The title of this article may at first appear a bit overdone, but is actually a pitiful understatement. As one who has taught high school and been involved in the educational system from kindergarten through graduate studies, especially aware of how education has affected my personal growth, development, and my belief system, I have continually pondered this topic for many decades; pointedly, my thinking has evolved most markedly since early 1999. The last decade has led me to conclusions I would have previously envisioned as highly unlikely at best.
Anyone and everyone will acknowledge the importance of education, yet the commonality comes to an abrupt halt at that point. And I mean, ABRUPT! One would think the solution to most of the problems faced by individuals, families, social groups, nations and the entire planet is obviously more education. Not a little more; not a pat on the back to a priest, minister, or anthropologist who sets up a school in some remote corner of the Dark Continent and teaches a few children some of the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. All such feats are laudable, but they are like a Sumerian tablet found with a single indentation made by a stylus. What is needed is a vastly enlarged Peace Corp with adequate funding and technological support, not the occasional far-flung project. Droves of young Americans, as well as older Americans, would happily participate.
When I say, Education, I refer to a full-scale, in-depth, broad-spectrum, university level program, followed by a very focused graduate degree, or interdisciplinary program.
Anything less is, to be blunt, "pissing into the wind," and will accomplish little of meaning for the true advancement of America, let alone mankind. How can such an assertion be made? Let's consider a single, quite elementary, example, credit cards (and installment credit, generally), and see how it relates to the subject of this discussion.
In light of the recent collapse of of the credit card industry due to the appalling debt generated by Americans using them, subjected to Draconian interest rates, this calamity could have been almost entirely prevented if the same individuals had been educated beginning early, very early, in the basic principles of finance and accounting. If you know of such fundamental courses required of every student in a single elementary school in the entire nation, please tell me in the comment box at the bottom of this post. I don't.
If you know of a single one in a single Junior High school, tell me. I don't.
If you know of a single one in a single High school, tell me. I don't.
I'm not talking about electives, but at least one basic course required for advancement of EVERY student. Period.
Dare I extend this farther? If you know of a single junior college, college, or university, tell me. I DON'T!
Is it because parents want their children to gradate ignorant of such a basic requirement for economic survival, let alone prosperity? No! Is it because they want each of their children to end up in the ranks of the millions of bankruptcies in economic landslides like the current one? No!
Is it because educators could care less if their students know enough math and finance to survive economically? Some, perhaps, but for the vast majority, No!
Then what is it? What is the REAL reason?
There may be those I regard as fools who would argue that there isn't room in the required curriculum to place such a course. Rubbish! It should be required by law, and to hell with the Lender lobbyists who would violently oppose it! There may be those who would argue that it is a matter of personal choice. Rubbish! Would they argue the same for reading, for writing, for arithmetic? If so, they need to find employment as a ditch-digger, not in the educational system.
When at Brigham Young University many years ago, I was studying Egyptian hieroglyphs, and I had a good friend, Jim, who had great difficulty learning Old Kingdom Egyptian glyphs, the easiest of all to learn, far easier than the later hieratic script. I told him it was very easy-so easy that his wife and 8-yr-old son could learn it. He scoffed, so I challenged him and we agreed to a test that weekend. I would attempt to teach glyphs to his son, Jimmy, and wife, Sonia. In the interim, I prepared 3x5 cards with the English word on one side and the same in Egyptian glyphs on the other-flash cards.
When the appointed hour arrived, we gathered around their kitchen table, and I began the experiment. Not only did Sonia, but little Jimmy especially, have no difficulty in a single four-hour session memorizing fifty words, but they were also able to correctly construct sentences in Old Kingdom Egyptian. During the last hour, Jim became so enthused, he virtually assumed instruction!
What is my point?
