Letter of support from Rosario Marchese, NDP MPP and Provincial Education Critic

Rosario Marchese

Member of Provincial Parliament, Trinity-Spadina

854 Dundas St W, Toronto ON M6J 1V5

P: 416-603-9664 F: 416-603-1241


Ontario Council on Graduate Studies

180 Dundas St W, Suite 1100

Toronto ON M5G 1Z8

November 16, 2009


Re: EdD/PhD program in History and Philosophy of Education at the U of T

ATTN: John ApSimon and Donna Woolcott


To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to you today to urge you to reconsider your recommendation that the EdD/PhD program in History and Philosophy of Education at the University of Toronto be classified as NOT APPROVED. I strongly support the program as a valuable contribution to the Canadian education system, and believe it is a mistake to place such a program in jeopardy. Studying the history and philosophy of education is not a frivolous matter—it is absolutely as important to the overall quality of education in a school system as the more technical elements that make up the day-to-day curriculum. A critical, well-rounded pedagogical perspective is crucial to ensuring the ongoing quality of any education system. The program offered at OISE is world-class, and attracts students and faculty from across the globe. To place the History and Philosophy program in jeopardy is to do all Canadians a serious disservice.


It is my understanding that the substance of your concerns about the program relates to the number of faculty currently dedicated to the program. The program is well represented by 7 full-time faculty and 17 associate faculty drawn from across the U of T campus. With a full subscription of students, and being positioned to become an international Center for Research and Teaching of High School Philosophy, I am hard pressed to believe there is a serious lack of quality teachers. As well, it is my understanding that the department is actively petitioning the college for a new faculty position in History and Philosophy, which would further reinforce the quality of the program. For the sake of the students and faculty in the program, and for the sake of the many people who benefit from such a world-class program, I urge you to reconsider your recommendation and to support the EdD/PhD program in History and Philosophy of Education at the University of Toronto.


Thank you for your time and consideration,

Rosario Marchese MPP


Cc Prof. Jane Gaskell (Dean, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education)

Cc Dr. Brian Corman (Dean, School of Graduate Studies and Vice-Provost, Graduate


Cc Cheryl Regehr (Vice-Provost, Academic Programs)

Cc Edith Hillan (Vice Provost of Academic Affairs)

Cc Save-History-and-Philosophy Action Group (TPS Graduate Students)


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Letter from Bai, Boyd, Burbules, Hare and Vokey

Students of History & Philosophy (SHAP) 

Theory & Policy Studies Student Association (TPSSA)

Dear Colleagues,

History and Philosophy of Education, the only humanities doctoral program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, will likely be closed by decision of the University of Toronto School of Graduate Studies (SGS) this week. The reasons for this threatened closure have never been clear (since this threat commenced in 2006) and remain to this day utterly non-transparent and disconnected from the actual current vibrancy of our internationally recognized Ph.D. program (85 students, 7 faculty, 17 Associate Faculty, outstanding doctoral scholarship). However, as detailed below, the reasons given in a Memo from the Ontario Council of Graduate Studies (OCGS) recommending a “not approved” status for History and Philosophy of Education include a factually erroneous reason—namely, that “[t]he staffing levels for the program are extremely low and will be exacerbated by imminent retirements.”


This decision to CUT this program bears no relation to the quality or integrity of the History and Philosophy Program. Any University of Toronto decision to close the History and Philosophy of Education Program blatantly disregards the quality of a doctoral program of internationally-recognized faculty members and the superb scholarship of its doctoral graduate students.


Reasons Given for Closure (September 29, 2009) and the Response of the Department of Theory and Policy Studies to these Reasons (October 11, 2009):

The Ontario Council for Graduate Studies proposes cutting out the program for the following reasons, a recommendation currently being considered by the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. We believe that the School of Graduate Studies is inclined to accept the OCGS recommendation for closure—though it is not clear why. As quoted in a memo sent to the Department of Theory and Policy Studies (the History and Philosophy program is one of the three programs in TPS):

“The staffing levels for the program are extremely low and will be exacerbated by imminent retirements. The Committee was not convinced that a critical mass of Faculty is associated with the program to ensure the necessary intellectual climate for a doctoral program. In addition, there is no commitment for hiring at an appropriate level to ensure program viability.” 

