Misiunea de a adera Republica Moldova la Uniunea Europeană

Republica Moldova a semnat Acordul de Asociere European pe 28 noiembrie 1994. Acest a fost începutul unei colaborare largă cu Uniunea Europeană. Acum, cu Alianţa pentru Integrare Europeană, colaborare a fost intensificată. Mai mult de integrare economică, liberalizarea vizelor, aderare la Spaţiul European Aviatic Comun, şi multe alte subiecte sunt iniţiate.
Cu toate acestea, conflictul Transnistriei rămâne o problemă. După Republica Moldova a devenit independentă, a început un război în regiunea transnistreană. Astăzi, regiunea transnistreană este încă ocupată.
O condiţie pentru Moldova s-a adera la Uniunea Europeană este că acest conflict va fi soluţionat. Astăzi, noi discuţii începând cu februarie 2006 au început. Trupele ruse ar trebui să părăsească regiunea transnistreană şi să fie înlocuit de o forţă internaţională. Acest este un lucru foarte bun pentru a face, pentru că guvernul transnistrean nu a fost recunoscut pe plan internaţional, şi o prezenţă militară rusă nu este acceptabilă într-o ţară care nu este rusă.
Pe lângă reformele să adere la Uniunea Europeană, ar trebui să existe pace şi o rezoluţie privind Transnistria. Atunci când un acord internaţional a fost formulat, trupele ruse au părăsit regiunea, regiunea ar trebui să fie a revenit treptat la autorităţile moldovene.
Cu noile alegeri parlamentare, sper că Alianţa pentru Integrarea Europeană, sau în altă formă, va rămâne la putere, astfel încât Uniunea Europeană şi Republica Moldova va continua promovarea relaţiilor.
Fac apel la toate partidele liberale Europeană să ofere sprijinul lor pentru partidele liberale din Moldova. O bună cooperare este necesară pentru relaţii bune.

Like this on Facebook!
(opens in a new window)
Advertisements

Gender emancipation from an individual perspective

Emancipation as a government policy is often approached by applied rules or negotiations between civil society groups, trying to artificially make good for the ages of male dominance in political, corporate or even domestic areas of life.

However, my view of emancipation is completely different. The reason emancipation still needs work is because that part of emancipation that is incomplete is in the hands of men and women themselves.

Movements like feminism and civil rights groups are an excellent method of bringing emancipation and the rights of (particularly) women to attention. I support them wholeheartedly and encourage them to keep informing and stimulating (future) politicians to introduce all-gender-friendly policy everywhere.

But where emancipation still needs some work is how men and women treat each other in daily life. Not necessarily in the office, in debates or in the house. It’s how men treat women and how women are being treated by men. It cuts both ways.

While watching certain music videos, one can notice that women are often half-naked, dancing around the men who play a central role in the video clip. Or the video clip has a woman who makes erotic moves and seduces the men in the video. There is no reason why I would want to censor or even ban these videos. To some extent (having regard for the age of the viewer), anything legal should be allowed to be shown in a music video.

What this has to do with emancipation, however, is the way how (mostly) teens are being taught to think. These videos teach kids from a young age (easily influenced) that women should be attractive and men should be butch. This is completely contrary to the goal of emancipation, which is that men and women are on the same level. Being butch means dominating the female, while being attractive means being dependent on your looks and seduction skills.

Music videos aren’t the only medium that exposes people to this idea. For example, one can see in a commercial poster that (sometimes photo shopped) photos of women are shown, posing in a way to have good looks, but usually (to me) hardly expose any of their genuine personality. And, actually, the same holds for men on these posters.

My point here is this: forget constantly focusing on quotas and other (positively) discriminatory practices. Of course, we want women to be judged by their character and personality, not primarily by their looks, and therefore get the job they deserve, get elected to the highest public offices and let men be in the kitchen for a change. But primarily setting quotas will not be a long term solution.

This is what needs to change in order to make emancipation work from an individual level towards every field where emancipation is an issue, and holds for both men and women.

