The march forward of human knowledge continues at an alarming pace. This in spite of the efforts of many in the political class. Science is continuing to shed sunshine into the dark places of myth and superstition. Although there is still much work yet to be done to cleanse humanity of petty and dangerous myths, we can have hope. We can have hope because the decreasing size of the global community affords even those in distance places the ability to enlighten themselves. Most strikingly, the young unencumbered by their parents constraints continue to push the boundaries.
The arrival of the computer age provides an avenue for the young and curious to explore without the rails of superstition.
We are living through a golden age of innovation, but most done realize it. Science is continuing to push the frontiers of knowledge and many believe that we know a lot about the world. Unfortunately, the truth is not as straightforward as we may think. For those on the front lines the void between what we think we know and what we would like to know grows with the more data points we attain. I would propose that as we push the boundaries we are awakening to how little we actually know. I would call our current position a kind of informed ignorance. I mean by that, that as science advances the natural world opens allowing us to realize its depth and breathe. As we advance we are confronted by the unmistakable conclusion that we truly are in the dark. This darkness prompts the curious to explore. The more we think we know, the more we realize we do not know. Knowing that, is more than half the battle.
The curious nature of the human animal is often a puzzle to me. My single psychology course in college has not prepared me. The current focus on the cost of health care is once such puzzle. As a young physician our cultures disdain for the earnings of doctors is a puzzling. How much is your life worth. Like most young physicians I will be paying my educational debts until I die. So the current trend in American political and social discussion about the value of health care and the cost of a doctor’s services rings hollow. Arguably the value you put on care needed to preserve your life is more than the cost of seeing a concert or going to a nice restaurant. I hope that is the case but it manifestly is not so.
It has become a national sport to complain about how much it cost to get heath care services. This question is lacking in dept and is intellectually dishonest.
We want the best care but are not willing to pay the cost. The cost is directly in proportion to the system we have continued to vote for. We vote people into office that believe that education is a commodity whose cost should be raised to what the market will bear. Once we get to that point we arrange loans to make the needed education attainable. The natural consequence is that the cost of the end product, care delivery, must of necessity increase.
As a physician my debts from education is more than the cost of most mortgage loans and added to that the cost of the eight postgraduate years of lost earnings. The debt burden is heavy and increasingly so. The immorality of telling me to earn less is not lost on me or anyone in my position. The only question from me is, when are you going to start seeing the whole picture?
When are we as a country going to stop asking me to starting earning less. Are you willing to pay off my educational debt? The answer to both questions remains a resounding no. Instead we are sticking to the tired and disproved option of moving care to lower cost providers which generally translate into less educated provider. This is a natural extension of the commodification of health care. As patients we want dedicated care, but we are not willing to pay for it. We would rather spend on a sport or food or anything else. Health care is not french fries. French fries cost nothing, because we as a country have decided to subsidize the production, distribution and sale of potatoes. We have decided to do the opposite for health care and expect a similar result. Until you pay off my first mortgage, please do not comment on how much I earn.
There is a curious question being asked by many. I am not sure what is the genesis of this oddity, but it presents a dangerous falsehood that needs a vigorous rebuttal. So insidious and capricious is that question that even national media outlets have thought it important to comment. My difficulty with the discussion is in the lack of depth or nuance. The question in various shades of gray suggests by the tone of the questioning that a college education is not a good deal. Please read that last sentence again.
The very suggestion is quite offensive to me. My grandparents, I am sure, are all turning and cursing in their graves. I have inherited a non-negotiable emphasis on the importance of a well-rounded education. The current discussions emphasis on cost is shortsighted and is particularly destructive to the poor. Many factors have gotten us to this question and a full and complete discussion is needed.
I would hope that the need for a good education beyond the bare skills to compete for a job would be evident. Alas, I have given too much credit to the opinion makers, they mostly don’t get it. For this country to remain a functioning democracy the masses must not only be capable of holding a job but must be able to defend the pillars of our freedoms. The suggestion that all citizens don’t deserve a full and complete education is dangerous both economically and politically. The examination of cost is worthwhile and needed, but the value equation is not being discussed in an honest manner.
