MAE 2018 – 10th ANNIVERSARY – a message

MEDIA ARTS EDUCATION IN CANADA – 10 year anniversary
by Jim Lamarche




“Sweet dreams are made of these; who am I to disagree.  I’ve travelled the world and the seven seas; everybody’s looking for something”.   Annie Lennox

Hello friends and readers. I’m into my 10th year as the creator/editor of MAE in Canada, the report and still enjoying being here. I started it as a blog in MySpace in 2008 and was surprised to see it catch on so quickly.  MySpace died and I jumped ship and re-booted MAE in WordPress in 2010, then making it a formal website in February 2014.  It appeared early on, that a lot of people appreciated the effort and that many benefited from the insight and information it provided.  I still receive emails every week from those who are grateful and/or would like further clarification (some posted in the FORUM).  As always, I’m happy to help.

I originally wanted to create a forum of interaction where those passionate about music/media could gather and exchange ideas, with the report itself acting as a platform from which to project those ideas as there was really nothing to go on out there (still isn’t).  What I learned as time progressed, is that the appeal of such a forum was (is) limited only to those curious individuals who wanted/want to know the facts, which turns out to be a tiny percentage of those participating in music/media post-secondary college programs overall.  I have learned that most who are in these expensive programs aren’t that interested in ‘real news’ at all, especially if it interferes with their idea of who they think they are and want to be (the fantasy), regardless of the impending fallout (student debt and survival default) post grad.  All throughout my 30 years as a music/media arts educator, I was surrounded by a multitude of young people who hesitantly showed up with little or no musical talent; (maybe having written a song or two) and wanted to be in the music biz because someone told them that all it takes is this program (to become larger than life).  I’m IN!  Where do I sign?

Don’t get me wrong; a healthy imagination is a good thing and aspiring to become successful (and yes even famous) can be inspiring to watch, providing it’s done with both eyes open and with a willingness to look at everything whilst.  In my experience in education, I’ve found that 9/10 who enrol in these programs like the “idea” of being in music/media than are actually committed (willing to work at it).  Those who have what it takes have big ambitions backed by a burning curiosity and a relentless need for the truth (a combination that is in short supply).  Of course, it’s easy to assume that because one has a computer and likes to make beats or YouTube clips (imagining becoming a famous DJ or producer), that they have what it takes to make it work out there in the industry when so very few actually do, then actually going to the school and listening to an admissions recruiter (paid on commission) tell them that they in fact  have what it takes, makes it even easier to take the plunge (and sign the loan).

In the MAE Survey (link below), I gathered information/data on those participating in these programs which confirmed that many in music/media students/grads like to pretend a lot (been there, done that).   When I started teaching in 1984 (Trebas Institute), everyone that signed up/enrolled wanted to be seen and heard, and the school’s marketing was all about showing them the way.  Year after year I watched 3/5 or 60% of students drop out before their final term started –  then most of those remaining drifting into non-related vocations after spending/investing $20-$30K on an education they would rarely use (never use professionally).  After conducting the research, I just assumed that the report/forum would gather momentum and become even more relevant, but am sad to say that nothing changed.  To this day, most don’t really want to look at it but the facts remain.  Think of it this way … out of 100 students that show up first day of class (particularly at most private colleges on average), 60 of them are gone by their final term.  Out of the 40 remaining, 20 graduate and maybe 4 find meaningful employment in their field. This is my observation after having taught at Trebas Institute, IAOD/TFS Toronto Film School, Metalworks Institute and Fanshawe College (Music Industry Arts). That’s a 4% success rate despite the college’s over-inflated published KPI stats (Key Performance Indicators).  That said, I have gathered new survey data (Survey 2017) and have incorporated my findings into the updated MAE Survey.  MTCU KPI stats report on participants who successfully integrate later (any related job), but most don’t graduate.  Now maybe you’re in that 4% who can see through all the misinformation into a future where your vision can prosper.  Thoroughly processing what’s real is an important prerequisite.

Young people earnestly embrace the possibilities presented to them by enthusiastic post secondary colleges (having everything to gain by signing new students up), having the answers to questions students have had for years and FINALLY good news!  “You’re accepted – you’re IN!”  Finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel and a ‘real’ reason to push forward!  What I’ve also learned is that many music/media student registrants were/are coming from a place of insecurity in an absence of mature, emotionally grounded support – far more-so than those pursuing traditional educations (University and Community College diplomas/degrees), so the idea of becoming larger than life (take this job and shove it – I’m going to do what I want to do) takes on a whole new appeal; a unique stubbornness.  I’ve seen a backlash in that there was/is zero tolerance for anything that interferes with that constructed reality, regardless of its benevolence or it’s relevance … especially from some report/forum on the internet that suggests that they might be wrong in their assumption about their intended destination (or at the suggestion that they are possibly being used).



That concluded, I have tailored my message to these individuals in particular, should they choose to look in this direction, hoping to engage them even on some basic level, having been there myself and recognizing the pattern. 10 years later, I’m finding that parents read the report/blogroll/forum on the site more than their sons/daughters (music/media students) themselves which tells me something … most young people don’t want the facts (real stats); they just want a constant reassurance that what they believe is the truth and this translation has all encompassing ramifications (looking at the bigger picture) because in essence, they are flying solo.

I’ve said it before and will say it again … if the world’s next Quentin Tarantino, Avril Lavigne, Drake or Trent Reznor/Daniel Lanois is reading this stuff, then none of it will matter one way or the other because information in a blog on the internet won’t change that kind of commitment.  It has become obvious to me now that I’m 60, that following one’s passion IS essential and that anyone who tells you what you ‘should’ do (or buy), is someone you shouldn’t  be listening to.  That said, more than ever before, we humans (all ages) have become volatile and gullible – shunning the truth/what’s real – in favour of fake news, and that makes us feel better about ourselves (short term) but all too often, leaves us with little to show for our efforts when the game is over.  When it comes to modern day marketing, there really are no rules.  Today (as I write this), it’s “Black Friday” (Nov. 24/17) and yes, all in the Christmas spirit (a time of giving).  Massive banners flashing everywhere claiming … “buy one – get one free” or “50% off today only – but they’ve marked up the original price – so what looks like a great deal for the discriminant shopper, is actually a big boost for the retailer.

It is my final thought and wish that those of you reading this pace yourselves (resist impulse) and take careful stock of your options and opportunities, developing the courage to look at everything that can help you get to where you want to go.  Become fully informed/street-smart/sharp (learning to read between the lines), while developing a creative and cohesive plan of action that is grounded and realistic after the initial assessment has solidified.  The one given (reality), is that regardless of the media arts path that one wishes to pursue, the market is flooded with gifted/talented grads looking for work in their field of study.  I will never tell anyone not to embark on a choice to attend a music/media arts college.  I will however, continue to encourage those who do, to take a good long look before jumping in.




More articles/blog posts by Jim Lamarche:

The Learning Curve – An Observation in Modern Education (private vs. public post-secondary)

MODUS OPERANDI – a peek into the dark side of (for-profit) PCC college recruitment in North America.

CRITICAL THINKING:  THE END OF AN ERA – exploring the impending expiry of liberal arts education.

The Learning Curve – Let it Happen – hackschooling and the anatomy of entrepreneurial spirit

The Learning Curve – Erase & Rewind – introducing the open loop/non-linear post-secondary model

Black Hole Syndrome – the unspoken agenda in post secondary education


The Learning Curve: Let it Happen

hackschooling and the anatomy of entrepreneurial spirit

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
John Dewey

I’m LOST dude!  Racing to remember … laughing all the way to the bank … ok, I’m behind on my payments but I have a contingency plan in place.
Ah, MAE 2016 – a reason to write again …

You can take this in any number of times and get something different each time.   All part of the plan … oh and you won’t be required – to memorize anything.

The crowded airport …

Get OUT of my way – I have somewhere I need to be and if I don’t get there – I’m doomed.  Flight 815, Oceanic – the red-eye departing at 7:48 pm from Sydney to LA, and I’m late.  Shit, I’m thirsty – no time for that.  Gotta piss – nope.  That precious presentation to the Board of Directors tomorrow morning.  They’re giving me 10 minutes. 

