Issue Number 245 November 15, 2018

This free Information Age Education Newsletter is edited by Dave Moursund and produced by Ken Loge. The newsletter is one component of the Information Age Education (IAE) publications.

All back issues of the newsletter and subscription information are available online. In addition, seven free books based on the newsletters are available: Joy of Learning; Validity and Credibility of Information; Education for Students’ Futures; Understanding and Mastering Complexity; Consciousness and Morality: Recent Research Developments; Creating an Appropriate 21st Century Education; and Common Core State Standards for Education in America.

Dave Moursund’s newly revised and updated book, The Fourth R (Second Edition) is now available in both English and Spanish. The thesis of this book is that the 4th R of Reasoning/Computational Thinking is fundamental to empowering today’s students and their teachers throughout the K-12 curriculum. The first edition was published in December, 2016, the second edition in August, 2018, and the Spanish translation of the second edition in September, 2018. The three books have now had a combined 24,000 page-views and downloads (Moursund, December, 2016; August, 2018; September, 2018).


Quality of Life
(Part 1: Overview)

David Moursund
Professor Emeritus, College of Education
University of Oregon

“Interestingly, very few people have a clear idea on how to improve the quality of life.” (Eraldo Banovac; Republic of Croatia energy expert and university professor;1955-.)

“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.” (Kofi Annan; Ghanaian diplomat, seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, winner of 2001 Peace Prize; 1938-2018.)

"A new technology does not add something, it changes everything.” (Neil Postman; American author, educator, media theorist, and cultural critic; 1931-2003.)

Introduction

This current IAE Newsletter is the first of a planned series of newsletters examining various aspects of Quality of Life (QOL). This will be an intermittent series, with miscellaneous newsletters on other topics being interspersed from time to time.

Paraphrasing from the Wikipedia (2018c, link):

Quality of life (QOL) is the general well-being of individuals and societies, outlining negative and positive features of life. It takes into consideration life satisfaction, including everything from physical health, family, education, employment, wealth, safety, and security, to freedom, religious beliefs, and the environment.

Notice that the definition mentions both individuals and societies. Thus, as we explore quality of life we need to explore the life of an individual person as well as the collective lives of a group, such as a country, or people within a country that have different ethnic, religious, educational, and other types of backgrounds and beliefs.

The previous IAE Newsletter #244 discussed inalienable rights, with a special emphasis on the inalienable rights of children. I believe that all people have an inalienable right to a decent quality of life.

In this current and several following newsletters, I use the word decent in a general sense that includes ideas such as good, reasonable, fair, acceptable, and adequate. One can make very strong arguments that the average quality of life for the current world’s population is much better than it was for people living a few hundred or a few thousand years ago. However, quality of life is not precisely measurable. We each have our own definitions about what constitutes a decent quality of life and how to help all people on earth to achieve it.

In very brief summary, the newsletters in this new series will explore three main ideas:

  1. That all people have an inalienable right to a decent quality of life. Our world has the resources and ability to provide all people with a decent quality of life, and it is making progress in doing so.
  2. That humans have a very long history of developing, sharing, and using knowledge and tools that help to improve their quality of life. Computer technology greatly increased the pace of change in the development of knowledge and tools that can contribute to quality of life of individuals and population groups.
  3. That a unifying goal of all informal and formal education is to help people learn to build, maintain, and improve:
  4.         a. Their own quality of life, and
            b. The quality of life of others.

The third of these ideas suggests the need for major changes to our current informal and formal educational systems. See Neil Postman’s quote at the beginning of this newsletter.

Human History

The history of current homo sapiens and our prehumen predecessors has been traced back millions of years. Prehumans had the brain power and dexterity to make and use tools that contributed to their quality of life.

Quoting from Stone Tool (Wikipedia, 2018d, link):

Stone tools found from 2011 to 2014 at Lake Turkana in Kenya, are dated to be 3.3 million years old, and predate the genus Homo by half million years.… The stone tools may have been made by Australopithecus afarensis… (a 3.2 to 3.5-million-year-old Pliocene hominin fossil discovered in 1999) the species whose best fossil example is Lucy, which inhabited East Africa at the same time as the date of the oldest stone tools.

Moreover, these prehumans had the intelligence to learn from each other. Showing others how to use and make tools was a very early type of educational system. This can be thought of as an apprenticeship type of education.

These two making-and-using-tools ideas are so important that they are worth repeating. Collectively, humans have the physical and metal capabilities to build, share, and use tools that increase their quality of life. We do this far better than all other creatures on earth.

Current research suggests that general-purpose spoken language was developed perhaps a hundred thousand years ago. Spoken language is a powerful aid to sharing knowledge and skills—that is, a powerful aid to education. Reading and writing are two other powerful aids to education that were developed a mere 5,500 years ago.

