The true cost of a Princeton-style education in the OLPC era

* Introduction
* A year of tossed elite mortarboards equals a billion kids not educated?
* What choices are we making consciously or unconsciously? And why?
* A different vision of college as a balanced community?
* One gold hut among ninety-nine mud huts makes everyone tense?
* Pre-Scarcity, Scarcity, and Post-Scarcity Mythologies?
* Conservative and liberal worldviews both wrong and can be transcended?
* Changing our collective mythology?
* A balance of "meshwork & hierarchy" as well as "selfishness & altruism"?
* Lack of exercise leads to obesity?
* Moving beyond global competition?


Something I sent to a college list I am [or, was] on. :-)

If you like this ten page abstract essay, I have a more Princeton-specific one that is ten times longer (a short book, really) and a bit of a memoir, including suggestions on how Princeton can possibly improve itself, here:
    "Post-Scarcity Princeton, or, Reading between the lines..."
And here is a much condensed version of that as well:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: The true cost of a Princeton-style education in the OLPC era
Date: Mon, 12 May 2008 01:27:20 -0400
From: Paul D. Fernhout

On the true cost of elite education like at Princeton in the OLPC era:

This essay suggests that the cost of just one year of elite college education across the top fifty elite schools costs about the same order of magnitude as what it would cost to educate the poorest billion children on the planet K-12 using networked laptops. And that's just one example of the upcoming transition to a "post-scarcity" society we are in the middle of right now as a planet. The essay then rambles into areas related to the social change from the "pre-scarcity" myths of yesterday, to the "scarcity" myths of today, and then full circle back to "post-scarcity" myths of tomorrow. It focuses mainly on education but touches on other issues like energy, work, 3D printing, abortion, and even space habitats. It suggests that our biggest danger as as society is in putting the *tools* (some being useful as weapons) of a post-scarcity civilization into the hands of scarcity-preoccupied minds. (Especially ones following outdated military dogmas like unilateral security instead of mutual security.) As Albert Einstein said, with the advent of atomic weapons, everything has changed but our thinking. This essay is written towards that end, changing our thinking, through helping change our collective mythology, especially in the non-profit sector.

A year of tossed elite mortarboards equals a billion kids not educated?

The cost of the education of a poor child is a poor country for most of K-12 using learner-directed constructivist approaches is rapidly falling to about $100 using a networked computer with minimal supervision.
especially if a family shares one computer or two or three kids work with a laptop together loosely supervised in a community center using an unschooling philosophy:
or something similar:
    "Sustainable Education "
(The current OLPC project is currently foundering and losing its way as a free platform, but as a proof of concept it stands.)

At Princeton, annual tuition, room, and board together cost about $50K:
    "The estimated cost of attendance for 2007-08 is $47,375 ..."
A figure not including subsidies:
    "In addition, the tuition fee per student only pays for about 25% of the
cost of a Princeton education,"
No mention of the value of tax-exemption though for most university operations (which are in a sense hidden state and federal subsidies).

If you add all that cost (tuition, endowment, tax subsidies) together for a year of study at an elite college, that is a cost to global society (including the small fraction of tuition that parents pay) at possibly approaching about $100K-$250K a year per student for one of these Princeton-equivalent schools (including tax-exemptions). Over four years this is about the cost of giving, say, about 4000 to 10000 kids in a poor country $100 laptops for potentially life-long learning. Now, that's stretching the numbers a bit (there are laptop replacement and support costs), but even with more modest assumptions, it should be clear that one Princeton education for one alumnus costs about the same as educating at least 1000 poor children K-12. At about 50,000 alumni alive, that represents 50,000,000 poor kids not educated in a sense. For just *one* elite school alone.

Multiply by the entire Ivy League, the Seven Sisters, and so on, maybe 50 elite schools in all, guessing about 2000 new students per college each year or 100,000 new elite kids produced per year, and it adds up. So, consider that the cost of just one annual college graduation with tossed mortarboard caps of the elite to *society* (at, stretching, about a million dollars total with tax subsidies per year per diploma) is on the order of about US$100 billion. This is a high estimate, since most schools spend less than Princeton, so let me cut it by one tenth, to $10 billion. That is about, let me see, $10 billion, divide by $100 per laptop, so about 100 million poor kids not educated with $100 laptops. OK, assuming conservatively $100 laptops cost 10X with infrastructure, and so $1000, thats *only* 10 million poor kids not educated for just one elite graduating class over all elite schools.