  • Avoid using or responding to erotic terms like “sexy” or “hot”. These are only appropriate when they’re actually in an erotic context.
    Instead, tell him or her something positive about his or her personality. How he or she makes you smile, or how witty he or she is. It’s not wrong to tell someone he or she is looking good, but don’t make it the central issue of his or her presence. If you want to be judged for your personality, then don’t allow someone to void your personality with your looks.
  • Look for eye contact, and listen. And keep listening. Listening is more important than speaking. You know you are equal partners in social engagement if and when a silent moment is not awkward, and he or she actually responds to what you have said (and vice versa).
  • If someone smiles at you, they’re not always hitting on you. They might just be trying to be friendly. Smile back. Start worrying when he or she starts making inappropriate moves.
  • Use compliments wisely. Only use them if you really mean them. If you compliment all the time, they inflate in their value. The most valuable compliments are the compliments that are used in the right moment, to the right person and last but not least, for the right reason. And with that, I mean compliments should never be used for personal gain, but only to let someone know he or she is doing something good.
  • Don’t stress your gender too much. Stereotyping yourself isn’t really the way to dissociate yourself from them. Saying things like “I’m a man, so I can’t do multiple things at the same time” (regardless of whether it’s true or not), or “I’m blonde, so that explains”, does not help yourself in the emancipation process. If it’s not a joke, then don’t say it.

Why are these things important, in my opinion? Because these acts ensure that all men and women are judged for who they are, and not how they look, or what role they should have in society.

If men and women are not viewed as actually being men and women outside of a romantic context, then that is when emancipation is complete. If people would almost refer to a person of the other gender as “that person” rather than “that man” or “that woman”, then you can smile and say: “that’s emancipation”.

Like this on Facebook!(opens in a new window)

Purple hearts and purple minds, for a better future

Purple

Before reading this: the views in this weblog post are my own and do NOT necessarily represent the views of D66, Jonge Democraten or any other organization I am associated with.

Purple

June 9 2010, Dutch elections for the House of Representatives. D66 witnessed an increase of the number of seats from 3 to 10, of the 150 seats in total in the Dutch House of Representatives. After having had a hard time, D66 reclaimed the trust of the Dutch people. In the last few days, D66 has been campaigning for a new Purple Coalition. Personally, as a member, supporter and voter, I wholeheartedly endorse this decision. In this weblog post, I will explain why, but first I will give a short introduction on the background of ‘Purple’.

Previous Purple coalitions

From 1994 to 1998, the first Purple coalition governed. This was a coalition of PvdA (red), VVD (blue) and D66 (green). This may have been the most progressive government in Dutch political history. It was responsible, among other policies, for possibilities and regulation of civil liberties like euthanasia, gay marriage and legalized prostitution.

From 1998 to 2002, the second Purple coalition governed. This coalition was to continue the policies of the first purple coalition, to work for improving the economy, reducing taxes and reducing unemployment. Arguably not as successful as the first purple coalition.

Criticism

In 2002, Pim Fortuyn entered the spotlight. He wrote the book De Puinhopen van Acht Jaar Paars (“The Mess of Eight Years Purple”), criticizing the past two Purple coalitions for supposedly neglecting the health system, security, public governance and education. In the Netherlands, being anti-establishment almost automatically attracts votes of citizens who are dissatisfied with traditional parties and do not associate themselves with those parties.

Apart from being controversial with his anti-Islam ideas, populist statements and far-right positions, he also had a very shaky political history. He had often changed political party, finally became party leader of Leefbaar Nederland, but was kicked out for being too controversial. This ultimately brought him to found his own party, Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF). His party became so popular, it won enough seats to instantly join the new government coalition. This was the first cabinet led by Jan Peter Balkenende (CDA).

The Balkenende Era

Jan Peter Balkenende started off with a trend that would be the key note for all of his cabinets. The first Balkenende cabinet had a lifespan of only three months. Because of unrest in the LPF party after the assassination of Pim Fortuyn, the LPF could no longer govern in the first Balkenende cabinet.

