(Fwd) (Fwd) Education and Meaning

Martin Muldoon (muldoon@mathstat.yorku.ca)
Sat, 22 Nov 1997 19:19:09 -0500

--- Forwarded mail from York University Faculty Association List

Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 16:16:28 -0500
Reply-To: York University Faculty Association List <YUFA-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Luigi M Bianchi <lbianchi@YORKU.CA>
Subject: (Fwd) Education and Meaning

Here is a good and strong message from a colleague at
Queen's U.


Luigi M Bianchi

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------

Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 15:15:28 -0500 (EST)
To: 7cel3@qlink.queensu.ca
From: Sergio Sismondo <sismondo@post.queensu.ca>
Subject: Education and Meaning

Dear colleagues, students, alumni, others:

This past Wednesday, Premier Harris addressed a summit on the future of the
universities. On that occasion he said that he sees little value in
academic degrees in the humanities, geography, and sociology, in which "The
graduates S have very little hope of contributing to society in any
meaningful way." (Globe & Mail, Nov. 21, Toronto Star, Nov. 20)

I am writing to ask you to take a little time out of your day to consider
this remark, especially in the context of this government's other actions
on education, and to make a public response. I have tried to keep this note
brief, because I hope that reading it takes only the first minute of that

At the least, Harris's remark is extremely offensive. And at the worst it
is phenomenally stupid and dangerous. For those of us who have been
educated in these fields, and especially for those of us who teach in them,
we are being told that we are unlikely to contributing anything meaningful.
(When I think of Harris's contributions to society I find myself thinking
of Arlo Guthrie, in "Alice's Restaurant," being told that as a litterbug he
wasn't moral enough to join the army.)

I wish I could say that I don't understand what Harris means by
"meaningful," but unfortunately I suspect I understand all too well.
Reflection, education, and research on anything to do with the human world
are deemed meaningless unless they immediately make money. It's interesting
that the humanities and social sciences are the traditional home of
meaning, but Harris sees none there. From John Snobelin's early plans to
create a crisis in education to Bill 160, this government has attacked
education. But now the principle guiding its moves are clear: This is an
attack on THINKING.

The Harris government would like to create an Ontario in which
"unproductive" thinking is strongly discouraged. Critical reflection may be
good for democracy, for justice, for a virtuous society, for a vibrant
culture, but these are not the goals of this government. And Harris is
short-sighted enough to believe that he can neglect those goals in favour
of business, that business can flourish without any broad education.

I would like to ask you to write a letter, long or short, about the
importance of education. For most of you who receive this message this is
an easy and congenial form of protest, and one for which you can draw on
your own thoughts on and experiences of education. If we each write a
letter, and send or fax those letters to local and national newspapers,
with copies to our MPPs and to Harris, the effect could be overwhelming.

In addition, I would like to ask you to circulate this message as widely as
you can, to use the formal and informal networks that e-mail creates to
send this request to friends, colleagues, and students across the province.

Thank you very much,

Sergio Sismondo
Assistant Professor
Philosophy and Sociology
Queen's University, Kingston

--- End of forwarded mail from York University Faculty Association List

|  Martin E. Muldoon                                   tel 416-736-5250 |
=  Director - Applied Mathematics Section                               =
|  Mathematics & Statistics                            fax 416-736-5757 |
=  York University                                                      =
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=  e-mail: muldoon@yorku.ca                                             =
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