Schooled; Orange Crush; Two Solitudes

Schooled; Orange Crush; Two Solitudes
Illustration by Shen Plum


Ken Coates and Bill Morrison’s “The Uses and Abuses of University” (October) gives a misleading picture of the prospects for today’s graduates and the role our universities play in building Canada’s prosperity.

From 1990 to 2011, the number of jobs filled by university graduates in Canada more than doubled, from 1.9 million to 4.5 million, while job growth in the skilled trades only rose by 31 percent. Professional and management jobs grew by 1.7 million during this time, with 1.4 million filled by university graduates. The majority of job growth for those with degrees is in high-skills occupations; there is no evidence of increasing over-qualification of university graduates in the workplace, as this article suggests.

The argument is also made that while university enrolments rise, thousands of skilled trades and other technical jobs go unfilled in provinces where the economy is booming. However, since 2000 job growth for university graduates has well outpaced that for other levels of education. In fact, jobs for university grads have increased more than three times faster than for those with other education. And yes, that includes Alberta.

University graduates routinely earn higher incomes and experience more stable employment than those without a university education. During their careers, university graduates will earn up to $1 million more than a registered tradesperson or a college grad working full time.

Coates and Morrison’s argument does not reflect the facts, and may mislead young people, their parents, and guidance counsellors who are charting a course for the future.

Paul Davidson
President and CEO, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

I was disappointed by October’s cover story. A degree is more than just a pipeline to employment. It is a process of maturation and growth, which shapes students into thoughtful individuals and promotes lifelong learning. Students join clubs and intramural teams, work in communities, gain leadership opportunities, volunteer, and champion causes. They acquire a network of friends and a host of invaluable experiences that will have positive implications for the rest of their lives. Research suggests that they tend to be healthier, live longer, and become more active citizens than those without a degree.

By earning a degree, university graduates have made the best investment they can for their futures.

Throughout the recent economic downturn, employers have continued to value applicants with a university education: recent university graduates have an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent compared with 6.5 percent for college graduates and 17.1 percent for those with no post-secondary education. Students should visit their university’s career centre early on to explore all of the options available to them after graduation. A multitude of services are offered to help our students succeed, no matter their discipline.

Alastair J.S. Summerlee
Chair, Council of Ontario Universities
President and Vice-chancellor, University of Guelph

“The Uses and Abuses of University,” speaks to the “vast majority of students”—students who Coates and Morrison say echo their parents’ opinions and believe the reason for post-secondary education is to find a good job. What many fail to realize is that there are university students in search of something—a “something” that rests outside the domain of the workforce.

The purpose of universities is the production, promotion, and preservation of knowledge. As Andrew D. Irvine, a University of British Columbia philosopher, points out in “The Factory Model Has No Place on Campus,” libraries and schools take care of the latter two; universities must therefore concern themselves with the production of knowledge—hardly the mantra of a “job training institution.”

The humanities have never professed to be vocational. I can hardly pretend that my degree will guarantee me a job when I graduate. By Coates and Morrison’s definition, all I will have on my day of convocation is a mortarboard, a cursory knowledge of English and philosophy, a $56,000 debt, and maybe a job at Starbucks.

But I will also possess tools with which to further myself, and the discipline and knowledge to use them and to forge new ones if required. The value of understanding the nuances of society in order to better it far exceeds the excessive wages squandered on the ultra-consumerism that permeates Western society.

Sean C. Allingham
Undergraduate, University of Toronto

Orange Crush

Tom Jokinen’s “What Would Tommy Douglas Think?” (October) only confirmed my frustration with our political parties and the first past the post voting system. Stephen Harper does not truly have a majority. If our Opposition parties would co-operate, we could send him packing. But they won’t do it. Thomas Mulcair lives in his opium dream, with visions of himself in the PM’s chair. I don’t believe that will happen, and at the rate Harper is dismantling Canada there may not be much left to save. I have been an NDP supporter since I immigrated to Canada forty-one years ago. These days, the thrill is gone.

Dorothy Field
Victoria, BC

The first article in a mainstream publication discussing how the #NDP is abandoning the left.


Two Solitudes

Daniel Poliquin seems to think Quebeckers are so self-absorbed that we are oblivious to the Quebec bashing in national newspapers, to say nothing of Facebook and other forums (“La Province Narcissique,” October ). Reading his contemptuous prose, I couldn’t help but wonder: why the dismay? That Quebec nationalism is alive and kicking, or that some people in Quebec don’t rejoice every minute for living in Canada? (They don’t do that about living in Quebec either.) Surely Poliquin didn’t look far to find someone with the same attachment to Canada as his father. I could give him quite a long list if he cared enough to cross la rivière des Outaouais.

The Walrus has shown time and again its curiosity for new ideas and thorough reports, and it usually excels in that regard. I expect to read such prose in Maclean’s, the National Post, or the Sun. I certainly do not expect to find it in The Walrus.

Johanne Tremblay
Montreal, QC

This appeared in the December 2012 issue.

“The time has come,” The Walrus said, “to talk of many things.” Send us a letter, an email (letters@thewalrus.ca), or a tweet, or post on this website. Comments may be published in any medium and edited for length, clarity, and accuracy. Mail correspondence to: 411 Richmond St. E., Suite B15, Toronto, Ontario, Canada  M5A 3S5

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