Welcome!I originally launched MAE in Canada as a blog in 2008, with the intention of levelling out the playing field – to shine a spotlight on the misconceptions surrounding Canadian post-secondary music/media arts education (specifically) and to expose some of the myths that schools project to boost enrollment (profit).   Education systems (overall) are not necessarily benevolent and are all too often insular, myopic, detached and self-absorbed.   It has been my mission to clarify and support the curious individual, and to provide assistance with pertinent accurate information from which to plan, proceed and succeed.

Students under 25 tend to do better in the public school system (Community College & University).  It’s slower and more grounded in the elementary/ secondary mind-set (unionized), and those 25 or over tend to do better in Private (PCC) Colleges which are fast track programs (1 year on average) but costs much more.   I can’t honestly say that one is better than the other – only different and distinctly relevant to those with unique requirements.

There are many more media arts education options out there; these are the only schools & programs that I would recommend/seriously worth looking at.  If a school is not on this list, then I would suggest proceeding with caution and any music/media arts school that tells you that there are “lots of jobs” for graduates of their program, are essentially falsifying the facts (coercing the registration).  There’s a Q & A in the Forum (emails received) and I have written a number of post-secondary education related articles in the Blogroll.  

If you have a question (or comment), email me.If you don’t want your question or identity to be shared in the Forum – simply put  “please do not share”  in the subject line.  

Below are my top 10 media arts schools in Canada.


School Ratings:  (PCC) Private Career College, (PUB) Public University or Community College

1.  RYERSON UNIVERSITY – RTA/DMZ –  School of Media – IMA School of Image Arts – (PUB) – Toronto  (A+)  I taught audio production in RTA from 1991 – 94 at the Rogers Communications Centre when it was still Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, just before it became a university and I have worked with dozens of graduates since, reflecting on their experience there in RTA, having met most of them in an industry capacity after they finished.  This is a Media Arts degree program over 4 years (BA/BFA/MA) and is very intensive and can be followed up in their Digital Media Zone where those with a unique vision can incubate and fertilize.  Ryerson has the best post-secondary media arts program in Canada and is a model for the future in MAE as a whole.  Unlike most of the other schools here in this report, RTA focuses more on servicing the “broadcast/digital media” sector, where thousands of RTA graduates are now fully integrated into successful careers in a different quadrant of media arts but still crossing over into the audio/visual production arena.  In 2011 they changed the name from  “Radio and Television Arts” to “RTA School of Media” out of necessity, as the former name had become an anachronism,  just like the word “video” or the term “multi-media” had become.  I think they should have just dropped the whole RTA thing completely and just called it the Ryerson School of Media or RSM.  It’s my guess that they kept the RTA tag out of respect for recent graduates.  Regardless, RTA / Ryerson is still an important contributor to the media arts education system in Canada.  If my son/daughter was interested in doing something in media arts, I wouldn’t hesitate to support them to do Ryerson, if only for the reason that there is an elevated probability that he/she will integrate into a successful professional media related career later on.  The root structure is 70+ years deep at Ryerson (RTA started in 1949) and is very solid which counts for a lot especially IF – a graduate wants to “connect” with the real world. Ryerson is a testament of the public education sectors intrinsic value – tried and true.

2.  OCAD UNIVERSITY/CFC MEDIA LAB – DFI (Digital Futures Initiative – MA, MDes, MFA) – (PUB) Toronto (A)   This is relatively new on the grid for me and designed for those with elevated entrepreneurial spirit.   Formerly The Ontario College of Art and Design, now OCAD U, (founded in 1876) recently partnered with CFC (Canadian Film Centre) in 2013, on the Digital Futures initiative, allowing participants to cross-pollinate in any number of multi-disciplinary forums, in a similar way that the DMZ/Digital Media Zone (incubator system) mentors Ryerson students post graduate.  Best part is that participants can earn a Masters degree in Media Arts and Design from OCAD in a system that’s all about invention and innovation.  I’m thinking the way to go is to start at OCAD then finish at CFC (post grad), as the Centre is more about mentoring/activation than traditional pedagogical activities (in Film/TV/Media/Music)  If one has a ‘vision’ for the future in digital media/design and is focused and ambitious?  This is the place to be. 

3.  SENECA@YORK – School of Communication Arts – (PUB) – Toronto  (A-) –    Post secondary partnerships are all the rage right now and this one between York U and Seneca is one of the best combinations I’ve seen yet and the network keeps expanding exponentially.  Communication Arts/media studies at Seneca@York is a progressive example of what’s going on in the public ed sector, from their world-renowned Animation Arts program where a long list of alumni now work on blockbuster feature films, down through their IMD/Interactive Media Design, DFI/Documentary Filmmaking Institute, Visual/Digital Photography/Illustration and Graphic Design programs.  I like their IMP/Independent Music Production program which is a scaled down version of MIA/Music Industry Arts programs – Fanshawe/Centennial and Algonquin Colleges (London/Toronto/Ottawa) only because participants can get a quality taste of the (non existent) music biz in a fraction of the time and cost (translation: relatively harmless); all clean, honest and zero pretension – which is the best part of the public education sector.  This is a website worth looking at simply because of all the amazing choices – not to mention the many bridging options / transfer options available with other colleges and universities world-wide.  

4.  HUMBER COLLEGE – Media Communications – – Creative & Performing Arts –  (PUB) – Toronto  (B+)   I really like the layout of Humber’s Media Communications and specifically the curricula that adapts to the participant’s agenda as it evolves.  This 2 year (4 semester) starts with a primer and a solid look into a variety of media disciplines (photography, web design/content development, graphic/social media and videography) and the options splinter off in semester 2, 3 and 4 (work placement) and potential pathways into more advanced and focussed diploma programs later.  The first semester is shared with the two-year Advertising and Graphic Design diploma, the three year Journalism advanced diploma, the two-year Advertising and Marketing Communications and the three-year Public Relations advanced diploma programs, allowing the flexibility to continue in any of these five programs in semester two.  Humber’s Creative & Performing Arts and specifically it’s Bachelor of Music Program is in my opinion, Canada’s best music school.  I’ve worked with dozens of grads as session players over the years in studios and they are all gifted and versatile musicians.  All in all, Humber packs a big bang for the education buck in a public community college system that’s current and extremely viable.   

5.  HARRIS INSTITUTE – (PCC) – Toronto  (B) – –  Welcome to the Private Career College – PCC sector/side of the equation and a swing into a music/audio focus (with the next 3 listed schools just below).   Where there are a number of sketchy choices, there are only 3 notable options that can be taken seriously (in my opinion).  This is a good one.  Graduates from the Harris camp indicated the highest satisfaction rate and had the most positive reviews of all the schools reporting in the MAE 2013 Survey.  John Harris left Trebas Institute in 1989 with his own vision and ideas on how audio production/arts management should be taught and was the second serious school of it’s kind to evolve in Toronto.  I’m all about promoting good, grounded private colleges here only because there are so few.  It’s truly unique – humble pie, and yet a powerful little institution giving it the edge.  I think that Harris Institute is the best school of it’s kind in Canada.  

6.  OIART – (PCC) – London  (B-)  –  There’s a really good private school in London Ontario (founded in 1983), dedicated to music/sound/audio called the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology that’s a must for this report.   I spent the better part of a day there a few years ago, having played in a band with OIART’s founder Paul Steenhuis – 40 years ago, when/where he took me under his wing and taught me much of what I know about audio, brilliant man (just before launching his school),  Paul is a gifted musician and engineer/producer from the UK and had/has a totally different approach.  Although OIART is out in the boonies, its curricula, facilities/mandate are first rate in what I would call an intensive, fast-track, high quality audio education.   

7.  METALWORKS INSTITUTE – (PCC) – Mississauga  (C+) –  Founded more recently by Gil Moore from the 80′s “corporate rock” band Triumph and a few who migrated from Trebas Institute in 2005, starting their ‘elite’ (now ‘premier’) entertainment arts institution west of Toronto as an extension of the Metalworks Studios complex in Mississauga. They were looking to make a “splash” in the media arts education scene and they did just that – still “rockin” 15 years later and all because Gil Moore knows what he’s doing.  Great facilities and a slick presentation compliment their experienced faculty in an impressive combination of well-kept analog and state of the art digital technologies (best of the new and old).  Their affiliation/partnership with Avid/ProTools also makes them a serious choice, bringing with it a solid sense of meaningful history as well.  Having finished a tour of duty there (2 years – 2007-2008), I am left with mixed feelings.  MWI has an “authoritarian” approach to education – containment & control being their priority over freedom of original expression, and willingness to take in constructive criticism.  Let’s just say that there’s a whole lot of ‘bling’ in the mix, in what now appears to be the quintessential ‘rock’ school.  They have sponsored the “Mississauga Future Star” search (pretending that it’s relevant) and promote the platinum “dream” in exchange for big money.  That being said; despite the reported short-comings,  Metalworks has a good organizational structure, a solid curricula and some top notch players on board.  It’s a tough school and those who graduate will have strong survival skills.  

