Life-long learning: the earnest value of a scholarship and its visible returns.
Some hundred years ago, the British writer, H.G. Wells was stating,
"human history is becoming more and more a race between education and
catastrophe" (The War of Worlds). Those of us concerned by this race,
have our consciousness guided by the action of keeping the balance on
the side of education and learning.
Learning is one of the main keys for everyone to realize their ambitions
and meet their life expectation. Whatever one’s age or expertise
learning is life-long.
All the Ithaka Foundation’s programmes have been developed and will
be pursued in accordance to the principle of learning/ training, as we
view education as providing a wealth of engaging opportunities providing
our stakeholders with the skills to develop as lifelong learners.
Be it scholarship or exchange programmes, EU awareness or the development
of a corporate responsible behaviour at the work place, learning is the
core and foundation of our philosophy.
Inspired by the generation of 1848 Romanian patriots who, upon completing
their studies in the West, returned home to build the basis of the modern
Romanian state, the Ithaka Foundation aims to be one of the actors working
to create a new generation of modern, forward-looking Romanians who can
lead the country into a democratic and prosperous 21st century.
Looking more broadly at the current state of affairs, and placing ourselves
in the perspective of the very achievement that just this month Romania
will very likely be invited to join the North Atlantic Alliance, and looking
back at no more than fifteen years ago and at the context of the past
fifty years, what is one to say, for example about the extraordinary success
achieved in the almost half century that began in 1945 and ended in 1990,
which saw what could in fact be avoided between two heavily armed states,
ideologically and politically hostile such as the United States and the
Soviet Union? Is credit for this undoubtedly remarkable achievement to
be given simply to political leaders in both those societies and perhaps
in others as well who saw the need for restraint, have preached it, and
have practiced it?
Or, ought one to acknowledge that in the absence of knowledge, these
heavily armed states might have restored the war, as others had done
in 1914, with even more catastrophic consequences?
How much did the study of arms control, supported initially largely
in the United States, create knowledge eventually shared with others
that made all who possessed atomic weapons realize the hazards of their
use? How much were the control systems, devised by the great powers,
the intellectual inventions of scholars, men and women who understood
that the new weapons were not simply more powerful than those that had
existed before and would not be controlled by the legal procedures valued
by so many in the inter-war years who constantly preached the necessity
In any tribute to peace- makers, the name of Ralph Bunche ought to figure
prominently along with dozens of others. Known to have been foremost
scholars, they have worked to develop and implement those ides that
have recommended restraint. The institutions that have supported their
research –recognising the imperative need for new knowledge-must
also be recalled; these two, together precede the intellectual armament
that so greatly helped to prevent war.
Knowledge through learning has helped greatly to shape the opinion
of ordinary citizens, journalists, politicians, diplomats and academia,
professors, who all felt an obligation to speak or write on the subject.
The importance of that knowledge cannot be exaggerated; one may argue
that it did much to prevent war.
Where such knowledge has not existed, where scholarship has been weak
and fragmentary, journalism has been the mainstay of public opinion
and the results have generally been less happy. While it would be an
exaggeration to say that for example, the errors made in Vietnam through
for U.S. presidential administrations – those of Kennedy, Johnson,
Nixon and Ford-can be attributed principally to the paucity of knowledge
in the United States of the societies of South East Asia; Vietnam, Laos,
Cambodia, or of the country’s inadequate understanding of the
guerrilla warfare, such claim is not totally unreasonable. By providing
instruction to both civilians and selected military personnel in the
requisite languages, but more importantly in the politics, economics
and culture of societies fundamentally different from the American,
a major contribution was made to winning the war, but also, to a large
extent in keeping the peace. The intellectual profit the U.S. has realised
through this investment in education cannot be overstated. No comparable
effort was made before the war, during the war, or since the war in
South East Asia. It remains terra incognita for all, but a few experts
able to claim learning in an area that today embraces hundreds of millions,
if South Asia is seen to be integrally connected to it. (Stephen Graubard-
Professor History Emeritus at Brown University). That ignorance is unfortunately
replicated in other areas as well.
These are problems of the past that persist today. Looking at the world
after September 11th -a world where the circumstances that prevailed
after 1945 -yesterday’s defence solutions are not likely to be
useful in resolving the twenty-first century’s crises. How can
whole populations be instructed in the dangers that now impend?
Scholarship, one of the keys
Most answers to these dilemma presume a willingness to study the present
and to learn from the past, not only the remote times of ancient Rome
and Athens, or of nineteenth century France, Germany and the UK, but
also of the 20th century United States. One needs to always know more
about political and social systems, the fundamental differences in intellectual
and moral capacities and concerns, but also, or moreover, about their
intellectual and political understanding. For this, it is not enough
to study war and peace. One must inquire closely into the ideas and
values common in their time that made certain policies possible, and
others unthinkable. What institutional innovations were attempted in
the twentieth century, by whom, and with what success? How was public
opinion changed, and with what consequences, and for whom? In short,
at the moment, there is an imperative need to know the democracies of
today, no less important, perhaps than learning about regimes, groups
and individuals who for whatever reasons chose to threaten those democracies.
We have never been more privileged with respect to information; the
urgent need today is to know how to use that information to devise policies
to create again the sense of personal security and safety that so many
once imagined nation states were in a position to provide. That knowledge
is desperately needed and only institutions committed to social inquiry
can stimulate individuals to produce it.
Today, we need these individuals more than ever. Going back to global
security as one of the prerequisites of the development of our societies,
we cannot foresee integration in the absence of it. We cannot foresee
integration in the absence of the understanding of our role in the larger
world. Romanians have been known to give as outstanding names to the
world as any other nations, be it in culture, science or diplomacy.
A nineteenth century Eminescu, just like a twentieth century Titulescu
- to only state these two - have enriched their lives, and the universal
culture and society through exchanging education and melting in the
larger European scene, while leaving their most authentic contributions
to the world. They are our foremost motivation.