Dr. Shafik Dharamsi delivered a keynote address at the 2012 Canadian High Schools Model United Nations Conference (CAHSMUN)

Dr. Shafik Dharamsi delivered a keynote address at the 2012 Canadian High Schools Model United Nations Conference (CAHSMUN)Dr. Shafik Dharamsi delivered a keynote address at the 2012 Canadian High Schools Model United Nations Conference (CAHSMUN)Dr. Dharamsi delivered a keynote address at the 2012 Canadian High Schools Model United Nations Conference (CAHSMUN), the largest high school conference of its kind in Western Canada. The conference was founded in 2005 as a grassroots project aimed at introducing Model UN to students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to participate in this worthwhile experience.

Speaking to the Human Rights Council and to the African Union, Dr. Dharamsi’s presentation challenged student delegates to examine the purpose of education in society today and motivations for seeking higher education. He explained that students are often told that if they wish to be successful, prosperous and upwardly mobile, they will need a good education. The taken-for-granted view that education serves primarily as a vehicle for monetary success and social status is problematic. History is rife with examples. Take for instance Dr. Kenneth L Lay (PhD in Economics from the University of Houston). He was one of America’s highest-paid CEOs, earning upwards of $40 million in 1999. He received several prestigious recognitions. He went on to found his own company in 1985 – hiring some of the brightest and best talents to help him run it – Enron. Then you have Bernard Ebbers – highly educated, and who became one of the richest persons in America as co-founder of a multibillion-dollar telecom company, WorldCom. See also, Mark Hurd, Martin Grass, David Sokol, and Lee Farkas, among many other smart, well educated, and successful people. So, what did they all have in common? They all wanted to get ahead and become successful – no matter what the cost. They used others for personal gain. You will often hear the argument that everybody cheats, you can’t get ahead without it.

Dr. Dharamsi highlighted a recent study by researchers Julia Christensen Hughes and Donald McCabe published in the Canadian Journal of Higher Education showing that cheating and plagiarism are rampant in Canadian high schools and universities. Quoting a follow-up article published in 2007 in Maclean’s magazine titled, “The great university cheating scandal,” Dr. Dharamsi pointed out that academic misconduct at both Canadian and American post-secondary institutions is on the rise across a broad range of disciplines. Dr. Dharamsi presented cases of physicians cheating on board exams, tax evasion, employee theft, and global spending priorities in a consumerist driven world. Quoting from David Callahan’s book, “The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead,” Dr. Dharamsi pointed out that a cheating culture develops when enough people are breaking the rules, creating a perception that “everybody” is corrupt and there is no clear imperative for ethical behaviour. Hence, people begin to believe that one cannot be competitive by being ethical and that cheating is the only response if you way to become successful.

He asked student delegates to reflect on the words of a national panel of scholars, educators, policymakers, and business and community leaders convened by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, who were asked to examine the “kind of learning students need to meet emerging challenges in the workplace, in a diverse democracy, and in an interconnected world.” The panel concluded that higher education needs to engage in developing responsible learners whose sense of social responsibility and ethical judgment is marked by intellectual honesty, social justice, and a discernment of ethical consequences of various decisions and actions.

Dr. Dharamsi suggested to the CAHSMUN delegates that education ought to enable them to be mindful about the tensions between self-interest and social responsibility, and to conduct their personal and professional lives with an unambiguous sense of the human consequences of their decisions and actions. He said that to have truly learned is to never be able to see the world in the same way and to never be able to be in the world in the same way. Education must enable students to delve deeply into the practical issues affecting social justice and equity, fostering a commitment to civic engagement, ethical leadership, and global social responsibility toward pressing social, economic and moral problems. We need to develop a culture of learning that is collaborative, participatory, dynamic and reciprocal activity. Having taught for over 20 years, Dr. Dharamsi finds that learners who participate actively in co-developing learning outcomes, expectations, and assessment are more likely to build an increasingly sophisticated, ethical and pluralistic understanding of the world, and how it can work better.


Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.