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The richest man in the world has some advice for us about college

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(P.S. He didn’t take it himself)

John Taylor Gatto wrote this article for The Wall Street Journal, July 25th, 1991

“North America faces an emergency. Vested interests will have to be set aside for the common good. The biggest obstacle blocking progress is the shape of our forced institutional schooling and its weapons of mass destruction.” Bill Gates

Bill Gates and China

On February 28 of this year, (1991) Bill Gates of Microsoft, told a gathering of the 50 American state governors that the United States has reached a competitive crisis which we were losing. This could best be combated by making college prep the sole function of secondary schooling, college prep for everyone, and college, too. Those who couldn’t afford it should be subsidized by the states. In Erving Goffman’s chilling locution, college was to become a “Total Institution,” controlling all work in the economy. Gates’ speech was headlined in the European press, where I read about it the following day at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, which I was leaving for Guangzhou, China. When I landed there, it was big news in China, too, if the English language “China Daily” can be believed.

It was the first thing my Chinese hosts wanted to talk about — this radically utopian idea of college for all.

But, Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I asked my hosts to consider this: If Gates’ proposal was such a great idea, then how was it that Gates, like Faulkner, dropped out of college his freshman year? And why didn’t he ever go back? And how was it that from among millions of college-trained techies, Gates decided to hook up with another dropout, Paul Allen, to found Microsoft?

That could have been a million-to-one coincidence, of course, except for the fact that Steve Jobs, the brains behind Apple, dropped out of Reed College after one semester. And never went back to college, not for a single day! Was it only an accident that Jobs chose to partner with another dropout, Steve Wozniak, in the founding of Apple?

Michael Dell of Dell Computer didn’t bother with college either. Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, said he didn’t have the time to waste on college. Is the penny beginning to drop? These multi-billionaires, who’ve changed the face of the global society in technology, were all dropouts. What do you make of that?

Ted Turner, founder of CNN was pitched out of college on his ear, flunked out just like Al Gore did at Vanderbilt. Ray Kroc of McDonald’s told his mother at age 15 that he didn’t have time to waste on high school, dropping out at almost the same age that the female auto-racing phenomenon, Danica Patrick did. Danica dropped out at 16, went to London on her own (just like Benjamin Franklin did two and a half centuries ago) and signed herself into a course on how to sustain speeds above 200 mph on a racetrack!

A few years later she almost won the Indy 500 and would have except for an error by her pit crew.


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A Mass of Clerks

In his monumental history of civilizations, Arnold Toynbee said that institutionally forced schooling was always about creating a mass of clerks for the prevailing bureaucracy. Not educated people who can think for themselves, but clerks – parts of a social machine. In your heart, you knew that, with or without Toynbee, didn’t you? Over in Guangzhou, I witnessed the largest society on earth undergoing phenomenal, dynamic changes that were intended to make China over in the model of Western industrialization, which steam-rollered the global economy between 1800 and 1960.

China has mastered the techniques of the West and has gone far beyond them. It employs the ruthless logic of financial capitalism with a discipline it would be impossible to achieve in the soft-hearted management systems of the United States and Canada.

They don’t make things better than we do, but they do make them just as good and cheaper, by a factor of from six to thirty. It is fanciful to say, as Mr. Gates did, that if we just have more schooling, we’ll be okay. In the next 10 years, China and India, et al., will release ten million well-trained engineers in excess of domestic needs on the world’s skilled labor markets.

These men and women will bid for work against your own techie sons and daughters.

At sixteen cents or so on the dollar, the effect on wages will be a catastrophe for this important segment of middle-class life. Mr. Gates didn’t bother to tell his audience that Microsoft has already opened large colleges in China and India to train young people in those nations to its own specifications.

That puts a new spin on his appeal for universal college training doesn’t it? Perhaps you believe the corporate policy of Microsoft will prefer to continue to pay high wages when a stream of its own foreign graduates becomes available.

Unless you do believe that, it becomes a duty for all of us to wake up and warn our children because one thing is certain: Schools won’t.