Of course, if you go with the less conservative estimates (or assume kids share laptops), this one class costs the education of 10 X 10 X 10 million, or a billion poor children for just *one* graduating elite class with tossed mortarboard caps. Or essentially the education of all uneducated poor kids on the planet is what just *one* year of elite graduation costs.

That's a lot of want and ignorance
just so people like me can attend a few years of college and get essentially physical and intellectual maid-service for a few more years beyond home (which such people probably don't need anyway considering all the other advantages almost anyone likely to attend these schools has just from family and K-12).

What choices are we making consciously or unconsciously? And why?

As a society, we make choices. I'm just pointing out that is where we are right now. Are the elite colleges still worth not educating all the poor kids on the planet these days? Maybe it depends who you ask... :-(

Nonetheless, I'm not suggesting that we *need* to trade one for the other -- even as elite education and related continuing physical and intellectual maid service may still be damaging to even just the elite, as with not giving young kids chores.
    "Chore Wars: Researcher Finds that Involving Young Children in Household
Chores Pays off Later"

The problems the Earth faces have little to do these days with resources. They have to do with the ideology and mythology we live by. A flow into foundations of $55 trillion is expected over the next 25 years:
    Is Open Source the Answer To Giving?
And TV watching is consuming 2,000 Wikipedias per year:
    Mining the Cognitive Surplus
There is plenty to go around to meet the needs of everyone on the planet.

But that does not mean we all do not have a lot of playful work still to do to ensure Spaceship Earth (and beyond) works joyfully for *almost* everybody (some people will never be happy no matter what happens. :-)

Anyway, I welcome someone to produce more "conservative" estimates of the cost of elite college education to the poor kids of the planet (as well as the rest of us).

But, multiply any conservative smaller number of uneducated poor kids by ten for a decade of doing this, and you'll still be about where I concluded for just one year of planetwide elite college graduation (or, back to the cost of educating all poor kids on the planet).

And if that isn't enough, add in the cost of graduate school or prep school. And so on. The point is that the cost of one year of Princeton and other elite graduates is about the same "order of magnitude"
as educating all the poor kids of the world mainly through networked laptops. These ballpark figures, however imprecise, are good enough to prove that rough correspondence.

And it is intended to be surprising and perhaps shocking, as it was for me myself when I calculated it the other day. That is the true cost of just one year of a Princeton-type education to the world -- a billion uneducated people. It makes the motto "Princeton in the world's service" take on a whole new meaning and self-justifying urgency, doesn't it?

Still, we must always remember that communities poor in material goods are often much richer in social and spiritual aspects than most US communities (if they still have ties to their historical roots and escaped the worst of colonialism). So they have much to teach us to help in healing us broken Princetonians. And we must also remember:
As a last comment on Philanthrocapitalism/Edwards:
"If I knew...that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life." -- Henry David Thoreau

Versus on the Free and Open Commons/Surman approach to philanthropy:
"If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together"

A different vision of college as a balanced community?

Here is also a different vision of college:
"On each campus, there has been a historical recognition of the value of work and an institutional commitment to promote an understanding of that value among students through establishment of a work program. These work programs help students to understand work as a tool for experiential education, as a means of serving the community, and as a place for integrating academic learning, practical knowledge, and life lived in the larger community. The colleges blend courses in liberal learning and applied studies with their own particular vision of the undergraduate curriculum."

And these don't usually need to charge anyone tuition. And they reflect E.F. Schumacher's philosophy:
"The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give [a person] a chance to utilise and develop [his or her] faculties; to enable [a person] to overcome [his or her] ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure."

