Dr Daniel Vokey UBC – Opposition to the Option of Closing H and P at OISE

Mon, Oct 26, 2009

Subject: OISE/UT’s History and Philosophy Program

Greetings to you all from the West Coast:

A letter co-signed by myself and four colleagues opposes the option of closing the History and Philosophy doctoral program that is offered by the Department of Theory and Policy Studies at OISE/UT. The letter, which is circulating widely through various academic listservs, makes its case in large part by showing how the reasons given for the recommendation to close the program do not stand up to close scrutiny. I attach a copy of the letter, but I expect you are already familiar with its key points. My purpose here is simply to remind you how central historical and philosophical scholarship is to contemporary debates about educational policy and practice.

Consider these questions:

* Which educational aims should take priority in a given time and place, assuming finite resources? Should the “social” and citizenship objectives associated with inclusion be pursued, on consequential or deontological grounds, at the expense of “academic” aims?

* What should be considered reliable forms of educational research and scholarship?

* How do we recognize and acknowledge multiple perspectives on (for example) the history of residential schooling within Canada without falling into relativism or simply imposing dominant views?

* How should we balance expectations of impartiality with the imperative to address inequity?

* Which among competing conceptions of social justice and ecological justice should inform curriculum development to meet the challenges of the 21st century?

* How can we support prospective teachers in developing a capacity for sound professional judgment?

* What accommodations within K-12 and higher education programs are reasonable to offer new immigrants to Canada? Persons with mental and/or physical disabilities?

* What forms of personal and institutional accountability are consistent with a commitment to a democratic ethos coupled with a critical analysis of the dynamics of power?

I chose to specialize in Philosophy of Education because initiatives in moral, character, civic, peace, anti-racist, feminist,  transformative, environmental, leadership, and citizenship education–indeed, any form of education–cannot avoid raising basic ontological, epistemological, and ethical questions. The meaning of the questions as well as the answers cannot be fully appreciated without locating discourses historically. Every graduate of a doctoral program in education should have some exposure to historical and philosophical texts, traditions, and forms of argument. This requires specialists in the history and the philosophy of education, which in turn requires doctoral programs to produce them.

OISE/UT is very fortunate to have faculty and students dedicated to the History and Philosophy doctoral program. Failing to support them would be, I believe, against the best interests of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and a failure of moral responsibility on many levels. I would welcome opposing views, of course, but I suspect it would be difficult to articulate them without presupposing particular positions on historical and philosophical issues, which would tend to support my case.

Respectfully submitted,

Daniel Vokey

Dr. Daniel Vokey, PhD (Toronto)

Associate Professor, Department of Educational Studies

University of British Columbia


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