All Posts Tagged With: "National Post"
Prof. Pettigrew rejects calls to be “more like California”
Every once in a while we hear calls for more emphasis on teaching among university faculty.
If we accept that some universities have, or should have, undergraduate teaching as their main function, why shouldn’t professors, or at least some professors, at those school be asked to focus mainly on teaching?
After all, if they are there to teach, why should we be paying them to pursue their own research interests, especially if that research is not paying off in tangible ways?
Something like this argument was made recently by Ian Clark writing in the National Post, who argues that more specialization among faculty would mean more research “productivity”—that is more output per public dollar spent. He argues, in this vein, that California does something like that and gets “more value for its money” that way.
Inflated expectations, not paycheques, are the problem
Twitter lit up today with graduates complaining of their dashed dreams of high-paying jobs. The conversation grew out of a letter The Globe and Mail published this week from a 29-year-old graduate who feels cheated out of the life he had planned for after university. Here’s the nut of it:
“I wanted the tailored suits, the chance at a high income, the BMW, the prestige, the respect, and the power. I wanted to be someone. I wanted to be able to afford to donate to charities that are important to me. I was considering children, marriage, the house, all of it. It’s not happening.”
Instead, this anonymous writer is resolved to making a disappointing $36,000. The Twitterverse quickly concurred—$36,000 is not enough to live on. Employers should pay us more.
After that, National Post columnist Matt Gurney, who is in late twenties himself, pissed off quite a number of the woeful Generation-Y Tweeters by arguing that $36,000 is actually pretty good.
But 10th percentile scores decline
Canada’s high school dropout rate has significantly declined over the past 20 years. The National Post summarized the results of three recent reports, including one from Statistics Canada that reported a declining high school dropout rate. For young adults aged 20-24, the rate was 8.5 per cent in 2009/2010, down about half from 20 years ago.
The Canadian high school dropout rate for adults aged 25-34 is 8 per cent, which compares favourably to an OECD average dropout rate of 20 per cent.
The third report, from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), measured the strength of school programs internationally. Despite doing well for average scores, Canadian schools didn’t do so well when it came to the 10th-percentile scores, which declined in many provinces over the past ten years. The Post pointed out that the highest provincial dropout rate, in Quebec, is twice as high as the lowest, in B.C.
Lastly, the dropout rate declined for First Nations aged 45-plus and those aged 35-44 among. The rate did not decline for those under the age of 35, which means a third of First Nation adults between the ages of 25-44 have no high school certification.
Holocaust education is ‘racist’ thesis becomes a family affair
Jennifer Peto’s master’s thesis that argues certain Holocaust education programs are “racist” has become a family affair. In a letter published in the National Post, brother David Peto takes issue with his sister dedicating her thesis to their grandmother, and with her assertion that if their grandmother “were alive today, she would be right there with me protesting against Israeli apartheid.”
Brother Peto writes:
My sister is simply wrong; our grandmother would have been entirely opposed to her anti-Israel protests.
Our grandmother had a tremendous impact on my life, and her memory continues to be a source of strength and inspiration to my family. My daughter is named after her, and we pray that she will emulate her namesake. I cannot in good conscience allow my sister to misappropriate publicly our grandmother’s memory to suit her political ideology.
Is there still a place for women’s studies in universities?
The National Post continued its dialogue about whether women studies departments should continue to exist on university campuses today by publishing a letter to the editor written by Penni Stewart of the Canadian Association of University Teachers and Katherine Giroux-Bougard of the Canadian Federation of Students. Stewart and Giroux-Bougard countered last week’s doozy of an editorial piece, in which the Post’s editorial board argued that Radical feminism at the core of these programs has reaped havoc on families, labour law, court systems, constitutional freedoms and “even the ordinary relations between men and women.”
Predictably, the editorial sparked a chorus of anger from all corners of the internet. Read my coverage and opinion (yes, it is clearly an opinion) here.
Thankfully, today’s paper included Stewart and Giroux-Bougard’s refreshing response. They argue (rightly, in my view) that women studies programs are “essential to an equitable society” and that they have evolved over the last 40 years to reflect the current state of inequality between men and women. Sure, we’ve come a long way, but there’s much work and study to be done:
In the world imagined by the editorial board, women and men are treated equally, and feminism has fundamentally undermined individual rights, the court system and Canadian society. Women’s Studies programs have destroyed the traditional family and radically reshaped constitutional freedoms.
On the planet the rest of us live on, women continue to earn significantly less than men for performing the same work, are underrepresented at every level of government, are more likely to live in poverty and are at a significantly higher risk of violence and abuse. Despite progress in recent decades, women still hit a glass ceiling that maintains the upper echelons of business, government and society as a male domain.