"Hard Fun" is also a related idea:
"I have written here about adolescents in Maine's juvenile correctional facility overcoming their long standing aversion to any sort of school learning by being given the opportunity to invent and construct sophisticated mechanical/robotic devices. Doing this requires concentration and discipline. It requires learning to deal with things going wrong by finding out how to fix the problem rather than by giving up in frustration. And for some of those kids it has meant experiencing for the first time the pleasure of writing because they were encouraged to write about something they were doing themselves and doing with passion."

And a big advantage to a "work college" is probably getting out of college with no or little debt, which will greatly increase your life options down the road. Rather than jump on the corporate treadmill to pay back student loans (or do yet more schooling to defer them and make the student debt problem worse), you may be able to live frugally:
and so be able to do volunteer work or anything else you dream of (like work towards space habitats). So, paradoxically, a "work college" might lead to a lifetime of more "play". :-)

And ironically, the value of a "work college" might be the largest for those with the greatest *intellectual* aspirations, since, with manual labor, while your hands may be rented out, your mind remains your own to read and think as you like (an idea a mathematics aficionado who did her work-study as a student peeling potatoes in food services told me). See also:
    "The Joys of Janitorhood: Reflections on a low status career field"

Of course, once one starts thinking about "work colleges" as learning communities, then why make college a special place at all? Why not weave learning throughout the community, and perhaps make all schooling like "adult education" where it becomes more like a public library for skills learning "on demand" by interest and need (not "just in case" through compulsion).

Eventually, "schools" as centralized buildings would be repurposed. You want to learn science you go hang out around science labs (and likely there might also be one down the road just for fun and for younger kids to play in).
    "5 dangerous things you should let your kids do (video)"
You want to learn to write, you hang out with writers. You want to learn to farm, you hang out with farmers. Same for plumbing -- a sort of apprenticeship model for many things. Not all things might fit apprenticeship model, probably, but many would (and this is apprenticeship without the economic wage-slavery overtones, something that rarely exists in our society, but you might find a little on the internet.)

There is also the corrosive effect being a guard and a grader has on mentoring relationships as well at the "teacher". One way to approach this issue with current teachers is to ask them: "How would your classroom be different if only the kids who wanted to be there showed up?"
Teachers face a weak version of this extreme situation:
    "Prison horrors haunt guards' private lives - The Denver Post"
"Now these men and women, who face growing numbers of inmates in some of the nation's toughest federal and state prisons, say they're increasingly overwhelmed. They harden themselves to survive inside prison, guards said in recent interviews. Then they find they can't snap out of it at the end of the day. Some seethe to themselves. Others commit suicide. Depression, alcoholism, domestic violence and heart attacks are common. And entire communities suffer."

Obviously most schools are not as extreme social situations as SuperMax prisons (even though Gatto points out how they are interwoven). Still, there may be some weak parallels, with more going on behind the smiley face plastered on most long term teachers than even they might admit. Teachers would need to retrain themselves to trust people to learn on their own and without coercion after a lifetime spent coercing and surveilling students -- and that would take time. And as a guard above said: "You don't wipe this out in a year. I don't know if it ever goes away." So in some ways, "teachers" are worse victims of mass schooling than even the "students".

One gold hut among ninety-nine mud huts makes everyone tense?

Paradoxically, even the current elite may benefit greatly by the global end of ignorance and want and repression. Gatto suggest most conventional compulsory education teaches "Seven Lessons",
and often produces this result or worse:
In my dream I see Bianca as a fiend manufactured by schooling [or poverty] who now regards Janey as a vehicle for vengeance. In a transport of passion she:
      1. Gives Jane's car a ticket before the meter runs out.
      2. Throws away Jane's passport application after Jane leaves the office.
      3. Plays heavy metal music through the thin partition which separates
Bianca's apartment from Jane's while Jane pounds frantically on the wall for relief.
      4. All the above.

That's why, in the end, even the current elite will be well served by ideas like "The Abolition of Work":
    "... What I really want to see is work turned into play. ..."
and the more constructivist (and cheaper) learner-centered approaches like OLPC and even "free schools" (free as in freedom, not price):

The way forward to freedom for all as regards education is not only better, it is even *cheaper*.

