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Systematic Programs of Visiting Scholars and Interns

 

 

Summary

 

In order for the various regions, e.g., Central and Eastern European countries, to build a viable democratic future and train new leaders they need access to the latest scientific methods and open horizons of the free and responsible mind. An integrated and carefully structured visiting scholar program, centered in Washington, D.C., is uniquely fitted to provide an essential basis for the complex task that lies ahead. The program selects one scholar from each department in a set of key Universities and Academies of Science for a five month internship in the corresponding university department here. This provides direct "hands-on" access to the teaching and research methodologies as well as the democratic institutions (Congress) of this nation's capital. The effect is a vibrant resource and stimulus to the work of university departments on a new pluralistic and democratic basis. In addition, participation in the seminar meetings with scholars from other countries of the region will build a regional network of deep understanding and cooperation. Their resulting teaching and research will enable their country to make sound decisions regarding the region's social, political and economic growth and form a nucleus for a new democratic generation.

 

Need

 

Modern times have been marked by a search over centuries for a more humane and civic minded social organization based upon mutual understanding and respect, free participation and cooperation. Progress in this search has been uneven, and many obstacles have been encountered. The case of Central and Eastern Europe can be illustrative. There the communist experiment promised to actualize such ideals, but in fact offered mostly shallow rhetoric and almost completely destroyed the economic and meaningful participatory fabric of much of Central and Eastern Europe. In the wake of the recent massive failure and dismantling of communist regimes throughout Central and Eastern Europe, each country in the region faces economic and social changes for which few are prepared. This will exact a high toll during the shift to a market economy and democratic polity.

Having been subjected for over forty years to false rhetoric, coupled with material, intellectual and spiritual privations, the current generation must exercise responsibility for their destiny and for the society in which they live, develop balance between private and common goals, and learn to live in a world subject to an overflow of information in all fields of human activity. Success in this will depend not only upon the individual responses of countries, but also upon regional efforts. They need also to assess the events and systems to which they have been subjected in comparison with those which have transformed Western Europe, most notably the European Community (EC) and the United States. From these they have been largely isolated and, except for rare exceptions, have not joined in the non-ideological pursuits of democratic traditions.

Moreover, ethnic and religious questions or tensions that have simmered for centuries in Europe, not only remain unresolved, but have been aggravated by political manipulations meant to divert the attention of the populace from real issues of personal and economic freedom as well as better living standards. While Western Europe has prospered economically, has learned in some respects to accept its cultural diversity, and increasingly has come to discover the ground of common interests, Central and Eastern Europeans have had their cultural identity assaulted and have been isolated and frustrated in their higher aspirations as individuals and peoples. To bridge this gap of understanding is a formidable task especially in the light of present time constraints, for the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe must adapt fast enough to join the European Community which is rapidly moving forward to create yet newer institutions and structures and further interaction with the United States.

Analogously, one finds in China progress combined with unresolved dilemmas in the formation of adequate social structures. In the former colonial lands of Africa and Latin America there appears to be dawning a second stage of liberation in the form of the emergence of democratic institutions. In Europe and North America the situation would seem one of enlivening democratic structures with an adequate sense of the quality, indeed the dignity, of life and the will to work toward its actualization

To undertake this general task scholars who shape the vision of a country need access to the working methodologies, research tools, horizons and attitudes of the social sciences and humanities of a democratic multi-cultural society.

 

Objectives

 

The first objective of the program is to provide substantial access to the intellectual life of a democratic and pluralistic society in the nation's capital. It will do this through developing at the University level the scientific disciplinary and professional expertise needed for making present decisions and for training a new generation of leaders. The program will begin by enhancing skills and contacts of one scholar from each of the key departments in the major universities and the academies of science of a set of focally situated countries.

A second objective is to build bridges of contact and intercultural understanding between the peoples within specific regions such as that of Central and Eastern Europe and between regions so that each can draw on the genius of all. This is done by the participation of the visiting professors in the ongoing inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural seminars exploring such current issues as the relation between cultures, urbanization and values, etc. In view of its reception and record this systemic program should now be expanded to younger post-doctoral and mature doctoral scholars.

In particular, the program will:

 

1. integrate visiting scholars as active collaborators or interns in their corresponding American departments in order to learn of their research goals and horizons and of the methods and tools by which these are pursued. This will open scientific access for the key academic departments in various parts of the world to America's and the EC's democratic experience, present international polity, social science research, technical development and economics, thereby enabling the newly emerging democracies to better define their own goals and to determine the steps they will take to draw upon and adapt the experience and structures of modern democratic pluralism;

2. bring together Scholars from the various regions with American professors in extended seminar investigation and publication on central issues regarding the foundations of social life. This will provide participating institutes and scholars with an opportunity to open a dialogue on their common heritage and historic experiences in order to overcome recent ideological interruption; to study modes in which their heritage has been adapted to support life in the new pluralistic context of North America; to draw therefrom some indications of how their culture might contribute to a more pluralistic democratic future for their multi-ethnic region; and to build interchange and networking in specific regional focus groupings.