8.  SHERIDAN COLLEGE – Media Arts Program – (PUB) – Oakville  (C) –  Inspired by a couple of recent emails – and what appears to be an obvious need to address Sheridans efforts in media arts education.  Sheridan College is a bona-fide public institution / Community College which means that what it basically comes down to is … what you see is what you get.  The one thing I love about public education is that there is (for the most part) an absence of the many contrivances that are more obvious in the private career college (PCC) sector and a lot less pretentious posturing.  Although Sheridan’s MAP is more humbly equipped than Fanshawe’s MIA (Music Industry Arts), the curricula is more grounded in the reality of the Media Arts landscape and more graduates integrate successfully because of it.  This is largely due to the fact that it resides on the periphery of the GTA and there are more grads who find meaningful employment in a nearby cosmopolitan centre, whereas most grads from Fanshawe’s MIA program drift into oblivion because London is so far away and removed from any real meaningful media arts activity.  At Sheridan you will be practicing the skills necessary to integrate into a more diverse arena where the game presents more options and opportunities.  Another perk is that after completing the MAP, graduates can bridge into an Honours BFA degree at York University, or University of Toronto or earn a Bachelor of Communications degree at Griffith University in Brisbane Australia.   Some people thrive in a slower community college environment – needing the time to formulate their plan.  Others thrive in a shorter term PCC environment that moves faster and is more expensive – per education year.   One has to go and evaluate carefully asking a lot of good questions.  It’s all risky but if one has the passion and the willingness to sacrifice, then just maybe it’s worth it.  All in all I’d say that if you’re young – have lots of time – and still live with mom and dad – Sheridan’s Media Arts Program may just right for you.  

9.  TORONTO FILM SCHOOL – RCC Institute of Technology – (PCC) – Toronto  (C-) –  I taught at the original Toronto Film School from 2005-2007,  in their RAT – Recording Arts Technology program when it was in the CBC building as part of the IAOD – International Academy of Design before it closed 11 years ago.  I visited the new TFS – 6 years ago, prompted by a few emails then, and have taken down my old review and re-wrote this.  The original TFS was an unfortunate bi-product of the (publicly American owned and plagued)  CEC/Career Education Corporation, having had 80+ campuses world-wide – and having operated the TFS at their now defunct IAOD campus here in Toronto  (Wellington street at John).  CEC dumped/closed IAOD/TFS and a dozen other schools throughout North America (after multiple class-action law suits), because of the massive head-aches around mismanagement – a huge mess.   The original TFS was expensive and BAD!  OK – this is the NEW TFS (version 2.0) and they would really prefer – that we don’t talk about the old one – now owned and operated by a Canadian owned PCC – RCC Institute of Technology.   Bad karma aside, the new TFS looks and feels similar to the original but appears to be better managed.  For now, I’m still skeptical, only because what I still see (years later) is a lot more hype and hope over projected outcomes and a private college diploma that doesn’t mean a whole lot in the industry.  That said, there are certain people (mature students) who will likely do better at TFS than in a public college or university film program.

10.  DURHAM COLLEGE – School of Media Art & Design (MAD) – (PUB) – Oshawa (D) – 
I’ve never been to Durham College (the only school in this report where I can say that), but I’ve had the good fortune of meeting a few graduates who were in the MAD program there and I feel that their input is worth echoing.   I’ve also spent some time looking carefully at the web-site/reels etc, so I’m confident that this is pretty accurate.  It’s a community college in Oshawa, so I’m thinking there’s the predictable public post-secondary lag, in that it’s unionized – professors earning 6 figures/year – in a 25hr work-week with 4 months off every summer (yawn) – ok you get the picture.   That being said; There’s a wide range of media related programs (21 in all) that you would never guess coming from a college at such a distance and so off the beaten track – almost like a chinese buffet (on the highway) … where some dishes are going to taste fresh and others that you leave on your plate after one bite – everything from Journalism to Graphic/Web – Gaming/Animation, Digital Photography/Video Production to Music Business Administration (guessing that’s a waste of time), but all feeling grounded and hinting at a big bang for the education buck.  Ok, let’s just say that if I had a son or daughter (just finished high-school) – still living at home, in that neck of the woods, and REALLY wanted to do media arts – I’d send him/her there only because it’s convenient, cheap and looks pretty decent.  Not a lot to lose here (financially) and maybe a great appetizer for a more serious education experience later on.



The Learning Curve:
the hidden agenda in music/media education.  

Facade:  an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality.

I vividly remember the early days of teaching at Trebas Institute where I worked at the Toronto campus (back of McClear Place Studios).   The year was 1986 and I was 30 years old.  Cell phones didn’t exist yet and the internet was still 10+ years away.  The coolest thing one could own was an Apple Macintosh (Mac Plus) computer ($2700) that had one full MB of RAM and you could make music in it with this thing called MIDI.  I was one of the first in the city to buy one.  Make no mistake about it though, I was a musician first and foremost.  I had 5 guitars and I wanted to be a rock star.  Performing was a blast and the party action?   Let’s not even go there.  I loved Toronto.





The music business was active back then (compared to today).  There were record companies (in the city even), signing new artists and paying big money for albums and videos to be made (a new thing called MuchMusic) and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time – at the front of the line.  It was exciting.  I enjoyed teaching, having a regular job for a change and getting to be in a recording studio every day (and actually making a decent living doing that – for a musician that is). 

