Shortage of PhDs in Canada?

6 01 2010

Two days ago, I posted AHA data on the glut of history PhDs in the United States. Today, the Conference Board of Canada, the mouthpiece of big business in this country, has published a study complaining that Canada produces too few PhDs.   In Canada, 209 people complete PhDs out of every 100,000 between the ages of 25 and 29 . The figures in other countries are: the United States  289 per 100,000; France 259 per 100,000; and Japan 210 per 100,000.

Is this necessarily a bad thing? I don’t know. People with PhDs helped to plan the Iraq War.

Job Market News for History PhDs

4 01 2010

The American Historical Association has released statistics regarding the job market for history PhDs in the United States.

I’m going to quote some of the more interesting things in the report:

“Openings for historians working on the United States, for instance, fell by 30.3 percent, while openings for specialists in the history the Middle East and the Islamic World fell by a slightly larger 34.5 percent. Most of the other broad fields suffered declines of around 20 percent, including world and transnational history (down 20.9 percent), European history (down 19.7 percent), and Latin American history (off 18.8 percent). Only two fields saw declines of less than five percent—African history (down 4.4 percent) and Asian history (off 3.1 percent).”

“Unfortunately, the growing number of applications for each available job was not the only problem this past year, as an unusually large number of positions were cancelled after the job was advertised—and in many cases, even after applications had been received. Of the 338 advertisers that responded to the survey, 22 percent (representing 75 positions) reported that the search had not resulted in a hire by fall 2009. Of that number, 51 indicated that the budget line had been cancelled, 9 indicated that they were still trying to complete the hire, and the rest reported that they either could not find a worthy candidate or their choice(s) had taken another offer.”

“The differences in the average number of applicants in particular fields were also reflected in the satisfaction of the job advertisers and their success in completing the search. While close to 90 percent of the advertisers for U.S. and European history jobs expressed satisfaction with the applications received, less than 80 percent of the advertisers in the fields of African, Asian, and Latin American history expressed similar satisfaction with their pool of candidates. Openings in fields outside U.S. and European history were also less likely to have successfully resulted in a hire—either because negotiations were still ongoing or the candidate had accepted another position.”

The report also said this:

“One real alternative now for many history PhDs seems to lie in employment outside of academia. As our recent study of public history professionals demonstrates, history PhDs employed outside of higher education are generally quite satisfied with their jobs and earning salaries comparable to, if not better than, the salaries in academia. Unfortunately, very few programs prepare their students for jobs outside of academia, placing most of their emphases and expectations on preparing their students for the relatively small—and at least for the present, diminishing—number of jobs at research universities. Until programs reduce the number of students in their programs and revise the culture of history doctoral training, the sense of crisis in the job market for history PhDs seems only likely to grow worse for the foreseeable future.”

As I said above, this data relates to the history job market in the United States. If someone has equivalent data for Canada, the United Kingdom, or other countries, please send it to me so that I can post it online.

Quebec Culture Lessons for Immigrants

4 01 2010

A few days ago, the Toronto Star ran a series of stories by reporter Andrew Chung on the Quebec government’s new immigration policies. (For the benefit of my growing number of non-Canadian readers, I should explain that while Quebec is part of the Canadian federation, Quebec largely runs its own immigration system). Immigrants to Quebec must now sign a contract promising to abide by Quebec’s values, speak French in public, and attend a 90 minute seminar designed to inculcate such values. The instructor in the seminar visited by reporter Mr Chung stressed the rights of women and homosexuals, which prompted one Algerian immigrant to say that the hierarchy of rights in Quebec “goes like this: children first, then women, then dogs … then men”.

I don’t agree with everything Andrew Chung says in his article. For instance, he states that visible minorities are under-represented on Quebec TV relative to programs in English-speaking Canada or the United States. I don’t know if this is entirely a fair comparison, since almost half the population of the United States is non-white. Moreover, as someone who watches a fair bit of Quebec TV in the interests of improving my French, I can say that there are a fair number of visible minority TV personalities in that province, such as Gregory Charles. Nevertheless, the series by Chung is very interesting to me as a Canadian historian. In recent blog posts, I have spoken about the federal government’s new citizenship guide for immigrants, Discover Canada, and have linked to historian Jack Granatstein’s opinion piece on immigration policy.  Unlike the Quebec integration seminars, the Discover Canada guide says very little about women’s rights and is strangely silent on the issue of homosexuality.

