Ignatieff's 'education' - Macleans.ca

Ignatieff’s ‘education’

The opposition leader escapes a lie through clever snobbery.


Michael Ignatieff raised eyebrows this week when he proudly credited good old Canadian publicly-funded education for helping him get his start in life.

Before you could say j’accuse, journalists began pointing out that the young Ignatieff had been sent to Upper Canada College, that bastion of Ontario silver spoonery where school boys learn to be Old Boys. After that, the smarmy story kind of writes itself: Ignatieff, the PhD-toting, book-publishing, Harvard-professing elitist has pretended to be one of us.

Ignatieff’s handlers quickly fought back, saying that the Leader was referring to his education at the publicly funded University of Toronto, not UCC.

The problem is, the explanation only makes Ignatieff seem like more of an elitist. Only professors refer to the start of their education as the place where they earned their undergraduate degrees. If someone asks me where I was educated, I start with The University of Western Ontario, not Grandview Public School. Why?  Because in the circles I travel in, elementary and secondary school is where you bide your time until you are ready for a real education. No doubt Ignatieff was thinking along the same lines.

But most Canadians don’t get a university degree, let alone three, so the real political problem is not that Ignatieff was lying about his past, but rather that he was speaking in a register that most people don’t understand. That’s fine with me, but then, nobody wants to vote for me, either.

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Ignatieff’s ‘education’

  1. Ignatieff’s ‘education’
    By Todd Pettigrew

    I enjoyed your article and perspective.


  2. This is a dishonest article, and it’s slander to imply that Ignatieff was lying about anything, when he clearly was not.

    Obviously an anti-Ignatieff Harpo supporter, looking for an axe to grind.

    My niece’s husband went to Upper Canada College. He’s now in Saskatchewan, eking out a living, like everyone else. Why don’t you come up with a list of those who went to Upper Canada College, and find things wrong with them?

    Are we now to be discouraged from aiming for the best, and from achieving? What are your marks like in school, bucko?

    • Margaret accuses me of “slander” because I imply that Ignatieff was lying when he was not.

      First, when it is written, it is libel, not slander. Second, Canadian law exempts comments on matters of public interest (such as criticism of political leaders) from libel. Third, I didn’t say he was lying: my point is that the explanation for why he was not lying was to imply that his elementary and secondary education were not where he got his start, which, in my opinion, is kind of elitist. As I say above, that doesn’t particularly bother me because I am the same kind of academic elitist that Ignatieff seems to be, but it might have bothered others if they had seen the implications in what was said.

      Finally, to criticize Ignatieff is not to support Harper. I don’t want either of these men as Prime Minister, though it looks like we are stuck with one of them for a while.

  3. The Harper talking points go deep and wide. Really, when is intelligence bad? Just when our Conservative PM is considered wily & crafty (sneaky) smart instead of an intellect? When is education bad? Just when we have a Conservative PM that was a drop out from the same University of Toronto that his main opposition got a scholarship to?

    When is it a good thing for a country to have a Prime Minister that slimes, demeans, demonizes,and tries to destroy all that is or was good about the country he now leads?

  4. Someone’s got to talk Chretien into coming back…ahh the good ol’days…

  5. I gotta agree with YukonGale. Apparently all the education in the world hasn’t inoculated Dr. Pettigrew against the influence of political spin.

    Since when are people with good educations and outstanding achievements not “one of us”?

    Once upon a time, we could rely on academics to see through the divide and conquer “us and them” tactics of people like Harper instead of egging them on. I see those days are behind is.

    • Well, for the record, I did not say that Ignatieff’s education or achievements did not make him one of us; I was characterizing the view that some journalists have taken.

      As for whether education does set one apart, that gives me an idea for a new post…