Schools and Schooling

The development of reading and writing created the need for a different type of educational system. It takes considerable time, instruction, and practice to learn reading and writing. This situation led to the development of the first schools where a group of students came together in a classroom to be taught by a teacher. Quoting from the Wikipedia (2018a, link):

Perhaps the earliest formal school was developed in Egypt's Middle Kingdom under the direction of Kheti, treasurer to Mentuhotep II. In what became Mesopotamia, the early logographic system of cuneiform script took many years to master. Thus only a limited number of individuals were hired as scribes to be trained in its reading and writing. Only royal offspring and sons of the rich and professionals such as scribes, physicians, and temple administrators, were schooled. Most boys were taught their father's trade or were apprenticed to learn a trade. Girls stayed at home with their mothers to learn housekeeping and cooking, and to look after the younger children.

The initial schools had the goal of teaching reading, writing, arithmetic, and local/regional history. Our current schools have these and many other goals. The goals vary from country to country, and have changed over time. A summary by David Moursund and Dick Ricketts of typical goals of education in the United States is available in the IAE-pedia (Moursund & Ricketts, 2018, link).

Here is one of my favorite (sad) education stories. Thomas Jefferson, third president of the U.S., played a major role in writing the Declaration of Independence. He was a strong proponent of education. This quote is from a bill Thomas Jefferson brought before the Virginia Legislature in 1778 titled A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge. It was not passed (Wikipedia, 2018e, link.)

At every one of these schools shall be taught reading, writing, and common arithmetick, and the books which shall be used therein for instructing the children to read shall be such as will at the same time make them acquainted with Graecian, Roman, English, and American history. At these schools all the free children, male and female, resident within the respective hundred, shall be intitled to receive tuition gratis, for the term of three years, and as much longer, at their private expence, as their parents, guardians or friends, shall think proper. [Bold added for emphasis.]

Notice that the goal was to provide free education up through the third grade for free (not slave) boys and girls. A that time a free third grade education for all—stressing reading, writing, and arithmetic—was still a rather “far out” idea in the United States and in most other countries (Lynch, Winter, 2011).

The Previous IAE Newsletter about Inalienable Rights

IAE Newsletter #244 was titled Inalienable Rights of Children. It begins with a quote from the U.S. Declaration of Independence, in which life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are considered to be inalienable rights of all men (and, presumably women and children).

The newsletter drew heavily on the1948 United Nations International Declaration of Human Rights. Quoting from that newsletter (Moursund, 10/31/2018, link).

Article 25 [of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights] states: "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services [including education]." It also makes additional accommodations for security in case of physical debilitation or disability, and makes special mention of care given to those in motherhood or childhood.

Notice that a number of the words used in defining quality of life also appear in the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights.

Human Rights and Quality of Life

When I first began thinking about the two topics of inalienable rights and quality of life, I wondered whether they are more or less the same. That is, if a person’s inalienable human rights are being met, does this person automatically have a decent quality of life, and vice versa?

I puzzled over this question for a while. Eventually I created some examples that convinced me that inalienable rights and quality of life are related, but not equivalent. You know, of  course, that many people living under totalitarian dictatorship forms of government believe they have a decent quality of life. Many people who are quite poor believe they have a decent quality of life.

How about literacy and formal schooling? Can a person who cannot read and write be having a decent quality of life? Hmm. It was just 5,500 years ago that reading and writing were invented. We certainly don’t want to argue that all people living before that time did not have a decent quality of life.  Even now, about 12% of the world’s adults16 years of age or older are illiterate. Are we saying that these adults do not have a decent quality of life?

My conclusion from these types of examples is that it is difficult to identify a wide spectrum set of inalienable human rights that are universally necessary for having a decent quality of life. Part of the reason for this is that it is difficult to define and measure quality of life. In essence, the problem is that each person is unique. So, in some sense each person has their own definition of what (for them) constitutes a decent quality of life.

A Decent Quality of Life for an Individual

You might ask why I keep using the term, decent quality of life. What does that mean? Abraham Maslow is well known for his 1943 research paper discussing a hierarchy of human needs (Wikipedia, 2018b, link. Over the years, this hierarchy has been revised, and the current version identifies six needs that are listed below, from most important to least important. I have included here his sub-lists for the first two main items in the hierarchy, and then discuss them below.

  1. Physiological needs
    1. Homeostasis [Maintaining internal body stability to compensate for environmental changes such as heat and cold. Think in terms of clothing, heating systems, and air conditioning systems.]
    2. Food
    3. Water
    4. Sleep
    5. Shelter
  1. Safety needs
    1. Personal security
    2. Financial security
    3. Health and well-being
    4. Safety needs against accidents/illness and their adverse impacts
  1. Social belonging
  2. Esteem
  3. Self-actualization
  4. Self-transcendence

Physiological Needs

Survival (life) depends on physiological needs being met. So, a logical starting point in discussing the meaning of a decent quality of life is to look at these needs being met. A person needs to be alive in order to have a decent quality of life.

