Sep 9, 2006

Those With Bricks for Brains Want Another Brick in the Wall

Education Is the Key to a Better World

We don't need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

Yeah, I listened to this song by Pink Floyd. It was probably my favorite at the time when it first came out many moons ago. It was, perhaps, a message I failed to absorb. Oh, the turns we take in life, some of them planned some accidental. I spent much of this summer teaching, and I will have a full load teaching this Fall semester too. The end and the beginning of semesters are very demanding times, hence the sparse blogging here. But, last night I caught PBS Wide Angle’s “Back To School.” Very fascinating stuff but it also showed a very sad reality, whose connection to America’s security is not understood by the powers that be.

Well, I think we need leaders that are truly educated, and inquisitive of the world outside their own circle to begin with [people have different size circles of interest & concern].
But, nobody has died from! That’s the retort an ignorant person may utter. However, the reality shows that the lack of education is a silent killer! Education opens up opportunities for the individual who in turn may enjoy a better & longer life. Kids that receive even an elementary education are less likely to die of AIDS—this dreadful disease that’s highly preventable but still grows by leaps & bounds because of ignorance, governments' incompetence and stupidity. Educating young girls is even more important, because they could grow into women & mothers who have smaller & healthier families. Elevating the position of the women in the world isn’t only the moral thing to do, but it’s utilitarian too! Unfortunately, 60% of children out of school today are girls, with higher numbers in the impoverished regions.

There are 100 million kids that should be in school but many won’t every see the inside of a classroom. In Africa [Africa is not a like President Bush once said] more kids are out of school than there are students in the US. Afghanistan—a country we “liberated”—some 75% of girls will drop out of school before 5th grade! There is an undeniable correlation between the socio-economic position of women and a country’s political & economic progress. Unfortunately, most of humanity today doesn’t live in the 21st century! Much of it, still resides in the Dark Ages, or even farther in the past. Social discrimination, sex bias, superstition, are some of the reasons girls receive little if any education. But, the boys don’t fare much better in a poor country. These kids come from extreme poverty and their parents cannot afford to educate them—either they can’t pay the nominal fees for attending school or they need the kids for manual labor to support their families. So, incentives to the poorest families are needed too, along with resources to build schools and hire more teachers. [In many classrooms in the Third World today the teacher-student ratio is 1 to 70-90!]

Now, why should we bother? We’ve got the terrorists to worry about, right? Well, incredibly the money needed to improve world-wide education is not all that much. The estimates are between $5 and $10 billion a year. The UK has committed $1.5 billion a year towards this goal. The US, having an economy 6 times bigger, has only given a few hundred million. We can certainly do much better, and we should ask the other wealthy nations to do the same. We’re spending $2 billion a week in Iraq today, $300-400 billion already, with a total tag estimated at $1 trillion! This is to fight terrorists over there we’re being told. I believe the US could carry a lot more favor all over the world by being the leader in aid and in improving the human condition. The Marshall Plan, post WWII, helped western Europe & Japan and won many friends and brought about stable, non-aggressive democracies. The US won so much by giving & helping the victims of the 2005 Tsunami in Indonesia. American doctors are still helping the victims of last year’s earthquake in Pakistan where the Taliban was/still is present but the locals only know what they experience: the kindness, altruism, and humane treatment by a few conscientious Americans.

Gene Sperling sums it up well, “So, what I would say to people is that this is a small investment in a healthier, more peaceful world. If the United States leading the charge in universal education prevented even one small conflict somewhere in the next 20 years, it would more than repay what we've spent. It would be a good investment.”

Who’s listening though? Those who hadn’t had
any interest in the outside world and hadn’t been outside our borders until they became president? Or, the ones who have a unsophisticated, sophomoric attitude of a bully who wants to butt heads? Or, the ones who have no sense of history (other than their own) and don’t understand the dynamics and the people of a country they invade? Or, how they use Newspeak to shove a policy of “No Child Left Behind” that results in many American children getting an inferior education?

