On Wednesday, the National Post published a brief article by Ian Clark, School of Public Policy, University of Toronto, urging that Ontarians look to California for a “model” of the “teaching and research productivity” that ought to be extracted from its professoriate. Clark’s piece is here; my response in the form of a brief letter to the editor here.
For the letter to the Post, I held myself to 200 words. There’s plenty more to be said, and I welcome others to say that “more” here, in the pages of the National Post, and elsewhere. A study produced in the Fall showed that here at the University of Alberta those of us doing in research in the humanities and social sciences more than hold our own in field-specific weightings of “productivity,” but the regime of productivity that Clark would urge upon us is baleful, and predicated on a contentment with the problem that truly needs to be addressed: the underfunding of post-secondary education in Canada. Speak up, and speak up now, or find that the time for speaking up has passed — and that the time we need for our research and teaching have been further subject to the diminishing returns of “performance” metrics. The humanities cannot thrive under any regime that demands that we think in Productive Units; and while it is laughable that what prevails in a state that has been suffering from dire underfunding of higher education should be taken as a “model” for any other jurisdiction, if we don’t speak up Clark’s “submission to the government” is likely to prevail with those who have the power to execute, under the name of “public policy,” measures under which the “public” withers.
For further reading: Graeme Stewart’s 29 November 2012 response to Clark in Academic Matters, “The Perils of California Dreaming,” is here.