College of Education 28 College Drive Saskatoon, SK S7N 0X1 November 1, 2009
Dr. Jane Gaskell,
Dean Ontario Institute for Studies in Education University of Toronto
252 Bloor Street West Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V6
Dear Dr. Gaskell,
I have learned recently that there is a real prospect that the Institutes’ History and Philosophy Program in the Department of Theory and Policy Studies in Education will be eliminated. It is difficult at a distance to know exactly what the grounds are for such a possible action. It has been my experience after thirty-five years working in university settings that there are often public reasons for decisions—which may or may not add up—and subterranean reasons that may be more influential but never surface in the official discourse. However, I can only consider the reasons that appear in official or semi-official documents at my disposal.
One of these pertains to the number of full-time faculty members that are available to deliver the program. Some documents hint that the number of faculty will soon shrink because at the imminent retirement of two members in the program. However, this possibility is undermined by letters in your possession from the two faculty members in question who state quite clearly that they have no intention of retiring. I presume that you and others in the Institute and in the university have decided that, were they to retire, they would not be replaced. Without that assumption, the argument about staff power would never have arisen.
We must assume that according to some unstated criterion the current number of faculty (without two retirements) is too low to carry the program. However, the external review of the program does not bear this out.
In any case, the current faculty (seven full-time professors) is curiously exactly the number of faculty at the Institute of Education University of London when I studied there in the late ‘60s. Professors had responsibilities for the PGCE teacher training program, the Academic Diploma program, the Master’s program, and subsequently a doctoral program. Yet, the place was an intellectual powerhouse.
The numbers game is a mug’s game.
I should add that I had to travel to London (or the United States) to pursue graduate studies in philosophy of education because there was no well-established program in Canada. The closure of the History and Philosophy program at OISE would be one giant step in taking us back forty-five years.
I look forward to reading accounts of your deliberations. I hope your committees proceed with courage, foresight, and a strong commitment to seeking publicly accountable reasons for action.
Don Cochrane Professor Emeritus
CC Dr. Brian Corman (Dean of Graduate Studies) Dr. Edith Hillan (Vice Provost of Academic Affairs) Dr. Cheryl Regehr (Vice-Provost, AcademicPrograms) Dr. Vanessa Laufer, External Reviewer of OISE Dean Ms. Karen Sihra,Save H&P representative