Same as with fixing our brittle energy supply using "negawatts" and renewable energy -- it's *cheaper*:

But both would still be worth doing even if they were more expensive -- since in the end what's the price of global "want and ignorance" and energy insecurity in human terms? Again, depends on who you ask... :-(

Pre-Scarcity, Scarcity, and Post-Scarcity Mythologies?

The world used to have endless abundance compared to human wants:
    "The Original Affluent Society [of the Hunter-Gatherers]"
"Hunter-gatherers consume less energy per capita per year than any other group of human beings. Yet when you come to examine it the original affluent society was none other than the [hunter-gatherers'] - in which all the people's material wants were easily satisfied. To accept that [hunter-gatherers] are affluent is therefore to recognise that the present human condition of [humanity] slaving to bridge the gap between ... unlimited wants and ... insufficient means is a tragedy of modern times."

Call this time "pre-scarcity" before populations grew and militaristic bureaucracies arose like hurricanes on a warming ocean and humanity had to switch to agriculture and suffer the resulting worse nutrition from less diversity of sources. Human skeletons actually were shorter from the advent of agriculture until only reaching hunter-gatherer stature about this century.
"For instance, the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture approximately 10,000 years ago has commonly been seen as a major advancement in the course of human evolution. However, as Larsen provocatively shows, this change may not have been so positive. Compared to their hunter-gatherer ancestors, many early farmers suffered more disease, had to work harder, and endured a poorer quality of life due to poorer diets and more marginal living conditions. Moreover, the past 10,000 years have seen dramatic changes in the human physiognomy as a result of alterations in our diet and lifestyle. Some modern health problems, including obesity and chronic disease, may also have their roots in these earlier changes."

There were "pre-scarcity" myths from those times:
"In our Seneca Tradition, the Field of Plenty is seen as a spiral that has its smallest revolution out in space and its' largest revolution near the Earth. ... When the cornucopia was brought to the Pilgrims, the Iroquois People sought to assist these Boat People in destroying their fear of scarcity. The Native understanding is that there is always enough for everyone when abundance is shared and when gratitude is given back to the Original Source. The trick was to explain the concept of the Field of Plenty with few mutually understood words or signs. The misunderstanding that sprang from this lack of common language robbed those who came to Turtle Island of a beautiful teaching."

There are now "scarcity" myths related to agricultural and industrial bureaucracy (including the "cost" of educating or helping the global poor instead of bombing or exploiting them):
    "Ralph Nader on Seymour Melman"
"In the rarified world of economics and industrial engineering, there was never anyone like Columbia University professor Seymour Melman. I grew up reading and listening to the prophetic, factual and hard-nosed arguments he made for his anti-war and worldwide disarmament causes in the specialized and, occasionally, the major media as well. ... In his later years, Melman promoted the idea of self-management as an alternative to giant corporations. For the last twenty years the media blacked him out. He could scarcely get an article published in the newspapers or even in the progressive magazines. On frenetic radio and television, he did not qualify because he spoke in paragraphs and was elderly - an electronic bigotry that is keeping many wise, older Americans from communicating with their younger generations. ..."

And after the scarcity bubble pops -- assuming it does not "pop" too literally and noisily :-( -- there will be "post-scarcity" myths and the related organizations and movements:
    "Study Reports On Debian Governance, Social Organization"

At that last one: "[RepRap] has been called the invention that will bring down global capitalism, start a second industrial revolution and save the environment... - The front page of The Guardian, November 25, 2006."

These new myths represented by free and open source software and content and (soon) 3D printing are essentially a return to the pre-scarcity myths, but with a technological upgrade from suffering through the scarcity cycle is the middle.

For example, we already have the technology for the internet (merging into a semantic web or Noosphere soon).

Eventually we will have interplanetary human space travel again (not since the 1970s trips to our sister planet, the Moon, sigh). And someday we will even have the technology for supporting quadrillions of people in the solar system via self-replicating space habitats:'Neill

And we soon will just as easily be able to support billions of people is a sustainable style just on Spaceship Earth. :-)
"These principles are the fruit of Dr. Todd's decades-long practice developing technologies around the world that build healthy symbiotic relationships between nature’s living systems and modern human needs."