 

Content of the Program

 

The program will host five visiting university scholars per year from each major participating country, plus selected scholars from other centers in the region, for a period of five months (one semester). They will have full access to all academic and research programs and facilities of CUA, be integrated into the set of professors in their corresponding department, learn from experience the academic life of an American department in their field, and receive the concrete orientation they need to become familiar with the status of ongoing work in their field in the U.S. and its related research instruments. This will enable them to examine new methodologies with peers in corresponding departments of the six Washington consortium universities, to take part in the cross-cultural and inter-disciplinary seminars on cultural heritage and change in contemporary life and to update their bibliography through the Library of Congress and the library network in the region.

Done consistently over a period of five years and for five universities and academies in each country this will assure for the complex of key university departments direct and substantive access to U.S. academic research resources and to those of the Federal government in the nation's capital.

The support system will consist of a director and assistant to coordinate the visits and research work of the scholars, to introduce them to their peers in the appropriate University departments, to organize interdisciplinary and cross cultural seminars and to promote their access initially to related materials on the various ethnicities, convergent relations and cultural studies. The program requires appropriate informational and research materials on the regions, as well as office and meeting space.

 

Background and Present Context: Many Decades of Coordinated Projects with the Many Regions

 

The context of this project is provided by five initiatives developed from The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington during the last 15 years.

 

(1) Polish Visiting Scholar Program. An exchange of professors funded by the USIA since 1977 has brought 6 Polish professors annually from the full spectrum of the arts and sciences to Washington for 5 months of research. In the last 15 years this program has provided some 180 semesters of research for professors in fields ranging from physics and psychology to philosophy and drama. It was the key to the development of the set of intellectuals which enabled Poland to lead the way with the first free elections in Eastern Europe in the summer of '89--followed by liberation everywhere--and since then to take the boldest steps to market reform.

(2) Internships for Visiting Professors. This program of 10-week internships by visiting Eastern European professors in University departments here provides substantial access to the intellectual life of the democratic and pluralistic society in the nation's capital. This is done with a view to developing at the academy and university level the scientific, disciplinary and professional expertise needed for making present decisions and for training a new generation of leaders. It does this by integrating each visiting scholar as an active collaborator or intern in his or her corresponding academic department here in order to learn of its research goals and horizons and of the methods and tools by which these are pursued. Conversely, it opens scientific access to the key academic departments in other regions on issues related to international polity, social science research and economics.

(3) Inter-disciplinary and Cross-cultural Seminars. A second objective of the internships above has been to build bridges of contact and intercultural dialogue between researchers here and scholars from Eastern Europe through participation in 10 week ongoing inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural seminars. These explore such current issues as "Relation Between Cultures," "Urbanization and Values," and "The Place of the Person in Social Life"--the titles of three volumes of seminar results published in 1991. See Chapter V.

(4) Joint Colloquia with Eastern European Academies and Universities. This series of ten colloquia held with the Academies of Science of Eastern Europe since 1975 were pioneering interchanges on issues relating to "person and society." They laid foundations for the present efforts to replace the reigning ideology by a vision of democratic civil life. See Chapter VI.

(5) Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Change. This is a series of 15 volumes being written by teams from as many Universities and Academies of Science in Eastern Europe. These volumes will be published in their original language in their country of origin and in English by The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy. See Chapter VII.

 

Choice of Partners for This Project: The Experience of Cooperation

 

On the basis of this broad engagement, network and experience, and in the light of the new problematic and opportunities it is possible to work with scholars in all parts of the world. The work, however, is too important to be left to random and unordered chance. To exemplify how this planning might proceed, we might focus on Central and Eastern Europe where, along with a broad series of seminars in various countries there has been a special focus on a visiting program with Polish scholars. In that region it would be possible to continue to work intensively with the Polish centers as these lead the way to the future for Eastern Europe; or to shift the focus north and east to the Baltic region and especially to Russia which has been the determining power in the region in the past; or turn south and east, to Bucharest, Sophia, Kiev and Tbilisi as they manifest great difficulty in developing the instincts and virtues needed in order for democratic institutions to function; or to move south and west, namely, to Czechoslovakia.

These last two seem especially to recommend themselves. A Western option reaching from Poland toward Central Europe, especially Czechoslovakia, has a number of significant advantages: (a) its western and central regions, Bohemia and Moravia, relate by tradition to the Western Enlightenment experience of modern democratic development; (b) its eastern region, Slovakia, having been part of the Eastern Ottoman Empire, exemplifies the special problematic shared by the Eastern European tradition; (c) the effort at the unity of these two regions, in the tradition of Masaryk, can be a central proving ground for ways of building a cohesive Europe--West-Center-East; (d) being next to Poland it can draw easily upon the body of 180 scholars developed there over the last 15 years; and (e) being next to Jugoslavia and observing its ethnic and national tensions at their strongest it has a special concern to manage these creatively, to build a cooperative confederation, and thereby to demonstrate the way to future peaceful progress for the region.

