Wed, Oct 28, 2009
Dear Provosts Hillan and Regehr, Deans Corman and Gaskell:
Upon my return from a comparative philosophy & history of education event integral to an international conference in Japan on gender equality, multicultural conviviality, and globalization, I have been greeted by shocking news from the Philosophy of Education Society. I must confess my incredulity at this report that the University of Toronto intends to shut down the History and Philosophy of Education program in the Department of Theory and Policy Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. If this report were not so serious, I would laugh it, it is so ludicrous to think of shutting down this program. Can this report really be true?
For decades, OISE’s philosophers and historians of education have been international leaders in arts-and-letters scholarship concerning education. OISE’s philosophical and historical contributions to the study of education have been so substantial I could not begin to do justice to their inventory here. Indeed, OISE has had perhaps only one U.S. institutional near-rival as the pre-eminent philosophy and history of education doctoral program in North America for the past three decades, at least. Therefore, this news is deeply disturbing for our entire field.
Because of OISE’s position of international leadership in arts-and-letters scholarship on education, this program’s closure has immense symbolic power to undermine the institutional status of philosophical and historical studies of education throughout North America and the world. The high visibility of this most respected program’s closure cannot fail to devalue educational thought and memory as significant resources for educational practice generally.
As a recent past president of the Philosophy of Education Society (in 2007) and as co-founder of the Society for Educating Women (in 2006), I urge you to consider your own collective responsibility as academic leaders of international consequence. In that glaring light, please reconsider the (almost Orwellian) international consequences of your announced plans to shut down History and Philosophy of Education at OISE. Do the University of Toronto and OISE really want to be known worldwide for suppressing the scholarly study of educational thought and memory? Or for devaluing arts and letters as disciplinary vantage-points from which to interpret, critique, and recommend educational texts, ideas, values, institutions, agents, and practices? This is an internationally significant program whose preservation and development have influence far beyond the reach of Ontario, Canada, or even North America. Therefore, please preserve and develop it.
Susan Laird, Past President (2007), Philosophy of Education Society
Susan Laird, Ph.D., Professor, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies, Human Relations,University of Oklahoma, 820 Van Vleet Oval, #227, Norman, OK 73019. Telephone: 405-325-4202. Web:
Educational Studies Program Development Coordinator. Founding Faculty Adviser, Oklahoma Educational Studies Association. Co-Founder, EDUCATING WOMEN, A Community of Learning and Inquiry re Women, Gender, and Education.”The aim of the new college, the cheap college, should be not to segregate and specialize, but to combine. It should explore the ways in which mind and body can be made to cooperate; discover what new combinations make good wholes in human life. The teachers should be drawn from the good livers as well as the good thinkers.”
–Virginia Woolf, THREE GUINEAS