Krasko's BOOK



Conclusion

 CONCLUSION: THE FUTURE


 "What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather
the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task."

Viktor Frankl, Man's Search For Meaning

 

A civilization, like a mortal human being, has periods of good health, optimism, and success, but may also get sick, feel distressed and lost. We are lost now. In all our attempts—on various levels—we are trying to find solutions that would lead to a tensionless state. And as we fail to achieve them, we are instead, becoming increasingly ill. But we will be on our feet again only if we realize that "striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal" is what we need to be healthy and happy again. This sickness in our society (as well as in all the developed democratic societies on earth) is unique in that the virus of meaninglessness had never before been a societal virus, rather than a bug inflicting just isolated individuals or small groups. The question of the meaning of life has always been a burning question among the educated and affluent—but simply because they have had time, in fact, many of them have had actually nothing else to do, but to think about the matters existential.

 But this question—this alarming anxiety—is something that has been implanted in our genes by God. It is the necessity, the urge to answer this question—and thus to find one's place in the world—which makes us really great and proud as God's children. We have already passed one of God's test: we have shown that, due to our unstoppable urge for knowledge, we can survive and build great cultures and great humane societies by working hard, sometimes falling deep, but rising high again.

 We, in the developed societies, do not have to fight for existence anymore. Now comes the next test: We must show that life is not just making money, eating, sleeping, having sex, and having fun. I do believe we will also pass this test, and this time, with flying colors.

As if for a purpose, we have been made aware of our problems at the dawn of a new millennium. This way it is easier to count time. And, perhaps in the future, a historian will write: "And there was evening, and there was morning: day one of the new humankind”.

Meanwhile, having stepped into the new millennium, we are not quite ready to meet it, although both the high-tech technology and high-tech temptations are already here.

As I have stressed so often in all the essays of this book, our main problem, the most important and the most pressing one, is education. If we do not revolutionize our educational system now, we shall have to do it later anyway, but the price for the procrastination may be then much higher.

Perhaps I have been too aggressive in opposing the Progressives and their educational philosophy. The bitter truth, however, is that no matter how highly trained a person is, either in the concrete profession that he or she has chosen, or in the politically correct understanding of society, this is not a substitute for building a strong, mature personality. Only a strong, intensive general education can do that; the educational system that will challenge our children, force them to work hard and persistently from kindergarten on, and thus inspire them with the unstoppable urge for knowledge.

What will happen if we fail to fulfill this goal of revolutionizing our education? As I have already said in the Preface, even if we improve the quality of training in our schools and colleges, we may be able to sustain, possibly even for a long time, the high-tech development of our society, but we will not be able to significantly improve our social climate. Racial strife will continue to haunt our society. The drug culture will flourish and move into a new, and perhaps more devastating phase of high-tech drugs. And, as its companion, social inequity and crime will increase.

But if we do succeed, what will our future be? First of all, if we firmly decide on the kind of reform I have been advocating, this decision alone will have already significantly changed our society.

If we decide to launch the educational revolution, then we shall need hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of new teachers right away. Moreover, we will have to elevate the status of teacher—both socially and financially—to the level of professor. We will have to completely change our perception that the younger the child, the lower the professional level of the teacher should be. Then, we shall need, perhaps, millions of professors in toddler through kindergarten education with qualifications of not less than a master's degree.

If we are serious about giving our children a strong and broad education, we shall have to create a new industry, which may become the leading industry in our society—the industry of educating and training future teachers. We should also be prepared to accept that in order to sustain a high-quality education on all levels—through PhD programs—perhaps one professor per every 10 to 15 students (for the little ones, perhaps per every 5 students) would be needed. We will become a society of teachers.

Is this scenario possible? First of all, do we have enough above-average IQ people to be able to become good teachers? I am sure we have. If one makes a most conservative estimate from the distribution of the IQ curve (Herrnstein and Murray, The Bell Curve) one arrives at the figure of 40 to 50 percent of our population with a high enough IQ. In fact, we still do not know very much what the cognitive ability is, and how would a below-average IQ person respond to a systematic high-quality education (as I understand it) from the toddler age on.