(OCGS MEMO, Sept 29, 2009—see document)

To correct the record:

1. The above statement contains incorrect information. There are no imminent retirements in the H&P area. The two faculty members (Professors Troper and Levine) who are nearing the former mandatory retirement age have provided letters to indicate neither plans to retire.

2. It is unclear how OCGS defines “a critical mass of faculty.” We believe that a critical mass of faculty exists. As H&P noted in previous responses to OCGS, in addition to the 7 tenured faculty in our program, we have 17 associate faculty from across the UT campus who contribute to the intellectually vibrant life of the program.

3. Regarding support for H&P: the Department has been requesting a new faculty position from Dean Jane Gaskell for five years. At the department level, TPS has on record a motion that was given the unanimous support of the department in November 2007 that states that the next hire in the department should be in the area of History and Philosophy.

4. Not only is it FALSE that there are imminent retirements, it may be against UTFA union policy to refer to faculty age or imminent retirements in any way. Even if there were imminent retirements, this is not a valid reason to close a university program with 85 students, 7 faculty, 17 associate instructors, in a Program currently poised to become an international Center for Research and Teaching of High School Philosophy!

The Theory and Policy Studies Department has gone to great lengths to meet and surpass all OCGS mandates regarding faculty and program integration and has done so with success. For the university of Toronto to cut History and Philosophy sets two dangerous precedents: (1) that humanities and educational theory have no place in faculties of education; (2) that professional and technocratic values have come to dominate universities to the extent that they exalt corporate values over academic scholarship.

You can help us try to stop this closure of OISE History and Philosophy of Ed, and remind UT that its slogan about “Great Minds” requires a minor addendum: “Great Minds” Need Humanities.

We urge you to write a letter/note/email/comment with copies to all email contacts below

o Jane Gaskell (Dean of OISE) jgaskell@oise.utoronto.ca

o Brian Corman (Dean of Graduate Studies) brian.corman@utoronto.ca

o Edith Hillan (Vice Provost of Academic Affairs) edith.hillan@utoronto.ca

o Cheryl Regehr (Vice-Provost, Academic Programs)


o External Reviewers of OISE Dean vanessa.laufer@utoronto.ca

o ksihra@oise.utoronto.ca (Save H&P rep)


Heesoon Bai, Director of Graduate Programs, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University, and Editor of Paideusis: The journal of the Canadian Philosophy of Education Society.

Dwight R. Boyd, Professor Emeritus, History and Philosophy of Education Program, Department of Theory and Policy Studies, OISE

Nicholas Burbules, Professor, Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois-UC; Editor, Educational Theory

William Hare, Professor Emeritus, Mount St. Vincent University

Daniel Vokey, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, and President of the Canadian Philosophy of Education Society


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Letters of Support for History and Philosophy of Ed from around the Globe

The letters posted here were sent to UT administration including Vice-Provost Cheryl Regehr, UT Dean of Graduate Studies Brian Corman, OISE Dean Gaskell.

There will be a public Town Hall meeting on the fte of History and Philosophy Tuesday November 17, 2009, at 3:30-5:30 5th floor of OISE, 252 Bloor St West, Toronto.

For more information, please join the Facebook group SHAP.

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More Support

Dear Dean Laufner, Dean Gaskell and others:

I write to add my support to the large and still growing list of scholars who are expressing shock at the announced closure of the History and Philosophy of Education Program at OISE. I began my graduate career in philosophy of education at the University of Alberta in the late 1980s and was immediately aware of the fact that OISE’s Philosophy of Education Program represented one of the leading hubs of humanities-based research in education in Canada and globally.  As a doctoral student at the University of Illinois in the 1990s I experienced first hand the strong international influence of that same Program.  That reputation has not diminished over the years, at least beyond the boundaries of OISE itself.