The Answer Is Jazz, Not Schooling

Saturation schooling, kindergarten through college, was a leadership response to the demands of a centralized corporate economy that replaced American/Canadian entrepreneurialism between 1880 and 1920.

What corporatism required was two things: A laboring mass – including a professional laboring mass of doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects and schoolteachers – who did what they were told without question, and a citizenry in name only, one which defined itself by non-stop consumption, one which believed that choosing between options offered by management was what democracy was all about.

Lockstep schooling, driven by standardized testing, testing not to measure learning but obedience, was the mechanism used to drive out imagination and courage. It worked and still works superbly, but, like the little mill that ground salt when salt wasn’t needed, this brilliant utopian construction is about to kill us.

North American economies dazzled the world for centuries because they encouraged resourcefulness, individuality and risk-taking to dominate the marketplace, and these qualities were encouraged in everyone, not just in the elites.

Three North American commercial juggernauts are currently blowing away competition all over China: computer hardware and programming, fast food franchising and commercial entertainment (singing, dancing, story-telling, games and all the rest).

Each of these businesses is almost exclusively the work of dropouts, from college, high school and elementary school. They are erected from imagination. Our fast food franchises don’t really sell “food” at all, but two intense tastes – salty and sweet – surrounded by clean, well-lighted places and spotless toilets and primary colors. They sell a return to early childhood and its simplicities.

Our computer world is built upon imagination inscribed on silicon chips on grains of sand. It’s magical. And our entertainment industry, which dominates China and every place else? Assembled from the raw material of people pretending to be who they aren’t and singing their hearts out about emotions some writer made up.

We need to realize what all this means. We need to follow the path opened by our unparalleled jazz domination of the planet.

Over in China, at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music (the oldest continuous music school on earth) they have a hard time believing that jazz can even exist, that with imagination and courage you can hear a piece of music once and ring dazzling changes on it forever.

Jazz writ large has always been the key to North American genius. As David Ricardo, the great philosopher of capitalism often said: The road to wealth comes from understanding what it is that you do best, then doing it. It’s time we abandoned the cowardly path of imitating what China and India will do best in the future, realizing that our own security can only be preserved by encouraging imagination.

Stiffening the Backbone

Not long ago, I got a letter from Ed Hamilton, the largest mail-order independent book dealer in America, in which he disclosed that he had taken three college courses long ago before he realized that the time and expense was largely a waste and struck out for himself on the course that made him a multi-millionaire and, for what it’s worth, one of the most influential purveyors of self-education in the country.

Hamilton admitted to delight in the fact that most of his potential competitors did so waste their time, thus leaving the field much less difficult for him to negotiate.

Chris Paolini, a real-life homeschooled kid from the remote Absaroka Mountains of Montana wrote a fantasy novel at 15, “Eragon,” self-published the book with his parents and drove from school to school, library to library, with mom and dad who quit their jobs to help him so, so much did they believe in his book!

So far “Eragon” has sold 2.5 million copies – earning enough so mom and dad and Chris won’t ever have to work for strangers again – and Knopf is bringing out a sequel called “Eragon, The Eldest” with a first printing of 1.3 million copies. “Eragon” is scheduled for Hollywood release in 2006 starring Jeremy Irons and John Malkovich.

Chris is 21 as I write and, like Danica Patrick, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell, has no plans to go to college.

Or, how about the boy who flunked out of second grade, the kid labeled with dyslexia and ADHD who was fired from his job at a gas station for writing illegible receipts? In 1970, that dropout, Paul Orfalea, founded Kinko’s.

And how about the dropout Richard Branson, who at the age of seven, was treated to this lesson in self-reliance by his mother: Miles from his London home on a drive with mom, she pulled over and asked little Richard, “Do you think you could find your way home from here?” He said he thought so, whereupon, she opened the car door on his side and said, “Well, get out and do so.”

Whatever education is, one thing is certain: It doesn’t take place locked in seats following the commands of total strangers, your obedience measured regularly by short answer tests. And it’s education we need to meet the future, not schooling.

