Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Haitian Intellectuals and the Example of China
by Asselin Charles
I would like to draw your attention to Dr. Godfree Roberts’ comment at 14:10 minutes into the podcast. Referencing a research published by a physics professor at the University of Michigan, Dr. Roberts points out that in the United States there are about 10,000 top-level people and innovative thinkers, with an average IQ of 160, able to contribute the fresh ideas that are the ferment of progress in society. In China, still according to Dr. Roberts, there are about 330,000 such people.
I am not sure what formula that University of Michigan physicist used to arrive at these figures; I’ll have to chase down the original paper. I suspect he is right, however. As we know, the number of real thinkers among the educated in a society will always be very small compared to the number of degree holders and to the total population. That’s par for the course. Even within the university, the premier social institution whose mission is to facilitate the generation, transmission and application of ideas, experience tells us that it is only about 5% of the professoriat that generate original thoughts and about 30% that add to and transmit effectively the ideas of these original thinkers. The remaining 65% are kin to Ibsen’s Jørgen Tesman, useful sorts in many ways, but hardly the Eilert Løvborg many often fancy themselves to be. (See Henrik Ibsen’s play, Hedda Gabler, for a portrait of these two contrasting archetypes of the intellectual and academician). Enough said.
The point made by Dr. Roberts is that you need a critical mass of innovative thinkers in a society to help it resolve its problems and move forward, and you need institutions that effectively foster the generation of original ideas and facilitate their transmission and their application. This being the case, it is worth wondering whether we have such a critical mass of original thinkers in our developing and less developed countries (forgive the terminology, but you understand my meaning). It is worth asking whether we have the institutions that cultivate them and make it possible for them to think the thoughts that can change reality. It is worth considering whether we have the institutions that facilitate the transmission of those thoughts to students and to society at large (state actors, economic producers, and the creative classes in particular) for action.
I will reiterate the point I have often made: the paralysis of our societies is first and foremost the result of an intractable intellectual crisis, the inability to generate, transmit, and apply the ideas that make for social, economic, political, and cultural progress. In the case of Haiti, for example, it is clear that an anemic intelligentsia (and this includes intellectuals and professionals both inside Haiti and abroad), whose thought patterns, weltanschauung, and relations to their immediate social and material environments and to the world at large, are mired in the late colonial 18th century and pre-industrial-revolution 19th century, is by definition incapable of inventing, transmitting, and applying ideas that could take their country out of its historical doldrums. It couldn’t be otherwise, in any case, for we cannot expect those products of an educational system whose curriculum, pedagogical practices and ideological orientations are steeped in the 19th century to be able to come up with the modes of thinking, practical ideas, and ways of doing that might pull Haiti into the 21st century. Haitian universities in particular, both the state university and the newer private institutions, maladapted and dysfunctional pale copies of the 19th-century French university with a few haphazard recent borrowings from the American university, are singularly ill equipped to nurture the minds that would be capable of inventing the ideas and practices likely to resolve the country’s current problems and move Haiti toward a happier future.
The solution? Back to the drawing board to redesign the educational system from kindergarten to the university. And this time, break out of the infernal triangle—France, Canada/Quebec, United States—for helpful educational models and ideas. Look to our neighbors in the Caribbean, Cuba and Barbados in particular, who have managed to develop highly performing educational systems. If you want to go to Europe, go to Finland, a country with a global reputation for excellence in education. Go to China, an old civilization with a much longer and deeper experience in education than France, Canada, and the United States, three polities on which those responsible for education in Haiti seem to be needlessly fixated. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel: borrow, adapt, and emulate to create the right educational system for Haiti and countries in a similar situation. Ultimately, there cannot be political, social, and economic progress as long the current educational system remains in place and keeps churning out and letting loose the same archaic types of minds into the society.
The Greanville Post (15 July 2016)
THE MYTH OF WESTERN VS CHINESE EDUCATION SUPERIORITY-GODFREE ROBERTS ON CHINA RISING RADIO SINOLAND 160714
Going back for millennia, civil servants in China used to sport mortar boards and gowns, after passing the grueling state entrance examination, similar to today’s high stakes college entrance test, the “gaokao”. Nothing new under the Sun, in the Middle Kingdom. (Image by baidu.com)
Don’t fall for all the American propaganda about its superiority over China’s educational system and universities. Westerners are clueless. Discussing a deliciously bad article in the Wall Street Journal proves the point, as well as another comparing Jewish and Chinese students in elite prep schools and universities.
Author, analyst and lecturer Jeff J. Brown invited Dr. Godfree Roberts on his China Rising Radio Sinoland show, as a follow-up to their well-received interview about Shanghai public schools being ranked the best on Planet Earth.
Conversation between Jeff Brown and Dr. Godfree Roberts on Chinese education:
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Jeff’s and Godfree’s first interview about Shanghai’s #1 schools:
Wall Street Journal article:
Ron Unz article comparing Jewish and Chinese students:
Godfree Roberts’s website:
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