Tag Archives: energy

Public Rug: Matters Most

What is the most important matter for public education? We can look at this in two ways. One, what is the primary stated purpose of education? And, two, what is the most important purpose of education in actual practice? Basically, when it comes to teaching our young people, what matters most?

This is a material world. The most important function of public education is earning money to buy stuff. If you wish to challenge this, and I hope you do, please provide evidence because I do not want to believe it, myself. I would love to change my opinion to, say, teaching young Americans to be good citizens, or making America safe for Democracy, or helping young people to become their best selves.

One of the most important stated functions of American education is preparing students to become employees. We teach them to compete in a global workforce, market, and economy. Skills required for American employers are emphasized over those seen as immaterial, music and art, for example.

Prepare for college to complete a major and get a job. Graduate high school to get a job. Complete a trade school to get a job. Obviously, we have done well because we have many more employees than available jobs.

The most important actual function of public schools is also job related. It is to provide cheap and safe day care while parents are working at their jobs. At this, America is superb. Sure, it costs some tax money, but making it easier for both parents to work provides cheaper labor which really helps business compete in the global market. Again, if you disagree, please provide evidence.

Outside of the school building, our education is even more material. What is the number one issue in our politics? Show me the money. Not only do we dwell upon material things, we stress money as the way to get stuff, as opposed to, say, growing and building what we desire. In fact, in most elections, very little matters except money.

We could generate some data to support such claims. How much TV air time is directly related to selling stuff or talking about getting money to buy stuff? You could do a little survey in your own home.

Speaking of your home, how much of your family conversations focus on material things including money? Do any of us spend as much time on other topics such as medical ethics, accepted social behavior, manners, morality of war, penal institution issues, or social justice for minorities? No, schools don’t either, especially now that national standards are being imposed by high stakes testing constraints on curriculum decisions.

Sorry to be a downer this week, but it gets worse. What could be worse than our miseducative emphasis of materialism? Our lies about energy. Here is a fact I challenge you to challenge: Energy use pollutes. That’s not the worst of it, either. Energy causes change, and change causes more change, and we have little clue what the consequences might be.

Does anybody anywhere teach that energy use is an option rather than a need? The line tends to go sort of like this: “We have to have more energy to compete in the global economy.”

At any time, do we engage in a discussion of the ethics of energy use? Do we even discuss the ethics of our material technology? Do we really discuss anything that matters?

I prescribed absolutely nothing for you to do in terms of matter and energy education except discuss. If you think that makes me a liberal, long live your rights of free speech. What I am really trying to do is preserve our planet for the grandchildren of my grandchildren’s grandchildren. In terms of matter and energy, that makes me ultraconservative.

Mind Wind: My Stuff

Because of this blog, I’ve been doing a little inventory of my stuff. Yes, I have both kinds of stuff, matter and energy. Granted, energy may be a little harder to hold onto, but I work at it—pun intended.

Here in my beautiful North Woods, I have literally tons of stuff. I have sand and soil, including rocks of various types. Some rocks are high in quartz and suitable for knapping, making them into sharp tools such as knives, spear points, and arrowheads. Others are coarse and useful for sharpening wood and bone into tools. Many would make excellent construction material. Some are simply lovely, and a few have found there way into Nancy’s little rock garden. One is chocking my trailer tire right now.

I have what seems like a million trees. Aspen, of course, are good for making paper. Balsam firs provide color and aroma. Basswood is an excellent carving medium and the inner bark produces very strong string/rope cordage. Pine and spruce make excellent lumber. The black ash is particularly tough for poles, spears, and clubs. I expect it would be very strong for primitive shelters. The birches offer bark for shingling shelters or making baskets and other forms of functional art. They are also high in combustible oil that helps to start fires in wet conditions even when rotten (a fungus grows upon it and stores the oils). The wood makes fine, quick fires—speaking of which, the cedars are awesome for this. Not only is their wood full of heat, but it does not absorb a lot of moisture, and dry twigs are abundant under spreading branches of live trees.

There are many other plants useful for tools, construction, medicine, and food—even clothing. No, I don’t have any figs, but cedar’s inner bark, grasses, and other plants can be braided and woven into garments. Berrybushes provide berries and their leaves are wonderful green or dried for nutritious teas. Speaking of food, I have many growing sugar maple trees, which also make fine, hot coals for cooking when a limb falls. I don’t cut live maples (or, many other trees if I can avoid it). The point is that I do have a lot of wonderful stuff here provided by Nature. One would think I spent most of my time shopping my free forest for good stuff and making it into better stuff. Nope.

I spend way too much of my time, especially in the fall—it is fall here—as I prepare to move back to AZ, getting rid of other stuff that once seemed really important but, now, not so much. I bought some more important stuff, yesterday, a shed to keep my good stuff—or my other stuff I can’t seem to let go just yet. I blame it on growing up poor. I just never know when I might need another box, a worn out mower and chain saw, a wild game cart, old tackle boxes….

So, this morning I woke up early and went out to start my little generator, the true sine wave Honda that safely powers my computer. It burns gasoline, a kind of matter that stores a lot of energy. That energy made my coffee, stored in a plastic container sent to me from some faraway place using some more gasoline and probably a lot of Diesel fuel. I could have made a fire to brew some pine needle tea, but I have become accustomed to coffee. Note to self: roasted dandelion and chicory roots make an excellent coffee alternative. Okay, duly noted.

But, I NEED my computer, so the generator runs. If I had thought ahead (and spent the big bucks), I could be using a true sine wave inverter and my energy stored in my batteries from the sun. But, alas, my inverter will not safely run my computer, so I burn gasoline. Of course, I have limited storage in those batteries and the days are getting shorter. It’s almost 8 a.m. and I am generating only 0.5 amps with two large panels. It’s one of the drawbacks of having so many tall trees.

Soon, I will take my shower with water pumped from my well by the same generator and heated by LP gas, more stuff full of energy. Then I will get in my little SUV and drive 20 miles (about 1 gallon of gasoline) toMichigan to buy some more stuff I think I need. Of course, it will be another gallon of gas to get back home. I wonder, “How much matter and energy was required to mine the coal and iron to make my car?”

How did this happen? How did I become so dependent upon material things, matter and energy? I wasn’t born with it, and I don’t need to die with it. Why do I think I need so much of it to live? I know I didn’t have a binky, but I wonder if I ever had a blankie. Somehow, I came to believe that I needed a whole lot of stuff to stay alive.

I know I don’t. Maybe there can be a blessing to poverty. I hope so, because it is approaching, but that is a subject for a future blog.