Picturing Canadian Multi-Multiculturalism . . . or Fun With Flags

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Various ideas I’ve put forward in this blog regarding Canadian post-secondary education are born of my recognition that Canada is officially a multicultural country and my belief that certain educational practices are more consistent with multiculturalism than are others. Until recently, I took it for granted all Canadians possessed a very similar understanding of what was meant by ‘multicultural’ and ‘multiculturalism'; but it seems that’s not actually the case. For example, as was pointed out by Douglas Todd in his Vancouver Sun article of March 13th, ‘A blank slate, with no culture,’ some recent immigrants to Canada are under the impression that, because Canada is officially a multicultural country, in this country all cultures have the same basic status and Canada has no real culture of its own. As someone born and bred in Canada, of English and Scottish stock, that certainly never was my understanding of ‘multicultural’. Then too, as I further considered this subject prompted by Todd’s article, I realized my own understanding of ‘multicultural’ had evolved over the years.

To grasp the various possible understandings of ‘multicultural’, and of course ‘multiculturalism’, I find it helpful to organize the various options in graphic terms. I’ve taken some liberties with our Canadian flag (and availed myself of the nifty iPad app Brushstroke for palette inspiration) to help me better understand the options myself and, since I’ve decided to incorporate these pictures in this blog post, to perhaps help convey to my readers various possible meanings of ‘multicultural’ and ‘multiculturalism’ in the present Canadian context. At the very least, I think some of my readers may find this exercise amusing.

A ‘GEOGRAPHICAL-CULTURAL’ CONCEPTION OF CANADIAN MULTICULTURALISM (WITH POSTE DE LA BALEINE/GREAT WHALE RIVER/WHAPMAGOOSTUI/KUUJJUARAPIK AT THE GEOGRAPHIC CENTRE)

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When multiculturalism first became enshrined as Canadian federal policy in October of 1971, supporters of this policy had essentially only two groups in mind: French-speaking Canadians, who predominated in southern Quebec, and English-speaking Canadians, who predominated in the southern portion of the rest of Canada. The policy basically was intended to appease Quebec francophones. Since the education system of Quebec had the same European roots as did that of English-speaking Canada, this conception of ‘multiculturalism’ did not, nor does it today, dramatically affect Canadian post-secondary education.  (Certain changes, like a greater emphasis across the country on attaining full bilingualism, would be expected.)

At least since the time that I worked in Quebec’s far north immediately after graduating from McGill in the late 1970s, my own version of multiculturalism also has incorporated First Nations cultures–that seem to have crept increasingly into the conceptions of ‘multiculturalism’ of most Canadians through this decade. After working in a unique village on the Hudson Bay that included both Cree and Inuit people as well as French-speaking Quebecois and English-speaking Canadians from across Canada (and that is known by the four different names I’ve indicated above), my conception of Canada’s First Nations people has included two main groups, like Canadian anglophones and francophones tied largely to Canadian geography: the Inuit, who predominate in a very substantial part of northern Canada and who have a very distinctive culture among Canadian First Nations, and all of the other, more southern-dwelling, First Nations.  (I realize this includes a panoply of culturally, linguistically and geographically distinct groups.)

Thus, my basic, underlying, conception of multiculturalism, at least since the late 1970s, has incorporated four main groups, that may be thought of as Canada’s four founding cultures, each of which has laid claim to a significant geographic expanse in this country for a significant period of time. These four groups can be divided into two main pairs–hence the mainly two-colour colour scheme of the above group of four ‘flags’, representing, in total, one picture of ‘multiculturalism.’

Getting back to multiculturalism in relation to post-secondary education, this picture of ‘multiculturalism’, that incorporates non-European cultures and values, does have significant implications for Canadian post-secondary education in general–and is basically what I’ve meant when I’ve referred to ‘multiculturalism’ in previous posts in this blog.  Also, since it opens the way for a postmodern perspective, subscribing to this version of ‘multiculturalism’ has implications for the receptiveness of Canadians, in general, to newcomers to this country from other lands and cultures.

