Friday, June 10, 2005

Free Time

Thinking about my last post (my NEXT post, if you're reading these backwards), I realized something important. Although I talked primarily about education, FREE TIME is the critical part.

Yes, the activists are usually educated people with a fair amount of free time - people who are willing to SPEND their free time on those things.

But the important part is that they HAVE free time to spend.

The only difference between an uneducated person with a lot of free time and an educated person with a lot of free time is that their attempts to gain power go in different directions. To take the worst case scenario, an inner-city person with no education wants to climb the ladder. His choices revolve around gangs, theft, and drugs. A wealthy person's child, the same age, wishes to gain power. HIS choices revolve around activist groups and investment bankers.

Crime and activism are largely a matter of having TOO MUCH TIME ON YOUR HANDS. If you didn't have ten hours a day to spend doing these things, you'd never have enough time to really do anything with them.

But that doesn't mean that having time on your hands is BAD. I have plenty of time on my hands, in certain respects. And I'm not harming anyone - quite the opposite, I would hope.

It's all in where that time can be spent, and what 'prices' are put on it. For me, the things I choose to do - writing on the internet, creating a game - are the 'most effective' ways to spend my time gaining power. To an inner-city kid, the most effective expenditure may be, at least in his opinion, to join a gang.

The situation is complex. We can't simply require people to spend time doing things - that causes all kinds of issues and doesn't solve anything. Our best bet might be to offer 'profitable' ways to spend the free time that these people have... but those offers will often be turned down due to social reasons. Due to peer pressure, an inner-city kid is unlikely to go 'help out at the library'. In addition, the profit must be tangible to them - money and respect are the two big ones, I would imagine. Of course, respect takes time, and if the initial profit is too low, they could back out before the respect comes into play. The other half of the equation - money - is equally difficult in other ways.

It's complex.

If I was creating a blue-sky solution, it would be to reduce the crowding by, say, 90%. Thereby reducing peer pressure. You'll still have some pretty heavy pressures from the community - perhaps even stronger than they were before - but these will still be less than the peer pressure and painfully bad 'giant evil public school' culture.

At that point, it would take relatively little outside pressure to sway a culture. Moreover, if you split that culture up and mix it with other cultures, the cultural pressure drops dramatically. That is probably not a wise idea, given the rather hideous successes in splitting cultures up in the past. Still, what I am suggesting is definitely cultural modification - expensive cultural modification, too.

But it's all just blue sky. Never going to happen. I'm just... pointing it out.

A more realistic thing to do would be to teach APPLICABLE skills. The tests in schools shouldn't be so much 'multiple choice' or 'fill in the blank' as much as 'create this thing of value'. Something they can SEE has value.

I'm not talking word problems. From the age of eight, these kids should be able to go home, hold up something, and say, "THIS is what I learned in class." Whether that's something physical, like a birdhouse, or whether it's mental, like a song or a memo. Something that is of value to SOMEONE. I don’t care if they’ve read The Illiad, and neither do they – so long as they can WRITE. I don’t care if they know the eight hundred different methods of solving for ‘X’ so long as they can BALANCE A BUDGET.

Having these capabilities will open doors where there were none before. The old doors will close.

The problem is that, like religions, society has only a certain amount of room for nonlaborers. Every year that rises, but every year we still need factory workers, burger guys, etc. But… it would IMPROVE things.

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