Is Sydney University Able To Embark On Leading-Edge Educational Change?

Are we able to change our mindset amidst the predicaments for the future through a different learning?

“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”  – Robert F Kennedy.

Bach Concerto for solo keyboard No.10 in C minor, BWV981 after B. Marcello:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4jLYCOHdgc&index=1&list=PL8385A4790B425076

 

The University of Sydney is the oldest university in Australia.
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“We can’t change our past. We can’t change the fact that people act in certain way’s. We can’t change the inevitable. The only thing however we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.
………….Charles R. Swindoll……..
-(This  speech as such has not been delivered)-
President  Annie Corlett, Deputy President Brendon Casey , .. in memory as well of the late former President Mr John McLenaghan, .. Members of the Sydney  faculty, Professor Chris Murphy as Associate Dean and Head of the School of Medical Sciences and on behalf of the Advisory Board, – Dr Michael Spence as Vice-Chancellor (in memory as well of his wife who died last year) , – eminent guests, my old colleague Dr Sam Nelapati who prominently did build a practice where I left a different one, – men and women..
In times that education on Universities may get increasingly a tool of trade with large economic revenues on foreign students, on which – let it be said their right on proper education I only support, – I wish to say a few things:
Too much to say and where to start? ..
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Let me begin with reminding myself and you on something funny I heard the other day:
A mother in much disbelieve examined a new educational and academic toy. “It is rather complicated for a  boy, isn’t it?” she asked the salesclerk…There was a little pause of profound stillness…  “It’s designed to teach him how to live in today’s world, madam,” the shop clerk replied. By the way, the shop clerk finished Uni but did not find the job he wanted and had to start to pay off his study debts.. Mum was not aware of this.  “OK”, – she said. ..”What do you mean?”…Again a little thoughtful pause, but the answer came: “Any intellectual way he tries to put it together is wrong.”.. “Interesting ” , she said. “Where did you learn this?”, – she tried again… “From my Professor”, – he said. “He was the founder of a steam course”, – he added…..
Well, as you can see there is more to education than only provide students with a degree… But this anecdote can  be a reflection on both the Professor and the Graduate, – as they are available in various graduations…
Whilst the bottom-line for any University needs to be in place to fulfil a noble mission, – for some Universities, however, there is an increasing  shift on far more than the baseline profit , .. and far less on their genuine and original mission…
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It is  for this, with great pleasure, to say a few words on the still growing University in Sydney, – pioneered by Charles Badham,  a former headmaster of Edgbaston proprietary school in England.
If Charles Badham would be still alive, – I hope he would be able to relate on what I say here today.
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A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and soul of people and cultivating it we can, by choice, – through an education which is touching the hearts and soul of people as well.  It is at this spectrum from which we make decisions, and it is in those decisions where our future lies. For this reason it is not enough anymore to get education in a trade or any other profession only. It is not enough to be a plumber, a lawyer, a truck driver or a doctor etc, – and only being educated for this. The prime education at this level does not touch the heart to refrain from screwing up people. In politics it does not prevent people from deranging their own party or their own country, as that what they should have learnt, never came to them through broader education.
And this is what I want to discuss today, – in part.
I apologise if I get side tracked, but I do this at times for a reason, a good reason I hope……
By creating Australia’s first University in Sydney in 1850, the founders acknowledged the power of education to change society. They broke with the traditions of Britain’s somehow time-worn universities by receiving students on academic virtue, – and not on the basis of religion or social class. The founders of the University in Sydney faced society as it was in those days, and they believed that education could make a difference for required transformations.
This new Sydney University was a teaching model  for all with the believe that education may change society.
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This believe stood as strong as it still stands today.. Not merely education for the mind, but further education as well on the purpose of society, – and for the future of one’s country..
As one of the great pioneer in human service in Africa, Albert Schweitzer once said in the last century:
“The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their minds.”
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This is the baseline for any transformation, – any future education…
He did not only refer to modernizing the mind through education, but foremost to the expansion of the mindset through learning, as the mindset together with academic virtue clarifies both the direction and the measure of public service, the direction and measure of public support, – and all other domains of life.
The splendour of any university which takes this at the heart of the preparation of students for life, with all the specific questions and responsibilities in today’s society, with our response to the questions we face, – will continue to filter through education the ability to change society.. The last where this is required.. The last not on the grounds of academic virtue, though academic virtue helps, – but on the grounds of moral merit and integrity, – as the future is asking this from us.
As a society in Australia we will neither find sustained public motivation nor personal  gratification in an ongoing extension of commerce and economic growth, in a countless stockpiling of mortal possessions, in the diverse texture of national and international violence through often.. ferocity in human interactions, – with amassed media presentations bringing this to our day-to-day experience… The news on TV is often confusing and baffling.
We all know this, – as many of us have similar awareness of the dynamics here and around the world. In our restricted time space place reality, – we face the predicaments of this world, with again threatening and potentially escalating war in the Ukraine, potential conflict among super powers over e.g. 2 tiny islands in the South Chinese Sea.