A CONCEPTION OF CANADIAN MULTICULTURALISM THAT STARTS WITH FOUNDING CULTURES & INCORPORATES RECENT IMMIGRANTS

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Back in the south of Canada, where I’ve lived since my relatively brief foray into Canada’s far north, it’s easy to forget how distinctive Canada’s Inuit people are, even among Canada’s diverse First Nations people.  Among we ‘southerners’–including even those of us who should know better–at least for the purpose of thinking about Canadian multiculturalism, it’s common to lump together all First Nations people, including the Inuit. The above picture thus incorporates three flags whose upper portion is Canadian red, two of which are almost identical (they share a blue lower portion) and represent Canada’s anglophone and francophone cultures, and the third of which (with earth tones at the bottom) can be seen as representing Canada’s First Nations cultures, considered collectively.

The fourth flag in this picture, the green (and blue) one, represents recent immigrants to Canada. Although recent immigrants to Canada weren’t a major consideration when Canadian multiculturalism was first conceived, ‘multiculturalism’ has increasingly come to refer to the myriad of cultures and linguistic groups from which Canadians now come. In this particular conception of ‘multiculturalism’, that is mindful of Canada’s historical origins and founding peoples, all recent immigrants, regardless of their cultural and linguistic backgrounds, are considered collectively. This is not to disparage members of this large, diverse, group–only to indicate how this group figures in one of my conceptions of ‘multiculturalism’. (I’ll have more to say about this shortly.)

AN EXAMPLE OF ONE INDIVIDUAL JUGGLING MULTIPLE CONCEPTIONS OF MULTICULTURALISM

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This third picture in the four-quadrant series of pictures in this blog post was produced simply by overlaying the first two above pictures–which is an easy process with digital graphics tools. I’ve included it here to suggest that it’s possible to hold at least two different conceptions of ‘multiculturalism’ at one time–or at least to fluctuate in ones views.  (As I discussed above, in one of my conceptions of ‘multiculturalism’, the Inuit have a distinct place whereas, in another, they are part of the larger First Nations group, and recent immigrants to Canada have a distinct place.)

CONTEMPORARY URBAN MULTICULTURALISM–WHEN IT’S WORKING–FROM THE POINT OF VIEW A LONG-TIME CANADIAN

This variation of ‘multiculturalism’ is intended to suggest long-time Canadians (represented by the lower left quadrant, that most resembles the Canadian flag) living amidst a large number of immigrants from diverse cultural and linguistic groups, as is the case now in Canada’s urban centres like Vancouver.

The graphic variations in the three quadrants other than the lower-left quadrant indicates cultural variation as well as that there is variation in how these groups integrate into Canadian culture. (In the upper left quadrant, the maple leaf seems to be midway in a process of turning from green to Canadian red.)

This very tidy picture, with its vibrant Canadian red, is intended to illustrate Canadian contemporary urban multiculturalism when it’s working.

CONTEMPORARY URBAN MULTICULTURALISM–WHEN IT’S NOT WORKING

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This picture of Canadian ‘multiculturalism’, that involves the same basic configuration as that of the preceding picture, but that is a lot messier, suggestive of conflict, and, in general, more washed out, may be seen as illustrating a situation when the kind of multiculturalism discussed above isn’t working.  However, in this case, at least we do recognize that there are problems.

CONTEMPORARY URBAN MULTICULTURALISM–WHEN IT’S NOT WORKING, YET WE PRETEND THAT IT IS

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This is, at least in my view, an aesthetically pleasing picture. But, if we follow the logic of the colours and shapes their interrelationships that I introduced earlier in this piece, it actually illustrates a very sad state of affairs, with very little left of an indigenous Canadian culture–with this dearth represented by gray maple leaves with only a bit of red in one quadrant.

It suggests to me a time in the future–that apparently already is here for some of us–when a view of ‘multiculturalism’ involving all cultures in Canada being entirely equal and Canada having no culture of its own wins the day, and even long-time Canadians believe that Canada has no culture of its own.

CONCLUSION

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In the past, when I’ve thought of Canada as a multicultural country, I’ve thought of it having essentially just one kind of multiculturalism.  But maybe this is now not merely a country of various cultures but also of various multiculturalisms–in other words, a multi-multicultural society.

