A Modest Proposal

Commentary, Education, Gerry Bowler

If you want to think poorly about your fellow man, you have only to read the comments section under any online article. In such a forum are seldom found restrained and the judicious observers; rather, this is where that part of the population which walks on its knuckles comes out to play. 

I was reading an article from the Winnipeg Sun which outlined the heavy cuts which the University of Manitoba will have to make in the wake of the COVID-19. Under such financial retrenchment, it is an inescapable fact that some hardworking people will lose their jobs and the quality of education will suffer but, to the mouth-breathing commentariat, this is good news. One such keen critic of the post-secondary educational scene rejoiced that those who took courses that did not add to the province’s financial prosperity – “academic egg heads”, he called them — would, at last, suffer. Our university, he suggested, existed only to provide job training for the professions.

I can assure him that, contrary to his expectation, thanks to life-time tenure agreements, not a single member of the left-wing professoriate will lose her job and all the departments which he loathes will continue unmolested. 

However, he has a point and, after many long years of defending a universal liberal arts education, I am going to surrender. My unlearned friend doubtless speaks for the vast majority of Manitobans who are willing to spend their tax dollars on producing engineers and brain surgeons but who recoil at the thought of providing money for permanent jobs for academics who see themselves primarily as activists in a battle to refashion western civilization in their own image. 

I have a set of proposals that will save Manitoba taxpayers millions and, at the same time, will preserve those subjects which I love.

Let me lay out my credentials first. I am an academic egg head. I have a Ph.D. in an obscure historical subject of no possible benefit to the gross domestic product of my province. I was a better-than-fair university lecturer for decades. I love history, philosophy, medieval art, Victorian poetry, French novels, and Byzantine icons; in short, I am a devotee of what is called the humanities and I believe that anyone’s life could be richer if they read more Dumas, listened to Mozart, and hung a reproduction of a Brueghel on the wall.

But I have come to the conclusion that the university is not the place to study these things. Post-secondary education over the past 30 years has been infiltrated and poisoned by well-educated enemies of western civilization. Postmodernism, intersectionalism, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, cultural studies, the linguistic turn, Judith Butler, the Frankfurt School, critical theory, ad infinitum, have combined to create a toxic stew that has gutted the humanities and social sciences and is well on its way to hollowing out the hard sciences as well. Anyone doubting me is invited to read one of these: Alan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, Jack Granatstein, Who Killed Canadian History?, Roger Kimball, Tenured Radicals, Heather MacDonald, The Diversity Delusion, Clinton McManus, Clio’s Bastards, or Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands.

Therefore, my proposals here will serve to rescue important areas of studies from university academics, reduce the cost of the University of Manitoba to taxpayers, and turn that institution into what the citizens demand it to be, a collection of professional trade schools.

  1. The Faculty of Arts will be abolished and instruction in the Humanities will be limited to introductory classes only, taught for the benefit of future dentists, agronomists, teachers, etc. It is important that everyone knows a sonnet from a sestet, Plato’s Cave, and a general history of the world. Instruction in the Social Sciences will be given by the professional faculties which feel they have a need for it. For example, Medicine might incorporate abnormal psychology, or Business certain aspects of sociology. 
  2. The Faculties of Education and Social Work will be abolished. After a preliminary year of Arts or Sciences, future teachers and social workers will be apprenticed to practising professionals in their field.
  3. Those who wish to study the Humanities out of a love of the subject will be encouraged to read books, take online courses, or attend a liberal arts college using a Great Books approach.
  4. Those who wish to be accredited for their study of the Humanities or Social Sciences in order that they might study it up to the doctoral level will be encouraged to take their act to another province for the taxpayers there to subsidise their fetish. The number of Ph.D.s already far exceeds the demand and this proposal will save young people from years of misery that they would spend in postgraduate study, writing articles on arcane subjects which no one will read, applying for poorly paid part-time jobs until they wake up one day in their 30s with massive debts, a receding hairline, child-rearing postponed, no job prospects, and a realization that a degree in Feminist Glaciology, Whiteness Studies, or Postcolonial Poetry just wasn’t worth it. 

The provincial government should not let this Coronavirus crisis go to waste. 


Gerry Bowler is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.