Sunday, November 25, 2007

Academic integrity

I have been pondering academic integrity recently. Yes, I have dealt with some tough issues with student plagiarism this past week that spiraled out of control and have really gotten me down.

But beyond these issues of academic integrity I am considering the meaningfulness of it all. How does one become a "public intellectual" who conducts research and social analysis in order to bring light to hithero unrealized facets of social reality and thereby act as a force for the healing, regeneration and upliftment of humanity.

My thoughts on this dimension of academic integrity are spurred on by the FUNDAEC model mentioned a couple of posts ago (which focuses on "intellectual preparation for social action") and also by Professor Jonathan Jansen who I had the privilege of hearing speak last week. Thinking of these two examples of academic integrity is giving form to two related ideas...

1. FUNDAEC: The rethinking of oppressed and marginalized peoples around the world. That it is likely not appropriate or beneficial to view them as hungry masses and a bundle of needs and deficits. Rather all of humanity must come to a realization of the infinite potential for all members of the human race as crucial agents of change in the world.

2. The second idea is the awareness that traumas that are also endured by perpetrators of injustice and oppression in the world.

This latter was one of the themes that Jonathan Jansen spoke about. He has been studying the white South Africans who perpetrated the most heinous acts during the South African apartheid regime. He talks of how his choice as a black man to study white people was a political act on his part. For so long it has been white people wielding their magnifying glasses onto social reality and defining and labeling the "other." Professor Jansen turns the tables in a sense and he studies his "subjects" with the most peculiar compassion and capacity for forgiveness. He now seems to be traveling the world with a message of racial unity and of healing for humanity in all the multitudinous and seemingly ever multiplying contexts of conflict around the world. He also unabashedly proclaims his Christian spirituality and seems implicitly to suggest that solutions to such intractable problems cannot but be spiritual in nature. I found his simultaneous call for justice and forgiveness and for facing head on the extraordinarily painful processes of healing to be quite freshly new and intense. All who hear him seem similarly moved into deep reflection on the implications of his thoughts.

He is also undoubtedly inspired by that great world leader Nelson Mandela who he mentioned often as he spoke. It is long overdue for me to read about him. How about this book? "Mandela: An illustrated biograpy" which draws on Mandela's autobiography "A long walk to freedom" and adds lots of pictures.

While Mandela is Africa's Martin Luther King, Steven Biko is Africa's Malcolm X. Have you seen the movie Cry Freedom? I remember being proud that it was filmed in Zimbabwe.


Blogger sashwee said...

I was just thinking recently that the people I am really interested in are the ones who have a cause. What good is academics for its own sake?

1:07 PM, November 26, 2007  
Blogger SAM said...

Hi! Just wanted to tell you that, after months visiting your blog, I've just linked it.

Keep on the good work making the earth looking like one single nation!

3:45 PM, November 28, 2007  
Blogger Pedagogical Criticality said...

Great post. I could feel the sheer agony and chaos that erupted during the plagiarism incident as you talked last night. How utterly disturbing it must have been; and yet, so many lessons and reflections are projected from the incident... BUT, isn't it amazing how God sometimes orchestrates events to prepare us for "disruptions?" While I do believe God to be sovereign and fully in control of all aspects of creation, I also believe that human beings make choices that are allowed under God's "permissive will." Those choices may manifest in "disruptions." Do you think that there is a possibility that FUNDAEC and Jonathan Jansen were breadcrumbs that God placed before you to prepare you for this particular disruption? It's a rhetorical question... BUT, I think its worth considering...

3:37 PM, November 30, 2007  

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