Because it was easy to deduce who actually penned KN’s editorial of Sunday, July 8, titled “Higher Education at UG?”, and after I swept it aside with my response in KN July 10 (“Old views of universities are dangerously misleading”), a few colleagues warned me to expect a personal attack from the same writer of the editorial.
As predicted, the KN of July 17 published a letter supposedly authored by Mark London (titled “An embarrassment to anyone who has standards at UG”), who describes himself as a layman, but who remarkably knows both of the works of the American educator Ernest Boyer and the inner high workings of the Berbice campus. No marks for guessing who Mark really is.
An ego gone amok is not a pretty sight. And the fact that the letter writer hides his real name justifies also a description of him as intellectually spineless. How he flays about in his letter. Anybody can cuss out and “buse”. But not all can conduct an informed analytical discussion. I suspect “Mr London” felt his self-awarded title of lone guru of higher education in Guyana was under threat.
Yet he could not challenge four of my basic positions in response to the KN editorial. First, that a modern university offers a range of services and products to a variety of customers, other than traditional research. As such, the criteria for judging a university (a multiversity) must be broadened.
Secondly, he agrees with the Boyer model of scholarship, which I used to underpin the position that a fair assessment of lecture staff must give proper weight to criteria other than the narrow measure of traditional research (the creation of new knowledge). UG lecturers teach, apply research, design curricula, engage in consultancies, serve on state boards, act as advisors, work in professional associations, etc.
Thirdly, he could not oppose my statement that any discussion of research in Guyana that fails to examine the demand side of the equation (the absence of a real market for research in Guyana) would be incomplete and misleading. Mr London is only unhappy that I didn’t discuss why in my short letter. I will fill him in soon enough. My point, however, stands.
And fourthly, he finds no objection to my view that many university stakeholders demand of it competent graduates. He claims by some stretch that the KN editorial makes the very point. Fine. So, what’s his real beef? A difficulty to handle criticisms of his limited or incorrect views?
I must take time, however, to rebut his continued propaganda about research. Mr London of Berbice dismisses Exhibit A in my previous letter as evidence of research activity at UG: namely, the whole days devoted to the presentation of staff research on UG Research Day. He abandons his earlier claim that UG does no research at all. He now argues that “valid research is made valid when it is published” and no such research exists at UG.
This is nonsense on several fronts. For one, it wrong-headedly suggests that unpublished research is useless. On this score, I can only hope the cures found for plantain and banana diseases by UG at Berbice (as announced by its Director Daizal Samad himself in KN July 10) are not considered “invalid” if no academic paper was published on the discovery of these cures. Secondly, a research is “made valid” based solely on its internal design (its methodology, its theoretical framework, etc), not by its publication. What he should have said is that research is more respected or recognized when published.
Then thirdly, although he sounds like a man who would not only shift but run with the goalposts, I still would advise him to seek some facts on research output from UG Personnel Division. He would see that, while things are far from perfect, they are better than he would, for self-serving reasons, hope to find.
It was thought best in the past to ignore the wild attacks on UG at Turkeyen from the person who hides behind the cloak of Mark London. Maybe it’s now time to change approaches.
In conclusion, as I take it that the Kaieteur News does not place itself above taking advice, I wish to offer a bit. No newspaper should allow its editorials (where a newspaper normally exerts its greatest impact on public opinion) to be hijacked by guest or ghost writers who exploit the opportunity to grind their own axes or to push their own pompous personal agendas. What was equally negligent on the part of KN was that the contents of the editorial directly flew in the face of the newspaper’s own extensive reporting on the recent standoff between the UG unions and the UG Council and on other developments at UG. Stay vigilant.
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