Posts Tagged ‘education

15
Nov
10

Of Politics and Education


Did you ever ask yourself why developed countries don’t have wars on their soil?
Did you ever wonder why developed countries are actually developed?
Did you ever wonder why are we still followers?
Did you ever wonder why very few of us ask questions? And even fewer seek answers?
If you answered “no” to any of the above, you’re on the wrong blog. If you answered “yes”, keep reading.

My theory is simple, so simple in fact, that we always look for answers elsewhere. Let me tell you a story:

 

There was this family of farmers living in the remotest area possible. They had none of the modern life facilities; no electricity, telephone, television and certainly no Internet. Mom and dad had 12 children. All were raised in the fields. All the children learned and knew was about plowing, seeding, harvesting, feeding, milking and waking up at 5 in the morning (just to make sure the rooster was doing its job!)

Twelve children in the field, mom in the kitchen and dad overlooking the operations. He sells what they did not consume and makes enough money to… well fill the mattress. Every morning of every week of every month of every year was the same… Checking if the rooster was doing its job.

All was going great, the same routine, the same productivity, the same way of life. Dad was the only one to go to the city, and have all the fun. At home, a strict regimen was applied, which insured the daily sequence ran like clockwork.

One day, the eldest of the children asks his dad about the city and wished he could visit one day. Dad was categorically opposed, then reluctant. Eventually he bowed to the pressure and the begging looks of mom. He took his son with him to the city. The boy was amazed at the lights, the streets, the bookshops. He was overwhelmed by the cellphones, cars, and sharp-looking people. Restaurants, high-rises, small delis, all seemed like a different planet for him. Dad was finalizing a transaction and left his son standing next to a newspaper kiosk. The young man started staring at the plethora of magazines, newspapers, comic books… Everything seemed different from the life he had.  He could not read, but he was smart enough to tell that he, and his siblings, were living in a different era, and missing a lot. Not that he hated his life, he simply could not. He never had a yardstick against which to benchmark the life he’s living. For him, that was it, the daily routine, with his dad on top.

Now the boy wants more.

Back home, the young man started asking his dad questions, and telling his siblings about the newly discovered world. He aroused their interest so much that they all wanted to go visit the city. Dad said no and pledged to never take anyone to the city again.

It was too late, the “harm” was done.

The “city-son’s” life mutated for ever. The vision of what he witnessed overshadowed the fields and the sunrise. His dreams were invaded by the city sights and he never woke up at 5 anymore. His routine turned into a cycle of boredom… And he doesn’t check on the rooster anymore.

He wanted more. He wanted change. He rebelled. He kept telling his brothers and sisters about the city and how they should visit to understand. He felt that his understanding and knowledge have attained a level far beyond his family’s and even his dad’s.

Then, his dad stopped being on top.

The boy understood that his father was the ruler not because he knew more, but because they knew less.

The boy ultimately fled home, went to the city and managed to bring in few of his brothers and sisters. Those who stayed back did so because they were either afraid or simply still believed that what they had is better, and those were the very few. Productivity was affected dramatically, the family starved, dad died… on top, leaving behind a starving wife and a couple of children who were forgotten by time, until a development project forced them to sell what was left of their land and relocate to a small shack next door.

There was my story.

 

I believe that countries should not be ruled. They should be guided. But to guide means to explain, and to explain means to educate, and to educate means to provide knowledge. Knowledge means power, and power means vision, and vision means insight, and insight tells you if those guiding or ruling you are good or bad, and that; is very bad.

The one single most powerful weapon used in non-developed countries is education. You can’t starve an educated population. You can’t make it follow you blindly. You can’t trigger a war and get re-elected with an educated population, and you can’t be uneducated and rule either. You can’t establish religion as law with an educated population, and you can’t establish a law as sacred either.

Lack of education is the real weapon of mass destruction. You want proof? Look at the Internet! In a country like Lebanon, nothing is censored but you can’t get it because we still have speeds equal to dial-up, and in the Gulf countries speed is high but you can’t see anything because of censorship.

Look at most schoolbooks where children learn about the French revolution but not the Cedars revolution, you learn about world wars but not Israeli invasions, you learn to read and write and then are taught to never dare read or write…

That’s how war was started here, and that’s how it was won. That’s how the status quo was kept, and that’s how they’re keeping our mouth shut.

They refused to take us to the city, but when some of us finally woke up and did manage to visit, we simply swayed the balance, threatened the equilibrium and threw away the blindfold.

And what did we discover? People on top but not at the top, people who rule, not people who guide, people who know what “they” want instead of knowing what we need.

The drawback? Now, we lost both the green fields and the city.

So, next time you hear a rooster, think of it as your wake up call.

