Chapnick offers some worthwhile suggestions on how to improve liberal arts degrees, but unfortunately spends too much time shaming arts students for their perceived inadequacies.
He does momentarily turn his attention to the government’s potential role in reforming liberal arts degrees. He claims “provincial governments need to avoid portrayals of post-secondary education as an extension of high school and speak of it instead as a demanding, albeit worthwhile, long-term personal investment.”
Chapnick’s recommendation is entirely incorrect. The provinces that are doing the best job of dealing with post-secondary education are those, such as Quebec and Newfoundland, that treat it like an extension of high school. This is not to say post-secondary education shouldn’t be taken seriously, but rather that governments should strive to make it as accessible as a high school education.
Chapnick’s portrayal of a post-secondary education as solely, or primarily, benefitting the one receiving it is incorrect. Instead, society as a whole benefits from more educated members. Distributing more government funds to reduce tuition costs is therefore a worthwhile investment for society as a whole.
The current tuition rates in provinces such as Ontario act as a deterrent for working class students to apply to university. Moreover, if these students do end up applying, they will likely have to work at part-time jobs, leading to tremendous levels of stress that other, better-off students don’t have to face. This offers an advantage to wealthier students, resulting in success in post-secondary education having more to do with privilege than merit.
Chapnick brushes this off, as he smugly claims, “part-timers should assume a commitment of eight hours per week per course and set the pace of their education accordingly. Those who are neither ready for nor interested in such a commitment should delay their university education until they are.”
Making education accessible is far preferable to Chapnick’s rather elitist solutions. This is likely why so much of the world has pursued this option, in stark contrast to Canada. Higher education in much of Europe, and a range of other states including Brazil, is entirely subsidized, and society as a whole benefits.
Liberal arts degrees do need improvement, but above all else they need to be made more accessible. This should be the first step government and society take in future reform.