Something’s trying to get out – and it’s never been closer …




In the beginning

It’s a spark, a fleeting moment when magic arrives. I remember as a child getting them quite frequently, here then gone – lost in the static/interference. When I started kindergarten it was a shock more than anything. A gentle transition would have been nice but no, thrown into the deep end. The rush to get there before the bell, the regimented timelines – work time, sleep time, snack time, then in grade 1, 2, 3 and so on … the assignments, homework – marks/grades and the all invasive “report card” garbage, measuring our progress; taking it home for my parents to look at – in fear of what’s coming, with that look on Dad’s face taking it in – the quiet holocaust ensues in expectation followed by the – “what’s up with this D in arithmetic? – go to your room – NOW!”.  I just wanted to eat my favourite supper (macaroni and cheese), watch Loonie Tunes and listen to music because I loved music. Sent to bed early, yet again – no ticky, no laundry – no supper, no Loonie Tunes – no music.  Ok, Mom (at least) wanted to feed me but nope – not a chance in hell!   What I figured out early on, is that it’s all about being rewarded for complying/producing and punishment if you don’t.

Sorry buddy, you lose – again.  Tough Love.  “This is how you learn”  he would say.  You will be judged by how you carry yourself – who you know and by how much money you make.  Ok, school provides hard lessons – so much need to know and all too little curiosity though – what’s up with that?  Dragging myself through elementary school, then high school (even worse).  Like algebra is torture because I don’t know what to DO with it!  Not a clue.  Chemistry class – memorizing the mechanics of the periodic table with no place to plug it in – renders it useless to me.  Ok, please give me a reason to learn this shit, because without anything to grab onto, I don’t see the point!  I want to have fun and do what I want to do not what I’m supposed to do (what’s expected).  “Turn up the good and turn down the suck”!  (Deaner – FUBAR)




“Schools kill creativity, if you’re not allowed to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
Sir Ken Robinson


The all encompassing question – over and over … “what do you want to dowho do you want to be when you grow up?” It was like they needed an answer NOW, but it was never answerable truthfully because I didn’t know. I was never asked “what do you want to be”- ah, that would have been easy … “I want  to be happy”. Well of course, a given, however because it was never asked, I was never able to answer that question, making it that much more difficult to realize happiness in the world.  Ignoring all the warning signs (part of our training).  Years later – “Doctor, I feel this pressure in my chest – I don’t get it – I’m still young – why is this happening to me?”  A prescription for the pain (pills) and the suggestion I come back in a weak week if (more like when) it keeps happening – band-aid on a brain tumor … right – (let’s keep this tab rolling shall we).  So what’s up Doc? – over and over.  Not WHO I want to be but WHAT I want to be – happy, simple.  I’m asking myself the question because no-one else will.

The spark is fleeting …

The script is embedded in our limbic. Go to school, get a job, get married – have kids – exist for a few years (seconds), then die before getting to that place where happiness lives. Disconnected in the redirect, needing to unplug, detach – go off the grid for a while to clear the voices in my head telling me I’m not doing it right.  Starting fresh? – let’s do this!  Every child has a love of something unique to them – desire can be nurtured if it’s recognized early on – only it rarely is.  Even as babies, we infants are naturally drawn to something that is intrinsically our own.  For me it was music. My Mom saw it and nurtured it; giving me a toy guitar when I was 4, seeing the light in my eyes when she invited some of her musician friends over to play at a party at our house (letting me stay up late) long before thinking about being a musician myself.  Dad is out of the picture – drinking with his buddies at the local bar (polished shoes, wearing a suit), making a big impression.


So ya … Sudbury Ontario in 1959 has a unique history.



“Let yourself be silently drawn into the strange pull of what you really love.  It will not lead you astray”


Listening to The Beatles and The Monkees on my record player then later on cassette tapes – a real guitar when I was 12 – crude and cheap but mine.  Always Mom.  My records were my life.  The idea of being a musician – far away.  When I was 9, she bought an old (out of tune) upright piano and had it brought into our house in Woodstock Ontario, just before she left him.  She was taught to play as a child by her aunt Allie who was a piano teacher but Mom didn’t play much anymore (ah responsibilities), wishing to pass her “idea” onto me. Dad killed that, coming home and seeing it in the dining room – the piano gone 3 days later.  Creative freedom wasn’t something he subscribed to; “no son of mine is going to be a musician” – and thus an idea I wasn’t allowed access to.  I often wonder what if … ?  What IF Dad had been on board too?

1967 is remembered as one of the most notable years in Canada.  It was the centenary of Canadian Confederation and celebrations were held throughout the nation. The most prominent event was Expo 67 in Montreal, the most successful World’s Fair ever held up to that time, and one of the first events to win international acclaim for the country but I was far away from all that in a small town in Essex County, near Windsor.  We lived in isolation on Lake St. Clair with Dad and Agnes.

In grade 6 at Centennial Central Public school, in Comber Ontario – a music teacher called us up to the front of the class individually to sing for her as she played piano.   She was feeling out talent for the senior choir and selecting the best.  I sang for her and her jaw dropped.  I’m thinking WTF is this?   Is this actually happening?  I was lead soprano in the choir for 3 years – the kid who steps forward and has a solo bit.  Finally WOW!  There IS a god.  By far the best part of grade school for me – happy.  We were bussed to county festival tournaments and we won first prize all three years.  Both of my parents in absentia.

This changed my life – so YES, school has it’s moments.  That being said / otherwise …




What’s up Doc?

Grade school and especially high school is such a drain on young people – a copy/paste curricula entrenched in a coerced formula – a ‘dress for success’ kind of thing that means nothing fundamentally and in the grand scheme of things – but taking it on like it’s necessary because that’s just what you do.  Then after the dust storm subsides and the quiet cleanup commences; that once in a lifetime opportunity – that chance to be larger than life – but no hesitations or else it’s gone.  The slick websites with the long list of grads/alumni who have gone on to become huge successes – the “I’m a winner now” look on their smiling (choreographed) faces.  Marketing.

Fudged KPI’s and false promises permeate post-secondary in North America (esp. private schools), because it’s all about money.  Just when we think it might work.

My experience is that those who actually have what it takes, see through the crap and navigate around the seduction – rearranging the puzzle pieces in a way that doesn’t conform to tradition.  Experiences and interests emanating from a grounded vision, motivated in a challenge to the status quo – taking the risk (despite the odds).  Yes happy healthy creative – seeing new possibilities that lurk between the lines, thinking out of the box – seeing a bigger picture,  embracing freedom.

Yes, there are those who transcend the smokescreens, the chaos/obstacles and actualize their education.   Hackers are inventors/innovators who are frowned upon because they ignore the script. The world’s best scientists, artists, computer programmers, painters, philosophers and yes inventors are/were hacks.  No, not necessarily looking for the easiest way out but more like the quickest way IN … rearranging the fragments in a way that defies logic – power and peer pressure.

Finding magic again …

Quantum leaps occur in a spiritual connection to nature manifest in desire, curiosity – trusting instincts – veering off course – letting the kite fly – where it wants to fly.  Never forcing … only nurturing.  Being conscious – paying attention.   Learning to listen can be a personal project – a necessary step forward.




What you don’t know – won’t hurt you
Taken in context has meaning …

Did you know that most of the world’s greatest composers don’t know how to read music?  That many of the world’s literary scholars are terrible writers?  Formal schooling/traditional learning can work very well and all too often it burns the soufflé.  Way too much information and too little inspiration and all too late is what’s on the agenda – and you subscribe (like it or not).  Seeing a bigger picture in the storm is only the beginning and it requires an ability/willingness to tap into our passion, desire and love of life.  Some schools get it.  This website is dedicated to shining the light on those sources of inspiration – where benevolent support lives.  Some people care.

It’s what separates the leaders from the followers.  Being able to see what lurks beneath the surface.  Learning to trust/listen to what one’s instincts are whispering.

