Communication Super Highways Educating the World for 5-to-15% the Cost of Brick and Mortar Schools

Children want the approval of their parents and other members of society. They love to excel and desire equality with their peers. They are curious and, if not discouraged, love to learn. Today’s educational system creates too many barriers; “half of all gifted children float through school with average or worse grades, never realizing their potential … almost 20 percent will drop out.”[1]

There are many reasons: a child may be timid and terrified of school, an inferiority complex may prevent a student from functioning or excessive pressure to do well may be daunting. The school district may have obsolete books and teaching aids and students may not get the individual attention they need. Local peer groups, gangs, may replace parents and teachers as role models. Parents may not be involved enough in their child’s learning. Or the curriculum may be so slow it is boring. With elimination of these and other barriers, many with low grades will blossom right along with their peers.

Schools are a commons but they need to be modernized. With a few TV channels reserved for K1 and K2, and every subject now taught in K1 through K20 downloadable, every home would have every class at their fingertips free of charge. Each subject would have several lecturers, each the best in their field.

The competition would be intense for those lecture positions and those best educators in the world would be well paid. Each recorded course would be edited for maximum clarity, simplicity, and comprehension. Everything in a book, or dozens of books, can be summarized in those lectures.

Reasoning is quite natural and nothing can beat a good educator whose recorded lectures anticipate, and are carefully structured to answer, most questions. With all society having access, the fictions and omissions of history, especially omissions, would be challenged, researched, and corrected.

With their lessons recorded, these high-quality educators would be spending less time teaching than any one of the tens of thousands they replaced are spending now. They would concentrate on studying their own and others’ lectures for ways to improve. Modeling is the most potent teacher of all and these skilled teachers would be great role models.

The equipment required for each student would be a computer such as Nicholas Negroponte’s indestructible $200 laptop now in production and intended to be given to every student on earth, courtesy of their governments. The local education system would provide workbooks to match the TV lessons.

These lessons would be in a databank accessible through integrated communications highways and downloading to a hard drive would record them for later study. Those lessons could be replayed as many times as necessary for maximum comprehension.

So long as a student maintained an adequate grade average, a share of the money society saved on maintaining the present school system should be paid to each family, preferably to the student. Allowing for each child’s ability, it would be logical to pay this incentive for each subject and on an average of all subjects. This would be high motivation for families to restructure their time for home education.

With spending money earned for each subject, motivated students would zip through those subjects. Developing nations do not have to deconstruct an entrenched, expensive brick and mortar educational system and their citizens’ motivation for education is high so incentive pay would not be a necessity but paying them would establish that necessary model for when they are developed.

Nations would utilize a small share of current classrooms as administrative testing stations and their citizenry would educate themselves cheaply and efficiently at home.

With the two to three day workweek possible in a developed economy, there would be adequate time for parents to monitor their children’s learning. With rapport between parent and child, the brightest would cover a current year’s education in as little as four months, some in two months.

The most intelligent and motivated would have the knowledge of PhDs at an age when they would normally be entering universities, which, incidentally, would eliminate another monopoly.

Actually those students would have a much broader education than most PhDs. Current doctoral studies are very narrow in focus. Without breadth of education, the answers to the world’s problems will not be found. Conversely, if universities emphasized graduate degrees covering a broad spectrum of disciplines instead of narrow fields, answers would be found relatively quickly.

Through free studies provided on communication highways, students would have that broad education. This is proven by over one million American children already being successfully home schooled, doing well in universities, and their numbers are growing 15% a year, all without government support.[2]

Students would not be pressured to follow the teaching of any one professor. Others might have a different view and students could listen to all views. Judgments would be made while still young and idealistic. All this would be gained while enjoying the irreplaceable quality time between parent and child. Talented students lacking parental support would find a surrogate family by immersing themselves in education.

Private or public education centers would be operated for the few who could not function under home self-education. Those who were intellectually capable but failing would be required to attend specially structured classes. Upon doing satisfactory work, they would still receive incentive funds.

The compensations and identity received by siblings and friends for successful home schooling would be noticed by younger children and provide motivation to avoid the formal school setting.

Any child would be proud to go shopping with their own earnings and it is hard to visualize many children being irresponsible toward their education if it meant losing both their freedom of choice and their spending money.

