Alumnus Kalle Jämsén: Education is the foundation

At the turn of the year, I was in Berlin with my adult daughter. Our trip featured a satisfying balance of edifying culture and exploring the excesses of the post-Christmas sales. The city had an abundance of both.

While surveying the impressive collections of the Neues Museum on Museum Island, we often thought that it would be nice to remember more about history. That way we wouldn’t have to wonder and ponder what the things around us had to say, and what we could potentially learn from them.

Luckily I could still enjoy the beauty: the shape and material of the objects, the way they had been made and their possible function, the many different artefacts which expressed a desire towards beauty and good in addition to potentially having a practical use.

I knew from experience to be forgiving towards myself. It would be unreasonable to assume that we as average museum visitors would be able to absorb the vast amounts of information housed in an institution such as the Neues Museum. Not to mention the troves of data harboured in all the world’s museums and research institutes. At the end of the day, all I have to do is to walk around, keep an open mind, and look around me. And above all, remain interested.

Humanity benefits from individuals and organisations who have the opportunity or the clear responsibility to study things and phenomena in depth. They can even compete over who can best help us comprehend what has happened and is happening in our world and the universe. New research topics keep cropping up.

Disinformation is spreading around the world, often insidiously and perhaps more efficiently than ever before. It is being disseminated for selfish political, financial or whatever indiscernible power-hungry reasons.
Artificial intelligence is presenting humanity with a new dimension to solving a range of different problems. It also gives us cause for deep reflection, so we can prevent a good servant from turning into a poor master.

Researched, scientifically vetted and continuously evaluated information is a necessity. We already have experience and even research information on the impacts of disinformation and fake news. Societies must guard themselves against it.

An independent scientific community is needed to develop a balanced society. We must make the voices of researchers and scientists heard. The people who have sought positions of power are under obligation to follow and listen to the academic community. Ideological goals alone are not sufficient grounds for decision-making.

My career has been in cultural management. As a young arts student, I was told at the university that my education would give me the understanding and skills I would need to serve in a variety of duties in society. This is partially true. My understanding of the world did increase through my university education. I also gained tools for thinking analytically and critically. At the university I had an epiphany about how much there is in the world that I know next to nothing about. The skills I had been taught were sufficient to tell me that they were nowhere near enough.

Luckily my employers over the years have provided me with continuing education — both academic and otherwise. I have also had to acquire more understanding and vision on my own by reading and experiencing the world. By the latter I primarily mean seeking aesthetically rich experiences through concerts, literature, art and other exhibitions, theatre, dance, film and other forms of art. The impact of such experiences has been at least as edifying as the experience of learning new information in an educational setting.

According to a quote attributed to Einstein, education is what remains after we have forgotten what we have learned in school. A broad-based education is what makes us humanists. This is why the University matters.

#researchmatters #siksitiede

Kalle Jämsén

The author is an alumnus of the University of Helsinki, a Master of Arts and a veteran of cultural management. During his career he has served as the cultural director of the City of Järvenpää, director of the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux, communications director at Teosto ry, interim director of the education centre of Sibelius Academy, executive director of the Finnish Amateur Musicians’ Association as well as the executive director of Concert Centre Finland, in addition to which he has held several elected positions in the field of culture.

In the series Science Advocates, people describe the significance of research and research-based teaching for themselves. Read the other instalments on the Researchmatters website (scroll down).

Why do we need science?

The world and, thus, the needs of people and the environment are changing at an ever-accelerating pace. At the moment, we don’t know what kind of questions will require answers fifty years from now. What we do already know for certain is that solving these future challenges requires long-term research.

This is where science comes in.

For the sake of Finland’s welfare, it is crucial to safeguard our high level of expertise from early childhood education to the highest level of education and research. Our future lies in expertise and skilled specialists, which is why we should increase our investments in education and research.

Read more