All this running around trying to cover my shadow
An ocean growing inside all the others seem shallow
All this running around bearing down on my shoulders
I can hear an alarm … must be morning




Mount it, then spin it … then watch it grow, believing in that feeling that started at the get-go.  People like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Angelina Jolie, Mother Teresa, Avril Lavigne and countless others did it, with little formal education.  Anything IS possible and  it’s only something that can happen if one can tap into the light that shone through them at the starting gate … the inception, assimilating everything we’re taught (that’s relevant);  beginning again.  That familiar clanging as the metal bars release and the crowd roars.  Maybe it’s more about stillness; watching all the other horses catapult into position – obsessed with winning.  All this running around.

Something’s trying to get out, and it’s never been closer.
Racing to remember …


“The only people who have proof of their sanity are those who have been discharged from mental institutions”
Marshall McLuhan, Take Today: The Executive as Dropout





Relevant articles – A Heap of Money – by Jeremy Johnson – graduate, Metalworks Institute (2009)

Letters to the Editor in the Forum

The Learning Curve – An Observation in Modern Education (private vs. public post-secondary)

The Learning Curve – Erase & Rewind – introducing the open loop/non-linear post-secondary model

Black Hole Syndrome – the unspoken agenda in post secondary education


The Learning Curve: Erase & Rewind

introducing the open loop/non linear post secondary model

Sometimes kids need a break from school – working a shit job – learning to appreciate a sound work ethic before they can truly appreciate higher learning.


Education is a “reward” system representing a short supply of ideas and creativity (nutrition), where options and opportunities are limited to what’s on a menu;  you know the one – like, say at Denny’s – laminated plastic with the yummy pictures and daily specials – the delicious appetizers that come early, the massive main course and always the sugar/sweet dessert finish – our reward.   Ok, that meal where you always feel totally satisfied/full after – the restaurant you tell all your friends about and they go too (with their kids).  Ordering too much so you can take some home to munch on later – oh  yeah.  Ah, the American dream – heavy on the bling and yet, missing something – too little, too late.  Ok, yes expensive but worth it (or so we’re told in their appealing photo-ads).  It’s all laid out already – easy to choose.  Simple – easy.

Always breakfast at 8am … bacon/ham/sausage, eggs, pancakes, toast and jam – home-fried potatoes, juice and coffee.  Lunch at noon (lighter fare) – always a BIGGY smoked meat sandwich (special sauce) with your choice of soup or salad that we play with more than eat, and then dinner promptly at 6 – meat and potatoes with a boiled to death frozen processed vegetable (because it’s good for you) – deep dish apple pie right after (even though you don’t have room for it).   We’re forced to eat when we’re not hungry, go on a diet when we get fat, then quietly binging on ‘comfort food’ late at night when we’re not supposed to and when no one is looking.

Erase & Rewind

Education is a lot like food – consumed linearly and predictably – too much of all the wrong crap when we don’t really need it and not enough of the good stuff when we do.  Always presented in a timely manner and almost always presented favourably –  laid out like your dress clothes on the bed just before Sunday school – the ones you can barely fit into anymore (even at 10), the ones we’re told to wear because it’s ‘appropriate’.    I’m thinking that maybe – just maybe – there’s more to this …

welcome back to – The Learning Curve




Less is more

Finding out later in life that it’s actually healthier to eat smaller meals (more frequently) during the day because it maximizes our ability to assimilate/function more efficiently, in accordance with our natural metabolism, feeding the mind, body and spirit incrementally over time and maintaining a lifestyle where excesses are minimized.

Ambition isn’t something you learn – it’s something you’re born with, and schools have this way of stripping ambition – clean away – gone forever.

I was always fascinated by the Montessori approach to education.  Maria Montessori was a visionary back in her day – soaring way above the traditional approach to learning, back in a time when everyone was thinking in the box – the Montessori maternity was characterized by an essential emphasis on independence, freedom of limits and respect for a child’s natural psychological, physical and social development and those ‘nurtured’ in that system seem to do much better for some reason.   My one dream in this life?  To sit with Maria for 30 minutes and show her what’s here now just to listen to her one sentence afterwards.  Her prescription was/is a more balanced approach to learning in a forum supportive of natural development where intake (new information) is welcomed by each individual and absent of confusion and delusion.  Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Julia Child – ok, the list goes on and on – all Montessori kids – allowed to follow their passion – without limitations – without menus – without judgement – open loop earlier on and still in motion.

Challenging the status quo in due process brings about resistance and chaos, in that we’re conditioned to follow certain steps within a specific (and short) timeline.  Daycare/preschool, grade-school then high-school – sleep-time/work-time/play-time carefully constructed/manipulated maximizing our brief tenure on the planet.


By the end of high school, young people are just supposed to know what their mission/purpose in life is, before they are gathered in herds and shipped off to university or college where they spend 4 years (way too soon) in a generic undergrad program that they have no real connection with, then – OUT they go into the work-force, only it’s the most difficult transition they face, because their useless undergrad has little relevance and because they’re not grounded in a system of their own discovery.  No, it’s a system of their making – Mom/Dad, family/teachers, employers, corporate america and on and on and so many kids fall off the wagon and drift into oblivion – lost, eventually gravitating into a vocation that has little or nothing to do with their talent – all absent of fun and stripped of any inspiration and only because it was invented that way and continues to this day.  When the options are limited to the common fare on a menu – there’s always sugar – in a default mechanism that always works – short term gain – long term pain.  Sometimes kids get hooked into one of those “living the dream” programs/schools that prey on unsuspecting, wide-eyed vulnerable victims.

Those who actually believe that becoming larger than life, is something that can be bought – on a payment plan.


The backfire is felt in the frosty fringes, thirsty for another drink, toke – bump – where/when our alienated playstation prodigies are introduced to yet another poison – Let’s just say – one word – sexy!   “OMFG did you see that hottee at reception? – I’d tap that”.  That ultra-cool high-school trip to a local rock school, all so accessible and convenient – YES!  I WANT!   The term “field trip” has a whole new meaning.  Here we GO!  New Mini Cooper for Christmas today?  Rock School tomorrow?  bring it ON!

text from Stoner:   “Congrats dude – you are like – officially?  a target demographic haha.  Ok, whatevs bro.  Yep, it’s all goin’ on – new car – smoke-show girlfriend (amazing ass) – rockin’ haircut/gear, new 63 Strat – Protools w/unlimited plugs on your iMac;  fame fortune and glory?  You’re frikkin’ IN guy – you’re SET!”

“ya – so hey – Mom/Dad – make it happen”!  The term ‘deer in the headlights’ comes to mind.


Cause I’ve been changing my mind

There needs to be a “reason” to learn – a genuine curiosity.  What I have learned is that there is a very real alternative.  One that circumvents a fragmented formula and allows young minds to flourish much earlier on – but only if one is open to it.  If you are a parent reading this;  I’m hoping you’re listening, because what we’ve been conditioned to accept as the proper way to assist our kids and how it can be done better can be very different and can work more efficiently/productively.   Kids are bored easily – it’s up to us to inspire them (early on) so that they can direct their purpose more meaningfully and more realistically.  Let them go earlier.  Trust them.  Don’t harass them – let your children discover then rediscover themselves.  Let them fail; make huge mistakes and feel horrible about it.  Don’t interfere and most importantly don’t over-compensate or over-insulate (over feed).  Offering benevolent guidance is one thing – controlling or over-protecting them is quite another.  Encourage and support their decisions – even if they are bad ones …  disagree if you must; but leave the badgering/harassment, shame/blame and guilt at the door.

Loving them means letting them go … even if they need to drop out of high-school because they hate it (if they really need to do that because it’s obvious they’re wasting their time there anyway).   Many of our most successful heros (men and women) are just that; Virgin’s Richard Branson, Dreamwork’s David Geffen, Director Quentin Tarantino, actors Seth Rogen, Johnny Depp, Jim Carrey, even musicians – Bryan Adams, Avril Lavigne, Eminem, Kurt Cobain and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong – all high-school drop-outs.  Forcing your ‘will’ on them will only backfire.  Short term gain – long term pain – and they’ll only resent you after the fact (for the rest of their lives – even long after you’re gone).  Sometimes kids need a break from school – working a shit job – learning to appreciate a sound work ethic before they can appreciate higher learning.  What’s most amazing (in my observation), is that most who are granted the freedom to drop out early – return to school later and with a fresh new perspective and those who aren’t given that freedom/dropping out anyway?  drift into the abyss.  Quite simply put – detachment works better – for them – for you – for everyone.

