Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Downsizing America

There is a trend in the United States of downsizing everything. Many people feel like we have gotten too big and that it has become unsustainable. We see large libraries which we feel we must close, we see the massive education budget and look at them like an accountant, without analyzing the long-term benefits that take more than two years of accounting to recognize. We saw ourselves pouring money into mass transit in the 1950s which we cut, shrinking the government's budgets on mass transit only to find massive literally never-ending traffic jams.

This is a very disturbing trend in the American conscious. We want schools to be self-sustaining in the short run, looking at library resources as an expense that don't immediately pay off. We postpone keeping educational resources up to date and instruments in top condition, while if we kept our public resources in top shape will yield huge dividends in the future. $100 to keep a piano in tune today is a small price to pay for every piano student in the school having a great piano to play on which improves their skills so they can be better musicians. We force people to go into debt if their parents didn't save for them and reduce funding for classes in academic disciplines, making required classes hard to get into by making supply be artificially lower than demand, never raising the number when there are always more students wanting the class than the amount of seats offered.

This is a very disturbing trend in the United States to move schools from the halls of learning to a place focused on profits. Small rural schools lack up to date technology keeping their students technologically illiterate across the nation. Funds that go into libraries are cut, and the government saves a little money every year from that, but it removes vital resources from people who need them to get a well rounded education whether they are children, college students or lifelong learners. References are removed which makes our quality of education and culture suffer. Not everything is available on-line, most maps have never been scanned in for the public, and when we close the map rooms of our universities (a trend I am seeing at different universities) the knowledge is lost forever to the public and will never be put on-line.

I see this as part of what will probably become a much larger trend. How much longer will it be until we will say that people don't need to get a well-rounded education in college and everyone goes to trade school? How long until we start to send everyone to trade school? The argument I expect to hear is “you want to be a scientist, why do you need to know history?”, forgetting that they have lives beyond their careers. School will only be focused on getting a job and we will only take classes that make it so we can get the job we choose to get. Sure, you can learn many things online, but there is nothing like having a professor right there who can check your work, make certain you understand the content, and you can ask questions for immediate correct feedback. Khan Academy, Youtube, Udemy etc. are amazing invaluable resources, I use them every week and they have taught me many things, but they don't test me like school and I can't just write to CGPGrey and ask questions like I can for my professor. The teachers of these websites don't have the time to answer questions from each of their million students. The student just can't get the same amount of guidance. I fear that if we remove the wide base we get in college and continue cutting practically all funding from our schools we will be a weaker nation.

We need to stop cutting funding from our schools and keep supporting liberal arts schools with the resources they require because it is our national security. We need to keep having resources like old maps that are not available on-line, old books that you can only get for a $100 per year subscription, and other resources in our university libraries and public libraries because if we don't we will certainly be a weaker nation economically and culturally. I don't know how much more our country can take. You don't fill a water bottle by pouring out half the water.

1 comment:

  1. You have a beautifully logical answer for promoting wide-ranging studies complete with conversation and feedback between learner and mentor. Keep up your writing. Send this to the newspapers and your legislators. This is a great journal but needs wider audiences.