Meritocracy, Social Mobility Based On Education Was An Example From The Last Century

Edgardo Zablotsky

Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Chicago. Rector of the University of CEMA. Member of the National Academy of Education. Academic Counselor for Libertad y Progreso.

INFOBAE – “If we fight for education, we will overcome poverty.” Although I would like the phrase to be my own, obviously it is not, but by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. Without education, is impossible to generate the human capital essential to contribute to social mobility, in a healthy society that rewards personal effort and merit.

In this regard, in 1995, the Smithsonian Institute conducted an interview with Steve Jobs, who defined himself as a great believer in equal opportunities, as opposed to equal results: “I do not believe in equal results, because unfortunately life is not like that. It would be a very boring place if it were. But I really believe in equal opportunity. Equal opportunities for me more than anything means a great education. “

Education, effort, merit, social mobility, although today it may seem like a fantasy, the history of our country during the last century provides clear illustrations of this causal chain. Let us remember only that phrase typical of the Argentine countryside: “we sow wheat and we harvest doctors.”

Let’s look at an example. In 1887 Baron Maurice de Hirsch, one of the wealthiest European businessmen of his time, decided to retire from business, dedicating the rest of his life to philanthropy. His position on philanthropy was as tough and demanding as his way of acting in the business world. He was firmly opposed to the provision of subsidies that only increased the number of poor people, he considered that the greatest problem of philanthropy was to transform into people capable of working individuals who would otherwise become destitute, and thus reconvert them into members useful for society.

To this end, he founded the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA), which from 1891 was to lead the immigration of thousands of people, lacking even the least economic support for the payment of the passage, from the Russian Empire to our country, establishing them in agricultural colonies. Hirsch drew up strict contracts making each settler responsible for paying not only the land and any loans he had received, but also the respective interest on them. After many years of hard agricultural work, for which in most cases they had no prior experience, many of the settlers would repay their debts and obtain title to their land.

Meanwhile, their children would be educated in the schools of the colonies, they would move to Buenos Aires and they would carry out higher studies. As Iedidio Efron (Blackie’s father, that great journalist) pointed out, who arrived in Argentina as a child, settling in the Barón Hirsch colony, and was named the Sarmiento of Jewish culture for his prestige as a great teacher: “Tens of thousands of Jewish children received their first letters in the JCA schools and hundreds of renowned intellectuals, professionals and writers graduated from the classrooms of these schools ”.

We sow wheat and harvest doctors, the old settlers were heard saying, those Jewish gauchos immortalized by Alberto Gerchunoff. What better example of the social mobility that characterized our country during the 20th century, based on education, personal effort and, therefore, on merit! Faced with the harsh reality that we have to live today, we must not forget it.

The author is a member of the National Academy of Education and rector of the CEMA University