Campus 2020: Thinking Ahead Report – Vision? What Vision?!

(this essay originally published on in May, 2007)

“April 23 – Murray Coell, Minister of Advanced Education and Minister responsible for Research and Technology was joined by special advisor Geoff Plant, to release the Campus 2020: Thinking Ahead report,. The report makes 52 recommendations to government on how to build on the strengths of British Columbia’s post-secondary education system and create a plan for the future.”

It was with some measure of anticipation that I looked forward to reading this 100+ page report last week – I assumed that such a report from a Ministry that boasted Moura Quayle as its Deputy Minister would aim to shake up the status quo with some truly broad-band, substantive goals. Moura, for those who don’t know, is a former Landscape Architect and former Dean of UBC’s Faculty of Agriculture. It was while she was at UBC in the last 10 years ago that she oversaw and lead the remarkable transformation of ‘Moo U’ to the ‘Faculty of Land and Food Systems’, an event that was as gutsy as it was visionary.

Alas, there is a distinct lack of substance in the Campus 2020 report beyond the axiomatic and mundane. Most apparent is its reflective quality, in this case, reflecting on every page an ideology that prioritizes economic rationalization over, well, everything else but especially social awareness.

Two main points come to mind to support this: One, the last 30 years of research into human learning confirm the primacy of Multiple Intelligences, Neurobiological (AKA ‘Brain Based’) learning, Constructivist learning and other theories, that add up to profoundly different idea of how humans actually learn, than earlier theories that preceded these. Think of the shift from kerosene lamps or candles to electric lighting as an analogy. The most important place for these theories to gain traction, I would think, is within organizations and bureaucracies that make human learning their order of business. Incredibly, acknowledgement of this paradigmatic leap in understanding of human learning is worthy of two sentences of lip service in 2020.

Neither is there a glimmer of recognition for the most profound problem of our time: dealing with climate change and a need to shift away from our overly-consumptive lifestyle. Not a word. Ni una palabra. This is an astounding abdication of responsibility from a bureaucracy that we presume would address such matters of societal learning. No wonder people are cynical about government and mistrust its claims of leadership.

If there is one area where this report and Ministry addresses social issues appropriately it is in recognizing the unique challenges faced by Aboriginal communities and learners, and positing substantive initiatives to address these challenges.

Overall, however, I consider 2020 Campus a very disappointing sleeper, cover to cover. At least I read the electronic version and didn’t waste any trees printing it out.

– Michael Maser


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