S Gacich – Call for Boycott of AQ courses in protest re: closure of H and P

Wed Oct 28, 2009

Dear Administrators at OISE,

I am shocked that the History & Philosophy of Education doctoral programme is slated to be closed. I find that the OCGS recommendation to close the programme based on the OCGS recommendation criteria is completely unjustified given the evidence. This action will have negative consequences for all educators, students, society, OISE and the University of Toronto. Cancelling a program that informs the foundational knowledge of all educational research benefits no one except those who want to silence critical voices. This action leads me to forego any future AQ courses at U of T I plan to take. As well, I am circulating an on-line petition among my colleagues & will encourage them to boycott AQ courses as well.This decision will undo progress toward UT’s reputation as a centre for critical thought, one that has taken a long time to develop.

Sean Gacich

Harbord CI

Toronto District School Board

Cc Hillan, Gaskell, corman, Laufer, Sihra


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J Lang’s Dismay at Backward Step in Scholarship

October 26, 20009

Dear Dean Gaskell,

I am writing to express my shock and dismay at the apparent moves afoot to kill the history and philosophy program in Theory and Policy Studies at OISE. Closing this program would send a dire message to the academic world where scholars consistently express their admiration for the work done in H&P at OISE. I have had conversations with professors from Stanford, UCLA and around the globe who have all claimed that H&P at OISE is considered the WORLD STANDARD for this kind of program. Just this past weekend at the University of Washington in Seattle, I heard the word “amazing” used to describe philosophy of education at OISE. In conference after conference, the scholarly work of OISE philosophy students and faculty is regularly over-represented in peer-evaluated selections for presentations and publications. Philosophy of Education is a large international community where OISE is considered by many to be the highest bar of scholarship. Ending this program will send a message to the world that the work others value so highly has no place at the University of Toronto.

While this horrific, unconscionable action is being considered at the U of T, other schools continue to emulate OISE, starting NEW philosophy of education doctoral programs–Simon Fraser is one example. Smaller institutions, such as the University of Saskatchewan have twice the number of philosophers of education than OISE as it now stands, yet those scholars look to OISE for leadership.

I cannot express my dismay at the possibility of such a backward step in Canadian scholarship. In my long years on this earth, I have not witnessed scholarship so close to the cutting edge as I have in H&P at OISE. It is an academic jewel that should be nurtured and treasured– not tossed aside like dross. Please reconsider and please do everything possible to prevent this tragic outcome.


James C. Lang, PhD

80 Beverley St., #6

Toronto, ON, M5T1Y1


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keep Hist and Phil Program – A Karumanchiri, Ma Student

Wed, Oct 28, 2009

Re: Student Appeal: Keep History & Philosophy of Education, PhD program

To Whom It Concerns,

As an M.A. student of the Philosophy of Education at OISE-UT, now working on a thesis that addresses the technologization of society and of education, I find it ill-conceived and ironic that the university that supported the philosophy (and history) of education would now consider axing the related doctoral program. I have benefited tremendously from having doctoral students as classmates. I fear that the quality of education for future M.A.- and M.Ed.-only students would be compromised, and the standard of professorship that could be retained for a Ph.D.-free program would suffer. The humanities are essential for self-reflection and self-correction, both for individuals and societies, and must be pursued and studied at the highest levels. To quote one philosopher of education, David E. Cooper, the further marginalization of the humanities “serves to cement, among educated people, that “boring,” “levelling,” natural scientific conception of reality which is part of our modern distress.”

Let us not forget, as well, that the term PhD, regardless of the field of study, is an abbreviation of ‘doctor of philosophy’ or ‘teacher of philosophy.’ Every branch of study and of practice comes with its own philosophical assumptions and imperfect methods of explanation, hence the need for ongoing debate and research. The retention of the title, PhD, is a reminder of this. For the University of Toronto to cancel the PhD program in, of all things, its History and Philosophy of Education department (TPS), which is already rare internationally and unique in Canada, is to let the foundations of education and of society to settle into the murk of market forces, cultural biases, totalizing normativity, and unconsciousness.

Preserve the doctoral program for the History and Philosophy of Education at OISE.