And here is the second question: Will a society with an extremely high level of education be economically stable? Will there be enough jobs to accommodate millions of people with bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees? Nobody can tell you now—there simply have been no precedents in the history of Earth. Usually, a free economy has the tendency to adjust itself to societal needs. With the expansion of computer education and the proliferation of computers, a new multibillion-dollar branch of the economy—computer software—has emerged literally within just a few years. The new, born by the Internet, the so-called dot com industry is even younger.

Society's priorities will gradually shift to meet the growing demand for products having to do with all kinds of spiritual and intellectual needs. As a consequence, research-oriented industries will also proliferate. The standing of our society vis--vis the world problems will also change.

Isolationist tendencies that have already cost America dearly in the past (just recall the Pearl Harbor disaster), are still very strong in our society today. Every time America's involvement in mediating or putting down an international conflict is necessary, our administrations encounter strong resistance of a significant segment of politicians (both on the Left and the Right—the side always opposed to the administration, thus making the resistance blatantly political) backed by the support of a corresponding segment of the constituency. There are, unfortunately, too many examples of our "interference" in international crises that have happened to be either meaningless or counterproductive. This, however, does not mean that we should refrain from our inherent and unspoken obligations as the (at present) sole superpower. Our failure in those situations was mostly the results of the political obstacles that the presidents had to fight in order to implement those actions.

R. Kaplan, a distinguished journalist and author, wrote:[1]

Two or three decades hence conditions may be propitious for the emergence of a new international system—one with many influential actors in a regime of organically evolving interdependence. But until that time arrives, it is largely the task of the United States to maintain a modicum order and stability. We are an ephemeral imperial power, and if we are smart, we will recognize that basic fact. Because the consequence of attack by weapons of mass distraction are so catastrophic, the United States will periodically have no choice but to act preemptively on limited evidence, exposing our actions to challenge by journalists, to say nothing of millions of protesters who are increasingly able to coordinate their demonstrations worldwide.

These lines were written soon after the 2003 Iraqi war, against the background of the political and ideological anti-war, anti-American sentiments, mostly proliferated by the intellectual Left.

The concept of world policeman has a strong negative connotation, and yet, in the future, the United Nations will eventually agree to the logical idea that the world will need a permanent international police force that will act immediately and quickly, upon a direct order from the Security Council, at the first signs of an international conflict that violates the United Nations Charter and threatens the world's stability, much as a policeman in a city or a town reacts immediately to a crime.

I am proud that our presidents did find the strength and integrity to fight their shortsighted and populist-oriented political opponents in enforcing the role of America as the stabilizer to safeguard the world. It is especially important in the unprecedented situation of proliferation of world terrorism.

In the future, our more active involvement in the areas of potential conflict— our peaceful involvement—will be more and more instrumental in enhancing the political and economic stability of those areas.

The problems that are now becoming more and more pressing, and will definitely have risen to enormous proportions in the future, are the problems of the so-called developing countries (which were called Third World before the fall of Communism). Some doomsday scenarios[2] predict the eventual collapse of Western affluent democracies, unable to sustain and overcome the growing pressure on the part of the politically and economically unstable societies. Even a literal collapse is possible as a result of the immigration invasion,[3] which will be impossible to stop without killing millions of people.

This danger is real. It is also natural in the sense that any valve eventually becomes not strong enough if the pressure is too high. We share the same earth, but the economic inequity is too great for any kind of stability in the future.

So far the reaction of Western democracies has been mostly to render economic aid. A good part of this aid too often does not reach the needy, being simply stolen away by corrupt governments, or used as an economic weapon in local military or political conflicts. But it is the humanitarian help that those countries (and societies) need much more, and need very badly, apart from direct economic aid. Thousands of medical personnel, agronomists, teachers, and engineers from all industrial nations are now working in Africa, India, and other remote parts of the world. But it is not enough.

