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10 takeaways from Uni professor’s analysis of Malta’s state of mind right now

Criminologist Saviour Formosa has spoken his mind about the state of Maltese ‘millennials’ and asks whether the University of Malta is acting as the State’s conscience? 

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
13 November 2017, 4:00pm
Prof. Saviour Formosa (Photo: Chris Mangion)
Prof. Saviour Formosa (Photo: Chris Mangion)
Saviour Formosa greeted University of Malta graduands on Monday with a hard-hitting oration that called for the jettisoning of the students’ council electoral system and even university parking spaces.

Conscious of his millennial audience – the generation with “access to vast knowledge caches but compelled to tweet simplicities” – the professor said it was the University of Malta’s role to keep Malta’s sanity on the right track by acting as its conscience.

In this, he compared Malta to an ant colony, a machine working in tune to an organized core: “The same for the state and our University. We have much to be proud of, but we must prepare our students to think critically to make the jump and move from data to information to knowledge to organised action. And this is where conscience appears.”

On politics and ‘the self-fulfilling prophecy of denigration’

Frenemies...
Frenemies...
1. In a world where information is instant, society has assimilated hypernormalisation, where one is so part of a system that we fail to see beyond it, being assailed by alternative facts, fake reporting, blogs and dubious stats. The University has a lot of work to do: to enable students to seek facts and not conjure what one assumes should be facts.

2. Politicians have not helped, what with Trumpism’s “say it, repeat it, say it again” mantra, Maltese society is not immune to such entrapment and the latest round of political diatribes show that politicians have given in to the court of public opinion, having lost touch with their grassroots.

3. Academics should have been there to enlighten those who went to an alternative level of politics and resorted to parochialism and self-mutilation in their zeal for country bashing… It is time for this Alma Mater to beat some sense into its children, or are we failing to nurture political debate?

Religion: new realities, old norms

4. The traditional dogma of an award or punishment after death does not appeal to a generation used to instant gratification…. YouTubers, the Minecrafters, the pan-cultural mix of virtualisation team, this is where our youngsters live, pray and converse. They do not partake to traditional religious fervour, what with rapidly diminishing church participation, the handling of child molestation cases, the bishopric’s haste to tweet, the partaking to environmental ODZ protests whilst applying to convert a massive ODZ area into an educational institution. How’s that for undoing years of NGO gains in one fell swoop and the same youngsters’ hope of a new environmental revival?

A booming economy

5. How does the University prepare students to survive in post-boom societies and how they can bring the society back on track?... we cannot afford a society where the poor are hidden: real poverty exists. The Okella Agius 2012 incident is a case in point… To our disbelief, this was solved through the installation of a blue door which served to hide the problem and not solve it.

Family and multiculturalism

Self-styled patriots march to Valletta among non-Maltese families. Photo: Ray Attard
Self-styled patriots march to Valletta among non-Maltese families. Photo: Ray Attard
6. Multiculturalism is here to stay and the nostalgia that we can all swear in the same language is past. Pride in being Maltese should be something achieved not ascribed. In terms of immigration, xenophobia and intolerance, let us pause a bit to review the choice of surnames: Vella (German), Muscat (English), Said (Arabic), Depuis (French), Dacoutros (Greek), Scicluna (Algerian), Cappello (Italian), Pace (Anglo-Norman-French), Battistino (Italian). Where did these hail from? The Ether? So enlightening was Godfrey Wettinger in his studies.

Education: A new caste system?

6. Education has become status-based not skills-based… We have created a caste system based on MQF level... the new Brahmins, the new Vaisyas, the new Shudras. We have created the new Ayatollahs of knowledge who preside over the masses through access to information based on how many avatars we have or have not and how we can use those to do our work… students perceive university as just another step in their primary-secondary-tertiary transition and not as a source of pride based on the achievement of skills.

Technology

7. We are living in a world dominated by technology where societal space has shrunk to that of an armchair. What this has done for the new generation is that they have lost touch with the environment, with the need to experience reality through the physical senses.

8. I call for the University to initiate a process in conjunction with the government to launch the first virtual country where the new generation already has a hold. Whilst we are currently researching such a process in the quest for security and scene reconstruction as well as economic models based on blockchain technologies and social media, it is time for the initiation of virtual worlds and their inherent citizenships.

Overhauling student elections at University

File photo of a meeting between a KSU delegation and the Prime Minister
File photo of a meeting between a KSU delegation and the Prime Minister
9. The lack of reading is worrying. References to wiki and junk is a knowledge killer as is the new plagiarism plague. One proposal would be that students should work for two years prior to initiating a University course, as such helps them to acquire knowledge on the relentless real world.

10. I challenge the students to overhaul the current structure that is the KSU: a questionable democratic process where those who backed the conceding parties are not represented. Accepting a one-side-wins-all during the formation years and then demanding equality and representation in the parliamentary and social circles is anathema. On another level, that related to transport and functional spatial terms, students should be incentivised and parking spaces abolished.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.