Exciting Times

Exciting Times

sandLI’m excited. Things really are happening. Well not, actually, happening but people are thinking and talking about things happening so some of them, at least, will happen. Two topics which really comes down to one are: “The lack of education facilities for millions of refugee children,” addressed by ex-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown; “The big name universities willingness to adapt to on line courses,” addressed by Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia.

Lack of, or poor, education is the root cause of a myriad of misbehaviours: I don’t take credit for spotting: all credit here belongs, I think, to Benjamin Franklin for saying, “Ignorance, the one crime.” He also said, “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”  Millions of refugee children – there are half a million in Lebanon alone – are deprived of education which is a disaster because such a vacuum makes for a breeding ground of criminals easily persuaded to commit atrocities. How many times have we heard governments justify occupying third world countries by claiming terrorists would flourish in their absence? Terrorism, like many other crimes, flourishes in ignorance: in the young, susceptible, minds devoid of education.

If, instead of destroying the fragile infrastructure of poor countries with bombs and tanks, rockets and grenades, first world nations were providing, protected, education centres and constructing conduits to their access, the world would surely become a better place.

Mr. Wales of Wikipedia, who proudly proclaims twenty-one billion pages turned every month, and that submissions come in 286 different languages has, in fact, done the ground work for the distribution of knowledge all over the world and is keen to do more. In an interview with Sean Coughlan of the BBC Jimmy Wales initially focused on the mass of online courses, MOOCs, springing up to supply the needs of industry, and individuals, and how the big brand universities should use the resultant, well developed, technology to replace many of the boring lecture hall drones with those of the most talented, engaging, lecturers via video. In a stroke professors would be released for more productive work, and the students would gain greater flexibility.

His subsequent comments throw light on his concerns for improved third world use of his massive encyclopaedia. He calls for more articles, in more languages, to give the gigantic leg-up the one-room school houses of emerging nations need in their struggle to inform the less fortunate.

Put these two items together and a world plan begins to emerge. If I have dream it is this: All emerging nations should receive the gift of education. All emerging nations should have protected education centres for all ages to interact with the very best teachers on computers with software tailored to specific educational goals. Interact is the operative word here; leaning once more on the broad shoulders of Benjamin Franklin we find, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” We have the tools; we need only the will.

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