The second Balkenende cabinet already had trouble with its formation. Eventually, D66 decided to join in a coalition with CDA and VVD to realize a majority coalition. It crashed, however, when minister for Integration and Immigration Rita Verdonk made a very controversial move by starting a procedure to evict Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

As a result a third Balkenende cabinet was formed. This was a caretaker government, as CDA and VVD did not have the support of a majority in the parliament and had to find a new majority for each policy proposal.

Finally, after new elections, the fourth Balkenende cabinet came. In my opinion, this was the cabinet with the least accomplishments in the range of Balkenende cabinets. The government installed many committees to postpone political decisions, put away responsibility on the political support on the Iraq war and finally the PvdA, being against a longer stay in Afghanistan, while CDA and CU were for a longer stay in Afghanistan, persuaded the CDA to ask the PvdA to break with the coalition. Again, there were early elections.

A new era, a purple era

After so many years of hardly any reforms, hardly any government and increasing polarization, it is time for something completely different. It is time to have a broad government, a government free of xenophobia and lack of understanding of multiculturalism.

Considering the election result of June 9, 2010, Paars+ (Purple Plus) is the only realistic and the most wise coalition to realize. Only a purple coalition can solve the divide in the Dutch society, because it will represent social, green and liberal values and interests. A purple coalition should lead by example in solving the problems the Netherlands have right now, in the right way. By economic reforms and being socially inclusive, not exclusive. Everyone should participate in a society, especially in times of crisis.

What we need in times of trouble and times of unrest is a government that is broad, a government that does not exclude anyone and a government that works. A reformist government that is progressive and brings about real change in a government system that has been run too long by governments that didn’t bring any change and made society unstable by not responding to their calls for change.

A purple coalition is the only chance we have to stop xenophobia and the gap between politics and citizens. A good economy, low unemployment, social cohesion and fair regulation of both market en ethics.

We should stop thinking in terms of ‘left’ and ‘right’ but we should think in terms of what is fair and unfair. It would be unfair for next generations to have a government that excludes entire ethnic or religious groups. A government that would raise the national deficit, rather than introducing the highly necessary reforms we need to return to fiscal responsibility.

There should be a government that is fair to everyone, not just a part of the population. Whatever religion, ethnicity, political preference, a government should represent the best interests of a people. This is a purple coalition. Having both progressive and conservative liberals, greens and social democrats in one government is a golden opportunity to not drive in one lane of the highway, either left or right, but to take a steadfast course to the future.

The Balkenende government has shown that changing nothing out of fear gives that very fear an opportunity to grow. The popularity of the xenophobic PVV has grown more during the Balkenende governments than the LPF could.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

A government should not represent the fears of its people. A government should represent the hopes of its people. The hope for a good education. The hope for a job. The hope for participating in society. The hope to be able to have some money left to enjoy life. The hope for sustainable energy sources. The hope for being able to walk in a clean park, with clean air and no pollution. The hope for a better country, not a country with closed borders, with hatred, a country with negligence for the troubles of people who have less opportunities. This is not the country I want to live in. I want to live in a country that empowers its citizens. A country that is open and free. A country that is tolerant to differences, but intolerant to indifference.

It is time for a progressive reformist government, with broad interests, ready for the future, and ready for what might be one of the best governments in Dutch history.

Like this on Facebook!(opens in a new window)

The space between positive and negative liberty

Negative liberty sounds like the ideal way to realize liberty for each individual. Taking away any interference would mean a person could do whatever he or she wants.

The reality is that too much negative liberty means either isolating yourself or taking away the liberty of others.
For instance, what if that ‘interference’ becomes the other individual’s liberty? Whose negative liberty would be more important, yours or the other’s? Negative liberty alone does not offer solutions for inter-individual conflicts, other than severing communication between those individuals. But that would mean taking away the (social) liberty for those individuals to be able to interact. So in the end, if everyone gets all the negative liberty they want, everyone loses, or ends up alone.

Too much positive liberty is not good either. That would mean liberty would be a prescription, rather than a preexisting condition, which means liberty would be artificial and liberty would not be authentic and therefore not free.

However, offering negative liberty exclusively as the gospel of all liberalism (or should I say a specific branch of liberalism) would mean the deconstruction of society itself, isolating everyone from each other or either letting one steal the liberty of the other, instead of realizing the presumption that differences would find their place if everyone would have as much negative liberty as possible. There will always be the need for some positive liberty to ease conflicts between the liberty of two or more individuals and offer a solution for the paradox that an individual with all the negative liberty in the world would not have individual liberty, but individual dictatorship, and take away all his or her own social liberty, as individuals could not have the opportunity to socially develop themselves. Then, not the state would be a threat to liberty, but the individual itself.

Too much negative liberty for one individual would mean less liberty for other individuals. Without realizing this, liberalism would be the enemy of itself. It works like magnets; having both a negative pole means the magnets push each other away, and both having a positive pole means the magnets push each other away again. Having one with some of the negative and one with some of the positive causes them to attract each other and the magnetism is complete. Without having the power and the resources, the liberty of an individual would be limited to his or her predisposition. Without having a defense against interference, the liberty of an individual would be endangered by external influences. However, with the power and resources to be free and ways to deal with interference, the net result would be even more liberty.

Like this on Facebook!(opens in a new window)

The Value of Liberty: how much liberty is worth without responsibility, how much power is worth without accountability

Of all concepts, liberals value liberty the most. Whether a person identifies him- or herself as a social liberal, or as a libertarian, or any other branch of liberalism. But there is a difference in how liberty is valued, and specifically which concept of liberty. Before expanding this, I will give some definitions of the terms I will use.

  • Individual Liberty
    The freedom of an individual to make his or her own decisions, without external interference.
    The freedom of speech.
    The freedom of religion.
  • Social Liberty
    The freedom of an individual to make decisions that involve other individuals, without interference of the other individual or a social construct.
    The freedom not to be excluded from a group.
    The freedom to communicate with another individual.
  • Negative Liberty
    The freedom from general interference.
    A free market.
    No requirement of a visa to cross a border.
  • Positive Liberty
    The power and resources to be free.
    Education to provide an individual with intellectual freedom.
    Social security to relieve an individual that does not have enough resources to participate in a free market.

Varying between personal views and ideological views, one may choose to value one concept of liberty more than the other. However, whatever concept of liberty one may prefer, when power comes into play, all concepts have one thing in common: liberty is worthless without responsibility.

A free individual can only live in a free society if each individual takes proper responsibility for his or her actions. For each concept of liberty, there is a concept of responsibility.

  • Personal Responsibility / Individual Liberty
    The responsibility for a person’s individual liberty.
    An individual admits he or she lied about something.
    An individual admits he or she stole something from someone else.
  • Social Responsibility / Social Liberty
    The responsibility of an individual towards the liberty of other individuals.
    An individual within a group involves another individual who is excluded from the group.
    An individual within a group decides to help out another individual who is in some kind of trouble.
  • Negative Responsibility / Negative Liberty
    The responsibility not to interfere with another individual.
    An individual does not force another individual to involuntary action.
    An individual only takes a decision that involves another individual with the consent of the other individual.
  • Positive Responsibility / Positive Liberty
    The responsibility to give power or resources to another individual.
    An individual needs something to be free and another individual decides to provide it.
    An individual is not able to freely take a decision due to his or her condition, so another individual decides for him, or her.

As I point out in the examples, a liberty can not exist if there is no responsibility for it. For one individual to be free, another individual has to take responsibility to secure that liberty. If one individual does not respect the liberty, whether individual or social, negative or positive, of another individual, that liberty is devalued. That liberty can not exist, because it is taken away by the absence of responsibility.