Your kids are living their lives – not yours.  If you have a “plan” for them?  Toss it, because it’s not your decision to make.




This practice works well in relationships too – detachment is like a miracle potion that works extremely well, because it’s organic and gives your partner (and/or child)  permission to choose – independently and without shame and guilt (free of your opinion – your grip).  It’s a simple concept really, big bang for the buck.  The Swiss, Japanese/Chinese and many other countries get it when we here in North America still remain blinded by great expectations in an applied science (hovering haphazardly in a 3.0 GPA) so that they can learn to fudge their own KPI numbers, boasting false success – leading to anxiety/depression, substance abuse, marital breakdowns and serious resentment after the fact.  Have you ever stopped to think WHY there is an epidemic of ADD (attention deficit) festering in our youth these days?   Think about it.  There’s ‘proaction’ and there’s reactionAll too often it’s the latter because kids don’t like the options they’re presented with and they’re tired of being pressured.

Kids need to be introduced to the workforce earlier and incrementally and they need to be supported to find their own path at their own pace – plain and simple – no easy answers.  Being given little (useless shit in the material world) and making them “earn” what they ultimately want in life; children develop a more sound work ethic that helps them appreciate what it’s like to integrate more successfully/passionately – more meaningfully – desire is something that can be grounded in curiosity and nourished.   The Swiss (in particular) educate/apprentice then educate some more, then work some more – then mature naturally – embracing new changes/challenges in a way that brings about a more constructive outcome over the long run.  Stanford University in the U.S. is doing it (starting this year) with their new ‘open loop’ design – post-secondary breakthroughs exist in active incubator systems that fertilize optimally –  even here in Toronto Canada at Ryerson University (in their Digital Media Zone).   I’m optimistic.


Closing Thoughts:

We’re being squeezed into tighter and tighter spaces costing more (too much), requiring more flexibility and willingness to sacrifice/re-locate and our kids feel disconnected; perhaps time to wake up!  There needs to be a good reason for them to learn new things – incentive.  That’s the biggest problem with north american post-secondary right now.  Kids are forced to learn stuff that’s not relevant in their world, (math/algebra, physics, chemistry, physical education etc.) and it’s hard because most teenagers don’t care about any of that – they’re more interested in learning about that which peaks their interest right now – not later.  School doesn’t do that.  High-schools, Universities and Colleges are failing to inspire their incoming/outgoing – so too many lose interest in higher learning and drift into oblivion because of it.

The one thing that is certain, is that you can’t just turn change on like a light switch when they finish high-school because if the damage has been done, it will be very difficult to repair.  This is something that needs to begin in a child’s early life.

When I was young, I was taught early on that there was no dessert until after we finished supper – eating ALL of it first – even though we hated boiled frozen peas (ok frosted with bad margerine yuk) – we had to eat them anyway OR ELSE – no pudding!   No, I’m not saying that we just give them the pudding prematurely.  I’m just suggesting that we leave the processed peas off the plate to begin with and let them discover their greens in their own time – perhaps with a more inventive way of preparing vegetables in the first place – learning to love their greens yes, because it’s healthy and because they can in fact, taste good too.

Broccoli, Asparagus, Kale, Brussel Sprouts – Green beans?  Whatever –  YUM – bring it on … erase and rewind – cause I’ve been changing my mind …


 (read all of Jim’s posts in the Blogroll and in his Journal)



Advocating Awareness – Education e-Clips 2019

Welcome readers and those curious about post-secondary education in Canada.



I have received hundreds of emails over the past few years, from people who wish to know more about what’s going on in public vs private education … specifically pertaining to media arts.  I don’t wish to make education out to be a bad thing, however there are some particularly disturbing parts of most education systems that all those navigating towards – should be aware of before signing the contract.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – it all comes down to the money.  Granted, there are a small percentage of schools (public and private), that actually do think out of the box but they are an extreme minority.  You’ll read about a few of them here in this website.  Of course, there is a bigger picture that many schools don’t really want you to see, because it’s not in their best interest to expose you to that.  I call it “pedagogical propaganda”, where there’s an internal agenda that fudges the facts, thrives on ignorance and plays on delusion.  Making good (healthy) choices means taking the time to listen (and pay attention) to what’s really going on.




How a school markets itself and what’s on the “menu” (curricula) is a good indicator (on the surface) of what’s actually going on inside.  Beware of anything that has (what I call) “high salt/sugar content” (junk food).  Ok, smells and tastes amazing, but has little/no nutritional value.  Flashy images of contrived substances lacing courses in a saturated market and all because of the immediate appeal.  For example; media arts programs (focusing primarily on music/music biz) like DJ Arts, Entertainment Business Management – Photography (anything with the word Television/TV in it), or Video Game Design & Animation (for me) are all clear indicators that this school is really just interested in making money and if they’re offering these courses/programs, then the others are likely expensive filler too, primarily designed to sign you up (hook you into a big student loan) and take your money.  Ok, if you’re a student wanting to take one of these courses, you’re doing it more for personal interest than with the intention of making a career of it.

Even non-media arts public colleges, universities and career colleges offer programs where the market is saturated, or where there is no demand (for that qualification) or where such an education has become antiquated, anachronistic and irrelevant.  There are a large number of courses/programs offered in multitudes of post-secondary schools, that were initiated at a time (decades ago) when there may have been a demand/future potential and yet continue – despite our rapidly changing world and a subsequent fall-out in the labour market (and no one is going to tell you that going in). 

Everything from that expensive “Police Foundations” program that ends up leading to a $13/hour night-shift in security; career colleges offering short Early Childcare Assistant or Community Service Worker programs (no not a real social worker), when there is next to no demand/postings for such positions.  Maybe you want to become a public school teacher (like your mom) and get a big OSAP loan to go to teacher’s college – all coming with big promises (of that new career) and no job.  Most grads drift into oblivion and those who originally sold you the course have conveniently disappeared.

Like I said – there are good schools/choices to make.  Many students graduate and go on to do great things (having done the research) but it’s largely because they are ambitious/driven, optimistic and most importantly – informed (going in).  I think it’s best that anyone seriously considering post-secondary studies to take the time needed to properly assess the situation, disconnecting from the grid for a while (before deciding) and taking any information with a grain of salt.  That school/program will still be there when you’re ready (despite what they tell you), and if it isn’t – it wasn’t worth waiting for (doing) anyway.

Whatever you do, DON’T believe everything you hear, because what they want you to believe and what’s real – are all too often very different things.


Relevant articles – A Heap of Money – by Jeremy Johnson – graduate, Metalworks Institute (2009)

Letters to the Editor in the Forum

The Learning Curve – Let it Happen – hackschooling and the anatomy of entrepreneurial spirit

The Learning Curve – An Observation in Modern Education (private vs. public post-secondary)

The Learning Curve – Erase & Rewind – introducing the open loop/non-linear post-secondary model

Black Hole Syndrome – the unspoken agenda in post secondary education

Jim Lamarche – Journal:  the human condition, gender politics, spiritual isolation, hypocrisy in modern society, renewed faith, redemption in expression

New Music Page – music composed and performed by Jim Lamarche (now in HD)


the unspoken agenda in post-secondary, media arts education

Hi there Jim,  I graduated a few years back in Music Industry Arts at Fanshawe College then Audio Post Production the year after that. Music and audio have been the passion of my life. I do sound design, voice acting, foley, composition, and video editing to name a few. I currently work in London as a courier driver and dream every day of landing any job even closely related to audio in any form.  While I mainly focused on the SFX side of things, I recently tried my hand at composing as well to strengthen my skills. Between work and my daughter, I aim for getting 1 song finished every week or two.  I’m sending you links to my work and welcome any suggestions on how I can connect with the industry.

Keith Turton – London Ontario, June 25, 2014

Hi Keith, The one given is that you need to move to Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver (New York or LA).  If there’s any chance of connecting your audio/music skills with the labour market, this is a MUST!   That being said, I am somewhat perplexed that you went to college for 4 years (assuming you did the required General Arts and Sciences prerequisite at Fanshawe first before MIA) and (so it would appear) – you still don’t know that (not your fault).  Welcome to the ‘black hole’ in media arts education.   In the $25,000 that you (or your parents) spent on schooling, and in the thousands of hours of instruction you’ve received, there is one crucial detail they left out.   You’re in London and there’s really nothing going on there – so ‘connecting with the industry’, is highly unlikely.