Just a few years earlier, I had graduated from MIA (Music Industry Arts), in London Ontario and had moved to Toronto, with my eye on making it in music (as an engineer/producer/artist), knowing that moving to the big city was the only way that could happen.  In less than 5 years, I was signed to a major label record (production) deal and teaching was just a bonus; just plain fun (and I was good at it).  Money had been sporadic and I spent most of my label advances on studios and gear, so rent and food was an additional challenge, not to mention a new baby girl in my life.  This part-time teaching job helped with all that.  I was obsessed with music.

Teaching came natural to me.  I loved showing young people how do do shit, esp. the gifted ones.   I distinctly remember a cattle-call of sorts that the school put on that July, with some of us teachers at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto, all with the intention of recruiting new students for the September start that year; my first real plunge into private vocational education.  We on the panel were the ‘industry experts’, and kids came from all over the province (many with their parents), mostly because they had seen or heard an ad and were curious.  Canadian artists such as Bryan Adams, Corey Hart and Glass Tiger were top of the charts and the appeal was very real. 

What sticks out most for me was that each of us on the panel had an opportunity to stand up, come forward (to a podium and microphone) and address the audience (of a few hundred) to talk about our program, mine being Recorded Music Production. 

I remember the first thing I said was a question to them … ‘how many of you in this room want to be record producers” ?  Almost all their hands went up, predictably.  You see, it was simply my intention to discuss the fantasy (vs. reality) and to suggest that graduating from Trebas was a chance to explore the options and opportunities in media, other than the music business (which was the school’s primary meal ticket).  I wanted to address the potential in Film, Television, Advertising and even Corporate media because the music business was still a lottery at best, and presented as the only thing on the menu that afternoon – all dessert and no main course. 

Not a whole lot of nutrition.  It was then that I decided … if I’m going to do this teaching thing over the long haul?  I have to be honest about it.




Looking out at the room full of hands up after my question, I then said this … “ok, there are more hands up in this room right now, than there are successful record producers in this entire country”.  There was a chilling silence, followed by a moment of disbelief, jaws down and a lot of people thinking WTF … not only in the audience but also on the panel, all of whom were looking a tad nervous at this point.  It was a risk and I knew it.  I simply wanted to show them that there were more real alternatives that could in fact lead to a successful long term career in music/sound media even though my suggestion was frowned upon. Epic fail.

The looks on their faces told the whole story.  These people weren’t interested in the options and it was obvious that the school President (present) really wished I hadn’t said that.  Advertising and Corporate was not why they came there (more of the same bullshit) and those who later enrolled mirrored that too.  What became all too obvious to me was that these kids were disillusioned and desperate for something bigger and better; anything that showed them a way out of this mundane existence, having lived in a high school wasteland (creatively) for years and not wanting to go to college (as they knew it).  Even though many could barely play an instrument (some even tone deaf), music became their salvation, for a while – a reason to live, something to become … an escape.  That said, a small fraction graduated and a few actually went on to do some very cool things.  I remember a handful starting bands and getting signed themselves (like me), and eventually moving into advertising, television sound/music or live/event audio/visual, out of necessity, even more landing in music or video stores but most just disappearing after spending big $ on an education they would never use.  

Nothing has changed.  The successful are those who graduate and manage to find a way to make their living IN the audio media business (maybe 1 in 5 grads).  It happens and that is what the remaining schools bank on.  Turns out, 33 years later that there isn’t even a music industry left and yet the primary focus remains … yes you too can be larger than life (if you register here).   Looking back and in the hundreds of millions spent at these schools since; what saddens me most, is that almost all came in wanting to be famous and after 30 years of teaching and in the 10,000+ students/grads I’ve taught over those years, I don’t know of one who is.

In Closing:

We humans are desperate to find some sense of meaning in this life, something bigger.  Even better if we’re actually acknowledged, even worshipped for just 15 minutes.  One thing still holds true, years later … those who finish/graduate and actually go on to become successful are those who come in with their eyes wide open and are willing to look at all the options, and those who stick around and make it work are almost always those who see through the fame facade before they subscribe to the program.  

Happy New Year to you and all the best in 2019.    JL




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assembled in Logic Audio & Final Cut



the human condition, gender politics, spiritual isolation, hypocrisy in modern society, renewed faith, redemption in expression




misaligned motivation in education – reality vs. fantasy

Food disorders run in my family.  My parents broke up when we were kids (younger brother), and we lived with Dad (near Windsor Ontario) and that sucked. Problem is that he didn’t feed us very well and we didn’t get the nourishment we needed (always hungry), so we over-compensated later on in life.  When we visited Mom (2 hours away in Woodstock) on that first week-end of the month from 1968 – 1973, we ate and ate and ate amazing food;  bacon/eggs, pancakes, swiss steak/roast beef, bbq chicken, mashed potatoes, pies/date squares and butter tarts for dessert and always awesome snacks (pop and chips, REAL milk and lots of sugar); like we needed to get it all in before the famine ahead and Mom poured the maple syrup on with lots of love.  It was 2 days a month of sheer bliss.  When we finally left Dad and moved in with her? 