Let the Past Go

Mass college attendance once served America and Canada very well, but that time is gone and good riddance. It dampened down the inventive, entrepreneurial spirit in the interests of habit-training and attitude-adjustment.

We have the most efficient management in the world at a very high price: Mutilating the public imagination, vesting it in a handful of corporations. School was the factory producing incomplete human beings who were easy to manage. It worked for a century to produce national riches and a citizenry increasingly poor in spirit.

Gates is correct: North America faces an emergency. Vested interests will have to be set aside for the common good. The biggest obstacle blocking progress is the shape of our forced institutional schooling and its weapons of mass destruction.

As Pope Paul once said to the Poles: “Young people, don’t be afraid. The future depends on you.”

Let me add, parents, don’t be afraid, either. Take your lead from Herman Melville’s immortal Bartleby, the Scrivener, and say to Mr. Gates and his ilk: “I would prefer not to.”

John Taylor Gatto wrote this article for The Wall Street Journal, July 25th, 1991. Gatto was a New York State Teacher of the Year. An advocate for school reform, Gatto’s books include Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, the Underground History of American Education and Weapons of Mass Instruction.

Photo by Bion Whitehouse. Children in Classroom in Keene New Hampshire. ca. 1900-1920. (Keene Public Library and the Historical Society of Cheshire County)

Source: Education Revolution 

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How The Pentagon and CIA Have Shaped Thousands of Hollywood Movies into Super Effective Propaganda

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By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, January 5, 2022

Propaganda is most impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda, and most decisive when it’s censorship you never knew happened.

 

When we imagine that the U.S. military only occasionally and slightly influences U.S. movies, we are extremely badly deceived. The actual impact is on thousands of movies made, and thousands of others never made. And television shows of every variety.

The military guests and celebrations of the U.S. military on game shows and cooking shows are no more spontaneous or civilian in origin than the ceremonies glorifying members of the U.S. military at professional sports games — ceremonies that have been paid for and choreographed by U.S. tax dollars and the U.S. military. The “entertainment” content carefully shaped by the “entertainment” offices of the Pentagon and the CIA doesn’t just insidiously prepare people to react differently to news about war and peace in the world. To a huge extent it substitutes a different reality for people who learn very little actual news about the world at all.

The U.S. military knows that few people watch boring and non-credible news programs, much less read boring and non-credible newspapers, but that great masses will eagerly watch long movies and TV shows without too much worrying about whether anything makes sense. We know that the Pentagon knows this, and what military officials scheme and plot as a result of knowing this, because of the work of relentless researchers making use of the Freedom of Information Act. These researchers have obtained many thousands of pages of memos, notes, and script re-writes. I don’t know whether they’ve put all of these documents online — I certainly hope they do and that they make the link widely available. I wish such a link were in giant font at the end of a fantastic new film. The film is called Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood. The Director, Editor, and Narrator is Roger Stahl. The Co-Producers are Matthew Alford, Tom Secker, Sebastian Kaempf. They’ve provided an important public service.

In the film we see copies of and hear quotations from and analysis of much of what has been uncovered, and learn that thousands of pages exist that nobody has yet seen because the military has refused to produce them. Film producers sign contracts with the U.S. military or CIA. They agree to “weave in key talking points.” While unknown quantities of this sort of thing remain unknown, we do know that nearly 3,000 films and many thousands of TV episodes have been given the Pentagon treatment, and many others have been handled by the CIA. In many film productions, the military effectively becomes a co-producer with veto power, in exchange for allowing the use of military bases, weapons, experts, and troops. The alternative is the denial of those things.

But the military is not as passive as this might suggest. It actively pitches new story ideas to movie and TV producers. It seeks out new ideas and new collaborators who might bring them to a theater or laptop near you. Act of Valor actually began life as a recruitment advertisement.

