Those of us familiar with internet technologies discovered something very early on about human nature. That thing we discovered surprised many of us, but it really shouldn’t have been a surprise at all.
Before I share that secret, let me explain what education has to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
After Christ was crucified, he spent a considerable time with this disciples, showing hundreds his resurrected body. He was teaching them and preparing them for the “Dark Ages” that were to follow in his absence, the period of time when his church (the body of believers) would have to learn to live by the Spirit, the same way he did.
Shortly after this period began, the events recorded in Acts occurred. First was the pouring out of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Then came the healing of the lame man and also an outpouring of the Spirit as Peter taught the Jews and invited them to embrace Christ who was ready to forgive them for whatever sins they had committed just a few months earlier when they demanded Pilate crucify Jesus. These events lead to the conversion and baptism of thousands of people.
What followed next only earns a few verses in the Bible, but they donated all of their property to the church and began to live a life of sharing. We don’t have a lot of details about how this worked, but this idea of a society where all things are shared common has been with us ever since.
Do we have to count how many times we, collectively, have tried to build that society again? And how many times have we failed?
The closest thing we have to it that I know if is found in the suburbs of America. My neighbor’s lawn is growing too long — he’s working long hours and his wife has been ill. So I mow his lawn while I mow mine. Someone needs someone to watch their kids while they take one of them to the hospital. Our house is open. This attitude of sharing is part of suburban life. It is part of who we are as Americans. We will gladly share our things and time with those who stand in need.
Are Americans special? No, of course not. It isn’t hard to find sharing throughout humanity’s history. We all know it is a great idea, and we all wish we could do it better. True progress is made when people open their hearts and minds and share what they have with others.
The modern university is the descendant of the universities found in the Middle Ages in Europe. These hearken back to a time when people gathered together to educate and be educated. Whatever money was involved was simply living expenses. Oftentimes, in European society and elsewhere, the price of admission was a willingness to work together to obtain the means necessary to sustain life.
Universities formed because people wanted to share. They wanted to share their experiences, their insight, their questions, their ideas. They wanted to hear what others had to share as well. Over time, we became really good at sharing, and it became clear that a new breed of scholar was developing. We called these “scientists” because unlike philosophers (lovers of wisdom) or scholars (people familiar with things), they actually knew what was going on and could make predictions that came true.
Modern science is built on the pillar of sharing. Now, researchers share for different reasons, but ultimately, it is their love of learning and discovering that compels them to share their research with the world. Whatever price is charged is there to sustain the process. Countless professors and scientists live on a modest wage because they would rather share than be wealthy. We should salute them for their sacrifice. As for myself, I decided I’d rather be wealthy and have many children than become part of this club. (Besides, I had doubts I could become one of the best.)
With this in mind, the roadmap to education in the 21st and 22nd Centuries become crystal clear. We should encourage and even support the sharing of information and ideas that we all seem to possess. The internet makes this sharing possible.
Unfortunately, in many people’s minds, education has become associated with the trappings and the essences has been forgotten. The idea that schools or teachers or books or internet access can create or produce education is silly. Education is a process whereby individuals seek out and embrace change. It is an individual pursuit. Schools and teachers and books and internet access can help, of course, but they are hardly necessary. I mean, modern science developed without the internet. People were learning before words were even written in books. And who taught the first teacher?
We need to move the concept of education away from things and people and back where it belongs: a spiritual, even religious, pursuit of knowledge. That’s why I led with the story of the apostles in the Acts. It was first a change of heart that lead people to embrace sharing. That’s where we should be focused at a government, society, culture, and family.
Once that spirit has been instilled, there is nothing we can do to stop education from occurring. People will naturally form societies and groups and start sharing with each other. Now, they need food and water and clothing and shelter just like anyone else, but there is no need to tell people to quit their jobs and become full-time educators. We don’t need to separate people out by how educated they are, as if you could measure it, or by what role they play in the education process, as if anyone can’t be a teacher or a learner or author or researcher.
Education might take the form of the following.
First, we’d shut down all the schools and universities. This would take some time as our culture and society adapt, of course, but it is a necessary step.
Second, we will focus education in the home. Each family will be solely responsible for their children’s education. We can do this with government laws and policies, but we also need to engage the culture and society to reinforce this. Imagine if hip-hop stars were saying, “Kids, listen to your moms and dads. They’re the ones who will prepare you for life.” I wonder if hip-hop could even exist in an environment where the center of children’s lives were parents.
While the idea of wiring every family into the internet sounds grand, the sad truth is that we can’t trust government to do it. Involving government will only stop progress. However, an internet connection is not very expensive nowadays, and it consumes only a fraction of family budgets across the country. Perhaps we might subsidize internet connectivity, similar to how the USPS is subsidizing the package service, but I don’t want government to do anything more than throw money at the problem. I firmly believe that without subsidization, we’ll still discover a cheap way to wire everyone together.
Without schools and universities, who will produce materials to educate each other? This is the key part: It will happen on its own. People who know, people like myself, happily produce education materials for free. See, for instance, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGCHznSfCnQ.
These kinds of reforms sounds like a lot of backwards thinking, but really, were we making progress doing things the way we are now? Was it ever a good idea to lock kids in a classroom and have their only source for learning be a teacher or two and a couple of old textbooks? Why don’t we expose the children to the vast world of education? Why don’t we trust parents to navigate the way forward, or in other words, why do we think we will be better at educating kids than their own parents can be?
Regarding universities, I can only imagine what will happen if the whole world becomes one giant university campus.