Not to speak about various other risks, including cyber warfare. And apart from this the potential that ISIS is developing chemical weapons with chlorine to be applied in the first instance. Possibly as a next step dirty nuclear weapons via nuclear waste, if they are not stopped.
Global terror groups are one of the gravest security threats facing the world, if super-powers do not get there act together on mutual cooperation and not even risking now conflict among the most powerful nations  themselves, – on issues which can be resolved.
Settling disagreement, with goodwill, – with patience – and with determination is the aim, but it is part of the heart where those decisions are made. It is that part of the heart which by imagination gives direction, but often that part of the heart is neglected in education, because the element of justice failed to get closer to us.
As people, one may wonder whether the culprit in the recent Charleston Church shooting, in South Carolina, would have acted differently if education on its own would have valued more the principles of lawfulness and lack of prejudice at e.g. school. The last as the final option, besides family dynamics, to create value systems among youngsters. Helpful in those circumstances where young people “don’t get it” from home and receive e.g. a gun when they are 21 years old.
Whilst often we would hope people would respond the right way, often they respond in ways unaware to the personal and collective needs of our time; unfamiliar to both educated and moral virtues, with the required practical implications on the problems being faced. With this I return later to the topic of education in a broader sense. The last based on the premise that we should be a principle directed and/or orientated society, based on value systems such as integrity, honesty, lawfulness and fairness.
And that this is what we need to spread across our culture….
Education lacking virtue on consideration and due process as part of a genuine mindset is still incomplete, –  even if it produces the brightest tradesmen or academics.  Again, both tradesmen and academics are able screwing the system and other people.
On past events it’s a matter of being mindful on the historical reality, the subject often ..“the different mindsets” in history, – the culture in which decisions were made.  A culture made up by the tapestry of characters with each their specific education, but not in the domain I speak to you now.
Do you think this is relevant?…..or still relevant? .. If you disagree, may I ask you how many public figures from the past had in their education a blend of justice at the personal level, justice at the interpersonal level and justice at the collective level assimilated in their learning?.. And what was the result?
Why is this important?
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Today, once more, by increasing international tensions rather than containing localised tensions, every man, woman and child lives yet again under an increasing nuclear hazard, hanging by the slenderest of threads. And the solid reality is that this can be cut at any moment by an unintentional collision in the air, or an unintentional collision on the ground, or at sea, .. or by blunder, –  or simply …by insanity! …Not the sanity based on a “complete education” grounded in the principles of justice, avoiding prejudice, – but the insanity based on incomplete education, grounded around calculation, and revolved around prejudice, – and at times… filled with hate perhaps.. the narrow views.
We have plenty which should keep us together. Not being allowed to separate us on the ruling of not really forward-thinking leadership, – the last being  in place at far too many areas in the world… A world which has so much to lose in escalating conflict, – but also in a world with so much to gain when the frame of mind evolves along different principles than that it has done in the past.
Not that this world or our countries or our cities can be safeguarded from wrongful and immoral acts, – as proper law enforcement we need. Not that globally we can be free of conflict as historical sense and perception are not always the same, – but globally we can’t allow the insanity of major war and destruction!
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Hence the need, still, to stand strong on the believe and the power of both mindset and education to change society, which starts already at the age we begin primary school, which starts actually being embraced within the context of the family where we are born, – in the ideal situation.
Ideal such situation never has been, nor will it be. We see this everywhere. Young people today having more problems than ever before. Many families increasingly disrupted within the complexities of society.
However, education based on more justice in interpersonal dealings may give direction and a focus. Not the focus and the spirit only which is often measured by the average of the stock market index. Not even the focus only which often may be exalted by achieving the economic performance of the industrial sector of our country, – as the last includes damaging the ozone layer and enhancing climate change, like it cultivates the production of missiles. Besides, somehow, – the proclamation of violence on television and other media…
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The focus of change in society includes e.g. enabling health in families, and not restricting facilities or access. It is the protection of children where far too many prove to have been abused in institutions or elsewhere.
It is the quality of education with equal access for everybody willing to learn.
It is e.g. the ability in 2 leaders at a personal meeting … as it happened between Reagan and Gorbachev at the end of the last century, and reaching a deal against all odds, and against most advise of military leaders who did not believe in the power of genuine interpersonal interaction. This resulted in the breakdown of “The Berlin Wall”.
Simply,.. the list of examples is too long to discuss for now.. But it is all based on complete education, the last which includes justice at the personal level, justice at the interpersonal level and justice at collective level, –  and all this can be grounded in education which is helping youngster to prepare for society, which is helping students to get a degree and so forth.
And for all this we don’t need to go back to ancient Greek societies, full of creativity and wisdom, – both in culture and thinking…. but we can do it again(!), in our culture and our society and our world with the imperfections we face!
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More than that we know, we are not the product of our culture and Gross National Product, though real culture helps.
We are neither the product of our environment  nor the tool of the political design of our country, though in the positive they all may help.
We are the product of the choices we make, the thought processes at personal and collective level. On the last often which we see the ramifications on incomplete and inadequate performance in governments, for some decades already, – both here and overseas.