And with funky free robots to help out:

And even robots doing the driving (eventually):

    "War of the Worlds: The Human Side of Moore's Law"
"... we've reached the point in our (disparate) cultural adaptation to computing and communication technology that the younger technical generations are so empowered they are impatient and ready to jettison institutions most of the rest of us tend to think of as essential, central, even immortal. They are ready to dump our schools. I came to this conclusion recently while attending Brainstorm 2008, a delightful conference for computer people in K-12 schools throughout Wisconsin. They didn't hold breakout sessions on technology battles or tactics, but the idea was in the air. These people were under siege."

And comments on that at:
    "Nerd Alert: Moore’s Law and Unschooling"
"In response, I’d like to add, the schools label these bored, understimulated, empowered but unchallenged kids as ADHD and put them on medication. (This theory is mine, not Cringely’s, but I like it just the same!)"

Yet, consider an alternative:
"Though we are by no means a special school for problem children, we frequently serve as a safety net for children who have been falling through the cracks of the conventional education system. At any given time, approximately half of our students are referrals from the public and parochial schools. Our reputation with students that are struggling academically and/or behaviorally, and whose needs the system has failed to meet, is such that an increasing number of kids are coming to us having previously been tagged with labels like ADHD and placed on Ritalin and other biopsychiatric medications. Their parents seek us out because they're concerned about the side effects of the drugs and because they've heard that we work effectively with these children without drugs of any kind. Our active, flexible, individually structured environment renders the drugs entirely unnecessary. Part of the reason we are so successful with students in crisis is that we neither segregate them away from, nor place them in competition against their peers. Instead, we invest faith in their integrity and ability, as well as place them in a position of responsibility for themselves and the school as a whole - all the while paying close attention to their emotional development. Students who come to us essentially for refuge and repair leave us able to make a successful return to the conventional settings from whence they came - even after spending as little as a year here."

The pressure on these old institutions will only increase. These are my estimated specs for a desktop computer in twenty to thirty years (about a million times that of today, as today's is about a million times that of thirty years ago):
CPU: a million processor cores at about today's speeds, perhaps interweaving memory and processing power
RAM: 4000TB (enough to hold all of the current surface internet in RAM)
DISK: 300PB (which is 300,000 TB; just 300 TB would allow you to record your entire life in video for 16hr/day for 100 years at 500MB/hr. So you could do that for 1000 people on just your own personal computer. Or you could just perhaps store the interesting bits of life video for perhaps a hundred thousand people or so. Needless to say, storing all of human music currently on CD would be trivial and not even noticeably strain such a computer's capacity. But there might be little point, as the system could possibly be able to just improvise music to suit your mood if you asked it.)
BANDWIDTH: 1GB/second (conservative, from optical fiber to the home, but still enough to download a full length HD movie in a few seconds)
PRINTING: 10 cubic centimeters / minute in 3D (free with the computer; maybe the toner, especially for precious metals like gold or platinum, still costs something, maybe it is free or easily recyclable).

That is just carrying forward the trends of the last thirty years, back when a few K of memory was a lot. And remember this is just a desktop. Supercomputers will be a million times faster and bigger than that, so for example, one could store the interesting life video of 100 billion people.

Another way these trends can be looked at is that by then today's wireless networked desktop computer will be purchasable for less than a penny and be somewhere in size between a postage stamp and a grain of sand (and likely solar powered). What does that mean for privacy or for schooling itself when a kid can buy $10 worth of computing dust and sprinkle 1000 networked audio pickup nodes around a school staff cafeteria or school office? Here's a review of a sci-fi story that includes that theme by Vernor Vinge's called "Fast Times at Fairmont High"

Of course, much beyond that things get really hard to predict, especially with AI (which can either be master, slave, or sidekick/friend). We are seemingly rushing headlong to a technological singularity
that is otherwise in some ways just a mirror of our own choice of virtues or lack thereof.
Will it be scarcity virtues (war, competition) or pre-scarcity/post-scarcity virtues (abundance, thankfulness, giving) that define that future infrastructure? We still have time to make that choice, even as more and more creative energy is being chonneled into stuff like military robotics:
"A robotics expert at the University of Sheffield has issued stark warnings over the threat posed to humanity by new robot weapons being developed by powers worldwide."

