Lahore - In a Third World country where people are scavenging for subsistence, the job of academicians is to promote an optimistic vision of life. The natives of Pakistan are confronting economic woes, psychological distress, social unrest and vindictiveness on daily-basis. This alarming situation calls for a Messiah who can provide solace to the distressed souls. All the university goers look up to their teachers for guidance, so that they can steer their personal ships towards prosperity. The teachers have to go the extra mile to pull the natives out of the morass of despair. Once all the teachers would discharge their duties properly, it would be easier to palliate the sufferings of the current educational breed.

A university teacher is driven by the maxim ‘publish or perish’.

The desire to climb the ladder of success necessitates publishing articles in local/international journals, making literary investigations of novels, looking for virgin territory for exploration and brushing up research skills all the time. The more the publishing, the more the chances to advance in the field of knowledge. Unfortunately, the university teachers feel more attracted towards establishing personal relationship with the top brass of the university. This is tantamount to making a Faustian compromise ---- giving one’s soul to the devil for self-aggrandizement. Literary achievements, publishing, scholarly pursuits define the greatness of a teacher, not his sense of relationship with the higher ups.

The academic top brass (HODs, Deans and Directors) can promote a culture of research under their guidance. The oracles of university can motivate the young lecturers to work wholeheartedly for getting their papers published in international journals. The pastness of the past interacts with the presentness of the present for the well-being of the whole community. A healthy coordination between the junior teachers and the senior teachers can cultivate a sense of refinement in the whole department. The students would feel motivated to make big strides in life under the tutorship of the experts. This can entirely revolutionize the culture of academia, which is currently heading towards artistic stagnation.

Remaining unfazed by the vindictiveness exercised on the rising teacher sounds fantastic. The moment a young lecturer takes down the gauntlet and resolves to make headway in the field through literary publications, his all-friendly peers hatch elaborate conspiracies to slacken his morale. Friendly relationships devolve into personal rivalries which leads to permanent hostilities among the faculty members. Jealously takes charge of a person and prompts him to start maligning the character of the rising teacher. This tall-poppy syndrome is present in almost 80 percent of the teaching slot, who give vent to their unbridled jealously at another’s success. It is necessary to learn the art of co-existence with colleagues, without becoming the author of someone’s downfall.

Dilettantes are the architects of decay in a society. Nonprofessionals are not led by scholarly pursuits, they gloat over at people’s misfortunes. Negativity is the characteristic feature of dilettantes, who could not prove their mettle in the literary arena. Inability to arrive at the intellectual level of a professionals makes the dilettantes feel psychologically inferior. Resultantly, nonprofessionals feel compelled to slow down the literary advances of rising teachers through wicked plotting. The higher ups of the university have to craft a mechanism to assess the true worth of a teacher. Once publications would be declared mandatory, dilettantes would be purged of the academic world. The university quality enhancement cells should sift the professionals from the unprofessional.

Faithfulness to the area of specialization is secondary to forging sweet relationship with the higher management. The touchstones to assess the worth of a university teacher have to be revisited. The teachers who possess scholarly turn of mind exhibit their scholarship in the classroom and in the literary journals. Lamentably, teachers with below-average grades stress on forging excellent terms with the higher management. It pollutes the culture of academia altogether. The motivational teachers mostly get sidelined on account of keeping a low profile, whereas the lesser qualified occupy the top slots for projecting themselves as scholarly beings. If the university managements continue the practice of devaluing scholars, the academic world would devolve into a snake pit for the upcoming generations.

Meritocracy should rule the roost in the academic kingdom. Specialists of the field with research publications under their belt should get quick promotions, so that the booming scholars tread a scholarly path for elevation in the hierarchy. Self-styled sophists should be kicked downstairs and made to work under the leadership of the specialists. Crowning ceremonies and dethronement of a head should not be the leading concerns of the academicians; their loyalties should rest with the subject they teach. In this way, the culture of rising to prominence by intrigues can be discontinued. The role of Quality Enhancement Cell in monitoring the performance of teachers can play a central role in the implementation of meritocracy.

Demoting the academic villains will give way to a new order. In this post-truth era, emotions should be kept at bay ironically. It is necessary to overthrow the old order that upholds sycophancy and devalues meritocracy. Professionalism should be the crowning feature of an academician. The teachers disseminating the light of knowledge to the next generation should possess a sound intellect, high moral values and the ability to generate productive discussions in the classroom. The light of knowledge is the strongest weapon to combat the darkness of the souls. Once the top intellectuals will assume the throne, the lower hierarchy will be swayed by the creative impulse to reconnect with the books. The march towards glory is directly linked with academic advancement and research publications.

 

The writer is a lecturer at University of Lahore