The Post’s “sexist drivel”—as one commenter called it—makes the case for why women studies will live on
Is the editorial board at the National Post made up of a bunch of sexist, “ill-informed jackasses”? That is what is being argued from the sidelines of social media—blogs, Twitter, Facebook, [insert latest online soapbox here].
The chorus of anger is in response to Tuesday’s editorial in the Post called “Women Studies is Still With Us.” The column begins by outlining the news element: there have been reports that women studies programs are disappearing from Canadian campuses, they say. This is presumably a retort to the Toronto Star columnist Catherine Porter’s lament that Queen’s University is changing the name of their women studies program to “gender studies.”
The Post goes on to play the skeptic, but accomplishes sounding more like a self-proclaimed conspiracy theorist revealing what was on the front page of yesterday’s paper: “We would wave good-bye without shedding a tear, but we are pretty sure these angry, divisive and dubious programs are simply being renamed to make them appear less controversial.”
Uh… duh. As Maclean’s OnCampus reported last weekend, and Porter herself acknowledges, no one is claiming these classes and programs are gone, only that the name is changing. Porter is annoyed, apparently because of her nostalgic attachment to the resulting “empowerment” of seeing the word “woman” in the course calendar of her university days (which is sentimental nonsense, if you ask me). OnCampus’ Robyn Urback argues more rationally when she notes that the change to “gender studies” reflects the contemporary study of women’s role in society. “To properly understand the role of women in society you have to understand the role of men,” she writes. Furthermore, by depoliticizing the program by removing the word “women” surely the subject of study can move on to a more nuanced study of gender in society.
So, does the change make things less controversial? Probably. Moving the subject of women studies away from its traditional “man-hating” subject matter–if you will–you’d think would please the Post. But, nope, the editorial board sees the change as a manipulative way of masking women studies academics’ true intentions: to crush all things good in our society.
The Post then argues that women studies programs are downright evil. (I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.) Radical feminism at the core of these programs, they write, has wreaked havoc on families, labour law, court systems, constitutional freedoms and “even the ordinary relations between men and women.” According to the Post, women studies programs are responsible for the entirety of what feminism got wrong: they are to blame for ill-advised affirmative action in hiring, for convincing young women that all men are victimizers, for divorced men who find themselves unfairly blocked access to their children, for systematic unfairness in the Supreme Court, for increasing taxes with frivolous programs like universal child-care (because child-care is a women’s issue, right? sigh), and for insisting that men shouldn’t try to write novels from a woman’s perspective. These crazy women studies professors have gone so far as to argue that “all heterosexual sex is oppression because its ‘penetrative nature’ amounts to ‘occupation.’” And the result of all of these sins? “Executives, judges and university students must now sit through mandatory diversity training.” Boo hoo.
Although the Post doesn’t go to the trouble of letting the reader know when and at which university these sins were committed nor who said the things they quote in their editorial, I don’t doubt that each of these transgressions occurred at some point in history on some university campus. Nevertheless, it’s a cheap shot to seek out the most extreme of feminist arguments to make the case for why women studies should be extinct. Any movement will have its extremists—in this case, those who argue that sex is, by definition, “occupation”—and a rational person would look past those and listen to the majority in the middle.
Although I’m female, I don’t call myself a feminist; I believe that most of the work on that front is done and I feel alienated by extremists who continue to decry the inherent chauvinism at the basis of our society. Nevertheless, if women studies are to blame for all of the bad that resulted from feminism, as the Post would have you believe, then we should also applaud them for feminism’s accomplishments, which far outnumber the downsides. No progress in society happens without some steps backwards.
Even if equality has come a far way in our society, there continues to be a role for women’s studies, if not in leading the feminist movement, then in the study of its history. Only an ignorant person would look at our country and see perfect equality and access to achievement, and only in paying tribute to the inequalities of the past will we remember how far we’ve come and why it is important.
Unfortunately, the Post’s editorial accomplishes the opposite of its intention. Instead of making a compelling argument for why women studies programs should be a thing of the past, it only demonstrates why they are essential to our future.
UBC students knew of Olympics displacement when they signed their contracts
A story by the National Post on UBC fraternities renting out their buildings for the Olympics has raised eyebrows:
More than 200 students at the University of British Columbia are being forced out of their rooms by their own fraternities — which have decided to cash in by renting out to 2010 Games visitors.
The story insinuates that fraternity members are being unfairly kicked out of their places for a whole month with little compensation. One problem with the story: While it seems that one fraternity (Psi Upsilon) didn’t fully consult with its members before hand, most fraternity members were consulted every step of the way.