Our biggest danger as as society is in putting the *tools* (some being useful as weapons :-( ) of a post-scarcity civilization into the hands of scarcity-preoccupied minds. (Especially ones following outdated military dogmas like unilateral security instead of mutual security.) As Albert Einstein said, with the advent of atomic weapons, everything has changed but our thinking. Maybe that is why I spend more time writing (and ranting :-) than coding these days.

There is a positive hopeful future waiting for us -- if we can just collectively imagine it. Again from the pre-scarcity Haudenosaunee:
"The Field of Plenty houses all thought forms that supply abundant creativity to the Children of Earth These new ideas are available to every Two legged and can be made manifest through acknowledging the ideas, then acting on them. When there is a need, it is sent by the Field of Plenty, in idea form, to the consciousness of all life-forms. These ideas begin to manifest as they enter the physical realm and are acted upon by humans. Every need in our world can be met when we act upon any good idea that comes into our minds. Every talent and every role in physical life plays a part that assists the whole in manifesting abundant life. The Field of Plenty always has a way putting the needed item into the hands of the person who needs it. The keys to manifesting what is needed are gratitude and trust, balanced with action. There is no need for scarcity in the Fifth World. Abundance for all the Children of Earth is manifesting Thought always precedes form. If ideas of sharing and equality precede that reality in the hearts of Two-leggeds, the manifestation of physical needs being met will follow."

But what is that ancient (but still vibrant) myth but practically a description of the free and collaborative internet these days, helping us all make real improvements towards a world beyond "scarcity" through a bit of hope, a bit of luck, and a lot of hard (mostly voluntary) work? :-)

For more Haudenosaunee philosophy, see:
    "To Become a Human Being: The Message of Tadodaho Chief Leon Shenandoah"
"We were told that back in the 1700s that there'd be a day when white people would be coming to us, asking for instructions and finding out the way we think."
At least I, for one, have learned a lot from the "People of the Long House"
about the technological future rushing towards us. :-) Oh, and the better part of the US Constitution was from them, too. :-)
    "Iroquois Constitution Influenced That of U.S., Historians Say"
"Benjamin Franklin, one of the original architects of the United States government, introduced as a model for the country's framework document the constitution of the Iroquois Nation ... The Iroquois' detailed constitution -- called the Great Law of Peace -- guaranteed freedom of religion and expression and other rights later embraced in the U.S. Constitution ...."

Too bad we didn't also take the gift offered about matriarchies managing the land for seven generations and picking leaders based on knowing them from childhood. But it is not too late to learn more from the Haudenosaunee.

Conservative and liberal worldviews both wrong and can be transcended?

Conservatives, you want another reason to say abortion is a bad idea? That's it above -- there is plenty of room in the solar system for every new human life conceived for thousands of years of exponential growth (into the quadrillions and beyond). But only if we change the competitive "scarcity" mythology US conservatives also push at the same time as they fight abortion (which ironically leads many women to feel they cannot afford another child in this bountiful and seemingly empty universe). At this point, there are no economic reasons every child conceived globally cannot have an abundant childhood, except scarcity myths and a lack of imagination:
Educated and healthy and free people with good imaginations and some curiosity are indeed the "ultimate resource". Who knows where the next, say, life enhancing breakthrough miracle will come from? But we do know, in the internet age, the more educated and healthy and free people, the more miracles. And we also know now: "Creativity and intrinsic interest diminish if task is done for gain"
You want miracles? Better build a world where they happen for "free".

And the entire elite at this point (not just conservatives) is very responsible for sustaining those scarcity and pro-competition myths which they live by themselves while ironically still trying (often unsuccessfully) to shield their own children from:
    "The Mythology of Wealth"
"Of course, wealthy elites shower their own with benefits – and enjoy a plethora of government benefits and services. They know the value of education, that’s why they keep expensive private schools like Andover in business. In fact, they do everything they can to give their own children every advantage money can buy, because they absolutely understand the value of a “head start” in the fiercely competitive social jungle they have created. They talk about “competition”, but they actually fear it, and do what they can to make the playing field as unequal as they can. Then they tell the wage earner that his position is “his fault”, and that he just needs to work harder – in their factory. He needs to more “disciplined” and “thrifty” if we wants to “get ahead”."

