Tag Archives: Uganda

The Necessity of Better Education

EducationWhy doesn’t every child know who the latest Nobel science prize winners are as well as they know their favorite pop singers and sports stars? These scientists should be known — they make discoveries that will affect the future of mankind far more but yet we ignore them except for that once-a-year notice in the media round about October (and most of the news stories are dominated by the political implications of the Literature and Peace prize winners anyway).

We need an educated populace now more than ever. The scientific challenges Nobel_Prizefacing us in the next centuries dwarf anything that has come before. We need, as a world, to get educating so that the next generations can address these challenges.

Many Americans (with the exception of many very hard-working and increasingly frustrated teachers) just don’t seem to understand this. We are far too comfortable. (A recent radio commercial campaign even makes fun of our indolence and tells us that we really aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, and that we should just let someone else invent the next artificial heart, or pancreas, or whatever, the rest of us should just watch our favorite TV shows. Ugh.) Unfortunately, most people seem to think that there are plenty of MacGyvers out there and we just don’t need to worry.

Kids at School in UgandaFortunately for the planet, a lot of other countries, including some of the poorest, don’t have quite the same attitude towards education. I am always astonished when I hear of kids walking to school for miles, sometimes under the threat of physical attack from gunfire, assault including rape, landmines, and just simply the weather and distance. But they seem to understand how valuable an education is when American students often do not.

This attitude towards education needs to change. I’ve mentioned many times before that the robots are coming, and many of the basic manual labor jobs will be going away (and are already).

What’s left? The jobs and careers that require a human brain. The arts are one avenue, sciences are on the other path.

We’re seeing this desperate need for educated workers already in the tech industry. Companies which want to keep their place on the bleeding edge will do practically anything to get the best and brightest from across the planet, and that can mean stretching the visa requirements, poaching from competitors, and other barely legal practices.

Some universities are attempting to scale up to meet this challenge. As the internet has connected people all over the world (at an ever-increasing pace) Udacitymany universities have jumped in with quality online courses taught to massive numbers of students (“MOOCs” or Massive Open Online Courses), even offered for free. (Udacity, Coursera, and EdX were a few of first, and now the Brits are getting involved.)

Educating the next generation is no longer just important because students now and in the future will be able to find fulfilling jobs and live comfortably, and businesses will be successful because they can easily find many talented employees. We need to get educating because the next generations face planetary challenges we have never seen before: climate change, an increasing population, the rapid depletion of natural resources, new diseases, pollution, not to mention the possibility of wayward asteroids.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

P.S. The Nobel Prize winners in the sciences for 2012 are:

Physics – Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland “for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems”

Chemistry – Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka “for studies of G-protein-coupled receptors”

Physiology or Medicine – Sir John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka “for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent”

Economic Sciences – Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley “for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design”

Creativity as the Future of Work

With all the turmoil in the global job markets these days, one question is becoming more and more pressing for me and I suspect to many other people as well: what will the jobs of the future look like? (And concurrently, how can I ensure my employment security?)

The bad news is that, probably in less that 20 years, there won’t be “jobs” as we know them today. Instead, most of the rote, manual labor stuff will be performed by robots although probably overseen by humans for a while.

Where does that leave us? The one arena that robots will never be able to compete with humans is in something that we don’t always value much: Art, in all its many forms – dance, music, painting, sculpture, novels, poetry, song, architecture, design, woodworking – as well as Art applied to almost anything else you can think of – science, mathematics, physics.

In pockets of the developing world, whether by necessity or design,  some people seem to be leapfrogging the whole doomed, industrial-revolution thing altogether. How many of us have purchased beautiful crafts that are hand-made from a country in Latin America, Africa or Asia? We are supporting these creative women and men in their artistic endeavors in very poor societies. But, then we find ourselves needing a lamp and buying some generic product at Home Depot (yes, usually made in China, but which is also starting to see the need to move beyond sole reliance on Industrial Revolution-type economic models)!

I’ve been following a wonderful blog now for a few months focused on handmade goods from all over, and tying that focus into a sustainable living context. Besides being sustainable, environmental, socially responsible, and fashionable, komai-co.com, is also just very cool.

They have recently wrapped up a trip to several countries across two continents with fabulous results:

One thing we might have to get used to here in the “developed” world is that our lead in all sorts of creativity is going to get intensively challenged. That’s okay by me — one strict rule about creativity is that the more the better!

So what is your art? What makes your heart sing?

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC

PS. In defense of us developed-world types, there are some signs of hope especially in the Maker Faires, bespoke and crafting movements which are making great progress in moving the generic, mass-produced stuff off to the side. See Etsy.com, etc..!