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Thread: Education, Wealth Disparity, and "The Work Camps"

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    Global Moderator Polemarch's Avatar
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    Education, Wealth Disparity, and "The Work Camps"

    My girlfriend is an educator, and as a result, the state of public education is a frequent discussion topic. The gradual transformation that has been taking place in the public education system, over several decades, has led me to a theory, which I'll shorthandedly refer to as "The Work Camps".

    It goes like this:

    History:

    • Property tax revolts (a la Proposition 13) were the beginning of the end of a well-funded public education system. Affectionately known as the "third rail" of American politics, property taxes are considered to be an untouchable topic. Put simply, rich white old people don't want to pay to educate other people's children - especially when those children don't look like them.
    • On the other hand, voters as a whole don't support increases in income or sales taxes to make up the shortfall in education funding. Supplementary income provided to schools from the states or federal government has been negatively impacted by the massive budget shortfalls produced by the recent economic downturn, and even with tax receipts climbing again, appropriations are going elsewhere, to infrastructure, and other more "tangible" short-term investments.
    • The push to create national education standards, long a political football, has further exposed the vast disparities that exist in American education. But those disparities are less related to regional or state differences, and more related to income differences. (I don't have an academic article to link to here, but a quick review of school by school test scores v. public assistance [food stamp] rates will quickly support this assertion.)
    • As many schools are failing to meet the new iterations of national standards, and certain funding streams are tied to adherence to those standards, low performing schools are being forced to cut more and more enhancements in order to focus on test performance. But as a high percentage of these schools are in low income areas, the children are dealing with several other impediments to success, not simply the quality of their education or resources of their district. "Teaching to the test" is not only not educating children in a meaningful way, it's not even producing higher test scores.

    Future:

    • Due to extremely low performance, compounded by extreme funding challenges, many school districts will simply be shut down. Obviously this presents a major social issue for these communities, as schools are not only an accepted public service, but more pragmatically speaking, keep kids occupied, supervised, and off the streets. In short, schools in low income communities are as much daycare as anything else. Closing schools without creating an alternative education model would lead to massive increases in crime in short order.
    • The proposed solution to this problem will be an alternative education model, which focuses away from student-teacher interaction, and focuses more on curriculum management. This is already happening on some level via Common Core, but technology will drastically enable this shift in focus by easing the way education can be syndicated and standardized.
    • In today's parlance we can think of this as follows: 200 kids sitting in a large lunchroom-sized area, receiving interactive lessons on iPads and more or less working without direct guidance from a live teacher. Alternately, a single teacher delivering a lesson remotely, addressing questions from a queue, as opposed to calling on individual students.
    • The benefit of this education model is obvious: economy. The only personnel needed to maintain such a facility are security officers, whose duties are not educational in nature, but behavior and safety oriented. In summary, the adult supervision in these schools will not be teachers, but babysitters, or if viewed in terms of older children, prison guards.
    • The cost of this education model is equally obvious: quality of education. Teachers provide far more to their students than curriculum delivery or adult supervision. The quality of education will be reduced to rote - essentially a oneway transmission of ideas and words, but lacking in the feedback and challenge that leads a student to grow beyond the programming. Critical thinking can't be taught by teaching to a test - it has to come from somewhere. In an educational model where teachers aren't interacting with their students, many children will never learn that skill. It's already happening, but clearly this would increase that trend.
    • Schools in affluent areas will continue to exist, more or less, like they exist right now. As long as public funding is still sufficient to pay for nice facilities, good teachers, enhancements like art and music, and special education programs, parents in these communities will continue to enroll their students in public schools. In borderline areas, where wealth disparities are more visible internally (i.e. richer enclaves, surrounded by poorer communities), parents will pull their kids out into private schools, which they already do. But for the most part, affluent areas will have no need to make this transition.
    • There will ultimately be two completely separate public education systems. One for the affluent, and one for the rest.

    Further Future (an extremely cynical model, but nonetheless possible):

    • A continued drive to centralize these schools, to create economies of scale, will lead to much larger geographical areas of scope. Certain children will be too far away to make the daily commute practical. In addition, as economically depressed areas become more lawless and generally can't afford public services, the states may choose to remove children from those environments, opting instead to fully institutionalize them into residents of their school facilities. Residential accommodations can be created, and public assistance can shift to funding these accommodations, as opposed to indirectly funding the ongoing criminal activity which will exist in these lawless areas.
    • As wealth disparity continues to grow, it will become difficult to even fund the alternative model the way it has been proposed. To make up the shortfall in funding, these institutions may attempt to partially transform themselves into profit centers, by leasing student services on certain tasks which considered appropriate for school-age children. This may begin as a voluntary trade-off for enhancements; for example, if a student wants to learn a musical instrument or play in the band, they can trade that privilege for a defined amount of student services.
    • For example, call center scripts can as easily be navigated by a 14 year old as an adult. Because the children would be doing this as part of their education, this would not be a matter of labor laws. Politically, the drive to bring outsourced jobs back to America would be a compelling note in favor of this process.
    • Over time, student services will no longer be viewed as optional, but as a necessary contribution-in-kind to the residential costs attributed to each student.

    Hence, "The Work Camps".

