|ALBERTA Report, January
19, 1998, pp. 37, 38
How forced growth in mid-century produced brain-rot
The Crisis in Canadian Universities
By David Bercuson, Robert Bothwell and J.L. Granatstein
Random House, New York
216 pages; hardcover; $29.95
With this collaborative assessment of the current state of academe,
historians David Bercuson (University of Calgary), Robert Bothwell
(Toronto) and Jack Granatstein (York) provide another exception to the
truism that anything written by a committee is worthless. Which is no bad
thing, since, as their book clearly demonstrates, it becomes less and less
likely that Canadian students will ever hear anything about the best-known
exception: the King James Bible, fruit of committees working at Oxford,
Cambridge and Westminster.
Professors Bercuson, Bothwell and Granatstein demonstrate much else as
well, and trace the problems of our universities to some surprising
sources. Though many consider it one of Canada's post-war triumphs, the
expansion of post-secondary education to some 40% of working-aged
Canadians (as compared to 16% in Britain and 23% in Sweden) was actually.
they argue, a poisoned chalice.
Having accepted federal money to build their campuses, provincial
governments and university administrators made a fetish of "accessibility"
at the cost of embracing mediocrity. All those new buildings had to be
filled. The policy established in 1966 by Ontario's Conservative premier,
John Robarts, was typical. "Standards," he declared, "should be moderate
and reasonable such as to enable the average student to proceed to a
degree." Grades between "55'% and 60%, depending on the type of course"
Aside from the loss of intellectual quality engendered by such a
policy, it sowed the seeds for today's economic crises on campus. To teach
the thronging thousands, universities hired myriad professors who now
crowd the top of the salary grid even as the government grants that funded
them have all but vanished. To meet the payroll, university admissions
offices opened wider the flood gates. It was a dubious gamble. Although
university senates have even authorized remedial courses for credit, large
numbers of weak students make for high attrition rates and attendant loss
of tuition income.
Petrified Campus puts to rest any doubt that governments aided and
abetted the dumbing down of education. For example, in 1996 Dawson
College, an English preparatory college in Montreal, was informed by the
education minister that its history department was failing too many
students; it must lower its standards. 'To ensure that this outcome was
achieved, the instructors were directed to assign no more than 200 pages
of reading per term."
Federal funding in the form of Social Science and Humanities Research
Council grants to scholarly journals also back-fired. Established to help
academics communicate their findings to each other in a Canadian context,
they led to publication of more articles than anyone could read and to a
proliferation of "academic boutiques."
Over the past 20 years the discipline of history alone saw the founding
of at least 15 journals, none of which sought a wide academic audience.
Some of these publications went virtually unread, with circulations as low
as 80; others, like the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law and
Hysteria, have served as hothouses for the development of radical feminism
and political correctness. [Note by F4L: If the term "radical feminism"
(a.k.a. Marxist- or socialist-feminism) is somewhat new to you, you need
to expand your knowledge. After all, radical feminism, the
currently controlling faction of feminism, governs just about everything
that is happening in your life.See,
Carey Roberts column
Carey Roberts is an analyst and commentator on political
correctness. His best-known work was an exposé on Marxism and
Carey Roberts' best-known work, his exposé on Marxism and
radical feminism, is not necessarily easy to find, but
this link will help with that. (Some of the URLs for the
article series appear to keep changing. For that reason the
identified link leads to an Internet search for the series. The
first or second link in the return list will most likely lead you to
At first glance, the chapter on feminism and political correctness
seems encouraging. Most of the worst outrages of PC seem to be at least
five years old: the racism charges which have rocked the University of
British Columbia's political science department date from 1992, and the
Martin Yaqsin and Philippe Rushton imbroglios were earlier still. It has
also been almost half a decade since Ontario NDP education minister David
Cooke's unsuccessful attempt to impose "neutered" speech codes on Ontario
universities. (After two years of Tory government, however, such codes
remain in effect at the province's Colleges of Applied Arts and
Prof. Granatstein agrees that the time between atrocities is
lengthening, but observes that this is what you would expect. Activists
like Veronica Strong-Boag (UBC), who proclaims that contemporary
universities help "rationalize imperialism, capitalism, racism and
sexism," have all but won the day, he says. Already they have changed the
way university professors and students think and speak.
Carleton University women's studies Prof. Jill Vickers is not alone in
her efforts to ensure that every Carleton University syllabus is
ethnically clean. Spineless professors and administrators, not to mention
ill-prepared students, nod sagely whenever anyone echoes her claim that
"students should not be made to grapple with an inconvenient fact" but
climate is a systemic conditionwherever there is no hard evidence
that discrimination exists one can be certain that the word "systemic"
will be wheeled into battle.'
rather be "encouraged to believe" that their views of, say, the history
of North America's aboriginals are as "valid" as any put forward by
Carleton seminar-goers also take seriously Prof. Hester Lessard's claim
that stare decisislegal reasoning based on precedentis just one
more example of "systemic racism." Prof. Diana Majury of Carleton's law
department also supports this position. The quality of her insights can,
perhaps, be gleaned from the fact that she once wrote about a Court of
Appeals decision on harassment after choosing "not to put herself through
the pain of reading it."
Such wrong-headed arrogance, one hopes, may yet be self-defeating. Most
of us remember what happened to schoolmates who didn't do their homework.
Sooner or later, they flunked out.
Prof. Greenfield teaches English at Algonquin
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