Speaking out about universities


Madam, - Ousmane Sembène, an inspirational figure in African cinema died last Saturday, June 9th, aged 84. His final film, Moolaadé, is an unambiguous condemnation of the repugnant practice of female circumcision in certain parts of African society.

John Moriarty, a unique voice in contemporary Ireland also died recently. His concerns were perhaps more lyrical. In his last book, Invoking Ireland, he evokes the struggle we face in contemporary Ireland between what he terms "the dark eye of the Fomorians" on the one hand and the "silver-branch perception" of Orpheus on the other.

Though emerging from seemingly disparate traditions, these two invaluable voices are in fact entwined, as they both seek to articulate their different perceptions of the human experience. They encourage us to ask important questions about ourselves, both as individuals and as members of a broader community. This desire to look beyond the obvious, to be unafraid to challenge the status quo, to remind us of what lies beyond the bottom line is a critical dimension of any healthy, mature society.

As anyone who heard the extraordinary contributions made by John Moriarty to the RTÉ Liveline programme over the last few months will attest, sometimes the most powerful and profound insights are provided by those in possession of the gentlest voices. Therefore, if we are to emulate the Tuatha Dé Danann who, as Moriarty suggests, "spent their time acquiring insight and foresight and hindsight", we need to wake up to what is happening to higher education in Ireland.

I completely endorse Prof Mary Gallagher's eloquent and inspirational condemnation of the current commodification of the Irish educational landscape (June 6th). A process of generic hegemony appears to be endemic across the spectrum of higher education. Instead of embracing "insight and foresight and hindsight", we are seemingly without any sight at all. Educational enlightenment is founded on the democratic principles of free thought, intellectual discourse and critical reflection. So what is it to be, then? The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake or the pursuit of the market for its own sake? The time has come for those who sing the Orphic note to sing a little louder in the faces of those who wield the swords. - Yours, etc,

RICHARD FITZSIMONS, School of Media, DIT Aungier Street, Dublin 2.