Ok, I think you get the point.


There is a phenomenon that goes unchecked in contemporary education that’s similar but hidden and is the root cause of a systemic bi-polarity.  It’s an adverse reaction to a lack of creative stimulation and intellectual nourishment in our early years; in rebellion to the unwavering compliance we are taught in grade school and continuing into high school.  It manifests in post-secondary in the form of ‘fun’ and appealing programs (almost recreational in nature) that are relatively stress free (well, at least on the surface) and are extremely profitable for those running things who have a quiet understanding of how to financially benefit from young people’s disenchantment.  I see this mostly in music/media arts & entertainment management but it’s scattered everywhere in a variety of college/university programs all over Canada and the U.S.

The biggest problem with education (in North America), is that it lacks vision and inspiration.  Kids are force fed crap that’s irrelevant to their individuality because it’s ‘healthy’ and conforms to the universal curricula measured in standardized testing designed to deliver results.  It’s all about learning to fit square pegs into round holes and eventually, integration into an employment culture where certain ‘rules’ are in place for a good reason.  It’s about learning not to question authority because if you do, there will be consequences, so just shut up, be on time and do your job.   By the time certain young people get to college, they are disenfranchised, alienated.   It’s time for a change – a ‘screw you’ release from the shackles and chains that have been binding us since we were young … freedom – FUN, in an all you can eat buffet that echoes hope in a promised land.  Work hard, play hard becomes play hard  first and foremost.  The downside of this destructive polarity is that kids (and even their parents) subscribe to a fantasy where few graduates actually end up finding meaningful employment in the field and are left with little to grab onto because it’s all so far fetched.   

That said, there was/is a demographic that is more vulnerable than others.  I saw them consistently when I was a teacher at Trebas, IAOD/International Academy of Design, Fanshawe/Music Industry Arts and Metalworks Institute.  Many of my new students had an obvious chip on their shoulder and the more pissed off they were, the sooner they dropped out (because THIS is just more of the same bullshit), after failing their first test or missing an assignment.  A sense of ‘entitlement’ if you will.  Like they deserve to be larger than life, especially after that horrendous, messed up embarrassment of a child-hood (grade school/high school).  I was both sad and relieved (even happy) after they left because the longer they stayed, the more painful it became.  That said; there were those who survived and even thrived after graduating.  I’m thinking it’s those who came in and had a more balanced diet of reality and fantasy earlier on; eventually defaulting to reality and almost all integrating into non-music related vocations.  Almost like their childhood trauma was fixable (treatable) and they were more grounded and that doing this program was part of an expensive reality check (realignment).   This is what made teaching worth while for me.  There were even a few who actually became successful in media/music which made it even better.



We are all drawn to simple pleasures so when exposed to painful experiences for any length of time, we seek that familiar bliss again.  12 hours jack-hammering asphalt in the heat/sun, sweat soaked, sore and smelling bad has a tendency to return home to air conditioning and a dozen cold beers in front of the TV,  because it feels better.  There’s a balance in there but all too often, our mission is eclipsed by the weather/circumstances (stuff happens), and there’s nothing we can do but submit to what’s real.

My point is that we are all motivated by different things and those of us who are fortunate enough to be fed mindfully as kids, grow up with a more coherent understanding of the world and our place in it.  I would like those of you reading this, who are seriously considering a future career in media arts/music to ask yourself a fundamental question … Why am I doing this?   Is it because I want to give the world something, or is it because I want the world to give something to me?  The right answer is BOTH.  In my 30 years as a teacher (and in my experience) 9 times out of 10, it’s the latter and without a healthy balance of give and take, there’s nowhere to go.


R O O T   C A U S E





The Learning Curve: Modus Operandi

a peek into the dark side of (for-profit) PCC college recruitment in North America – (February 2017)

In sales (as in life itself), there’s persuasion and there’s manipulation and there’s really no way of measuring where one ends and the other begins.

This installment of The Learning Curve is inspired by Trump University in New York and recent events unfolding there.  Even though Donald Trump has arrogantly stated that “I never settle” (in reference to his law-suits); he has this time, for $25M US after numerous class action suits were launched by thousands of students claiming they were ripped off; “allegedly” being the operative word.   The allegations in the case were highly unpleasant for Mr. Trump.  Students paid up to $35,000 in tuition for programs that, according to the testimony of former Trump University employees, used high-pressure sales tactics and employed unqualified instructors, that were supposedly “hand picked” by the Donald himself – not even close.  Welcome to the PCC/Private Career College post-secondary education sector in the United States and Canada.




The Catch

Trump University isn’t even a real “University” – just taking it upon himself to call it that because it is more prestigious (an easy sell – implying a real degree, leading to a REAL future), and getting away with it because it is Donald Trump’s name on it (the gold plated brand that screams success) – so the boat just sets sail with no questions asked.  People just assuming that because it is Donald Trump’s school, that it is legit and that they will benefit from going there no matter how much it costs.

