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So what's new and radical at OISE these days?

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Exciting developments are happening right now at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. Not the least of these is the recent appointment of international scholar Dr. Glen Jones as OISE's new dean. After a five-year stint by a previous dean who, among other things, upset the normal equilibrium at OISE by the unprecedented number of staff let go and after the uncertainty of a one-year acting deanship, you can almost hear the OISE community breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Understandable. Besides being a scholar with a solid reputation, Dr. Jones is a tried-and-true OISE administrator who has frequently stepped up to the plate before. As anyone who was around the last year can clearly see, moreover, he has a veritable talent for surrounding himself with exceptional team members. And he is a thoughtful administrator.

That said, Dr. Jones was interim dean at the fearful time when the threat against feminists at University of Toronto presented itself, and as some readers may remember, the responses of the higher-ups at University of Toronto, including at OISE, left something to be desired.

In this regard, in the initial statements about the threats which they issued to the U of T community, the actual nature of the threat was not divulged. That is, it was not so much as mentioned that people were being encouraged to shoot women. Indeed, it was not even divulged that women were the target.

Moreover, the guidance of U of T feminists, many of whom have long been world leaders in theorizing and organizing against violence against women, was at no time actively sought. Rather, guidance, such as it was, came more or less exclusively from the patriarchy (from the police force and from a forensic male psychiatrist).  

What is surely a related problem, at OISE -- once a valued feminist hotbed -- for a long time now, there has been little higher-up support for feminist scholarship. Which leads me to ask: What can we expect of a pro-feminist nature from the new OISE administration over the next five years? And will there be any degree of support for OISE's Centre for Women's Studies in Education (CWSE)? Or for that matter, for any feminist initiatives?

Herein lies an important test of leadership at any university, for despite how many capable women are advanced, without clear feminist directions taken, encouraged, and supported, patriarchy will be alive and well in the academy.

From the opposite vantage point, despite little funding, once again the Women's Human Rights Education Institute at OISE is mounting an important educational initiative this summer. In a three-part process, involving both online and in-person components, attendees will be studying how to use the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women as a tool for women's activism. Correspondingly, they will be receiving guidance with respect to whatever women’s human right projects they are planning.

On a different note -- something that should please all radicals -- there is now a resurgence at OISE of the radical approach to research -- institutional ethnography (an approach that actually allows you to map how institutions centrally create the problems with which individuals are locally faced). Besides that Dr. Dorothy Smith is once again delivering one of her legendary institutional ethnography workshops, what constitutes a renewed commitment, after many years of it lying dormant, Adult Education and Community Development has resurrected its institutional ethnography course, now called Introduction to Institutional Ethnography.

What is particularly thrilling, the course has gone through a major revision such that Institutional Ethnography is being combined with other radical approaches to research, with ways being pioneered on how they can work together to further social justice. Correspondingly, for the very first time with an institutional ethnography offering, included is the critical extension of institutional ethnography known as Political Activist Ethnography. 

What this means, in short, is research uniquely geared to serve activism in that it begins from the standpoint of the activist.

Another development worthy of mention, OISE is in the early stages of unfolding a privately endowed antipsychiatry scholarship. Here OISE without question is leading the world, for no comparable scholarship exists anywhere. And as those who have been following my blog articles are aware, psychiatry presents a major obstacle to health as well as constituting a major human rights violation. Nor is academia remotely innocent in this regard, for academia is one of the principle sites through which this regime of ruling operates.

As such, any degree of inclusion of antipsychiatry in academia, any inroads that can be made, including the creation of a scholarship, is welcome news. On this scholarship I will write more as the process comes closer to fruition. Suffice it to say at this point, what is not surprising given my area of expertise and my passion, I am centrally involved. Correspondingly, already the scholarship is generating appreciable interest. 

On a related front, this year, an unprecedented number of antipsychiatry scholars -- PhD students in particular -- have been admitted to OISE. And Adult Education and Community Development at OISE can now boast having the largest group of antipsychiatry scholars studying at it of any program at any university anywhere. The students are hoping to soon start presenting together at conferences, and they are each of them in the process of conducting or envisioning ground-breaking research projects. Examples of the stellar dissertation topics are: the colonization of nursing education by psychiatry; the central role of the pharmaceutical companies’ profit motive in the psychiatrization of our schoolchildren; and psychiatry's creation of the very violence which it purports to "treat."

Yet another promising development that has happened over the last few months is the rebirth of the Transformative Learning Centre (TLC). The Transformative Learning Centre at OISE/UT was always a tour de force, but happily, it has now acquired a unmistakably activist bent -- a direction reflected in its bold new name: The Transformative Learning Centre: The Centre for Community Activism. The hope, states incoming director and long time activist Dr. Angela Miles, "is the newly established centre will become a hub for the work of faculty, students and grassroots activist groups everywhere."

Finally, and on a more nitty-gritty level, with admissions grinding to a halt, two OISE programs have extended their admissions deadline. These are the Masters of Education (MEd program) in Adult Education and Community Development and the Doctor of Education (EdD) program in Educational Leadership and Policy.

An open house, where prospective applicants can learn more about the programs and how to apply is being held June 21 from 5:30-7:00 on seventh floor at OISE (252 Bloor West) in Adult Education's historic peace lounge; and the relevant deadlines have been extended to July 4. For further application information, see here.

In ending, to provide you with a brief glimpse into these two very different programs: You will have seen traces of Adult Education already in this article, as, for all intents and purposes, this is the home of the Transformative Learning Centre: Centre for Community Activism (as well as a number of other cutting edge centres); this is likewise the home of institutional ethnography at University of Toronto; moreover, this is the primary location where the expansion of antipsychiatry research is happening.

The official description of the ever radical Adult Education and Community Development program at OISE reads as follows:

Adult Education and Community Development:

Deeply committed to social justice and activism, this program focuses on learning that happens individually and collectively among adults in communities, workplaces, social movements, the street, and the virtual world – any place where people come together to create social change. The AECD program has four academic streams: community development, workplace learning, Aboriginal education, and global education. Our graduates work with newcomers, youth, women’s groups LGBTQ agencies, organized labour, racialized people, and disenfranchised communities in positions that involve community engagement and education, policy development, leadership, mentorship, and organizational development. In the AECD Program, we encourage Indigenous, Marxist, feminist, anti-racist, environmental, anarchist, arts-based and other critical perspectives.

By contrast, Educational Leadership and Policy is a school-oriented program. Below is  the description of itself and its EdD which it recently sent to prospective participants:

Educational Leadership & Policy:

This program is devoted to the study and development of Policy, Leadership, and Social Diversity in Education. This program emphasizes PK-12 education in its research and teaching. The EdD degree is designed to prepare practitioners for leadership careers at various levels of the school system. This degree concentrates on those elements of theory and research that are of direct assistance in understanding and resolving problems and issues confronting practicing administrators.

Do either of these programs pique your interest? If so, consider applying. 

As for future radical scoops/commentary on OISE, including whether or not feminist initiatives start receiving the support that they so richly deserve and what is happening with the ground-breaking (I might add "gutsy") antipsychiatry scholarship-in-process, do stay tuned.

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