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This past election cycle had me spending a lot of time thinking about 'how to show them the error of their ways'. Me and about a zillion other people on both sides of the divide, I'm sure.

One of the more influential things I ran across during the election cycle was a vlog entry by Mike Rowe. He wrote about how he couldn't in good conscience advocate using his celebrity status to exhort others to get out and vote. His reasoning was that voting was a privilege not a duty. That electors (us) were expected to educate themselves on the issues and then vote what they saw to be in the best interest of everybody. That's how this country was designed from the get go. The idea left me very thoughtful.

One of the other things I ran across (in many places) was how folks on the liberal side would often not bother to vote. Another was how conservatives were more likely to vote just out of a sense of duty. Another was how on both sides, too many people didn't understand the issues, and were simply on the bandwagon of their particular media outlets. Also thoughtful making.

I suspect that for some of us (me for sure), we become less likely to vote when we're unsure of the outcome. The story I seem to have inherited from my culture says that liberals are, on the whole, more educated than conservatives. Now I have no idea if this is a causal relationship, but it does seem to me that if we're more educated, that we'd be more likely to see both sides of something, and so more likely to be unsure.

Don't get me wrong, the nutjobs on the left are just as bad as the nutjobs on the right, for any random definition of nutjob. Educated or not. More education won't completely fix that.

But whether there's a causal relationship or not, it's starting to seem to me that having all the electors more educated might be a thing. That what may be in the long term highest good would be for everybody to have their highest possible level of education provided by the state.

Now, I must admit, I come to this position from a place of being rather anti-formal education. I came to it via a few significant influences.

First, I grew up in a privileged cultureā€¦ And in particular, ours was a blue collar household. When the CWA went on strike, my dad stopped going in to work, and instead drove me and my siblings nuts. The message was "just do your work, keep your head down, and everything will be OK".

Second, I saw my dad as successful. Many of my peers seem to have learned to think of success as meaning money. For me, it was about having a happy primary relationship. My folks relationship was not without its problems, but we kids mostly didn't see them. My folks seemed reasonably happy. The message was "this is the ideal I am supposed to strive for".

Third, during some key moment in my life, my dad said I'd never amount to anything without a college education. Now mind you, he didn't have one. And he was successful. And I was probably in a particularly rebellious phase. The message was "Oh yeah? I'll show YOU!"

Fourth, I was ADHD boy. I listened in class, did great on tests, completely forgot about homework. And so got poor grades. I was told I was really smart and could do anything. And pretty much, I seem to be able to figure out whatever you put in front of me eventually.

Related to that, I grew up in a region with a lot of high tech jobs, and at a time when demand for labor outstripped supply. And while I had some collage level classes with microcomputers, everything about what I do today, I taught myself.

The message became "Conventional school doesn't work for me, I can figure out whatever I need to". Which has been mostly true.

But more recently, I have spent the last couple of years watching most of the Crash Course videos, along with a host of other educational YouTube contentā€¦ And basically started giving myself some start on the same kind of educational overview I would have gotten in school. And this learning has made many small differences in my everyday life. Things I already knew, but now knew in more depth. Things where the understanding of them has changed since I learned them. Things I never would have seen with the limited view of the world I got as a kid. Things I am much more empowered to do something about. Things I now recognize as things that should be questioned, rather than either simply accepted or simply rejected. And even a better idea of how to do that questioning, how to determine if a claim is true.

I still think education needs to be smarter than it was when I was a kid, and I think it's in a process of improvement.

So all of this leads me to believe that universal education to the highest possible level for each person is how we build the best electorate, the best culture. We humans are most powerful when we cooperate. We cooperate best when we understand each other.


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Akien MacIain

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