A college degree is currently the best route to a great education, but how do we get there? The disconnect starts at the beginning, with the lack of focus on the skills needed to create individuals recognize that life long learning is needed to navigate the currently environment. Education starts long before your child can read or write. It begins with parents answering all the annoying questions toddlers present. As a father of a 2 year-old and a 4 year-old I have experienced the never-ending questions and even the embarrassing public questions. However, I am committed to accurate answers. Answering, all those questions builds knowledge and confidence, and encourages curiosity. The latter is what parents must cultivate. Curiosity about the world is what drives true education.The power of curiosity kept me out of trouble and I hope it will do the same for my girls.
How does this have anything to do with college or the utility of a college education? This is how I see it. Curiosity drives a hunger for knowledge, which includes a focus on value. A key piece of knowledge that we can pass to our children is that it is best to complete a great major at an underrated college than a poor major at the best college. Following that one rule will provide a greater value than anything else. What is a great major? Since I am in the sciences I would suggest Math and Science and the associated applied fields. Yes we all cannot be engineers, but making the correct choice is vital to the cost/value equation of a college degree.
Start early and be curious. Most of all start early. Figuring out your college major in college is too late. This is where parental guidance is important. This is also where being born to educated high earning parents makes a difference. The typical guidance for the children of the well-educated is quite different. It has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. Parents all want their children to succeed, but some know what it takes while some don’t. This suggestion that a college education cannot be a good valve has the most negative impact on the poor. A choice to focus on other avenues to financial success versus making the hard choices that will provide a great education to our children will be what keeps us poor.
As parents we need to start taking the education of our children more seriously and endeavoring to guide them into successful decision-making is key. College is still the best deal to a lifetime of improved options. Start early. Be curious. Succeed.
I never liked being on the side of the majority because often that means you are incorrect or at least misguided. I am certainly not in the majority when it concerns the software I run on my computer. Since 2007/8 I have run only Open Source software on my computers. My young daughters do not know any better and are not disadvantaged by it.
My first real awareness of FOSS (free and open source software) started in 1998 with a copy of BSD. I was soon introduced to Red hat Linux. My love affair with FOSS was briefly interrupted by medical training. As soon as I had the time I was back to my love and Linux has proven a valuable lens through which to observe the world. The FOSS community is not just about free software. It is about holding each other to high standards.
The major of us will buy a computer and believe that the only choices are Apple or Microsoft. That is a false choice reinforced by both companies so that they can steal from us. The truth is, a lot more choices are available. Neither company makes a product that is in the interest of the end-user. We all need to take control of our software and by extension our lives. The FOSS philosophy suggests that the end-user should not be restricted in the use of software. He should have access to, and be allowed to modify the source code. This would seem like a competitive weakness to creators of software, but it is not. If businesses would have to compete on the strength of their services and not how secret their process was it would be better for the end-user. In such a world the companies with the best service would have a chance to rise to the top. Today it is the companies with the right “buzz” that command the market. The end-user is too ill-informed to know otherwise and continues to get her pocket picked by big corporations.
Your old computer hardware is not dead because it is slow, you have a software problem. I have rescued many older computers from the dust bin and their owners marvel at the functionality of what was recently considered too old to use. Our consumerist society makes products and encourages us to dispose of them long before the useful life cycle is complete. This early retirement of completely functional hardware is driving most of us to be poorer and making a few richer. More of us need to step out from under the thumb of corporate exploitation.
Where should we start? I would suggest you start by not dumping that old computer. I would consider opening your mind and learning something new. I suggest you learn about Linux. What is Linux? It is an operating system for your computer. Replace Windows and OS X with an operating system that respects your freedom. Your freedom to control your computer the way you want to. The freedom to only run software for which all have access to the source code so security can be improved by the flood of eyes on the creators of the programs we use.
Free yourself, expand your bank account and donate to the independent programmer that is making your life richer.