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From issue: Voices from the New Generation (Winter 2010)

AQ Feature

The Meritocrat

Diego Valenzuela (Chile)

Illustration by Annalisa Pagetti.

"Quality education is the basis of a society with real opportunities."

Our generation’s unprecedented access to information and knowledge gives us a perspective on Latin American reality that generations before us were not privileged to have. But it also gives us special responsibility.

We can no longer ignore the sad common denominator of all our countries: inequality. That does not just mean inequality in the distribution of wealth but inequality of opportunity.

Today, the sad fact is that the social origin of a child in most of our hemisphere determines his or her future. Changing this profound injustice is the great challenge that our generation faces.

Education, meritocracy and competition are the natural antidotes to the shameful inequality that reigns in our societies and must inspire us to act.

Quality education is the basis of a society with real opportunities. However, our region has advanced very slowly in making education available to all groups. There have been some successful examples that should guide us in the implementation of sound public policies.

For example, Teach For America, founded by Wendy Kopp in 1990 in the United States, inspired Enseña Chile (Teach Chile), founded in 2008. Both models propose the same challenge to trained professionals of any field: to make a personal and concrete contribution to high-quality education by becoming a schoolteacher for at least two years. The example of Enseña Chile is outstanding not only because its team comprises high-level and extremely qualified young professionals but also because in their first year they have already trained 2,669 professionals now registered as schoolteachers; they’ve received another 1,000 applications for the coming year.

I myself have applied.

What’s important about this teaching model is that it helps ensure that future generations of Chileans and Latin Americans will live in meritocracies, where social or ethnic origin do not matter as much as individual talent and hard work. In a meritocracy, people can compete on an equal level. But they must also have equal access to information, and the state must play a key role in guaranteeing such access and creating the environment for fair competition...

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