How does one fit a western styled form of higher education into a land once very proud of their nomadic traditions? The oral tradition continues to reign supreme in the land of Kazakhstan.The other night at the Kazakh contest I attended, I was struck with the last part of the competition where eight contestants, who were non-native speakers of Kazakh, had to best each other in knowing many Kazakh proverbs and sayings and not repeat what the others had earlier recited.Therefore, they had to sound off in rapid succession words in Kazakh and pass off the microphone to the next contestant.If there was a three second pause, the speaker was disqualified.Two girls after about 4-5 rounds were eliminated which left six remaining who were paired off with their own mikes.They looked like they were faced off in a gun duel as they continued to fire away their proverbs and sayings in Kazakh, never repeating a proverb that had already been spoken.
I did not understand a word but hearing the audience appreciation for certain ones, I could tell which contestants felt confident in knowing their Kazakh proverbs.The one unfortunate girl who was tone deaf with her singing rendition for the song and dance part of the competition continued to nail her proverbs with great fluency to the great satisfaction of the audience. As it turned out, this Russian looking girl either got first or second place in the whole competition, while she dominated Nicolay, the Ukrainian, who ultimately won the grand champion prize. (see the photo of their “duel”) Another girl got either first or second prize with her very authentic Kazakh dance.
This event set me to thinking about how are we able to have a university whose professors pride themselves in writing and publishing in western publications of journals or books and yet assimilate to the Kazakh culture that prides itself in their ancient oral traditions?Something has to give.My eyes have been opened to several inconsistencies of the university where administrators turn a blind eye to plagiarism because they are perpetrators themselves of stealing intellectual property.That’s a whole ‘nother topic for a later blog.
Let’s see, how does the rest of the world view Kazakhstan?First of all, many westerners don’t know where it is located since it is situated at “the ends of the earth” next to the “Middle Kingdom” or China.China has a tradition of upholding the writing traditions and hearkening back to Confucian sayings, what Confucius wrote down for the Chinese moral codes.Kazakhstan has their own moral codes preserved in the spoken and memorized proverbs which have been handed down generation after generation. However, just because modern day China believes in the written word doesn’t mean they are not guilty of plagiarism either.They are big time criminals of not attributing to the original source when it comes to fitting in to the western word.I believe that is because of the ills of communism which plagued the former Soviet Union and continues to do so today.