I realize now it’s essential for arguments I’ve been making, and will continue to make, in this blog about Canadian post-secondary education that, when I discuss multiculturalism, I’m clearer about what I mean by this term.

OCAD University vs Emily Carr University: Toronto Complaining vs Vancouver Complaisance

Does anyone else find it odd that there has been so much overt controversy surrounding Toronto’s Ontario College of Art and Design since it was granted university status, yet so little surrounding its Vancouver close counterpart, Emily Carr University?

There have been loud complaints from OCAD staff members, alumni, and potential employers of OCAD grads since it was first decided twelve years ago to convert Toronto’s venerable old art college into a university. In a Globe and Mail newspaper article published on February 13, it was claimed that OCAD also is now experiencing serious financial problems, a declining enrollment, a relatively low program completion rate among its undergraduate students, and a great deal of internal strife. According to this article, there is even speculation that OCAD University may soon be swallowed by the University of Toronto or merged with George Brown, the downtown community college.

In the same week that the Globe and Mail article was published, it was announced by the BC government that a contract had been signed to begin construction on a new and expanded campus for Emily Carr University, with the BC provincial government investing up to $101.65 million. There hasn’t been any public complaining of which I’m aware about Emily Carr University by staff, alumni, potential employers of graduates, or by BC taxpayers in general, prior to or even after this announcement.  (Some students and ex-students have commented negatively, about which I shall say more later.)  Indeed, the BC government paints Emily Carr’s current situation, and future prospects, as extremely rosy. But this is not to say that problems don’t exist, and that the expansion and relocation of Emily Carr University may be an even bigger mistake than deciding in the first place, about seven years ago, to follow the OCAD example and turn Emily Carr into a university. It seems quite possible that similar problems now exist at Emily Carr University as those that exist at OCAD University yet, due to several significant differences between Vancouver and Toronto, the problems at Emily Carr are not being openly discussed here in Vancouver.

As a key example, faculty grumblings are less likely in the Vancouver context because there are far fewer good jobs in Vancouver in the arts and cultural sectors than there are in Toronto, so anyone working at Emily Carr now who wants to stay in Vancouver is likely to keep any misgivings they may have to themselves.  The same goes for those who don’t work there now but who may wish to work there in the future. From my own experience, I considered Emily Carr a possible employer when I first moved back to Vancouver, my hometown, after doing a Ph.D. in Higher Education at Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. This was around this time that plans were in the works to turn Emily Carr into a university and, despite my concerns, I held back because I thought speaking out could jeopardize my chances of one day working at the school.  By now, I’ve given up any hope of ever working at Emily Carr, so I’ll say what I please.

There’s also the issue of Canada’s mainstream media being concentrated in Toronto.  For example, the Globe and Mail is officially a national Canadian newspaper, yet it is based in Toronto. Toronto issues naturally get more coverage in this newspaper than Vancouver issues, or issues of special relevance to other Canadian regions.  Yes, we have local newspapers here in Vancouver; but, in my view, these newspapers tend to be extremely conservative with respect to most post-secondary education issues. The Internet does provide opportunities for voices other than those directly associated with, or otherwise authorized by, the big media outlets to enter into public debate–including through blogs like this one.  On the Internet, I have come across various complaints by students and recent ex-students of Emily Carr University relating to the transition from a college to a university.  But, of course, we must ask who is actually listening to these other, non-mainstream, voices–including, for that matter, my own.

Then there’s the issue of weather. Most of Canada, including Toronto, is still being wracked by an uncommonly cold and snowy winter. Yet, here in Vancouver, we’re already bewitched by crocuses and cherry blossoms.  Vancouver is such a pretty, pretty, city–especially this time of year. Although I wouldn’t want Toronto’s weather, especially this winter, at least in that city there is a vigorous public debate about issues such as OCAD University–and, occasionally, the debate even leads to positive change.

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As my Twitter followers already may be aware, the basic reason I haven’t published any new material here in recent months is that my mother had a major health crisis shortly after I published my last blog post, back in November, that put her in hospital for six weeks. Besides dealing with Mum’s health problems, both during her hospital stay and since she returned home (I live with her), I’ve been dealing with strong division among family members about what is best for Mum. That’s all I can say about these issues here, other than to point out that they have preoccupied me in recent months, so that the only writing I’ve done during this period, apart from a few Tweets, has been emails to family members. It’s wonderful to have a subject sufficiently engage me that I can get away from family problems for a few hours. Also, Mum is by now almost back to her old self.

