What we owe democracy
Universities are key to keeping our political system healthy
The U.S. midterm elections will most likely be dominating headline when this issue of the magazine reaches you. As I write, in late September, the outcome is still far from clear. But there are signs one of the two major parties will embrace anti-democratic messaging and tactics to a far greater extent than in the past.
Many influential academics have been sounding the alarm about the state of American democracy for years now. These warnings are being made in the context of a global “democratic recession,” reminding us that our own system of self-government is far from the norm. Instead, it’s becoming increasingly rare.
The postsecondary sector has a crucial role to play in shielding us from these illiberal winds. Far too little attention has been paid to this subject. A noteworthy exception is What Universities Owe Democracy, published last year by Canadian academic and Johns Hopkins University president Ronald J. Daniels. In it, he argues that institutions of higher learning help sustain the American system by supporting social mobility, educating citizens, protecting facts, and encouraging “vibrant pluralistic communities.” The same can be said of Canadian institutions.
Our universities also help spread democratic values through the education and life experience they provide to growing numbers of international students. But, as Matthew Halliday found in this issue’s cover story, government can do more to regulate the recruiting agents who help aspiring young people to pursue higher education in Canada.
In closing, I must reluctantly share that this will be my final issue in the editor’s chair, as my family and I pursue new opportunities on the East Coast. But, I’ll remain an avid reader of University Affairs. And I look forward to seeing how the highly dedicated team that produces this publication will cover a vital sector as it evolves to keep pace with a fast-changing world.