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July 26, 2006

No One To The Father Except Through Mehavioralism

Is God a Behavioralist?for the last few weeks my work has mostly consisted of reviewing current literature and research on youth mentoring for the disadvantaged that has come out of the US and Europe over the last few decades, and coming up with a succinct and easy- to- navigate handbook for local argentina organizations that are trying to set up their own mentoring programs. running alongside this project is the interviewing of 7 prominent local NGOS that work in mentoring to try to fuse practice with academic research that come from continents away.
the interesting thing is that these are mentoring programs that have operated in this country since the 1970s but have never read any guides on mentoring, talked to any larger international education clearinghouses, and usually have never even heard of the greek-latin word "mentor". what we have are locally funded and rather sizable organizations that are completely just winging it. so, what are the results... ?
in pursuing this question i have come to the most interesting division between US and Argentine epistemology.
in the US academy, and now pretty much everything from government to business to nonprofit and volunteering work, is about PROVING things---it is the science of evaluations, the religion of statistics. obey the one true path of the STATA, or be forever deemed "inefficient". How dare you be inefficient when there are starving people everywhere who could use that money! Find thee a more efficient yoga relaxation class now now now!

in Argentina, and i am told much of the latin world (that includes the carribbean, latin america, france, spain, portugal, and italy) it is rather the opposite. heads of departments here at argentine universities are not economists, but masters of critical theory, philosophy, and rhetoric. it is about what you can ramble about, not about what you can prove. after all, PROVING THINGS, the religion of the US and the World Bank and the IDB, has not done so well for argentina. the history in this country rolls out like a long dirty laundry list of financial disasters, IMF bailouts of investors, and military juntas that swings rapidly between the left and the right. a few days ago i was at an education conference here about postindustrial society education policy reform and preparing our young for jobs of the future (the speaker, of course, is an UK Phd, Harvard prof, and the advisor to Hong Kong) at the talkĀ“s end, the argentine professors in the audience began asking questions such as : "how can it be just that education is reduced to an economic variable?" "these stats work in hong kong, but what do they know about he history of argentina?" "what is the philosophy behind this movement?" this whole time, the part of me that has been formed by the nochildleftbehind zeitgeist just wants to yell "how do you prove this?"

alas, how DO you prove this? how do you prove in numbers and regressions and universally reproduceable equations that education when done correctly can bring us out of the present perpetually self-repetitive cycle into a generator of peaceful, informed citizens? at my interview yesterday with a mentoring organization, they told me "you have to believe in education". thats it, it is simple for many of these argentine groups. believe in it, not prove it.

our religion has holes, and it takes a leap of faith to believe that an arbitrary set of functions punched into a computer can provide answers for all settings and all problems. much like the days of old europe, we have our clergymen who interpret the text to their whim, and we have a system of penalty and rewards for those who win (are inefficient) and those who listen to our words and creeds. i am reminded again that this is not the one and only true religion.
in buenos aires, at least, a group of idealistic heretics fight on, and they do very good work.

Posted by Johnny po Lin at 10:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 24, 2006

liberalism at age 20

If you aint a liberal at age 20 you gots no heart, says Winston Churchill, allegedly.
well to be a young liberal in Argentina is a different story all together from what we Americans have in mind when we think of the word. Last night I went to a friends fundraising festival that took place at the School of Political Science at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, the UBA as it is known here, the bastion for some of the most well-read , public-schooled, hot-blooded young South Americans from around the continent. The backhall is plastered in graffiti silkscreens of Che Guevarra, go-home-yankees, and even a couple of weathered leftovers of the infamous Juan Peron. people are well versed in Feucault and Derridas in a way that American students, even Brown kids of the MCM orientation, cannot imagine. Here i encountered a undercurrent that unabashedly and critically watches over the government and the big brother of the North with a wel-versed and radical mind.
Capitalism, here in Buenos Aires, at times comes interchangeably with the words fascism, imperialism, and inequality. through my internship every mentoring program that focuses on economic knowledge and entreupreurship, especially in connection with the US, gets a bad name here. yet in the same time, of course, there is a substantial community that works in tourism and language programs that target precisely the gringos, the ones who pay in dollars and euros that since the 2001 devaluation has overnight tripled in purchasing power.
Buenos Aires then, serves as this microcosm of the LatinAmerican cities, fighting the American style capitalism with one hand while taking from it with the other. This is the simple reality, es asi, says every young person ive spoken to.
Being a liberal at 20 in Argentina requires not just a heart and a brain. Unlike students at Brown or the rest of our private elite places, a young liberal college student here faces tough realities.

Posted by Johnny po Lin at 12:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2006

on conspiracy theories and the defiant south

on the way down here i bought a copy of the Economic Hitman by John Perkins, which I have been reading during busrides around Buenos Aires.
Few books have been so mindblowing, i think.
Perkins talks about a grand conspiracy theory that is too familiar to be true-- the connections between big businesses, the US government and military, and IOs, in their joint attempt to squeeze money out of the third world sustainably while remaining beyond reproach. it challenges everything brown has taught me about economics and international trade and development, and it is beginning to remake how i perceive world history and international relations.
being in the country that invented dependency theory (by and large, raul prebisch is a local celebrity here, and argentinos still think that i am a Yankee even though i have only spent 8 yrs in the US, in los angeles, in fact)
i cannot help but wonder the system into which we brown IR-minded students will merge, or fight.
i study conflict resolution and education at brown.
what do i say to people, say the FARC, whose only choice to fight the expanding global trade regime is through jungle guerilla warfare_?

Posted by Johnny po Lin at 06:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 04, 2006

getting to buenos aires

arrived at Ezeiza International Airport on June 25, after a horrendous 3 day delay stretched out across three different airports on both sides of the equator. but alas, now settling into my room in the neighborhood of Palermo, the barrio that JLuis Borges was born in and that still clings on him for much of the hayday glory of 1920s argentina.
buenos aires has been for me a much cheaper, but no less proud version of New York City, filled with urban citizens who walk around chin-up and eyes-open. the winter is mild at first glance but certainly creeps into your bones if youre not wrapped up. the financial crash here and the subsequent devaluation served as a make-over for argentina more or less. the city is set on a desperate rebound path, with more restaurants and hip stores than argentinos who can really afford them. in the meantime, the restaurants and hip stores are being mobbed by europeans who find buenos aires as an extension of the non-linear european continent, and occassionally of course, you find blue-jeaned, sneakered americans. thats how you pick (us) out, supposedly, the sporty shoes that stand out in an ocean of pseudo-designer street shoes.

just waiting to start now at the university where my internship is based...!

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