© 2010 Ibrahim Lahoud

 

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21
Sep
10

Lebanon, the Internet and literacy


The slow bandwidth, lack of broadband, free wi-fi spots and a proper and affordable pricing structure are dramatically contributing to the drop of literacy in Lebanon.

Yes, even Facebook and illegal torrents are tools of education. Not that I encourage illegal activities… but really, where else will you learn “things” in Lebanon? Certainly not the media! Surely not expensive books! And absolutely not from your entourage.

Before the advent of Internet, TV used to teach us a lot. English was perfected by many through TV series and movies. Documentaries were our hungry minds window to the world. Hell! Even news were good to watch back then. Books were cheap, magazines were about fashion instead of sick outfits, about innovations instead of cheesy gadgets, and about world human happenings instead of modern days copycats.

And one day, we woke up and all was gone. TVs started beaming brain-damaging endless soap operas, sci-fi movies where the only fiction is the director. And whenever there’s a worthy channel, you have to pay loads of cash to see it or… hack it.

Books became for the wealthy (as if they needed education to buy an outrageously huge and hideous pinky gold ring), and if you manage to land on an affordable one, it’s always about Lebanese politics, and the only way to rationalize this one is through a sarcastic joke about the origins of the word politics: ‘Poly’ meaning many and ‘ticks’ meaning blood-sucking parasites. Magazines? Don’t even ask! They contain more Botox than Zaza Gabor’s lips and more slimy-dripping silicone than Silicone Valley, and if they don’t, well… they’re simply “flat”!

So, today we have the Internet! Some will argue that the internet contains the same crap mentioned above. Well yes, true, but the good stuff is a URL away. Your call!

When one school somewhere in Lebanon gets connected and furnishes its classes with laptops instead of books, it’s national news, a scoop. Well, on one side it’s a relief from the usual “I shot the sheriff but did not shoot the deputy” headlines, but on the other… Come on! We’re now bragging about how late we were??!

Before connecting schools and finding enough bandwidth to make it run, how about we start with getting homes connected? It’s sickening to find ministers and politicians throwing the blame at each other in a weird ping-pong, over who’s responsible! Hello! Read the blogs, follow Twitter, look at Facebook. WE DON’T CARE WHO’S TO BLAME! Denial is far from being just a river in Egypt you know… Don’t know who said that, but I’ll marry her if it’s a “she”!

Bandwidth is available, the infrastructure is available, everything is ready but it takes a little bit of, Ahem!… brain… and… balls! Here I said it. Another sarcastic joke is due: God gave men enough blood to make only one of two function at the same time… so that’s probably why, broadband will take some time….

Most of what I know today, most of the information I had and that developed into knowledge was acquired from the Internet. My children (and yours) acquired their knowledge from the internet. And all that was achieved with the slowest of connections you could have anywhere in the world!

If we were to count on parents, society, schools and the whole educational system over here to provide knowledge to our children, they’ll end up talking politics, weather, coffee cups fortune-telling and some weird and totally misleading history material.

We want people to know about Facebook, but also about Zuckerberg, Apple, but also Steve Jobs, Obama, but also Kevorkian. We want them to know about big movies, but also about YouTube amateurs. We want them to know about Twitter but also Foursquare. We want people to harness the power of the internet to the maximum. We want them to bleed it dry. It is amazing that in some North European countries, Internet access became a citizen’s right, just like electricity and water, while here, it is still a luxury… like electricity and water!!!

The rich get richer, and the poor poorer… This needs no elaboration in Lebanon, but the danger that lurks inside does. The rich is motivated by money, while the poor is motivated by knowledge. Underprivileged people “know” that to make money, they need knowledge, not education; knowledge. They can’t afford education, because the country leaders simply won’t avail it, but knowledge should be accessible to everyone. It costs less to avail bandwidth than to build schools, and over here… It even educates better!

Ok, it’s true,  I love being sarcastic. I love criticizing the leaders, not “our”, “the”; they’re surely not my leaders, and you know why? I refuse to be led by someone who’s knowledge-meter is below freezing! I always wondered what do they do with their Internet at home besides playing online poker or watch… Ahem! (again) indecent and decadent material? Oh come on! Don’t tell me politicians read the news on the Internet! They made the news and trust me, even they don’t want to read their own crap.

So, do you want to create a nation? Do you want to build a country with its feet on the ground but a soul in the stars? Do you want to see yourselves and your children become beacons of knowledge? Ask your government to open up the bandwidth pipe and lower the Internet prices. Ask your politicians to avail free wi-fi spots all over the urban areas. Tell them that politics don’t make countries… Countries make politics

Only then will you “really” discover the difference between orange, yellow, green and blue. You’ll find out they are just colors… Nothing more… Nothing less.




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Reason To Believe by Ibrahim N. Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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