I lived a sheltered life in southwestern Ontario – having no idea in my earlier years, that education could ever exist in the murky waters of ethical impropriety – let alone an agenda that blatantly takes more than gives.  Known by Ministries of Education who just look the other way, like a car slowing down to gawk at the carnage then driving away (head shaking) – no I didn’t think it was possible.  I was so naive in my youth.  After having grown up in the public education system – grade school, middle school, high school and even community college, I came to understand that there was a relaxed modus operandi, wherein students came/studied – then finished/graduated and those leaving were replaced by new students coming in, so the transitions all seemed natural and normal.  Evolution – migration.  I didn’t see education as a business because I was clearly under the impression that it wasn’t supposed to be one; that it was free from commerce and able to operate independently from profit. Pure.

When I started teaching in 1983, I had just been signed to a record deal with a major record label, so I was coming in as a bit of a celebrity which was a bonus for the school.  It was at a music/media arts PCC college called Trebas Institute in Toronto (exists to this day), and it was my first experience with this type of learning system, having no idea how different it was.  What I noticed (early on), was that there was an admissions person who made $300 commission per registration (at the time) and that threw me off thinking … this person is being rewarded for signing up new students – what’s up with that?   Odd – odd indeed.  That was one person in one school.  I left Trebas in 2005 and started working at IAOD/TFS – International Academy of Design/Toronto Film School for 2 years, until 2007 – another PCC publicly owned by CEC/Career Education Corporation based out of Chicago – owning/operating 70+ campuses all over North America and answering to shareholders.  IAOD/TFS closed in 2008 and reopened in 2010 after being bought by Yorkville University/RCC Institute of Canada and launching a new campus in the Dundas Square, Toronto.

For me leaving Trebas, it was like out of the frying pan and into the fire.  IAOD/TFS had the entire 8th floor of the CBC building in Toronto and it was a BIG deal!   There were at least a dozen people in admissions and there were regular “tours” given to prospective registrants twice a week, timed to arrive when we took our break in the studio class/workshop I was teaching at the time, and it was very popular.  Our program at TFS was called RAT (Recording Arts Technology), where we taught young people (paying $25K for a 6 semester education over 1.5 years), how to become successful recording engineers and music industry producer/entrepreneurs.

I was fascinated by the enrollment process, staying and pretending to be working at something quietly in the studio, listening to these young, charismatic admissions athletes (paid on commission), firing off the same convincing scripts to the same curious wide-eyed sheep in the herd following them into the studio (clueless) – WOW/OMG, look at all those lights, all those knobs!  Someone always came by 5 minutes before the tour to dim the overheads and put music on low – kind of like having the fireplace working when a real estate agent has a showing/open house – same deal.  The Tuesday group were the rock guys – mostly white – long hair – musicians (mostly guitar players and drummers) who wanted to be larger than life and willing to pay for it (esp. with an easy OSAP loan).   Listening to the admissions rep tell them that a recent IAOD/RAT grad is now working with Rick Rubin in LA on the new Metallica (watching their jaws drop).  Not true – total lie.  On Fridays it was the hip-hop/rap crew – mostly black – Snoop Dog or Eminem on the speakers and being told that a recent grad is working at Diddy’s studio in NYC on Notorious B.I.G. remixes (watching their jaws drop).  Not true – total lie.  It worked though.  Modus Operandi … hook them into an OSAP loan program where it’s claimed that 96% of graduates find jobs within 3 months of graduating – part of the deception/delusion – the seduction – all legal and above board.   The term “deer in the headlights” comes to mind.  No-one at IAOD/RAT got jobs in the music/entertainment industry (none that I know of).  Jobs?  Maybe – but not in some studio working with rock or rap stars, but at music stores or Starbucks, Future Shop or Blockbuster Video a month or year later – owing $25K to the government for an education that they’ll never use.  Virtually all of them.



and The Release

In 2009, I became an Admissions Advisor or “Education Counsellor” (the title given on my business card), for Evergreen College in Mississauga and I kind of knew what I was in for but needed a job after returning from 3 months in India.  Evergreen was/is a small independent Canadian company that borrowed Everest College’s business model (Corinthian in the U.S.) and we all know what happened there.  It’s what eventually happens when any business blatantly takes more than it gives and is detached.  Business/Technology/Healthcare in a fast-track curricula that boldly told prospectives they could have a new career in less than a year.  Pitching to the misinformed (adult immigrants mostly) that we were a ‘registered’ MTCU college and a proud member of the NACC (National Association of Career Colleges) was in the top paragraph of the script because proving our credibility was essential to closing the registration (even though the education quality was poor).  Of course Evergreen was/is a registered MTCU college and a proud member of the NACC which is sad only in that there was so little scrutiny in it’s start-up.  It was essentially a “sales” job and the counsellor thing was just a front – implying that I/we actually cared about the people we registered when in fact, we didn’t because the school didn’t.  There were 5 “counsellors” (Mississauga) who were given monthly target/quotas and that unspoken threat that if we didn’t reach our target, there would be consequences (quite possibly let go).  We were paid 5% commission on sales/registrations and we were in competition with each other – creating a high degree of office politics, animosity and ill will.  In sales (as in life itself), there’s persuasion and there’s manipulation and there’s really no way of measuring where one ends and the other begins.

