I am always confronted by a significant sense of ambivalence when I see well intended organizations like "The GroundTruth Project" identify, and seek to address issues as important at this.
On the one hand, how can any sane society, or collection of societies, allow such vast swaths of their children to become an ill prepared, and thus hardly utilized, fundamental aspect of our future. This is not eating your seed corn, it is watching it get bounced out onto the road side, the rest of us not being able to stop, and so leaving it there to be ground into the mud of an increasingly mired track.
Surely we can applaud any effort to channel investment in not only education, but the infrastructure that would allow them to make use of that knowledge. And to a certain extent I can cheer this kind of effort on, but the difficulty for me to do so wholeheartedly starts in the very way such problems are discussed, even by "The GroundTruth Prodject" as this story illustrates.
You see it in the way it expresses the issue: talking about the waste in terms of lost tax revenue from the wages not earned. You also see it generally in most discussions about economic problems; that any difficulty is weighed in terms of lost potential revenues placed against the costs of whatever investments might be needed to address the difficulty. And of course, this is also where you start getting stuck in the sticky cross arguments of who should bear the solution costs.
That, certainly, is bad enough, but I can't help taking the view point back a bit to an even bigger frame of reference. As in what we're really talking about when we think of the opportunity for which we want to have all of this youthful potential applied to.
I know what the idealized notion is presented as: new scientists to discover important cures, or more efficient techniques. New engineers to design the application of those techniques... And so on.
And certainly there would be at least some of that.
The more accurate reality, however, would be to recognize that the majority of these creative minds would be pushed through the sieve of market/commodity necessity. A sieve that, given the capricious nature of value that is the hallmark of Capitalism, would punish and/or seduce their talent into process creation and maintenance that is anything but connected to who we are as human beings, and how we should be relating to each other.
What I am talking about here is the world where creativity is applied to all of the superfluous aspects of marketing; all of the manipulations of our basic nature: love, desire, status, and the fears easily stoked of not having them. All of the message engineering, product packaging and need creation inherent in working on those fears.
And marketing is just the start because that capricious sieve also pushes talent towards whatever else is valued in the abstract; because if it sells it is good: Drugs that cure only big market diseases, and preferably if they're only easy variations of current patents; drugs that only treat life stress symptoms; drugs that only mask life stress symptoms, pleasurably or otherwise. New products that provide both killer profits as well whatever number of lethal, unintended side affects. It doesn't really matter.
And lastly, maybe even most importantly, is the idea that life has be be organized as a factory in the first place. That we have to be cut off from each other not only by arbitrary task boundaries, but by the very nature of emphasized self interest; whether that "self" is the individual process owner, or the group thus employed. A cutting off that makes cooperation and shared needs nearly impossible to establish.
It is also that factory model, and the consumption of commodities to justify production, and thus livelihoods, that puts us at such odds with the natural world we're supposed to be truly living in, as opposed to just existing; eating, working, using, procreating, and defecating.
It is in this factory model, and the shopping sprawl that surrounds it, that the wage slave, and salary drone, runs along on as an endless moving tread; a tread that never ceases to increase in speed. The only purpose being to do more for less and thus out sell the other guy; accumulate more counters as more advantage and then get bigger.
Is this truly the way to be offering a means for each new wave of children to have a chance at a better life? Should we be surprised at all that so many are flying off of the accelerating treadmill? For my part I don't thinks so. There simply has to be a better way.
This is why I am so firmly convinced that Capitalism is well past its "use by" date. It has gone more than just sour in this new electrified environment we now live in. It absolutely must be replaced. Lets use this abundant pool of talent to help us figure out what the alternative should be composed of, as well as getting it implemented. That is something I think that would be truly worthy of them.
The nbcnews.com story: