Saturday, December 31, 2016

Education will bring world peace long before guns ever will

A few days ago, I found myself intrigued by a meme from the United Nations Foundation:


Believe or not, Malala Yousafzai is only 19 years old and she is already years ahead of her time. To frame her statement in a different context, she seems to understand that peace is achieved by teaching it, not imposing it at gunpoint. She sincerely believes it is her mission to help establish education as a right and has paid dearly for it. She is alive and well, but there are still members of the Taliban pining away for a chance to kill her. Malala has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and she is the youngest recipient of any Nobel Prize.

Naturally, I had to share the meme in the Politics group on Google+. The responses were overwhelmingly critical of the message. Responses primarily consisted of warnings about how teachers have been sent to her country only to be treated to violence and even death. But that didn't stop Malala and her family from building a chain of schools and establishing education as a right for boys and girls in Pakistan.

Malala's statement aligns well with what I have learned in the last few years. For example, a few years ago, I was researching an article when I found, About That Overpopulation Problem: Research suggests we may actually face a declining world population in the coming years. The world's human population is growing and given the rate that we are destroying natural resources to make the world in our own image, we may not last much longer. That article points out that the growth rate of the human population is slowing and will eventually go negative:
A somewhat more arcane milestone, meanwhile, generated no media coverage at all: It took humankind 13 years to add its 7 billionth. That’s longer than the 12 years it took to add the 6 billionth—the first time in human history that interval had grown. (The 2 billionth, 3 billionth, 4 billionth, and 5 billionth took 123, 33, 14, and 13 years, respectively.) In other words, the rate of global population growth has slowed. And it’s expected to keep slowing. Indeed, according to experts’ best estimates, the total population of Earth will stop growing within the lifespan of people alive today.
This research estimates that by 2200, the world population will be cut in half and by 2300 it will be around 1 billion. What is the reason for the slowing of the growth of human population?
The reason for the implacability of demographic transition can be expressed in one word: education. One of the first things that countries do when they start to develop is educate their young people, including girls. That dramatically improves the size and quality of the workforce. But it also introduces an opportunity cost for having babies. “Women with more schooling tend to have fewer children,” says William Butz, a senior research scholar at IIASA.
This might explain why some Muslims are so adamant that girls do not attend school. This might also explain why conservative members of Congress steadfastly refuse to allow equal pay for equal work. They may intuitively see that the opportunity cost of education will reduce the willingness of women to have children.

I find it truly remarkable that something as simple as education can control population and even bring about its eventual decline. If this research is an accurate prediction of the future, it could turn out that education is a greater control on human population than any disaster, war or disease.

With declining growth rates and eventually declining populations, there would be fewer demands on the earth. With fewer people there are fewer fights over natural resources like food and water and land. Education could indeed be the antidote to war.

Malala is helping to spread this trend to the more than 1 billion Muslims on the planet. Every country that industrializes sees the same trend. If you educate girls, your populations will decline. The trend is inexorable and as that same article notes, some countries are offering financial benefits to encourage young people to get married and have kids. They see population maintenance as a problem so worrisome that they have instituted subsides to encourage child birth.

Upon his election, Trump said, "I love the poorly educated." He's not the only one. Congress cuts education without even thinking. Conservative Republicans now have majorities and a few super majorities in statehouses in a majority of states across the nation. They too, will find ways to cut public education funding and/or champion the cause of charter schools. Perhaps they would rather see population grow from the inside rather than from immigration.

If you want to have a war, you need poorly educated people. They're the easiest to convince to get in a uniform, get on a plan or boat, go to a foreign country, and shoot people. They're the easiest to convince to let their sons and daughters get in the line of fire for the country.

So it is with a certain sense of irony that I notice that the most highly educated countries are the least interested in war and have the smallest defense infrastructure. Do we see the people of Scandinavia building large military industries and invading other nations? Not as far as I know. They're very busy building high technology products that they can sell worldwide. They educate their kids and they don't send them to war. They don't need trade agreements with weaker countries that are based on implied military force to enjoy a higher standard of living. They just make better products and sell them.

On the other hand, the United States is considered to be poorly educated compared to our European peers. The United States engages in war for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For some like Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush, war is a business opportunity. Perhaps they are aware of the views of US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler:
War is a racket. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
If only more of today's military personnel would realize that they are being used by the owning elite's as a publicly subsidized capitalist goon squad. 
I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else.
Butler's sentiments should be common knowledge today, but they are not. Perhaps that's because we lack the education we need to avoid war. We almost certainly lack the power needed to avoid war for that power is held by the 1%. It is the 1% who see the business opportunity in war. The rest of us just want to live in peace.

Only the most cynical among us could possibly see war as a business opportunity when there are lives in the balance. Isn't it ironic that a Muslim woman teaches us that education for peace works?
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