Jim Lamarche – June 28, 2014




The only sound that you will hear – is when I whisper in your ear

I love you

Reflecting on a few recent messages received here and in my quest for ongoing clarity, I return to my reason to write again.  I think it’s important to mention that I’m not on some sort of ‘mission’ here.  I’m simply here to help clarify.  It is simply my desire to help young people get to where they want to go by giving them useful information that they can use to their/your benefit, to assist in navigation – for those curious to know more and who come here to get insight or ask me what my opinion is – that’s all.

That being said … I received an email recently (posted in the forum) that is inspiring this most recent observation.

First, I need to reiterate.  There are many excellent post-secondary schools in Canada (some documented in my report) and what I am writing about here applies to many but not all schools.  One shopping for a quality education must look carefully at all the options and opportunities, learn to read between the lines and most importantly trust their gut instincts when finally deciding.  That being said, I think it’s important to take a really good look at what’s going on – under the surface …

There’s a kind of hush …

There is a phenomenon in most post-secondary education institutions, but especially prevalent in Media Arts Education that continues to go unnoticed.  I call it the “Black Hole Syndrome” or BHS.  Ok, you could remove the ‘H’ and still get a fairly accurate translation.  It’s a quiet agenda – created and maintained by most (private and public) colleges and yes even universities;  where important (even crucial/critical) details are left out in order to maintain the ‘status quo’.   The fall-out (ramifications) from this complex, is that in with-holding certain truths, students (all too often) are left with little or nothing to grab onto later on (and in huge debt).   Despite what appears to be a benevolent cause on the surface, registration targets must be met and routine cash-flow must be maintained in order to keep the system running smoothly.  Problem being, if students knew what they were really in for; they probably wouldn’t register and that would undermine the school’s priority mandate – to make money.  It’s just a lot easier to keep a lid on certain things rather than upset the cart.  It’s also an agenda where withdrawls (drop-outs) are minimized by carefully exercising a calculated set of damage control mechanisms set up and ready to implement at a moments notice.  I have since come to terms with the reality that similar agendas exist in most organized (commerce driven) platforms including government and corporations, fueling their need for higher profit (power/control) and therefore, an ongoing need for discretion.

Students don’t see it because they’re not supposed to see it.  It’s very much like that microscopic disclaimer – “ride at your own risk” that’s been set up in a ‘what you don’t know won’t hurt you’ kind of campaign strategy all designed to keep everyone compliantly in their place and exists almost invisibly on the periphery of an education system wishing to expand.  I’ll give you an example …

This goes back a few years, but still captures the phenomenon succinctly and continues to this day even more-so.

I clearly remember finishing my 2nd year at Fanshawe College in the MIA/Music Industry Arts program there (a 3 year program then) in 1976 in London Ontario.  This had been a phenomenal experience for me in a radical/ground-breaking liberal arts program started just a few years earlier by U.K. Radio Caroline DJ/founder Tom Lodge, who migrated to Canada and to London and somehow managed to convince the powers that be at Fanshawe to launch the program.  Classes were small and enrollment was limited to those who had made an extra effort after being put on the waiting list (that everyone was put on).  I had come from a small town (conservative community) nearby and this was an exploration into the unknown, where every day was a new experience filled with everything possible.  It was amazing!  until … the unspeakable happened.



So listen very carefully, closer now and you

will see what I mean

Tom gave a lecture once a week in the D1060 lecture hall at Fanshawe – almost philosophical in nature, to all of us curious wide eyed community college participants.  I remember it being my favourite class because he was an astounding speaker who came across as someone who genuinely cared, having created this totally unique forum of expression which manifested itself in electronic music creation in a real 8 track recording studio set up at the college with state of the art hardware, enlisting those who would carry his vision forward and into a fruitful movement that would flourish in years to come – echoing what he had experienced in Britain just a few years earlier. I distinctly remember a class/lecture where, in the early stages one of the students asked the all foreboding question … “so Tom, we’re finishing our second year here and I’m wondering where you see us going, what does our future look like?  Where do you think we can find a job in London after we graduate next year” ? 

I remember an anechoic silence in the hall and Tom feeling unusually uncomfortable with that question – almost nervous but still answering in his one of a kind english accent … “Well honestly (long pause), I think that if you seriously want to pursue a career in sound and music, you’ll need to move to a bigger city like Toronto if you want to make it work”.    I’ll never forget that moment.  It was like a vacuum in the room – a hollow emptiness that ripped us all to pieces, from the inside out.  We stumbled around aimlessly for days/weeks after thinking – what?  after investing two years of our lives here in London, we’re going to have to move away to make this work??  WTF!  I later found out that there were a handful of ‘mature’ students who already knew that (having figured it out on their own) and were already planning to move to Toronto.  Some just left not returning to third year but the bulk of us remaining – had no idea what was on the horizon.  For me, it was already a stretch – driving to London (from Woodstock) every day.  Moving to Toronto?  Unthinkable and I was under the clear impression (up until then) that I (we) didn’t have to.

What no one had told us up until then is that this was something that could only happen IF we embraced a bigger picture, (willingness to think ‘out of the box’).  Fanshawe College had recently realized that they had stumbled on a gold mine with MIA and with 800+ applications received every year (and only being able to accommodate 60).  9/10 applications were from graduating high-school students in London or the surrounding area.   There was talk of the college building a second studio and that the numbers would be increasing.  What became soon obvious was that there was BIG money to be made with this Music Industry Arts program and that it was necessary to maintain the illusion that a future (in music) could in fact happen locally.  It was then that I realized that this was the beginning of the end of Tom Lodge;  a landslide approached and a slow political dismemberment ensued.  Under pressure from the college to maintain a sense of controlled composure, Tom felt cornered and started talking more.  This was a game he couldn’t play.  I remember being in a daze all that summer – coming to terms with the reality that I would in fact have to move to Toronto, if I was going to make my career work over the longer term and it scared the living shit right out of me, now thinking that we would have to leave our families, the comfort of our homes/parents and our precious small-town peace of mind – if we wanted to make money IN the music business.

At the beginning of our third and final year, I remember the alarming absence of many faces as 1/3 were gone (dropped) and there was unrest in the general student population in MIA with a small group of students talking and organizing (out of fear).  It was almost creepy.  They were really pissed because they felt that they had been lied to and that group expanded exponentially over the first few weeks, eventually festering into a mass rebellion.  You see, that’s just it – nobody had been ‘lied to’.  It was just never discussed – even though it was obvious that 4/5 of us in the program, never had any intention of moving away – it became increasingly clear that if we stayed – there would be no jobs to go to and that the college was holding vital information that we needed to hear in order to properly plan.   I couldn’t get into the impending brawl that was coming to a boiling point and the college sensed a storm on the horizon and a whole new set of defense mechanisms were employed to contain the unrest.

I remained an observer more than a participant in the revolt.  I knew that challenging the system on that level would be futile and would just lead to nothing.  I mean, what’s going to happen?  We’re all going to get a refund?  That the MIA program would be shut down?   Never going to happen.  It was time to move on.



Tom Lodge was fired that year and what went on internally was something we were never privy to.  Tom disappeared into thin air and the situation was eventually contained.  Most of my school-mates stayed in London, getting jobs in music stores selling/renting instruments – some at Sam the Record Man – some playing in ‘lounge bands’ doing Beatles and Elton John covers – others in construction or driving truck.  Needless to say … no-one got a ‘job’ in the music industry in London (because there was no music industry there).  I, and a few others moved to Toronto – squirming my way into the music scene first as an engineer – first at Kensington Sound, then Captain Audio and Eastern Sound (Yorkville), recording my music in various studios during ‘down-time’ and getting signed to a major label (A&M/Universal Music) in ’82, doing advertising jingles/television music/sound and still struggling to keep afloat.  My income was sporadic;  some months making $10,000, and other months nothing.  I spent most of the proceeds from label advances and money made from media work on gear for my computer based home studio, eventually gravitating to education as a teacher (Trebas Institute/Ryerson University),  all because of that one answer Tom gave us in that lecture hall in London in March 1976, probably the most useful information I received in the 3 years that I attended Fanshawe.  If he had chosen to play it safe and given us the ‘textbook’ answer (would have been easy to do), I wouldn’t be here writing this.  No, I would probably be living in London (with a different family), working in a totally unrelated field (and watching TV right now).  There would be no future in sound/music, no record deal, no studios, no MAE report – no story.  I met my wife in Toronto in ’84 and had a daughter (who is 28 now) and a student at University of Toronto,  and well – long story short … it all worked out regardless.