 

The Evolution of ‘Feminist’–Starting With Jian Ghomeshi

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So Jian Ghomeshi, the former CBC radio star, minored in Women’s Studies when he was studying at York University. Maybe this had no influence whatsoever on his shocking, abusive, treatment of women, as chronicled in the Canadian media, including our social media, in the past week. But I do have to wonder if Ghomeshi could, to some extent, have learned how to abuse women through taking university Women’s Studies courses when he did. It’s an appalling idea; but, based on my own experiences with academic feminism, I can’t help but consider it.

Ghomeshi is 47 now so, according to my calculations, he would have been taking those courses around the same time that I had returned to university in my early 30s to do an MA in Education. I was then confronted by an angry, bitter, form of feminism that portrayed men in general in the worst possible light, that seemed to be a relic of the most vitriolic feminism of the 1960s and 1970s. Feminism, at least in Canada, outside of our academic institutions, had significantly evolved since then–or at least I thought it had. But, apparently owing largely to a professional interest in maintaining the status quo, those academic feminists didn’t see this–or wouldn’t openly acknowledge it if they did see it.

Even as a grad student, I was critical of this kind of feminism, and got into some trouble for it. (The most noteworthy incident is that my Master’s thesis, in which an academic publishing house initially was interested in publishing, was so strongly shot down by an academic feminist reviewer that the publishing house chose to abandon the project. The comments this reviewer had scrawled on the manuscript were just rude. Not as bad as a fist to the head, but something like it.) But then I was allowed to be critical. I was a White, middle-class, woman who grew up the oldest of five in a female-led family, with a very strong mother, and who already had some career success behind me when I went back to university for an MA, so I could afford to be critical. That was so unlike Ghomeshi’s position.

I imagine a young Iranian guy trying to fit into a predominantly White Canadian culture, who hadn’t yet had a great deal of experience of Canadian culture outside of our universities, listening to those academic feminist rants about an evil, abusive, Patriarchy, and I wonder, I just wonder, if maybe his misogynist, abusive, tendencies that have come to light in the past week were, in part, Ghomeshi’s way of fitting in. That is to say, a way of being a Canadian man, as he understood Canadian men to be, through doing that minor in Women’s Studies at a Canadian university when he did.

Before all of this Jian Ghomeshi business started, I had been planning to write a piece for this blog simply about the evolution in recent decades of the meaning of the term ‘feminist’. I’d been interested for several months in how many young women today are unabashedly describing themselves as ‘feminist’ (the British actress, Emma Watson, and the American entertainer, Beonce, are prime examples) although most older women, such as myself, are now much more reluctant to use this term. This includes even those women who, in the past, described themselves as ‘feminist’. I wanted to try to make some sense of that.

But, inevitably, I’ve also been thinking in the past week about Jian Ghomeshi and, especially after I learned that he had minored in Women’s Studies, I couldn’t write a piece about feminism without mentioning him. Maybe there is–or maybe there isn’t–a relationship between the Ghomeshi case and the ‘ENIMFIST’ anagrammatic variation of ‘FEMINIST’ from the list of variations at the top of this post. (Most, like ‘ENIMFIST’, aren’t real words, although a meaning is suggested through the meanings of the constituent parts.) I’ll have more to say about the evolution of the meaning of ‘feminist’, and those anagrams, in a later post.

 

Too Polite for Words: Missing Joan Rivers in Vancouver

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I’ve elsewhere recounted in detail a very strange experience I had a couple of years ago when I was using my then-new iPad at my local branch of the Vancouver Public Library, with free WiFi, to catch an episode I’d missed of the TV show, Smash.  The short version is that I didn’t fully push the jack of my headset into its allotted slot so, although I thought I was listening to the hour-long show through the earbuds of my headset, I wasn’t.  The audio portion of the show–including the raucous musical numbers–was blaring through the section of the library in which I was sitting, loud enough so that I could hear it clearly even with what were effectively earplugs in my ears.  But none of the twenty or so people who, during that hour, were clearly positioned to hear the din and to discern its source said anything to me–not even the young, apparently tech-savvy, guy sitting across the library table from me using his portable computer, and not even the young woman, a part-time library employee, shelving books in that section of the library.  (The actual librarians were stationed around the corner, unable to see me and probably too far away to have heard much, if anything.) Both confirmed to me, when I was packing up to leave and discovered the jack was now completely detached from the iPad, that they had heard everything loud and clear.