If every individual would do what he or she wants, without taking responsibility for his or her actions, the liberty of other individuals will inevitably be taken away, for a society, by definition, consists of more than one individual. Disregarding the role of any kind of authority, each individual must consider his or her actions and the consequences of his or her actions before enjoying his or her liberty to take that action. Otherwise, that liberty will be in vain, as it will probably have taken away the liberty of another individual.

This also has consequences for governance, where responsibility translates to accountability. Accountability, to me, is an advanced form of responsibility. It should include the possibility to reclaim power from one who has power and does not use it responsibly. This means the person or body that has that power has even more responsibility than an individual who does not have the same power. This puts some restrictions on what that person or body could and could not do without having to face the consequences for it. And again, as responsibility does for liberty, accountability determines the value of power. Power is worthless without accountability for it.

Accountability has stronger adversaries than responsibility. Whereas responsibility can be omitted by sheer negligence, selfishness, foolishness or any other kind of conscientious absence, accountability has to face corruption, power play, opportunity and similar ways of obscuring abuse of power. It can even be uglier when individual liberty of an individual in power over multiple other individuals is considered to be more important than the liberty of the individuals who are subdued by that power. That individual in power might have even more liberty than the individual would without being in power, but at the cost of the liberty of all the individuals being subdues by that power. But dictatorship is not considered liberal, is it?

This is why any individual who has some power, will have to take more responsibility for it. Each action with power has stronger consequences compared to the same action without power. One could even say that power exceeds the domain of liberty of one individual and involves the liberty of many individuals. This is why accountability is immensely important, and it is also the responsibility of the individuals who are directly or indirectly involved with that power to secure accountability.

This includes oversight, prosecution, transparency, proper laws and independent political instruments to ensure that there will be accountability for those individuals that have any degree or form of power. There will be no political justice if these are not implemented, as there is always the possibility of an individual that regards his or her liberty to be superior to the liberty of others and will not hesitate to use power to enact this view. Any criminal course of action needs a motive, an opportunity and a situation for the crime to be committed. Abusing power over many individuals for the benefit of one individual is a crime in itself.

Corruption and the abuse of power should therefore be treated as such. Civil society should always be on guard for this. That is why it is the responsibility of each and every individual in civil society to be aware of the possibility of corruption and abuse of power, and enforce accountability on those who involve themselves in these practices.

As there is no justice when a crime is committed and the criminal can continue without consequences, there is no justice when power is abused and the person who abused that power can walk away without consequences.

Once a person has the opportunity to obscure a criminal action, it comes down to whether that person regards his or her personal gain to be more important than the wellbeing of those who are under the influence of this action.

The motivation to look for power should therefore not be personal gain, but to make a difference in the lives of other individuals. Each and everyone should therefore consider for each person who looks for power that this person truly wishes to make a difference and does not aim for personal gain. And even when in power, one should not take the power lightly and distinguish any personal relationship from political relationships.

What is that power still worth, when it is consumed for the extended liberty of one individual, at the cost of the liberty of many other individuals?

Like this on Facebook!(opens in a new window)

Gender equality: an eye for an eye?

“Men are evil. They suppress women. They do not know what women go through. They have no real feelings. All they can think about is chasing women and keeping power for themselves.” (anonymous extreme feminist, paraphrased)

“Women are inferior. They should cook, they should clean the house and they should take care of the children. Work is not something for women, they should stay at home.” (anonymous male supremacist, paraphrased)

These are both real life examples of how human beings of different genders talk about each other. It should not be a surprise that I disagree with both views. And I do not only disagree, I am convinced these two views are very detrimental to the process of emancipation.

Emancipation involves rights and responsibilities of both genders. As with any form of discrimination, eliminating discrimination requires an external perspective of those who are being discriminated. Implementing positive discrimination is a way of tackling short term negative discrimination, but in the end it will only make things worse.

