Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Purpose of Education

           Kasaipwalova and Voltaire both recognize the dishonesty of their societal structures. Kasaipwalova seems to offer education as a solution to this. The university students in “Betel Nut is Bad Magic for Airplanes” utilize their education to not only “get on the White Man’s level” to defend themselves, but to publicly outcry the hypocrisy of oppressive policing. The majority of the narrative is written in a vernacular “island speak,” suggesting that the narrator has maintained his cultural identity, despite receiving an education on the mainland. The dialogue indicates that the narrator can easily transition to speaking “properly,” almost to the point of legalese—a result of education. 

          Because the students are aware of injustice and have the ability to speak against injustice, we can assume that they won’t grow up to be like the black police officers, eager to make arrests “to please the White Man,” They will not end up complicit in the oppression of their own people. At the end, the narrator says, “We three university students, we come back to Waigani. We was chewing our betel nut on the way.” These students intend to use the skills they have gained as a force for change. Kasaipwalova takes the stance that education is not simply a ladder to professional success, but a real tool against the oppression that plagues society.

          Voltaire, does not take the same stance on the power of education. He knows that education can change what people think, but is pessimistic about the simplicity of offering philosophy and human reasoning as a solution to all of society’s ills. Education is no panacea for Voltaire. In Voltaire’s version of utopia, Eldorado, science and philosophy are highly valued and there is no religious persecution. Everyone believes the same thing. However, Eldorado’s isolation demonstrates Voltaire’s belief that human greed and selfishness pervade even the most educated circles. The riches that Eldorado sits on could bring thousands of people out of poverty, but sharing the riches would diminish Eldorado’s elite, unreachable status. Voltaire’s truth seems to say that human nature will always create oppression. The people of Eldorado are well aware of their power to positively impact the world, but they are comfortable amongst themselves.

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