If eight-year-old Jimmy could learn so much in so few hours, then equally rigorous material should be part of a very early education, about the Head Start program age, when children are most eager to learn, and fear nothing, including mathematics and finance. To enable the parents of disadvantaged children to escape welfare, the mothers could be employed in such a dramatically revised program, and a multitude of elementary education teachers could find sustainable employment. The hours of such a revised and extended program would not be the few of the current Head Start program, but from early morning until late at night, with shifts coordinated to enable the single parent to work, knowing that not only were their children learning, but attended to as necessary by mothers until they got off work at their job, whatever it was and whatever hours it required.
So why does such a program not exist? Almost no one, unless they are seriously inept in both thinking and vision, would argue that the children were too young to learn. I know for a fact they are not. Any Home Schooler knows that a child can effectively comprehend material quite complex from the point their grasp of language is sufficient to understand what is being taught. This point has been repeatedly and totally demonstrated and is unarguable.
So again, WHY NOT?
We now arrive at the ABRUPT halt I referenced early on, and I mean, ABRUPT. And remember, this is a single, simple example among dozens, perhaps hundreds. So from whence commeth the present paralysis?
Again, among dozens of reasons, I will cite one easy to comprehend example.
In 1994, my wife and I moved our family of eight children to Puerto Rico, where we remained through the year 2000. Although we Home-schooled, it was our wish that our children have the advantage of exposure to a different culture, a great advantage for any child, for they learn that, in large part, thinking and attitudes are principally provincial in nature. It would also generate the necessity for rapid assimilation of a new language, Spanish, which Home School could not produce quickly. English, or at least a significant comprehension of the language, is widely spoken in Puerto Rico. My eldest son, Rodney, in his senior year had friends who spoke English fluently and essentially without accent. Yet others of my children often had to correct their “English” teacher (English is required to be taught in the schools) not only in vocabulary, but often in simple grammar. The government of Puerto Rico during six of the six and a half years we lived there was the Statehood party, under Governor Rosello, who headed the U.S. Council of Governors and was widely respected. He brought more progress to Puerto Rico in six years than others in the prior twenty, and certainly the decade since the Commonwealth party assumed control after the U.S. Navy, who insisted on using half of the tourist island of Vieques as a bombing range (!) accidentally killed some Puerto Ricans, a horror story for another post.
It was proposed that Puerto Rico attract native English teachers from the U.S. to enable English to more adequately and correctly be taught. Here is where ABRUPT kicked in. The teacher's union in Puerto Rico caused such an outrage that the program was blocked.
THIS is the missing piece, very telling, which exposes why our educational system in its present form is doomed. Utterly doomed. It has NOTHING to do with the children victimized, which is criminal, but EVERYTHING to do with why we face the crippling dilemma we do, and from which, frankly, there may be no escape. Arnold Schwartzenegger, to his chagrin, encountered something very similar in California, though his object was very different indeed from mine.
Personal interest is the killer. I taught high school Journalism and Art during the 2001-2002 school year in Little Rock, Arkansas, participating in the state program to reduce the critical shortage of teachers by certifying professionals from other fields as teachers.
New Jersey has recently introduced a similar visionary program. See the following link:
However, as the recession under the first Bush was taking firm hold, notwithstanding the No Child Left Behind program of the second Bush, which the schools mostly sought to evade where possible, the school district faced a choice: They were already short many teachers, but had to choose between cutting jobs at the district (the bureaucracy), or actually terminating teachers, which one would think unthinkable. Not only did they terminate the eight of us in the state program; they terminated 36 teachers total to preserve the bureaucratic jobs. Sound familiar?
So disgusted were some of the finest, most dedicated, and longest-term career teachers, working beyond their eligible retirement year, that they retired immediately, leaving the kids in an even worse state. They knew that the already over-sized classes would have to be enlarged even more, making good education even more difficult.
Note that the above examples are in the United States, which should be the most capable nation on earth of a high-quality education with a very different No Child Left Behind emphasis. Yet, during recent decades we have fallen far behind many European and Asian nations who have grasped fully the arguments I am asserting, and from which an ever-increasing number of PhD-level scientific professionals is being drawn. They get it. WE DON'T!
