The Only Inheritance
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The Only Inheritance

Photo by:   Carlos Herrero
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By Carlos Herrero - Extrategia de Comunicación y Medios


We would all like to receive a good inheritance. And we console ourselves, rightly, with the assertion that the best inheritance we can give our children is education.

If education is our best inheritance (major premise), we should give our children the best university education (minor premise); therefore, we will give the best inheritance to our children if they go to the best universities (conclusion).

The concept of the best university is complex. Among the 10 best universities in the world, there are six American universities. Among the Top 100 in the Shanghai University ranking, 80 percent are also from the US. The ratio between the best universities and the world's strongest economy is obvious.

I personally know about 20 universities in that country: Georgetown, Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Boston University, and Northeastern in Boston; Northwestern in Chicago; North Carolina University, North Carolina State and Duke in North Carolina; University of Virginia, in Virginia; and Purdue, Notre Dame and Indiana University in Indiana. Over time, I have learned that just as Europeans visit cathedrals and museums, Americans visit their universities. There, they really build the present and the future of the country, at least in economic terms.

It is enough to see the quality and magnitude of the campuses, to measure the care in the academic quality and the training that they offer. Classrooms, libraries, laboratories, gymnasiums and clubs make up a world that is only known in that country and to some extent also in the United Kingdom. The term comprehensive education has been devalued but the US has managed to concentrate in its universities the fundamental elements for integrating a good education.

Thomas Jefferson, the great father of the American nation and founder of the University of Virginia, had a fundamental principle: we are all students. He created a university in Charlottesville with a campus where contact between teacher and student is the most important thing and 36,000 people are prepared under Jefferson's ideal to exercise the best inheritance that many of their parents can give them. *

Boston College, founded by the Georgetown Jesuits, has a business focus that goes hand in hand with a philosophical and political focus. Based on the Kennedy estate, it prepares students with a philosophical foundation that transcends and enriches the world of business, enterprise and politics. For personal preparation, I studied philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome, also run by the Jesuits, and I understand well the value that this training can bring to professional development.

Aristotle stated in the same vein that education is the best provision for life's journey. Thus, Michelle Obama commented at a conference that "you have to stay in school. You have to do it. You have to go to college. You have to get the degree. Because this is something that people can't keep away from themselves because it's their own education. And this is the most valuable investment." Americans know this and that's why the decision to go to the best possible college is ever present in their minds. Aristotle transmits to us a millenary wisdom and Michelle Obama a wisdom of the here and now. 

Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and other entrepreneurs who have transformed the world did not emerge from the romantic story of a group of friends meeting in a garage but from a university classroom, even though Jobs insisted that he had only taken one subject at Stanford. That subject, which apparently was calligraphy, achieved the magnificent design that Apple enjoys today, from the packaging to the most sophisticated computer.

Thinking about the great transformers of society, from Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle, to such relevant characters as Michelle Obama, brings to mind a maxim of Martin Luther King Jr., whose leadership in social transformation through education contributed to racial equality in the US and from there to the whole world: "The function of education is to teach people to think intensely on the one hand and to think critically on the other. Intelligence plus character, this is the real goal of real education."

The vision of Michelle Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. clearly shows how access to college has catapulted African Americans into positions of extraordinary social and political influence. Ante facta non sunt argumenta.

For this reason, thinking of education as an inheritance does not mean giving children a sum of money alone or as a priority but rather offering them intense thinking together with critical thinking. It is not a minor inheritance and sometimes it seems even impossible but, certainly, only in this way does it obtain the quality of inheritance. And if the university institutions, like those in our northern neighbor, become allies, then the result is obvious. Because they are not perfect universities but they do produce intense and critical thinking.

We can observe another relevant fact. The US is the country with the most Nobel Prizes, with 377. Although all comparisons are odious, perhaps because they are obvious, Latin America has 24 from nine countries: 11 in literature, five in physiology or medicine, two in chemistry and six in peace. In the field of literature, our continent is only surpassed by France with 15 and the United Kingdom with 13. The US  has 12.

The American university has been characterized from the outset by an intimidating quality of selection: for the powerful economic contribution of its excellent alumni, for its dynamism in growth, for transformation and innovation and for an obsession for quality in all fields of its interaction. The data don’t lie when it comes to these appraisals.

Cathedrals and castles make up a good part of the history of European cities; American universities give status and life to the towns where they are located.

Cathedrals and castles provide a historical heritage; universities guarantee a vital heritage.

* This article was written before the shooting at the University of Virginia in which three youths were killed and two others were injured. My appreciation to the University for the way it has dealt with this terrible situation and focus on the psychological and physical health of the entire community.

Photo by:   Carlos Herrero

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