Monthly Archives: January 2008


I was a professional journalist when I was 22 years old. Some of us probably have great-grandparents who were married, had children and were managing a farm before they were 20 years old.
Today, students bound for academic careers are very likely not to do any original research as undergraduates and then, in graduate school, may spend years gathering data for their supervisors’ research before they undertake their own project. Some time ago, it occurred to me to ask myself whether my students might not benefit from taking on a bigger challenge.
Since then, I’ve evolved methods that, as far as I know, are unconventional, but that I find help my students, both graduate and undergraduate to maximize the contribution they make to our research, while serving as an excellent teaching tool, and boosting their career prospects.
My method involves subdividing my research into free-standing sub-projects, assigning each student one or more sub-projects, and instructing them to do the whole project, from literature review, through document collection and interviews, to the production of a final draft. I tell them that I expect them to produce a draft that is as close to a publishable article as they can make it. In a number of cases, this procedure has enabled me to send one of my senior undergraduates to graduate school with a cv that already includes a co-authored academic publication.

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Coalition-building is the essence of politics. If you want to get things done in the political arena, you have to deal with people who have different views from your own on some issues, or maybe many issues, find objectives you can agree on, and work out a way of combining forces to achieve those ends.
This forces everyone concerned to make compromises they are less than happy with, and occasionally to keep company they would rather avoid, but the alternative is to allow others to set the political agenda. In democratic politics, there is no such thing as perfection: There are no princes, but if we wish to have a say in the making of public decisions, we still have to kiss a lot of frogs.
All these observations are true of politics generally, but at the moment, perhaps particularly germane to Canadian city politics, where, for a century or more, one coalition in particular has repeatedly dominated local decision-making and other potential political influences have frequently been sidelined, at least in part because they have found it difficult to make common cause with anyone except those whose views coincided very closely with their own.

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