Here is why. Sexism can point in either direction. It can be negative about women and put women in a disadvantage compared to men. It can be positive about women and put men in a disadvantage compared to women. It can be negative about men and put men in a disadvantage compared to women. It can be positive about men and put women in a disadvantage compared to men. Any type of discrimination, whether positive or negative, always ends up in suppressing one category of people with another. (For the purpose of limiting the longevity of this article, I will not go into other forms of sexism other than discrimination of men and women by each other and write about LGBT equality and other fundamental rights at another time)

By differing oneself from another person in any way, one is affirming that there should be a difference. This is the case in both examples at the start of this article. Both extreme feminists and male supremacists widen the gap between men and women. By stating a priori that men and women are different, there is a perception of difference. And with a perception of difference, there will be different views. And with different views and acting upon them, there will be discrimination.

Don’t get me wrong. I do support the feminist movement. I do support women’s right to choose. And in the latter case, the perception of ‘equality’ is different. Men (at least, today) can not be pregnant. So in this way, men and women are inevitably different. In this specific case, a woman is responsible for what happens with her body and the potential life within her body. This also keeps her right to decide what happens with it.

However, men and women do not differ in being human, as do not LGBTs, as do not Europeans and Asians, as do not people with blonde hair and people with black hair. The way one develops a personality is dependent on culture, education, the experiences in life, rather than biological differences.

By reaffirming this equality principle, men and women should not only be viewed equally, but also be treated equally. There may always be men who patronize women, or women who discriminate men, but it is necessary for securing gender equality that both men and women treat each other as equals.

For the men who still patronize, a specific form of feminism should remain. Not the aggressive feminism that discriminates men in return, but the feminism that lets the woman prevail in a conflict of patronization. This will balance out the force of masculism. On the other hand, when a woman discriminates men, perhaps because she would assume that all men would supposedly suppress women, that all men would supposedly be evil, because they would supposedly not understand women, then a man should have the right to claim he is discriminated against in his own right.

I have witnessed some cases of the latter concept in which the extreme form of feminism may assume the form of androphobia or misandry. This means the woman has assumptions about the man’s intentions and puts all of his actions in a mental context in which she would be the victim of harassment. This does not happen very often, but it is a very special case of when a woman seriously believes (specific) men are set to hurt her, or other women. She might not even realize it. I reject any kind of harassment or abuse of women. And that is why it is very important that the real abusive men be identified as such, and that women with androphobia or misandry will receive the proper approach from their environment. This is relevant for gender equality, as both abusive men and androphobic or misandric women are participants in an inequality of power.

This also concerns the concept of women still being considered “weaker than men”. Obviously, a woman may have physical disadvantages compared to a man, but a woman definitely does not have disadvantages in other domains. A woman should also be strong enough to recognize abusive men and to resist them, whereas a man should be responsible not to be abusive.

Abuse can be physical, verbal, or perhaps psychological. There are cases of both men and women who abuse each other, where it is obvious that the physical abuse performed by men are statistically significantly more serious. It is often mutual, where escalation often shows the man to exercise the most serious (sometimes even lethal) violence. This shows that women are still often put in a position where they are less powerful. This should be taken seriously, as, being as dreadful as it already is in itself, this demonstrates gender inequality. Abuse in any form should be stopped, but statistics and examples clearly show a gender difference.

I believe physical properties of man and woman do not necessarily explain this difference. I believe this a cultural difference. A difference of the culture of man and the culture of woman. This difference is stressed by the nurture of boys and girls from childhood. Boys get to play with cars, girls get to play with dolls. Boys are often associated with the colour blue, whereas girls are often associated with the colour pink. At school, boys and girls even develop their own subcultures. The tough boys, the butch boys, the horse riding girls, the metropolitan girls… This increases the distinction between the male and female genders. But these subcultures all have something in common: boys are less educated with emotions and girls are less educated with logic and technical reasoning. This could also explain the big difference between, for example, the share of men that chooses technical education and the share of women that chooses social education. And more importantly, I believe this explains why men are statistically more abusive than women, and why the non-physical abuse of men by women is underestimated, as men are less likely to show their emotions.

