I have always been envious of superhumans: those that manage ten-hour working days, run half marathons, do voluntary work and are active in politics, have multiple hobbies and read. I am not envious of them only because their life seems so interesting but also because it feels that the present world is made just for their kind: the achieving superhumans.
We live in a society that glamorizes efficiency, and with nearly every action being measurable, there is always room for improvement. You can always do things more efficiently, faster, better. Briefly put: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
The requirements for efficiency are also evident in the academic community. In our result-driven world, the researchers and the research units must prove themselves with their results: the number of publications and degrees must be met or else the funding will soon run dry.
The Ministry of Education and Culture is the one in control, as it regulates the funding model for higher education institutes in Finland. Now this model is changing again with emphasis even more towards finished degrees. In December, student organisations SYL and SAMOK (the National Union of University Students in Finland, and the Union of Students in Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences, respectively) criticised the model that creativity, individual learning paths, and the quality of education are being crushed under the aim of manufacturing the most degrees.
One of the tools that enhances efficiency is modern technology that allows working wherever you are. With technology you are basically always available, so why not use your time to the fullest? You can read your email from your phone at any place, and you can make that one phone call from your holiday trip.
And those lovely tablets and laptops are so lightweight that it is very handy to pack one along for any occasion or trip!
Even though I relate critically to the gospel of efficiency, I have nevertheless digested its demands. I have noticed that every table can potentially be used for studying or working, and every idle moment my thoughts drift towards unfinished work issues.
I present the question: are efficiency and results the only way to measure success? And how long can the current model continue?
Nothing would ever improve if we lacked the courage to make changes, so I am not claiming that change is always a bad thing.
However, I do claim that by doing things more efficiently, with the same resources but just slightly faster and better, people will get tired. And what are we going to do with a world that is turned up to eleven, but it is inhabited by people that are totally fed up with living in it?
I am worried how the younger generation manages. According to recent research, students are more depressed and anxious than before. The Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare states that mental health problems and substance abuse are the major causes for students’ health issues, and they are also a risk factor in social exclusion and long-term disablements. These facts are quite incompatible with the requirement that students must be as efficient as possible. Credits must roll in at a certain rate or the student allowance will be cut short.
The exhaustion of the younger generation is something to be taken seriously. In the future we need those who are capable and have enough strength to fight the pivotal global challenges.
Translation: Kalle Parviainen.