THE FATHER, THE MOTHER AND THE TEACHER…

An article about a plagiarized doctorate dissertation was published on a popular Ukrainian website Ukrayins’ka Pravda (The Ukrainian Truth). The author of the article was Tetiana Parkhomenko, Doktor of Philosophical Studies, and the “accused” party was Kateryna Kyrylenko, also a Doktor (of Pedagogy). Soon after Ms. Tetiana Parhomenko’s article appeared, Ms. Kateryna Kyrylenko, the alleged “plagiarizer, published her own article refuting the accusations. Incidentally, the Doctor’s degree in Ukraine (“Doktor Nauk”) stands for the highest rung of recognized scholarly achievement, so this time it was an online “battle of heavyweights.” Besides, as of today, this case is becoming a matter of principle in the context of the government’s anti-corruption campaign: everybody in this country remembers President Viktor Yanukovych, ousted in February 2014, who was also a “doktor nauk ” but who used to make two errors in one word writing his title “professor” by spelling it with two “f”s and one “s.”

Whatever Ms. Kyrylenko’s argumentation in her defence may be, one thing is for me crystal-clear: if she extensively used someone else’s texts word for word without referring either to the texts or to their authors (and that was exactly the case with her doctorate dissertation defended a few months ago), it’s called plagiarism. Period.

However, the name “Kyrylenko” rings a bell. Yes, that’s the name of the Minister of Culture of Ukraine. And (you are right) Ms. Kateryna Kyrylenko is his wife.

In Ukrainian, as it is used in everyday life (we say, “in the kitchen”), there exists an expression “telefonne pravo” (“rule by telephone”), which roughly means: informal influence or pressure exerted by the authorities on persons or organizations that are dependent on those authorities as regards the decisions taken.”  The most flagrant case of the “telefonne pravo” was last July when the All-Ukrainian Center for High School Graduates’ Evaluation was raided by the Pocurator’s Office. The Center was accused of disclosing the contents of academic tests to some school graduates and of bribe-taking. More than half a year has passed, but the matter is still “under investigation.” I think, it can hardly be completed the way the Procurator’s Office wants it, because there was no crime at all. Mr. Likarchuk, the head of the center (he doesn’t head it anymore) had been widely known as a person of integrity who would not yield to any pressure from above as far as test results were concerned. For me the case seems rather transparent: with his/her test scores received in June last year, an offspring of a high-placed bureaucrat hadn’t qualified to be admitted to any university, so, the offspring’s dad (mum) contacted the Chief Procurator and the raid was effected. As a result, the situation was“put right” and, also, it was a good lesson for those who might dare be “disobedient” in the future. Can you imagine that the ACT or SAT centers in the U.S.A could be raided like that?

You may ask why admission rules to Ukrainian universities change annually? Or why, until now, Ukraine has stayed away from PISA (the Program for International Student Assessment)? My answer is: the high-and-mighty bureaucrats want to rule. To rule without any interference from outside.

That is why Ukraine needs Europe. I understand that Ukraine’s European membership and/or participation are no panacea against the country’s ills until the country pulls up its sleeves and starts cleaning its own Augean stables. But I hope that at least an understanding of what is good and bad, normal and abnormal, acceptable and unacceptable will then come Ukrainian society. And that the feeling of shame will return. The feeling that makes us humans.

Speaking about his country, the former President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (he died last year at the age of 83) once said: “If a country is to be free of corruption and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.”

The same can be said about Ukraine.

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