They would quickly learn responsibility when it meant both financial and emotional rewards. Society would quickly become accustomed to such a system and the need for brick and mortar schools would be very minimal.

Children can be just as easily culturally trained to quality as they can to trash. So it would be logical to eliminate the senseless violence in today’s children’s programs. At the least, quality programming could be assigned a bloc of channels so conscientious parents could maximize their children’s intellectual and moral growth.

Incentive funds, as a social right, would in no way impinge on others’ rights. Those rights could only be exercised by obtaining a set grade average and those funds go right back to the people from whom they came. Over time, such incentives would be looked upon as normal as wages.

Older students would soon learn to structure their flexible education time around a job. There need not be a sharp cutoff between school years and entering the workforce. Instead of a division between students and workers, the two would overlap until the young adults opted for a career.

Motivated children, youths, young adults, and adults would obtain most of their education at home and at their own pace. Children with a desire to learn, which is most, would find the field wide open.

Left to their own devices, they would quickly learn it was their time and labor being conserved by dedication and attention to the subjects being taught. The alert would be developing university level leaning skills while in grade school

Many talented children’s potential, now lost through boredom and diversion to socially undesirable activities, would be salvaged. The brightest would attain a 12th grade education in less than eight years, the middle level in 10, and even the slower group, which currently sets the pace of a classroom, would learn more quickly.

There would be adequate resources and time to give special support to the few who are unable to cope for various reasons. This would not only conserve society’s labor, it would economize students’ energy and time. This potential was shown by an experiment with interactive videos reducing learning time while increasing comprehension by 30%.

Having watched great videos on Free Speech TV, Link TV, The Learning Channel, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, public broadcasting channels, etc, we conclude the statement, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” should be changed to; “One documentary is worth a million words.”

The best of those documentaries combines the wisdom of many researchers developed by many lifetimes of study. All viewers will absorb that knowledge at some level. Avid reading will seldom bring one close to the understanding gained from a well-researched documentary.

The gain for the slower and less avid readers would be of much greater dimension. As opposed to being bored and discouraged, students will enjoy their education.

A central testing facility would be maintained that would issue scholastic level certificates and incentive funds. These achievement tests would be designed to educate children to compete with the best in the world. This would quickly equip all nations to be competitive.[3]

Since credentials are crucial for obtaining good jobs, all would have access to their scores, the right to analyze their answers, and the right to retake tests. Tests can be sharply upgraded to match the higher competence of these motivated students.

Classes requiring hands-on learning would be held in a classroom setting along with supporting recorded programs. Millions who dreamed of additional education would find it freely available in what was previously their idle time.

As no one’s knowledge is complete, every curriculum would be subject to review and correction. The Great Saint-Mihiel battle of WW I that never happened and other examples of fraudulent history addressed throughout this author’s books are not exceptions.[4]

Severely distorted history is the norm and such failures to tell the full truth seriously retards democratic development while correct and full knowledge is critical to planning one’s future.

Every day we learn something new or reinforce what we already know. To waste huge amounts of resources while continually affirming nice-sounding slogans about efficiency, justice, and compassion while operating an inefficient economy and violent foreign policy seriously limits true knowledge.

Redesigning society to produce and distribute efficiently and peacefully will give children a better cultural education.

It is not possible to get every student to enjoy learning for its own sake. If given a choice, most people would choose to do things that best support their need for identity and security, for many that is obtained in work, sports, and hobbies rather than intellectual pursuits. There will be those who, though unable to compete across the board scholastically, will take great interest and do well in a field of their choice.

Schools, as now structured, do perform a babysitting function. But, if that is the criterion, society should be aware that the potentials of many children are lost and that child care is what they are paying for, not education.

One must also be aware that early industrialists hoped “the elementary school could be used to break the labouring classes into those habits of work discipline now necessary for factory production….Putting little children to work at school for very long hours at very dull subjects was seen as a positive virtue, for it made them ‘habituated, not to say naturalized, to labour and fatigue.”[5]

Inspired Teachers for Every Student

People feel insecure at any suggestion of fundamental change in their social structure and most are closely attached to the institutions of education. But, in the current school structure, where is that all-important role model if the student has a poor, mediocre, or burned-out teacher?

Under the system proposed here there would be all great teachers, each teaching his or her deepest beliefs, and their recorded lectures would be freely available for all.