Of course, many movies are made without military assistance. Many of the best never wanted it. Many that wanted it and were denied, managed to get made anyway, sometimes at much greater expense without the U.S. tax dollars paying for the props. But a huge number of movies are made with the military. Sometimes the initial movie in a series is made with the military, and the remaining episodes voluntarily follow the military’s line. Practices are normalized. The military sees huge value in this work, including for recruitment purposes.

The alliance between the military and Hollywood is the main reason that we have lots of big blockbuster movies on certain topics and few if any on others. Studios have written scripts and hired top actors for movies on things like Iran-Contra that have never seen the light of day because of a Pentagon rejection. So, nobody watches Iran-Contra movies for fun the way they might watch a Watergate movie for fun. So, very few people have any notions about Iran-Contra.

But with the reality of what the U.S. military does being so awful, what, you might wonder, are the good topics that do get lots of movies made about them? A lot are fantasy or distortion. Black Hawk Down turned reality (and a book it was “based on”) on its head, as did Clear and Present Danger. Some, like Argo, hunt for small stories within large ones. Scripts explicitly tell audiences that it doesn’t matter who started a war for what, that the only thing that matters is the heroism of troops trying to survive or to rescue a soldier.

Yet, actual U.S. military veterans are often shut out and not consulted They often find movies rejected by the Pentagon as “unrealistic” to be very realistic, and those created with Pentagon collaboration to be highly unrealistic. Of course, a huge number of military-influenced films are made about the U.S. military fighting space aliens and magical creatures — not, clearly, because it’s believable but because it avoids reality. On the other hand, other military-influenced films shape people’s views of targeted nations and dehumanize the humans living in certain places.

Don’t Look Up is not mentioned in Theaters of War, and presumably had no military involvement (who knows?, certainly not the movie-watching public), yet it uses a standard military-culture idea (the need to blow up something coming from outerspace, which in reality the U.S. government would simply love to do and you could hardly stop them) as an analogy for the need to stop destroying the planet’s climate (which you cannot easily get the U.S. government to remotely consider) and not one reviewer notices that the film is an equally good or bad analogy for the need to stop building nuclear weapons — because U.S. culture has had that need effectively excised.

The military has written policies on what it approves and disapproves. It disapproves depictions of failures and crimes, which eliminates much of reality. It rejects films about veteran suicide, racism in the military, sexual harassment and assault in the military. But it pretends to refuse to collaborate on films because they’re not “realistic.”

Yet, if you watch enough of what is produced with military involvement you’ll imagine that using and surviving nuclear war is perfectly plausible. This goes back to the original Pentagon-Hollywood invention of myths about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and runs right up through military influence on The Day After, not to mention the transformation — paid for by people who throw a fit if their tax dollars help prevent someone freezing on the street — of Godzilla from a nuclear warning to the reverse. In the original script for the first Iron Man movie, the hero went up against the evil weapons dealers. The U.S. military rewrote it so that he was a heroic weapons dealer who explicitly argued for more military funding. Sequels stuck with that theme. The U.S. military advertised its weapons of choice in Hulk, Superman, Fast and Furious, and Transformers, the U.S. public effectively paying to push itself to support paying thousands of times more — for weapons it would otherwise have no interest in.

“Documentaries” on the Discovery, History, and National Geographic channels are military-made commercials for weapons. “Inside Combat Rescue” on National Geographic is recruitment propaganda. Captain Marvel exists to sell the Air Force to women. Actress Jennifer Garner has made recruitment ads to accompany movies she’s made that are themselves more effective recruitment ads. A movie called The Recruit was largely written by the head of the CIA’s entertainment office. Shows like NCIS push out the military’s line. But so do shows you wouldn’t expect: “reality” TV shows, game shows, talk shows (with endless reunifications of family members), cooking shows, competition shows, etc.

