History is always a good source to help us understand today’s problems and tomorrow’s challenges. In the last few years we have been witnessing mounting attacks on higher education. Detractors contest its value, accuse it of brainwashing people, and call it a waste of taxpayers’ money. And all this is taking place in an environment in which facts are distorted, people seem less educated about reality, and ideological leanings are more important than critical thinking. In other words, a world that seems to be moving more and more towards mediocrity and authoritarian-ism. Are there historical precedents to what we are witnessing today?
One such event took place in Spain on October 12, 1936. Although there are no direct records, the most popular account of the incident is as follows. Shortly after the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, the rector (president) of the University of Salamanca, the celebrated writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, gave a speech during the opening ceremonies for the academic year. In it he mentioned José Rizal, an intellectual and hero of the independence of the Philippine islands, which until 1898 had been a Spanish colony.