Adam Mattinson, house manager of Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE), said that discussions on renting out their fraternity for the Games had begun in early 2009 with the DKE council, and that all members who chose to live in the house for the 2009–2010 school year knew when signing their contract that they would be forced to find temporary accommodation in February.
“We knew well in advance that this was going to happen, so we’ve been doing everything we can to make sure there are no issues,” he said. While DKE has not yet fully decided where the additional funds will be going, all residents will see their rent lowered for January, March and April, in addition to not paying for February.
Another fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi (ADP), will be giving each of their displaced residents an additional $500 in exchange for leaving for the month of February. They also started consulting with their members as far back as early 2009, and also had a clause in their residence contracts explaining the situation.
“Ultimately, renting out our fraternity house during the games will benefit members,” said Campbell Bryson, ADP philanthropy chair. He mentioned, as the Post story did, that the point of renting out the fraternities—which are located across the street from UBC’s Thunderbird Arena, host hockey and sledge-hockey during the Olympics—is to increase funds for various initiatives: some are putting the money to scholarships, while others are using it for building maintenance.
So, put this one fairly low on the “Olympic Scandal” meter—it seems that the inconvenience of members leaving for a month is offset by the long term goal of helping a (fraternity) brother out.
University executives are paid top dollar and, regardless of their success, never leave empty-handed
This story from the National Post reviews the ongoing controversy over executive compensation at McGill University. The story notes that Ms. Ann Dowsett Johnston, former editor of the Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities, was paid $761,000 in compensation for less than two years in the position of Vice-Principal.
The story alleges that Ms. Dowsett Johnston, who was hired to head McGill’s $750 million fundraising effort despite a lack of experience in the area of fundraising, was a personal friend of McGill principal Heather Munroe-Blum. Intrigue aside, the article raises some important points about the issue of inflated executive compensation at Canadian universities:
. . .the large payout to Ms. Dowsett Johnston is symptomatic of a larger trend in Canada’s publicly funded universities, where raises in executive pay have far outstripped inflation in recent years. As universities adopt the credo that they must function more like corporations, their top executives expect to be paid accordingly. And as in the business world, when things don’t work out, they do not leave empty-handed.
Toronto newspapers blame union for impasse, urge McGuinty government to step in
Montreal mayor Camillien Houde said that to lead people, you first had to know where they were going.
If the editorial boards of Toronto’s newspapers are any indication, public opinion—centre, left and right—has run out of patience, and wants an immediate end to the strike by teaching assistants, research assistants and sessional lecturers at York. Canada’s third-largest university has been shut down since November.
This morning, all four Toronto dailies called for the government to pass back-to-work legislation. The editorials sometimes invoked common images—metaphors like “held hostage;” reminders that a premier who called himself “the education premier” should be troubled by the inability of 50,000 university students to get an education—but there were subtle differences in the way each argued the case for government intervention, as well as whom they blamed for the impasse.
According to the Sun (headline: “McGuinty fiddles while York burns”), York students are victims of a “fraud”, which it says “has been perpetrated by labour and management at York, aided yesterday by Premier Dalton McGuinty.”
“It’s fraud because students are not getting the education they were promised and for which they paid, in advance, in good faith.” The Sun called on the government to “recall the legislature and pass back-to-work legislation.”
The Globe and Mail, surprisingly, delivers an editorial that is a blistering screed against the union. Whereas the Sun said students were victims of a fraud perpetrated by both sides, The Globe opens its editorial with the following: “In the midst of a recession, tens of thousands of young people looking to further their education are being held hostage by the country’s most well-paid teaching assistants, who are unwilling to accept a pay increase beyond what most workers expect in the current climate. The interests of organized labour have overtaken those of students. York University has now been shut down for 11 weeks only because of the needs of striking teaching assistants, graduate assistants and contract workers.”
The Globe says that “the university’s initial offer of a 9.25 per cent pay hike over three years was reasonable; its revised offer, which tacked on additional benefits and wages, was better.” The Globe also notes that the union is trying to strengthen its hand in the future by pushing for a two-year deal (instead of past three year deals) that would expire in 2010, at the same time as many other collective bargaining agreements. “That strategy,” writes the Globe, “should be an incentive to Dalton McGuinty, the Ontario Premier, to draw his own line in the sand. Forced to wade into the dispute this week after months of steering clear, Mr. McGuinty appointed mediator Reg Pearson to “bang a few heads together.” But the time for mediation is over. To discourage CUPE from shutting down more campuses when it can, the Premier should heed the Opposition’s calls to promptly legislate an end to the strike.”