Arun Karumanchiri

M.A. student, OISE-UT, TPS, History and Philosophy of Education, Philosophy of Education

cc Gaskell, Laufer, Corman, Hillan, Sirha

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M Otis – PhD Candidate – Concern about potential elimination of Doc program

Mon, Oct 26, 2009

Subject: Concern about potential elimination of History & Philosophy of Education Program

Dear Deans, Vice Provosts and External Reviewers,

I am writing to express my deep concern over the possible elimination of the Ph.D. program in History and Philosophy of Education within the Theory and Policy Studies Department of OISE.

I am beginning my fourth year of the program and for several reasons, I am absolutely against this possible decision.

As a current graduate student, I worry about losing my committee members as they may be either fired or decide to go elsewhere. Further, I depend on my GA for funding, so that changes may mean that I will not be able to finish my studies if the program is eliminated.

Professionally, I am also concerned about how the eradication of my program would impact my ability to obtain employment as I compete with graduates of lesser, but more committed institutions. I am troubled that the reduction of colleagues to learn from and network with, both as a student and later in the field, will impact me and all who have graduated this program.

Yet, even more important, beyond my own needs, there is the major concern of the school abolishing the incorporation of the humanities in the study of education. I cannot imagine thoughtful and critical study of education without them; indeed it is my strong belief that these programs ought to be expanded even though the times are financially difficult. Without a foundation in the history and philosophy of education there will be an inexorable slide toward the educator as technician, blindly applying the syllabus. The fact that our program can do so much with the current level of faculty and that they have taken steps to increase involvement of other faculty from other departments, speaks volumes about the programs understanding that they need to think creatively and be efficient.

I can go on, but I understand time is an issue and these are my main points. I thank you for your consideration.

Melissa Otis, Ph.D. Candidate

Theory and Policy Studies, History & Philosophy of Education program

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SFU – Faculty of Ed – Dismay at Program Closure

Dear Dr. Corman,

We write this letter to you in our capacity as the four primary faculty members in the Philosophy of Education PhD program in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. It is in this capacity that we want to sound our great dismay at the possibility that the Program in History and Philosophy at OISE might be closed.

The Program in History and Philosophy at OISE is central to humanities research in Canada as well as internationally. We hold in great esteem the work of our colleague faculty members in the Program, as well as their students’ work. The research resulting from these excellent scholars would not continue to flourish if the cohesion of this Program were taken away.

The Program in History and Philosophy at OISE is one of only two programs in Canada featuring doctoral studies in Philosophy of Education, our own being the other. It is thus with great urgency that we implore you to leave the program intact. Such programs in Philosophy of Education as ours and OISE’s are prime examples that important educational work is being done in the humanities. It is not our place to comment on the specific administrative reasons one might have for closing the program. However, we urge you to be cognizant of the significant, indeed tragic, impact on humanities research such a closure would entail.

The impressive quality of the Program in History and Philosophy at OISE indicates that the program should remain intact in order that educational research in the humanities might continue to thrive.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr. Charles Bingham, Associate Professor

Dr. Heesoon Bai, Associate Professor

Dr. Ann Chinnery. Assistant Professor

Dr. Sean Blenkinsop, Assistant Professor

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OESA NORMAN – Concern regarding imminent closing

28 October 2009

To: David Naylor, President, University of Toronto

c/o Kim Derrick, Executive Secretary

Edith Hillan, Vice-Provost of Academic Affairs, University of Toronto,

Cheryl Regehr, Vice-Provost of Academic Programs, University of Toronto,

Brian Corman, Dean of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto,

Jane Gaskell, Dean, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Cc: American Educational Studies Association (AESA) Executive Council

c/o Cathryn Chappell, AESA Secretary

OISE Department of Theory and Policy Studies in Education

Vanessa Laufer, External Reviewer of OISE Dean

Karen Sihra,

From: Christiaan Mitchell, President, Oklahoma Educational Studies Association-Norman

Julia Dane, President-Elect, Oklahoma Educational Studies Association-Norman

Julie Davis, President-Emeritus, Oklahoma Educational Studies Association-Norman

Dear President Naylor, Provosts Hillan and Regehr, and Deans Corman and Gaskell:

On behalf of the Norman Chapter of the Oklahoma Educational Studies Association (OESA-Norman) —a regional affiliate of the American Educational Studies Association composed, staffed and organized primarily by graduate students at the University of Oklahoma—we, the members of the Executive Council of OESA-Norman, are writing to express our urgent concern regarding the imminent closing of the History and Philosophy of Education doctoral program within the Department of Theory and Policy Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

The History and Philosophy of Education graduate program at OISE is a preeminent international leader in the field of Educational Studies (Foundations). The vital and productive faculty, associate faculty, and graduate student members of this program make crucial contributions to scholarship and academic leadership in education. These scholars represent singularly powerful and important voices in the field and have been History and Philosophy of Education leaders for over twenty years!

