OESA NORMAN – Concern regarding imminent closing

28 October 2009

To: David Naylor, President, University of Toronto

c/o Kim Derrick, Executive Secretary

Edith Hillan, Vice-Provost of Academic Affairs, University of Toronto,

Cheryl Regehr, Vice-Provost of Academic Programs, University of Toronto,

Brian Corman, Dean of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto,

Jane Gaskell, Dean, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Cc: American Educational Studies Association (AESA) Executive Council

c/o Cathryn Chappell, AESA Secretary

OISE Department of Theory and Policy Studies in Education

Vanessa Laufer, External Reviewer of OISE Dean

Karen Sihra,

From: Christiaan Mitchell, President, Oklahoma Educational Studies Association-Norman

Julia Dane, President-Elect, Oklahoma Educational Studies Association-Norman

Julie Davis, President-Emeritus, Oklahoma Educational Studies Association-Norman

Dear President Naylor, Provosts Hillan and Regehr, and Deans Corman and Gaskell:

On behalf of the Norman Chapter of the Oklahoma Educational Studies Association (OESA-Norman) —a regional affiliate of the American Educational Studies Association composed, staffed and organized primarily by graduate students at the University of Oklahoma—we, the members of the Executive Council of OESA-Norman, are writing to express our urgent concern regarding the imminent closing of the History and Philosophy of Education doctoral program within the Department of Theory and Policy Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

The History and Philosophy of Education graduate program at OISE is a preeminent international leader in the field of Educational Studies (Foundations). The vital and productive faculty, associate faculty, and graduate student members of this program make crucial contributions to scholarship and academic leadership in education. These scholars represent singularly powerful and important voices in the field and have been History and Philosophy of Education leaders for over twenty years!

While we do understand the grim realities of difficult budgetary decisions and economic exigency, the decision to close this program has international repercussions and represents a devastating and irrevocable loss to not only the field of Educational Studies, but the Academy at large. By right of merit, proven history of success, and the great number of doctoral graduate students currently enrolled—an astounding 87—this program deserves expanded faculty lines, not wholesale closure. The decision to discontinue this program does a gross disservice to the Academy, the field of Educational Studies and the broader education community, but most specifically to the 87 graduate students who are, for nothing short of exemplary and laudable service and scholarship, being cast aside as so much jetsam.

We likely cannot state a stronger case for the contributions of Educational History and Philosophy programs to the wider areas of teaching, learning, and curricular development and practice within education than those already presented to you. However, we ask that you please consider this: against a milieu of mounting economic and religious global tensions; realities of discrimination, inequity, social violence and poverty; unparalleled bioenvironmental challenges; declining levels of educational attainment in public schools; and a lessening of the abilities to compete internationally for scarce resources and economic development—given these problematic realities and more—the History and Philosophy of Education is the only disciplinary field within educational inquiry that takes as its principle mission the combination of theoretical and pragmatic solutions with the lived realities of educational practice towards the ends of addressing these very problems. The work of our field engages quantitative and qualitative data to critically examine the causal connections among social phenomena and resultant conditions of crises; that is, examines the role education can play in the amelioration of these many critical social problems. This work presents a broad perspective on the concerns of and possibilities for education informed by history and oriented towards a brighter, safer and more just future. The work of History and Philosophy of Education scholars, valuing the intellectual contributions and practice of all educational endeavors at all levels and in diverse settings and conditions, creates and moderates opportunities for productive, collaborative, problem-solving interdisciplinary discourses that can be found in no other field of inquiry.

The work of the scholars who will be affected at OISE is largely defined by interdisciplinary concerns and is bound by exacting and high standards of academic valuation and rigor. The faculty and graduate students in the History and Philosophy of Education program at OISE engage in critically-needed discussions, and their work has a resounding impact in the international community of scholars and students committed to promoting educational excellence. This work poses tough questions—questions about social and cultural ideals, how education may help or hinder us in attaining them, and, finally, how we define ourselves as human beings in our communities.

The OISE community and the University of Toronto will be intellectually poorer if this program is closed.

Moreover, the entire field of History and Philosophy of Education will suffer a devastating blow. The students of OESA-Norman ask you to consider this—by denying those that seek to close OISE’s only doctoral humanities program, you reaffirm a commitment to the arts and the sciences in education, to moral aims and philosophical thought in higher education, and to the intellectual stewardship for which the University of Toronto is internationally renowned. In our most humble opinion as graduate students, as junior scholars and as members of the great Republic of the Mind, the decision to close this most prestigious and renowned of Educational Studies programs represents on the part of the University of Toronto a gross dereliction of duty towards its students and faculty, towards the academic community in which this program has been an international leader, and towards a world desperately in need of rigorous and scholarly critical voices.

Most respectfully,

OESA – Norman Executive Council


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