Sunday, August 16, 2009

Let's get Educated

One of the important aspects of democracy is the debate. It is obvious that there will be alternative points of views and one will want to express this view to come to a viable solution so that everyone can be satisfied at the end result. Sometimes there will be compromise, sometimes there will be consensus, and sometimes it may just come to a majority.

The latest issue in US politics is its health care reform. Unfortunately there seems to be no debate. There are many attempts at setting up the proper stage for this debate to happen, but when the participants show up, you get nonsense. On one side you have some intellectual sounding rhetoric stamped with jargon that can only be understood by those who speak the same language.... and it certainly doesn't sound like English to the unfamiliar; and on the other side you have shouting and yelling that prevents any neutral observer from hearing the foreign dialect of the intellectual.

Agree or disagree with either position, it doesn't matter because there is a pretty high chance that you don't know the nuts and bolts of the issue, nor what either side are actually trying to say. In a nutshell, you have one side explaining in technical terms that health care reform is great and is not dangerous and the explanations become steeped with the latest astrological formulas (what we call economics in the 21st century).... and somehow these intellectuals believe that the jargon will silence the doubters.... the other side yells things like "You are lying to me!" or "This policy will destroy my car engine." or the best yet: "We can't believe in this policy because the President is not even an American citizen."

Well the problem is a debate amongst the uninformed (both sides). The solution is to have a better education system available to all citizens. Currently we have grade school which teaches reading, writing and arithmetic.... and a post-secondary educational system that emphasizes more on technical achievements than on thinking or realizing of issues.

The high school graduate believes himself skilled enough in recognizing how to scrutinize a debate of ideas between intellectuals. A first year university student studying in politics realizes very quickly how inadequate most of us are in scrutinizing political issues. The university graduate believes himself intelligent because he can speak the jargon of the intellectual.... unfortunately, most of what is said is complete foolishness.

Previous blogs mentioned our society's problem on lack of time. Well once time is regained, we would have to provide free education for any who want it.... this includes university all the way to the PhD level. We would have to stop companies from requiring advanced education when it isn't needed.... we only want those who wish to learn more to actually benefit from advanced education. Profit motive is a wrong motive to seek advanced education. The necessity of paying off a debt for a university education limits choices of subjects on what will provide the easiest way to pay off this debt (another form of profit motivation). Who will want to learn how to distinguish a rational form of argument versus rhetorical manipulation of emotions if the other choice is to learn about how to maximize profits for some corporation which is definitely not a democratic institution? The corporation will hire you if you can make them more profit not if you can be a better democratic citizen.

So the first thing to do is to provide time for each citizen, instead of forcing the citizens into wage-slaves for corporations who care nothing for democracy but care only for profits. This extra time should allow citizens to further their education without economic pressure. In other words, some form of stipend should be provided to cover rent and food (and I don't mean junk food which seems to be the university student's diet because they can't afford the better meals). When both of these things are covered, the third thing to do is to streamline the university classes so that they become less about jargon to make yourself sound intelligent but rather to say things in everyday words so that non-experts can understand with little effort. The most ironic thing I personally have found in my own university studies was that the scholars who studied how we communicate with each other were the most difficult texts to comprehend. It seems that complex sounding words are supposed to impress the uneducated.

The education system should focus on taking one's time to think things through instead of trying to come to a quick solution (without thinking of the consequences). DeBono once used an illustration about 2 chickens. One of these chickens was slightly blind while the first chicken had perfect eyesight. The experiment using these two chickens was to lower them onto one side of a box with a dish of food on the other side of the box. The first chicken with perfect eyesight went straight for the food and gobbled up the food happily. The other chicken would poke away at the ground and eventually get to the dish. Our capitalist system promotes the first chicken, the quick-thinker who gets to the solution. The second experiment had a glass wall in between the dish and the chicken. This wall did not go from one side to the other but it was in the middle leaving enough room for the chicken to go on either side and bypass the glass wall. Well the first chicken with perfect eyesight goes straight for the food dish, and bangs into the wall over and over.... trying to get to the food but never able to. The second chicken, who does not see the food just pokes on the ground and eventually bypasses the glass wall and then gets to the food. Life tends to have a lot more glass walls than we seem to realize and our current society promotes one form of thinking and punishes the alternative.

Free university and more time would bring more balance and improve our society and prevent tremendously easy problems that we have suffered if we just think for 3 seconds. Our current economic crisis could have been completely prevented had we had some decision maker have the luxury of time to just think about an issue or a citizenry the luxury of time to debate where our society is going.

So what society do you want? The capitalist is already using propaganda to say that the consumer makes better decisions than anyone else (greed determines our goals), the communist is trying to regain credibility by insisting that the worker should be given more economic power to make better social decisions for the majority. Why are we stuck in this consumer versus laborer dichotomy? Both are economic foolishness dreamt up by philosophers who began their philosophy with foolish assumptions that could have been easily been torn down like a house of cards if someone would have taken 3 seconds to just think about it. (To be fair, if their assumptions are accurate, the following logic that follows within their economic models are proper).... Why not focus on the democratic model... the insistence that we make our society full of responsible citizens. Our current democracy is really flawed and in many cases quite undemocratic, but we can correct this if we, as citizens take back what was stolen from us by thieves and reclaim our time and our money.

If a corporate entity (an artificial citizen under the law of most nations) has more budget than the poorest nation state.... there is definitely something wrong. This non-living artificial citizen, who is not even a real human being (a modern version of a built up idol/statue), should not have anywhere near the budget of the poorest nation-state government in our current international community. Nevermind the fact that these non-human artificial citizens should have the political clout to move society toward more profit at the cost of human dignity.

We either fight on economic arguments including how we spend our budgets (both foolish exercises), or we fight on democratic arguments and we give ourselves the time to do it and the proper educational opportunities to achieve this.