Blog Action Day 2008

Here in the US, Blog Action Day is technically tomorrow, but the posts are already rolling in (and I suspect I’ll be busy enough tomorrow that I’ll forget to post), so I suppose I’ll go ahead and weigh in.

This year’s topic is poverty. I have no solutions. So many people are focused on government-sponsored solutions to poverty, as if throwing money at people will make the problem go away. The simple truth is that the extreme poverty of so-called third world countries is mostly caused by corrupt governments. It’s not that the rest of the world isn’t helping, it’s that the politicians are intercepting everything rather than letting it get distributed. I don’t know how to solve that, except to get rid of the corrupt governments. How to do that is another question. As we’ve proven in multiple wars, installing democracy by force doesn’t work so well.

In the United States, in cases where laziness or misplaced priorities aren’t to blame (which happens more than most would like to admit in this land of victims), often the problem is inadequate education. This is not the fault of the individual, but rather where they live. Unless you can afford private school, the quality of your education is a total crapshoot. In short, the public education system is failing us. Throwing money at it isn’t the answer; it needs to be restructured. Administrators and teachers need more accountability: there is such thing as a bad teacher and they need to be fired. Likewise, good teachers need to be rewarded, rather than simply earning the same amount as everybody else in the union. Children need to be challenged and inspired: most kids find school boring, tedious, and largely irrelevant. When it’s difficult they simply give up, having zero interest in progressing. They need to know why they are learning as much as what and how.

This is a fixable problem. You can start by educating yourself. Pick up a book – even a Dummies guide – on some subject that has always baffled you. Read up on chemistry, or Chinese history, or economic theory. Then talk to someone else about it. Become a tutor, if you feel so inclined. But whatever you do, never stop learning, and never stop teaching.

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