On the importance of education:

Although my relationship with the modern education system has been…  trying I can not stress enough the importance of not only direct education, but also valuing education.  I no longer recall were I heard it and I care not to look it up, but there was a statement made to the effect of “not everybody belongs in college” I have taken an almost visceral offense to that statement, literally I still cringe when I hear it.  Now I’m perfectly willing to admit that if mired down in semantics there may be individuals whom traditional college would not be a beneficial experience, however the notion that postsecondary level education is not for every person on the planet is ludicrous to me.

I will start with one of my favorite anecdotes, black body radiation.  Before the info web was wildly popular I saw in a news story “thermal vision”, technology that allowed viewing heat.  Now I’m sure most of us today are familiar with thermal vision, but the principle on which it operates is usually not addressed in primary education or secondary education.  It was not intuitive for me to think that all matter above absolute zero is radiating waves, and it was not until I took freshman university physics that the connection was made.  The practical side of this, and one of the reasons why a college education is necessary, is it gives you a far greater understanding and appreciation for: what you do not know, and what others know.  We have in this country and on this planet millions (probably billions) of individuals who do not understand the basic natural processes as we currently understand them, and while this will in no way affect your ability to drive a car, work for someone else, or even run a business.  It will, or at least it can make you entirely unable to make rational comparisons between competing viewpoints.  Or know when you’re been flat out lied to.

The larger idea here is breath of perspective, to someone who was never had freshman level physics an idea like black body radiation falls into the same realm as an idea like dark energy, and distinctions and comparisons between the two are difficult if not impossible to make.  As we live in a democratic society every individual ideally influences the governance of all individuals, sadly in 2013 here the United States there was approximately $130,000,000,000 spent on advertising, and this is about as much as the government spent on research.  We (the U.S. and humanity as a whole) have real problems, but there is no amount that we can spend on advertising, marketing, political campaigns and the like that will solve them.  We have a wonderful historical record of incredibly useful information being garnered through research, I like to hope that any sufficiently educated individual would see this as a problem.  I understand all too well that in a competition one is well served catering to the majority, but if we’re going to hold true for democratic ideas and let every individual have a say in how all individuals are governed we have a responsibility to make sure all individuals have the tools necessary to shoulder that responsibility.  Otherwise we end up with elected officials that are for lack of a better term immature, and without mature competent leadership less scrupulous individuals have free rein to exploit, misinform, deceive, and in some cases inflect violence of upon us all.  I will close with a saying I picked up in boy scouts “the pace of the group is dictated by the slowest hiker” I think something similar to this is true in a democratic system, but we need to pick up pace! Most optimistic estimates have us running out of energy in 40 years (coal-petro), realistically we probably have much less time than that.  As I said real problems, and it is going to be very difficult to address them when terms like black body radiation get the same confused luck as a term like luminiferous aether…

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