Rethinking Education

I like to tell the true story that when I went to college a laptop was something a young woman put her child on. That’s true and my alma mater was then ranked in the top 25 globally for my major. A lot has changed in the last fifty or so years!

Aside from the Dark Ages there has been constant change. Today the only difference is the velocity of change. Another story I like to tell is that in my adult lifetime the Fax machine went from almost science fiction to common home office fixture to all but obsolete.
I don’t want to sound like an old guy (which I am) but it really wasn’t that long ago that we watched the clock on a long distance call because of the cost. Today long distance is hardly a factor and we are just as likely to instantly communicate via email or a chat app and at no per minute charge.

I’m going to paraphrase someone only because I cannot remember who wrote it or the exact quote, but education used to be something we did for the first twenty or so years of our lives and then we tried to make a living off of it for about another 50 years. We simply cannot do that any longer.

While the three Rs are still the three Rs and necessary to learning we have to supplement them with critical thinking. In my opinion reading is still the most important basic academic skill – if you can read you can learn almost anything – but the material you read must be filtered through a “malarkey detector”; that is where critical thinking becomes critical.

Just as important is continuing education. That can take several forms. On the job education, professional seminars and educational sabbaticals are just a few. All will involve a healthy dose of independent study that will consist largely of reading. In fact, you don’t always need a formal structure if you are sufficiently independent and a self starter/motivator. The question then becomes who do you trust and spend your time with. That is where the critical thinking skills and “malarkey detector” come in.

A recent book was shocking in that it detailed how much weight President Trump put in the advice of Stephen Moore regarding the pandemic. Moore holds himself out as an economist. He is a lousy one; someone I certainly wouldn’t take the economic advice of (other than perhaps to do the opposite of what he says.) Is it any wonder why Trump’s actions in combating the pandemic were a disaster?

I was scanning the cable guide the other day and noticed that Larry Kudlow has a show on Fox. There is an old axiom in horse racing that you should never bet on a maiden (a horse that has never won a race). That is pretty much the equivalent of taking economic advice from Kudlow. (Incidentally another Trump White House alum.)
Selecting your source(s) is important from school to the time after. The only way to make the system work is to make public education the core of it. We need schools that will teach the truth not right wing mythology. There are no alternate facts other than lies.

Indoctrination centers are not in the education business. One of the three main pillars of the modern day edition of the Republican party is the promotion of ignorance. The truth is the enemy of their political agenda which is to get elected and exploit the power of elected office.

Our current public education system largely does a good job of teaching the three Rs. Unless we want to exacerbate the inequity problem, we need to retain it as the main vehicle. If quality education is only available to a few then only a few will succeed. This also illustrates the importance of libraries and that we need to incentivize companies to make continuing education programs available to all workers. For the self-employed and gig workers (both increasing as a percentage of the labor force) we need to provide tax incentives for continuing education.

Don’t get caught up in cute slogans; look at the track record of the people and institutions you will invest your money in and spend your time with.

I see no reason to expect the velocity of change to decrease in the future. If anything, there is reason to expect further acceleration. I’ll throw in a wild card. What effect will climate change have on the economy and communications?

This is far from complete and I’m sure a lot of education experts are shaking their heads at all I missed. An informed electorate is necessary for a functioning democracy, especially a representative one, to survive. An obsolete labor force is at best a diminished one and degrees no longer have a fifty year lifespan.

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One thought on “Rethinking Education”

  1. The precise goal of the ultra conservatives (read fascists) is to provide quality education to just a few. That chosen few will succeed. For the rest…let ’em eat stale cake.

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