I am currently living and teaching in the City of Apples or Almaty, Kazakhstan. Just yesterday I received a rather opaque e-mail where about 20 of us at our “institution of higher learning” need to do some extra paperwork which involves an “apostil.” Many of us wondered, “What is an apostil?” Not to be confused with apostles or apples, of course. This e-mail was the second of its kind within a week that I have received which is full of blathering legalese. Supposedly our university touts itself as being unique and having a “high level of openness and transparency.” I would agree with Aristotle when he argued that “the only way one can discover the true character of a regime is to analyze in depth the characteristics of its leadership…”
Reading through the first message, with the help of a friend who has a law degree, I found that the author of the e-mail was making fallacious claims about certain laws concerning the misuse or abuse of our use of electronic research databases. This person was using a bullying tactic by interpreting the law which had nothing to do with my pedagogy whatsoever. I have the backing of several in our academic community who understand the use of electronic databases the same way I do.
Unfortunately, there are those who are suspicious of the Information or Computer Literacy that has taken over in the West. No more can you apply for different grants or answer the distant “call for papers” without doing it electronically. Gone are the days of mailing in your application through the regular postal service, our globalized world is getting smaller thanks to the Internet.
So, where is our leadership in protecting foreign faculty who come to the land of apples and apostils? According to Kazakhstan’s President N.A. Nazarbayev in reference to our university, “Everything here is done to the highest standards, there’s no need to go abroad to study.” Therefore, we as foreign faculty are making it more affordable to have Kazakhstani students study at our institution rather than have them go abroad to the West and find out that the standard in writing and computer literacy are far higher than earlier suspected.
Lately I’ve been reading a very riveting book titled “The Silent Steppe: A Story of a Kazakh Nomad under Stalin.” Mukhamet Shayakhmetov, is a man in his eighties whom I highly respect as an educator, caring deeply about his country of Kazakhstan. He wrote the following on page p. 146 “Writing these words now, so many years later, I find myself thinking long and hard about the past. For years our ancestors lived under a tribal system where relationships were based on mutual help: they were convinced of the enduring worth of their centuries-old principles, and perhaps as a consequence used to regard any innovation with suspicion, fear and even disapproval. They were conservative by nature and clung to what was familiar: why else, in 1932, when the population of Kazakhstan was in the grip of a terrible famine, did our two families of fugitives head for a starving aul – where a year before they had been robbed, prosecuted and deported – instead of staying in Ridder, where they were getting limited but at least regular food rations?”
What would Solzhenitszyn say NOW about Kazakhstan if he were to ever return to this land? What would he write about our university which requires “apostiled” documentation of their foreign faculty? Just curious.