Some people have it really bad. Living in war-torn countries, many former academics find themselves scrounging for a living. In the United States academics tend to have it good—at least those who get jobs do. In my line of work it’s not unusual to hear them complaining of overwork, or of various aspects of academic life that are a strain. I know that can be true—I’ve been there. However, a recent story about Adnan Al Mohamad on iNews, tells how the Syrian professor had to flee and become a waiter and farm helper in Turkey. Until CARA found out. CARA is a British charity—Council for At-Risk Academics. They were able to secure Al Mohamad a university post so that he could achieve his potential.
Of course, academia isn’t perfect, as my many colleagues who’ve succeeded in it can tell you. But it is good for the world. Those of us taught to think deeply about a subject often feel what might be called a moral obligation to pass it on. Interestingly, in the “developed world” academic positions are on the decline and education is seen as an expensive option instead of the way forward. I may have been sidelined, but I’ve been watching this happen for decades now. Instead of organizations like CARA (many academics are at risk) those encouraged to go on by their teachers and colleagues end up disappearing in obscurity with crippling bills to pay for many years down the road. There are no safety nets and western society has decided education is a luxury rather than the path to a better future.
Somewhere along the line, as progress became equated with electronic gadgetry, we lost the desire to think deeply. Books are “products” that can be thrown onto a plastic screen and soon forgotten after read. We can gossip 24/7 through social media and never spend hours delving deep into a subject. We can move the economy ahead without stopping to think about the consequences. The world needs organizations like CARA. Better yet, governments should take on that role. Politics for some (most, of a particular party) is a means of enriching oneself rather than bettering the society that allows them to do so. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if education were the number one priority? Isn’t that what a rational society would do? Creating a world in which those who’ve personally invested in continuous learning could share it? Instead, we live in a world where academics increasingly require rescue.