Moreover, all above is merely the tip of a vast iceberg approaching at an exponentially accelerating rate. Why? If you have the slightest doubt, see the video, Did You Know, on the Internet, at the following link, if you have not already. The dimensions of that iceberg and why I use the expression, “exponentially accelerating,” will become immediately clear within three minutes!
Not only can we afford not to act. It may already be too late. The reason for this assertion is that the U.S. is entering a severe Demographic Winter. If this term is unfamiliar to you, see the video at the following link:
My hope is that those readers who care, and I mean, REALLY care, about the survival of the family, let alone America as we think we know it, and the future as we think we know it, but utterly do not, will become actively involved in the beneficial preservation of both.
The following is for those who went to both of the links given above, and who give a hoot. If you are not among them, or personal interest renders you useless to everyone but yourself, here is where you should go somewhere else.
For those of you still with me, there are a few things that could, if properly and fully implemented, prevent a virtual economic and social collapse of America, as well as other members of the family of nations. Science is exponentially progressing, and will continue to do so. Information is exponentially increasing, and will continue to do so. The Millennial generation, those between 18 and 29, are extremely technological, extremely well-connected, and extremely optimistic, as well as extremely progressive. Their parents will likely not be the generation to stem and manipulate what lies ahead, but they will. The only question is, who among them will most benefit? It will be those of their online-connected nations who recognize the absolute preeminence and power of education. Those nations willing to entirely scrap the current institutions as necessary, and build a fully informed, visionary educational future for their people are the ones who will most benefit. With so few births in the United States, the myth of the population bomb now exploded, here are some key things America could and must do, and which I think the Millennial generation, now voting overwhelmingly progressive and overwhelmingly Democrat, have the voting power to demand:
1)At the conclusion of the Spanish-American war, began and conducted because we wanted a coaling station for our ships in Asia, Spain was forced to cede control of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and most other U.S. "commonwealth” nations. The birth rate in many of these exceeds the collapsing birth rate in the United States. Every boy, and I mean, EVERY boy, and every girl, and I mean EVERY girl, in those nations should be made immediately eligible for a totally free, graduate-level education from kindergarten to the finest university available. We have NO time, and NO children to spare. A young, Philippine man or woman earning about $3 U.S./day has little chance of accomplishing this against such an enormous economic hurdle, especially with an unofficial employment rate exceeding 25%.
2)Every black child, and I mean, EVERY black child, boy or girl, should receive the same.
3)Every American Indian, and I mean, EVERY boy or girl, should receive the same.
4)Every other child, and I mean, EVERY other boy or girl in the United States, should receive the same. We have NO time, and NO children to waste.
5)The border bridges separating us from Mexico, rather than being fortified, should become Friendship Bridges like those of the Southern Cone. I have been there. I know the difference. Latin Americans, including Mexicans believe in the family. They believe in having children. Not an average of scarcely one, but several. They should not only be admitted once security checked, but should receive the same education while the money is readily available, which it is.
These are the steps which can preserve our population and slow Demographic Winter. Will they taken? Almost certainly not, unless the Millennial generation forces it at the polls. To understand just who they are, how they think, and how they interact and connect, see the following video:
Why do I mostly rely upon them, rather than those of older generations?
At once, it will be offered that this is a financial impossibility! While on the surface, it may at first appear so, it is not. The money is easily available from the Defense budget, which exceeds by a multiple of five to ten the maximum amount which can be arguably required to maintain our defense. Ours exceeds the combined total of all other nations in the world by an Alice in Wonderland margin, and people with sound mind and common sense have been persuaded that we actually need it! It is not a product of real defense needs, but an amalgamation of the military-industrial complex and political hunger for campaign contributions, which, if not reversed, will hasten a kind of economic and social collapse of America.
This is not prescient on my part, but perhaps uncommon sense. Once the Social Security excess is consumed by the Baby Boomers outside the starting gate of age 62, and the rapidly expanding interest on U.S. national debt reach the fulcrum, which could be as close as 10-15 years hence, it will become bitterly evident that we squandered our last nest egg. At that point, blame and chaos will force change, but not the change we might have most benefited from.
