All Posts Tagged With: "congress of the humanities and social sciences"
As 9,000 scholars descend on Concordia University for Congress, the role of the social sciences and humanities is top of mind
The Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, underway at Concordia University, has often served as an entry point to discuss the role of the “softer” studies. But the recently awarded Canadian Excellence Research Chairs (CERC), that went exclusively to researchers in the hard sciences, has given Congress goers a new sense of urgency.
All 19 of the Chairs awarded earlier this month were in the technical fields of environmental sciences and technologies, natural resources and energy, health and related life sciences and technologies, and information and communications technologies.
Noreen Golfman, president of the Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS) which organizes Congress, told the Globe and Mail that the shutout is “discouraging” and that “it is going to inform a lot of the conversations we have this week.”
The CFHSS didn’t wait until nearly 9,000 scholars descended on the Montreal campus to voice their concerns. The organization submitted a letter highly critical of the CERC program to Industry Minister Tony Clement last week. “Conspicuously missing from the illustrious list of new Chairs is any obvious human and organizational dimension critical to the implementation of the research priorities in the [science and technology] strategy,” the letter reads.
The lack of excellence chairs for social science and humanities scholars has been conflated with another controversial aspect of the CERC program: the fact that none of the research chairs were awarded to women. An ad-hoc panel, created at Clement’s behest, recently made several recommendations to Industry Canada on how to improve female representation in future CERC selection processes. One recommendation, that the CFHSS has endorsed, emphasizes “ensuring multidisciplinary approaches” and that “consideration should be given to having an ‘open’ category for projects outside of the identified priority areas for the competition.”
Placing greater emphasis on research areas outside the government’s present priorities would address female representation presumably because women are more likely to hold positions in the humanities and social sciences. “The priority and sub-priority areas used in the inaugural CERC Program competition may have had the effect of greatly diminishing the proportion of potential women candidates due to the gender mix of the disciplines involved,” the panel’s report reads.
Education departments to implement goals aimed at creating respectful learning environments
A promising step forward for Aboriginal education is taking place at this year’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, currently underway at Concordia University in Montreal. On June 1, members of the Association of Canadian Deans of Education (ACDE) signed an Accord on Indigenous Education. The Accord lays out a vision, a set of principles, and an extensive list of goals with the aim to create respectful learning environments, inclusive curricula, and to recognize and promote Indigenous knowledge in education.
The ACDE’s move comes at a time when almost half of Canada’s Aboriginal population is aged 24 or younger and represents the fastest-growing segment of the Aboriginal population. Indigenous organizations and communities have become increasingly involved in educational policy and issues, while major studies and government commissions have called for Aboriginal people to play a greater role in these areas. ACDE, with a 61-institution membership, recognized the role it could play as an association for educators in order to push for improvements in Indigenous education.
The Accord’s many goals include: reclaiming and teaching Indigenous languages, as well as promoting their use in research and scholarly writing; creating procedures in the promotion and tenure process that value work on Indigenous education projects; eliminating cultural biases in student assessment; and improving access, support and retention strategies to increase the number of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people enrolling in and completing post-secondary and teacher education.
The signing of this Accord follows several years of work. In 2007, a four-chair committee was struck comprising two deans of education—Laurentian’s John Lundy and Saskatchewan’s Cecilia Reynolds—as well as Aboriginal scholars Jo-ann Archibald of UBC and UVic’s Lorna Williams. Archibald and Williams had just chaired a B.C. deans of education task force on Aboriginal education, and the B.C. deans had accepted their recommendations the previous year. The ACDE committee’s process involved looking at the needs of universities and Aboriginal communities and what each had to offer the other, while the lengthy drafting process included soliciting comments from each group.
As Williams, who is a member of the Lil’wat First Nation of Mount Currie, B.C., observes: “Education was the tool used to destroy our languages, ways of life, cultural traditions, relationships with families and the land. This action by the deans of education is leading the way to education being an institution that can also heal and restore what it attempted to destroy.”
While the Accord will be implemented within faculties and departments of education, the ACDE hopes that it can also serve as a model for the wider university community, within the teaching profession, and in elementary and secondary education. There is optimism that the Accord’s stated goals will result in concrete changes, and soon. Lundy sees the Accord as “a guide for genuine dialogue and social action in education.” Already at the University of Saskatchewan, the Accord has been shared with deans and upper administration, while USask’s College of Nursing consulted the document when designing a new program.
ACDE members had signed a General Accord in 2005, as well as a subsequent Accord on Initial Teacher Education. Both agreements have helped education deans take a leadership role in education across Canada and have influenced the work of education ministries, teacher federations and national organizations.
For her part, Reynolds sees the Accord as both a challenge and a cause for optimism: “As a country we stand at an important historical crossroads with regard to our relations with Aboriginal Peoples. Either we move to improve our policies and practices, or we choose to ignore the vibrancy that Aboriginal knowledge and learning can offer our local and national activities. This Accord offers us new pathways and serves as a beacon of hope.”