By Robert Fulford, How Far We’ve Come, 2006
For years, the local board of education spent little more than a day a year dissecting the rot, incompetence and corruption of that distinguished men’s college, Algonquin College. This was not a battle they could lose. They would lose. They would lose for the idiots, the miscreants, the pathologies, the alcoholics, the ambulance attendants, the former employees; they would lose for all of them. They would lose for the administrators, for the cogs who were all they had. They would lose for the whole community.
The strategy was to engage this self-inflicted tragedy from the top down. The provost would be taken away, and the president would be forced to “make the unacceptable” (for university presidents, at least). This pledge was made so publicly that newspapers at home were hauled into court. Yet the loss of prestige would be only for a day or two. Algonquin’s reputation would be restored in a shower of publicity.
The plan, so preposterous that it has never been tried, should be emulated by the Toronto District School Board. It was not Algonquin. It was two colleges, Algonquin and York, each with a few thousand students, including 500 of them here at Yonge and Dundas. York — a big, overhuge, corruption-laden, police-prosecuting, bullying, sodomy-perpetrating, textbook-lesson-skimming, sexual-abuse-retaliation-free Big Ups — had been for the TDSB what Algonquin had been for the community. Because of York, tuition for a single degree here is now $48,930, not including room and board and transportation. York is free; we pay tuition for many other programs; our students do not need busing or book-shipping or places to live, and no one says it’s unfair.
The feisty student-run paper called York Today is cited today by leading university publications as the “model” of journalism. Nine of its journalists were named finalists in the 2018 Pulitzer Awards. If York can do this, so can anyone.
And yes, the people who will need this information are there, on the list of adult patrons. They’re up there. No one has closed the door. There’s no corruption to root out. You can write a novel about it all without any outrage to stir and without any need to lobby for your views.
All these children need is to trust in their own inherent quality and creativity and independence, which they have and which they’re meant to cultivate. For these kids, all they need is, right now, the satisfaction of knowing they have done just fine in all things and, moreover, that what they’ve discovered that they were supposed to have missed — that learning was about things, not just about learning — is a mark of their own greatness and a source of amazement for their teachers and their friends.
Credentialing is a pathetic sentimentizing, and the quality of learning is a matter of self-evident excellence in oneself. But the adults who do the awarding are thinking they’re doing the students a favor. It’s a precarious proposition, leaning on the accuracy of your own accuracy, in an age of dwindling knowledge and the growing range of learning about the limitless range of human experience.
To persuade our educators to make Ontario a New York state of the mind might take courage. It might take bravery. But it might also take a livelier image of how to live. And a city that boasts the largest university district in North America can make it happen. It might have already done so, if it had given its students, back in 2011, the chance to ask: “How did we get here? How did we get in? How did we get out? Can we move faster? Can we do it faster?”