While we do understand the grim realities of difficult budgetary decisions and economic exigency, the decision to close this program has international repercussions and represents a devastating and irrevocable loss to not only the field of Educational Studies, but the Academy at large. By right of merit, proven history of success, and the great number of doctoral graduate students currently enrolled—an astounding 87—this program deserves expanded faculty lines, not wholesale closure. The decision to discontinue this program does a gross disservice to the Academy, the field of Educational Studies and the broader education community, but most specifically to the 87 graduate students who are, for nothing short of exemplary and laudable service and scholarship, being cast aside as so much jetsam.

We likely cannot state a stronger case for the contributions of Educational History and Philosophy programs to the wider areas of teaching, learning, and curricular development and practice within education than those already presented to you. However, we ask that you please consider this: against a milieu of mounting economic and religious global tensions; realities of discrimination, inequity, social violence and poverty; unparalleled bioenvironmental challenges; declining levels of educational attainment in public schools; and a lessening of the abilities to compete internationally for scarce resources and economic development—given these problematic realities and more—the History and Philosophy of Education is the only disciplinary field within educational inquiry that takes as its principle mission the combination of theoretical and pragmatic solutions with the lived realities of educational practice towards the ends of addressing these very problems. The work of our field engages quantitative and qualitative data to critically examine the causal connections among social phenomena and resultant conditions of crises; that is, examines the role education can play in the amelioration of these many critical social problems. This work presents a broad perspective on the concerns of and possibilities for education informed by history and oriented towards a brighter, safer and more just future. The work of History and Philosophy of Education scholars, valuing the intellectual contributions and practice of all educational endeavors at all levels and in diverse settings and conditions, creates and moderates opportunities for productive, collaborative, problem-solving interdisciplinary discourses that can be found in no other field of inquiry.

The work of the scholars who will be affected at OISE is largely defined by interdisciplinary concerns and is bound by exacting and high standards of academic valuation and rigor. The faculty and graduate students in the History and Philosophy of Education program at OISE engage in critically-needed discussions, and their work has a resounding impact in the international community of scholars and students committed to promoting educational excellence. This work poses tough questions—questions about social and cultural ideals, how education may help or hinder us in attaining them, and, finally, how we define ourselves as human beings in our communities.

The OISE community and the University of Toronto will be intellectually poorer if this program is closed.

Moreover, the entire field of History and Philosophy of Education will suffer a devastating blow. The students of OESA-Norman ask you to consider this—by denying those that seek to close OISE’s only doctoral humanities program, you reaffirm a commitment to the arts and the sciences in education, to moral aims and philosophical thought in higher education, and to the intellectual stewardship for which the University of Toronto is internationally renowned. In our most humble opinion as graduate students, as junior scholars and as members of the great Republic of the Mind, the decision to close this most prestigious and renowned of Educational Studies programs represents on the part of the University of Toronto a gross dereliction of duty towards its students and faculty, towards the academic community in which this program has been an international leader, and towards a world desperately in need of rigorous and scholarly critical voices.

Most respectfully,

OESA – Norman Executive Council

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PhD candidate Mark Federman – Blog re: Impending Closure

Tue, Oct 27, 2009

Re: The announced termination of the doctoral program in History and Philosophy

To those who are considering and planning the recently announce termination of the History and Philosophy of Education program:

I have posted my thoughts on this plan on my weblog at the following address:


For the benefit of those addressees who would not be moved to click through, I have transcribed the text below.

