There was a time early in the onset of the pandemic when NWT schools were ready to write off the year.
A vote to that effect by the trustees of the Yellowknife Education District No. 1 near the end of March caused quite a kerfuffle.
That was followed by a territorial government announcement in May that it would allow schools to re-open in phase one of the Emerging Wisely lockdown abatement plan, and the subsequent shock of the respective school boards as they found this out at the same time as the rest of us.
As we know now, it all sort of worked out, distance learning went ahead. More than 100 personal computers were donated for students who needed the gear to take part. And in the end, graduation ceremonies were held across the NWT.
The rough plan to allow in-person instruction to resume to some degree when the new school year arrives in September, with spaced-out desks and staggered classes, is not the concern of the young people who took part in graduation ceremonies across the territory over the last few weeks.
All they have to worry about is the trillions in debt they and their descendants will inherit.
The graduates of 2020 flipped their mortarboards and entered the adult world in a month when the federal government revealed it expects to run a deficit of more than $343 billion this year alone, about 10 times more than what was projected before Covid-19 arrived. Total debt approaches $1.2 trillion.
It brings to mind a Canada Heritage Moment commercial from the 1990s about a church organ builder. The story begins as he’s a young man but by the time he rushes into the father’s chambers to tell him he’s finished this one project, he’s obviously aged more than a decade.
That mega-project is going to look like an introductory Lego set compared to this budget black hole. The debt the federal government is amassing now is a burden that will be carried by generations to come, to say nothing of what territorial and provincial governments will run up.
It will define how this year’s grads live their lives. But on the other hand, this could be the cohort that eschews the bad rap of leading a pampered existence with an entitled outlook newer generations have earned.
These students have seen adversity. They are no strangers to how rapidly and drastically things can change. In fact, they are the authors of much of this change.
They’ve seen unprecedented innovation, the benefits of collaboration and the dangers of misinformation.
Each of the graduates walked away from their high school with a diploma, but all of this life experience means they’ve each already earned a graduate-level degree in socio-economics, or at least the humanities.
They could be at once the best-equipped and most severely burdened class in history. Ideally, some of them will be inspired to enter public life and help shape the ongoing recovery from Covid-19 and the economic havoc it wrought on the world.
News/North wishes them all the best.