This free Information Age Education Newsletter is written by David
Moursund and Bob Sylwester, and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is
one component of the Information Age Education project. See http://iae-pedia.org/
and the end of this newsletter.
Education and Health Care Part 7:
Final Installment–Quality of Life
"Ignorance is when we don't know what to do.
Stupidity is when we do know what to do and don't do it. We're all
ignorant, only on different topics."
(Will Rogers; American cowboy, humorist, social commentator; 1879–1935.)
This is the last in a sequence of seven IAE Newsletters based on
comparing Education and Health Care. The underlying goal is to gain
increased insight into ideas that might lead to improvement of our
We (the authors of this newsletter) have each authored a number of
books. Over the years, we have learned to develop an outline as the
first part of beginning a large writing project.
Unfortunately, we agreed to do a series on the Education and Health
care topic just shortly before the first newsletter was due. Thus, we
have been “winging it”—doing the planning for the whole series as we
were writing and then publishing the first articles.
The result in that we produced a living, developing, “organic”
collection of somewhat related newsletters, not as carefully integrated
as we would have liked. Still, we have found it to be an enlightening
Quality of Life
There is substantial research and popular press literature on
Quality of Life. It is an important topic to people who are facing
serious medical problems and considering medical directives such as Do
However, Quality of Life is much more than just a medical issue. For
example, in 2005 an index was developed that included nine quality of
life measurements (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality-of-life_index
1) Health–Life expectancy; 2) Family life–Divorce rate; 3) Community
life–church attendance or trade-union membership; 4) Material well
being–GDP per person; 5) Political stability and security; 6) Climate
and geography; 7) Job security; 8) Political freedom; and 9) Gender
equality. In the 111 countries surveyed in the 2005 study, the United
States ranked 13th.
Interestingly, there is no mention of quantity or quality of formal
education in this index. In today’s complex world in which literacy,
numeracy, and other knowledge and skills resulting from formal
education are commonplace and widely assumed, it seems strange that
this topic was omitted.
So, here is some food for thought. As you work with students and work
to improve your own education, think about how the results improve the
quality of life that you and your students have. Help your students
gain an increased understanding of how learning and learning to learn
contribute to their current and future quality of life. This type of
curriculum analysis may lead to curriculum content changes in certain
areas. For example, one might argue that student efforts to gain
knowledge and skills that help them to pass tests in certain areas
contribute little to either their current or their future quality of
The Art and Science of Education and Health Care
Education and Health Care can be viewed in terms of being both an art
and a science. Each has underlying science that can be improved through
Aspirin provides an interesting example in Health Care. Greek physician
Hippocrates prescribes the bark and leaves of the willow tree (rich in
a substance called salicin) to relieve pain and fever about 2,400 years
ago. The “science” underlying this was that “it often works.” Chemists
eventually learned how to synthesize aspirin and it became commercially
available in about 1900. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that
scientists discovered that aspirin inhibits the production of chemicals
called prostaglandins that are involved in inflammation. Even today,
research continues on the underlying how and why aspirin works. See http://www.wonderdrug.com/pain/asp_history.htm
Medicine develops “magical” drugs that can be mass-produced, mass
distributed, and readily used when needed. Medical research builds on
its past success and failure, as well as the development of more
powerful aids to research and implementation. In essence, medicine
lends itself to a type of research and development-based improvement
Education is both an art and a science. We recognize the
importance of high quality teaching and we struggle to identify
individual characteristics that separate a high quality teacher from
those who are less successful. To a large extent, good teaching is an
art and we do not know how to mass-produce good teachers.
Recent research in cognitive neuroscience is giving us an increased
understanding of what is going on as a brain learns, uses its
knowledge, forgets, and ages. A child who has learned to communicate in
a natural language has displayed a huge level of mental capabilities.
Work in artificial intelligence has given us considerably increased
appreciation for the complexity and capabilities of the human brain.
Education has had the development of reading and writing, the mass
production of books, the work of Skinner and others on behaviorism, the
development of a variety of other learning theories, and current
applications of cognitive neuroscience to teaching and learning.
