Monday, December 14, 2015

The Knowledge Gap

The modern vision of a dystopian society is dumb. People aren’t afraid anymore of being watched by ‘the Man’ a la 1984. People are afraid of becoming the content, uneducated masses that we’ve had inside ourselves all along. It’s the internalized fear of a generation raised on television at the same time they were told it would rot their brains. Who hasn’t seen little bit too much of themselves, or their friends, in the movie Idiocracy? Who hasn’t seen news report decrying the failure of modern education? We’re paranoid, more worried than ever, that maybe society really could become an idiotic dystopia, culture controlled not by a hostile government or revolution but a casual slide towards ineptitude.
It’s a ridiculous vision of the future. In reality, the education system is working better than ever. Education standards are getting higher and people are getting smarter, all over the world.
Well, not quite. We’re actually a bit worse off than we have ever been before, and we’re getting worse. Over the last five years, education has become more concentrated on the upper class; many people who aren’t just have to do without. This is creating, right along with the income gap, a knowledge gap.
            The theory is that, like money, education is more prevalent in the upper class than in the middle or lower class. We don’t have a socialist education system.
            There are many factors contributing to the knowledge gap. One of them is failing public school systems. While the wealthy can afford to send their children to expensive private schools, the cost of which averages out at around thirty-nine thousand dollars, most people have to be content with public schooling. Private schools are provably more effective than public schools, and the consequence is that people who attend public schools get a worse education. Only those who can afford the expensive tuition, or who have earned a rare scholarship, can attend private schools.
            Another factor contributing to the knowledge gap is the lack of infrastructure in underdeveloped countries. Electricity and internet access both play important roles in education. Because of the increasing importance of I.T. skills in skilled labor, people without access to appropriate facilities are at a distinct disadvantage.
            Finally, financially it’s becoming more and more difficult for people to afford college. At the same time as tuition increases, the total amount of financial aid has decreased. This difference has to be paid out of pocket by students, or covered by loans. Only people with full-ride scholarships and the extremely wealthy can afford to pay for college straight.

            There is no real, global solution to the knowledge gap. Like income inequality, it’s a complex problem that can’t be solved with any single measure.

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