Saturday, September 14, 2013

Blaming Universities

Kate Lawson recently has published a thoughtful piece in The Huffington Post on how the tendency to blame universities for North American labour market woes is misplaced. As you know, dear reader, I previously have written here on the topic of how current governmental policies may promote dismantling the post-secondary education system in Canada. Universities and colleges are under threat in a way that is unprecedented in my lifetime. Dr. Lawson takes a longer view, the near millennium since the birth of universities, and argues that over time, universities have adapted in ways that have greatly benefited humankind. The dominant voices trumpeting misinformation about "the skills gap" and demanding that universities be cut down to size to become training sites for industry, present the history, purpose, and value of universities in a distorted way, she suggests.

Severe funding cuts and top-down policies have disrupted  the current functioning of universities, leading to layoffs, closure of programs, and fewer seats and services for students. University administration, faculty, and staff struggle to cope by making hard decisions and working very long hours. Perhaps there is little time to stand back and present alternative perspectives. Or, perhaps members of university communities fear that they might attract the negative attention of policy makers and further funding cuts. In this climate of fear, it is good to read the reasoned, well-written analysis of Kate Lawson.

As Joni Mitchell wrote, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."

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