EDITORIAL: Education bashing

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You all know how we feel about education. To borrow the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world.” We believe in that statement wholeheartedly, and we believe that everyone, regardless of the age, should continue to pursue some form of education every day of life.

That said, we also do not believe in education shaming. Not everyone has the opportunity (for a variety of reasons) to pursue a bunch of letters to accompany their names and prove to the world that they went beyond the secondary school standard. Heck, some very smart people have never finished primary school because of circumstances. So, in our mind, education is not something that is the yardstick for judging the true mettle of a man, or woman.  

We are on the topic of formal education because it was raised by the prime minister in his attack on members of the opposition. Noting that some of the newly-released candidates were not “lettered,” the PM said, “We’re no longer living in the 1970s and ‘80s so that we want to boast a secondary education, and I’m not trying to hit anybody’s education. At the end of the day, as they say, they have individuals who are lettered who are some of the most idiotic people you can find, but that is not an excuse not to be lettered.” The PM also added that there were people of modest education who were very smart, but those were rare. We will get to that later.

It was a classic case of political doublespeak. The PM first said, “I am not trying to knock anybody’s education,” and then did just that by stating, “If you cannot develop yourself, then how are you going to help others?” While the PM touches on the point of mediocrity, he misses the point. He, instead, dismiss the contribution of most people in society because the fact is that most have not become “lettered.”  

In the nasty game of politics, this type of negativity is fair game, but it does not mean that it is right. The PM, in his criticism, says, “What gives him or her the right to think that he is superior to others when he has nothing to show, no achievement?” In that question is the answer to a big part of the problem with our politics. The whole question of superiority. Education and financial success does not equal superiority, and no politician should ever feel that they are superior to any of their constituents. In fact, the topic of superiority should not even be in a discussion about leadership.

In a leadership role, such as that of Prime minister, you are actually a servant to the people. They pay your salary so that you can do their bidding. So, if there was a superior role, it would be that of the voter and taxpayer. In theory, politicians are subservient to their employers, the people, but in reality, they assume a role of superiority, and that corrupts the entire political process.

We should also divorce the PM of the notion that successful people of modest education are rare. As reported in Fortune magazine, “about three out of 10 billionaires—29.9%—around the world did not have at least a bachelor’s degree in 2015, according to a billionaire census by Wealth-X. That’s 739 out of the total 2,473 billionaires.”  Want a few examples? Try Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame, or Microsoft’s Bill Gates. And let’s not forget Steve Jobs from that tiny U.S. $880 billion company called Apple. These men are all university dropouts who have no letters but are each economic powerhouses as individuals.

Now, before it be said that we are promoting people to drop out and abandon a pursuit of a higher education, let’s dismiss that kind of foolishness. Every person should pursue the highest possible level of education that they can. Even with the statistics above, the odds are still in the favour of education.  

What we are hoping for is political discussion on issues and suitability to the task and not personal attacks on who has what type of education. What happens next? Do we start picking apart the prestige of degree from a particular institution?  Harvard versus Princetown versus an online degree mill that issues letters as easily as obtaining them from a can of alphabet soup? Let’s get down to the issue at hand and make the next election about who are the most suitable candidates for the jobs available.

Let’s not lower the bar another notch in our political discourse, because we need to remember that, at the end of the day, there are individuals who are lettered who are some of the most idiotic people you can find.

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