About this performance , often we can say: – it lacks justice!
Again, a nation’s culture resides in the hearts and soul of people and cultivating it we can, by choice, – through an education which is touching the hearts and soul of people as well.  It is at this spectrum from which we make decisions, and it is in those decisions where our future lies.
Democracy is as good as educated the people are in their thought processes where it comes to values and principles, and at large ..one can learn this at least in part through education, one can learn even the right mindset for the right time .. or not at all!
The world is full of problems created by men and those problems can’t be resolved by cynics or pessimists. We need people who can imagine things beyond their own horizons, based on justice. With educational and problem solving tools, besides the expansion of the mindset, – this may help to solve the nearly impossible, based on justice.
For this reason, again,  it is not enough anymore to get education in a trade or any other profession only. It is not enough to be a plumber, a lawyer, a truck driver or a doctor etc, – and only being educated for this. The prime education at this level does not touch the heart to refrain from screwing up people. In politics it does not prevent people from deranging countries, as that what they should have learnt, never came to them through broader education.
All this has to do with education, and as such reforms through education may contribute to transformation of society, as the leaders of the next generation then may be able to touch base on what they learnt in the past, – based on the dimensions of justice.
Our public forums, both in industry and politics, too often have been the battleground of people with more than a fair share in colourful narcissistic dimensions. And if we look at the world where historical errors are due to be repeated, the same happens again.
An adjustment is required with our task to shape both a generation and a world with more fair play, where those who are fragile are secure, those who are more powerful are both  legitimate and correct
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The last will not be possible during our life time, the last perhaps will neither be even possible during the generation to come, nor during the generation afterwards, – but let us at least begin. Let us start at least to turn the tide – and include education – as the swing of history is in a downward spiral. A downward spiral which can only be reversed by human efforts, where the sum of all cultures, all our actions, are either helping those willing to overturn the low ebb of history by proper human interactions, –  or in the worst case scenario enforcing the creation and the further breakdown of this world.
We are neither incapable on a new mission of change,  nor helpless in it’s achievement.
But by enjoying and employing all our joint efforts, – not towards conflict and potential eradication of humanity, but towards an approach of harmony, – with a mindset of humanity and reconciliation based on justice,  we permit an enlargement in the sum of all cultures.
And this is what we should take away from the University grounds, not the buildings itself, not the site, – but from the quality, the courage and the strength of the founders within the Sydney University, who acknowledged already at such an early stage the concept that true education may change society, and true learning includes the learning of a proper mindset where this is possible.
And as such .. mindset and education should be intertwined in any education, – and by its very nature I do hope that this longstanding University in Sydney will bring forth the splendour of such choice in the creative diversity being available.  This creative diversity once interlinked with the need for society to change, – may give rise to a shift in  the many thought processes being needed.  The last as a spreading model, – to line up education as a process  with the  different needs of our culture, our nation and at long last for our world.  A world with very different entities for so many new options.  A broken world with so many different needs.
On the long journey  of bending the arch in  human history towards more justice, there are many dimensions and  many colours…..
If we are able to apply this in education, the main contrasting colour lacking then, in this education, is …simply… both prejudice and hate!
Lacking hate and prejudice!…
And if people learn this already as kids, and education is guiding them down the line with at least some of  the dimensions of being just and justice in whatever trade they learn, whatever degree they get, – we bring forth a generation with both more justice at the interpersonal level, and with leading-edge justice at the collective level…
What do you think?..
Is this worth beating this drum???
Well again, a nation’s culture resides in the hearts and soul of people and cultivating it we can, by choice, – through an education which is touching the hearts and soul of people as well.  It is at this spectrum from which we make decisions, and it is in those decisions where our future lies.
I think it is vital enough to make a transition towards a broader way of thinking and asking at least:  In which way are we preparing our youngsters for the future?..
Leadership as such is not resonating with the world and the people as they are, – but from a deeper understanding showing the way to go.
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And as long as systems of education are unable to look at future systems of education, – they fail to take the lead at the cost of a future generation, – walking the same inflated pathways,  as we’ve done already for so long!
Makes sense?..
For this reason, lastly again, –  it is not enough anymore to get education in a trade or any other profession only. It is not enough to be a plumber, a lawyer, a truck driver or a doctor etc, – and only being educated for this. The prime education at this level does not touch the heart to refrain from screwing up people. In politics it does not prevent people from deranging countries, as that what they should have learnt, never came to them through broader education.
And therefore , with what I said in mind, and I hope you get the flavour(!), –  I hope from this perspective, some Universities may change finally inflated trends in the way they guide their students, like it should already start at primary and secondary school..
I hope in particular that Sydney Uni, in line with the pioneering thoughts of the late  Charles Badham ( who did start this University) will start to give education from this perspective a new flavour, – a new direction, ..and that other Universities both in the US and Australia may follow…. and more and more elsewhere as well.
Thank you so much!

   

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