Dr. Brian Corman
Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and
Vice-Provost, Graduate Education
School of Graduate Studies
Dear Dean Corman,
I am writing to add my name to those who are petitioning to save the EdDlPhD program in History and Philosophy of Education at the University of Toronto. I believe I have a very relevant perspective: in spring 2006 I was one of three extemal international reviewers of the OISE Department of Theory and Policy Studies of which the history and philosophy program is a key part. I will refer to my impressions of the program, its students, faculty, and program below, but first I need to say something about the place of humanities in graduate studies in professional education in North America.
For the nearly thirty years of my tenure in the Education academy, the OISElUniversity of Toronto program has always had a special place-one in which a critical mass of outstanding scholars graduated and mentored succeeding generations. I remember that as a student at Stanford I wanted to chain myself to the front door and beg for ajob as professor. Since then I have established collegial relations with specific faculty that include Professors Bogdan, Boler and Ford and I also consider myself a colleague of Dean Gaskell. What this has meant is my paying special attention to publications from members of the institution in order to personally benefit. For years the program has been a beacon for those of us in much smaller programs. Currently I am the only philosopher of education in my school of education-and we have an opening for a historian that will not be replaced soon due to the financial downturn. (It’s lonely.)
Not only does the OISE/UT program have a unique history but it is one of the few in North America in which there has been more than one faculty member who does history or philosophy. In the US, I surely can count them on one hand. In Canada, UBC or Simon Fraser may have more than one in each field but many who do ‘the work’ do so in non-named positions (not as philosophers or historians of education).
I think too that something needs to be said about the place of humanities in education research, at least in the US context. Truthfully it is beleaguered-:-in a time of ‘scientific’ emphasis, few read history and philosophy as they ought to do. One indicator of hope, however, has been a recent interest from the American Educational Research Association. I served for three years as a five member US team to determine ‘standards for humanities-based research.’ We found that we had to do a lot of teaching even among ourselves in order to forward an agenda. I can’t imagine, interestingly, that similar teaching would be required in the larger academy. Can you imagine a major university closing its history or philosophy departments?
Now to the University of Toronto department. In addition to reviewing documents, the external reviewers held extensive interviews with faculty and students. To a person we were impressed with enthusiasm and commitment to the History and Philosophy program and its members. On the faculty side, while there were differences in ethos, the historians and philosophers worked exceedingly hard at both research and teaching. Each individual made a unique contribution that combined and emphasized professional and personal strengths. Some saw their contributions more in student interaction and some more in research productivity. All together we thought the program very strong. None of us would recommend closing it and indeed thought it worthy of additional faculty and other resources. On the student side, it was clear to us
it is one ofthe few in North America inIn the US, I surely that all who attended our interview sessions just loved their program and professors. We didn’t hear one complaint of inaccessibility, for instance, a common expression from students at other topnotch institutions.Surely the domain of education practice is complex enough that multiple perspectives are needed for reform. Traditionally history and philosophy have been ‘voices’ of substance-and in North America, significant voices have come from OISElUniversity of Toronto. I am proud to add my name to those petitioning against program closure and urge you and others in authority to retain and support the program.
Its demise would be a tragedy.
Lynda Stone, Professor, Philosophy of Education, and
Chair, Research Area in Culture, Curriculum and Change