Yesterday I received four new issues of Science, the Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Why four issues at once when it’s published weekly? Well, you would know if you understood the postal system in Papua New Guinea. In all fairness, though, we are a long way from the rest of the planet.
We, along with many other developing nations are a long way from the rest of the planet in other matters.
Here is the first paragraph of the lead editorial:
For success in an increasingly complex, crowded, and dangerous world, a nation must strive to be a meritocracy: Its education and social systems should be structured to select those with the most talent, energy, wisdom, and character as the next generation of leaders for each segment of society. When I was young, I was taught that providing equal opportunities for everyone was a matter of social justice – part of the social contract in the United States. Now, I believe that it is also a matter of national survival. Any country that fails to encourage and develop the talent in each individual through its public school system will suffer greatly, because the quality of a nation depends on the collective wisdom of both its leaders and its citizens. [italics mine]
Now, before I get all heavy with my spouting of unsolicited opinion about the matter, let me show you an image of the harbour in front of our house. The shot required a fifteen second exposure and massive processing on the computer with Photoshop:
If you click to enlarge, you can see a fair amount of detail, especially in the warehouse on the left.
The curious idea of a meritocracy hasn’t gained much of a foothold. The idea that someone should hold a position of influence and power because of “talent, energy, wisdom, and character” is not especially popular. People seem to gravitate upwards for other reasons, especially where the general education level is inadequate for people to make reasoned decisions about leadership. There is a lot of talk about choosing leaders wisely, but what is the result of all this wink-wink, nod-nod?
Two recent elected officials in our area (no naming of names here) were convicted criminals. One attempted to serve part of his term in office from a jail cell. How does this speak of character?
Forget principles – how about ability. Well, you can hardly have a meritocracy if your population is largely uneducated and technically unskilled.
Who is to blame for this? It’s easy to blame the government – it’s a big target. But there is plenty of blame to go around. Everybody can have their fair share. I have seen families who believed that education was essential to their future limit their size (fewer children) and make horrifying financial sacrifices in order to pay school fees. I have also seen many other families let their many children run wild while there was always money for beer and cigarettes. I ask: which family will prosper in the end?
I can hear the voices of some even now, “That’s easy for you to say. You’re relatively rich compared to most of us.” This is true, but we have put our money where our mouths are. Over the years we have paid school fees for more than twenty children to go as far as they wished to go. Some have done well and now have good jobs. Some chose not to continue and their futures are not as bright.
My opinions are seldom humble, so I won’t change the trend now. I believe and espouse the idea that if we do not change our attitude towards education and force a change of governmental policy that fosters free education for those who show promise, than we are doomed to national mediocrity. We will be indistinguishable from other developing countries who have failed to reach their full potential.
Our country has great potential. I believe that Papua New Guinea is the “natural leader” of the South Pacific island nations. Can we ever claim the moral, educational, and technical high ground?
Never. If we fail to educate our children.
Will we ever see the sun rise?