A Capital Idea Part 117: An Educational Model for Progress
Education, broadly speaking, is the imparting of impartial information and ideas to people. It includes formal education, learning how to do one's job from other workers, media news insofar as it is true and unbiased, and people sharing information and ideas over the internet. As with health care, affordable education should be a right, not a privilege.
True education needs to be free of ideological, religious or profit-driven bias. That might seem a strange comment, coming from a progressive blogger, but I am confident that truely unbiased knowledge will lead to a more progressive society. I have often heard the complaint, from people of various political orientations, that education is essentially an exercise in "brainwashing," and I agree that it all too often is indeed an effort to propagandize the "students." We have heard of conservatives' efforts to influence textbooks, starting with the Texas Board of Education and conservative influence on the Texas-based publishers of textbooks. There is also the push for "equal representation" of conservatives among professors. Religious schools might be fine for teaching arithmatic or the ABCs, but they tend to be horrible at teaching anything scientific, since so much of science tends to conflict with most religions. We all know full-well that Christian schools have as their primary goal, the spreading of their religious beliefs. The more recent danger in higher education is the corporate agenda. Colleges and universities have come to rely upon corporate funding more and more, as public funding has dwindled over the past few decades in the United States. Consequently, corporations have taken the opportunity to set the curriculum to whatever extent they can, and propagandize college students to be good, loyal, low-paid corporate workers. This trend has even extended to K-12 education to an extent.
I propose here that education, of all kinds, be formally ensconced in a model for progress. First, the right to affordable education must be written into law. Conservative overlords, as they always have throughout history, want an ignorant, uneducated population, aside from those people who need to be educated to do certain jobs. Furthermore, they want whatever education we have, to be biased to favor them -- that exercise in brainwashing mentioned earlier. It seems to me that the best ways to prevent this are: A. Culturally value true education and knowledge; and B. Encode the right to affordable education into law. Second, sources of bias in education must be eliminated. Corporate funding of universities and other schools is out. Religious schooling must be carefully regulated. Academic freedom, as long as it is in the pursuit of truth and the imparting of knowledge, is in and ideologically driven textbooks are out. These changes will require some legislative and regulatory action as well, in order to safeguard the integrity of our educational process.
Similarly, regarding other forms of lifelong education, such as media news and internet sharing, some legislative actions are needed to safeguard the process to ensure that people are learning from each other, not bullying, lying or propagandizing each other for personal gain. In order to call itself news, television and radio programs must present balanced, or unbiased programming. Otherwise, such shows (such as Fox "News") should be classified as opinion shows. With regard to the internet, I have found that there is a tendency for conservatives to intimidate progressives such as myself, in an effort to truncate honest discussion. The fact that they cannot shut us up, is I suspect why some conservatives have recently reacted so strongly and irrationally to our opinions; they find our truths threatening to their world view, and their efforts at intimidating us into silence have not been effective. These efforts by conservatives may take the form of personal attacks, but more commonly, they seem to take the form of "trolling," but in a more sophisticated form; that is, a statement which looks progressive friendly is made, but a progressive reply is subsequently attacked, or a topic with a progressive sounding title is presented, but the content is a conservative diatribe. In any case, "trolling" is a violation of internet protocol, which needs to be regulated more effectively. The same is true of personal attacks. The internet needs to be a place of open, honest, civil discussion.
The topic of unbiased education in all of its various forms, as a right, is simple in principle, but as this discussion indicates, ensuring it is not simple, and involves various legislative safeguards. All of this is well-within our reach, however. It is a matter of good legislation and regulation. Many other nations seem to be doing a much better job of this already, than the United States. Perhaps just as important ultimately, is a culture of truthfullness and honesty which as ideals, can be built around the public knowledge of these safeguards to our knowledge acquisition processes. In my view, having appropriate legislative safeguards, as well as a culture of open an honest knowledge acquisition, will inevitably lead to a more progressive society. The only way a mercilously greedy person can see to prevent progress, is to stunt our innate drive for knowledge by short-circuiting the educational process and turning people into "wage-slaves," driving humanity into a sort of cultural evolutionary dead end. Humanity did not evolve as it has, by preventing our fellow humans from learning.