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 you got a magic lamp and could change one thing about the world, what would have the biggest positive impact?
It’s a funny question, but it’s important because the world’s problems are your problems, and your problems are your responsibility. The only time you ever get answers, is when you ask questions. 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 have someone take a picture of you pointing at it. After you collect two stacks of pictures, try to find common denominators and connections between the world’s problems and solutions. If everyone shared their pictures on a website and analyzed them together, we could find all the answers very quickly. I guarantee, all the arrows are going to point to sustainability and education.
Everything education touches turns to gold. 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.
Education is getting so overpriced, almost nobody can afford it, and even those who can, are finding the cost/benefit analysis of investing in an education doesn’t add up. The system in place discourages and excludes people from getting an education. Then 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 apathetic because they’ve known their whole life the education system is an overpriced commodity that only leads to a cubicle which is barely distinguishable from a jail cell. They’re not detached because they’re lazy but because they live in a giant, horrible, futile 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 websites like the Khan Academy and others, but they’re all underfunded. If the United States had donated every penny it’s spent on wars in the last 10 years to the free online schools, we would be living in Gene Roddenberry’s wildest dream today. Instead of investing in education, America is investing in bombing goat herders.
Governments aren’t fulfilling their obligation to education, but you can. Everyone can donate to sites like 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.