I’ve written before about how Eye in the Sky was openly and proudly both completely unrealistic nonsense and influenced by the U.S. military to shape people’s ideas about drone murders. A lot of people have some small idea of what goes on. But Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood helps us to grasp the scale of it. And once we’ve done that, we may gain some possible insights into why polling finds much of the world fearing the U.S. military as a threat to peace, but much of the U.S. public believing that U.S. wars benefit people who are grateful for them. We may begin to form some guesses as to how it is that people in the United States tolerate and even glorify endless mass-killing and destruction, support threatening to use or even using nuclear weapons, and suppose the U.S. to have major enemies out there threatening its “freedoms.” Viewers of Theaters of War may not all immediately react with “Holy shit! The world must think we’re lunatics!” But a few may ask themselves whether it’s possible that wars don’t look like they do in movies — and that would be a great start.

Theaters of War ends with a recommendation, that movies be required to disclose at the start any military or CIA collaboration. The film also notes that the United States has laws against propagandizing the U.S. public, which might make such a disclosure a confession of a crime. I would add that since 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has required that “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

To learn more about this film, view it, or host a screening of it, go here.

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OPINION COLUMN: No presidential program raises paradigm shift in education

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OPINION COLUMN: No presidential program raises paradigm shift in education
By, Marcelo Trivelli O
*************************************************

No presidential program proposes a paradigm shift in education

Less than two weeks before the presidential elections in Chile, it is striking that, despite the fact that there is agreement that education requires a profound change, no candidate is proposing a paradigm shift in his government program. His programs respond to marginal aspects of the educational system that may be interesting for those involved, but do not pose a hopeful future for current and future children and young people.

The education of excellence is no longer a process of the teacher who teaches / student who learns, because the level of knowledge accumulated in the world is of such magnitude that the important thing is to develop the curiosity to investigate and the skills to be able to achieve it.

Through the history of humanity, social, cultural, economic, technological, religious changes, etc. They occurred at such a speed that it was difficult for a generation to realize the impact such changes had on their lives, unless there was a war or a revolution. However, in the last 100 years and especially in the last 30, the change is perceptible in daily life.

The oldest of my grandchildren is 11 years old and all of them look at me with surprise when I tell them that in Chile there was no television when I was a child, that the personal computer was only available in the 1980s and that the massification of social networks and cell phone access occurred after they were born. It is difficult for them to understand that my grandfather and one of my uncles died young, because antibiotics did not exist before.

And when they ask me what education was like in those years, I am sad to tell them that little has changed, because we have continued in the same paradigm since the schools were created. I tell them that I studied at the same school they attend and that almost everything remains the same after 50 years. Perhaps they are right when they say that school is boring, when one asks them if they like going to class. The world changed, but the school, as we know it today, continues to resist change, as do many that do not put girls, boys and young people first.

The main paradigm that we must question is that the quality of education is the result of the application of standardized tests of mathematics and literacy. Relevant subjects for the integral development of the students are left out, such as art, an area of ​​education that is absolutely undervalued. Art allows us to explore old and new worlds, crossing cultural, ideological and aesthetic boundaries. But, above all, art develops the capacity for observation and appreciation, and awakens and exercises curiosity, questioning and critical thinking.

There are other issues that occupy the political agenda and it is unfortunate that education is not a flag that mobilizes citizens as it was at the beginning of the 20th century, when primary education became compulsory in Chile in 1920, after two decades discussion, when the paradigm changed that there was no need for significant segments of society to leave illiteracy behind. Although it is essential for the future, the presidential programs do not propose paradigm shifts that lead to new public policies in education.

By Marcelo Triveli, Foundation Semila, Chile

 

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Mea Culpa

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Notes on 9-11, twenty years later.

This is the anniversary of a dark day in our country’s history.  It has also been totally eclipsed by the utterly horrifying death toll from a preventable virus.  So much so, that after this year I doubt anybody will be putting much emphasis on 9/11 anymore.  Too many folks are mourning their current lost loved ones to spend heaps of time on those of a generation ago.

I wanted to start this essay with “I told you so.”  It sure would have felt good, too; 20 years after warning y’all about the mistake of going to war to avenge a violent terror attack.  Who the hell would read that article though?  Nobody.

Nobody likes to be told they are wrong, least of all ‘Muricans.