This is why there must be a cultural revolution of genders. A man should know it is good to understand emotions and a woman should know it is good to understand logic. They aren’t incapable of understanding, they just don’t do it. Society, as a facilitator of these cultures, should influence parents to teach their children that a man should know emotions as well as a woman should know logic. A man should know how to control his emotions and understand emotions of a woman. A woman should know how to use logic in the reasoning with a man. Only then should genders become more equal. Should cross-gender abuse (whether physical or non-physical) be reduced. And should discrimination from either side finally stop.

Update (22 May 2010):
The here fore mentioned men and women are the men and women who discriminate, not all men and women. As many societies are increasingly emancipating, the real situation in some societies is better than the text suggests.

Like this on Facebook!(opens in a new window)

Academic Discrimination

Academic Discrimination: the failure to recognize individual differences.
(Opinion Paper by International Institute for Advocacy for School Children)

Education systems are organized in a way in that pupils are grouped together in classes, usually according to some assessment of their knowledge or intelligence. The paradigm in every class is that when pupils would get the same education, they would develop in an equal way. They each get the same assignments, the same chapters to read… As long as the pupil works hard, finishes his or her exercises on time and gets them right, the pupil would leave the class smarter than it arrived. But is this always the case?

The development of a person is not that straightforward. First of all, a child grows up in a certain social environment. This differs for each child, as the families they are born in are never the same (not considering twins, but even they can experience different childhoods). As children grow up and start making friends, they develop different skills in social cognition. Some research is even focused on prenatal social development.
As children perform different cognitive tasks throughout their childhood, they train these tasks in a certain degree, such that not every child has the same motor skill. Not every child has the same training of problem solving skills, or language acquisition skills.

The human brain is still a major subject of study. Cognitive scientists have mapped and related many parts of the brain to psychological events, yet still not every function is known and not every event can be explained. Nevertheless, we know enough about parts of the brain that are involved in learning activities, in language activities, in motor activities, or social activities. As the brain develops, it improves in performing these tasks. The degree in which each separate activity is improved differs on the training, however.

When someone seems to be a natural in a certain task, one says that person has a ‘talent‘. A talent is usually viewed to be innate. Something that a person magically possesses, or came with birth. I beg to differ with this view. As I said, the functioning of the brain is not yet fully known. The brain is capable of developing and is not provided as-is. The brain can get tired, the brain can be energized, the brain can be trained. Some brains don’t function the way they should. Yet in each case of described talent, a person has had a previous experience of developing the skill of the talent. Especially when a child is stimulated from early on to perform a certain task, and improve it over and over again. When I hear or read a story about a prodigal child, it often occurs to me that these children have been highly trained in a specific task. It could be being stimulated to play on the piano. It could be being stimulated to make drawings, or to speak different languages.

Now, of course genetics should not be ignored. Genetics and intelligence have a correlation. Though in this field, it is also known that intelligence is not fully determined by genetics and also determined by environmental factors.

This is why we need to be very careful in making assumptions about where talent comes from, and how it should be used. It should also be considered that every individual will inevitably have a different development of talent and different environmental factors that influence that development.

It is sad to observe that education systems are generally not designed to take this into account. A pupil gets his or her assessment, joins a group or class and gets exactly the same treatment as every other pupil in the same group or class (save the exceptions for special cases). This occurs in different layers, different age groups and different approaches. Education systems are designed to assume that after any assessment, each pupil has the same kind of development, the same kind of pre-obtained knowledge, the same training of skills and the same social aptitude. As they progress through a distinct course, and differences start to show in the performance of the pupils, one generally assumes that it is basically the motivation and the effort the pupil puts into the course that determines these differences.