Liberals have their own problems, of course. :-) See a site like:
versus the reality of the above on compulsory schooling and scarcity myths. And this is the sad history of compulsory schooling which is intertwined with militarism and which most "Liberals" ignore when they support it:
    "The Emergence of Compulsory Schooling..."
"Modeling themselves after France’s success in making national education a State priority, Prussia began to focus on the creation of compulsory system of State-controlled schools, an attempt that King Frederick had begun in the 1770’s but the process had been left incomplete. Among the most widely cited of pivotal points is Joann Fichte’s Address to the German Nation (1808) in which he laid bare the philosophical underpinnings and practical rationales for monopoly schooling. In essence he argued that Prussia was so humiliatingly defeated because its citizens lacked cohesion, a commitment to the nation and willingness to sacrifice for its good. "The State which introduced universally the national education proposed by us, from the moment that anew generation of youths had passed through it, would need no special army at all, but would have in them an army such as no age has yet seen.""
Joann Fichte was right, unfortunately. So, when anti-war "Liberals" lobby for more school funding, guess what they are really lobbying for? More war. :-( And it is war against children to make them into child soldiers.

Some mainstream people may see the obvious parts of the problem but don't see any solution but to mold kids into a different kind of worker-drone:
    "To fix US schools, panel says, start over"
"... reforms: Offer universal pre-kindergarten programs ... Improve school salaries ... Create curriculums [literally means 'racetracks'] ..."
Nothing about integrating lifelong learning into communities. Nothing about freeing the children from a system designed primarily to turn them into child soldiers obediently following any orders they are given (even if now more "creatively", creating its own oxymoron: "creative obedience").

We need to transcend the old labels and old scarcity myths to something new and better for everyone (and not just with schooling). We need to recognize that John "100 years of war" McCain, Hillary "I voted for it, too" Clinton, and Barack "I stood by and did not impeach" Obama are all losers as far as making serious changes to our mythology. Whichever wins, *we* lose.

Changing our collective mythology?

Who has tried to change our mythos? See, for example, Buckminster Fuller:
"It is now possible to give every man, woman and child on Earth a standard of living comparable to that of a modern-day billionaire."

Relate that comment from decades ago to any current politician, if you can. Maybe Nader a bit, but I doubt he gets it in its entirety.

Surprisingly, Al Gore a little. He did help with building the internet.
"Clearly, although Gore's phrasing might have been a bit clumsy (and perhaps self-serving), he was not claiming that he "invented" the Internet (in the sense of having designed or implemented it), but that he was responsible, in an economic and legislative sense, for fostering the development the technology that we now know as the Internet. To claim that Gore was seriously trying to take credit for the "invention" of the Internet is, frankly, just silly political posturing that arose out of a close presidential campaign."

A related novel:
"Since the availability of power from fusion reactors [solar panels :-) ] and cheap automated [robotic] labor has enabled them to develop a post-scarcity economy, they do not use money as a means of exchange, nor do they recognize material possessions as symbols of status. Instead, competence and talent are considered symbolic of one's social standing-resources that cannot be counterfeited or hoarded, and must be put to use if they are to be acknowledged. As a result, the competitive drive that fuels capitalist financial systems has filled the colony with the products of decades of incredible artistic and technical talent - and there are no widespread hierarchies."

And people even wrote a letter to the President Lyndon B. Johnson about all this in 1964(!) coming up on a half-century ago:
    "The Triple Revolution: Cybernation, Weaponry, Human Rights"
"The fundamental problem posed by the cybernation revolution in the U.S. is that it invalidates the general mechanism so far employed to undergird people’s rights as consumers. Up to this time economic resources have been distributed on the basis of contributions to production, with machines and [people] competing for employment on somewhat equal terms. In the developing cybernated system, potentially unlimited output can be achieved by systems of machines which will require little cooperation from human beings. As machines take over production from [people], they absorb an increasing proportion of resources while the [people] who are displaced become dependent on minimal and unrelated government measures—unemployment insurance, social security, welfare payments. These measures are less and less able to disguise a historic paradox: That a substantial proportion of the population is subsisting on minimal incomes, often below the poverty line, at a time when sufficient productive potential is available to supply the needs of everyone in the U.S."