Out of consideration for me, as much as out of consideration for themselves and for other patrons of the library, someone should have said something to me.  It was an embarrassing situation for me, not only because I was caught in a public place partaking of one of my private indulgences (although, as far private indulgences go, this was pretty tame) but also because I had been doing something really stupid, that goes against the basic principles of public library decorum.  I wouldn’t have minded at all if someone had tapped me on the shoulder and pointed out the problem, or even if someone had told me, bluntly, to shut the hell up.  Although most Vancouverites probably would regard the latter approach as extremely rude, and utterly unacceptable, I think of it more as outspokenness for the greater good. As I see it, it does far more damage to not tell someone something they need to be told than to provide them with the needed information, even in a somewhat harsh, to the point, manner. Thinking of the library incident in particular, a harsh, to the point, approach may actually have been best–followed, of course, by a good laugh by everyone concerned.

Although there are many things I like about my hometown of Vancouver, the excessive politeness of many of its citizens, that sometimes goes well beyond reasonableness, isn’t one of them. I’m not sure if what I have in mind should even be called ‘politeness’, since real politeness seems to require empathizing with others, and it’s empathy that seems to be lacking in these situations. Maybe what really bothers me is that most Vancouverites excel in the trappings of politeness, but a willingness to actually engage with others, or at least with those with whom one is not familiar, seems to be lacking. It’s a very strange, sometimes very disturbing, combination.  Since that library incident, and thinking about what had transpired, I’ve had many other strange experiences that seem to be related.

It’s quite likely that many, if not most, male Vancouverites never have experienced anything quite like my following example–at least on the receiving end of the situation–and, therefore, will find it hard to believe; but I think probably most female Vancouverites, especially those of a certain age (maybe 50 or older), have had many such experiences, although they may not interpret these experiences quite the way I do.  The example boils down to what may at first appear to be merely a widespread ineptitude among Vancouverites, particularly male Vancouverites, in opening doors for others.  You see, if you are a woman, and especially if you are a woman of a certain age, which I apparently have become in recent years, many ‘polite’ Vancouverites open doors for you as you are about to pass through—even if you are perfectly capable of opening those doors for yourself.  It’s a nice gesture–when it is done well.  But so often in this city, I’ve had the experience of someone opening a door for me ostensibly to make my passage easier yet actually blocking my passage, with their body or even with the door itself. It’s usually men who do this, although sometimes it’s also women, usually women younger than myself. It’s so very strange.

I don’t remember any such experiences from when I lived, for extended periods, in both Toronto and Montreal–although I was younger then, and fewer people were opening doors for me.  But even in my more recent travels outside of Vancouver, I’ve never experienced this phenomenon.  It seems to be just a Vancouver thing, to be experienced mainly, if not exclusively, by Vancouver females of a certain age–and, of course, by women of a certain age visiting our fair city, although, during a short stay they are likely to have such experiences only a couple of times at most, and to dismiss these experiences as bizarre anomalies. Take it from someone who lives here year-round, it’s not just an odd anomaly. Poor spacial perception, you say? I think not.  Or maybe just distractedness in a busy, bustling, city? There are other cities bigger and more bustling where this does not occur.  The high cost of housing in Vancouver resulting in Vancouverites not being able to afford proper eye care? That may be part of the problem, although only part of it.

The main problem seems to be a combination of Vancouverites in general excelling in the outward manifestations of politeness, including usually observing the nicety of opening a door for a woman of a certain age, yet not really connecting with the other person to be able to grasp the subtleties, such as that their ‘polite’ gesture of opening the door for someone else is actually blocking their way.

