Monday, January 19, 2009

A Flat World: Is there a choice?

In the past year I have taken a class where my instructor lived in Poland while I sat in Hudson, NC. At the same time I taught a class where some of my students lived on military bases in Georgia and Europe, yet I still remained in Hudson. I once had a student who was deployed and finished a course on a naval battleship. I teach classes where the meekest of students now has a loud voice and anyone who desires the responsibility can have a seat at the table. In these classes, both students and teachers are oblivious to race, color, creed, nationality, sex, or any number of other contours that formerly made for a less flat educational world. I teach online, exclusively. All my courses are asynchronous and the time-space continuum is relatively non-existent. Some students can not adapt to such freedom, and neither can some teachers, just as some people do not seem to prosper in a flat world. I realize that this is only one avenue to a flat educational world, but it grows daily. There is a technology and personal discipline prerequisite, but I consider it little different than adapting to the invention of concrete or steel plows.

Now, on the other hand, do we have a choice of flat world or other? First of all, we need to be careful for what we ask, since it may come to pass. Most of us desired lower gas prices this past summer, and guess what? It happened! The same can be said for the US trade deficit and real estate prices. We were told that there would never again be cheap energy, but those prophets (or profits) were wrong. Those who demanded a lower trade deficit never told the public that it could come in the wake of a recession. We really can't have our cake and eat it too. But is there a choice, that depends.

Science does not know right from wrong, and I'm not sure that economics can tell the difference either. Although Marxism focuses on a narrow view of [economic] oppression of the [proletariat] oppressed, it does not really value individually oppressed persons. Marxism advocates the oppression of the [bourgeois] oppressors, or at least that is what happened in the 20th century Marxist experiements in Europe and South America. The oppression of the oppressors was also a key element in the French revolution and those who produced that famous document, The Declaration of the rights of man (D├ęclaration des droits de l'Homme et du citoyen). It got so bad that the rich could be condemned just for being the aristocracy, regardless of crime. Indeed, it was a crime to be French nobility or aristocracy under Robespierre. I guess the rich were not really human after all. So in the flat world, do we condemn those who prosper unless all the world prospers with them? In the guise of Nietzsche, let me ask what is wrong with political and economic natural selection? On what basis can one advocate the cause of the third world or anyone else that may suffer from a flat world? Is it not true that species which adapt are those who ultimately survive? Why do we war against the inevitable? We have no guarantee that a somewhat less flat world could either exist or would benefit the losers in the flat world. It could be another lower-gas-prices, lower-trade-deficit scenario.

So could the flat world descentors do better feeding the world, increasing the overall communication, facilitate a wider dissemination of education or quality of life for a greater number of persons? I don't know. I don't see why they don't go for it, show a better plan, do more good to more folks, and quit crying foul. I'm not sure the conflict model works, and I'm not sure there is even a choice to be made, but even if there were a choice, there are no guarantees. We might get lower fuel costs whether we like it or not. If the flat world destroys humanity as we know it, how would that differ from the extinction of any previous species? Why are humans any better than the 90% of species that have already passed into infinity? The whole good/bad thing is a little fuzzy.

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