Felt any inspiration? I hope so, though I realize it depends to some degree upon who you are and where you were already at. Even if you’re a cynic, though, I want so much to persuade you that there is a giant-sized opportunity very close at hand.
My sketches of future learning interactions have admittedly been crude. But, mandatory to show rather than tell: trying to describe the future with nothing but long strings of multisyllabic words would be ridiculous. My faith was, if I tried to provide concrete examples, my target readers would be intelligent enough to interpolate and fill in the gaps.
I also tried to stay away from depicting a silly, utopian, idyllic world where Reason has triumphed and everyone speaks with perfect grammar in complete sentences. I don’t think learning design is going to usher in a utopia, and I know that human nature will never change and cognitive limitations will never go away. Our educational resources must, and will, conform to those realities. The good news is that, with modern tools and techniques, soon they will so conform. Mind-bogglingly well.
I am glad that these kinds of innovations will be applied to science education, business training, and so forth. However, all of my urgency is focused on applying them to help fix the biggest problems our society faces. I believe educating citizens is the core of the solution to the problem that we as a nation face.
We have a kind of collective mental illness that is only getting worse, with a recent explosion of media, disinformation, and other stresses. Political scientists have been documenting the tribalism, the polarization, the dysfunction in government. The fixes that get proposed are either impractical, mere technical tweaks around the edges, or wishful proclamations about what “must” change. But if we as a society do not take meaningful, direct action, there is little reason to hope that the illness won’t keep getting worse. A knowledgeable, discerning citizenry is the only route to the political will that will fix our worsening governance problems.
Of course, too simple, right? The silver bullet? Sure, if we had just had infinite resources… or sure, if the government threw all of its money into civics education… who would deny it: we could do some exciting things. But let’s get real.
My reply is: yes, it’s unreasonable to want to have all the things I’ve sketched in this novella right away. However we should want a lot more of it, as soon as heavenly possible. It’s the biggest opportunity that has come along for our nation in the past fifty years, and we should just reach out and grab it.
By the way, I asked you in the Preface to not take the “Spy Drama” thread too seriously. I hope you did not, but some of you may want to know my “true” position about epistocracy. Please excuse this terse response: I am not in favor of it, certainly not within the next few generations, and perhaps never. What I want instead is a world in which there is simply no remaining excuse for any citizen to not be a superbly-informed voter, and in which the idea of excessive partisanship is universally regarded as shameful. To the extent that I have a utopia, that’s it.
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