Fr. Mario D’Souza – Dean of Theology – Concerning threatened Closure of H and P

 

Thursday October 29, 2009

Republic, one of the most ancient of texts reflecting on political community is implicitly educational and foundationally philosophical and it has introduced mario.dsouza@utoronto.ca

Dear Colleagues, I write to you concerning the threatened closure of the History and Philosophy Department at OISE/UT.

I am a graduate of that department, having earned my Ph. D in the philosophy of education in 1988. Dr. Clive Beck and Dr. Ian Winchester were on my thesis supervisory committee. As you know, Dr. Winchester went on to becoming Dean of Education at the University of Calgary.

I look back at my time at OISE—1985-1988—with great fondness. I had previously earned a masters degree in the philosophy of education from the University of Calgary, (having done my previous studies at University College, Dublin) and I am came to OISE knowing of its national and international reputation. While I began my studies with my own philosophical presuppositions and adherence to particular schools of philosophy, my teachers at OISE broadened those presuppositions and challenged those adherences and enabled me to see the philosophical questions of education in a broader context, always keeping the issues of pluralism in mind thereby expanding one’s horizons by intellectual positions other than one’s own narrow preferences.

Much can be said about the intellectual vigour and role of the history and philosophy department at OISE, and, I dare say that you have heard them.

So, rather than write you a lengthy email, let me say this. From my own position—and my intellectual habitus is primarily philosophical—I find it absolutely incomprehensible to imagine that a graduate research institute in education would be expected to function and flourish without a department in the history and philosophy of education. Indeed, in my own research in the philosophy of Catholic education I have lamented the absence of rigorous and disciplined philosophical thought and debate.

Let me comment on my area of interest: philosophy of education. Canada’s pluralism and multiculturalism, which the University of Toronto rightly celebrates and seeks to respond to by virtue of its intellectual mandate as a university, requires keen and sustained philosophical analysis and study. Canada’s diversity brings enormous challenges but also possibilities in the field of education. If the sticking point of our union as citizens is not to be an adherence to a particular religious faith, then what else can this diverse citizenry of this country look to for its unity and union apart from the wider union brought about by philosophy? Questions of the common good: what a diverse citizenry should study and cherish intellectually, moral education in the light of diversity, indeed, and from my own work as dean of theology, the intersection of faith and education are all questions that can find common ground through an intellectual training that is primarily philosophical. Plato’s Republic, one of the most ancient of texts reflecting on political community is implicitly educational and foundationally philosophical and it has introduced generations of students not only in thinking philosophically about education but in asking educationally philosophical questions. What shall be the meeting point, the common ground, an agreed upon vocabulary for our educational dialogue if it is not the philosophy of education?

I write to you as an associate member of the School of Graduate Studies in Theory and Policy Studies at OISE/UT to express my concern and alarm at this threatened closure. Many arguments have undoubtedly been made to you against such action. My chief argument is that such closure threatens the very intellectual discourse on education that OISE is committed to. It also threatens the intellectual unity of the University of Toronto. While I am not a hopeless romantic in pretending that the world of education and its challenges would be best served if all teachers studied the philosophy of education, I am convinced that there has to be the opportunity to study the philosophical dimensions of education, particularly in our world, and we see signs of this in Canada in spite of its commitment to pluralism and diversity, which increasingly is being divided into narrow religious and ideological camps.

Much more can be said. I leave you, however, with the most fervent of pleas that this threat to future of the history and philosophy department be revised and averted.

If there is anything that I can do to assist you in your deliberations, you need only ask. Thank you. Yours sincerely,

Mario O. D’Souza

Fr. Mario O. D’Souza, CSB., Ph.D.

Dean of Theology Associate Member SGS Theory and Policy Studies in Education OISE/UT Faculty of Theology University of St. Michael’s College 81 St. Mary Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1J4 CANADA Phone: 416-926-7265 Fax: 416-926-7294 Email:

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