What is one to say in such a situation?  When this happens to me, I’m never really impolite. Although I may be fuming inside, I usually just tell the person in a resigned tone that they’re blocking my way, and ask them to move their body, or to adjust the position of the door, so I can get through.  That could be the Vancouverite in me. What such a situation, and others like them, may actually require is the harsh, to the point, approach, sometimes including even a rude word or two, so that people here will realize that their “kind gestures” sometimes aren’t actually polite at all, but consist merely of the trappings of politeness.

A post about this issue in my blog also may help to some extent; but, frankly, I think a few choice words, repeated at regular intervals over an extended period when such incidents occur would be far more effective.  In other words, we need more outspoken dames here–like the late Joan Rivers, who surely would have had something interesting to say in such ridiculous situations.

 

Back to My Blog & Back to Trinity Western University: My ‘Vote’

My most recent post for this blog was almost two months ago–and that was basically a repost of something I’d written about two years ago. It was a busy summer for me. (We’re still in the house, and my mother is okay.) Also, I was devoting more of any free time I had for social media to Twitter. Twitter is a good medium for sharing basic information and opinions–and, often, having a good laugh. But what I have to say now is more complex, and sober, so I’m returning to my blog.

On Friday, the Benchers of the Law Society of British Columbia essentially implemented a stalling tactic that will allow the Supreme Court of Canada to decide whether or not Trinity Western University should be allowed to operate its own law school. They voted in favour of the general membership of the BC Law Society voting on the issue, and the vote being binding, but with the vote being taken several months from now, when court proceedings initiated in Ontario and Nova Scotia will already be underway. The decision of the general membership will be contingent on what is decided by the courts.

I sincerely hope the Supreme Court of Canada will be able to look at the big picture on this issue, considering not just this single case but, rather, how the case fits into the present state of Canadian universities in general. Looking at the big picture, the Supreme Court should be asking not simply if Trinity Western University should be allowed to operate its own law school but whether Canadian law schools any longer belong in ANY of our universities, as these institutions are presently conceived. There are certain biases within our secular Canadian universities that make these institutions just as unpalatable for many Canadians today, including by no means only members of the religious right, as Trinity Western is for others. (I’ve discussed such biases elsewhere in this blog, including in my most recent post.)

Barring a complete revamp of our secular universities, I think the answer lies in legally and administratively severing the relationship of all Canadian law schools and all of our universities, but, for practical reasons, allowing Canadian law schools to operate on the grounds of our universities, including Trinity Western University, and to draw an appropriate amount of income from them. (As I’ve suggested elsewhere, income seems to be a key reason Trinity Western now wants its own law school.) Being associated with a university should not be seen as a requirement for a law school. Thus, we could see law schools sprouting up across Canada that are completely independent of any university, and that may, eventually, train more Canadian lawyers than any university-affiliated law school.

But whether any lawyers, including even members of the Canadian Supreme Court, who all received their legal educations in universities, and who may still be beholding to these institutions, are able to think in these broad terms, and to vote accordingly, remains to be seen.

University ABCs: Let’s Fix This Mess, Canada

This is a modified version of a post I posted on my blog about two years ago, before I joined Twitter.  It’s something I thought some of my Twitter followers–especially those concerned about post-secondary education–might find interesting.  Also, it provides some clues about the graphics featuring strings of letters that I include with many of my Tweets.   Also, I have another reason for ‘reposting’ this now, that  I’ll get to at the end of the piece.  (The original version of this post was in response to a special Globe and Mail series about post-secondary education that ran in the fall, almost two years ago.  I’ve taken out references to that series for this modified version–although the graphics are unchanged.  If you’re interested in reading the original version, it can be found here.)

 . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The uppermost of the two above pictures is a god-awful mess, wouldn’t you agree?  That’s what happens when you’re tired after a long day at work, trying to produce a graphic for a blog post you want to get up as soon as possible, using graphics tools whose versatility can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help.  I was ready to delete the picture from my iPad; but, when I looked at it beside the original version, essentially the picture below it (the original didn’t have the oval frame around the lettering), and realized that the two pictures together fit in with what I planned to write about in my post, it seemed worth preserving.

