What if you only had one year to do one thing to help the entire world before retiring to a life of self-interest? Where would you place your one bet in the chaos theory casino of global issues? If Willy Wonka took you to a magical field where all the chaos theory butterflies in the world flew around spastically, and Willy Wonka gave you a gun with a single silver bullet in it and told you that you could shoot one butterfly for one chance to save the world, how would you decide where to aim?
It’s a funny question, but it’s important because the world’s problems are your problems, and your problems are your responsibility. And the only answers you’re ever going to get are going to be to the questions you ask. So at some point in your life you have to stop asking “But what can we do?” and start asking yourself, “What causes problems?”
You can make a game out of the question. Just walk around until you see something that sucks. Then point at it, and have someone take a picture of your pointing at the problem. Then go find a solution to the problem and point at it. Have someone take a picture of you pointing at the solution. Once you have each of those pictures in each of your hands then you should be able to figure out how to make a real difference in the world. If enough people did this and sent their pictures into a website that could organize the information and correlate it you would find that a lot of problems share similar solutions. If you took a third picture of the causes of the problems you’d find that a lot of problems share common causes as well. If you identified the cause and effect patterns you could chart a map to save the world. I guarantee that if this experiment were performed for a long enough time, the majority of the arrows would eventually trace back to education.
Everything education touches it turns to gold. When a dictator wants to crush the threat of progress the first thing he does is execute the educated and gut the education system. You can send in a group of educated people to a barren wilderness or a garbage dump and they’ll turn that area into a utopia. Give a man 8 years in prison and he’ll come out a monster. Give a man 8 years in school and he’ll come out a doctor. The defining difference between an officer and an enlisted troop is education. The first thing employers ask job applicants is what their education level is. Education doesn’t improve civilization. Education is civilization.
So what do we do about that? Should we donate all of our money to universities and testing companies? Because that’s what we’re doing. We’re betting the future of the human species on universities and testing companies, and most of that money is getting funneled into sports cars and swimming pools. The test scores from the testing companies we’re giving all of our education money to are showing that test scores are falling because children are learning less because our schools are focused too much on testing. And the lower you test the higher a percentage of your income you have to spend to further your education. But education is getting so overpriced that almost nobody can afford it, and even those that can are finding that the cost/benefit analysis of investing in an education doesn’t add up. The system in place discourages and in many cases, bars people from getting an education. And we wonder why we don’t have enough skilled workers or innovative thinkers to solve the world’s problems. Instead we have unemployed, angry young adults complaining about not having the opportunities they were promised, and the youngest generation is growing up not giving a fuck because they’ve known their whole life the education system is an overpriced commodity that only leads to a cubicle that’s barely distinguishable from a jail cell. They’re not apathetic because they’re lazy. They’re apathetic because life is one giant, shitty Skinner box.
So what do you do? Do you fix the testing companies that are cannibalizing our public budget or do you fix the universities that are cannibalizing our private budgets? Or is there a butterfly out there somewhere else that we can disturb and cause ripple effects throughout the whole system that will solve both problems, if not more?
The end goal is to provide a full spectrum of easily accessible, high quality information to as many people as possible as quickly and cheaply as possible for as long as possible. The ideal dream scenario would be for every level of education to be completely free to everyone everywhere all the time. The ripple effects of such a school system would do more to render more causes of more problems obsolete than any other single solution. Universal, free education is the holy grail of social action. It’s the ultimate tool of self-empowerment. It’s the silver bullet for poverty. It’s the silver bullet for making responsible voters, citizens, soldiers and politicians. It’s the long term cure for corruption and the key to technological innovation.
Universal, free education is the key to the next Golden era of human history, which will be the greatest golden era mankind has ever seen, and this key exists today in its infancy at the Khan Academy, and it’s underfunded. If the United States had donated every penny it’s spent on war in the last 10 years to the Khan Academy instead we would be living in Gene Roddenberry’s wildest dream today. But instead of investing in education, America is investing in check points and tent cities in Iraq and Afghanistan. The question of whether that’s right or wrong is moot, because there’s apparently nothing anyone can do to stop America from investing its children’s future savings on tent spaces in the Middle East.
But there is something everyone can do. Everyone can donate to the Khan Academy. Once we’ve enlightened the world then the solutions to the rest of our problems will be clear, and we’ll have the skills to engage those problems. I guarantee, it’ll help more than investing in sports cars and swimming pools. It’ll help more than killing brown people. It’ll help more than cheap gasoline. It’ll help more than funding a Republican or Democrat’s political campaign. It’ll help more than funding the war on drugs. It’ll create more jobs than tax cuts for the rich. It’ll put more food in children’s mouths than churches.
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- We have never raised an entire generation of adults, ever
- 10 ways people get dumber as they get older
- The Rising Tide Of Vagrant Intellectuals