Addicted to novelty since 2001

Canadian Studies?

Monsieur (Madame?) Diction over at Bene Diction Blogs On references an article in the Christian Science Monitor about Canadian Studies programs at American universities:

In an ideal world, they say, Canadian studies programs would be as strong at all American colleges as they are at places like UVM, Plattsburgh, Bridgewater (Mass.) State College, and the University of Maine, Orono. But considering that, according to Mr. Kirkey, only 55 schools currently offer classes in Canadian studies and only about 10 of those offer it as a major or minor (others offer it as an interdisciplinary class), this is indeed a long shot.

A degree in Canadian Studies? I hate to sound like the stereotypical humble Canadian, but what’s that about, eh? What kind of hoser would want a whole degree in Canada? Surely that’s the quickest way to get laughed out of any alumni society. “So, what did you major in?” “Oh, you know, Canada” (merciless belly laughter ensues). I suppose the world needs a handful of Canada/US-relations experts, but surely there are better ways to spend four years of your life.

10 Responses to “Canadian Studies?”

  1. donna

    While I don’t think it’s required as a major or a minor, I imagine there are some fascinating classes in canadian studies and, as an interdisciplinary class, would be pretty cool.

    That said, Womens Studies, Classical Studies, Family Studies, Peace & Conflict Studies, Latin American Studies, Environmental Studies and International Resource Systems are all interdisciplinary studies as well. As a Womens Studies student, I don’t see these as superflous at all — hell, I’m getting a much more varied degree than I would if I were to concentrate solely on say, sociology or philosophy, while still getting to take some classes in both sociology and philosophy.

    From the Langara website…

    “The Department of Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) currently offers two year Arts and Science Diploma and Associate of Arts Degree programs and a one year certificate program which provide multidisciplinary perspectives on a variety of topics. All IDS programs subscribe to the principle that exploring issues and ideas beyond the boundaries of individual single subject areas is stimulating and informative. Interdisciplinary Studies programs are also committed to offering students unique opportunities to develop their analytical and communication skills, assets which have widespread applications.”

    So, interdisciplinary fields aren’t just a one-subject sort of thing.

    To be honest, I’d be facinated by taking a Canadian Studies class in the US. That’d be an interesting perspective.

    But then, I’m also going to school for fun rather than for a career. I wish people would stop looking at schooling as simply a way to get a job, rather than a way to improve oneself. :/

  2. Darren

    I’m a firm believer that university should be a place where you learn how to learn, where your broaden your mind, when you experiment with new ideas, etc. However, that doesn’t mean that all university courses or degrees have the same intellectual currency. I wouldn’t complain about one course on Canadian Studies, but a whole degree sounds to me like a deeply-inefficient way to spend four years.

    I don’t see those studies you mention as superfluous. However, this degree is about one thing: Canada.

    Canadian Studies are particularly dubious because we’ve only been a nation for, what, 140 years. Yes, I know about the First Nations peoples, but from the course descriptions I’ve read, I doubt that they’re getting much play. So, for example, any studies of a European nation gets you at least ten times the history and social context than Canada does.

  3. Jeff

    Duke had a big Canadian Studies contingent at one point, and yes, I’ve heard that Canadian Stud is the US is a barrel of monkeys. I took one or two classes of it at SFU to avoid some more dodgy requirements, and although the ear-bleeding ceased not long after, it was a painful experience. I don’t oppose the idea of Can Stud, but the materials I read were so woefully patriotic and stridently 70s-era, there just seemed no point to bringing any real critical thinking to the stuff.

  4. Darren James Harkness

    I basically did a Canadian Studies degree at UBC, by focussing my major and minor on Canadian literature and Canadian history. If it’s done properly (avoiding the Margaret Ondaatjes, as Doug Coupland calls them), you can get a very interesting education. The trick is to focus on newer Canadian writers, and get just enough po-co (post-colonial) theory under your belt to go from.

    What I discovered with my Canadian lit studies is that Canadian authors are often far more inventive and experimental with their prose than American authors.

  5. Darren

    Well, studying Canadian literature is a different thing. That’s a noble pursuit (well, relatively noble). Based on the descriptions of Canadian Studies degrees I’ve found, I don’t think that they’re predominently based in literature.

  6. donna

    My point was that Canadian Studies is an interdisciplinary subject. Majoring in CDN Studies is like majoring in Womens Studies — you get an *extremely* varied education that just happens to focus on Canada.

    Really, I wouldn’t judge what anyone studies. I think any education is valuable, and it seems odd to me that anyone would look down on someone because of what their education is in. So someone wants a degree in Canadian Studies. Good for them, and good on them for expanding their mind regardless of what the naysayers say.

    Hell, with some of the reactions I’ve gotten from taking Womens Studies, I can relate.

  7. Darren

    While getting an education is an admirable thing, all education is not implicitly of equal value. How we judge various courses and programs may be based on sundry criteria–potential career development, interest, contribution to helping others–but we judge education like we do anything else.

    Personally, I can see a lot more merit in Womens Studies (does that get an apostrophe?) than I can in Canadian Studies.

  8. donna

    ah, that might be why I ahve the problem — I judge education based on “is it interesting to the person learning it?”

    I take womens studies (I have no idea about the apostrophe *g*) because it’s fun. I’m currently taking a class in Women in Antiquity, and while I’m not sure how my new knowledge of the soap opera that is hellenistic queens is going to affect my life, who cares? It’s interesting. I don’t want a job that has anything to do with womens studies — I like my current job far too much. I may or may not use my knowledge to contribute something to society. Whatever. :)

    I get a LOT of funny looks when I tell people I want a degree in womens studies. To most people, it’s fluff work that will prepare me for … uh … being a manhating dyke. Some of my family members questioned why I would take womens studies with the, “but you’re so smart! why don’t you take something worthwhile?” Pshaw. It’s education, it’s expanding my horizons, it’s interesting… therefore, it’s worthwhile. :)

  9. Wiki Wednesday #15 « Rivers Are Damp

    […] transferring somewhere where I could major in Canadian Studies. Really. (Canadian Darren Barefoot thinks that’s nuts, by the way.) So it’s pretty cool that this week’s WW is about […]

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