Wednesday, May 03, 2006

70] Missing Links in the Zahid Report?

Missing links in the Zahid Report?
Azly Rahman
May 1, 06 1:59pm


This government of the day must be congratulated for completing the Zahid Report.
I am sure it must have been a difficult task of coming up with good statements of guarantee to radically improve our educational institutions, especially in the area of promoting the nation to think and to cultivate good thinkers amongst the children of the future.

We are getting there, wherever “there” means.

We have major issues to resolve. Amongst them are the rising tide of mediocrity in our education system, the growing apathy in the nation’s attitude towards reading, the creation of ‘parallel governments’, the spread of hedonism that is destroying our moral fabric, the celebration of post-industrial tribalistic ideologies such as radical Malay-Muslim feminism, Black/Death Metallism, the hyper-modernization of the human rat race, the need for greed, the wildfire spread of deviant religious interpretations, the rising oil prices and basic needs that’s choking the lives of the poor, and a plethora of social viruses that are making our multicultural society sick.

We are overdosed with liberalism. In liberal overdoses we have prescribed ourselves.

A thinking and ethical society run by managers of virtue can be a good cure for these ills. We look at education as its fundamental terrain. We need to de-evolve from this deformity of hypermodern illiberalism by first crafting our own version of endogenous philosophy of development I call “kampong-ism”

"Education and social progress"

Education, the most contested terrain but least funded sector, will continue to be the most effective means toward social progress. Whosoever controls the process of educating, controls. Hence we see the control over the formal, informal, and non-formal process of educating. Hence we see the “struggle over the Malaysian curriculum” be they of the pre-school and post-graduate. Must education be political? Or must it be apolitical?

How do we educate ourselves with this idea that the greatest value of education lies in the education of the free man/woman – the ars liberalis? The Zahid Report is out as more issues are being debated in progressive media such as Malaysiakini, Malaysia Today, The Sun, Star, New Straits Times, and in hundred of blogs. These issues demand students and academicians to think deeper into the nature of government we wish to have in order to make our children and grandchildren true Malaysians who will become more tolerant, ethical, less greedy, least corrupt, and more humane.

The Zahid Report can be further improved in terms of its commitment to the teaching of critical and creative thinking. In order to do this, the University and the University Colleges Act must be radically revised and the Surat Akujanji for the Academicians must be removed of its two clauses. The two forms of oppressive mental structures do not have a place in a society that is now planning to send astronauts into space. The structures are a macro and micro symbol of mental oppression. The UUCA retards the development of political consciousness and the Surat Akujanji reduces Malaysian academicians into thinking beings constantly in fear of being paradigmatically correct in a society that demands them to be politically correct.

This ethos of correctness defies the spirit of Thomas Kuhn’s “structures of scientific revolution” in that paradigms shift when the old regime of knowledge can no longer explain new phenomena. Our old paradigm is breaking down. We need new answers. Many had expected that with the replacement of Dr Shafie Salleh we are able to see our paradigm of Malaysian academic intellectualism radically transformed. We had high hopes for the minister who believes in the culture of radical intellectual transformations. As a nation, we are at a critical juncture – whether to cultivate freedom of inquiry or to cultivate fear of intellectual challenges.

"Remove oppressive Akujanji clauses"

To further gain respect amongst the universities, the Ministry of Higher Education must repeal the University and University Colleges Act to encourage students to become politically active. Academics and activism goes hand in hand. Good grades and good grasp of issues will create powerful thinkers in our students. To further gain respect, the ministry must next remove the last two oppressive clauses of the infamous Surat Akujanji. It is a fact that academicians who stand by their principles to promote freedom of inquiry and who refuse to sign the pledge until it is revised, gets removed from the universities.

To further gain respect amongst the universities, students must be encouraged to think of alternative political, economic, and cultural systems. These must be foundationed upon ethics derived from existing transcultural philosophical systems. They must be encouraged to be politically involved so that they will be intellectually engaged in reflecting and acting upon the critical issues of the day.

The culture of intellectual discourse of any university demands that in the university administration and the students. We want to create academicians and students who are brave enough to challenge the status quo – any status quo. We want them to be able to comfortably defend points of view, whatever they may be. It does not matter if the perspectives they hold are unattractive or simply wrong ideologically or factually; at least they will learn to have a stand. If we continue to punish them for thinking, we as a government will be know as a totalitarian regime fit to be dismantled. If we allow academicians to be fired/axed/dismissed for refusing to sign the Surat Akujanji, we as a government in the area of higher education, has lowered our dignity educationally.

"PERSATUs must wake up"

I urge the union of academicians to wake up and get moving in initiating these changes for intellectual liberalization. They ought to demand for the removal of these symbolic structures of oppression. They are the role models for our students who need help in finding direction for our nation to continue to develop ethically. PERSATUs have been happily silenced by these structures of oppression. They have accepted their fate as merely followers in an environment where each one of them is expected to become leaders. They have been “hegemonized” and have lost their sense of what it means to be a “committed intellectual”.

Let us help this government establish a much more intelligent and progressive society conducive to the demands of the space age we are curiously entering. The rise and fall of a nation depends on the “critical mass” that develops amongst its intellectuals. If Malaysian intellectuals are collectively in fear of speaking up for their own plight, they will gain the quiet disrespect of the students. Victimized students and academicians will naturally seek help from progressive political parties, enlightened non-governmental organizations, and powerful lobby and interest groups that will not only support their cause but also help them replace totalitarian regimes. Any student of political movements and revolutions will agree to this proposition.

When the idealism and ethics of academicians are being challenged, they will wake up and speak up and act up.

Guided by the Zahid Report, let us resolve this missing link in our educational conveyor belt. As a society we will evolve gracefully in the mould of our own Social Darwinism. The origin of our species lies in its inert ability to be taught how to think – not what to think. Education is a process of flowering, not funneling.

Let us a now launch our own Sputnik in the way we educate our children.


Brickbats and praises for Zahid Report03:15pm Sat Apr 29, 2006

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