A big problem with so much recent commentary about universities is that the issue of underlying philosophical change in recent decades within Western society–including within our universities and towards universities, from an outside perspective–has been overlooked.  In this period of philosophical transition, there are multiple basic philosophical perspectives towards universities, which differentially affect attitudes towards particular issues.  These include attitudes about what should be taught, to whom, by whom, the methods used to teach, and even how university education should be financed.  Beneath the surface, to those who have given some thought to the issue of philosophical change as it relates to our universities, some coherence may be discerned among the diverse views about our universities.  But, on the surface, this commentary, taken as a whole, is likely to appear to many, if not most, to be an incoherent jumble–and not very useful in helping to further constructive change in our universities.

There are now basically three different philosophical perspectives from which our universities, and aspects thereof, may be viewed.  These three perspectives I’ll call here A, B, and C.  A book chapter could be written about each of these perspectives; but, since this is just a blog post, I’ll stick to the basics.

The A perspective is the traditional elitist view that predominated in Western universities until the mid-20th Century.  Until that time, only a small proportion of the population attended universities, and attendees were almost invariably white males, and from relatively prosperous families.  In the second half of the 20th Century, significantly greater diversity among students, and also ultimately among the professoriate, led to a second basic perspective: perspective B.  This perspective may be summed up as being that of the “academic left”.  Although those from the B camp favour a more inclusive approach to university education than those of the A camp, it should be emphasized that members of the B camp do not question the basic activities conducted within universities.  Members of both groups are likely to support traditional university policies and procedures, such as academic freedom (including freedom from interference from those outside universities), academic tenure (or guaranteed jobs for life) for senior professors, the notion of the all-knowing professor as the source of legitimate knowledge for students, and the emphasis on research in the evaluation of professors with little weight given to teaching ability.

By the late 1970s, the basic dualistic and hierarchical framework of Western metaphysics, that had supported Western universities for so long, was crumbling.  Both perspectives A and B were now being challenged–mostly from outside of universities.  Yet it is worth noting here that, by now, there were many more adults studying in universities than there had been in the past, some of whom, especially those studying at the graduate level, already had achieved mid-career status in their professions, who personally brought the ‘outside’ perspective into our universities.  (I was one such student when I was doing graduate work in education.)  This third basic perspective, or perspective C, is the ‘postmodern’ perspective–with ‘postmodern’ defined essentially as it is defined by Lyotard in The Postmodern Condition.  (You can look it up, if you’re interested.)

If, as I believe is the case, the majority of Canadians now possess the basic C perspective (this distinguishes Canada from the United States) a reasonable reevaluation of our universities has to start explicitly from that position.  This doesn’t rule out the possibility of certain institutions and programs catering to those who possess minority A and B perspectives (a Christian-based university, like Trinity Western University,  generally falls into the A category);  but it does suggest that at least the greater part of funding for such institutions and programs will have to come from somewhere other than general tax revenue.

It would seem to be enormously helpful if commentators on our universities would preface their commentary with some reference to philosophical change in our universities. Better yet, it would be fantastic if influential commentators (like the Globe and Mail newspaper) publicly endorsed a postmodern position.  That could be the stimulus Canadians need to really get down to the serious business of reevaluating our universities, and reconstructing them within a non-dualistic, non-hierarchical, framework. But I’m not optimistic.  Generally speaking, our influential commentators seems too beholding to those who support the A perspective–or who at least who pretend to support that perspective–for any such thing to happen.

Which brings me to my final point here.  I’d love to be able to devote more time to this kind of work.  But, for that, I need MONEY.  Is there perhaps someone out there reading this who has more money than they need who might be able to help me with this?  Or perhaps who knows someone else with money who might be sympathetic to my views?  It probably can’t hurt to ask–although I could loose some of my Twitter followers by being so blunt . . . Oh, hell,  I’ll post this anyway.

