Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

A parable on the day SCOTUS recognized gay marriage

by Rob - June 26th, 2015.
Filed under: Milestones.

A parable for today. I went to what was then called Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, an unusual institution. Although granting bachelor’s degrees in many programs via the authority of the Ontario government, it was not a traditional university, and most of its instructors were recruited from industry.

Very few of the instructors back then held doctorates (precisely one of mine in all my time there). Some had master’s degrees. Some actually had no post-secondary education at all but were teaching in technical areas in which they were expert (my degree is in broadcasting).

But, in a bid to upgrade its perceived status, Ryerson had taken to calling its instructors “Professors.” My father — then a full professor at the University of Toronto, with a Ph.D. in economics — was pissed off whenever I happened to refer to “Professor Kufluk” or “Professor Desourdy” (two fine gentlemen who taught me at Ryerson, both of whom have since passed).

He was upset because the application of the word “Professor” to people who (a) hadn’t obtained the highest academic degree in their discipline and (b) had done no original research he felt debased the term: it cheapened what he’d achieved by robbing it of its original, intended meaning, a distinction for a teacher with the highest academic credential and who had produced a quality, defended, original dissertation and who had risen through the academic ranks to the top level. It was taking something away from him.

And you know what? That was a valid point of view. Agree or not, there was an underlying coherent argument against what Ryerson had done to the term “professor.”

Fast-forward a quarter-century. Today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the US Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage, reaffirming what was already the reality in many states, in all of Canada, and in many other jurisdictions: marriage is the union of two people who, in a commitment of love to each other, intend to build a life together.

Today’s ruling doesn’t cheapen, diminish, or reduce anyone’s marriage. There is nothing about it that is comparable to the widening of the definition of professor (spearheaded by Ryerson but so often seen now across North America to mean anyone who teaches at a college or university). Today’s wondrous SCOTUS decision takes nothing away from anyone else.

I’m celebrating it — I literally am crying tears of joy — but, even if it doesn’t affect you or anyone you know personally, you have no grounds to condemn it; it has taken nothing from you.

If you still don’t get it, Keith Olbermann said it very, very well a few years ago in this video.

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2 Responses to A parable on the day SCOTUS recognized gay marriage

  1. Yesterday’s SCOTUS decision on Obamacare and today’s on marriage equality may be the best things that could have happened to the Republican party re: the 2016 elections. They no longer have to fight the election on those fronts; these issues are settled (yes, they can continue to raise a ruckus, of course, but that’s not the wise course). There’s room now for a credible Republican nominee focusing on other issues (including the economy) to come forward and draw support from undecideds, independents, and the middle. You can already see Mike Huckabee foaming at the mouth, looking for some way to still have a role to play in the upcoming campaign. I sincerely hope the Grand Old Party recognizes this historic opportunity to course-correct and better focus its energies; democracy is the winner when there are strong candidates on both sides.

  2. My father, a Ph.D., never used the honorific “Doctor,” only “Professor.” He said he never wanted someone who needed medical assistance — an accident victim on the road in front of our house, say — to be left waiting because someone had wasted time summoning him instead of Dr. Jacobs, the “real doctor,” who lived three doors down.