Let's have a culture of life indeed. But, let's have a reasonable, educated & scientific approach to it. We liberals do value life and want to enhance it when it makes a difference, not when two cells meet! We want to bring children into a better world and give them the means & opportunities to realize their own full potential. What makes us humans different than the animals is that we have a mind. The human condition can be dramatically improved when the mind is fed too.

Why do we have this kind of politics today? It makes "sense" to have more ..bricks, if you consider the interests of those who hold power & wealth. Look at the dumbing down of our society. Look at the language our “leaders” use. It’s very simplistic (differs from simple), loaded with references meant to trigger the most crude emotions of fear and anger! And, if you look carefully, you’ll see who’s got a better rational argument in asking for your vote! But, in order to be a good ..bullsh*t detector, you must know stuff… be an engaged & active citizen! Heck, I am an adult, content with performing the tasks of a thinking mature person… so, please Mr. President, treat me like an adult, don’t speak down to me! Unless, of course, you’re not able to! I understand… Maybe, you’re looking for people with bricks for brains!

I like this Pink Floyd’s song. Yet, I don’t want to be another brick. It’s a choice, I’m glad I made it; I also appreciated the opportunities available to me! Education gave me broader horizons to explore & imagine, and to better understand the world around me! I’d like to return the favor.

"Education should have two objects: first, to give definite knowledge, reading and writing, language and mathematics, and so on; second, to create those mental habits which will enable people to acquire knowledge and form sound judgments for themselves." Bertrand Russell


Lingual said...

Andros, I'm in education too and I thank you for this post. I understand that money itself isn't the answer to solving all the problems in education, but without the resources of money, effort & commitment, we can't perform our obligation to the younger generations. (I see it as our obligation to give the children the skills they need for a better life).

And, thank you for giving something back...

Currently attending Yale said...

Being educated isn't holding a degree, though it helps... IF YOU ACTUALLY LEARNED SOMETHING while attending school... I doubt Dumbya absorbed anything other some Skulls & Bones initiation spankings and alcoholic spirits while attending Yale.

reads-a-lot said...

Good point about the language and the kinds of arguments we have today in our national dialogue. Obviously they're not analytical of the real issues. And even if an important issue is discussed, like the war in Iraq, it is not debated on its merits, but on simplistic language with lots of emotions and much distracting gibberish.

Andros said...

Well, that's why I say as often as I can, that our politics reflect who we are, and that collectively we get what we deserve. I'm embarrassed and of course worried that we have so many wingnuts in this country. Obviously, they lack the maturity to think for themselves, and their worldview is very narrow. They tend to be either authoritatirian or like to blindly follow.

When Ann Coulter, for example (one of the many wingnuts), becomes a millionaire because she's given lots of national exposure. Why is she important? Because when she says, let's invade those Muslim countries, nuke them, and/or convert them by force to Christianity... When Falwell and Robertson support assassinations, tell us that God punished us because we're not their kind of Christians, etc, etc, etc... people listen! Millions of them! If a nut is largerly ignored he/she becomes irrelevant. Sadly it's not the case in our country.

Samantha said...

I too watched Wide Angle's piece on global education. Fascinating stuff and their observations, I thought, made a whole lot of sense. But, like you said, if you have bricks for brains, you can't see anything farther than your nose.... relying mostly on your animalistic instincts! Thanks for a nice post. Btw, glad we can comment.... (it was off for a long while.... I guess you preferred reading students' essays that our postings here! ha!)

Burke said...

Without safety, that is, if your enemies kill you, you can have no education, nothing else matters

Franklin Ben said...

If you want to sacrifice liberty for safety you deserve neither!

Burke said...

AND, We shouldn't give our money to other failed countries. We should spend it educating our own kids.

just saying... said...

Andros, you inadvertendly revealed your approximate age... If you were around, and into Pink Floyd music when Another Brick in the Wall came out...

Kelly said...

Why give our money to others? Well, if not for being, well, humane, to better ourselves! We're spending, wasting, tons of money in stupid pursuits that were based on misconceptions, stupidity, or a pack of lies. How do we make the world a better and a safer place for us? By helping those in need. Bullets don't always solve problems, especially in this intergrated world where the imperial powers can't wage perpetual wars.