 

HMMPH: The Humanities Without the ‘U’, on CBC TV . . . if There is Still Any CBC TV

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Originally, this post was going to be simply another in my series of “Hmm . . . ” posts, or the “Humanities Without the ‘U'” posts (get it?), concerning Canadian organizations that could play a greater role in humanities education to make up for the declining enrollment in the humanities programs of Canadian universities and colleges.  This one was going to be about the increased role that could be played by Canadian public television–including the television division of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or CBC.  Especially after it was announced in early June that, in response to the recent large loss of revenue for the CBC, CBC-TV’s new general manager of programming, Sally Catto, was going to put more Arts programming in CBC’s television schedule, I was optimistic CBC-TV could play an important role in this area. (This loss of revenue comes from a combination of a reduction in federal government funding and projected TV advertising losses now that a private network will be airing NHL hockey games instead of the CBC, that long held the Canadian TV broadcasting rights.)

That was my original plan. However, a more recent announcement about how the CBC is going to address its shrunken budget has me very worried about CBC television–including its earlier announced greater emphasis on Arts programming.  My “HMM . . .” post turned into a grumpy “HMMPH” post, partly about the increased role Canadian public television could play in humanities education (I’ve already said most of what I’ll be saying in that regard) and a good measure of HMPHing.

Now they’re telling us that much of the money and other resources formerly allocated to television will be allocated to the Internet.  On June 26, CBC president and CEO, Hubert T. Lacroix, announced the CBC is shifting its priorities from television and radio to digital and mobile services.  To quote Lacroix, “We used to lead with television and radio. Web came and then mobility came. We are reversing, we are inverting the priorities that we have. We’re going to lead now with mobility, we’re going to lead with whatever widget you use.”  I can understand now putting more resources into mobility and less into television and radio; but to lead with mobility is taking things too far.

In a 19-page report issued by the CBC that accompanied Lacroix’ announcement, ironically titled “A Space for Us All,” to justify the CBC’s reverse of priorities, statistics are provided indicating changes from 2000 to now in how Canadian consume media.  Some of these statistics seem to me misleading.  For example 77% of Canadians are said to now watch internet video (including Netflix) for 6.5 hours/week.  What percentage of that 77% watch work-related video at work, or education-related video at school, for at least much of that 6.5 hours and, in their personal lives, watch only snippets of video on their smartphones and tablets and, perhaps, an occasional episode they’ve missed of a favourite show, and only when they have access to free Wi-Fi–as do I? Also, what percentage of that 77% has over-reported their internet video viewership to researchers to appear ‘cool’?  Another statistic I question is that 24% of Canadians now watch Netflix for 7.4 hours per week. I’d be very interested in seeing a breakdown of Netflix usage for different  regions of Canada.  For example, I think the figure is probably far higher in Toronto than it is in Vancouver, largely because, in Toronto, you can get many more channels on TV without subscribing to cable than is possible in Vancouver.  Most Vancouverites have cable and, thus, Netflix may be an unnecessary frill, and too expensive in combination with the cost of cable.  24% might be right for populous Toronto, but I suspect it’s much too high for Vancouver, and for other regions in Canada.

I thought the CBC was supposed to be for all Canadians. Until the day we all get internet service for free–which is not going to happen–it seems this newly conceived CBC will be mainly for a relatively wealthy elite, who can afford large internet bills and all the paraphernalia associated with watching ‘television’ on line, and the rest of us will be left with only scraps for our cultural nourishment. I wish they would prove me wrong, but I am worried.

Incidentally,  I’m liking CBC Vancouver’s “Musical Nooners”–a noon-hour outdoor concert series held through the summer on the plaza of the CBC Vancouver building–a lot less now that we know how strapped for funds the CBC is. Is this really a priority for the CBC?  I like the idea of a few free concerts, but this is a six-week, daily series (if you don’t believe me, here’s the schedule), and each of the concerts is attended by a couple of hundred people at most.  (Vancouver’s CBC building is very near where I work, so I can see what goes on there every day.) Even if the concerts are taped to be incorporated in some of the CBC’s radio shows, I can’t see how the cost is justified.  (If taping is a key reason for this concert series, couldn’t these acts be taped when they are playing at other venues, including Canada Day celebrations, where many of these acts also performed?) If the CBC was financially healthy, yes. But it’s not.

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And, yet another HMPH . . . What about streaming music for free, that puts the CBC in direct competition with companies that provide the same service? I would think that television, just regular TV, that is accessible to all Canadians, preferable with a good amount of Canadian Arts and other humanities-related programming, is a far higher priority.