Some 100 years ago my grandparents were crammed in a boat to sail back to Greece. I have 3 grandmothers and 3 grandfathers, you know, 6 all in all. One of them, actually my step-grandmother, an Armenian; the rest, members of the Greek community that constituted the 20% of the total population of the area, from the coastal part of Minor Asia, Smyrna, the once thriving Ionian socio-economico-cultural centre. One of my great-grandfathers, Savvas, a musician and a laouti-instrument maker. Leaving back their homes and fortunes, having lost the war that marked the end of Ionian life and wearing the label of the refugee set off to the metropolis. They were not received with open arms there; the metropolis was suffering its own hardship. Gradually they were integrated into the community enriching the country and the culture with their own perspective into music, e.g. by establishing the current trends in rembetiko; into food, fashion, ways of life. Years after the comeback Greek women still antagonized the Ionians, famous for their attractiveness and talents, and called them ‘pastrikes’, not to denote the literal meaning (‘the ones who keep the house clean and tidy’) of the word but only used it as a metaphor for ‘prostitutes’, actually downgrading the Smyrnies and expressing a fear for losing their husbands.
These days, following my ancestors’ immigration history I find myself and my daughters in Finland. Not under similar circumstances or conditions. Far from it. Having built a more or less 20-year-long career of a teacher, teacher trainer, e-tutor and, I suppose, of teaching-activism, I decided to study towards a doctoral degree in the metropolis of education. Finland applies a free-from-charge educational policy making learning a public good addressing the totality of its registered citizens, Finns and non-Finns, and an approach that respects the individual. Truly, during the first year of my stay in the country I heavily bookwormed in the university libraries, numbed my brain with tones of wisdom, felt anti-social but full and both cognitively and epistemologically updated.
However, it doesn’t take long for one to disentangle from the pink cloud she locks herself in.
When my application for a travelling grant for conference presentation abroad was rejected I started wondering what the criteria for acceptance were. When my questions were not exactly answered I wondered again what percentage of international students were actually admitted to projects and received grants. Evidently, the percentage proves to be so low that makes it almost non-existent as is the number of foreign professors at the university. And what’s more, the Finns are currently seriously considering the possibility of charging international students with fees, apart from taking other measurements against internationalisation (e.g. the new law for immigration). Essentially, in this way are uncovered the so-claimed equal opportunities being plain rhetoric and the smiling faces advocating them in the university websites phantasmagoric. Possibly because a new belief, that of turning education into a commodity, a produce for commercialisation, marketing and, why not, even exportation is gradually getting established in the Finns’ mind! Again, perhaps the idea that the wealthier of internationals would upgrade the quality of education underlies the imminent changes. And all these in the country whose capital, Helsinki, is listed as the 8th most expensive cities in the world, as recent research results indicate…
How can I escape then from the feeling that I am discriminated? That history repeats itself one way or another is self-obvious. Apparently, the sense is not rooted in my genes only, although to this conclusion I have come in moments of, possibly, extreme introversion and introspection. And it does not lie in my status as an international student exclusively either; but also in the fact that I am a Greek citizen living and studying in Finland in an era when the Finns claim guarantees for a widely disputed debt.
However, again, while devising mind puzzles to keep a researcher’s thinking active after tiring it out with data analysis, I stumble upon a provocative thought. I want to free myself from it and so I share: Is there really any reason for asking for guarantees? The dept has already been paid back. ‘And how could this have happened?’ a plausible question might be. ‘Think of the fundamental principle teacher education in Finland is built upon’, I would answer. Yes, it’s the Aristotelian syllogism I am referring to. Then add the times Aristotelian thinking is used in publications and multiply the square of ideas that has generated along with the profit this already has and will continue to bring in. Sum them up and the outcome will surprise you. In the end, you will agree with me: the debt has already been paid back! Too good to be true, isn’t it? There is a slight problem (if ‘problem’ is the right word to attribute) with this theory:
Aristotle has never been a produce for the Greeks. Not yet!
*to P., who instigates the autobiographical thinking in me