We had such a great opportunity to be a source for progressive change after 9-11 when most of the world was behind us. They supported us in our war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and against terrorism. BUt this bick-minded president squandered our good-will capital by invading Iraq! He also wasted our precious blood, sweat & tears in doing so. How about the $1 trillion we're going to end up spending in this ill-conceived expedition? How's that economical?

Anonymous said...

Even in this country, if you examine our priorities education isn't all the way at the top. Besides, most decisions (federal/state/local levels) about education are made by people who don't have any experience IN education except when they were in school as students.

Anderson said...

As I'm sitting here at work today, I have to take a few moments to reflect on what happened 5 years ago, when our country was attacked by terrorists. Perhaps every person has their own take of the events unfolded, but much of what happened on 9-11 was the result of ignorance, intolerance, and religious fanaticism.

Andros said...

There is a difference between ignorance/stupidity and ..applied stupidity!

If, say, Peruvians don't know anything about Muslims, it only reflects on their own "private world" as their country is not a world player.

However, applied stupidity is when a country that is involved in the Muslim world as a superpower and deals in politics that produce serious conflict, then it is that country's duty to know about the people in whose affairs it meddles in.

Of course, you'd also need truly educated leaders that actually have the nation's best interest in their minds....

Consumer without an SUV said...

Most people in the US can't see that far ahead, or outside our borders for that matter! Like other things that we end up spending much more that's needed because we are not pro-active! Spending money now to save later is not a friendly concept for most Americans.

Now, where's my credit card? I need to charge stuff... I'm sure better days lie ahead for me!

Andros said...

That's why many Americans vote against their economic interests--when they can't really afford it.

They vote their ..dreams, not their reality.

Drake said...

Being proactive is to eliminate malaria, a disease that's a big killer in the Third World. For a couple of billion of dollars it can be done. The effect of this disease in lost productivity, health care costs, etc, etc, are ten times higher.

Alicia said...

I couldn't comment on the post above, so I'm doing it here.

For me and many Americans 9-11 was a moment of loss of innocence in that the world kicked down our door. Many Americans felt untouchable after winning the big war and the Cold war that followed.

We knew terrorism existed, but it was somewhere ..over there! Domestic terrorism (ie. McVeigh, Kazynsky) was the product of rare lunatics. But now we realize that many, hundreds of millions of people hate us. Some so much that they want to kill us in any way possible.

I think 9-11 should make us rethink our approach to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the current regime is incapable of any great thought and foresight.

Thanks for sharing your reflections with us.

Daedalus said...

In the Virginia Senate race, George "Macaca" Allen has taken to emphasizing that Jim Webb is a writer of fiction (because he has written five novels.) Yesterday I attended a Webb rally where Senator Obama was speaking. He took a swipe at the gop's respect for education and intellect in saying this:

"We have someone who has the sophistication to write some best-selling novels. We like our warriors to be scholars and intellectuals as well."

This is one awesome man.

Andros said...

Thank you for the comment. The retort would be, Republicans too like fiction, but they prefer the vile fiction of Coulter&co.

Yes, for me the dumbing down of our society is a serious concern. I understand the political reasons behind this: easier confuse, manipulate and exploit ignorant people.

The other day a colleague asked me why I'm not a Republican... I said, let's remove the ideological part, let's remove the incompetence & utter corruption of the Republicans... and let's look at the candidates they field! Let's look at the arguments, the points they try to articulate!

I'm sorry, but I like being a thinking adult, so I don't appreciate anyone talking down to me, or in childish manner. I appreciate reason and don't like politicians who operate solely on pushing the emotional buttons!

So,..... yeah, I don't like those who are anti-science, anti-intellectuals, non-thinking persons. And, yes, I don't want to hire anyone as the CEO of my country simply because he clears brush and may be a nice person to have a beer with!

PS>Btw, everyone should see the movie IDIOCRACY, by Mike Judge.