However, there is a fundamental difference between education and health
care. In essence, most of us were born with a fairly decent level of
health, and we go on from there. While we are born with some innate
physical and mental capabilities, there is tremendous capacity for
physical and mental growth. The mental growth requires a nurturing
environment of informal and formal education and education-related
experiences. For each child, “curing” ignorance starts from
scratch. Every newborn child represents a new challenge to our overall
Over the years, the United States has been involved in a number
of different wars. Currently our military forces are fighting and dying
in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have an ongoing worldwide war against
terrorism. Annual expenses for these wars are a great many billions of
Does it ever occur to you to wonder why the war metaphor is used so
often in non-military situations such as Education and Health Care? Who
is the enemy? What does it mean to be engaged in a war against cancer?
Do we face possible defeat? Can the enemy be forced into unconditional
surrender and later become our allies?
Here is a different type of example. Consider the steadily growing
success of our various entertainment industries. One can view computer
games as a powerful enemy of traditional education and its goals.
Should we be mounting a war on all forms of entertainment? Instead
should we single out just certain forms of entertainment and mount wars
against them? Nonsense!
Think about the various education wars we are engaged in. Education has
wars such as war against illiteracy, the math education wars (http://iae-pedia.org/Math_Education_Wars
) and ongoing conflict on ways to effectively teach reading.
Your authors think it is strange to use the war metaphor in talking
about education. In these education wars, who is the enemy? Is it
possible to eradicate illiteracy? Of course not. Every child is born
illiterate. What we can do is provide high quality help to each child
as he or she works to become literate.
Instead of using a military metaphor, think about the various education
problems and issues in terms of quality of life for individuals, for
all human life, and for all life on our planet. Through ongoing,
lifelong education, progress can be made in all three areas.
Our current and steadily increasing knowledge about various aspects of
health care provide ample evidence that there is great potential for
improvement in this area. A fundamental issue is—what level of health
care can we afford? The United States is already spending more than
1/6th of its gross domestic product on health care. Clearly
cost-effectiveness is a major issue.
We are beginning to see some potential for significant improvements in
education. This series of articles used examples from two areas:
- Highly interactive intelligent computer-assisted learning
(HIICAL) that can help students to learn faster and better, and that
can support anywhere, anytime, and somewhat individualized education.
- Computer brains getting more capable.
Earlier articles in this series raised the idea of students and
patients learning to become more responsible for their own education
and health care. This type of idea faces competition from our
entertainment industry that seems to strive to produce couch potatoes
and people who “live” for relatively mindless entertainment. In recent
years, the entertainment industry—backed by huge investments in product
development and advertising—seems to be winning.
This series of newsletters began with the idea that it might be
both enlightening and fun to do some apples and oranges comparisons
between Education and Health Care. For your authors, this has proven to
be the case.
There are many important topics that we have not addressed. One is
litigation. Both education and health care have been significantly
affected through our legal system.
Research has tied low birth weight to a decrease in IQ and to a number
of health problems later in life. We have touched only lightly on
current and future drugs that affect learning. We have not explored
direct connectivity to a human brain for both input and output. We have
not explored brain implants.
We have only touched lightly on issues of what a person should learn to
do unaided by computers, and what they should learn to do aided by
computers. In terms of entertainment and informal education,
individuals make their own choices in this area. In terms of formal
education, our school system faces an uphill and continuing struggle to
make well-reasoned decisions as to what constitutes a good education in
today’s and tomorrow’s Information Age.
We hope that we have sharpened your mind as you continue to encounter apples and oranges types of discussions and arguments.
About Information Age
Information Age Education is a non-profit organization
improving education for learners of all ages throughout the world. IAE
is a project of the Science Factory, a 501(c)(3) science and technology
museum located in Eugene, Oregon. Current IAE activities include a Wiki
with address http://IAE-pedia.org,
a Website containing free books and articles at http://I-A-E.org, and the
you are now reading.
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