Part 1: In which era are we living?

Ethical citizens’ university

Finnish National Library.
Finnish National Library in Helsinki. PHOTO © Uusi historia ry.
Written by Editors

Up to now, radical social changes have taken place in the modes of production and in political power structures. As humankind becomes unified, the most important changes take place in educational institutions.

University reform is necessary

The most visible change in human development in the last five hundred years has been the  triumphant march of natural sciences. And the march goes on.

Thanks to western universities and the successful research in natural sciences, humans have gained an enormous amount of knowledge on how to exploit nature. At the same time, however, scientific and technical progress has brought humanity to the brink of self-destruction.

Current academic institutions and educational systems have not succeeded in teaching humankind to control its own nature, that is to say, to organise its inner relations in a way that would help us engage in sustainable development and avoid self-destruction.

As humankind becomes unified, the most important changes take place in educational institutions.

Universities all over the world are going through a change. In our opinion, what is needed, alongside the current universities, is a new kind of network between universities, university faculties, and research institutes. We call this network an ethical citizens’ university. To implement this new forum, universities need to reform internally and renew their relationship with society.

A synthesis of liberal and Marxist traditions

Our proposal is a summary based on the experience of the past era. For universities, this means a synthesis of the best qualities of the western university institution and the Marxist ideal of education.

Liberal tradition gives us the freedom to choose our research topics, freedom of expression, and the idea of seeking truth for its own sake. From Marxist tradition, we adopt the view, although reinterpreted, that some disciplines are ideological by nature, and the endeavour to form a holistic world view.

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The driving force of history: a toddler shouts ”But the emperor does not have clothes!” Now I add the following: go through the path of humanity, discuss its main phases, pull out the common thread running through it and thus conceptualise the current collective self-deception.

Some basic features of the ethical university

Here we present our central views on teaching and studying social and human studies in ethical citizen’s universities.

(1) Interdisciplinary study and research that tries to understand the whole path of humankind are needed.

(2) Philosophy must be in the lead. It is impossible to form a complete picture of the human path without studying all the essential aspects of philosophy.

And on the other hand, the history of philosophy (more broadly, the history of ideas and culture) should be approached from a specific angle to see how the new knowledge on prehistoric, historical, and modern times confirm and explain some philosophical ideas – and overturn others.

(3) The ideological nature of research topics is recognised. Therefore, organising debates is the most important teaching method, and personal participation in debates is the most important learning method. By this, we do not mean the tradition familiar mainly from American universities, competitive debating. In the ethical university, the question is not of “who wins the debate” but “who argues most honestly”.

(4) University reformation means, first of all, that the relationship between universities and political parties changes. Universities should organise free and open-to-all courses which bring universities and ideological and political movements closer together.

These kind of open courses in universities, adult education centres, and similar educational institutions all over the world will, in the future, form the heart of the global ethical civil society.

Gradually, the ultimate goal of the university reform pictured here will come true: a global citizens’ university, supervised by the United Nations. Humankind will unite on the basis of self-knowledge.

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Finnish National Library.

Finnish National Library in Helsinki. PHOTO © New History Association.

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