When an intellectual cozies up to dictators

Is it feasible to separate political views and private behaviour from artistic merit? George Bernard Shaw is a perfect case study

When an intellectual cozies up to dictatorsTo most Canadians, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) may be a quaint figure whose primary distinction is having a popular southern Ontario theatre festival named after him. However, he was a big wheel during the first half of the 20th century. A self-described “downstart,” Shaw was born into an impecunious Protestant Ascendancy family in Dublin, Ireland. Leaving…

Curb the impulse to distort history for partisan purposes

History is not about judging the past or the people who lived it. It is about understanding how past events made us who we are today

Curb the impulse to distort history for partisan purposesEach morning, I peer out the window of my apartment at St. Paul’s Basilica, the centre of the Irish immigrant community that arrived in Toronto’s Corktown neighbourhood in the mid-1800s. Last year, I taught a course in writing about history. I used the basilica as a test case. If I were to write a history…

Using student job funding to silence critics

The Liberals’ latest decision means summer employment is now a testing ground for ideological adhesion, obedience and purity

Using student job funding to silence criticsIt’s tough work to imagine two groups more radically different than the Canadian Council of Christian Charities and the gays rights network LGBTory. So when both join the rising chorus opposing changes to what should be among Ottawa’s most innocuous programs, it’s a signal something significant is going on. The Four Cs, as the council…

Changing attitudes, changing platitudes

We’re rather smug in our belief that our modern take on things reflects a perfect and compassionate view for all time

Changing attitudes, changing platitudesThe federal government recently announced it will compensate people who lost their jobs or were otherwise persecuted a generation ago simply because their sexual orientation didn’t fit the accepted norm of the day. This perfectly reflects modern thinking, and the government should be applauded for the decision to compensate members of the military and other…

Breaching the fine line between teaching and brainwashing

Being a teacher means making sure your students are exposed to more than one perspective

Breaching the fine line between teaching and brainwashingThere’s a fine line between teaching and brainwashing. Teaching informs students about the world around them and helps them become critical thinkers. In contrast, brainwashing provides students with heavily skewed information that leads to one predetermined conclusion. It’s easy to mix these two things up if we aren’t careful. People who work in schools are…

Stop treating universities like they’re retail outlets

Universities should bring young people into the disciplines and rigours of an examined life, into the habits of careful thinking

Stop treating universities like they’re retail outletsWhile at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), I got to know a history teacher who was a passionate and self-proclaimed Marxist. She loved to talk about the inequality and injustices that plagued the city, the province, the country and, well, the cosmos. I asked her one morning if she wouldn’t mind splitting…

How to bring peace to Palestine

If we want peace and a better future for Palestinians, we must hold Palestinian officials accountable for their anti-peace actions

How to bring peace to PalestineThe Canadian government is sending $25 million of taxpayers’ money to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is uniquely dedicated to supporting Palestine refugees. But does Canada’s financial aid advance the cause of peace or impede it? Some observers say that UNRWA actively supports Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood movement dedicated to the destruction…

The fake news controversy isn’t really new

News reporting has always been susceptible to allegations of spin and slant, cherry-picking and calculation

The fake news controversy isn’t really newIt’s been a defining characteristic of 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump claims that all negative stories are fake news. The media indignantly responds by casting themselves as pursuers of nothing but the truth. They are, in their view, shining light in the darkness. Then, as with CNN and ABC News last week, the media egregiously…

Free speech is central to intellectual life, even at university

A report for Yale back in 1975 was clear about how to deal with people who interfere with free speech: suspend them or expel them

Free speech is central to intellectual life, even at universityExpression on university campuses is not as free and as open as it should and must be. Over the past year, universities have cancelled controversial talks before they’ve begun, mobs have shouted down provocative speakers after they’ve started, and students have faced disciplinary actions for speaking rudely or stupidly. Culture police have examined artworks for…

When speech isn’t free, society pays a high price

A recent incident at the University provides a glimpse of what the future may hold for Canadian post-secondary education – and it ain’t pretty

When speech isn’t free, society pays a high priceAt one time, universities respected free speech and the exchange of different ideas. Intellectual discourse and thought-provoking debates were viewed as healthy, vibrant and treasured. Unfortunately, speech isn’t nearly as free on today’s university campuses. Intolerance of opposing philosophies, and hurt feelings among the hordes of special interest groups, have come to define modern institutions…
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