What Happens When Everyone Is Connected and Educated?
One teacher can make a student great. A teacher can also destroy a student. Ab educational institution can drive a student toward achievement but it can also drive them down the road to destitution. Access to education in the United States is determined by geography and wealth. The quality of local k-12 education depends on local property taxes. Areas with high per capita property taxes have more money for the schools. The opposite is also true. The best funded schools are in rich areas and the young people receiving the most luxurious educations are the children and neighbors of the rich.
The children most likely to be propelled toward achievement through positive experiences in education also have the advantage of living around and with successful adults. The above analysis focuses on America and k-12 education. Generally, throughout the world the situation is similar. The children of European aristocrats attend prestigious academies while their public schools are ravaged by the neoliberal move to strip that State of funding and power. Children in the developing world aren’t even guaranteed an education, but the children of the wealth-endowed classes across the world won’t want for education and have the resources backing up their educations to compensate well-trained, dedicated teachers.
The information age holds a key to overcoming this historical disparity. In the age of the internet and radically fast communications technology, a good teacher and any child’s access to them are no longer bound by geography, or even time. The free-to-access archives of websites such as Reddit, YouTube, Wikipedia, Duolingo, Coursera, Codecademy and unknown other resources can connect people everywhere with an unbelievable amount of knowledge, it would only be slightly hyperbolic to claim it can connect them to all knowledge, for free. The only limiting factors are a device to study the information, access to the internet, language barriers, and time. For the majority of people in the world one or all of these barriers are a certainty. Also, the disparity of access is still a major limiting factor consider these technologies an equalizer. There is potential. It is a near certainty that thousands of minds that could match those of the great scientists and problem solvers have lived and died performing menial labor in the developing world. Humanity faces catastrophe.
The problems that face us mount and grow constantly. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has passed a ‘point of no return’ in September of 2016, ensuring temperature rises that disrupt capitalist society. Bacteria have been found that can handle humanity’s strongest drugs. The United States, Russia, Europe, and China have begun posturing militarily, and the threat of a massive war is in the air. The great barrier reef and masses of forests have died, all important parts of maintaining our ecosystem. Humanity faces all of these problems and engages tiny proportions of its members with the training and resources to address them. Humanity also provides those with the best training to solve those problems, ‘prestigious’ positions in the institutions of business and government that cause, or at best ignore, these problems.
To provide the billions of humans with access to knowledge and engage them in the efforts to save humanity from itself would be a massive, unprecedented, and likely impossible effort. It would mean everyone would need access to a screen and internet connection. It would mean that people would need the free time, and motivation to learn and engage in problem solving. There are entrepreneurs and kindly souls providing young, disconnected, poor people around the world who haven’t traditionally had access to the tools of education with the opportunity to learn but it needs to be done faster.