Paula Karhunen: Knowledge is bliss

I realised the concrete significance education has in life fairly late, at around 20 years of age. I was on my second unwanted year off, working morning shift at a café the morning Trump won the US presidential election. I stood there holding a coffee pot, unable to comprehend any other reasons behind Trump’s election than total idiotism. Even though I also understood that other factors were involved in Trump’s election, the hopelessness and lack of information were distressing.

Research-based education has done an excellent job equipping me to process events with complex causal relationships, such as the US presidential elections. Through my education, I have been able to better grasp what is happening around me. Studying in the Faculty of Social Sciences, I have learned that next to nothing happens due to idiotism. Human action is always based on some reason – whether I consider the reason good or not.

Through my education, I have acquired not only knowledge but also understanding and empathy skills. These are skills that as many of us as possible should have to safeguard the operating conditions of a democratic society. Society should invest in education and research because they are means for building peace and prosperity. At least I find it easier to exist, live and act when I have tools to help me understand our world, chaotic as it seems at times.

Not only studying but also the university community has given me hope at times when everything seems to be going wrong. Acting in the university community is educating by itself: we can encounter people we might not ever meet otherwise, learn things from them we would not learn otherwise and find solutions together that would not be created otherwise. The community also gives us lifelong relationships that can, in the best-case scenario, follow us throughout our lives.

Acting in the student movement also provides me with hope. Research-based information creates the foundation for the advocacy work we are doing. We read studies that have already been made and have them made ourselves. Last year, HYY conducted two studies in cooperation with the Research Foundation for Studies and Education Otus. One of them concerned the subsistence of the university students of the Capital Region, whereas the other one focused on the students of the University of Helsinki who are aged 30 years or older as well as their everyday student life. Argumentation based on science is an important value, especially in our post-truth era.

And how could we save the world if we do not understand how it works? This is why producing information and educating students must be at the core of universities’ activities, even if public discussion would call for them to foster corporate relations and quickly prepare students for working life. If we did not have science and information based on it, no one could even be studying – anything at all.

#ResearchMatters #Siksitiede

Paula Karhunen

The writer is a member of HYY’s Board in 2019 and one of the three persons in charge of educational policy on the Board.

In the series Science Advocates, people describe the significance of research and research-based teaching for themselves. Read the other instalments on the Researchmatters website (scroll down).