In sum, it can be argued that where monocultural Poland was the spearhead that broke through the Marxist shield, multi-cultural Czechoslovakia is the laboratory with the materials to invent a cohesive and pluralistic model for the future of Eastern Europe. In this it can draw intensively upon the intellectual resources developed over the years in Poland by the CUA program, capitalizing now upon that investment for even broader impact.

An eastern option, namely, reaching from Poland toward Eastern Europe, and firstly to Romania and Bulgaria, also recommends itself, mostly because of its difficulty and the challenge it presents to all who are concerned for peaceful progress in the vast spaces which stretch out to the East. What is the situation? Where the Central European countries broke dramatically with Communism in the Fall of '89, to the East this process has been slow, ambiguous, threatening, even shattering.

In Bulgaria the Communist Party actually won the elections, but was unacceptable to all who shared the new thrust for liberation that swept Europe. The result was a period of hunger strikes and demonstration, closed universities and mass conflicting rallies. Those elected by democratic forms were unable to act democratically; those who called for democracy recognized that each stand taken and each act performed to promote their end actually undermined the virtues required for their people's ability to exercise responsible self governance. The situation is re-stabilizing, but popular democratic institutions are but nascent.

In Romania the situation has been even more destructive. Preceded by a progressively psychotic dictator, what first emerged in '89 as a revolution in the spirit of the Central European countries, turned uniquely violent. Soon after the fighting stopped it became apparent that the people had been manipulated into providing the staging for an internal coup by the clandestine apparatus of oppression, which was neither beyond calling in the miners to assault the people of Bucharest nor able to control those raw and savage forces. The hugely challenging process of rebuilding is now underway.

The situation in Georgia has too many similarities. Tbilisi was long under curfew for fear of roving gangs of brigands spawned in the ambiguous second round of democratic opposition to totalitarianism. The country had, in effect, no experience of democratic rule. Recent memory is entirely one of opposition to government; to reach back in its collective consciousness to its time of independence is to look back to medieval kingdoms whose virtues chivalrous values are anachronistic for pluralistic processes of democratic consensus building. Establishing unity and peace both within and without will be a great challenge.

It is then in this vast region beginning from Bulgaria and Romania and stretching eastward that one confronts the really stupendous challenge of our times, namely, to bring freedom and cohesion out of chaos and despotism. The problems will only get worse and become more intractable if left in the vain hope that the region will right itself with only its own talents and cultural resources. It is time to move actively and aggressively to build new competencies, to explore new solutions, to open new and more desirable ways of being a people and facing the future.

Bulgaria and Romania seem to be special places to begin. Having suffered under the Ottoman and Communist Empires they have all the problems that entails for the region. At the same time they relate in time back to the high ideals of the Macedonians who produced Aristotle, and to the Romans, from whom Romania is named. They were key areas of Byzantium and possessed heritages of which to this day they are rightly proud. They are not without the resources of self-esteem required for human creativity in social life.

More recently, Bulgaria hosted the World Congress of Philosophy in 1973 and has played a particularly active role in world philosophical circles since. Two volumes entitled, Ratiune si Credinta, manifest extremely sophisticated metaphysical studies on conflict and harmony which draw upon classical philosophy and theology in a manner proper to the genius of the Romanian culture.

If the challenge is daunting, there is much to work with provided there is a depth of experience working in the region, a sense of human and democratic values, and professional competency in academic management.

 

Implementation of the Program

 

Each participating institution will designate one person to organize the program for their respective faculty participants and departments. For this cooperation they will prepare biennial plans which will include the invitation of faculty members from the corresponding institutions to lecture and/or share scholarly experiences, themes for joint research work, means for utilizing the results achieved and possible continuing support for regional interactions. According to the internal norms of each party, the libraries, professors and general facilities of the corresponding party will be at the disposition of participating faculty for the purpose of academic interchange, suggestion and critique assisting them in carrying out research projects. In Washington an advanced seminar will be available to faculty research scholars for the exploration of new methods of work in the various disciplines on the foundations of social, technological and political life.

Participating faculty members will be nominated in writing by their institution of origin and approved by the Program Director; nominations will be accompanied by information concerning the scholars' education, background, present position, field of specialization, teaching experience, research and publications. Nominations will be based upon professional accomplishment, will imply approval of credentials by the nominating party, and will take into account the orientation of the program.

Each institutional party will wave any academic charges (viz., tuition, library or consultation fees) for faculty members from the corresponding institution.

 

 

 

 

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Last Revised 19-Nov-11 04:20 PM.