Is that really the case? Obviously, motivation and effort play a major role in the success of an educational course. If a pupil does not cooperate, does not do the exercises and does not read the chapters of a book, the pupil will not learn much as he or she would if he or she did do these things. However, taking into account all the different environmental factors; the social differences of friends at school, previously trained skills, pre-obtained knowledge, the pedagogical method, the quality of the teacher and even the mood of both the pupil and the teacher on a specific day; the impact of these factors are immensely underestimated.

For example, a pupil that feels left out, is not part of a group and is perhaps even discriminated against for some reason. Would you say this pupil would develop the same kind of social skills as a person that is in the middle of a group and engages in all kinds of social activities?
For example, a pupil that is constantly given a problem solving task but does not get the opportunity to focus on other kinds of tasks. Would you say this pupil would have the same training as a pupil that has been given the tasks more evenly distributed over time and effort?

Educational programmes are designed to offer the same content in courses to every participant in the course. But in practice, not every participant has the same experience of the course. The courses stigmatize the participant to a certain degree, that they are assumed to have had the same experience, but they actually did not have exactly the same developmental background. They actually did not have identical skills, preobtained knowledge or even the same social learning experience.

And so does it happen that education systems neglect the individual differences of participating individuals. We get a degree in something, because we succeeded in getting a certain amount of questions right in some exams that where designed with exactly the same assumptions about each participating individual. Education systems fail to answer the question: “is the student really better off after having passed than before?”. If the student gets almost everything right the first time, then the student can be happy. If the student has to put much effort in studying, then the student is just a case of hard work. Are education systems really designed to try to understand what keeps the student that needs more effort in studying apart from the student that gets almost everything right the first time? No, usually the student is assumed to be brighter than the other, or the other student is just lazy and the other has already done most of the required tasks.

Furthermore, as a student progresses in the student life cycle, there are even more assumptions. Institutions look at the specializations on a diploma and take another institution’s word for having successfully mastered a certain discipline. Or an institution makes its own assessment of what could be expected of a new student, which is always a tip of the iceberg of what an individual could really achieve. It consists of demanding that certain questions are answered right, and certain tasks can be adequately performed. It completely ignores that knowledge is not directly quantifiable, because knowledge is an interconnected web of concepts. If there is a hole in the web, you have to fix it to solidify the knowledge. Even if a study programme is interdisciplinary, even if former education was already specialized in a certain field; all kinds of knowledge have prerequisites.

Meno’s paradox puts it this way:

“And how will you inquire into a thing when you are wholly ignorant of what it is? Even if you happen to bump right into it, how will you know it is the thing you didn’t know?” (80d1-4)

This shows that knowledge that is not yet obtained is not yet knowledge until it has manifested itself as knowledge. And for this, knowledge about this knowledge is required.

Why not wonder what causes the individual differences in the performance of students, and where the individual differences in preobtained knowledge and trained skills come from? Even if a student passes the same assessment as another student, they do not show identical performance in the course of their education. This is because the assessment is limited only to what the provider of education has put into the assessment, but it is not really an assessment of how the student has already developed their knowledge and skills. Do they have the required meta-knowledge to acquire new knowledge, as Meno’s paradox demands?

This is why we should not always make assumptions about what an educational institution says about a student, because it tells more about the institution than it does about the student. How much did the student learn?, How much brighter is the student now than it was before? These are not the right question when viewing grades and diplomas. The real question is Did the student adequately do the tricks we taught him or her to do? And the answer to that is simple: either the student did so because the institution performed well, or the student is simply a genius, or the student failed because the student did not put enough effort into it, or was not intelligent enough.

My suspicion towards education institutions has grown over the years as I got to know them better overtime. My suspicion grew even more when I found myself practicing autodidacticism. I increasingly became aware of the freedom knowledge should have, as opposed to being put in a box by an institution and only let out for those who agree with the demands of the institution. I also became aware of the liberty an individual obtains, as soon as the individual develops skills to teach him- or herself, and gets to know his or her own knowledge, skills or even personality better. This is what I have started to call ’emancipation of the mind’, from educational institutions.

Like this on Facebook!(opens in a new window)