7th Symposium on Humanities and Religious Studies

What kind of a future awaits us?
The Transformation of Values, Transformed Values, and the Power of Education in Building the Future

We live in an age where knowledge, life, and culture are updated and redetermined. We currently experience a period in which the multi-choice options about the definition of humanity, its function, and even nature is so apparent for the first time in the history of mankind. Concepts such as faith, knowledge, science, individual, society, education, politics, and so on are all being updated and put into a new frame. We can cite two reasons for that, the first is the need for globalization and individualization to be updated and renewed. The second is the fact that countries other than the ones we have named “western”, discovered modern life and science for themselves and now find the old universal truths that have been taught to them insufficient. Today the values and beliefs that are brought up by local scaled individualization and globalization are found inadequate. So many communities demand a renewal of those values, the inclusion of their local experiences in the collective being of mankind, a change in education to put their cultures in the center. As per this demand, mankind wonders about the future that awaits it. That being said, it is now clear to us that the values are in the transformation phase and the way to spread this change to the society is through education.

Though the word “Education” is used in many different fields, the common feature of it is “guidance”. In other words, it means “to try and guide/direct others towards their own beliefs and ideas”. If education is a type of guidance, then various questions come to mind such as what are the things that are being promoted by this guidance and what are being left out. Again, if education is a type of guidance, then there are two sides in this interaction, the one that provides the guidance(education) and the one that receives it.

Values have a special place in the construction of the social structure. Because they affect the wants and needs of the people in a society and guide their lives. Due to this important place, different headings related to values such as the transformation of values or changing values are prioritized research fields for the social sciences. Among the most urgent topics to be tackled are whether the values can change or transform, which ones can transform and which ones can’t, how those new values affect the society, and the effects of the values on the conflict of generations. As a result of the astonishing speed of the technologies we now have two opposing groups within the society. On the one hand, we have the group that rejects the reforms or innovations because of the existing values, and on the other hand, we have a group that accepts the new values altogether that come because of the technology. Every single technological or social innovation brings its values. This also means that a society can have a sovereign and original culture if it keeps producing its values.

In an era, in which both world and humans have gone through a big transformation and gotten ready for even more drastic changes, the question of what will be the criterion for values and education is an immense one. Questions like how much of the universal values can be preserved, how many of the historical local values can be brought into the modern-day whether they are slightly altered or not, and how many of the conceptual, institutional, and functional experiences of the past can work in the modern era are still puzzling to us all. In a way, we are experiencing an era in which language, grammar, and communication are all completely changing. In this developing and transforming age, the education model and human values are no longer sufficient to meet the needs of people. At such times, the human mind prefers to take a closer look at science and philosophy, past historical experiences, different current examples, and universal values in need of updating.

As a transformed and transforming process, one of the priorities of education is “change”. Change here does not merely mean physical change because of the acquisition of some abilities. Rather, it is more about the change of the mind. For the modern era, education is a service that the “nation-state” cannot give up. For every state, mandatory educational institutions play a dire ideological role to produce their own “reasonable citizen”. At the same time, when an elective higher education is required as a condition to be employed, the education of the individual becomes a mandatory activity to earn one’s livelihood.

Institutions, thought system, duration, and the curriculum of the education varies both from society to society and within the same society. The new experiences we gain as a society along with the impositions of the global scaled problems make it necessary for us to ponder upon education. Since the beginning of the republic era, Turkey had been a country which the talented and promising minds left for more developed countries. Recently, this situation started to change drastically. Turkey is now experiencing an immense immigration wave from different countries and races not just as labor force but as members of all social spheres. The education of these people and their children along with their need to be adapted to the new system stands out as one of the most important issues of the contemporary era.

If we are to talk about Turkey, an important question is about the position of the pre-modern Islamic identity of its people and how to bring the traits of that identity and experience up to date. For instance, a comparison between the madrasah institution and university seems necessary. In a comparison like this, we must be able to analyze both institutions together considering their individual experiences, curricula, and programs. For Turkey’s future, it is clear that a journey back to civilizations such as India, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greek, and Rome and their history is mandatory while keeping in mind that the Islamic civilization is at a more centric position than others and the recent history will help make this comparison possible.

There are serious perplexities between nation-state models and models that are beyond the nation-state, free-market economy and closed economy, social identities and individual identities, local values, and global values. Now, rather than simply a techno-society discussion between online education and training and face-to-face education, it has come to a very comprehensive education debate in which being human, staying human, knowing humanely and life is completely reshaped. Almost everything from physical education to health, from technology to religion, money, reason and thought, individual, rights, and responsibilities are being updated. Societies that do not realize the necessity of this update will not join digital economy societies and will not be included in the negotiations in any way.

The search for models related to education can lead to very extensive reflections. For example, for the continuation of student-centered education, the free-market economy should also be maintained. According to the new human-related goals, individualism or collectivism will become more prominent. During this almost certain process of change, we must also determine the concepts/values that stay the same. For this reason, it seems like many things will have to be renamed, their content and use will have to be made clear. Due to such requirements that are tried to be pointed out thus far, this year’s symposium theme is “What kind of a future awaits us? The Transformation of Values, Transformed Values, and the Power of Education in Building the Future”.