If we fail to act and act quickly, abandoning time-worn, petty social, political, and economic ideas for the sake of our children's future as well as our own, the following are some results many of you will not only live to see, but may have to endure at your peril, and far more, your children's peril, the Millennial generation, if you give a damn about them:
1)The United States and most Western nations will change dramatically in both population mix and social structure. The same will experience accelerating economic shrinkage, followed by virtual economic collapse. Blame will be rampant, needless wars may result, further draining what economic reserve remains.
2)India and China will rise as the next economic and scientific superpowers, accompanied by a large number of smaller but wiser nations than we, replacing the U.S. as we replaced England; like her, we have transitioned from the greatest lender nation on earth to the greatest debtor nation on earth. It is unalterable and inevitable if we continue to squabble down the present path. Like all great nations of history, including Rome, we will gradually fade into relevant obscurity compared to those nations which act. All of the great and wonder programs we might have funded, including the ability to do so, will pass to those nations, where they will be exponentially increasing in number and scope beyond anything currently imaginable.
Let's change our focus a bit. Millennium 2000 aside, which is ten times too little to affect change as dramatic as that needed, there are still nations like many in Africa, whose populations could be included in the programs I outlined above, and must, if we consider the future on the scale of mankind, not just the western world or the U.S. Although there are a great many worldwide who have the vision to make such an educational program as effective and well-funded as the United Nations programs to provide food and medical supplies to the enormous refugee populations, their hands are tied by prejudice and political strife among many nations.
This is very unfortunate. I know there are those in some quarters who hope to see such "doom" on the horizon, thinking it proves their savior is about to whisk them from the brink and set things aright. Other groups in other times thought the same, but those currently caught up in such a mystical mire will learn that we must save ourselves, not rely on some greater power to do it for us. We haven't been around that long, mere millions of years, a second of universal time. We have shown astonishing capacity for gradual and unlimited growth. We have also shown astonishing capacity for prejudice, hatred, slaughter, television war, and contempt for everything and everyone different from ourselves. Hopefully, enough enlightened now exist in the face of so much science and technology to seize the day, not hide from it.
It has been said that “Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread,” and there is the ancient proverb, “He that hath great knowledge hath great sorrow.” I'm sure there were many "optimists" around when Rome faced the same dilemma we now face. The wealthy thought themselves immune. They simply left the others to themselves and fled to remote locations. The lovely villas they built can still be seen on remote islands, but there are no Romans living there. I'm quite certain there will be many cabins and virtual fortresses built in the woods if things go really badly, but a later generation of archaeologists will find them empty. Another Dark Age is not the answer. Theocracy is not the answer. Becoming a police state is not the answer. They all move in the opposite direction from opportunity.
The only truly safe are those with the education to follow the need for their special skills and training. They will move where the action is. They are part of a connected, global community, Internet-based, not trapped within provincial boxes. If you love your children, see that they get the best education possible. If you “love thy neighbor as thyself,” bury politics and social prejudice and see that their children do too. If you're not sure just who your “neighbor” is, he is “the least among you,” whether next door, next town, next country, or next hemisphere.
There is no such thing as human dross, except perhaps those who cannot grasp these basic concepts. We can not only survive what looms ahead, but prevent and profit from it, but we must make sweeping social, economic, and political changes if we are to do so to the fullest.
I have mentioned elsewhere that the ancient Chinese glyph for CRISIS translates into English as, roughly, "Opportunity riding the dangerous wind." This is one of those times when it is clearly true. If we cannot rise as a people to that level, then at a minimum, we must begin or continue personal and community action and strive to see it taken nationally, not just in our church, not just in our community, then internationally, regardless of how stacked against us the deck may appear to be, and the powers that be have a killick around our neck as a nation.
It might be correct arguably that the impending consequences will be all that could ever have brought them down, and it will if we cannot.
Please feel free to comment on this article.