Education needed to overcome media superficiality

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Last week's heartbreaking images of Syrian Kurdish toddler, Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach, drowned in his family's bid to flee Syria and join relatives in Canada, galvanised support around the world.

It was emblematic of a range of current social crises: religious and ethnic conflict, discrimination and inequality, terrorism, the plight of migrants and refugees. Hopefully the support garnered will be sustained, and not just a knee-jerk response to the disturbing images.

The man featured in this interview on Eureka Street TV is concerned about all these issues, and sees education as the key in the longterm to grappling with them.

James Arvanitakis is an acclaimed lecturer in Humanities at University of Western Sydney, being awarded the prestigious Prime Minister's University Teacher of the Year Award in 2012.

His parents migrated to Australia from Greece in the 1960s and he was born and grew up in inner-city Sydney. His family attended the Greek Orthodox Church and one of his uncles was a Greek Orthodox priest.

He was the first member of his family to attend university where he studied economics at the University of New South Wales. He then worked for nine years in banking and finance and was an advocate for free trade and the free market.

While on an extended break in South America he saw child labourers working in a mine in Bolivia, and this led to a complete turnaround in his political and philosophical views.

He became a human rights and environmental activist in several countries, working in a number of social justice organisations including Oxfam Hong Kong and Aid/Watch.

Arvanitakis now sees education as a means of awakening a sense of social justice in others, and bringing about a more cohesive and equitable society. He has two PhDs, the first in Applied Economics and the other in History, Philosophy and Environmental Studies, both from the University of New South Wales.

He has lectured at the University of Technology Sydney, and the University of Sydney, and is now Dean of Graduate Studies and founding Head of The Academy at the University of Western Sydney.

The Academy is an innovative initiative with basic aims to educate for a rapidly developing future, have an inter-disciplinary approach that brings students and lecturers together across faculties, and foster ethical leadership.

Arvanitakis is a frequent media commentator, appearing often online, in print, on radio and TV. He is also a prolific writer, penning scores of articles in academic and popular journals, and publishing a number of books.

His books include: The Citizen in the 21st Century; Piracy: Leakages from Modernity; The Cultural Commons of Hope; and two due to appear later in 2015, The Future of Universities, and a new edition of his sociology textbook, Sociologic: Analysing Everyday Life and Culture.

This interview is in two parts - Part 1 (11 mins) above, and Part 2 (13 mins) below:


Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, James Arvanitakis, asylum seekers, education, social justice



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In many cases, Education must begin with the removal of blinkers that prevent seekers from accessing the whole truth.. Each religion is one only interpretation of the path to knowing, to loving, and to serving God. Religious Leaders have a vested interest in preserving these blinkers, often assuming theirs is the only path to God But God is the Universal Father of all, and is calling everyone in a Universal but Personal way, thought the way his call is received is conditioned by the culture and degree of development of each receiver. The solipsistic traditions of religions divides people into groups that are antagonistic towards 'others' and are the cause of much of the problems facing God's Children.
Robert Liddy | 09 September 2015


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