Djcnor’s Weblog

Got My Answer to What’s Next, and I Liked It

Posted on: February 25, 2009

This post and a few following will¬†relate to several other post of mine. For example, as soon as Obama’s Stimulus Package was passed, I posted:

That Was Well Done. What Next.

Well, now we know, universal healthcare, or at least a start on it, and a fully educated populace. I’ll take up the idea of a fully educated populace today because this post will be far too long if I try to cover both.

I am so proud of Obama!

For way way WAY too many years, the richest country on earth has been investing in the rest of the world instead of in its own people. For way way WAY too many years, people in the US have been led to think of the US’s wealth in terms of money, not caring who in the US had it or how unevenly it was spread, just that it was in the US. But any naiton’s true wealth lies in its people. The more things are arranged so as to maximize the development of the people’s knowledge and skills, the better.

So how do you do that? We seemed to have figured out a long time ago that a general education benefited us all. But when it comes to higher education, be it college and grad school or apprenticeships and training programs, lately Americans have been retreating into a rationalization that goes sort of like this: “It’s hard enough for me to educate my own kids! I have to sacrifice. I can just barely afford it! If you make me educate the kid down the block, or in the projects, or particularly that illegal immigrant child, I’ll collapse. I just won’t do it! How can you possibly ask that of me?”

The thing is, if we understand that it’s to our advantage to live in a country where we can reasonably assume everyone can read and do basic math, why is it so much harder to understand that it would be even better to live in a country in which we could reasonably assume that everyone knew how to write grammatically, everyone had a certain level of vocabulary, everyone knew where the different nations of the world were, what continents they were on, what coast they had or didn’t, what climate, what main products were produced.

And then there’s my personal dream, born of my¬† experience tutoring British students in maths and sciences. I am in awe of the consideration given to Brit curriculi. The practicality of it! Someone actually sat down and asked what science and maths people need to know to get by in life and make their own decisions regarding issues as they come up. So Brit students learn how different kinds of power generators work and how household things are wired. At every turn, they are expected to apply what they learn to their own homes, their own communities. They learn areas in terms of uying the proper amount of paint for a job. They learn how to design a really useful question for an opinion survey, how to ask a valid scientific question and research it, how to conduct a poll and represent the data, how to understand data represented in different forms, how different forms affect the way data might be interpreted. They learn to work with probabilities. They learn biology, even the chemistry of radioactivity as it relates to medicine.

And they learn these things in a cyclic matter. Doing the simplest version of everything first and working round and round the cycle connecting each new piece of learning to what came before it and after. Not subject by subject, algebra and geomentry and trigonomery separately, but some of each one year, and more complicated bits of each the next year. Only at the end do they split science into different sciences, and maths don’t split at all as far as I can tell.

By the time they reach school leaving age at 16, which is really the time when they take up one kind of further education or another (and there are a wide variety of types), they really are equipped to make good judgements, good decisions.

The difference it makes in the level of political discourse is amazing. No more of each group taking up its talking points, handed down from favored pundits from above, and swallowing them whole. We watched their last election. The whole election season is only 6 weeks long, and day by day by day, the media took up one issue each day and put it under the microscope, presenting the information as a minicourse per day. Fabulous!

And Brits don’t stop! They are constantly training for new careers on the side while working on the old one. Their employers support them in this, adjusting schedules as a matter of course. They are constantly taking coursework in new things. You should see the list of day course in our little town. 14 Medieval Poets is one I saw recently. And there’s a market for them! There is no disdain for knowledge as there is in the US.

OK, I exagerate, a little, but really, the difference is all too noticeable along with the results.

Recently, I watched the mini-series John Adams. When the US was founded, there existed a group of people capable of all this and more. They were the decision makers and they made good ones. It was a good idea to let everyone participate in the decision making, but it was also a good idea to give everyone a basic education as a part of that.

Today’s issues are more complicated and they demand a more educated populace. Obama intends to give us one, and that’s a good thing.


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Djcnor’s Weblog

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