Thursday, June 07, 2007

More on Claire's Graduation Ceremony

Obviously I'm biased, but I found yesterday's graduation ceremony to be just delightful. Many people find these things to be tedious with their endless speeches and processions. I love these ceremonies, the theatrical of academic work. I love the robes and scepters. I love the music. I even love the speeches usually. They embody our little world in its theatrical double; they suggest what we think the soul of academia is- venerable, decent, humane and patient.

The speaker was the Honourable James K. Bartleman, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. He talked for quite some time about the social and economic problems in Indigenous communities in Canada. Bartleman himself is a First Nation member and has done much work to champion the welfare of native peoples. His speech was a bit depressing in many regards- I had never thought of the Native people as a third world nation within a first world nation, but there's quite a bit to that. I think he realized that a large percentage of the graduates were in social work, and therefore would be treating society's ills, or in business management (and therefore creating society's ills). The speech was a bit bleak, and yet I had a sense that he was alerting the well-informed to problems that they were equipped to face.

There were approximately 150 students who received graduate-level degrees. One interesting thing, for me, was how gendered the student groups were. Claire has mentioned before that nearly all of the social work grad students are women. In fact, most of the programs that walked were either all, or nearly all women; with the exception of Business Management and Political Science, which were nearly all men. It was an example of self-segregation at work, but who knows if it is the norm. Overall, of the 150 who walked, about 115 were women, and approximately 35 were men. I thought it was interesting, but I have no idea if it's that way in other graduate-level groups.

I also thought it was interesting how often speakers mentioned the ''multicultural mosaic of diversity''. For Canadians, this phrase is as important as ''the melting pot of America'' used to be; however, nobody actually talks about the melting pot of America anymore. Canadians still take seriously the dream of a unified multicultural society... unless, they're from Quebec. From what I've seen, the Canadian mosaic of diversity is a bit exaggerated. However, I also think that the concept, paradoxically, is a better unifying and ordering higher value than anything in the U.S.- it's lauding of diversity is, in itself, normalizing.

The reception was also gorgeous and the food was well-catered. I've been to some of these things that have a full buffet and it's always too much. This one had finger foods and slices of cake. I'd have liked champagne though. Anyway, it was a great day. The students have all come a long way and listening to them talk gave me faith that this little academic world still works. Few of them have come as far as Claire has, and listening to her mother talk about how proud she is of where her daughter is today, I realized how awed I am by her.


Jen P. said...

Bartleman, eh? Glad you found him interesting. I've been underwhelmed by him (as a speaker), but he's had an interesting life, and is obviously a genuine guy who's doing some good things.
Congrats to Claire!

Rufus said...

I'll admit- I'm easy to please. I know that Claire was underwhelmed by him.