With the rising educational level of our population, the understanding of the fact that the wellbeing of the world is also the guarantee of the wellbeing of our society will gradually become an accepted fact. The concept of the world's being too small is too important to be neglected or underestimated. Our involvement in humanitarian aid to the Third World is not only a matter of moral obligations or responsibility. The world being too small, fighting diseases in developing countries often means protecting the health of our own population. For example, if polio is eradicated worldwide we shall no longer have to vaccinate our children against polio.

In the future, a new and more efficient Peace Corps will be created in America. It may become an important part of American society socially, politically, and economically.

In essay Science and Society, I quoted a noted physicist: "I fear we may have seriously underestimated the consequences for our culture of a scientifically illiterate population. We ignore real dangers to our planet because we cannot understand the warnings."

When we learn to understand those warnings, we will see what enormous work must be done here, on the earth, in order for it to be livable for the generations to come. We shall then need an enormous cadre of all kinds of earth scientists: physicists, chemists, geologists, biologists, and meteorologists. And we will have them.

The educated society of the 21st century will be spending a significant part of its resources on scientific research and on space exploration, in particular. Perhaps, the 1040 Tax Form, apart from the box: "Do you want to make an additional donation to the National Education Fund?" will also have a box for donations to the Project Mars Fund. This is not science fiction. The interest among Americans in astronomy is enormous, and it is growing. Thousands of Americans already buy telescopes and other astronomical equipment, and amateur astronomers play more and more significant role in serious research.

But let me return to the earth. A society, where Madonna means only the Mother of Christ and nothing else, and where TV is not a proving ground of real-life violence anymore, is perhaps still far away. But if we start taking our first steps, just tiny first steps, we will see the results immediately. Begin reading to toddlers—every day—and go on till they begin reading themselves, and even beyond that and the Bell Curve may have shown the rise of IQ.

The impact of the movement Kids Teaching Kids on our society (which I discussed in this book) simply cannot be overestimated. It will make our educational system much more efficient and vibrant. Allow the children—make for most of them an internal necessity—to stay at school for another three or four hours doing something interesting and exciting, and juvenile crime and experimenting with drugs will drop significantly. Have a nearby university student play Chopin to tenth-graders and, perhaps, the number of condoms to be distributed in school will drop.

Just imagine your ten-year-old son returning from school at 8 PM with shining eyes: "Mommy, we were watching Jupiter in the telescope to night. It has sixteen moons! Oh, I want to be an astronomer, Mommy. No, I will not watch TV tonight, I have to finish this book." Or your fifteen-year-old daughter, being so late from school that you were already going to call her friends: "Mother, we were reading George Sterling tonight. He was a poet—an American. Listen, Mother: 'Thou art the star for which all evening waits.'"

Imagine that this happens not in just isolated families but is typical. With growing education and the return of meaning in our lives, we will gradually begin to understand that the laissez-faire capitalism, where money is the most reliable criterion of value; where, in fact, money often is the only value worth acquiring; and where our preoccupation with success, as measured in money, endanger our sense of right and wrong, is the source of many ills of our society.

We will gradually begin to understand that it is not worth having a thousand-dollar tax return, so that we can pay for our children's day care or private school education ourselves (with that money?). Rather we would entrust society to provide us with high-quality day care and education for our children—as other democracies have already been doing.

We will gradually become one big family. And we will also begin to understand that it is not that to bring up a child, is the duty of the whole society—one of its most important duties. Today, at this crossroads of our culture, it is us, the people—the parents and grandparents of our children—that are in charge of the future.

But is that possible? Is that possible at all, that the majority of our children may become happy and fulfilled, eagerly wanting to learn, and learn more, growing to be mature adults, able to love, wanting to make the world better, and transferring that treasure of their souls—meaning—to their children?

