Letter from Bai, Boyd, Burbules, Hare and Vokey

Students of History & Philosophy (SHAP) 

Theory & Policy Studies Student Association (TPSSA)

Dear Colleagues,

History and Philosophy of Education, the only humanities doctoral program at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, will likely be closed by decision of the University of Toronto School of Graduate Studies (SGS) this week. The reasons for this threatened closure have never been clear (since this threat commenced in 2006) and remain to this day utterly non-transparent and disconnected from the actual current vibrancy of our internationally recognized Ph.D. program (85 students, 7 faculty, 17 Associate Faculty, outstanding doctoral scholarship). However, as detailed below, the reasons given in a Memo from the Ontario Council of Graduate Studies (OCGS) recommending a “not approved” status for History and Philosophy of Education include a factually erroneous reason—namely, that “[t]he staffing levels for the program are extremely low and will be exacerbated by imminent retirements.”


This decision to CUT this program bears no relation to the quality or integrity of the History and Philosophy Program. Any University of Toronto decision to close the History and Philosophy of Education Program blatantly disregards the quality of a doctoral program of internationally-recognized faculty members and the superb scholarship of its doctoral graduate students.


Reasons Given for Closure (September 29, 2009) and the Response of the Department of Theory and Policy Studies to these Reasons (October 11, 2009):

The Ontario Council for Graduate Studies proposes cutting out the program for the following reasons, a recommendation currently being considered by the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. We believe that the School of Graduate Studies is inclined to accept the OCGS recommendation for closure—though it is not clear why. As quoted in a memo sent to the Department of Theory and Policy Studies (the History and Philosophy program is one of the three programs in TPS):

“The staffing levels for the program are extremely low and will be exacerbated by imminent retirements. The Committee was not convinced that a critical mass of Faculty is associated with the program to ensure the necessary intellectual climate for a doctoral program. In addition, there is no commitment for hiring at an appropriate level to ensure program viability.” 

(OCGS MEMO, Sept 29, 2009—see document)

To correct the record:

1. The above statement contains incorrect information. There are no imminent retirements in the H&P area. The two faculty members (Professors Troper and Levine) who are nearing the former mandatory retirement age have provided letters to indicate neither plans to retire.

2. It is unclear how OCGS defines “a critical mass of faculty.” We believe that a critical mass of faculty exists. As H&P noted in previous responses to OCGS, in addition to the 7 tenured faculty in our program, we have 17 associate faculty from across the UT campus who contribute to the intellectually vibrant life of the program.

3. Regarding support for H&P: the Department has been requesting a new faculty position from Dean Jane Gaskell for five years. At the department level, TPS has on record a motion that was given the unanimous support of the department in November 2007 that states that the next hire in the department should be in the area of History and Philosophy.

4. Not only is it FALSE that there are imminent retirements, it may be against UTFA union policy to refer to faculty age or imminent retirements in any way. Even if there were imminent retirements, this is not a valid reason to close a university program with 85 students, 7 faculty, 17 associate instructors, in a Program currently poised to become an international Center for Research and Teaching of High School Philosophy!

The Theory and Policy Studies Department has gone to great lengths to meet and surpass all OCGS mandates regarding faculty and program integration and has done so with success. For the university of Toronto to cut History and Philosophy sets two dangerous precedents: (1) that humanities and educational theory have no place in faculties of education; (2) that professional and technocratic values have come to dominate universities to the extent that they exalt corporate values over academic scholarship.

You can help us try to stop this closure of OISE History and Philosophy of Ed, and remind UT that its slogan about “Great Minds” requires a minor addendum: “Great Minds” Need Humanities.

We urge you to write a letter/note/email/comment with copies to all email contacts below

o Jane Gaskell (Dean of OISE) jgaskell@oise.utoronto.ca

o Brian Corman (Dean of Graduate Studies) brian.corman@utoronto.ca

o Edith Hillan (Vice Provost of Academic Affairs) edith.hillan@utoronto.ca

o Cheryl Regehr (Vice-Provost, Academic Programs)


o External Reviewers of OISE Dean vanessa.laufer@utoronto.ca

o ksihra@oise.utoronto.ca (Save H&P rep)


Heesoon Bai, Director of Graduate Programs, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University, and Editor of Paideusis: The journal of the Canadian Philosophy of Education Society.

Dwight R. Boyd, Professor Emeritus, History and Philosophy of Education Program, Department of Theory and Policy Studies, OISE

Nicholas Burbules, Professor, Educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois-UC; Editor, Educational Theory

William Hare, Professor Emeritus, Mount St. Vincent University

Daniel Vokey, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia, and President of the Canadian Philosophy of Education Society



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