The Lesson Endeth

Six things my kids learned when the board wrecked Connaught

by Paul Dechene

Connaught demolition (photo by Darrol Hofmeister)

city-tagHey remember that 10-year plan the Regina Public School Board had that listed a whole bunch of  schools that needed to be torn down because they didn’t have the enrollment to sustain them? Remember how Davin and/or Connaught (preferably Connaught) was slated for closure because Cathedral just didn’t have enough kids? And remember how Real Renewal came together to oppose all those school closures saying they felt small, walkable community schools were worth keeping and that up-to-date demographics showed that neighbourhoods like Cathedral were getting more kids and needed all their schools intact? And then remember how more recent demographics have shown that Real Renewal was by and large right about that?

Well, even though Connaught had the enrollment numbers to save it from the wrecking ball, it came crashing down right on schedule according to that 10-year plan. It’s almost like the enrollment justification was a ruse and secretly the board just wanted to be rid of the thing all along.

I guess it just goes to show that even if you’re wrong about something you can still get what you want if you have all the power and money.

That’s a good lesson you just learned from the Regina Public School Board. Here are five more.

1. EVERYTHING IS DISPOSABLE

Oh sure, they have a “unit” on “sustainability” somewhere in the school curriculum. I think I remember my kid bringing home a blue papier-mâché globe she made on Earth Day or something. I threw that shit out.

But we all know the three Rs — Reduce, Reuse and Recycle — can’t power a fossil fuel economy. Neither can words like “sustainability” or “the environment.” And we’re within spitting distance of the epicentre of our fossil fuel economy (if you could spit on Alberta from Regina, that is). So we have to support the fossil fuel economy. It’s our patriotic duty.

If we don’t, who will?

And that’s why I’m glad the school board is doing an end run around those socialist Rs and setting a strong example in the three Cs: Combustion, Construction and Consumption.

Tearing down Connaught is a win on ALL THREE!

Kids, you know all those plastic juice bottles you put in the blue bin because it’s good for the environment? Your school board has more than offset all that work you did by throwing the bulk of a two-storey building in the dump and then busing all of Connaught across town for three or more years. You could start composting the crusts off your jam sandwiches too and it wouldn’t amount to a hill of organic soy beans at this point! And that’s good, because this is all human nature. We build buildings, we use them for some years, we tear them down then build another in a fresh field of green.

It’s like a flower that’s grown in California then cut from its stem and shipped to your Safeway so it can wilt in your dining room until your mom throws it in the garbage then drives to the Safeway to buy a new floral arrangement.

It’s the cycle of life!

Remember kids, saving the environment is pointless because grown-ups don’t care. So don’t bother trying. Just study hard and think about football!

2. TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS ISN’T FUN

So why exactly is the Public School Board tearing down Connaught? Because the buildingwas not maintained adequately. Because renovation work that was done on the foundation exacerbated problems. Because heritage elements have already been removed from the building.

When Connaught kids graduate to high school, they’ll learn that these are all examples of the passive voice. That’s a way of playing with verbs that skilled wordsmiths employ to hide who actually did a thing.

In this case, it means no one ever has to say, “The Regina Public School Board and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education did not maintain Connaught and did renovation work that exacerbated foundation problems and removed heritage elements from the building.”

With the passive voice, it looks like absolutely no one did any of this. And that means no one ever has to take responsibility for what happens, no one ever has to say “Sorry,” and no one ever has to learn anything. And that means the Regina Public School Board can keep doing the same thing over and over. And that’s good. Because doing the same thing is always the cheapest option.

Unless it’s Lakeview School, in which case you get on that preventative maintenance like you’re filming a season of This Old House. Those Lakeview people are LOADED. You want to piss them off?

3. DEMOCRACY MEANS SAYING YES

Listen people, you vote for your elected representatives every four years. In between that time, you can ignore them. That’s why we went to all the expense of having an election. So other people can make decisions. Let them do their jobs for chrissakes. Showing up to public meetings to express your views or to try and pressure your elected representatives to do something other than what they want to do already just makes those meetings drag and elected representatives will get justifiably snippy.

But if you choose to ignore this advice, then you deserve every condescending editorial written in the press about you. And every snarky comment on social media written by a board chair. And when the head of the school board administration says that, by organizing opposition to a board decision like tearing down Connaught, you and your group are putting provincial funding for a new school in jeopardy, that’s all your fault. Elected representatives and their duly appointed administrators are not only doing a hard job, they are also petty and vengeful like stone age gods. Do not provoke them.

Remember, meddling with democracy imperils funding. Funding is everything. Get with the program! Join Team Democracy!

4. HERITAGE IS A LIST, FULL STOPThere are going to be some people who say a building like Connaught is a heritage building by virtue of having a long, storied relationship with the community in which it resides — that a building’s heritage value is defined by the people who see and use it everyday and that such buildings have value because their presence tells part of a community’s story.

Hogwash! There is a “Heritage List.” That’s where the word “heritage” comes from, duh.

If a building is on a heritage list it gets protected because it’s heritage. If it isn’t on that list, it doesn’t because it has nothing to do with heritage! If it did, it would be on the heritage list.

Now, a building gets on a heritage list if an owner wants it there for some reason. And if an owner wants to take a building off that list because it’d be inconvenient to keep it there, who’re you to stop them? You don’t own the building. Why should you get any say over what list it’s on? Buildings aren’t about you. They’re about who owns them.

Therefore, schools are about school boards. They’re not about students or parents or communities or what any of those people might think or … eugggh!… “feel” about them. You want to save a school? Buy it.

Except you can’t buy Connaught. We tore that shit down.

5. CARING ABOUT HERITAGE MEANS YOU HATE CHILDREN!Listen, heritage buildings are, by definition, old. And old things fall down. Just ask grandma about her hip. Therefore, if you want to keep heritage buildings around you are just begging to have them fall down on children. Why do you hate children so much? Is it because they’re so new and their eyes so full of hope? Maybe if we dressed them up like they’re old — greyed their hair and dressed them in garish floral prints — you’d try to save them because they’re “heritage people.”

You say you want to invest in the maintenance of these heritage buildings so they won’t fall down and they’ll stay up? Shhhhhh. Old things fall down. And we already established that you hate children.

Haven’t you done enough?


An earlier  version of this rant appeared on Dog Blog.

2014-10-16

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