Moving to

I'm moving to Mostly.

I plan to use that site as a "self-marketing website" of sorts and to manage content in a way that I would otherwise not be able to do on blogger alone.

This blog will stay, ostensibly for more provisional ideas prior to refinement. I'll be gradually moving content (I still like) over to the other website. =)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Singapore and The Talented Tenth

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois graduated from Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D in History, the first African American to earn a doctorate at Harvard. One of his most memorable quotes reads:
    The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men. The problem of education, then, among Negroes must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth; it is the problem of developing the Best of this race that they may guide the Mass away from the contamination and death of the Worst, in their own and other races.
with the clarification that
    ... the power of this aristocracy of talent was to lie in its knowledge and character, not in its wealth.
I would argue that a position like this is precisely that which is behind the Singapore government scholarship scheme and other highly exclusive talent development schemes in the civil service. The obvious, and most serious, problem is the identification of "the talented tenth". It is my position that this problem has not been solved.

(In response to any personal attack of the sour grapes variety, I was/am a PSC Scholar and gave up the chance to be assessed for absorb-tion into the Administrative Service in favour of doing more engineering work.)

At the other end of the ladder, which begins with scholarships and the "all important" GCE 'A' Levels, is cabinet - "the talented 1/100000". Again, the long selection process suffers from a similar but lesser problem. While the issue of capability is largely solved, issues of motive remain. Will they work to guide the Mass away from contamination and death? This has consistently been on trial in the public sphere. To play the devil's advocate, can there be smoke without fire?

Later in life, Du Bois came to believe that leadership could arise from many levels, and that grassroots efforts were also important to social change. He wrote that:
    When I came out of college into the world of work, I realized that it was quite possible that my plan of training a talented tenth might put in control and power, a group of selfish, self-indulgent, well-to-do men, whose basic interest in solving the Negro problem was personal; personal freedom and unhampered enjoyment and use of the world, without any real care, or certainly no arousing care as to what became of the mass of American Negroes, or of the mass of any people.
This time, his position was consistent with observed outcomes around the world. While Singapore has been busy learning about development from the West, it may have neglected this trajectory of development. Sadly.

Further Comments:
These "cut-off" schemes are extremely ugly from a mathematical/engineering/risk point of view. They are highly discontinuous and do not provide a good hedge. Purporting to have correctly identified the talented 1/10000 or 1/100000 is not only arrogant but stupid. (Considering self-selection, I would grant that it may be successful in identifying the politically ambitious 1/10000 or 1/100000.)

It would be good to move for a more broad based distribution of resources to kindle the talents of many that may be otherwise obstructed by socio-economic obstacles.

No comments: