Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Not everything done by "Americans" is bad.

I am sure that some of the people who read my comments over at Pandagon may have concluded that I am an "America-Hater". Sadly, No! Thats not how it goes.

I do not see the Americans as an unified mass, I am well aware of the differences seperating Glen Greenwald from Glen Reynolds.

So today I would like to give a shout out to Oprah Winfrey. Why? Because unlike other rich Americans who actively use their fortunes to the detriment of the world (Think of the various right wing figures funding the anti-science movement)

So what did she do? She opened a school. In South Africa. While I may have some issues with the criteria she uses to select the pupils. It is her $40 million that is driving the school. And it looks as if it will be a fine school. So well done Oprah. Very well done.

I don't think many people realize just how important proper education is. As someone who believes in individual liberty education is the most important thing. Without an education no one can reach their full potential.

In South Africa we have a truly horrendous unemployment rate which in turn fuels a dysfunctional society. But the sad fact is that a large portion of the unemployed mass is unemployable. Why? Due to deficient education.

One of the most basic lacks is that of language training. The ability to use language in its spoken and written forms is one of the most important in any society. How can you hire someone if they cannot understand you, or if you cannot understand them. In South Africa we have 11 officially recognised languages. The solution is not to merely educate in English, the solution is simultaneous instruction in the core curricula in the students “home language” as well as early instruction in English.

The instruction in ones own language greatly eases the learning process, however if one cannot communicate with the world in its "defacto tongue", then one might as well live in a cave. The standard of the English that is taught also needs to be improved as the current standard is laughably low. English is my second language btw, my “home language” is Afrikaans.

I am especially pleased by her plan to eventually bring in all 11 languages into the school, even my own. The act of bringing Afrikaans into township schools 30 years ago were a contributing factor in the Soweto uprisings of 1976. I am confident a repeat shall be avoided (kind of silly to indentify Afrikaans as the language of the oppressor now). I am also pleased to hear about the plan to open a similar school for boys in the future. And who knows, perhaps one day there will be a non-racial one?

So well done Oprah, and thanks from this citizen of the Republic of South Africa, I appreciate it, even though it might seem I do so from a somewhat unlikely corner.

PS As part of keeping my new years resolution to improve my fitness I went swimming today. After doing one 50m stretch I was exhausted. I had not realised I was this unfit. On Friday I will do a 50m stretch again, and every second day I will continue until I can swim at least 500m at a time.

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