In closing,  I was lucky where many aren’t.  I got what I needed when I needed it.  I am so thankful for that (in retrospect).  The deceptions/delusions continue in education and where we think, we’re getting what we need to make it all work, there are an equal amount of hidden obstacles/smoke screens that are designed to throw us off course just long enough to maintain the comfort and security of those who would like us to think that we’re making the right choices – for them.  Today, the phenomenon continues in all sectors of post-secondary education.  What we’re told and what’s real are often two very different things.  Important information remains hidden and facts are fudged to spin a favourable outcome for new students who are unsure coming in.  When it comes to a prognosis in modern education – the future always looks good regardless.

One final observation/conclusion.  Public colleges and universities will likely never change.  Those (private) educational institutions (in Media Arts or otherwise) who survive over the long term, will embrace the opportunities in being honest/telling the truth – plain and simple.  Schools/programs that continue to deceive/control will fall away and those who are up front with their intentions will thrive/prosper, only because they are following a path that truly educates their students, (taking the road less traveled), embracing risk – knowing that we’re only here for a short time and that creating/earning trust can (in fact) evolve into win-win.  Ok wishful thinking …

Short term pain – long term gain can be a whole new way of moving forward – that benefits everyone
and … that saying it like it is – is ultimately what good education is all about.










dedicated to Tom Lodge  (1936 – 2012)





The Learning Curve: an Observation in Modern Education

 a discussion on private verses public post-secondary systems in Canada – (updated for January 01, 2019)

“I look at it this way – if the world’s next Quentin Tarantino, Drake/Avril Lavigne or Trent Reznor/Daniel Lanois is reading this stuff, then none of it will matter one way or the other because information in a blog on the internet won’t change that kind of commitment.  I already know that many MAE readers decide against a career in Media Arts after taking this site in.  I think of it as me doing them a favour and saving them a lot of headaches, only because it requires a 100% commitment.  It’s all or nothing”.  JL

Hello friends and faithful readers of my blog – if you’ve read my Media Arts Education – A Report Card, I welcome you to this afterthought … an observation in human nature that may shed some light on the weak links in our education system.  Please forgive this more philosophical approach to the ongoing discussion.  I realize that this is more for the discerning reader who might want to take a deeper look.  This overview is on Canadian education as a whole, not focused strictly on media/music/recording and entertainment arts.  I’m looking at the bigger picture here.  I’m looking at all schools in Canada now – in both the private and public sectors.

Welcome to … The Learning Curve




Having been an educator most of my life and having spent the last 8 years studying the Canadian labour market in depth, I am well informed of a growing dilemma here.  Although most schools would have you believe that a qualification is all you need; I feel that education is about way more than “schooling” and that important essentials are missed.  Here are 10 fundamentals that every new post-secondary student will benefit from – what it looks like under the surface – what you won’t learn in any school:

1.  The Canadian education system is a business and like every business there’s a bottom line and it’s all about money. 
All schools (and the people who run them), are in “business” to make money – plain and simple.  Unlike countries in other parts of the world where education reflects a more balanced relationship with their labour market, post-secondary colleges and universities in North America sell programs based on popularity even though many have little post-grad relevance (due to over-saturation).  Programs such as Fashion Design, Animation/Gaming, Broadcasting/Television/Film and Music/Sound/Recording Technology are a few examples of this.  There are thousands of schools offering hundreds of programs that are popular and appealing, but have low graduation and placement rates (and all because they’re profitable).

2.  Justification.  Schools  ‘justify’ many fringe programs/courses because there are success stories that they can mount front and center – letting the world know that Jason Jones graduated and is working “in the field” now.  The underlying message is that they as a school are  (in fact) delivering, when in reality more than half of those who register/attend (programs above) don’t finish/graduate and 80% (4/5) of those who do graduate end up doing something completely unrelated in the job market after spending/investing $20,000 – $40,000 on an education that they’ll never use professionally (and many years paying off student loans).   That said, you will  see and hear all about the few who “make it” – turned up nice and loud on the school’s websites, implying that this is a common outcome.  It’s called marketing and it’s deceptive.

3.  Most schools are more preoccupied with what they can take rather than give.  Their priority mandate is to maintain and support their comfortable infrastructure so that they (current teachers/professors/administrators and system ensconced bureaucrats) can prosper. What this means for post-secondary, is that enrollment, makes them money and creates more opportunities for THEM!  As I have learned, this often means manipulating the facts and sometimes lying outright to achieve that goal.  One example … unionized public sector teachers (elementary) use kids as props/pawns, to hold up signs in picket lines (the kids having no idea what they mean); so as to gain leverage (via propaganda) in their campaign to increase their salaries/benefits while at 10 years of service, earning $90K/year (double that of non-union private sector teachers), working 35hrs/week with 2 months off every summer.  With all these perks in place, they still want more, using rhetoric to convince people that they deserve it.

4.  Bums in Seats.  At most post-secondary schools (PCC colleges in particular) recruiters are pressured to meet a “monthly target quota” (commission sales), even if it means registering students for courses where the market is saturated and there are few real job prospects.  None of that really matters.  As a clear example; the market for qualified public sector “teachers” is completely saturated in Canada.  Even though there’s a demand for ‘french immersion’ teachers; 2 out of 3 new graduates from english teachers colleges can’t find work (system is full up) – and yet there is an ongoing campaign by teachers colleges to recruit more and more students regardless – why?  because there are security issues to an education system that depends on enrollment.  The University system is a “slam-dunk” because the youth market is massive and most young people are brainwashed into thinking that it’s a degree that automatically creates employment.  It’s a sit and wait strategy – (coupled with student debt).

5.  Accountability.  There is little accountability and no responsibility on the part of any education system in Canada to find their graduates a real job in their field of study, which means that those having a BA, BSc, Masters or even Ph.D has very little to do with successful integration and are essentially on their own post grad.  Every registered college has a “career services” department and registrants are reassured that they will be there for them when they finish, but such departments (in most schools) are ‘cosmetic’ and 9 times out of 10 do very little/nothing to assist in a graduate’s integration (beyond help with their resume).  Any media arts school that tells prospectives that there are “lots of jobs” for graduates of their program, are essentially falsifying the facts and schools tell prospective students this every day.



6.  Misinformation. 
Most students in Universities and Colleges are misinformed because most schools are not educating degree graduates with the most essential skills – that being the development of entrepreneurial spirit, occupation (labour market) research, skill set marketing and proper ongoing networking – and most schools feed on complacency. Young people in the U.S and Canada are led to believe that you go to school – get the diploma/degree and then that great job just lands in their laps. Of course that’s not how it works. There’s so much more to it and the education system in North America doesn’t address that, because it’s not in their best interest to do so.

7.  Unrealistic expectations.  There’s a huge GAP (excuse the pun) between what most young people (and their parents) expect (entering post-secondary education with the goal of integrating into the labour market) and what’s realistic.  A large percentage of Canadian parents pay for their sons/daughters college/university, including all expenses (a car, clothes/spending money – whatever they “need”), and many of these young people take their post-secondary education for granted.  It’s called “entitlement” and it’s rampant.  Years earlier and leading up to college; this large percentage of children/teenagers are coddled/pampered (given too much), addicted to consumption and subsequently damaged (becoming complacent); stripping them from an essential ability to appreciate a sound work ethic.

