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And yet another installment in the media campaign

May 15, 2010

by the shared visions group, this time a commentary attacking inequities in the UNB funding formula: “Fund UNBSJ fairly,” John P. Barry and Larry Cain, Telegraph-Journal (15 May/10, A7).

Now you won’t find anyone defending the UNB funding formula on this blog. The SJ campus has been systematically underfunded since its inception, above and beyond the systematic underfunding of the university sector as a whole, and that is just a fact. But one does wonder at the motivation of the shared visionaries, given that respect for the autonomy of PSE institutions has not figured very prominently in their pronouncements to date.

Let’s be blunt: this writer suspects that the visionaries are more interested in opening the UNB Act than in funding a strong and independent university campus in Saint John.

In other words, they want to cut UNBSJ out of the herd.

Why, is another question. The energy hub has flubbed, the “polytechnic” would have been an unmitigated disaster by any reckoning, and yet some cannot let go.

Okay, I have some visions to share (the reader can decide whether or not I ingested anything interesting first): I have a vision of a federal government that makes significant, no-strings-attached investment in education and requires provincial governments to spend every penny of that investment on education and to clearly account for it. I have a vision of a provincial government that accepts its responsibilities to the children and youth of this province and yet trusts the education sectors to do their jobs. I have a vision of the people who will insist on being capitalists to act like it and trust to that free marketplace they are always on about. I have a vision of a post-secondary sector where people are not forced to act like capitalists. I have a vision of a culture where education is valued as more than a credential. Where knowledge — which is not the same as education — is valued. Where freedom of thought and the expression of that freedom are regarded as signs of a healthy society rather than as threats. Where learning is seen as a social good that benefits all, like pre-ozone collapse sunlight. Where there is separation, not of church and state (though that is a given), but of bottom line and state.

I have a vision of business professionals who do not regard educators as the hired help, who do not regard the education sector as a service industry, who have a broader vision of students than as future workers and/or consumers, who do not mix up academic research with R&D, who do not feel complete and absolute ownership of public institutions simply because they pay (some) taxes, and who accept that universities are independent entities with the right to define themselves, themselves. And finally, who can at least envision, even if only in theory, that their view of the world is simply one of many. Capitalism is not the air we breathe, though it can seem that way, and corporate and business interests are special interests, not community interests.

I think the real problem is that learning is closely tied to democracy. If education is truly accessible, if people are smart and confident, then everyone has something to say, not just the few who own newspapers or hang around with those who do.

And we can’t have that, can we?

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