Rancourt story presented at academic freedom conference in NYC
or on youTube:
Rancourt's thinking has been influenced by the works of Paulo Freire, Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Edward Said, Jeff Schmidt and Mikhail Bakunin. He identifies his political ideology as being anarchist.
Heavily influenced by the works of Freire and Schmidt, Rancourt has strongly argued for critical pedagogy aimed at confronting all sources of oppression. The key components of his particular approach have included: no grades (pass/fail systems), student-directed learning (via breakout groups where students decide what to investigate), anti-disciplinarity (by ensuring diverse topics are linked to each other, such as the connection between physics and war), and community inclusion (to allow students to learn from those outside the university and vice versa). In a September 2007 open letter to University of Ottawa students, Rancourt observed that:
Most students agree to give up their independence of thought and enquiry and to serve the insane system of due dates and senseless assignments in exchange for the certificate (the degree). Most students give up four vital years of their lives in order to be certified persistently obedient. This certificate, in turn, gives students access to a privileged position in the wage hierarchy and professional social status.
It’s a trade. But the certificate is not just a certificate. It requires survival and that, in turn, requires both adopting the ideology of the profession (for professional, science, and engineering degrees) and self-indoctrination to drive out the natural impulse to learn (often called setting priorities or time management). Your soul for a place in the sun.
Consistent with this outlook, Rancourt has fought most aggressively for his right to implement a 'no grades' evaluation policy in all his courses. He believes that with such a system in place, students will focus on learning rather than on how to adapt their views to fit with what they believe the professor's views to be in order to get high grades.
Rancourt has stated that the tenure-granting process is designed to produce obedient academics that question and challenge neither the fundamental sources of oppression in society nor the undemocratic governance structures of the universities they are employed in. He has argued that professors must use the unique privileges and protections offered by tenure to confront injustices and oppression, including within their universities, where they have the greatest influence and ability to effect change. Rancourt has written that:
One antidote to the university as boot camp in the service of capital is for tenured professors to use their tenure. This would turn tenure on its head, as it is free society’s coercive tool of choice for fabricating aligned and docile academics. Not the job security in itself, which should be available to all, but the filtering and moulding process known as the tenure track. But why not turn tenure on its head? Tenure is death, risk is life, and collaboration is criminal. Collaborating in an institutionalized system of resource looting, labour exploitation, and genocidal demographic engineering is criminal, especially when its ultimate weapon is the foremost crime known as war, such as the present Canadian war in Afghanistan.
Rancourt has published over 100 articles in peer reviewed scientific journals. His most cited works are in the area of Mössbauer spectroscopy where he developed a spectral lineshape analysis algorithm.(*) This formed a basis for a now commercial spectral analysis software developed in his laboratory.(*)
Work in his laboratory on the iron oxide hematite is well known (*) and has been cited in the recent works on the remote measurements of the soil mineralogy on Mars.
He worked on the physics of Invar for twenty years and in his last papers on the subject he claims to have solved the 100-year-old Invar problem of identifying the mechanistic origin of the alloy’s thermal expansion anomaly. His work in this area is reviewed here.(*)
Rancourt first described the phenomenon of polarized superparamagnetic fluctuations (*) which he named superferromagnetism.(*) Scientific author Steen Morup introduced the same name for a similar phenomenon. His work on small magnetic particles was reviewed in the monograph series Reviews in Mineralogy.(*)In recent years, he has worked on reactive environmental Fe-oxyhydroxide nanoparticles. In 2008, his laboratory showed that the structure of ferrihydrite published in Science (journal) is incorrect.(*)