In the soft sciences, economics, political science, finance, some social studies, and, yes, history, what passes for education is, unwittingly, really perception management encasing society within beliefs protecting the monopoly system, those exclusive titles to nature’s resources and technologies which we all grew up with, unaware this was the property rights structure denying others their fair share.

Certainly, good hands-on teachers are wonderful, but how can they hold enthusiasm with 25 or 30 children to teach? Would not the best possible teacher, backed by professional graphics, be able to put on an enthusiastic performance, and that enthusiasm be there forever on DVD or videotape?

Even a slow student could learn more than in a crowded and socially isolated classroom. Would not slow or timid students have a better chance of not developing an inferiority complex and thus do better?

Parents Interacting Closely with Their Children’s Education

With their increased free time, motivated parents would enjoy watching their children learn and answering their questions. Children would ask an interested parent many more questions than they would a teacher.

A motivated parent will go into deeper detail than the teacher who has so little time to spare for individual attention.

Students too timid to function freely in class would function confidently in a home setting. In the upper grades, motivated parents would share the experience and learn with their children.
Better Institutions for Socialization

Socialization is of high importance. But the elimination of this function within education would free students for concentration on their studies or it could remain a part of the education process if properly organized.

Youth social clubs or learning clubs would spring up and children would sign up voluntarily as opposed to the requirement to attend school. When children join a social or learning club by choice, they would be bound by the rules of social courtesy, not classroom discipline, and would mix, relate, and learn social graces at a faster pace than in a school setting.

Parents would automatically seek such groups to replace the baby-sitting function of schools. With increased free time, the arts—music, dance, sculptors, singing, painting, and other skills—would expand rapidly.

Once Borderline Teachable Graduating at the Top of Their Class

Inspirational teachers and programs have proven they can parent impoverished children with damaged psyches into becoming successful citizens. One such teacher is Ms. Marva Collins in Chicago. She worked among her students, rather than from her desk.

Each time one did well she would put her hand under his or her chin, lift the child’s eyes to hers, and say, “You are brilliant,” or give some other sincere compliment.

Minority children in her class deemed borderline teachable graduated from the university at the top of their class, and went on to become professors, lawyers, and other successful professionals. Failures were almost nonexistent.

Charles Murray, in his infamous book The Bell Curve, cited Ms. Collin’s, pointing out that such programs could not possibly improve academic achievement or cognitive functioning. Having documented this teacher’s successes 20 years earlier, Sixty Minutes went back after Murray’s book came out and checked on those 33 children.[6]

Those students were the roaring successes described above and thoroughly proved Murray’s thesis was racist nonsense supported by corporate hard-right think-tank money as outlined in this author’s primary research, Economic Democracy: A Grand Strategy for World Peace and Prosperity, chapter six.

While restructuring to a just society, such programs would be used to salvage such at-risk children. Once all have equal access to a society’s benefits and opportunities, most will be good parents and most children will be well educated.

Reclaiming Full and Equal Rights to the Benefits of Technology

For centuries, as modern economies developed, the hidden hands of the alert and powerful were busy structuring property rights laws to gain, or retain, title to wealth-producing sectors of the economy. Stock markets, as well as patent laws, were being subtly structured to monopolize technology.

Invention is a social process. “There is no isolated, self-sufficing individual. All production is, in fact, a production in and by the help of the community, and all wealth is such only in society. Men are always guided by the experience of others.”

The long march of technology leading up to the present sophisticated level is based upon thousands of earlier discoveries-fire, smelting, the wheel, lathe, wedges, drills, pulleys, gears-and untold millions of improvements on those basic innovations. Many primitive, but revolutionary, technologies were discovered by Asian and Arab societies.

Every innovation is a part of nature. Just like land, oil, coal, iron ore, or any of nature’s wealth, if something is to be discovered it had to have been there all the time. As technology is a part of nature, its fruits should be shared by everybody.

Inventions not only use the insights of millions of people throughout history and prehistory, the invention of each required the support and skills of millions of present workers. Though the labor charge of some of these is infinitesimal, each is real and definite.

That the owners of patents are entitled to royalties exposes the origin of the term. Patent rights to land and inventions were conferred upon favorites by kings and queens, with the understanding that the person so favored would share the profits-royalties.

In short, the origin of patents is indistinguishable from the paying of bribes for the privilege of doing business. Such bribes were the precursors of today’s patent royalties.