I have read many of the compelling comments and arguments protesting the decision to eliminate this Program and urging you to reconsider this decision. These come from a wide range of sources — leading scholars from across Canada, North America and Europe, scholars from other fields both at the U of T and from other institutions, and from passionate current students in the Program itself. I have only one thing to add to this chorus of voices: The negative effects of closing the HPE Program will not only be felt at OISE, but in Faculties of Education across Canada.  In light of the University of Toronto’s significant international reputation, decisions like this have widespread consequences for better or for worse.  I urge you to rethink the decision to eliminate HPE and find a way to save the Program so that the U of T’s influence will, in this case, be for the better.


Kevin McDonough, Associate Professor, DISE
McGill University, Faculty of Education

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Thomas Mathien, Assoc Dir TYP U/T – Concern for proposal to eliminate H and P

October 27, 2009

Re: The PhD program in History and Philosophy of Education

Dear Dean Gaskell:

I would like to offer my own indication of concern about the proposal to eliminate the PhD program in the History and Philosophy of Education at OISE. In writing about the matter, I think I can also speak for my wife, Julie Mathien, who received an MA from OISE in the field and who currently does policy and administrative work in the field of early childhood education for the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. When I was a graduate student I took one of my outside minor courses in the predecessor department, from Albrecht Wellmer. My most recent involvement with the department came in the Fall of 2008, when I audited a course taught by Megan Boler and Etienne Turpin on the work of Gilles Deleuze. I have done consulting work for trustees of the old Toronto Board of Education, worked as a research assistant for Rivi Ullmann on the teaching of FSL, and teach Philosophy of Education on a regular basis at UTM. Frank Cunningham, one of the movers behind philosophy in Ontario secondary schools, was my dissertation supervisor, and Andre Gombay, another of the founders, has been an associate for years. I currently teach and do administrative work at the Transitional Year Program, and I helped to organize and currently coordinate the HSBC Steps to University Program, which offers university courses to high school students in schools with low post-secondary participation rates.

I run through all this detail to underline my own concerns with education. I am not an investigator in most of the areas covered by the program under consideration, but I am no casual commentator.

Once upon a time, in Canada, the United States (for example the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell), and Europe as far afield as Croatia, faculties of education were integrated into schools of philosophy. Until well into the Twentieth Century, many important innovations in education and education theory were made by philosophers: Dewey, Whitehead, Sidney Hook and Israel Scheffler come to mind as American examples. To teach well, and to make policy well, it is important to be able to reflect on one’s work from a critical distance, in a disciplined way. It has been my own experience that good policy in many fields benefits from such perspectives, and I cite as examples A.K. Sen in development economics (and education); G.A. Cohen, Jon Elster, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Michael Walzer and Sir Isaiah Berlin (teacher of Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff) in political theory and Will Kymlicka, Amy Gutmann, Jane Roland Martin, Cornel West and Martha Nussbaum in social theory in general and education in particular as examples. All of these individuals have had an important influence on education policy making in the English-speaking world, and especially in Canada. All have contributed on the basis of their philosophic training. So have thinkers active in other language communities: Habermas and Wellmer in Germany, Freire in Brazil (and many other places), Foucault and numerous others in France (and beyond). A serious program in Theory and Policy Studies in Education ought to incorporate investigations into the Philosophy of Education at the highest level if only to help policy makers recognize the framing assumptions with which they operate. It ought also to include high level investigations in the history of education. Historical studies provide a critical perspective on the matters about which policymakers worry. They reveal the effects of, and the forces behind educational changes of the past, and indicate how educational institutions fit into broader social complexes. They can liberate the imagination: if things have been otherwise, in a range of interesting ways, they might be otherwise again. When questions of moral education (and these do concern policy makers on all levels) arise, the tools of the economist and the sociologist, need the help of the moral philosopher and the social historian. I cannot think that Education Theory and Policy could prosper without these studies. I am a bit shocked that so few North American programs now include them. Someone has to do the basic work on which decision makers in the field can draw. I think that it would be scandalous for OISE to withdraw from high level work in the field.

