Friday, December 12, 2008

Why political activism is good for students: on Malaysia's UUCA resolution, Part 1

TO: Students, faculty, educational policymakers, opinion leaders

I read with interest the latest decision concerning the University and University Colleges Act. Below are my thoughts published some time ago. It is a myth that students who are politically active will do badly in academics.

EXCERPT 1


We must let a hundred flowers bloom, not allow a hundred thorns to grow.

The struggle to free our universities continues. We continue to hear of witch-hunts on students demanding for justice and of unresolved cases of academicians being dismissed for speaking up and making a stand.We read of confusing statements on what a student’s role should be vis-à-vis the right to be politically active. We hear calls by our elder scholars on the need to repeal the Universities and University College Act (UUCA).

We continue to feel the apathy and indifference of academic unions on the issues affecting their intellectual livelihood. Let us set the record straight once and for all. Students and lecturers who demand their right to dissent are not traitors - they are patriots in the truest sense of the word. “Dissent,” said Thomas Jefferson, “is the highest form of patriotism”. This was the essence of the American Revolution of 1776 - a revolution that deposed a government that no longer served its purpose and the interest of the people.

The core business of students and scholars is to dissent, to differ, and to deconstruct prevailing truisms. Truth is tentative - to be tested through scholarly pursuit, dialectical-materialism, and Socratic questioning. Political truths do not exist in the mind of the academic. Only the co-opted intelligentsia would buy into that notion. The deteriorating social, economic and political conditions in Malaysia naturally demand students and scholars to speak up. What is wrong with that?

Study the life history of leaders like Sukarno, Hatta, Jose Rizal, Ho Chi Minh, or even Mahathir - they rebelled against their governments with the help of students. They went to the universities for support. The students helped put them into power. We are sending astronauts to outer space but we are chaining our intellectuals to the core of the Earth.

An inspirational video for students:



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