew that. Instead they’ve taught me that i'm still a kid. i was naive enough to believe that people do things for reasons other than to help themselves. i really thought someone would help, for the simple reason they are able to."
I asked her if she was okay, and she said:
"i talked to Cate and asked if she would make emily HER guest. She did, so at least emily still gets to go. i was so worried she wouldn't get to. lol."
I asked her if it bothered her. Her answer taught me something:
no it's okay. i don't really mind.
Whenever bad things like this happen to me. I figure that at least it happened to me, because I know I can deal with these sorts of things. Other people might not be able to.
i'm at least happy emily gets to go.
she needed it more.
i'd do it the same way again.
Compassion. Empathy. Sharing. Altruism. Friendship. Selflessness. She didn't learn those things at school.