Toronto Now magazine racks, Shuter & Dalhousie. ~Moonwire on Flickr

Crossposting:: An abridged, less sociology-heavy version is here.

Notes from north of 49ºN.

Social capital is nothing new to ThickCulture, with quite a few posts on the topic, including this one by José, Trust is for Suckers.  When I teach sociology, I draw heavily on Pierre Bourdieu and have the class get a sense of how different forms of capital interact.  Cultural capital has always interested me {here’s a great overview of it by Weininger & Lareau}, despite going crazy trying to explain graphs like these::

Bourdieu on taste, using dimensions of economic & cultural capital.
Bourdieu on taste, using dimensions of economic & cultural capital.

I’ve used this very graph, but I’ve always wanted a way to engage students in a discussion of cultural capital that they could relate to.  So, I was catching up on Macleans reading and found articles on Canada’s smartest cities. It brings up an interesting question of how learning capacity affects the local economic development. The Composite Learning Index, using ideas developed by UNESCO, gauges a city’s ability to foster lifelong learning::

“Until now, Canada’s score had been on the upswing, from 76 in 2007 to 77 last year. Today that number has dropped to 75, precariously close to the lowest level recorded, which was 73, in 2006. The figures are based on the annual Composite Learning Index, which gives every Canadian community (some 4,719 in all) a score according to how it supports lifelong learning.

Here’s a link to a selected list of cities. Calgary tops the list at 89. In Ontario, Guelph, Barrie, Ottawa, Kitchener, and Oshawa all beat out Toronto, tied for 13th at 80.  Poor Toronto. One article compared Windsor, Ontario {languishing in the index} to Québec City {one of the most-improved}, with the latter on an economic upswing.

Quebec City’s unemployment has fallen markedly, from 6.8 per cent in 2006 to 5.2 per cent in 2009. And while Windsor’s total learning score was going nowhere, its jobless rate shot up, from 10.2 per cent to 15.2 per cent over the same period.

The story is a bit more complicated, given that Québec City had had 50 years to reinvent itself after its economy collapsed, while Windsor is still watching its current industrial base crumble. While the learning index may be a proxy for resilience of its population to withstand exogenous shocks and the trials and tribulations of everyday life, one fact remains is that those at the top tend to be growing cities with wealthier citizenry. This pattern also follows the “most cultured” cities.

While the index is a tool that can be used diagnostically to help policymakers make decisions on spending, comparing cities with a weighted score seems a bit misguided.  It would be interesting to create a Bourdieuean index based on his forms::
  1. Embodied.  The skills, abilities, & knowledge that someone has.
  2. Objectified.  The objects that transmit culture and knowledge.
  3. Institutionalized. Institutional recognition of an individual’s skills/abilities/knowledge.
So, the challenge would be to find good indicators of or proxies for these forms.
The Canadian Council on Learning created this graph showing the relationship between the index {as a measure of cultural capital} and socioeconomic index for Canadian cities.  While I do think that there are relationships between cultural, social, and financial capitals, I think the processes by which these relations are formed and fostered within various contexts {i.e., “fields”/”champs”} would be extremely valuable for policy decisions.

Correlation between the CLI and the social and economic well-being index, 2009
Correlation between the CLI and the social and economic well-being index, 2009

Twitterversion:: #newblogpost Hey Canada…How smart is your town? @macleansmag article on Composite Learning Index popularizing sociology? http://url.ie/1qkn  @Prof_K

Song:: Town Called Malice – The Jam