We don’t.  We blew it on Viet Nam.  But then we spent the next two decades fellating ourselves with Rambo movies and Reagan and other such exciting fictions.  So when 9/11 occured, we were 100% ready and willing and able to make the same mistake again.  Then – – our short-attention span made it so that we turned away from the Afghan rebuilding project to double down and invade Iraq.  (I decried that invason too, to no avail).

We then whipped up some fancy ‘mission accomplished’ banners and photo ops, and… spent the next 19 years waiting to be greeted as liberators.  August of 2021 may have finally put that delusion to bed.  Somehow, I don’t think so.

I hate being Cassandra.  I do.  Nobody wants to hear the unvarnished truth, that much is clear.  But why?  How is it we would rather keep suffering, and keep on making other nations suffer; instead of doing the simple, basic work to fix the problems once and for all?  *This* question has become my life’s work.

There are solutions, by the way.  Never ever let anyone tell you these problems cannot be fixed.  Those folks are selling you something; and are not to be trusted.  We could never have built civilization in the first place, if we did not have solutions available for getting people to co-exist, within community.

So forget all about ‘I told you so’, and forget about who’s fault it is that we are in such a mess.  Focus your precious time on learning about solutions.  I have close to 20 essays up on mobilized.news now, and plenty of others have stuff posted here too.  That’s one possible place to start learning if you need resources.  For the busier or more skeptical among us, here (below) are some short takes that may be of use.

I am sorry that we’re still suffering.  Maybe I haven’t done enough to help relieve that suffering.  Maybe I can do more.  But it’s not about me, and it’s not about you.  It’s about the future. It really can be as bright as we want it to be.  Our biggest hurdle to overcome is simply inertia –  – and that’s a choice we make every day.

Simply change your mind, decide to find a new model to live within.  Better days lie ahead.


Further Reading: 

https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/welcoming-remarks-made-at-a-literary-reading-9-25-01?

 

Daniel Quinn shared this insight with us: Most folks would say that “the world was made for Man, and Man was made to conquer it.”  But of course that is just mythology, nothing about it is true.  It’s far more accurate to say that “the world is a sacred place and a sacred process – – and we are part of it.”  Our fundamental mis-understanding of how the world works is the key to knowing why we keep going on foolish crusades overseas, why we keep destroying the climate even though we know better, and so many other maladies.  It’s time to change those habits.

I often recommend this book, and do so again today because it’s more relevant NOW than ever before.  “Beyond Civilization” by Daniel Quinn.  See also: “Providence”, and the 3 “Ishmael” novels… which would make one hell of a great miniseries, if there are any TeeVee producers reading this post.

Speaking of ‘more relevant than ever’, Bucky Fuller’s classic book-length essay Grunch of Giants came out in 1970 for crying out loud; it’s too bad we’ve never taken his wise advice.

https://mobilized.news/bite-sized-book-reviews/

https://mobilized.news/bite-sized-book-reviews-ii-electric-boogaloo/

 

Here let us read in their own words, some post-war thoughts from a selection of unindicted war criminals.  They only barely register any remorse, and sure are twisting themselves in knots to justify their murderous idiocy.  NOTABLY ABSENT IN THESE INTERVIEWS: THE POINT OF VIEW OF ANYBODY AT ALL WHO WARNED AGAINST THE INVASIONS BEFORE HAND.  Such as Barbara Lee, Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, Medea Benjamin, or any of the Gold Star Mothers.  Funny how the media is falling over themselves to ask the guilty how they feel about being guilty.  It’s too damn bad the media doesn’t truly want to prevent future mistakes since that would be bad for their ratings.  Le sigh.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/09/10/9-11-attacks-20th-anniversary-reassessing-20-years-of-war-506924

For a more rational change of pace, this journalist ignored the fatuous glad-handers who lied us into war and instead talked to the soldiers on the ground.  If you’re in a hurry, skip the last entry and just read this one.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/09/10/politico-mag-afghan-vets-roundtable-506989

 

Here I offer a hat tip to my friend Alice Shikina, who has pointed me towards a far better means of conflict resolution – guided mediation & arbitration.  Groups such as SEEDS exist here in the Bay Area and similar ones are in most any big city near you.  We don’t have to spend our precious time being angry, or blaming the ‘other guy’.  We can instead work on listening and finding common ground.  There WAS common ground to be had with the Afghan people, for example, but we never once tried to find it.  We simply imposed a top-down model on them and then, were puzzled why they despised it.  What a huge missed opportunity.  Don’t you make that same mistake.  Check out the better options that are available and cost almost nothing to implement.

https://www.seedscrc.org/

www.cnvc.org

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Chautauquas and Lyceums and TED Talks, oh my!

