Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stimulus, Response: The G&M on Universities in Canada

On Tuesday, the Globe and Mail called out Canadian universities for their poor undergraduate teaching, calling current practices "unacceptable" and "unsustainable".

Here's one of many twitter discussions it triggered, letters to the editor (scroll to "Connecting the Dots"), and blog-length responses by Melonie Fullick, OCUFA, and Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.

There's lots of good stuff to read there, and I only have this to add: the Globe editorial frames the problem in terms of tension between research and teaching, and disregards any role for the modern university beyond the training of undergraduates. This is consistent with positions expressed by their senior columnists, Jeffrey Simpson and, more outrageously, Margaret Wente (seriously, go read Wente's column if you haven't already).

The "tension" between teaching and research is about as real and helpful as the War on the Car. Strong research programs help faculty keep their teaching dynamic, current, and topical; besides which, graduate-level teaching (like supervision of a Ph.D.) is research, and is totallly ignored by the Globe. So let's please put to bed this corrosive idea that research is some kind of luxury, or an optional activity that can be cut without consequences. (Again, where have we heard this kind of simplistic thinking before?)

[h/t @qui_oui for the links]

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