Modernization and Reaction: Postwar Evolutions and the Critique of Higher Learning in English-Speaking Canada, 1945-1970

By Massolin, Philip A | Journal of Canadian Studies, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

Modernization and Reaction: Postwar Evolutions and the Critique of Higher Learning in English-Speaking Canada, 1945-1970


Massolin, Philip A, Journal of Canadian Studies


Higher education underwent the final stage of modernization after 1945. The Second World War had accelerated modernizing trends that were decades in the making. In the postwar era, universities in English-speaking Canada continued to develop as utilitarian institutions: they were funded by the public purse, responsive to both governments and the public at large, and perceived as the focal points for the continued material and technological advancement of society. The utilitarian university, in short, reflected the values and orientations of the modern world. As such, there was little room in it for the humanities and liberal arts, once the foci of higher learning. Nor did the university maintain its function as social critic or transmitter of cultural values. Signaled by massive enrolments, million-dollar budgets, and the unprecedented significance of professional and applied science faculties, by the late 1960s, the fully modern multiversity had arrived in Canada.

A major purpose of this article is to chronicle the postwar evolution of the university in English-speaking Canada. Even more important is the analysis of the reaction to these modernizing trends. Harold Innis, Donald Creighton, George Grant, Vincent Massey, Hilda Neatby and Northrop Frye were among the most significant of the postwar critics of modern higher education. While most Canadians were vaguely supportive of or indifferent to modernization, these critics deplored modern tendencies as being destructive of what they perceived to be an age-old university tradition and as undermining the basic cultural values of Western civilization. Above all, their self-imposed mandate was to call attention to the abuses and help reverse the effects of modernization. An understanding of the critics' views is thus important because it enables a fuller appreciation of the issues that underpinned academic modernization. It also helps one grasp the critics' own idealized conception of the academy, which reveals much not only about the substance of the modernity debate, but also the biases and cultural values of the critics as the latter relate to higher education and the greater question of modernization.

Les hautes etudes superieures ont subi la derriere etape de leur modernisation apres 1945. La Seconde Guerre mondiale avait accM&6 la modernisation des tendances qui prenaient des decennies a se realiser. Au cours de l'apres-guerre, les universites du Canada anglais continuerent de se developper en tant qu'institutions utilitaires : elles ont ete fond&s par les deniers publics A la demande des gouvernements et du public en general, et percues comme point de mire pour l'avancement materiel et technologique continu de la societe. En bref,

l'universite utilitaire refletait les valeurs et orientations du monde moderne. En cela, il y await peu de place en son sein pour les lettres, les sciences humaines et les arts lib&aux, autrefois au coeur de l'enseignement superieur. L'universite n'a pas non plus maintenu sa fonction de critique sociale ou de transmetteur des valeurs culturelles. A la fin des annees 1960, tel que caracterise par les inscriptions massives, les budgets de millions de dollars et l'importance sans precedent des facultes professionnelles et des sciences appliqu&es, l'universite entierement moderne etait arrivee au Canada.

L'un des objectifs premiers de cet article est de faire la chronique de l'evolution d'apresguerre de l'universite au Canada anglais. Encore plus importante est l'analyse des reactions face A ces tendances modernisantes. Harold Innis, Donald Creighton, George Grant, Vincent Massey, Hilda Neatby et Northrop Frye ont ete parmi les plus importants critiques d'apresguerre de l'enseignement superieur moderne. Alors que la plupart des Canadiens approuvaient vaguement la modernisation ou y etaient indifferents, ces critiques deploraient les tendances modernes, qu'ils percevaient comme destructives d'une tradition universitaire etablie de longue date et minant les valeurs culturelles de base de la civilisation occidentale. …

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