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Our future is in OUR Hands

We are aiming with Mobilized to create a vibrant forum for ideas.  “Big deal”, you might say, there are already places for that.

Well, you’re not wrong.  There was, in the earliest days of the web, a loose and wild forum called The Well.  The great and powerful Google had as it’s mission the goal of “bringing all the knowledge of the world to every person”… before it pivoted to a new goal of just making money off of what it knows about us.  That change was a real pity.  There have been sites such as Wiser Earth, which aimed to be a global directory of people and non-profit organizations so that collaboration could happen on a larger scale than ever before.  It lasted about two years, sadly; not long enough to create a legacy.  Huffington Post had a good run in its’ early days, sharing ideas widely and helping to boost its’ contributors in the public’s mind.

What’s important to know, is that as of this writing, there is not really a widely recognized forum online or in ‘meat-space’.  There are print publications such as YES! magazine, Tikkun, The Sun Magazine, and The Utne Reader, all of which which reach a population of hundreds thousands.  Great, but their reach could be even more broad, in my humble opinion.  Within social media sites there are plenty of good ‘groups’ but they also don’t reach enough folks outside of their own memberships.

Probably the most popular comparable live events right now are the TED talks, which do serve a valuable purpose.  Sadly, they also tend toward the ‘Gee-Whiz‘ and the ‘Shiny New Buzzword‘ in their contents.  Mobilized really wants to focus on the proven, the existing, and the hidden.  There are already, all over, groups doing wonderful work, but too many of them are laboring in obscurity.

So, how do we do that?  Well to begin with, we’re not trying to be a technology startup.  There is no secret sauce, no fancy algorithm at work here.  Almost all the underlying code behind Mobilized is made with off-the-shelf parts, such as WordPress.  There is zero reason to re-invent the wheel, and frankly the notion that one must do so has tripped up several earlier attempts at building a successful progressive community.  We take the approach of using the tools at hand to build our house.

Secondly, we are going into the future with an eye firmly on the past.  And that leads us to the point of this essay, a look at how America became America.  We can take many lessons from the past.  One of our best ideas as a nation was the Chautauqua movement.   It had it’s heyday from the 1870’s right up until the beginning of World War II.  In part, it helped spawn a Lyceum movement, the Vaudeville traditions in the theater world; and had an effect on the earliest days of the motion-picture industry.  Here’s why it was so popular: the average person, anywhere in the land, could go to a Chautauqua when it came to their town, and engage in spirited discussion with the brightest minds of the day.  It was direct, person-to-person, and offered a mix of local and national ideas and people; presented on a rotating basis.  So ideas could be hashed out and spread rapidly.  And they did.  In no small part due to these two movements, the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age were defeated.  The Great Depression was tackled too, and along the way no less than Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain became huge fans.  No part of society could, or wanted to, ignore the notion that average people could teach other average people.

Mobilized aims to help bring that back into common understanding.  In the present era, there may well be a place for tents and lecturers setting up in farmer’s fields.  There certainly is a crying need for an educational platform that is accessible to the masses.  And now, there exist enough robust tools for us to re-create the ethos of a Chautauqua on the internet.

We, the people, when it really mattered and the stakes were high, collectively taught ourselves how to better ourselves.  Now, in every corner of the world, the stakes are once again pretty high.  It is time for a new Chautauqua movement, and this one will be truly global.  So step right up, come on inside our virtual tent.  Welcome to the show.

 

 

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