The "two income trap" from a bidding war for real estate and colleges only makes this economic disparity trend worse, sadly:
"Families in financial trouble are working hard and playing by the rules -- but the game is stacked against them."
That's a reason more and more people are abandoning the expensive school districts for cheaper housing and homeschooling.

And this all echoes Jamie Johnson's points described here:
    "The Rich Man's Michael Moore"
"Yet with "The One Percent," Mr. Johnson wanted to show how the rich have gone too far. Through interviews with economists, policy experts and environmentalists, Mr. Johnson argues that today's wealthy have become an increasingly isolated elite. He says rather than using their wealth for good, they have used it to restructure the economy, lower their taxes, cut social programs for the middle and lower classes, and amass ever more wealth."

A balance of "meshwork & hierarchy" as well as "selfishness & altruism"?

I personally feel life and society need a balance of meshwork and hierarchy:
    "Indeed, one must resist the temptation to make hierarchies into villains
and meshworks into heroes, not only because, as I said, they are constantly turning into one another, but because in real life we find only mixtures and hybrids, and the properties of these cannot be established through theory alone but demand concrete experimentation."

As well as a balance of selfishness and altruism:
"If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism. Society in fact requires both individualism and collectivism, both selfishness and altruism, to function."

But it has to be a balance of those things in a mythology of abundance, not a mythology of scarcity.

Lack of exercise leads to obesity?

We are not getting enough exercise in our society.

No, I don't mean this kind of exercise: :-)
    "You name it, and exercise helps it"

We suffer from a collective lack of exercising of the altruistic imagination:

And, as an elite, also exercising our compassion:
"Compassion can be learned in much the same way as playing a musical instrument or being proficient in a sport, U.S. researchers said. "

Can't life be about more than getting and staying "financially obese"?

(That's a term coined by author James P. Hogan in one of his sci-fi novels.)

Because, if it can't be about more that financial obesity (or power obesity or land obesity), this story outlines where most people (even most currently wealthy people) will otherwise end up at best (Terrafoam):
    "In accordance with ordinance 605.12b, you have been assigned room 140352
in building 16, resident quant C. This assignment provides you with suitable housing and nourishment to sustain your life. Please board the bus."

This problem is so entrenched, even the stewards of Fred Rogers' legacy are not immune from not sharing when they easily can:
    "A rant on the tragic example of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood"
"For me personally, I feel the single biggest tragedy along the lines of non-profits hording information for private gain (even to just make more proprietary works) is the inaccessibility of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" on Youtube."

Moving beyond global competition?

A big part of the alternative is to learn to move beyond competition:
    "No Contest: The Case Against Competition
    "No Contest, which has been stirring up controversy since its publication
in 1986, stands as the definitive critique of competition. Drawing from hundreds of studies, Alfie Kohn eloquently argues that our struggle to defeat each other -- at work, at school, at play, and at home -- turns all of us into losers."

As Buckminster Fuller said, whether it will be _Utopia or Oblivion_ will be a race to the very end. And clearly the mythology of war and scarcity is currently strong in the USA. Still, as Howard Zinn said:
"I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world. There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people's thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible. "

Something to think about for Mother's day, which was originally celebrated to promote world peace and worker's safety and health.'s_Day_(United_States)
But I took so long to put it together I seem to have missed Mother's day, except maybe on the US West Coast. :-)

--Paul Fernhout, Princeton '85 *88


There, I'm managed to put most of my favorite links in one essay! :-) Well, for completeness I should add:
And from:
"There are three things which are real: God, human folly, and laughter. The first two are beyond our comprehension. So we must do what we can with the third." (John F. Kennedy)

Copyright 2008 Paul D. Fernhout; Feel free to forward.

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