8.  Trying it on.  Most who embark on a post-secondary education have no idea what they’re doing and are following the advice of people (parents/relatives/teachers, admissions counsellors etc.), who don’t really know where their son’s/daughter’s/student’s strengths/talents fundamentally lie.  Ungrounded “ideas” absent of real passion/desire, make for a routine procedure and a luke warm reception (withdrawl).  Traditional career exploration (for the most part) is like trying on a new suit or a new pair of jeans (to see how it fits).   More often than not, the ‘fit’ isn’t right (returning it to the rack) OR, they end up wearing something that is uncomfortable for the rest of their lives.   Moral of the story:  you don’t try media/music arts (in particular) on to see if it fits.  It’s something one does because it’s their calling (purpose/mission).

9.  Commitment.  Young people almost always say that they are 100% committed to their future, (when there’s nothing to measure it against).   The game “pin the tail on the donkey” comes to mind.  All said and done, their commitment is measured in successful (post-grad) integration, making their living (in their field) and rising to the occasion.   There is a low integration rate in media arts, and in audio/music (in particular) overall statistics show that less than 1/10 who register/attend any such program ever get to that place (and what that place looks like is almost always very different from what they thought it would look like going in).

10.  Private Career Colleges are also called “for profit” schools, which is misleading,  because it implies that public post-secondary is non-profit.   Community Colleges and Universities are  money hungry regardless and so-called ‘surpluses’ from highly successful (popular) programs, are absorbed/assimilated into the system seamlessly (and quietly) so technically, there are ‘non-profit’ and ‘for-profit’ schools out there but in reality, there isn’t that much of a difference in their motivation.  Both private and public post-secondary (colleges/universities) want their classes filled to capacity (because it means higher salaries/bigger budgets and more room for expansion).


Expectation Misalignment

What students “expect” and what actually happens are all too often completely different and they become disappointed and discouraged way too soon.  Our so called ‘benevolent’ influences, (media and even education systems themselves) have painted a false picture of what’s really going on and young people often become victims (believers) of the lie and some schools perpetuate the lie for profit.  We learn our lessons often times, the hard way.   Live and learn.  Most schools pull them in and churn them out for money. “desire” is something you don’t learn in a class-room.  Some schools inspire real curiosity in its participants, which elevates them into that career path that they have developed a real passion for.  It happens – there are many good schools out there and many student/graduates learn to connect the dots to form a picture – their picture.  Entrepreneurial spirit can be a healthy bi-product in a school system that knows how to inspire it’s students.   Fortunately some do, but most don’t.

That being said, desire and ambition are ultimately aptitudes that cannot be taught at any school.  It’s something you either have or you don’t and it’s difficult to measure as an innocent young person looking out into a deceptive world, full of fantasies and realities and no way to know where the fantasies end and the realities begin.   I think it’s called ‘experience’.   The old guy who looks at you and smiles after you’ve said something – what’s he thinking?



PUBLIC vs. PRIVATE – the debate continues
(passive vs. active pedagogy)

So back to school we go – the biggest problem in the Canadian post-secondary system, is that there are few options for creative people especially, to be able to plan out the best plan of action.  “How do I make this work in the real world?  How do I survive and keep my dream intact”?

Public schools (universities and community colleges) have a generally “passive” approach to education – it’s in the nature of our soft culture and is supported by a unionized sensibility.  If you ever want to experience “hard” culture, spend some time in India.   One returns with a whole different perspective.  We’re so spoiled here in comparison – we “expect” too much.  Even though I prefer public over private schools (in this country), I believe that most public schools are lacking in the ability to inspire the necessary “self-discipline” that’s required for most to make it work right.  Long programs.  Unnecessary courses – too many “perks”.  Get that 2.0 GPA in a ‘meet the basic requirement’ agenda and not enough real immediate passion/minimal imagination – designed to prolong that which could be done in a fraction of the time.  This “lag” in turn stunts a student’s career evolution because it’s all too often slow and filled with lots of “filler”.  The mere extension of a ‘high-school’ frame of mind is limiting, when it comes to assisting students to cope and deal with the real world (successfully integrating into the work-force).

Private schools on the other hand have more fire in their bellies – having a more “active” approach to education.  They’re “businesses” that need to survive (without government funding) and are more in touch with the real world for the most part, so in that sense they better prepare students for the realities of their respective future vocations and sometimes get the job done in half the time only at twice the cost.  Yikes!  Ok, what’s up with that?   Yes, they get to the point quicker and push students out faster by giving them the most important essentials up front but there’s a serious downside.  At most private schools (not all), there’s a “sales” staff (competing with each other) that want you to sign up for a commission and often “lie” to nail down the registration, (ok – seriously manipulating the truth), not caring about you at all.

Most private schools – are deceptive and self-centered, treat their recruitment staff like trained dogs (behind closed doors) – more focused on forcing results – in the form of profit.  It can be quite creepy to look at, especially in the bigger schools owned by public American corporations with shareholders – based in New York or Chicago (70+ campuses globally).   Counting their profits and cutting their losses are a daily routine, and those “pulling the strings” know little or nothing about education and only care about how much money comes in.   They tend to take more and “give” less.  You’ve seen their consistent advertising on TV – penetrating a vulnerable market – easy OSAP student loan and …  well you get it.  Ok, all of a sudden public schools are starting to look pretty good again.   It’s a tough call.   Maintaining sanity over stupidity.   I’m still struggling with this one.  Smaller Canadian owned private colleges are better.  Students tend to be treated more like humans rather than a “bar code”.

and now … The Good News

It is important at this point to re-iterate that there are some excellent post-secondary options out there.  Outside of music/media, I have seen hundreds of graduates from both private and public post-secondary Canadian colleges go on to do amazing things in their careers because they went to good schools and there are lots of good schools out there.  It’s really important to shop carefully and ask the right questions, knowing that the answers one gets are open to interpretation.  Every school has it’s own unique personality above and beyond that – compatibility takes research.  It really, ultimately comes down to the individuals in play and their willingness to take the leap.

I look at it this way – if the world’s next Quentin Tarantino, Avril Lavigne, Drake or Trent Reznor/Daniel Lanois is reading this, then none of this will matter one way or the other.  They’ll just use this information to assist in their navigation.  I already know that many MAE readers decide against a career in Media Arts after taking this site in.   I think of it as me doing them a favour and saving them a lot of headaches, only because it requires a 100% commitment.   It’s all or nothing.

Into the unknown – making the necessary sacrifices – abandoning “creature comforts”, trusting our intuition – embracing change.  Exploring the risk factor …




Peripheral Vision

What has become most obvious to me now at 60 and still in the education business, particularly in the “public versus private” debate,  is that FORCING results doesn’t work.  Whether it be in business, education, world politics, art, relationships and life in general – force is counter-productive and stressful.  Education is much more than “schooling” and has immeasurable ramifications.  Being open to all the options and opportunities, knowing when to surrender and when to act, taking a stand and making a firm decision is in our intrinsic nature and yet we have no idea what that looks like until later, when we can look back – reflecting in our later-life retrospective.   Revelations and regrets.  Bottom-line … we either “want” it or we don’t.  What-ever that is and what it looks or feels like.

Progress is all about making the necessary “sacrifices” and most aren’t willing to make enough.  Ultimately success hinges on one’s ability to find their own natural ‘rhythm’ in the din of distraction (balancing).  Education is a parachute – that opens when it’s supposed to and buffers the impact of landing.  Education is the broom in the all Canadian game of curling – those allies in life who share the same vision – networking and working it, sweeping our effort into a favorable position. Win-win is an idea that works sometimes and you only live once.  Good education is all about knowing when and how to listen – encouragement and support over profit and personal gain.  Planting a strong seed on the front end, is what makes it work on the back end – then comes the consistent care and attention and yes a little help from our friends.

Ultimately, we throw the rock – and it’s all in our focused conviction that we can produce the desired result.  Krazy karma plays a key role and is often out of our control.   We live, we do stuff and we die.   That’s a given.  There is “intellectual” maturity and there is “emotional” maturity.  All too often there is misinformation, chaos, harassment, intimidation and abuse.  Sometimes we roll the dice and hope for the best.  No easy answers.  We are dealt a hand of cards and it’s all about how we play it.

