In the past week, I sent out several Tweets exploring if there were other Twitter users who believed, like I do, that the training of Canadian lawyers not only doesn’t belong at Trinity Western University but also no longer belongs at ANY Canadian universities. I was hoping for a massive positive response, but I didn’t get it: all those Tweets received a couple of ‘Favorites’, in total, and that was it. (Thank you to those who provided me with that bit of encouragement.)
The poor response may have been simply because not enough people, especially the kinds of people who might be interested in this kind of thing, received and read the Tweets. (I have roughly 70 followers now, a figure of which I was quite proud until I received that paltry response. I also sent out some targeted Tweets to organizations that don’t follow me but whose members were likely to be interested, but those Tweets weren’t passed on to members–or to anyone else.) Or it may have been because a fair number of people did receive and read the Tweets, but most disagreed with me. (I lost a couple of followers in the past week, which may have been due to the nature of my Tweets–and/or their sheer volume.) A third possibility is that a fair number of people did receive and read the Tweets, but just didn’t understand what I was getting at in those necessarily very short messages. The whimsical identifying information about myself I provide on Twitter probably didn’t help in that regard. (I’m thinking of changing it.)
Going with the least disheartening possibility, I will assume that some elaboration could be helpful–about both what I meant in those Tweets and who I am. I will be providing this in the remainder of this blog post. (To those who follow me on Twitter, no more Tweets on this subject, I promise–except a Tweet, or two, or three, tops, to publicize this post.)
To those of you who know me only as someone used to run a colouring contest racket, and who now lives in Vancouver, and who likes kites–or who don’t know me at all–I’ll first provide some relevant background information about myself. I have a PhD in Higher Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (or OISE), and the focus of my work at the graduate level was identifying, and trying to help sort out, philosophical confusion associated with the ongoing philosophical change in Canadian postsecondary education. My undergraduate degree is in Communications, from McGill. I also have had a longstanding interest in Trinity Western University, (or as it used to be known, Trinity Western College)–in part because I attended elementary school with the children of the founder of Trinity Western in White Rock (a small town near the main Trinity Western campus). In this blog, that has been up for only about two years, I’ve already written three pieces about Trinity Western’s efforts to establish its own law school, the most recent about five months ago when the BC government awarded Trinity basic approval for the project. Also somewhat relevant here, at one point I did consider becoming a lawyer, and applied to, and was accepted into, law school–but graduate work in Education won out. I did get some exposure to legal education, however, through a course I took at OISE called “Law & Education” taught by a practicing judge–and found that course one of the most interesting and satisfying courses I took through all my years of formal education. As a final point here, I don’t currently work in the field of education, other than sometimes addressing educational issues in this blog–as well as on Twitter. (If, after, reading this post, someone who is associated with an educational organization would like me aboard, I’d be pleased to consider your offer. Better yet, if anyone reading this sees a need now for a Canadian non-profit organization that addresses the kinds of educational issues in which I’m interested, and knows where I can get some start-up money, contact me.)
Now, let’s move on to what I meant by those Tweets.
If you are a Canadian who has attended one of our public, supposedly secular, universities within the past twenty years or so, you are likely to have observed that the overall value system seems oddly outdated, never having managed to move beyond the late-1970s, as well as foreign, in a very literal sense. (In several of the courses I took as a graduate student, supposedly about Canadian education, most of the reading material was written by American scholars. In others, it was virtually all British.) This is especially likely if you are a mid-career, or just mature, student who already has acquired substantial experience of Canadian society outside of our universities–which was my situation when I returned to university in my thirties to do graduate work in Education. There is a discontinuity now between our universities and Canadian society in general–including, I would venture to say, Canadian law–that suggests that Canadian law schools should no longer be part of any Canadian universities, in the conventional sense. (To avoid moving expenses, and for other practical reasons, law schools could still be situated on the grounds of our universities, but operate as independent entities.)
These ‘problems’ with our universities at present (that don’t exist if you are still philosophically situated such that you can’t see them) all stem from the Christian origins of Western universities in general–which I won’t be discussing in detail here. The key point to keep in mind is that secular universities have much more in common with an outwardly Christian university like Trinity Western University than many of its opponents would like to think.
Thirteen years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada decided in a very similar case also involving Trinity Western University, concerning Trinity’s application for its own Faculty of Education, that religious rights trumped the civil right to practice homosexuality without discrimination, and Trinity got its Faculty of Education. This time, it seems to me our lawmakers need to be thinking in broader terms, in acknowledgement of the fact that Canada in general by now has moved significantly beyond the rigid ‘left’ versus ‘right’, dualistic and absolutist, thinking associated with both our secular universities and Trinity Western. In the present Canadian context, this case isn’t so much about religion versus civil rights as it is about religion versus ‘religion’, and the place of religion in Canadian legal education.