Yesterday was my 65th birthday, so I took time to celebrate – by not working on this blog – although initially, I wanted to dedicate the day to make an overview of my own spiritual and intellectual evolution through the years…
Well, after all, a short overview would not do any harm to my readers here to know on my own evolution, and for myself, it helps to get a clearer picture of me – seen from the 65th year’s perspective wisdom, ha ha!
Comparatively to my compatriots, my childhood was a good and happy one, with my first years at the French Couvent des Oiseaux, then at the French Lycée Yersin in Dalat. I wrote about my childhood education in my book “Back to Square One (2007)” with all the best sweet memories that came to my mind. As a matter of fact, I am grateful that the education of my first years contributed so much in what is part of my “good” ME of today.
In a nutshell, coming from a family with long traditions of studying – just like mine – did help a lot. Although when it came to my generation, we were caught in the midst of the Cold War during which I was doing my secondary schooling (1965-1975), we still had access to all the course material and infrastructure needed for our education. It is useful to remind the younger generation readers that at the time, the internet did not exist, nor did computers, and hardly any television. So the source of knowledge came mainly from movies, books, and private coach trainers after school.
As the training programme at school for our exams – the French Baccalaureate being the ultimate goal – were quite intensive, most of us were sent to private tuition after class for Maths, Physics and Science topics mainly. Apart from those hard core matters, foreign language learning such as English, Japanese (and occasionally German) were part of the extra-curricular activities (in addition to French which was the main working language at school, with Vietnamese as a second language in our main curriculum). Most of parents, including mine, would encourage us to join and pay extra for all these classes. Consequently, those activities were part of our childhood life in the small town of Dalat which had only less than 100’000 inhabitants.
At one stage of my life, I did an attempt to review the list of readings I had done at each stage of development, but the list became so long and I have not finished it yet…So, within the short framework of this blog, if my memory does not play tricks on me, my best recall was that we all started with the animated of Walt Disney books or films, then the Trilby and Madame de Segur’s French-speaking collection for children, followed by the classics collection of French literature and other foreign classical authors. Many authors still remain my favorites until today: Tolstoy, Dostoievski, Goethe, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Anatole France, Balzac, Maupassant, Stendahl, Blaise Pascal, Rousseau, H.C. Andersen, Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, the Bronte Sisters, MarkTwain, etc…
I would add some more to the list on authors I discovered during my doctoral research training in Paris with more philosophical or political authors such as Durkheim, Aristotle, Platon, Spinoza, Kant, Hume, Nietzsche, Rawls, Sanders, Arendt etc. which were part of the recommended reading list for the first Seminary of Epistemology and Research Methodolology. In parallel, the list of economist thinkers were added, to include the classical authors of the liberal schools (Durkheim, Weber, Smith, Ricardo, Locke, Keynes, Friedman, Hayek, etc). By the time I finished my thesis, I stopped counting the names of those I have not “seen”, as it seems that there were an explosion of theories, and started thinking in terms of schools of thoughts (moral theories, social contract theories, existentialism, structuralism, positivism, ethics, logics, political philosophy which includes the schools of neo classical liberalism, post-modern, critical theory, libertarianism, neo-conservatism, anarcho-capitalism, etc…). The list is long compared to a few authors that I got during my undegraduate studies with Marx-Engel, Rousseau, Lenin, Sartre, etc, just to name of few that are still now being taught at some Vietnamese univerisities.
For the needs of my research on transition economies, another list will be necessary to this list, but includes mainly authors on the transition economies of East and Central Europe, the Soviet bloc and China, and along with it, the overview of socialistic development and history of Europe. Alone for the review of literature on this part, it took some some 2 to 3 years to cover a bibliography of about 400 titles.
I must say, that discovering so many schools of thoughts, although not being formally trained on all these authors, helped to open my mind to different perspectives. I was a bit disappointed that classical Eastern thinkers such as Confucius, Lao Tsu, the Buddha, were not on the list of recommended readings, but I still included them in my research work for the sake of comparative studies, which I intend to pursue later in my post-retirement activities. Indeed, there is obviously a gap in the education for young Eastern Scholars to understand Western thinking in my view, and this gap should be filled if we want to offer our future researchers a more solid foundation on interculturalism and multi-culturalisme.
The readings that I enjoyed most during this “revision” study period are mainly the series by Luc Ferrry, the French Minister of Culture and Education. I really love that educational course material at disposal to students and researchers in France, the many seminars that are open to all walk-in students regardless of political conviction or cultural background, the very well documented libraries on all topics with glossaries, journals, and e-books, notwistanding the avaiability of my thesis directors, their research assistants whose doors are open for any enquiries, online or offline.
For me, France is a paradise for researchers and scholars. and for that, I am thankful for all what I have received in the name of “academic freedom” and “inclusive education”.
The world of eduction is vast and promising to all who want to try out the potential of their intellectual capabilities, and education is for me the best way to reconcile ideas, ways of being and living together in peace, if the system is designed to allow that transformation to happen. One way is to start writing down a purpose statement for one’s own research thesis.
In my next post, I will share more on other support for researchers, including financial support or scholarship for talented researchers.
Have a good weekend to all,
Doctorat Campus France: https://doctorat.campusfrance.org/phd/dschools/main
French Culture Studies Opportunities: https://www.everyculture.com/Cr-Ga/France.html
Shanghai Ranking of World Universities: http://www.shanghairanking.com/Academic-Ranking-of-World-Universities-2020-Press-Release.html
Top Classical French Authors: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/5768.Classic_French_Literature
Top Famous French Economists: https://www.thefamouspeople.com/french-economists.php