Toronto reporter and sometime journalism teacher Ira Basen is upset to discover that Cape Breton University has made itself Canada’s most successful recruiter of foreign students. He vented his disdain in a 45-minute takedown on the national broadcaster this morning.
How dare we? Cape Bretoners are supposed to content ourselves with fishing lobster and mining the few scraps of coal we have left. What business have we in any sort of academic venture, let alone one that has out-recruited far more prestigious Ontario schools?
Basen reports that some foreign student arrive in Cape Breton with insufficient language skills for university study (but glosses over the fact we’ve created a separate school to upgrade those skills).
To illustrate the point, he airs clips of a student struggling in a pre-enrollment language class, as if struggling wasn’t an inevitable part of immersion in a foreign language, a process familiar to any Canadian who ever ventured abroad to study.
Basen even finds a disgruntled CBU professor whose field does not attract foreign students to denigrate the program, as if internecine jealousies were not a universal feature of post-secondary faculties.
Had Basen looked a little further down his Upper Canadian nose, he might have discovered the pioneering role CBU carved out for itself providing post-secondary educational opportunities to Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq. That project, begun in the early 1980s, took decades of careful planning and determined execution. It helped lead the Membertou First Nation to its current status as a world leader in aboriginal development.
Had he been around then, Basen no doubt would have scorned that effort too.
What are the chances CBC Sunday Edition would have seen fit to produce this critique if the University of Toronto, York, or even Guelph were Canada’s most successful magnet for foreign students?
The recruitment of international students to Cape Breton is an unalloyed good. The biggest problem with the program is the failure of Cape Breton civic leaders, like CBRM Mayor Cecil Clarke and the island’s business community, to embrace the visitors and seek avenues for them to settle here.
CBU administrators and students should welcome these Upper Canadian sour grapes as a the perverse compliment they are.