The dumbing down of Turkey

The dumbing down of Turkey

“And, Oh God, please protect us from the wickedness of the educated!”

That was how the imam intoned at the funeral for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s close friend Erol Olcak, his son Abdullah Olcak, and the photojournalist Mustafa Cambaz, who were killed by soldiers during the unsuccessful coup on July 15. 

Erol Olcak was an architect and the wizard behind the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) successful election campaigns. He had come out that night to confront those trying to topple the elected government. 
By all accounts, he was respected by everyone for his humanity, and was known to be and educated man. His funeral was tellingly held at the mosque on the grounds of Marmara University. 

And yet the Imam called on Allah for protection against the educated as the president, the speaker of parliament, and government ministers stood in religious procession behind him. No one found anything strange in his words.

Earlier in the year Bülent Arı - a “professor,” of all things – from Istanbul’s Sabahattin Zaim University came out during a TV interview with the following remark: “I get palpitations as the number of the educated increases. I trust the instincts of the ignorant and the uneducated in this country.”

Professor Ramazan Evren, the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Sabahattin Zaim University, says on the university’s web page that their mission is to educate a generation that combines the past with the future in all fields, ranging from the humanities and social sciences to engineering and the natural sciences and that can establish a balance between tradition and modernity.

Not surprisingly, “Professor” Ari had to resign after his remark.

It is a truism that its level of education determines how advanced a country is. This applies, not just to the West, but also to non-Western countries like Japan. It is also a fact that knowledge is power. This is why rulers in less developed countries keep a stranglehold over education, and especially higher education. 

The awareness that someone is imbued with the knowledge that enables him or her to make comparative critical analyses is clearly considered to be a threat under deficient democracies. The intonation of the imam and the remarks of the “professor” cited here are enough to highlight where Turkey stands in this regard. 
The situation was bad enough before the coup attempt. Research shows it is getting worse after it because scores of universities and thousands of independent minded academics are among the prime targets of the ongoing purge. 

The situation is so bad that the EU has canceled its “Jean Monnet Scholarship Program” for 2016-2017. The program’s official website says the reason for the cancellation is that “it would not be possible to reach the targets and objectives of the program due to the recent developments in Turkey with the aim of not jeopardizing the reputation of the program.”

Meanwhile, “The Scholars Rescue Fund,” which is described as “a charity organization helping academics to escape troubled countries,” is reporting an unprecedented increase in inquiries from Turkey. As was the case after every coup attempt in Turkey – whether they were successful or not – or under governments with authoritarian tendencies, we are facing a new brain drain. 

Many of us also know from personal experience that there is an increase in the number of friends and acquaintances who are looking into ways of sending their children to study abroad. It is not clear how many of these young people will return once they are educated.

It is no wonder that some of the greatest brains this country produced were educated abroad, where many stayed in order to protect themselves from the wrath of the uneducated. 

Meanwhile, the standard of the endless political and social television debates we have to suffer every night show us where we stand with regard to the level of intelligence. 

One can’t help wonder what Erol Olcak says to all this as he watches us from above.