23 July 2010

Congratulations George, Jiacheng and Dr. Cáceres

Thanks to Jenius Reader Luis Herrero's buzz tracking, I found out something that I should have heard about, but given several factors, didn't until I stumbled across it: One of Ours won a Gold Medal in the International Math Olympiad.

Now I know I don't follow local media, largely because doing so is as useful as waxing a clean car with tar. But an achievement such as this, by George C. Arzeno Soltero, of winning a Gold Medal in such a competition is INFINITELY more worthy of Our attention than the flaccid buttocks of a "TV personality" or the sartorial wreckage of certain Fools We are practically forced to look at. George, who was on the 3-person team with Jiacheng “Jack” Feng and Dr. Luis F. Cáceres Duque, deserves more attention and applause for his win than some drug-addled "singer" or some over-surgeried "beauty."

Let's put George's accomplishment in perspective. Here's how tough the Math Olympiad is. Ignore the school-career length of the effort to learn math basics and then move into the advanced concepts. That eliminates 99.99% of Us right there. The preliminary competitions are tough, with several multi-hour tests needed just to make it to the national finals. Then more tests to earn the honor of representing your nation this year...in Kazakhstan. (Here: learn where it is. I already knew, but not because of "Borat.")

Halfway across the world, you will face (in the 51st Olympiad) 522 competitors from 98 countries. Some of them are Asians, who have a tradition of living and breathing math. We have a tradition of living and breathing in order to ignore math. You will take 2 tests, each four and a half hours long, to solve 6 problems. Your task is not to just find the answers to the problems, but to prove the answers as well.

Go ahead: think about that. Most of Us can't handle simple arithmetic without a calculator, as evidenced by the constant surprise I receive when I tally up My purchases mentally and have exact change for the cashier. Math is not just numbers, it is logic, ratiocination and discipline. It literally expands the brain, makes you a better thinker in some very basic ways. That's why it isn't easy, because to stretch a brain requires effort. Most of Us don't care to make the effort.

George was the highest-scoring student of the 73 participants from the Iberoamerica region, and ranked 17th in the world. 17th! Yeah, that's not first, but based on Our overall education system and cultural indifference to math, thinking and intellectual achievement, George's gold medal is like having a 300-foot tall redwood grow in the desert. And Let's not forget that Jiacheng was a Silver Medalist at the regional level, placing him amongst the best in Our hemisphere as well.

Much of George's and Jiacheng's success should be laid at the feet of the University of Mayagüez, for developing the Math Olympiad Program and encouraging students to join it. Kudos as well to Academia Perpetuo Socorro and Cupeyville School, where George and Jiacheng are students, and to their parents for supporting what can often be a lonely task.

We need to take a long hard look at the message We are trying to convey. At every turn We bemoan and bitch about the sorry educational system We have, as if it were somebody else's problem. We bitch about it, but don't pitch in to fix it. Let one of Our marginalized young men beat the brains out of some other place's "wrong side of the tracks" guy and We're mindlessly waving flags like drunken monkeys, but let a tiny handful of Our Own use their young and bright minds to climb a daunting intellectual mountain few could even attempt and We don't care...because We can't be bothered to even look at the mountain.

Sadly, George is another in an embarrassingly long line of national treasures We treat by waxing with tar. We may have even lost the capacity to honor him "officially," what with Our verminous legislature already on record "honoring" a self-admitted murderer and convicted drug dealers. It's up to Us to honor George, Jiacheng and Dr. Cáceres, but We don't care. Maybe it's best We continue this way...and watch as Our presence on the world stage is reduced to frippery on one hand, and the ones of Us who have success being only those who left Our debilitating cultural mindset--and island--far, far behind.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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