We must begin. And then...Here I want to share with you a funny story, which sounds like a parable, but is, in fact, an anecdote:[4]

The Hundredth Monkey

"The Japanese monkey, Maccaca Fuscata, has been observed in the wild for a period of over 30 years. In 1952, on the island of Koshima scientists were providing monkeys with sweet potatoes dropped in the sand. The monkeys liked the taste of the raw sweet potatoes but they found the dirt unpleasant. An 18-month-old female named Imo found she could solve the problem by washing the potatoes in a nearby stream. She taught this trick to her mother. Her playmates also learned this new way and they taught their mothers, too

"Between 1952 and 1958, all young monkeys learned to wash the sandy potatoes to make them more palatable. Only the adults who imitated their children learned this social improvement. Other adults kept eating the dirty sweet potatoes. Then something startling took place. In the autumn of 1958, a certain number of Kosima monkey were washing sweet potatoes—the exact number is not known.

"Let us suppose that when the sun rose one morning there were 99 monkeys on Koshima Island who had learned to wash their sweet potatoes. Let us further suppose that later that morning, the hundredth monkey learned to wash potatoes. Then it happened. By that evening almost everyone in the tribe was washing sweet potatoes before eating them. The added energy of this hundredth monkey somehow created an ideological breakthrough.

"But notice: A most surprising thing observed by these scientists was that the habit of washing sweet potatoes then jumped over the sea— colonies of monkeys on other islands and the mainland troop of monkeys at Takasokiyama began washing their sweet potatoes. Thus when a certain critical number achieves an awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind."

My book is finished. As I warned in the introduction, almost everything I have talked about was in no-man's land. Now the Left was furious, now the Right, and I expect to be under a massive crossfire.

I defend the government, and I believe that only a centralized effort, on the scale of the whole nation, can solve our educational problem. I also believe that a strong unified curriculum is a must. Hence the fire both from the Left and the Right.

The Left (first of all the intellectual Left) will accuse me of elitism. And I am glad, even proud of that, and I willingly accept this accusation. Yes, I am elitist: I want this country to become elitist. When the Progressives want the school programs to be as easy as possible, so that a child from an inner-city drug and crime infested neighborhood would still be able to grasp some knowledge (but unfortunately this does not happen), I want this child to be a proud human being, mature, with a developed personality and clear-cut meaning in his or her life. School must teach perseverance in learning, teach how to work hard in order to achieve the goal—knowledge. It is possible. Enthusiastic and courageous teachers in just such slum neighborhoods have already proved that this is possible. Our politicians just have to put their hearts to it.

Winston Churchill once said: "If one is not a liberal when he is twenty, he does not have heart; but when one is not a conservative when he is fifty, he does not have brains." I am almost seventy, and I did come through the above two stages. But in the world where in an unstoppable quest for pleasure and money, people are losing both hearts and brains, I'd rather stick to heart. And yet, one needs not only the heart, but also strong brains in order to clearly distinguish between Good and Evil. If one has the honest direction of pursuing Good and fighting Evil, one will (at least in our days) always be in no-man's land. For the truth, which always serves Goodbetter than Evil, is where reason is, not where the political trenches meet and cross each other.

Well, one also needs a good portion of the idealism of a twenty-year-old to be in no-man's land under the fierce crossfire. But, as three decades ago, John Glenn, first American to orbit the Earth, said: "Ideals are the very stuff of survival." I believe I will survive the crossfire.

But this is not that important. If only my dreams of a better world for our children, for my beloved Rachel come true, then God's blessings will always be with you, America.

 


[1] The Atlantic Monthly, July/August, 2003, p.69.

[2] See, as an example, Jean Raspail's The Camp of the Saints (Scribner, New York, 1975). See also Matthew Connelly’s and Paul Kennedy's article "The Rest Against the West" (Atlantic Monthly, Dec. 1994) for a very informative discussion of the problem.

[3]  The immigration invasion has already begun in Europe. Millions of Muslims (the majority of them hostile to democracy) have settled in France, Germany, and other European countries, posing a serious (if not daring) political problem.

[4] Ken Keyers, Jr., The Hundredth Monkey, Vision Books, 1985, p.11.

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