The 25th Anniversary of the beginning of the Velvet Revolution

Óscar Hidalgo-Redondo, MPhil

Chair of International and Economic Relations

We are currently commemorating the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the Velvet Revolution. We are doing this precisely at a moment in which in many European countries their citizens are questioning their political institutions.

It is evident that the impact of the economic crisis in Europe has become a window of opportunity for those that are promoting changes in our societies that, now, find the public easier to convince of the need to transform our political or social structures.

 

I think that changes and transformations are not a good and a bad thing themselves; it just depends on what those changes bring to our societies. And it is in this context that the experience of the Velvet Revolution could be really valuable. In these moments, when leaders, political parties or movements lure us with promises of change, it is the chance for citizens to be able to distinguish between the positive and reasonable proposals and those that would lead us towards disaster.

 It is precisely on these occasions that a good education is absolutely critical to make the right decision. When I interview students who want to join our bachelor program in International and Economic Relations I always ask the following question: what do you think makes a student a good student? I hear many different answers. To be completely honest, I do not ask this question just to know what the students think that is a good student. I use that opportunity to let them know what we expect from our students, and what our teaching philosophy is. I always tell them what the basic characteristics of a good student are: to be motivated, to have enough discipline and to be willing to engage with others to learn. There is a fourth element that I consider the key of a good education and that is related to what I mentioned at the beginning: being critical. Critical thinking skills are absolutely fundamental for good citizens. Critical thinking requires us not to take anything for granted, and to always think about what others suggest or propose. Only after questioning it can we accept it. Twenty-five years after the Velvet Revolution, critical thinking is as necessary as it was in 1989 to make our societies better. Without critical citizens, democracy disappears. We put a lot of effort into critical thinking skills in our program. I think that critical thinking is one of the fundamental pillars of UNYP educational philosophy and that should make us proud. It is this type of education that is needed in order to improve our societies.

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