Newborn children must have all of their physiological needs provided by parents or others who are responsible for meeting a newborn’s inalienable right to life. But, what if the parent(s) or other responsible caregivers are living in extreme poverty and their own physiological needs are not being met? Clearly, a society must assure that the inalienable rights in terms of physiological needs of both young children and their parents or other caregivers are being met.

Even within the physiological category, there are widely varying levels of quality. Thus, one can discuss and attempt to define what constitutes the level of meeting each of these physiological needs that will provide a decent quality of life. The world as a whole and individual countries are striving toward meeting these physiological needs for their people, and substantial progress is occurring.

Safety Needs

Safety needs also focus on survival. For example, consider health and well-being. When I was a child, polio, smallpox, and tuberculous were dread diseases, killing many people in my country and worldwide, and often severely reducing the quality of life of many who survived the disease.

Progress in medicine has nearly eradicated polio and smallpox, and has significantly reduced tuberculous. Health and health care, however, remain major worldwide quality of life concerns, and worldwide epidemics are still a major health issue.

In this newsletter, I have not attempted to look more deeply at items 3-6 in Maslow’s hierarchy list. Items 1-2 are such that society as a whole can directly work to meet these needs for its people. Items 3-6 tend to be the responsibilities of individual people. For example, for many people, having personal friends is a very important component of having a decent quality of life. Developing and nurturing such friends is not something that a government program does for individual people.

To a large extent, when people talk about providing children and adults with the resources to have a decent quality of life, they are referring to meeting physiological and safety needs at some agreed upon level. These are considered to be inalienable rights of all people. Having these inalienable rights is considered to be essential to having a decent quality of life.

Final Remarks

I strongly believe that our informal and formal educational systems should place a very strong emphasis of helping people of all ages learn to build, maintain, and improve:

  1. Their own quality of life.
  2. The quality of life of others.

I believe that a major guiding principle of governments at all levels and throughout the world should be to help improve the quality of life of the people they govern as well as that of the people they do not govern.

Of course, these are just my personal beliefs. You are free to develop your own beliefs about inalienable rights of children and adults, and about quality of life. I hope this IAE Newsletter has helped to open your mind to new ways to think about these very important topics.

References and Resources

Lynch, J. (Winter, 2011). Literacy in early America. Colonial Williamsburg W Journal. Retrieved 10/19/2018 from http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/winter11/literacy.cfm.

Moursund, D. (10/31/2018). Inalienable rights of children. Retrieved 10/31/2018 from http://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2018-244.html.

Moursund, D. (August, 2018). The Fourth R (Second Edition). Retrieved 8/12/2018 from http://iae-pedia.org/The_Fourth_R_(Second_Edition). Download the Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/307-the-fourth-r-second-edition.html. Download the PDF file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/308-the-fourth-r-second-edition-1.html. Download the Spanish edition from http://iae-pedia.org/La_Cuarta_R_(Segunda_Edici%C3%B3n).

Moursund, D., & Ricketts, R. (2018). Goals of education in the United States. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 10/18/2018 from http://iaepedia.org/Goals_of_Education_in_the_United_States.

Wikipedia (2018a). History of education. Retrieved 8/19/2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_education.

Wikipedia (2018b). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Retrieved 10/18/2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs.

Wikipedia (2018c). Quality of life. Retrieved 10/18/2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quality_of_life.

Wikipedia (2018d). Stone tool. Retrieved 10/19/2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_tool.

Wikipedia (2018e). Thomas Jefferson and education. Retrieved 10/18/2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson_and_education.


Author

David Moursund is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon, and editor of the IAE Newsletter. His professional career includes founding the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) in 1979, serving as ISTE’s executive officer for 19 years, and establishing ISTE’s flagship publication, Learning and Leading with Technology (now published by ISTE as Empowered Learner).He was the major professor or co-major professor for 82 doctoral students. He has presented hundreds of professional talks and workshops. He has authored or coauthored more than 60 academic books and hundreds of articles. Many of these books are available free online. See http://iaepedia.org/David_Moursund_Books .

In 2007, Moursund founded Information Age Education (IAE). IAE provides free online educational materials via its IAE-pedia, IAE Newsletter, IAE Blog, and IAE books. See http://iaepedia.org/Main_Page#IAE_in_a_Nutshell . Information Age Education is now fully integrated into the 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, Advancement of Globally Appropriate Technology and Education (AGATE) that was established in 2016. David Moursund is the Chief Executive Officer of AGATE.

Email: moursund@uoregon.edu.

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About Information Age Education, Inc.

Information Age Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving education for learners of all ages throughout the world. Current IAE activities and free materials include the IAE-pedia at http://iae-pedia.org, a Website containing free books and articles at http://i-a-e.org/, a Blog at http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog.html, and the free newsletter you are now reading. See all back issues of the Blog at http://iae-pedia.org/IAE_Blog and all back issues of the Newsletter at http://i-a-e.org/iae-newsletter.html.