Thursday, April 28, 2011

Is Banning the Plastic Bag a Panacea?

It'd be nice if just banning plastic grocery bags would solve our litter and pollution problems, but it won't -- because they'd still be all those other pieces of trash and the thoughtless consumption of resources.

What would be an even better idea, is to go around once a week with one of those plastic grocery bags and fill it with all that other litter -- and beautify the neighborhood (environment) in that very real way, and one will realize that the plastic grocery bags are a small part of the total trash being dumped out thoughtlessly by people.

That would be far more meaningful than simply banning the plastic grocery bag -- that is very useful, especially to the people who walk, bike and bus -- instead of riding around in their SUVs.

I know it would be very inspiring to see young people going around picking up trash this way -- and for that matter, people of every age and socio-economic condition, as a very tangible display of their concern for the environment, and its stewardship.

But simply to ride around in one's SUV instead of walking, bicycling or busing while deploring the poor people carrying their bags long distances, doesn't show a lot of understanding of the impact of one's activities on the environment, and even more importantly, one's relationship to other people, who may not have the luxury of a car to transport their paper bags -- especially in the inclement weather Oregon is world-famous for.

So let's get to the bigger root of the problem -- which is the littering and pollution of all those things -- and not just one small gesture one hopes will be a panacea to a vastly greater problem. Then after banning the plastic garbage bag, we have to ban the paper cup, sandwich wrappers, and yes, the paper bag that is as great a source of the problem as the plastic bags.

So the problem is not any particular kind of litter -- but all littering, and how we could solve that problem very tangibly and effectively.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Present Education Crisis

The long term future of learning is that students will teach themselves. In the past, they haven't had the tools to access all the information. Learning is not a separate function from living; in fact, one learns to live, and not lives to learn -- and all the specializations and compartmentalizations into all these divisions, turfs, hierarchies and bureaucracies.

People are already doing that now -- especially those who continue to learn beyond their "education," or even begin it after they're finished with school. We no longer need people just to learn everything they can while they are in school, and to stop learning after that -- thinking that what they learned in school, was everything there is to know, and if they want to learn more, they have to sign up for four more years at $100,000 -- or they can't learn anymore.

That's everything that is wrong with the present education system -- and as that cost becomes prohibitive, people have to find a better (cheaper) way. The telling videos of these times, is how the 1 year and the 99 year old, can learn to operate the iPad -- on their own, after a brief demonstration. People instinctively want to learn, but it is the government and trade associations (unions), that distort and pervert all that for their exclusive benefit, which has very little to do with learning anymore, and only about how much more they can get for doing nothing, or as little as possible.

It's also the same with escalating costs and dependency on health care. People learn to take better care of themselves so that they're not totally dependent on the health care "professionals" to keep them alive, tell them what to do and think, and make the decisions they should be making for every individual's own "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (health and well-being)."

These changes don't come easily -- especially for those who make their living profiting on the continuance of the problem -- that students do even worse, because their education is out of date and irrelevant, and only learning for learning's (the educator's) sake -- instead of the freedom to learn, the desire to learn, and without having to ransom one's entire life, fortune and future, so that a few people can retain their positions as gatekeepers and toll collectors for the rest of society as their hostages.

It's becoming increasingly obvious that that's not how the future is going to play out -- because they just can't continue in that manner, because of the cost, but also because there are much better ways to perform those functions that were not possible to do before because the tools were not available.

As for the "social contact" that is surrendered in moving away from the traditional classrooms, we don't need to reinforce the teacher as necessary authorities and authoritarians -- which is destructive to the whole purpose of learning -- which is that there shouldn't be any coercion, fear, conformity, intimidation, tradition, convention biasing the choices we make, as the best that can be made -- and not the traditional indoctrination of the union president doing all the thinking and talking for everybody else -- on down.

So the present crisis is also the opportunity -- or one can be dragged kicking and screaming into the future
because we haven't done it that way before. But that would require real thinking and learning -- which is not what they are teaching in the (government) schools.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Raise the GET Tax!"

While it is a nice thought that raising the GET tax so that there would be more funds available "for the kupuna, for the keiki, and for the homeless," the fact of the matter is that any tax increases goes largely, if not exclusively anymore, to provide for government worker pay raises, benefits, and pensions, "leaving no money left over" for the general welfare of the citizenry, and particularly those most vulnerable citizens.

That's why the schools are always "getting" worse, the seniors have no future programs, and the homeless have no place to live -- while not coincidentally, the government pay to themselves, keep rising faster than the rest of the economy/society.

Why do you think the homeless are camping all over the sidewalks and there are "no resources and training," to actually do the work those jobs were created for?

They're all down at the Legislature lobbying for more. That's what the GET tax means to them. They GET.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What They Would Have Us Believe

The (public) worker unions would have us believe that it is the unions against the corporations (rich people) -- rather than that it is the unions' (public) workers against the interests of everybody else in society -- and that they should be placed unquestionably at the head of the line before any benefit actually gets to those people they were hired to serve, which is the public at large, and especially the most needy and disadvantaged.

Instead, the union workers have proclaimed themselves "the most needy and underprivileged," so that there is no money "left over" to serve the greater public interest and welfare.

That is the crisis of the present time, and not that the corporations are forcing children into slave labor -- and so we need highly paid public service workers to protect them from those exploitations. Rather, the children will be expected to work their entire lives to provide for the generous pensions and benefits of long-retired government workers (trade association) at a standard of life equal to the richest, who make that prior claim on the resources intended to serve everyone equally.