I thought I would bring people’s attention to some online resources on the topic of immigration history. First, have a look at the relevant entries in the Encyclopedia of Quebec history. You should also check out historian Harold Troper’s entry for “Immigration” in the Canadian Encyclopedia.

Folks should also check out this article, which was published just before Christmas: “Quand la tourtière remplace le couscous“. Also have a look at the film Génération 101.

Charlotte Gray Reviews Two New Books on the Search for the NW Passage

2 01 2010

Historian Charlotte Gray has published a review of two new books on the search for the Northwest Passage.  Gray was the 2003 Recipient of the Pierre Berton Award for distinguished achievement in popularizing Canadian history. She chairs the National History Society, and is a member of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Jack Granatstein on the New Citizenship Guide

28 12 2009

Historian Jack Granatstein has published some thoughts on Discover Canada, the federal government`s new citizenship guide, in the Winnipeg Free Press. He had this to say about the new guide. “It is a vast improvement over the 1990s study guide that was a vapid embarrassment. Presumably, a new citizenship test will flow from Discover Canada. It might even be a real examination that questions applicants about Canada’s liberal-democratic values — and helps entrench those values in new citizens.”

This is a good article, not least because it talks about the Bouchard-Taylor Commission and the Quebec debate about reasonable accommodation and Quebec citizenship. Too many English-speaking Canadians have ignored these issues. I agree that the Discover Canada guide is better than the old guide, but this isn`t saying much. Eating grass is better than eating dirt. I also like how Professor Granatstein said the new citizenship test “might” question applicants about Canada`s liberal, democratic, and secular values. He was right to introduce a note of qualification and caution here. I expect that the new citizenship will simply test a few random facts. It is hard to test someone`s value using a written test, since people can always lie about what they really think.

Moreover, the Discover Canada citizenship guide is largely value neutral and says very little about Canadian values. It is a recital of facts, many of which are correct. Professor Granatstein writes that the guide “even includes a flat-out condemnation of honour killings”.  Well, honour killings are such an extreme example of a behaviour inappropriate in Canada that coming out against this category of murder hardly takes much political courage.  Honour killings are also  rare. Islamic parents forcing their daughters to wear headscarves, on the other hand, is a really common problem in some cultural communities.  Adult children being pressured into arranged marriages or being disowned by their immigrant parents for being homosexual are other big problems. Unfortunately, neither of the two major political parties has the guts to write a REAL citizenship guide, one that would condemn such practices. Instead we get a watered-down guide like Discover Canada. It is a sad sign of how overly tolerant Canadians have become that a short declaration that honour killings are illegal was considered a bold move by the government! I kinda like the Dutch approach, which involves showing prospective immigrants a video that, among other things, shows two men kissing.

One last comment. Professor Granatstein said that “we need to consider carefully how we integrate them [immigrants] into our liberal-democratic and secular society…” I note that Granatstein uses the word society here in the singular. It might be appropiate to refer to British society or German society, but Canada is not a nation, as the House of Commons has itself recognized with a 2006 resolution. Quebec is a nation, which means that there are at least two societies, if not more, in Canada`s territory. The values, traditions, etc., of Quebec society are not those of  rural Alberta or even Toronto. For this and other reasons, I believe that the integration of immigrants is a matter best left to the provinces. The federal government has little control over what happens once immigrants are admitted into Canada. Education policy, employment law, whether there should be nativity scenes at city hall, etc., are firmly matters of provincial jurisdiction. Most residents of Canada have little contact with federal institutions aside from the Post Office. The provinces are where it is at.

