Friday, June 22, 2007

125] Universiti Malaya is not a McRendang University

UM - not a McRendang university
Azly Rahman
Jun 21, 07 3:00pm

I like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony - Coca Cola Jingle, circa 1970s.

"I believe that education should first be a dialogical tool to mediate and resolve the contradiction between Existentialism and Cyberneticism, between Cultures of Disabilities, and next be a Deconstructive-Reconstructivist tool and social force to engineer personal and social progress towards the realization of a personal Republic of virtue, ethics, multiculturalism, and metaphysics; to do all these so that human beings collectively may become educated to rise above hegemony, domination, and oppression and in the final analysis, journey towards a Pastoral and Natural self." - my philosophy of teaching, circa 2005.

Efficiency. Profitability. Calculability. Rationality. Customisation of products. That's McDonald's philosophy as analysed by George Ritzer in his work, The McDonaldisation of Society.

Those concepts embody the ethos of America's cultural-industrial complexes – institutions that feed on the desire to want what they do not need. Institutions that help ideologies evolve, capitalise, colonise, and imperialise. Is Malaysia entering an Age of McRendang universities in which homogenisation and customisation is expanding, so that even Malaysia's symbol of cultural-intellectual pride will give way to Trump-like real-estate venture?

The proposal - said to be just a rumour by the government - to ‘relocate’ Universiti Malaya (UM) is a symbolic move to deconstruct, restructure, anaesthetise, corporatise, and rationalise the institution. It is part of a "scheme to delete history of Malaysia's oldest academic institution" do a makeover of it, further institutionalise more sophisticated better system of command, control, communication, and intelligence (C3I) to monitor the process of institutionalising hegemony and one-dimensionality, and mass-production of human beings via the educational conveyor belt that characterize nature of diploma mills we have erected.

One billion served. One million minds schooled – trained essentially to follow rules.

Schooling, education, and training are three different concepts in education. Let us see what this means in the context of UM ever being relocated.

One-dimensional beings

We have not found a cure yet for the disease called 'modulitis' – one that packaged knowledge and presents courses as top-down packaged information to be shoved down our children's brain/mind/consciousness. We have not yet explored the Socratic aspect of educating our college kids. Like the half-baked modernisation concept we adopt so that we may then make a "quantum" leap into hypermodernity in our Leninist five-year Malaysian plan, we are doing that for our universities. One reform after the other, framed in the language of corporate change, disguised as a discourse of progress and competition – less for philosophical advancement nor cultural cooperation – have failed in our effort to embody the definition of a "university."

We have not resolved the problem of the increasing homogenisation of thinking we impose on our students. Nor have we resolved the ongoing issue of the systematic and systemic one-dimensionalisation of thinking of our faculty, coupled with the notion that walls in our campuses now have "eyes and ears". Nor have we critically analysed the impact of "corporatisation of universities" and the once designed our students to graduate in three years. We thus, as a consequence, have half-baked unemployed and unemployable graduates we unfairly rushed through the conveyor belt called college education.

UM – the "Columbia University of Malaysian academia" is yet to recapture its glory that was once build by many a profound scholar – Syed Husin Alatas, Ungku Aziz, Syed Husin Ali, Lim Teck Ghee, Jomo Sundram, Chandra Muzaffar, Fatimah Hamid Don, and many others who have become names associated with the word "gurus of Malaysia's scholarly achievement", beacons of hope and the few lights in times of darkness.

American sociologist Herbert Marcuse once wrote about the "one-dimensional man" produced out of the economic condition brought about by the ideology of corporate capitalism. Daniel Bell, wrote about the fate of culture of critical sensibility as the world marches towards post-industrialism.

Detachment from society

There is a Formula One circuit in Sepang. So is there the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. These are corporate industrial complexes that are part of the grand scheme of the Multimedia Super Corridor – a corridor of "glocal" imperialism [see previous column]. At the international level we have the International Advisory Panel and at the local level we have policymakers interested in profits at the expense of displacing local cultures and transforming minds into Malaysian cybernetic beings who are well versed in regurgitating "geek language" but poor in analysing the impact of "digital technologies" on society.

UM is strategically located in the area wherein the faculty and the students can see and feel what a society continues to undergo when political regimes embark upon phases of industrialisation and hypermodernisation. They can see contradictions in society and hopefully feel what it is like to be a "committed intellectual" like Jean Paul Sartre or Albert Camus would say. Like the location of Columbia University in the city of New York, which borders Morningside Heights of Harlem, UM inhabitants can still see the demolished Kampong Berembang, do research in Kampong Baru and Kampong Medan, and wonder in amazement what was the Petronas Twin Towers about and what classes of people shop in Suria KLCC.

We have become an urban society and seeing decay all over. We are in need of more universities that must not isolate themselves from the critical analyses of urban issues. My years studying at Columbia University – riding the Metro Bus and NY City subway daily to 116th and 120th streets on Broadway - is an entire education in itself. From the George Washington Bridge to Wall Street one could see and feel America's First, Second, Third and Fourth worlds – all in a Manhattan stretch. From the streets of Harlem to the real estates of Donald Trump onto Battery Park, you could see how much capitalism has "trickled down."

Daily, in my mind, theory and reflections dance, bringing my memories home to reflect upon the fundamental character of "cybernating nations" – a topic of study that became a theory I conjured and completed as a topic of dissertation. In my mind, field notes/ mental notes, get constructed in the form of mind maps to be expanded into longer notes to be commented on and coded and ultimately used in as data for Grounded Theory.

Let UM stay where it is, to stand tall once again. Like Royal Professor Ungku Aziz said, the suggestion to relocate is "insane and rudely unacceptable!"

Universiti Malaya will reclaim its glory. It is not a McRendang university!

1 comment:

Wintermute said...

What chance is there of UM's students being taught by a future Nobel Laureate? Well, a couple of cohorts of UM medical students were taught by Sir James Black (as he later became) who won that most prestigious of prizes.
The Nobel is only of value in the hard sciences as the non - scientific prizes such as Peace are worthless baubles distributed to Third World former terrorists and White Leftist nitwits.

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