Debtless Alberta

By Geoffrey Pounder

Editor, the Gauntlet,

Re: “Where should a debt-free Alberta invest?” advertisement

According to a recent ad sponsored by Alberta universities, “when we invest in post-secondary education, we invest in everything that makes a good life possible: health care, roads and buildings, technology, arts and culture, economic development, environment, reducing poverty, and education.” Do these claims stand up?

Arts and Culture

Achievement in the arts is not a function of time or education. Western culture does not derive from the university. Many great composers, artists, dramatists and writers were schooled in their arts alone, outside institutons of higher learning.


More Albertans have higher education than ever. Yet recent decades saw increased consumption, industrial activity, pollution, population growth, human expansion, and habitat destruction. Biodiversity is on the decline. Our province is poorer.

Not only have the educated failed to solve the problems of our time, they are largely responsible for creating them. The work of environmental researchers notwithstanding, science and technology have aided the conquest and plunder of nature.

Fundamentally, our science is not about truth, but exploitation and power. For every scientist and study that predicts global warming, you can find­–or fund–one who says the opposite.

Science is responsible for toxic chemicals and weapons of mass destruction. Some countries slaughter whales for “science.” And why not? Science appropriates the life of all living creatures. It fails to respect the integrity of nature.


The dramatic rise in tuition in Canada’s richest province restricts access to higher learning.

Students pay taxes when they enter the workforce. Why not fund education from taxes? Education whould be available to all; students would be less stressed; and the government could still balance its books.

Reducing Poverty

“When we invest in post-secondary edcuation, we invest in everything that makes good life possible.” For whom? Not all people have access to the good life.

I have a university degree. I am also a disabled Albertan dependent on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped, an income of $855 a month. How does my education, or anybody else’s, reduce my poverty? For thousands of disabled Albertans, the problem is not lack of education, but a failure of political process, public morals, and social policy–as defined by the educated.

In the discussion of Alberta’s spending priorities, no one mentions the government’s failure to provide for disabled Albertans. Unfortunately, people on AISH lack resources for advertising. Would you care to speak on our behalf?

If the headlines are any indication, the Dark Ages are not behind us. We descend as easily into barbarism as the Visgoths (perhaps they had more self-awareness). Our perils arise not from a lack of education, but from its failings. Knowledge is power: without ethics, power is catastrophic.

Higher education, which produced this ad, is defective. Since lack of education is not the problem, more money for education is not the solution. Higher education, as we define it, does not lead inevitably to truth, wisdom, justice or humanity. Are these not the things that make “a good life” possible? Let us invest in them.

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