The office where we worked, all jammed into one open room and monitored (by camera) by management was toxic; always on the phone coercing people to come in for their FREE consultation, so we could hard-sell them into registering, using every known trick to do that.  At the beginning of each month, our numbers were published (via email) to all admissions staff (at both campuses, Mississauga and Toronto) and the “star” (top sales) counsellor was given a bonus while the rest of us watched in jealously and fear (all meticulously planned by our middle-eastern micro-management).  It was an environment where we were rewarded for producing and punished for having a bad month and it was a revolving door; recruiters coming and going all the time.  Always “free” laptops or tablets if incoming registered, but to them it’s only if they register before the end of the month (promotion ending next week – but never ending; a lie).  So few were happy, especially the students and their discontent was covered up.

What I can tell you is that these colleges (for the most part) are constantly breaking the rules and fudging the facts to increase profits/magnify their position and growth, yet are allowed to get away with it because regulations are all talk and little action.  The MTCU/Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities reminds me a lot of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario – where shady business is quietly swept under the carpet – members are protected and where complaints are ignored.  PCC franchising is a huge problem because anyone with money can “buy in” to the education business, hire unqualified teachers (on the cheap) and profit from people’s ignorance as “registered” schools.  Many of the staff at most private colleges are former students, (administration, TA’s or even teachers) having little or no experience.  I thought that maybe, the Everest College closures (14 campuses) in February 2015 would wake up the system.  Not even close.  Thousands abandoned – minimal accountability.

What’s consistent about private music/media arts schools, is the catchy marketing.  Everything from “Advanced” programs, to “Gold Standard”, “Elite” or “Premier” in their self description, but nothing is more telling than looking at their posted “success stories”, which for the most part are deceptive.  Pictures of alumni (sitting at a big mixing board) who have just started their own “production company” and are releasing a new album or playing live somewhere – some having done an internship at some recording studio (famous names dropped) and now working at a new company that’s unheard of, or as so-called “producers” who are really working in a survival job (after digging a little deeper).  It’s all about appearances.  All looking very favourable however – to those who don’t see between the cracks or know what’s really going on.




Sounds awesome!  Where do I sign?

The last thing I want to do is to paint all PCC/private colleges as being evil – not my intention.  What I’ve learned is that there are PCC colleges out there who actually care about their students and don’t lie to get them in and actually provide their students with a quality education – the better ones.  They are however, an extreme minority (less than 5% in my opinion – maybe 1 in 20 schools).   Public post secondary is slower and longer but less expensive and most importantly is relatively honest in comparison but again, there are always exceptions and public post-secondary has their own unique modus operandi where the truth is often fudged to favour the system.  What you can always be assured of, is that no matter where you end up (public or private post-secondary) … what you see (up front), and what’s really there are always going to be different and there’s almost no way of knowing what’s really going on until you’re in it and then out.


In closing, leaps of faith rarely result in restitution.  My theory is to look before you leap.  Extensively Google your prospective vision, your dream – your destiny to find out what’s real.  Even better, talk to people who know more than you do and have gone there/been there; those who have no vested interest in selling you something that’s “good for you” or financially benefiting from your signature.  Listen to what they have to say – find out what lurks beneath the surface out of sight … the clever marketing and the dazzling tour that teases, even tickles.  Then and only then if it feels right – go for it.  Most importantly, trust your instincts – your intuition (after researching it) and never  just take their word for it because they say that this program will change your life – or that you “owe it to yourself” to be the best you can be.  Be wary of false profits and snake oil salesmen (posing as new friends) – especially those who pretend to know what’s best for you … even IF they just happen to be the President.


The Learning Curve: Critical Thinking … the End of an Era

exploring the impending expiry of liberal arts education

“The time has come, a fact’s a fact
It belongs to them – let’s give it back”

The 21st century is proving to be a challenge unlike any other century in history because a growing number of people are giving up on humanity.

Education in North America has entered it’s most dangerously ambiguous era as the powers that be are aligning themselves in an unprecedented effort to harness the misinformed, feeding them overpriced junk food and making promises that they have no intention of delivering, assuring their passive aggressive congregation that they are genuinely concerned for their health and well being and yet keeping them in a place where they can be watched, controlled and pacified while they graze.

America’s complacency sleeps in the streets where no one is listening because if they were?  This wouldn’t be happening.

