On Campus

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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