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  • Kaarle Hämeri
    President, The Finnish Union of University Professors


    The Value Discussion of the Present Spring

    In the end, the making of a decision boils down to the question of values. This is the case also in politics. Different political groups represent differing values, and according to these values decisions are being made, or at least attempted to be made. Quite obviously, there exists unclarity concerning values and value discussion in contemporary Finland, where the amount of voters unsure of their political and value-related stand has been on the increase during recent years.

    However, the main problem does not lie with the undecided voters, but rather with the changing and blurring of distinctions between values amidst the various political parties and their individual representatives. The uncertain voters wish to find a representative, whose values would coincide with their own. This has proved problematic.

    When I was a child, education was held in high esteem in Finland. The new comprehensive school system was on its way and education that was was free and open to everyone was one of the primary values of the society. To the parents, obtaining education for their children was among their highest priorities.

    The development of the society was also conceived as happening through education. The University network was expanding and one of the values of the society was to offer higher education and chances for University studies for the whole people. Values held a central position in the development process of our educational system. It was of course known that there was a statistic correlation between the levels of education and the standard of living in the society. But it persistently remained unclear, whether education and research resulted in a society of a high standard of living, or whether the high standard of living created a situation, where the society could afford to invest in basic research and high levels of education. In the end, this unclarity did not matter, because high educational standards, and a society, which invests significantly in basic research, were seen as important values in themselves.

    Education and aspiring to get it comprise an importan value choice. When the society chooses to cultivate education, it also chooses to support culture, scientific research and the teaching of the younger population with the best competence possible.

    I do not think that a research could be found that would point out the connection between being acquainted with the plays of Chekhov and being successful in one's business endeavors. Neither do I believe that the knowledge of quantum physics has been shown to increase the key figures in economy or to reduce unemployment. The society chooses to teach and appreciate Chekhov's plays or quantum phenomena, if values supportive of these are the ruling ones at the moment.

    Values, however, are not born in a vacuum. They are intrinsically bound into the structures and development of the society. Economic welfare creates posssibilities for educational growth, and vice versa. High level of education provides a perspective, which allows us to comprehend our society and to govern matters important to our welfare. Education also brings with it concretic competence, from which everything new of high standard is born. Further, at the risk of becoming guilty of using a cliché, education forms a bedrock, on which new innovations can be established. It is quite probably impossible to find a society, in which new innovations and thinking are flourishing, but which neglects its educational sector.

    This early Spring is once again suitable time for contemplating our values. We shall soon be choosing the decision-makers, whose values we trust and whom we hope to reflect our own values. Who are the ones that share the values of high educational standards, basic research and the teaching of the highest standards? Could this form the most important valuerelated question of this Spring?

    We can turn these elections into elections of research and education. We can choose a society, which values knowledge and competence, as well as invests in research and education. Education, however, means much more that reacting to the sustainability gap. We can make choices, which would presumably steer the state economy into the right direction. But nothing quaratees that these choices will direct us along the right course in the long run. In the end, the choices concerning where we invest in, where we make cuts, and how all these measures will be targeted at the various sectors of our society and population are for us to choose.

    They are choices based on values.

    Kaarle Hämeri
    President, The Finnish Union of University Professors

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