Life Expectancy at Age 65

22 12 2009

This neat chart from The Economist has been brought to my attention. The graph generated a lively little online discussion that ranged from the health benefits of picked soybeans to the merits of President Obama`s health care proposal.

Claire Campbell on the Failure of the Copenhagen Talks

20 12 2009

Prof. Claire Campbell

Environmental historian Claire Campbell shares some thoughts on the failure of the Copenhagen talks.

Claire Campbell in Copenhagen, Continued

14 12 2009

Prof. Claire Campbell

Canadian historian Claire Campbell continues to live blog from the Copenhagen climate conference:

“So initially I actually felt guilty for being at Bright Green, which is essentially an industrial trade show, because it felt – well, opportunistic. A case in point: one speaker pointed out that for the global South, sustainability is not a luxury; sustainable practices are “the path to affluence.” Great, I thought. Then he added, “And there’s a lot of money to be made there.” And I winced.”

To read more, click here.

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

13 12 2009

Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Artist's Conception

The Globe has an excellent story about the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.The story mentions that Stuart Murray, the current head of the museum, is the former head of the Manitoba PC Party. In 2001, Murray voted against extending adoption rights to gays and lesbians. The decision of the Harper government to appoint Murray to head the museum caused an outcry from gay organizations when it was announced in September 2009.

The website of the museum carries the following statement by Mr. Murray dated 27 September 2009. I have italicized the most interesting parts.

“I believe in the dignity and rights of all people. Human rights are not a static concept; they require ongoing effort to define and secure them for all people. I have always been open to opportunities to have conversations to foster my own understanding of human rights –the challenges, the triumphs, the common links between seemingly diverse situations and people.  I welcome the opportunity to meet with representatives from the LGBT community to a meeting at their earliest convenience to introduce myself to them, and to hear directly about their concerns.  I commit that sexual orientation will be an important theme to be explored within the Museum and will work to further develop the rich partnerships with human rights organizations and LGBT representative organizations, already begun by the Museum team, to ensure that the community is involved, engaged, and heard.
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will welcome people of all ages, genders, abilities, cultures, orientation, and beliefs. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will engage and empower Canadians and international visitors from all walks of life to combat prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination.   It will deal with today’s issues, today’s conversations, and today’s challenges.  It will connect with the past in order to influence the future.  The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is about our rights and our responsibilities.”

I have two thoughts.

First, should a human rights museum seek the participation of people of “all beliefs”? Is this statement literally true? I would ask Mr. Murray to think carefully about what he has said. I think that it would better to say that his museum should encourage the participation of a wide spectrum of belief systems but not all belief systems.

Second, while it is clear that conceptions of human rights have indeed changed over time, pointing this out does not tell us the extent to which we should judge the actions of previous generations and different societies according to our own values. Stressing that human rights are not “a static concept” could place one on the slippery slope to moral relativism. To use an extreme example, many whites in the Confederate States of America thought that the abolition of slavery would be an assault on their fundamental rights, including the right to own property they have acquired lawfully. To what extent should a museum curator respect their viewpoint, which was doubtless held with great sincerity?

As Peter Novick points out in his book, That Noble Dream: The ‘Objectivity Question’ and the American Historical Profession, page. 291 many American historians moved decisively away from moral relativism after the Holocaust. Many intellectuals in this period came to the view that Western liberal democracies should indeed impose their values, their conceptions of human rights on other non-liberal cultures, be it the US South or the Soviet Union or apartheid South Africa. An important corollary of this view was that historians should be more judgemental of human rights abuses perpetrated in the past rather than simply describing what happened in neutral language.

The curators of the museum will have to think about these thorny issues as they move forward in generating content for this museum.

The home page of the museum is here.

Sean Kheraj on How the Canadian Media Covered the Signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997

13 12 2009

In a recent blog post, historian Sean Kheraj shows that the Canadian media paid very little attention to the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. The Globe and Mail mentioned it on the front page, but in a little story at the bottom of the page. Apparently, the paper’s editors regarded the Kyoto Protocol as roughly as important as the health of Boris Yeltsin.

Globe and Mail, 11 December 1997