COMMENT

Please, leave education out of it

By Alexis Papachelas

Is there any chance of one day excluding one or two major issues dogging the country from the power games being played by politicians and the media? If so, we should start with education. In a few days, the students of certain Greek universities will be called upon to vote for new rectors on the basis of a new law which is based on the principle of universal suffrage. I don't know a single reasonable human being who disagrees with this principle, just as I don't know any person who does not believe that the crisis in Greece's universities is intrinsically linked to a web of interests that brings together political parties, unions and rectors. A web which was further strengthened by a law passed in 1982. Nevertheless, the socialist PASOK party, as well as certain newspapers known to be affiliated with it, appear to be supporting yet another student «uprising.» Well, I for one think it's high time we put the problems of education first. No disagreement, from either the left or the right, with former Education Minister Marietta Giannakou's reform bill can serve as an excuse for a political party to support blockades of universities, acts of vandalism, and the complete vindication of fascist minorities that have exacted such a heavy toll in terms of money as well as in education lost. The PASOK leader may want to project the image of a Chavez-like revolutionary when it comes to the privatization of OTE telecom, but when it comes to education, he needs to back his own ideas and opinions. However, he backed down from his own positions when it came to Parliament's vote on the controversial Article 16 of the education reform bill, and now he looks set to repeat it. Someone has obviously convinced him that such grandstanding will ingratiate him with younger voters, but his image as a leader suffers. The rectors also have their fair share of responsibility in this mess. If they want to behave like party chiefs interested only in their political survival, then they had better put up with the attacks against the university system. If however, as thinking men and women, they feel an obligation toward education and free tuition, then they should seize the opportunity presented by the new law. Greece has already paid a dear price for the lamentable condition of its universities. Our politicians, the ones who emerged from the system after the dictatorship, are ample proof of what standards are cultivated at the country's universities: fast-talking, TV-presentable, a deft hand at manipulating internal party situations, ignorant of what is going on in the world at large and with no sense of professionalism. An average university means poor public management, poor political staff and the fostering of mediocrity throughout society.

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