Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Against Academic Elitism

Many of my friends in institutions of higher learning will kill me for this. Actually even I would have done the same if I had a university job. And its not that I am averse to a university job. If I got one in future, I would be doing the same. So, until I get one, let me bitch about them.

I have a simple story to tell. People talk about the Haves and Have-nots of material resources in the world – the worsening divide between the rich and the poor, which is a serious problem. Here, I would like to highlight the Haves and Have-nots of Intellectual knowledge in our midst. I really appreciate all the excellent knowledge and theories that many of our academic institutions of higher learning are producing since ages. Ph.D.s after Ph.D.s of specialization and super-specialization bringing out the minutest aspects of life and sciences and being stored in books, libraries and hard discs. Discussions and debates in seminars and conferences dissecting the hidden aspects of everything under the sun. All this sounds very elating and enlightening for a student of a particular field. People get jobs after completing their Ph.Ds, and then promotions after attending conferences and publishing papers in the journals of repute. The entire careers of lifetime spent by producing more knowledge and theorization.

Let us flip the coin now. We have large tracts of humanity without any inkling of all that knowledge produced in the universities. People not following a bit of all those theories and debates being presented in the conferences. Not because they didn’t get school or college education. But because even after their elementary education, they cannot follow the academic jargon. More so because all that knowledge does not connect in any way with their day to day existence.

So, what’s wrong with that? Of course, specialized knowledge of any subject cannot be followed by everyone. But the questions is, what is the purpose of creating knowledge that has little relevance in people’s lives, especially as we still have such economic disparity in the world where we cannot afford to waste resources on anything other than filling people’s stomachs. After all, most funding for academic research comes from the taxpayers (in many countries). If it comes from the corporates, its only in affluent countries like the United States or the developed west.

(to be continued)