[private] In his book “Collapse” Pulitzer-winning author Jared Diamond analyzes a history of societies that grew, educated themselves and then imploded, sometime vanished. One of the societies Diamond describes is Easter Islanders, who lived on a remote, once lush and forested island. As the islanders mastered new skills and educated themselves, they begun almost obsessively building statues as symbols of their own power. Different islander groups competed for best trees to be used to transport the sculptures around the island. In a span of just few generations Easter island became completely deforested. Islanders became stranded and unable to build boats to travel to other Polynesian islands for help. Their power dwindled and they had nothing left to do but stare at their lonely statues.
I hear a mantra being repeated over and over again: lets build school, put children in classrooms and education will solve all our problems. This mantra is told to the American public about Iraq, and in Honduras to the masses. Morality of individuals comes first from family, neighbors and churches. School is only a secondary place where moral values are instilled. Education and building schools should only be a first priority if the education system assures that it is also creating moral individuals.
While education provides opportunities for individuals and societies, it also provides a responsibility of acting in a moral way. An educated person in Honduras faces far more moral dilemmas and questions then an uneducated, often illiterate person. Competent, yet immoral individuals are destructive to the society around them, even more so in a country with few educated people.
Some of the most corrupt officials in Honduras have university degrees, even law degrees. They use their education to further their ambitions at the cost to society. It has gotten to the point that many uneducated Hondurans associate education with financial success and immoral behavior. Educated public officials are almost expected to fend for themselves and use the system for their own benefit. If an educated public official didn’t secure a financial gain from his time in office he is seen as gullible and dim-witted.
Where I come from, education is connected more with intellect then with competence. The world is full of pseudo intellectuals, educated and competent people that are unable to hold meaningful discussions about morality or question the direction of where they are heading. Education provide opportunities for people and it is the necessary, yet not sufficient element in the functioning of a civilization.
The entire idea that education is the principle and only solution to the ills of a Honduran, or any other society is false. I believe that education is not as important as individual’s moral core. In fact, education without ethical core is dangerous to the foundations of society or group. For the good of itself and others, an immoral society should better remain uneducated.
One way to look at it is as a dilemma whether it is better to have competent, but corrupt officials running the country, or no competent officials at all. The choice is not easy. As a comfort I say that many societies lack education, but manage to lead productive and happy existences.
On a motorcycle trip in Bhutan, a little visited, extremely poor, Himalayan kingdom, I realized that this country has very low number of educated people, but it is one of the safest, friendliest countries you could find.
There is something that is more needed then education in Honduras and Bay Islands, societies that have been deeply traumatized. Majority of children here grow up without fathers, in abusive families; and they are surrounded by drugs, guns and violence at home and on the streets. Hondurans need psychologists and counselors more then they need teachers. They need healing and guidance, more then they need another unequipped classroom and unprepared teacher. [/private]