I understand that external reviewers have suggested that history and philosophy of education at the University of Toronto are threatened by a lack of resources. They suggest that one way to cope with the shortages is simply to withdraw. I also understand that there is still substantial student interest in the fields. As you no doubt have, I have seen a response to the review that indicates that reviewer pessimism about resources is overstated. Even if the intramural resources in Theory and Policy Studies at OISE are strained at the moment, there are other investigators in these areas elsewhere at OISE, elsewhere in the University and at other postsecondary institutions in the GTA. My own feeling is that OISE should continue to enroll PHD students in the fields, drawing on its own resources across its departments. If those prove to be inadequate, or if an augmentation makes good sense, then OISE should consider building a collaborative program for its PhD students in the field, just as there are currently collaborative programs in Women’s Studies and in Ancient and Mediaeval Philosophy. In any case it would be an unacceptable loss to allow the program to fold.


Thomas Mathien

Associate Director, Transitional Year Programme, U. of Toronto


“Brian Corman, Edith Hillan, Vanessa Laufer, Karen Sihra

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Dr. C Ruitenberg, Fac of Ed UBC – please prevent closure of H and P

October 27, 2009

Subject: Please prevent closure of History and Philosophy of Education Program!

Dear Dean Laufer,

I have been astonished to learn that the doctoral program in History and Philosophy of Education in the Department of Theory and Policy Studies is at risk of being closed down. Over the past decade I have come to know both faculty and students of this strong program and have seen them play a key role in scholarly communities.

I fully agree with my esteemed colleagues Drs. Dwight Boyd, Nicholas Burbules, William Hare, Heesoon Bai and Daniel Vokey that the Humanities offer valuable and relevant disciplinary and interdisciplinary angles for the study of educational questions today, and I urge you to prevent the closure of the doctoral program in History and Philosophy of Education.


Claudia Ruitenberg


Claudia W. Ruitenberg, Ph.D.

Secretary/Treasurer of the Canadian Philosophy of Education Society

Assistant Professor, Philosophy of Education

Department of Educational Studies

Faculty of Education

University of British Columbia

2125 Main Mall

Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4

Tel: 604-822-2411

Fax: 604-822-4244


Cc Sihra,

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Dr. RD Glass – Univ of Cal at Santa Cruz – Dismay at Potential Closure


27 October 2009 [Letter Transmitted Electronically]


Jane Gaskell Dean, OISE

Brian Corman Dean of Graduate Studies

Edith Hillan Vice Provost of Academic Affairs

Cheryl Regehr Vice Provost for Academic Programs

University of Toronto

Vanessa Laufer Dean, External Reviewers, OISE

University of Toronto

CC: Megan Boler Co-Chair, Department of Theory and Policy Studies

History and Philosophy of Education, OISE, University of Toronto

I am writing in great dismay at the news of the potential closure of the Program in History and Philosophy of Education in the Department of Theory and Policy Studies. I cannot conceive of a sufficiently warranted argument to justify such a decision since this program is now, and long has been, one of the premiere programs in philosophy of education in the world. It has outstanding faculty and doctoral students who are frequent contributors to the leading international journals in philosophy of education, and who provide leadership at multiple levels of the profession. To lose this program would be devastating for the disciplinary field of philosophy of education, but in addition, it would augur poorly for the entire field of education which has been suffering from a broad assault on its humanistic foundations. OISE has for many years been a beacon of clarity and wisdom in its nurturance of the humanities generally and this program specifically, and I would like to believe it will never surrender this position of international leadership.

If I could be of any assistance in your deliberations, or in your efforts to further strengthen the Program in History and Philosophy of Education, please do not hesitate to contact me.


R.D. Glass

(signed electronically)Ronald David Glass, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Philosophy of Education

Director, University of California Center for Collaborative Research for an Equitable California

Chair, Committee on Professional Affairs, Philosophy of Education Society (North America)


Philosophy of Education 2008

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