Looking for Bootstraps: The Musical

In my view, Donald Savoie’s Looking for Bootstraps should be required reading in the Maritimes.  As a follow up to Visiting Grandchildren, he has added new content and important new thoughts on the issue of economic development in the three Maritime Provinces.

One of the challenges, however; is the format.  Although Savoie deliberately writes for a broader audience, it’s certainly not written for the average Grade 8 student.

My 16 year old daughter is taken by the musical Hamilton.  She knows it backwards and forwards.  She has the music, a book about it and has done a ton of research.  In fact, she knows about as much about Alexander Hamilton’s life as the average U.S. presidential historian – how he lived, his role in the revolution, how many federalist papers he wrote and what he focused on, his feud with Burr (and untimely death by duel), etc.   She was rattling off these facts one day recently and I asked her how much she knew about Sir John A. or Wilfrid Laurier or the Fathers of Confederation?

Not much, she said, but if they would write a musical, she would nail it.  And then she went on to lecture me about pedagogy and how the current approach to teaching is mis-aligned with how students best learn circa 2017.

Fair enough.

But my thoughts turned back to the old sage of economic development.

How about “Looking for Bootstraps: The Musical”?



As usual here, I put this forward only partially in jest.  If we found ways to broaden the appeal of the content we could reach broader groups and better explain the history and sources of the region’s economic challenges and get people better motivated about the solutions.

For example, I think Savoie’s book should be given to every high school student in the province and should be discussed and debated in class.  If the best way to get this done would be to distill the content down to infographics and 140 character tweets, then so be it.



The truth is that New Brunswickers – and Maritimers – have been inured to the economic reality here.  Most just believe the standard view that this region is economically depressed and there isn’t much to do about it.  If you can’t find work here  – you go down the road.  After 20+ years of studying this, I can tell you most people are resigned to the fact and not particularly concerned about it.

Savoie’s story would explain how we got here and provide pathways to improve our lot.  But we have to find ways to broaden the base.  All of the usual suspects – like me – have read his book – just like the many others he has written on related subjects.  And we haven’t made much difference.  Maybe we should broaden the base.

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