The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Four Pillars of Future Progress: Part I—Education Determines Destiny

The Four Pillars of Future Progress: Part I—Education Determines Destiny
By Tim Krenz
February 5, 2020

Introduction: The future begins any moment we want. In this third decade of the 21st Century, we must begin to address how to adapt and evolve as a civilization. The world starts to fundamentally change from 20th Century norms of political-economics, and the social and cultural relationships, that set previous standards of progress and use. The new wave of technological development and the expansion and diffusion of cultural opportunities make it imperative that we understand the way ahead to get where we want to go—to a world of peace, stability, prosperity, and tolerance. Without a map we can get pretty lost. In this four part series on the pillars of future progress, examining education, employment, energy, and environment might give some hints on what we need to include on that treasure map to richer and more satisfying living ahead. The map would allow surer success and progress, for the future forward begins now. TJK.

Part I—Education Determines Destiny

Nothing will determine the future of humanity more than the development of the human mind matched with the human spirit. And how the world views and develops both formal and informal education will set the bar for success or failure as a civilization. No one can make a more clear statement: education determines destiny; for the world and for the individual.

At any level of completion, an education brings benefits along with it. Among those benefits, most notably, education enhances the earning power over the life of a degree holder, both males and females. Higher literacy rates among children and adults bring nations and communities innumerable social advantages, including less likelihood of later poverty, reduced crime, and controlled birthrates. In countries where women receive education, as opposed to where they do not, woman have stronger claims to rights, more integration in economic life, and more career options as fully vested members of their societies. All of these advantages of an education apply world-wide. They all contribute to inalienable good things for the world. And while expanded education access costs people both tax money, tuition, and other expenses, what the world invests in education, so can societies and individuals receive returns on those investments.

With a profound precedent on what a nation can invest and receive from an education policy, two major United States Government initiatives in the past 75 years increased both the access to and the results from better education. These initiatives accrued to the education industry itself and became drivers of massive economic and technological growth. First, came the original GI Bill, following the end of the Second World War in 1945, giving veterans an option to attend colleges and universities with tuition and other expenses paid as part of their benefits package from service in the armed forces. The second initiative, following the Soviet launch of the Sputnik space satellite, provided government financing for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education to stimulate the growth at all education levels of these skills needed for fighting a very science-driven Cold War against the Soviet Union. The first initiative, the GI Bill, took the character of a vast social experiment, creating a different type of educated society than existed prior to the war and the Great Depression. The second initiative, the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) of 1958, took the shape of a massive intellectual infrastructure development that created the material tools of that new society. Both initiatives used limited, rather focused inputs but produced out-sized high outputs in technical and economic growth for the United States.

Both the original GI Bill and the NDEA took different approaches toward social benefits. In the GI Bill, the government merely paid for the education of its veterans as a reward promised for service, something veterans earned. It did not guarantee the success of the veteran-student. It rested on the veteran-students to succeed or fail. In the NDEA of 1958, the US Government narrowed the focus of that investment for a desired result, i.e. the skills needed by the country to prosecute a war as highly technically driven as ideological-philosophically driven. It did not blindly fund all areas of education (most, but not all, directed at the sciences and technical applications). Yes, both programs had costs and benefits, with causes and effects specific to their intent. In both cases, the US Government took a low-risk investment, one unlikely to fail considering the offers and the consequences. The perfect storm of these initiatives, unlikely to recur, have become the standard of the success of 20th Century education in the United States. Noble causes? Possibly. Successful? Certainly. Repeatable? Unlikely.

In the 21st Century, we face an entirely different problem with education. Beside the larger problem of cost, and the moral hazard of who should pay for it—the government or the students—the primary challenge has become one of “why get a college or university degree? What do we hope to gain from a degree as a graduate? as a society? A better paying job? Or some national asset worth the investment?”

Education will determine the destiny of individuals and nations not just because education brings those desired financial and social benefits, and not just what we can get out of it for ourselves, but because of what we will need education to do in the 21st Century. We need modern education not so much to figure out questions of career opportunities, how to engineer better things, or create more clever junk. We need to focus education on figuring out not so much the answers at first, but in order to ask the correct questions about ourselves and our place in the universe. For example, the GI Bill educated educators, leaders, innovators, and even bureaucrats. The National Defense Education Act of 1958 educated people who went on to build computers, missiles, bombs, and spaceflight. But that begs the question: How many of those students from those programs ever asked, “Why do we need a society of middle managers? Why do we need to build more hydrogen bombs?”

Today, and in the future, we need education to teach us how to think beyond the limits of ourselves and not just how to personally profit financially. Although the latter part about profiting financially needs to remain, more important things need to take precedence. Education needs to become the starting point for a very personal and very moral and intellectual investigation into the purpose behind things, including ourselves and others. We need education to help us answer, not “how can I build better customers, better machines, more intelligent software,” but start answering the bigger questions: “Should we do this? Why do we need to build this clever junk? What value do I have beyond a better, more obedient worker in a vast machine of cogs?”

Education should absolutely help us answer the questions: “Who am I and why do I live on this earth? How can I help serve myself and the world at the same time?” Fortunately, not all answers have to come through pricey schools. It does not hurt to have them or their degrees as background. Yet, a degree should only start the investigation, not end it. We have found out we can learn numbers, shapes, and how to build gadgets. That comes easier than what we need to ask. “What does my life mean and did I do well with what I learned, in the service for the higher good?” We would have wasted a life-time of education if we cannot answer that positively by the end. The future can begin any time we want. Start asking and start learning, and start living!