But we can't continue that way because one of the major benefits is free, unlimited health care, which sounds like a very noble idea, but poses unlimited opportunities for abuses -- because it is an "unlimited" entitlement not restrained by any personal accountability and cost. And so as people live longer even in declining health, those costs can multiply astronomically -- and a few are "entitled" to unlimited claims on those very finite resources.

One can never undertake anything as though "cost were no object," because there is always a cost requiring us to make tough decisions about how those limited resources now get deployed -- because the United States is no longer in its unlimited frontier days when the most is still yet to be discovered, but we are at a maturity that requires us to make choices with critical consequences for all our subsequent decisions.

It'd be nice if there was an unlimited pile of money for everybody to take as much as they want -- and there was enough for all, and unlimited more to come, but that should not be the prerogative of those whose job it is to pass it on to the rest of the citizenry.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Learning Beyond the Education

Instead of identifying the kids at risk and spending even more attention and resources on them, perhaps what we need to do is identify the child prodigies among them to teach their age-peers -- which is how learning is actually done in the real world, that we are presumably preparing them for in the schools. For such prodigies in their respective fields, everything is simple and self-evident -- which are the people you would want to learn from, and not the least able adults who invariably choose "education": as a major and vocation, because then they will be the most knowledgeable person in the class -- or at least, given the authority to be, which has very little to do with real learning.

What we actually have, is an indoctrination into a system that is obviously not working -- of the old model of mass education (indoctrination), that even many of those raised in that previous generation, found alienating -- especially now, that our education tools and technology, could enable the kind of personalized and individualized learning now possible for everyone. The case in point is the child of 1 learning to use an iPad proficiently -- and even those at 99.

The obvious problem is trying to keep all those different aptitudes and maturity together -- simply because they are the same age, when age conveys the least significant information about where that student may be -- but mass education demands they must be the same, which frustrates everyone, and serves nothing but the education industry -- because the outcomes are worse than ever. Obviously, their "solution" is not the answer.

Is there anybody today who is not learning something new each day? If they aren't, then that is the problem regardless of whether they are 1 or 99, and that is the significance of the problem and challenge -- and not whether we should put more money towards the young, or the old.

This problem of aging is now emerging as one of the challenges of these times -- which mostly, is not learning new strategies fast enough to overcome their deficiencies and challenges -- because of the present specialization and compartmentalization of learning -- as a special activity apart rom life, rather integrated and integral to it.

That is both its problem and its solution -- not creating these fragmented and mass minds that aren't always learning, because they are no longer forced to, or don't see any "future" or reason to. So the very notion of "compulsory" education is the problem -- because there is no lack of opportunities for learning.

But people, even at the youngest ages, have to be exposed to the best and brightest among them to truly know what that is about -- and not simply having adults of the poorest education and competence, force upon them what they think learning is -- when that is only indoctrination into what to think, rather than learning to think for themselves. And so we have and see these arguments that there is only one way, and no other should be allowed -- rather than a real discussion of all the possibilities, not proposed by the self-serving trade association.

That should be the province of the 21st century news agencies, and not simply, the propaganda and marketing of the status quo and powers that be, to always remain so, and further promote themselves. That is the fundamental problem of education in the US.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Increasing Vulnerabilities

As one who has witnessed and been acutely aware of this process of aging ever since I was born (my father was 50), I've never been fully convinced that increasing dependency -- and codependency, and the vulnerabilities they entail, are not to a great part learned behaviors, and culturally accepted, if not embraced, as the prototype for aging in the future. Obviously, it is a dismal prospect for any society, in which the work of the young and able, are increasingly to take care of the old and disabled, and the energies and resources are drained and overwhelmed in this way. That is not a sustainable society and future -- but a dystopian one, because we fail to envision meaningful, productive and vibrant lives beyond work (and retirement).

We teach the kids how to be grown up, and the young people how to be adults, but there is no recommendation for the seniors beyond travel, golf, and "normal aging," until one can no longer do them, and then there are no further challenges that require them to maintain and enhance their responsiveness. So quite predictably, people eventually become entirely dependent -- in the various ways.

While working in caregiving and with caregivers, I often noted that a person made a "fatal" decision that doomed them for the rest of their lives -- like breaking a hip, and then failing to move into a residence that would re-enable them to live without the handicap of living in a perilous home built on many levels, that trapped them in their homes -- yet they would never consider selling their homes because they wanted to die in that house. And so a whole bunch of caregivers had to be deployed to enable that fatal decision.

And then there were those who believed it was the doctors' sole responsibility to make them well, while they continued to overeat and do no exercise -- because it was the doctor's responsibility to make them well -- because that's what their medical insurance was paying for. Of course these are the worst cases, but only to the worst degree, of people who are increasingly brought up in a society to become increasingly dependent on government, the health care system, experts or union presidents, to do all their thinking and talking for them, for the benefit of unlimited health care and now, long-term care as their primary benefits.

But we see some people at 60,70,80, 90, who don't age in that familiar pattern, and they should be studied more, as the prototypes that work, rather than the ones that are drawing increasing funds for a future that doesn't -- and is unsustainable, with its increasing problems that multiply as that generation grows disproportionately larger. That is the crisis of the present times -- manifested in these many ways, all lobbying for more funding from a stagnant pool of resources.