Thursday, January 20, 2011

University of Toronto academics (and Linda McQuaig) angered by $35 million dollar donation

One would think that when an entrepreneur and philanthropist donates $35 million dollars to a public university for the purpose of establishing a top caliber school of Global Affairs, there would be cheering from people ostensibly interested in improving education and enhancing the debate about international issues.

But at the University of Toronto, it appears there are some staff members and their acolytes who are deeply troubled at the prospect of students being given a well-rounded education that strays from their "approved doctrines."

Peter Munk is the founder of Barrick Gold is one of Toronto's foremost philanthropists. His $35 million dollar donation to the University of Toronto to establish the Munk School of Global Affairs was intended to give U of T a program that could rival those at Stanford and Oxford universities. The purpose is to facilitate the experience and knowledge of students who can think critically and enable to them to engage with a variety of ideas and perspectives in order to contribute to addressing compelling world issues.

Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, as recent experience at U of T demonstrates, there are some academics at that institution who do not appear to be able to differentiate between critical thought and indoctrination. Their own views suggest that they are afraid that any thought that disputes their own should be suppressed and they object to Munk's donation to the university, ostensibly on the grounds that this is part of the "corporatization" of academia and that Munk may have "influence" on the curriculum.

It must be appalling for professors like Paul Hamel and John Valleau, and someone with the absence of a moral compass such as Linda McQuaig to think that anything other than Marxist perspective could inform political theory at U of T. The Munk School of Global Affairs is headed by Janice Gross Stein, who is as fair-minded and non-ideological as one could hope for in a teacher.

To give an indication of Munk's commitment to the open exchange of ideas, you only need look as far as the Munk Debates series he sponsors.

The Munk Debates have brought together people of diametrically opposing views to provide public exchange of ideas in which people can balance proposals and engage in something OISE students aren't exposed to: critical thought. The debates have been on subjects such as The Canadian vs US health care systems, whether religion is a force for good, climate change, humanitarian aid and more. Participants have included people with such varied outlooks as Stephen Lewis, Christopher Hitchens, Charles Krauthammer, Mia Farrow, Tony Blair, John Bolton, Gareth Evans and so on.

At the Blair/Hitchens debate, I met some Munk School students and they were thoughtful, balanced, intelligent people who were open to a variety of ideas.

Which is exactly what seems to bother McQuaig and the opponents of the donation and the Munk School of Global Affairs. Under the guise of wanting "critical thought," they seemingly want students to be able to have one type of thought and to be critical of anything that digresses from it. That could be called many things, but "critical thought" it ain't.

There are a lot of things I could write to make fun of the ideologues opposed Munk's donation and to ideas that contradict theirs. But nothing does the job better than this piece of news: The Toronto Star's blogger, Antonia Zerbisias, who without explanation backed out of being a featured speaker at the mini-hate fest earlier this week, is going to enthusiastically attend a full day of anti-Munk protest this Saturday.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think there is a TVO The Agenda program filmed at the Munk Centre and Linda McQuaig is part of the panel. The link below confirms her participation in a debate at the Munk Centre.
http://thevarsity.ca/articles/15375

Lavender said...

If one is to approve of facilitating "the experience and knowledge of students who can think critically and enable to them to engage with a variety of ideas and perspectives in order to contribute to addressing compelling world issues", perhaps it is appropriate that we should question whether the donor, Barrick Gold, has any special interest vested. To claim that the CEO of this enterprise is a philanthropist is questionable when you consider that the Canadian mining industry and Barrick in particular exploits natural resources in South America - on land expropriated from the local people via corrupt government officials - while taking advantage of weak labour and environmental laws. Perhaps you can forgive people for pointing out this hypocrisy. Keeping patronage as far away as possible from universities is in fact what makes for a well-rounded education - not the other way around.

Richard K said...

It reads more that you want ideas you don't like kept out of universities, which is entirely in keeping with trends in post secondary education, but leads to the opposite of a well-rounded education.

I don't know if you understand much about philanthropy, but I assume if you ever require the service of the Munk cardiac wing of Toronto General Hospital, you'll refuse it on principle.