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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


KLEYNHANS, Ewert PJ. The value of academic labour. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2020, vol.60, n.4-2, pp.1317-1333. ISSN 2224-7912.

The South African Academy of Science and Arts recently commemorated its 110th year of existence and it is an appropriate time to reflect on the value of academic labour. Academic labour is an important aspect of human culture. Through academic labour, mankind's purest dreams and ideals are realised. Literacy, study, learning and research contribute to the highest and refined levels of civilisation that Western society can offer. It makes the world a better place, with humanity, prosperity, alleviation of poverty and human dignity. Through academic work, mankind has already reached unparalleled levels of development. This article examines the value of academic activities and the motivation of academia. The rewards of academic labour range from the utilitarian, solving problems and to gain useful knowledge, to the spiritual. The psychological remuneration of academic effort is also positive. Academia has the privilege each day serving a higher calling. This is a wonderful motivation, but also a very important responsibility. This article concludes emphasising that academic standards should never be compromised. The author is an economist and sees the world from that perspective. That is the reason why the title highlights value. This article emphasises that academia constitutes a valuable product and that knowledge has intrinsic value of its own, more valuable than gold and coral. People desire to learn more, and much is still hidden and wonderful and is essential for one's happiness. Knowledge and skills are useful, but universities should also promote basic research without a specific practical objective, just for the sake of enjoyment. A university is also a knowledge factory that generates new knowledge. Its objective is to discover new things. As it is an enterprise it should be managed in a financially sustainable fashion. Universities contribute to the National Development Plan. Their products and services lead to new technological, social, commercial and other innovations that benefit the whole society, but it should be better financed and marketed. Various studies in Britain found that university training and knowledge acquired lead to lower unemployment, higher skills, a more productive, innovative, flexible and entrepreneurial workforce, and also increase the productivity of co-workers. This leads to higher economic growth, more tax income to the state, a smaller burden on public finances, better health, more informed civic participation and less crime. Several studies elsewhere, such as in America and New Zealand, concur. Australian studies highlighted that universities enhance a country's prosperity, build human and social capital, and drive technological progress and economies. It builds society through community service, helps building a "knowledge economy" and promotes future economic prosperity through international exchange. Research reveals a direct relationship between education and productivity, competitiveness, profits and growing income and job creation. During the past decades, people's wellbeing has improved continually. Human development, income, production, life expectancy, adult literacy, and the number of children at school rose gradually. There is a direct link between economic development and education and research. People all over the world are developing and their living standards are improving. The main objective of the search for knowledge is to obtain wisdom. To know the correct steps beforehand is valuable and better than to act on intuition, feelings or beliefs. Most of academia have enquiring minds, are curious about the world and have the wonderful opportunity to search for knowledge, insight and wisdom. It provides a sense of security and psychological peace. It builds high self-esteem and motivates one to learn and use that knowledge. Socrates said that wonder is the beginning of wisdom. Academic effort leads to the discovery of wonder, complexity and beauty, which leads to curiosity about the world and a deeper meaning of it all. What makes the research investigation such an enjoyable experience is the wonder it reveals and the fascination about the discoveries it brings about. Science enables a researcher to enjoy the amassing discoveries that academic effort reveals. There is also an immense satisfaction when things come together and begin to make sense. There is that feeling of pure joy when something new is discovered, which leads to more wonder and more research. Academic effort and particularly research should, in the first instance, be conducted purely for the enjoyment it brings. Enjoyment enables people to become more innovative and leads to more discoveries. Academic freedom that allows academia to conduct research that interests them leads to better products. The authorities' current policies in guiding research by means of targeted financing do, however, restrict academic freedom. Research should generate knowledge that is generic in the sense that it can apply to many areas and could stand the test of time. It is never known where knowledge would be needed. To name a few examples: The ancient Greeks developed Euclidean geometry, which is still taught to high school and engineering students. Boole developed Boolean algebra in 1847 long before it was used to design digital electronics and computers. Carothers accepted an appointment on condition to focus only on academic research without practical value, but still discovered nylon. Feynman developed the mathematics behind a wobbling pizza and later used it in developing quantum electrodynamics, eventually winning the Nobel Prize. Science should still be thorough even if research is enjoyable. High academic and research principles should never be compromised. The aim is to discover the truth. Academic labour should follow strict logical order. Science must be derived and described logically and in a mathematically deductive way or derive reliable knowledge inductively, but methodically. The application of mathematics to science is the most powerful instrument in understanding the world. Even where mathematics is not directly applied, the scientific method should be. Academia strives towards lofty ideals in their labour. They laugh, sing, make poetry and dream, study plants, trees, animals and society, confront challenges, make new discoveries, develop technology and place humans on the moon and aim for Mars. Through it all, academic labour and literacy are utilised to fulfil man's cultural assignment to make the world a better place. The academy is truly a very special calling.

Palabras clave : academic; university; research; study; teaching; schools; literacy; technology; knowledge; mathematics; wonder; calling; wisdom.

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