Prof Terry Sefton, U of Windsor, Deeply concerned re: closure of H and P

 

Wed, Oct 28, 2009

RE: Plans to discontinue the Department of History and Philosophy

Dear Dean Gaskell,

I am a graduate of OISE/UT where I completed my PhD in Sociology and Equity Studies in Education five years ago. Before I graduated I was hired for a tenure-track position at the University of Windsor, Faculty of Education, where I still teach. While at OISE I took a couple of courses outside the SESE department, and one of them was with Dr Deanne Bogdan in the Department of History and Philosophy. It was a wonderful class, and Dr. Bogdan was a wonderful professor. I often think of her, and that class, and that is not something I can or would say about more that a few teachers in a lifetime of learning. Dr. Bogdan, because she was a philosopher, encouraged me to think differently about my research ideas. She demanded a level of rigorous inquiry, while being incredibly supportive and open. This is a testament to Dr Bogdan, but it is more than that. Her course was taught under the umbrella of History and Philosophy – and on the shoulders of all the scholarly work and writing that falls within those vast fields of study.

Dr. Maureen Ford (History and Philosophy) sat on my dissertation defense committee. She asked really hard questions, got into a verbal dust-up with my supervisor, Dr. Dorothy Smith, and made me feel, at the end of the day, like I had worked for my degree.

I would not have taken my PhD if it had not been for a pivotal course I took during my Masters of Education at the University of Western Ontario. That course was Philosophy of Education with Dr Maryann Ayim. Dr Ayim was rigorous and joyful – she danced into the classroom and taught with excitement. She suggested I go on to do a PhD, and made me want to do it. That was not only because Dr Ayim was an exceptionally gifted teacher and a serious scholar, but it was also because I hungered for the big questions that Dr Ayim encouraged us to ask, questions of philosophy.

I am deeply concerned by the news that OISE is considering closing the Department of History and Philosophy. I teach in a Faculty of Education that offers no courses to its undergraduates in Philosophy or History of Education; that offers no courses in Philosophy of Education at the Masters level, and none at the PhD level. This is a sign of the times, but not a good one. When you jettison an entire field of study, you lose a particular lens for looking at the world, and for asking big questions.

Terry Sefton, PhD Assistant Professor Faculty of Education University of Windsor Windsor, ON N9B 3P4 phone: 519 253-3000 (3832) cc Corman, Hillan, Laufer

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