learning about wealth inequality: gapminder

Adding to my recent post about wage inequality, Hans Rosling's Gapminder has resources for learning about inequalities and statistics.  You can download the Gapminder desktop app, no Internet required, view Joy of Stats, or download a card game that works in conjunction with their graphs. And there's  Google Motion Chart , note that  (R-bloggers has more links). I link to the energetic Rosling's video below about human rights and democracy, a discussion of the limits of a purely quantitative view of the development Rosling so aptly illustrates and shares.  (Though perhaps we just not measuring these things yet -  check out Paul Butler's Visualizing Friendships map in hi-res).  

I note this because Rosling often generalizes and schools can seem like an unmitigated good.  This is the popular point of view in the US and among the wealthier and aspiring classes.  Education and literacy are such high ideals that their dark side, and all things make a shadow, are overlooked.  We must see these defects clearly to ensure we have systems that are more humane and more democratic.

Schools can be undertaken by developing societies and they can contribute a lot at first:  jobs in  building and staffing and new resources for children and families.  But these positives will turn negative if schools persist in the design flaws that the US has discovered in its public school system: compulsory attendance and the factory model.  The focus and interests of those who depend on the school system for jobs (testing corporations, large central offices, local, state and Federal governmental employees: all have an interest in continuing the system as it is) are different than the focus and interests of the kids and families trying to use these services.  

Compulsory attendance has ensured that few schools actually pay attention to the users of the school; it isn't the mindset. The factory model has ensured that schools arrange students in peer groups that are large and has become an unhealthy social experiment showing up even in Sweden.  These are a structural conflicts of poor system design since families naturally have strong interest in helping their children. 

Other countries can learn about these more long-term consequences of poor system design in the school policies in the US.  This is especially important for large countries with diverse populations like the US.  Smaller, more well-managed countries that are quite homogeneous like those in parts of Europe may not feel the impact of these aspects nearly as fast.

As Rosling points out, the word developing is somewhat outdated:  everything has changed, lots of places are now developed.  To that end, we are now coping with huge systemic breakdowns in the financial and social systems so rapidly put in place around the globe. The focus on sustainability which demands we examine systems often with an eye to effects are officially unmeasured but present.

There is a lack of understanding of women and children in our health system's inability to comprehend the complexity of normal birth as well as in the school system's inability to grasp the importance of the social relationships and failure to discern human differences in learning and knowing.  Social services should be humane, comfortable and productive for human beings.  The undemocratic treatment of children and families in schools is unnecessary. Schools could work through our human relationships and not against them.

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