Never before has the balance of power been so extreme with the trend relentlessly testing our ability to stay focused on what’s important to our future growth as a whole in our need to continue to think critically if even in order to heal and sustain. Liberal Arts education programs continue to decline in our public school systems (primary, secondary and post-secondary) because the rich and influential don’t see the value in teaching art, music and language to a general population who don’t need that if they’re going to be useful. Quality arts education is becoming an expensive “specialty” item reserved for those who can afford it and with a growing number of appealing (lower level) media arts programs primarily designed to make money over enhancing the benevolent nurturing of thought and spirit, health and prosperity.  For-profit, private post-secondary schools are becoming more popular while lower cost public education options are becoming more austere, streamlined and less creative.

Where in countries like Sweden, Finland, Germany, Slovenia and even Mexico, even good (internationally accessible) post-secondary degree programs are free; here in North America, tuition costs continue to rise beyond what’s affordable and those who cling to hope, graduate owing big money to an oppressive system where the quality of education in the vast majority of schools continues to decline and where access to genuinely good schools is becoming restricted to the affluent elite.




harvesting hypocrisy

In our spirit of the new age, maintaining fear, passivity and obedience – keeping the masses perspectives narrow, their understanding limited, their vision obscured and keeping their needs simple; discouraging independent thought becomes the highest priority.   Modern education’s new agenda doesn’t include the freedom to think out of the box – because that kind of independent thinking only threatens the security of the powerful few, so schools here standardize all learning, curricula and testing.

Is it working?   We can only look at the 2016 American election and how Donald Trump’s victory proves that it is working. “Make America Great Again” is a catch phrase that has caught on and clearly shows us that the masses have bought into the formula and are even willing to “fight for what’s right”.   What his dedicated followers don’t know (nor even care about) is that even though he wants to fight  – to bring back “real jobs to real Americans”, his expensive signature clothing line is made in China.  Trump University in New York (a for-profit school), is facing multiple class action lawsuits with what looks like an impending shut-down for ethical misconduct.   Honest, hard working Americans (drawn into the Trump brand) being lured into spending $30K for useless programs and empty promises.  It’s been a total pain in his ass, but now that he is President this will all blow over and it will be back to business as usual.  Ah the American dream.  So where does … “make America great again”  fit in here?

What these people don’t know (yet) is that their faithful leader and visionary Donald Trump – does not care about them!  His promise to “drain the swamp” (dismantling Wall Street and stripping power away from a corrupt corrosion), has in fact become just the opposite – putting them in charge of running the country’s economy by making them part of government.  America’s complacency sleeps in the streets where no one is listening because if they were?  This wouldn’t be happening.  Sure millions are protesting but one fact remains – America voted him in as President.  Healthcare is the first to go on the chopping block, then education.  The social fabric is disintegrating.

“No one seems to notice … no one seems to care”  George Carlin

Trump is a self proclaimed billionaire who won’t reveal anything about his wealth and refuses to come clean around his taxes, to the pubic and even to the IRA who would appear to have little to no control over what he does with his money.  Does Donald Trump even pay taxes like the rest of us have to?  Transparency is obviously not on his agenda and is a spotlight on his ongoing dishonest intentions, which will prevail and yet his people (tens of millions and growing) don’t see it because they don’t want to see it. They don’t care if he’s honest or not (only that he speaks for them) … with that charismatic ranting rhetoric that rings religiously.




the vacuous victory

They don’t care and that’s just the kind of complacency that is in total alignment with the plan in that big barren low land where critical thinking doesn’t exist.  What they don’t see is that it’s just propaganda, designed to fortify and consolidate their vigilant apathy in a show of force that quietly supports the corporation’s untouchable financial infrastructure – THAT which they think  they are standing against.  Welcome to a level of hypocrisy unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before.

In our spirit of the new age, education supports the interests of those who run the corporations; those who fundamentally don’t care – about the human spirit or the future of the planet and have no use for common people other than what can be harvested from them. From the oppressor’s point of view, liberal arts education has nothing to offer and only distracts an obedient workforce from doing what’s necessary (to shut up – serve, and concentrate on doing their jobs properly), and most importantly promotes independent thinking, which is a threat to the powerful few when what’s necessary is to slowly make the masses even more indifferent, more insecure, detached and systematically unsympathetic. Media is owned by the corporations so the message is always clear – romanticizing consumerism using seductive imagery in meticulous marketing, glazed in sugar-pop packaging and thus, making America great again,  has nothing to do with what people think it really means.

The good news is that here in Canada, we are somewhat removed from the growing deterioration and yet feeling the fallout in our own dwindling education system.  I’m thinking of the closure of 14 Everest College campuses here last year, leaving thousands of students stranded; gently reminding us that we’re not that much different.  Our only recourse moving forward will continue to be what’s proven to be effective all over the world in the past.  As people we need to stand up and refuse any increase in college/university tuitions and to make our voices heard when liberal arts programs are threatened to be axed due to so-called ‘budget cuts’, now that we know that the financial burden of teaching our kids art, music and language has little to do with any of it, and that it’s critical thinking that makes our communities/society truly free thinking, self aware, healthy and alive.