Essentially, my argument is simple: History and Philosophy provide an important contextual ground to contemporary understanding. Although from a strictly instrumental perspective, H&P might be seen as superfluous in times of economic restraint (oh, how that refrain has become tiresome!), its indirect contributions to significant scholarship cannot be underestimated. I admit that this is personal: My own research and thesis into a new theory of organization, with direct practical application to business, is inspired in large part from an OISE H&P doctoral thesis from 2000 on Plato. Yes, complexity works in mysterious ways.

My blog post follows:

Understanding the Context of Education

It may be news to the so-called Internet generation that history did not begin only fifty years ago. That’s why I ground my own research into contemporary organizations in 3,000 years of history. There is also an underlying existential, epistemological, and ontological foundation for the things we do today. That’s why I introduce a philosophical frame to provide reasoned guidance to Valence Theory. Together, history and philosophy provide the context that enables meaning to be made, even (especially) in a contemporary context that has been tremendously influenced by the follies of post-modernist thought.

Believe it or not, education as well has a history, and a philosophy that allow today’s practitioners to make sense of the circumstances that inform their pedagogical practices. Or, to put it simply, teachers and educators need to understand from whence we came to comprehend where we should be going.

This very simple lesson seems to be lost on the Chief Educators at the largest graduate faculty of education in the world, namely the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education – OISE – at University of Toronto. The Dean, Jane Gaskell, in conjunction with Brian Corman, the Dean of Graduate Studies and Vice-Provost of Graduate Education for U of T’s School of Graduate Studies, announced that they are shutting down the doctoral program in the History and Philosophy of Education in the Theory nd Policy Studies department at OISE.

Nominally, the Ontario Council for Graduate Studies states their reason for recommending that the program be shut down as:

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.

However, there are no imminent retirements (two professors who are approaching the former mandatory retirement age aren’t retiring), and the 7 tenured faculty in the program are augmented by 17 associate faculty who are paid by other U of T departments. What is true is that Dean Gaskell seems to have been starving this program of academic renewal for six years, apparently refusing to hire a new professor even though the TPS department unanimously agreed that the next TPS hire should be for H&P (the unanimity has been since 2007).

How easy it is to say that there is not academic critical mass when the requisite supplementary mass has been repeatedly refused by the Dean. It’s not as if there was a long-standing tacit plan to shut down the program, right?

After all, it’s only 85 students we’re talking about.

It may appear that History and Philosophy of Education are not immediately relevant to the corporate view of instrumental education. It may be that H&P don’t get the paying bums in the seats – after all, most of us are nothing more than BUs (Basic Units) to the bean-counters on OISE’s 12th floor – the same ones that have repeatedly told us there would be no negative impact to increasing enrolment, decreasing tenured faculty, decreasing adjunct stipends, and preventing part-time students from taking more than one course per semester (tell that to the person whose salary depends on completing her M.Ed.). These are the same bean-counters that wanted to introduce the concept of indentured servants to the funded cohort at OISE (“no impact,” they said, even though it means that a student would be tied to a professor they have never met for the duration of their degree) because that’s the way they do it in many science faculties.

Without doctoral research in History and Philosophy of Education (which, of course, attracts the Master’s research before it) the understanding of educational context withers and dies. Thus, that which creates meaning to current practices goes by the wayside, and most important, what fundamentally enables us to query and probe why we are doing what we are doing, and whether it’s still relevant, vanishes. Perhaps the status quo is acceptable to Dean Gaskell – after all, people are still paying to be taught how to be good 19th-century schoolmarms, albeit with fancier  tech. But (and this is where it gets personal) were it not for a doctoral thesis produced by graduate of H&P at OISE (on Plato, of all things), I wouldn’t have been able to state No Educator Left Behind [link to video on the weblog] (that has garnered attention among thousands of educators throughout North America), and quite literally, the foundational work that led to Valence Theory of Organization would not have existed, and thus, neither would my thesis. How about that? What I hope will be the Next Big Thing in business had its humble beginnings in the History and Philosophy of Education.

Yes, Dean Gaskell, it is a complex world – what you might perceive as a relatively inconsequential budget saving may indeed have implications far into the future that none of us can yet perceive.

Sign the petition to Save History and Philosophy of Education.

[end of post]


Mark Federman

Ph.D. Candidate

Adult Education and Counselling Psychology

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

University of Toronto

What are we thinking today?


Cc Corman, Hillan, Laufer, Sihra, Gaskell

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