    Important Notes:

    • This is obviously a dystopian vision of a future in which income disparity and economic collapse lead to somewhat drastic changes in the nature of American life. It is not intended as an actual prediction of what's to come, so much as an extrapolation of the worst-case consequences of some of the trends we can observe happening today.
    • This theory is not concerned with "what should happen", so much as "what is happening now, and what trends can we observe and extrapolate from?" The question of "should" raises much deeper questions about the causes of wealth disparity, poverty, race, and the foundations of the American political and economic system. Those topics aren't "invalid" - they are simply too large to cover in this thread, and thus, not in scope.
    Last edited by Polemarch; 06-06-2014 at 08:17 PM.
    We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.

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    Global Moderator Polemarch's Avatar
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    For further discussion, this article relates to what's happening right now in New Orleans, which is not dissimilar from the first steps of the above.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/...637_story.html
    We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.

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    Senior Member Tetris Champion notdavidlynch's Avatar
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    I think that something similar will almost certainly begin to happen, but other confounding variables will come into play.

    If something like this doesn't exist and isn't highly active by then, then I'll be forced to start it myself:

    http://deusex.wikia.com/wiki/New_Sons_of_Freedom
    http://deusex.wikia.com/wiki/Nationa...sionist_Forces

    But only for the sake of interrupting current trends.. I'm not a constitutionalist, and I'm not even against a "totalitarian" government. The government is a sock puppet for moneyed capitalists and I can't really call it anything else.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    A dynamic here is that the young - those at the kind of age where they vote - don't vote in sufficient numbers that they win their interests from the political system, pensioners however...

    A society that bilks its young whilst funnelling more to an ever larger core of elderly is going to run into economic issues eventually. But this is pretty much the route all first world countries are heading, and indeed even industrialising countries like China.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    Senior Member Tetris Champion notdavidlynch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ferrus View Post
    A dynamic here is that the young - those at the kind of age where they vote - don't vote in sufficient numbers that they win their interests from the political system, pensioners however...
    The interests of the young aren't even on the ballots. The whole idea of participatory democracy is flawed and unsustainable.

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    Member INTP_Polly's Avatar
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    This is a very a scary future and there is at least some precedence for what you are referring to when you look at the Residential School system implemented for Aboriginal children in Canada. Those who went to those schools are now referred to as "Survivors" and have received common experience payments for the amount of abuse they went through in those schools.

    To this day, Aboriginals receive a substandard education because they receive less per child towards their education than non-native children receive. There is a court case going on now about it. The impact is reduced capacity, dependence, and drug/alcohol addictions.

    I am from a poor province who's economy has been spiraling downwards for years now. Due to losing their tax bases many schools in smaller towns are having to amalgamate and towns are folding and instead incorporating into municipalities. People are being told that by centralizing everything they will all be better off but it's just not true long term. What happens is instead of many hands making light work you have very few people doing huge amounts of work. They start to lose their empathy and connection and it all becomes a numbers game. Unique or individual needs just are not on the radar. It is causing both a brain drain and labour drain in the Province so you have less qualified people to maintain this infrastructure reducing its capacity even further. Utilities which used to be provincially run are now privately run and the cost is going up every year so they can increase their profit margins and give CEOs insane bonuses that are reflective of profit as opposed to the quality of service they are providing. It's like having the mob in in charge of your power bill.

    A good portion of the problems are being caused by sheer greed. As a province we need to change with the times and its not happening. On top of that federally we are being punished due to a complete lack of understanding that we are not in a commodities based economy but one that is instead hugely influenced by fishing and agriculture. The mistakes being made is what happens when you have very distant hands making decisions on local issues.

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    Mens bona regnum possidet ferrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by notdavidlynch View Post
    The interests of the young aren't even on the ballots. The whole idea of participatory democracy is flawed and unsustainable.
    Perhaps. But single party rule can become a gerontocracy too - see the later Soviet Union - as can monarchy and oligarchy. It often has less to do with the form governmental power takes than it does the nature of the society, where the economic power lies, and in whose interest it is wielded.

    The depressing thing is whiter America now, Britain usually follows on about 20-30 years later.
    Die Logik ist keine Lehre, sondern ein Spiegelbild der Welt. Die Logik ist transcendental. - Wittgenstein

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    Member Penguinhunter's Avatar
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    The optimist in me hopes that technology will lead to a decentralization of education. Your model is surprisingly similar to what the TED talk I link below explores, but there results are positive and the "babysitters", rather than functioning like prison guards, work as facilitators. The true future will probably be some lame space in between the dystopian and utopian.


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    libertine librarian sandwitch's Avatar
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    The iPad programs should include advertising so that corporate sponsorships ease the burden on the white landowners.

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    Now we know... Asteroids Champion ACow's Avatar
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    Since the "whole point of school"tm is to get a job, and that damn fangled higher education is just so expensive and not meant for everyone anyway, and "working is the point of life"tm, i'm waiting for someone to come up with the bright idea of "vocational colleges" where kids will get the "benefit/luck/experience/opportunity" of engaging in real work for free/comically low wages...

    /this comes after the removal of federal/tax-payer funding is sold as "handing control back to the community"

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