Where the ownership of patents is lucrative, the actual inventors rarely receive much reward or even credit for their discoveries and innovations.

That a small number of powerful people monopolize the inventions of others-and ever afterwards siphon to themselves the wealth produced by others-defies both decency and justice.

Inventors and the public can attain full and equal rights to new inventions through restructuring patent laws to permit any person to use any technology by simply paying a royalty. That simple change would create a modern technology commons.

The extent of use of a patent can be calculated and the inventors paid a capitalized cash value. This simple accounting method would eliminate 99% of patent accounting costs.

Though few make the connection, the major share of profits on patents are harvested through the stock market. That stock markets are crucial to raising investment capital in a modern economy is a myth. Most stock traders have no contact with new issues of stock and those who do are primarily taking an already established private company public. Most corporate investment needs are financed from profits, liberal depreciation schedules, and borrowing.

As currently structured, investing in stock markets is primarily a bet on which corporation will most successfully expand its share of national and world markets. Those bets are not investments in production; they are bets on which company can best monopolize technology and thus monopolize market share.

A nation’s wealth is measured by, and siphoned to titleholders through, capitalized values. Shares in corporations are priced relative to how profitable they are expected to be-their capitalized value. Millions of hours are spent by speculators (they call themselves investors) trying to figure out which company is going to increase its capitalized value.

The game is calculating profits that will translate into capitalized value. It is viewed as a simple method of keeping score. But claiming the production of others’ labor-through profits from shares in the nation’s industry as technology continually replaces labor-is the underlying theme. Values that were once claimed by labor are now claimed by the shareowners of the new industrial technology.

That the current market structure is one of subtle monopolies can best be understood by outlining the efficiency gains of a modern technology commons. Options, futures, and other derivatives are gambling chips in a worldwide casino. But as soon as every company has the right to pay a royalty and use any technology, those monopolies disappear and there is nothing to gamble on.

Instead of one company having to shut down because another company with a superior patent captured their market, all companies can use that patent. Companies must now compete through maximizing their efficiency and that will drive the price of consumer products to its lowest possible level. There will be adequate profits on management and capital but no monopoly profits.

As soon as there is nothing to gamble on, the stock markets will settle down to the secure investments they should be. To allow for risk, the returns on stock will be slightly higher than the returns on bonds.

It must be emphasized that true speculation in new industries and new technology will be strengthened. All with a bend towards speculation will invest in the potentials of new technology.

With the full and equal rights of a modern technology commons, the wasted labor and capital in the markets disappears. The unearned billions of dollars that once were claimed through this subtle monopolies are instantly distributed to all through lower consumer prices. As these talented citizens once operating stock markets move into productive jobs, the average days worked per week can shrink.

Capital no longer destroying capital through exclusive use of a new technology will provide great gains. Factories can now retool with the newest technology rather than shut down.

The capital saved can build new factories to service new customers on the periphery of the former imperial-center-of-capital. For those new factories to have customers, labor on the periphery of empire must be paid equally for equally-productive labor as addressed in earlier columns.

The only way all can attain full and equal rights to technology is if all are aware of the massive gains in economic efficiency from a simple change in patent laws. Inform your friends, form your discussion groups. People are good.

Prove to philosophers and negotiators in the wealthy world the enormous efficiency gains from full and equal rights to utilize technology and many will recognize they have been misinformed and support you.

These modern technology commons will increase economic efficiency equal to the invention of money, the printing press, and electricity.

We now turn to Monopolization within Social Structures

Those crucial 170 words describing an honest, efficient, capitalist economy. Does anyone have the ear of President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery Team?

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[1] Anne Windishar, “Expert: 20% of Gifted Kids Drop Out,” Spokane Chronicle, January 7, 1988, p. B7.

[2] Rebecca Winters, “From Home to Harvard,” Time, September 11, 2000, p. 55.

[3] Thurow, Head to Head, pp. 273-79, especially p. 278.

[4] George Seldes, Even The Gods Can’t Change History (Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, 1976), p. 16.

[5] Juliet Schor, The Overworked American (New York: Basic Books, 1991), p. 61.

[6] 60 Minutes, September 24, 1995; Herrnstein, Richard J., and Charles Murray. The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (New York: Free Press, 1994), p. 399.

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