05 Juli 2008

We don't even have the funding excuse

It bears repeating that Americans usually tend to be grossly ignorant of Canadians and Canadian affairs. Turns out that our phlegmatic brethren to the north have their own share of PC and associated difficulties. The following is an extract from an 1999 article by law professor Ian Hunter:

ON THE RARE OCCASIONS WHEN DEFENDERS OF UNIVERSITIES ACKNOWLEDGE THE SHAMBLES that their institutions have become, they quickly shift the blame to government underfunding, an argument that has a scintilla of truth. Education in Canada has been relatively harder hit by government cutbacks than, say, agriculture or health care, but the rot was deep and pervasive before the cuts began. And who can blame governments for not wanting to fund institutions whose product includes young people made semiliterate by "disciplines" such as semiotics (the study of signs and symbols in various fields, especially language; a modern-day parallel to, say, necromancy or phrenology), women's studies, and now queer studies.

And what of the students, the ostensible beneficiaries of the whole enterprise? Taught that there are no timeless truths, that all is relative, that the Western canon is the product of a Eurocentric, homophobic patriarchy, students now simply search for what pleases them in the university shopping mall. Toward the end of my tenure, I sensed that more and more students realized that something was wrong. Those who came to university strictly for commercial reasons — to enhance their job prospects — realized that few jobs beckon after graduation, in part, because employers have seen through the universities' propaganda and grow wary of the product they offer.

The more perceptive students become disgruntled long before graduation: by deans who are cheerleaders rather than leaders; by programs and whole departments devoted to interest group politics; by professors who cannot teach. But what can they do? When they first arrive, the university overwhelms them. By the time they see through it, most are near graduation and probably calculate that it is better to say nothing and go quietly rather than to besmirch the institution granting their degree. But "consumer dissatisfaction," as the marketers say, is rampant and obvious to anyone who talks to recent graduates.