“University is not a trade school . . . University education is about the power of knowledge”

In yesterday’s Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente declared that the protests against tuition fees in Quebec are being led by students pursuing degrees in “sociology, anthropology, philosophy, arts, and victim-studies students, whose degrees are increasingly worthless in a world that increasingly demands hard skills.”

Such degrees were always worthless, apparently. Now they are increasingly so.

Here’s one response, from a writer with two degrees in Arts:

“University is not a trade school. No one believes that they will get a degree in Philosophy, then get a job philosophizing. I have yet to find the English and Creative Writing factory in my neighbourhood. University education is about the power of knowledge, about expanding the breadth of the discourse by becoming informed, and by developing the skills to argue against . . . journalists like Wente.”

The writer goes on to declare that free post-secondary education is a “dream,” but that there is something “within our grasp”: “a system of post-secondary education that would allow every student eager to learn the time and resources to do so, no matter their socio-economic background, or the discipline of their interest. The question now, is how do we get there? And the answer is to continue to stand up to not just the governments and institutions who control access to education, but also those like Wente with a wide public forum . . . .”

Perhaps the President or the Dean could write to the Globe and Mail, explaining the value of degrees in Arts. Does anyone else wish to do so? Or wish to respond here? And, dear students, would you like to have your say?

Wente’s article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/quebecs-university-students-are-in-for-a-shock/article2418431/

Response from Mike Spry:

http://mikespry.org/2012/05/01/margaret-wente-hates-herself/

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2 Responses to “University is not a trade school . . . University education is about the power of knowledge”

  1. Laurie Adkin says:

    Spry makes many good points and is a great read. I’m totally with him on Ms. Wente’s biases. However, he should practise what he preaches about researching his facts. His statements:

    “If Wente wants to mock or hold accountable those with degrees in “victim-studies” then she should be looking at the administrators and professors who are spending student’s tuition like a drunk 8-year-old at Toys “R” Us with mummy’s credit card. The misuse and misappropriation of budgets in universities is akin to fraud. The amount of pseudo-embezzlement, side deals, overpaid tenured profs, and creative spending is almost as offensive as Wente’s argument. Universities have become legalized money launderers, in a brazen and sanctioned manner that would make the mafia blush.”

    and:

    “They want the state to make sure that the universities are spending their allowances properly, and not on bubble gum and hockey cards, or in this case six-hour work weeks/six months a year for tenured professors, golden handshakes for ousted administrators, and inflated “travel and research” budgets. Is that too much to ask?”

    contain some hyperbole and misconceptions that will merely fuel anti-intellectual sentiments.

    I agree that salaries, in some cases, need to be reviewed as an option for dealing with budget cuts. But six-hour work weeks and “inflated travel and research budgets”? Who’s he talking about? I haven’t seen those in the Arts.

  2. Carolyn Sale says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Laurie. He deals with one set of misconceptions while perpetuating others, and proves just how much work needs to be done by those of us in the Arts — and indeed the academy more generally — in explaining what we do, and why it matters. Spry’s argument speaks to a certain nexus of thought that must be taken on. Hopefully will see more “takers,” here and perhaps in the pages of the G&M over the next week.

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