Monday, January 09, 2017
Of Slime Mold and Education
We live in a complicated and difficult world, whether it's in the jungles or the rain forest or the concrete canyons of the big cities. The one thing that makes it possible for us to survive and thrive in any of those environments is education.
A vibrant and working democracy requires an educated and informed public to work properly. People need an education that not only prepares them to succeed in daily life, but to understand their obligation to others to build a working society.
Here in America, we don't value education as much as many other cultures do. We pay our teachers the most meager wages we can get away with, ask them to buy their own equipment and supplies by ruthlessly cutting our investments in schools, insist that they navigate complex rules on what we think they ought to teach (based on our religious or cultural preferences), and rely on them to act in loco parentis ... and then condemn them when they do. And then we wonder why people do crazy things like believe in wild conspiracy theories or join cults or vote for Donald Trump.
Speaking of education, I ran across this interesting article in the Washington Post a few days ago: Slime Molds Prove You Don’t Need a Brain to Learn - or Teach - a New Trick. This is a fascinating article that describes a study which challenges the belief that a complex brain and nervous system are necessary for some level of intelligent behavior. You can read the article for yourself (it's not long), but the bottom line is this: slime mold, which is pretty much nothing more than a single-celled blob of glop, is capable not only of learning, but of passing on what has been learned to other molds. This, of course, gives hope to those who believe there is a promising future for the GOP when it grows up.
Have a good day. Never stop learning, and help your children learn, too. More thoughts tomorrow.