04 August 2006

Education and Technology

The future of [INSERT COUNTRY/STATE HERE] boils down to two main areas of development: education and technology.

I don't think reasonably bright people will argue with Me on this one. (Reasonably dumb and unreasonably stupid people, of which there is an overabundance, will argue anything.) In the growing global economy, where ideas matter more than ever and implementing them effectively and efficiently involves adaptation and creation of technologies, education and technology rule.

I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said before, even by Me. In fact, these two focal points have been at the center of nearly every discussion of global growth of any magnitude in practically every forum since the early 1990s. So why in the name of the deepest pits of hell doesn't Puerto Rico get it?

Like a logjam that keeps piling up scrap or a tumor swelling as its parasitic needs increase, the blockage We experience in Puerto Rico about the vital need to improve education and enhance technology grows without control. With rare exceptions, progress has been stagnant since the 1970s.

---The education curriculum in Puerto Rico is but a pale imitation of the U.S.'s, which has been repeatedly shown to be deficient for global standards. A pale copy of a bad picture is an image I leave for you to analyze. The basic tenets of Our educational system are awash in political prejudices (We had a retarded ape of an Education Secretary who stole money for political campaigns), cultural inequalities (ask any Puerto Rican about Puerto Rican history and learn the meaning of "void") and 1950s "work in a factory" rote learning. The primary reason private schools are "better" is not that they have a better grasp of education, but that they force parental participation: just by charging them high fees they get parents involved in at least the pursuit of "their money's worth."

---Puerto Rico's insistence on pushing for manufacturing growth in the face of undisputed global manufacturing shrinkage is like wanting to produce buggy whips back in the heyday of the Model T. Fixated on the past, the present and future raced beyond Our reach. The "Puerto Rico Model" of industrial growth became the "Singapore/Ireland Kick Puerto Rico's Butt" Plan. Their transition differs from Ours in two very significant ways: they made effective education a priority and they moved away from manufacturing as their central goal. Neither of these choices requires great intelligence to make, but they both require discipline and creativity to entrench successfully.

And that's where We fail. We don't "want" discipline, We don't "want" to exert Ourselves in creativity. We still want the "think for Me, punch a clock, cash a check, get a measly bonus, retire on a pension" plan. We may SAY We don't, but Our collective lack of will to make fundamental changes proves Me right.

Is education important to the average one of Us? Oh, yeah! Damn important! So why do We still put up with an English-(non)teaching system that has a 70% failure rate after 12 YEARS of instruction? Over 70% of Us cannot carry on an adult conversation in English, nor write a simple business letter nor read USA Today with any appreciable degree of understanding. This has been going for decades. And yet, We keep saying education is important.

Sciences? The average student in Our 12th grade has taken fewer science courses than most other students in industrialized nations. I recently discovered that the high school biology text used here is actually the junior high school text used in some States, and is even farther behind what South Korean or German students use. Ditto for math, where the average 12th grader can barely handle basic arithmetic without using a calculator.

Skills? Here are the skills Our students are taught to excel in: short-term memorization, bullshitting, whining, cheating, plagiarism, lying and blackmail. Think I'm kidding? Ask one of Our teachers if the list I give you doesn't portray actions and activities s/he encounters every day. Where's the emphasis on critical thinking, reasoning, evaluation of data, information management, creativity, results-oriented planning and self-evaluation so freaking essential to success in the 21st century? Well, they're in My first list, only aimed at petty transient issues rather than at global long-term ones.

Manufacturing? When the eminent manufacturer of the world starts making big noise about "moving up the value chain" and enhancing its intellectual business base, you know something's up. China caught on in 15 years; We're still foggy about this after 50.

Education and technology have always gone hand in hand. Learning, thinking, reasoning and imagination are as much a part of education as they are of technology. But where learning is deficient, thinking is suppressed or disdained, reasoning is laughed at as "useless work" and imagination is solely aimed at self-gratification rather than self-growth, both of these tremendous tools are blunted to the point of uselessness.

Maybe Our new tourism slogan should be: Welcome to the Dull Blade of the Caribbean.

It takes friction to sharpen a blade. Let the friction begin.


The Jenius Has Spoken.

2 comments:

Nelson said...

You're making too much sense for people to follow you, stop it! LOL!

Gil C. Schmidt said...

Nelson, I wish the sense I'm making would invade The Fools' skulls and either vanquish them like the alien baby did (bursting out in a geyser of gore) or take over the emptiness and spawn thoughts of progress. Barring that, We'll just have to keep on keeping on.

Thanks!