Life forces us to make decisions that we all too often aren’t ready to make and yet forces us to move forward – because sometimes,  we need a kick in the ass.  So yeah, I guess force has it’s place – when it’s implemented with care (compassion and humility).  Real progress comes from inspired ambition – not disciplined submission.  Many in power don’t get it.  It’s a delicate balance that sometimes takes a lifetime to achieve, greed prevails – mistakes are abundant.  Speaking of …

On a closing note – when i was in India 10 years ago.  I saw hundreds of loaded rickety wooden carts being led by donkeys/mules and old horses.  The guy behind, holding the reins is standing with a whip that stings, constantly thrashing the animal that is frail, tired, hungry and obedient – pulling hundreds of bags of rice.  I’m getting something profound in that dusty moment, window rolled down in the late model SUV that is my ride, because we just happen to be higher in the food chain and I’m just tagging along. That realization is that all too often the ‘give and take’ part of the equation is (extremely) lop sided.  This Kodak moment – wow – realizing that beating the animal is just slowing it down, only its master “thinks” it’s making him go faster!  If the animal collapses, there’s another to replace it – animal labour comes cheap.  I’m having a Zen moment – it is in blind ambition that we sometimes lose sight of what’s really going on.  The blinders that we have on block our peripheral vision – but it’s a requirement … with the intent to stay focused, only forward movement is allowed.  Only some of us lose our perception.




A momentary lapse of reason, consumed by something that was there all along
only we couldn’t see it.

Real educators see the whole – the real – the bigger picture (private and/or public)
and carry their wisdom forward to the next generation.

There is no magic plan – it’s just what is.
School is just the beginning.

Trusting your intuition – timing is everything.
Good luck friends.



Relevant articles – A Heap of Money – by Jeremy Johnson – graduate, Metalworks Institute (2009)

More Letters to the Editor in the Forum

The Learning Curve – Erase and Rewind – Introducing the Open Loop/Non-Linear Post Secondary model

The Learning Curve – Let it Happen – Hackschooling and the Anatomy of Entrepreneurial Spirit

Black Hole Syndrome – the unspoken agenda in post secondary education

Jim Lamarche – Journal:  the human condition, gender politics, spiritual isolation, hypocrisy in modern society, renewed faith, redemption in expression


Chicken McNugget

hello friends and faithful readers of my blog.  welcome back …

in this march instalment, i’m returning to media arts education with focus on “value” in the arts, and a case for how focussed creative intuition and ambition can elevate us into a new dimension.  ok, this is again, a tad philosophical in it’s form – but still worth checking out.  i hope you come hungry!  welcome to my “Chicken McNugget” – yeS!



there are many perspectives on the value of art and music.  some see the “popularity” of a phenomenon or movement to be intrinsic to it’s “value”.   this is a valid approach and necessary to understand for young people who wish to become successful in media arts and being on top of what’s hot in our western pop cultures culinary awakenings.  i always taught my students in production class that it’s essential to know 1. What works  2. Why it works and 3.  How it works – in order to successfully integrate into any “system” of art and business as of course, one needs the other to survive right?  there is no doubt that the two go hand in hand.  as “educators” in media arts in particular;  it is our important duty to inform without prejudice or judgement – around every modern systems co-dependent existence – especially if it is popular.  it is our responsibility to report the news with integrity and accountability.  so what’s the problem?  ok, forgive my little brain fart here, but this is where it get’s confusing for me still, maybe this is what sets apart the “men from the boys” in modern education.  maybe THIS is why i no longer “teach” media arts – maybe i just don’t get it.  so what’s my point?  what all too often “works” … is American Idol, what all too often works is the BIG mac, what all too often works is the movie “Transformers”,  Coca Cola, Lotteries, Chicken McNuggets, Barbie and Ken with a side of Justin Bieber!  what all too often works – is mediocrity.

What Works

that being said … what works, why it works and how it works is the foundation of our times, and is the wave of the future if surviving in style is on your list of things to do.  if you’re “out of the loop”,  you shall remain just that – being ignorant isn’t really a bad thing is it?  staying clear of judgement around “nutritional” value (and long term health), creates just that many more options and opportunities for our future yes? – opening new doors to that which could bring us prosperity and happiness / contentment – like making serious money!   now you’re paying attention.   Chicken McNuggets – ok. maybe there’s another perspective and brings about an opposition.  in having no informed judgement, we are easily led into thinking that mediocrity is what ultimately makes the world go round, and that “fame, fortune and glory”,  can be fast and easy, yes the bling and the blur – all you need to do is sign up and place your order.   ok, at 55 this year and having been kicked around a bit i may be getting crusty in my old age – but something is seriously out of whack here.    it’s in this ongoing discussion around “value” do i sometimes get confused.  the wise and benevolent instructor again … “so this is this and that is that … you decide”, that’s our job as teachers, and that’s a good principle to stand by ethically speaking and it’s safe – bottom line – popular is good right?  ah political correctness –  staying neutral – and letting others who we influence decide for themselves.  i’m all for it … BUT – what if?



yes mediocrity works for some (most) and not for others – in comes target market demographics, corporate projections and promotion strategies, frequent flyer miles and club points on our secret stash of plastic, our membership privileges and our missing creativity.   it’s what we’re raised to believe and accept, what it’s all about –  “back of the line please … we’ll call out the numbers … be patient … you’ll get it – don’t worry.  we’ll slip that 100% pure beef patty – right in between those soft warm buns – just the way you like it”.  ok, let’s take the taste challenge together, because i KNOW you must be starving by now – this delicious Chicken McNugget has been manufactured to sheer perfection – check out the smell!  OMG – that processed, mechanically deboned chicken part – succulently bathed in industrial oil and coated with that delicious banal chemical oh but crusty coating – and ever so meticulously spiced just perfectly for joe and fran average and especially their clueless gadget clad kids – because it’s all loaded with refined salt and sugar.  mindfully deep fried just the right amount of seconds – and ready to be pounded into that awesome selection of special sauces you can choose from – yaY.   that nice smile and that “have a great day” – driving away.   yuM.  value made in heaven!  “it tastes real good doesn’t it honey”?  i LIKE it!  Billions Served – now THAT’s my kind of testimonial”.


on the other side, for others it may be not watching television at all,  but listening to Van Morrison in a high end restaurant while absorbing prime rib, fresh asparagus and sipping on vintage merlot.  later watching that Alfred Hitchcock, Tarrantino or Polanski film again for the 8th time and finding something new in it still.  doing yoga and meditation instead of rushing to the gym and working out in front of the same mirror every day – grounded – authentic and truer to our nature.   art and science can co-exist together i think.  all in balance – yes?  that being said?   i’d have to give my new friend, the Chicken McNugget a grade based on performance – lacking in style and grace – insight and illumination …



Ignorance is Bliss

perhaps this is where i am showing my weakness as your adviser, your consultant, but i don’t really care – in my observation – all too often, that which works – FAILS!  i’m thinking that maybe – just maybe there’s more to life than mediocrity.   maybe telling my kid that she should watch “idol” because she might “learn” something about how the music business works?  not possible.  she’s already informed – shit!   that all too common “lowest common denominator” is what we’re forced to look at every day.  choices?  ok we all look at everything right?  it’s important for us to see what’s going on.  i guess it’s all about what we ultimately “subscribe” to, even if it’s delusional and we buy into it.  our education system is often just a conduit for reflection in greed and protection – promoting that which benefits those in an elevated position.

maybe, it’s all about where you are in the food chain.  maybe ignorance IS bliss?  maybe “what we don’t know won’t hurt us”  … maybe, this is the way it should be.  maybe all we need to do is to learn how to pull the strings and refine our rhetoric, frame the formula and pitch our new prize.  newsflash:  i think a few billion people in Libya, Egypt and most of the middle east – yes even tens of millions in our own continent (only because we’re spoiled rotten) – might disagree with that right now but hey – as Bob Dylan once eloquently whispered – “the times … they are a changin”.  which-ever road you choose?  it’s all in the choices.  right up there on that sterile back-lit menu board.  “sir, would you like to make that a combo”?  ah … that familiar titillation in the senses.  counting the “loose change” in our pockets …



all these choices – or so we think – can’t decide.
ultimately, i prefer swiss chalet over mcdonalds – better chicken

maybe … we just need to learn how to get with the program …
“yes, please – i would like fries and a drink with that”.




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