“The public library system of the United States is worth preserving.”
---Henry Rollins (American Musician)
Up front, we want to make one thing perfectly clear: we are NOT in favor of nationalizing our primary schools nor our secondary educational institutions. Under our Constitution, these matters reside with our state and local governments; and we believe that it should remain that way. Nevertheless, it would be foolish or naive to ignore that the fabric of American education is changing dramatically during the digital revolution.
Take a look at the numbers. The education market in the United States has grown dramatically since the advent of the Internet and it's only expected to grow more over the next several years. In short: the ED hasn't kept pace with the changes; and it’s time we recognize the cultural shift that's occurring as a result. In other words, we ought to re-engineer and re-tool our educational systems; and we ought to act quickly!
THE STARTING POINT
The amount of information available today to the public over the world wide web is unprecedented in our history. Concurrently, the information age has spawned a number of innovations in the field of education. Among the most sweeping changes in primary and secondary research:
When you take a step back and look at the big picture, it's evident that how and where we learn in this era is much different than it was before. This led us to ask the following questions:
These are the fundamental questions we’ll address in this article. We’ll argue that Americans need to fully understand and quickly accept the fact that educational tools like Google, Wikipedia, and the Dictionary.com’s of the world all serve the public interest and ought to be nationalized to some degree. In other words, a complete re-tooling of our Department of Education is long overdue.
AS SIMPLE AS 1,2,3
Here’s where we’d start:
The proposed system would re-tool the Department of Education; and also support crucial National Security and Defense initiatives. We’ll explain what we mean as you read on:
MOST OF US NOW CARRY A “POCKET LIBRARY”
Like 77% of all Americans, I own a smartphone; and I often download and access useful apps for personal education, writing and research purposes. The apps on my device include a couple of different Search Engines (Google and Bing), a global encyclopedia (Wikipedia), a dictionary and a thesaurus (my preferred version is Merriam-Webster), as well as a multitude of other small reference tools (e.g. area code lookups and zip code lookups, etc.).
If you were born after 1989, these things probably seem natural. However, for those of us who are older, the Internet revolutionized access to libraries of information as well as primary and secondary research tools. Imagine: before the 1990's, people actually had to travel (by automobile or by foot) to a library to access a wide body of research materials if they weren’t fortunate enough to own them themselves. Furthermore, if their research requirements were extensive, they often had to travel to multiple locations to complete their research!
Research tools and materials are vital necessities for individuals with an entrepreneurial mindset: people who wish to invest time and energy in determining their own futures. Nearly every entrepreneur and investor will tell you that if you want to gain advantages over your competition, you need to excel in school and continuously strive for personal growth. In other words, you spend a great deal of time in library facilities.
Any way you look at it, a public library is about education, growth. and learning. It’s a core extension of our public education system. As Campbell Brown of Facebook notes, “It comes down to what your priorities are, and if public education is about children and learning. It’s a core extension of the public education system. As kids, then every decision we make should be focused on the question of 'Is this good for a child?' And that should be the driving focus and the priority when we decide what our policies should be and what our laws should be.”
(Keep in mind that we are all considered children in eyes of our Creator to a certain degree regardless of our age...)
Currently, we have libraries in our public school systems for our children from grades K-12; and reference materials are of course vital to those systems. Ask any teacher, and they’ll definitively tell you that high-caliber tools facilitate quality education. So then, why aren't the tools in our "pocket library" considered an extension of our public education system, if public libraries in fact are?
It boils down to this: some of the tools within our aggregate pocket library must be integrated into the ED in order to effectively manage public education in the United States today. Otherwise, we may put the American way of life at risk as things currently stand.
A CASE FOR NATIONALIZING OUR POCKET LIBRARY
Is it in our best interests to have all our digital research tools developed, managed and updated by private corporations and select non-profits? The answer is unequivocally NO!
Of course, Innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity are the driving factors behind the success of the corporations that maintain our "pocket library" (Google and Microsoft as well as the Wikimedia Foundation and others). For example, Google launched in 1996 as a research project by PhD students at Stanford University. Two years later, the company received a $100,000 angel investment; and away it went!
Nevertheless, Google has received a great deal of scrutiny and criticism recently from conservative & libertarian political pundits and conservative economists; as well as from radical leftist ideologues like Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
on the right side of the political spectrum, Conservative and Libertarian political pundits accuse the tech monolith of down-ranking sites and pages that don’t align with corporate’s political positions, thereby suppressing free speech. The concerns of the conservative economists are largely geopolitical in nature. For example, Google has agreed to build a censored version of their search engine for communist China. Both sets of concerns suggest that Google deliberately stifles competition and suppresses the very principles that led to the company’s founding: entrepreneurship and innovation!
On the other hand, far-left zealots have seized upon these factors to push forth visions of an impossible socialist utopia. For example, Sanders (a self-proclaimed "Democratic Socialist” demagogue) contends: “You go to your public library, or you call your fire department or police department, what do you think you are calling? These are socialist institutions.”
To be blunt, Senator Sanders full of crap. The police, the fire department and the public library ARE NOT socialist institutions. Rather, they’re public resources; and there’s are HUGE differences between the two!
BERNIE SANDERS MAY BE MISGUIDED... BUT HE DOES HAVE A POINT
Several of the tools we've listed (i.e. search engines, dictionaries and encyclopedias) and are in-fact primary and secondary research staples used in libraries the world over. However, unlike brick and mortar libraries, the information available within our "Pocket Library" is decentralized, poorly curated and loosely maintained at the present time.
For example, a dictionary reference tool now often appears in Google's search results when you include the word “definition” with a search term. That said, the word inclusion criteria (and definitions) appear to be determined by Google itself!
This should concern anyone who believes in the American Dream. If you look under the surface, you'll find that terms like Fascism were completely omitted from Google's dictionary tool last year after the Daily Caller questioned the definition that Google supplied.
Perhaps even more disturbing, Google has now integrated a feedback tool to report “wrong and offensive” definitions; quite possibly modifying or altering definitions on a day-to-day basis in most extreme cases.
Google currently dominates the search industry. Coupling search with a dictionary and thesaurus in effect makes Google (and the semi-anonymous voting body that supplies feedback on word acceptance) the principle arbiters of English, Spanish and a multitude of other human languages!
We must question whether it’s reasonable and prudent to allow companies like Google and non-profits like Wikimedia such enormous sway over the literacy and education of the American public! It seems to us that leverage these monoliths have over our society could in-fact fuel Fascism; very word Google omitted from their dictionary back in 2017!
THIS IS A NO-BRAINER
Clearly, the "Pocket Library" we’ve discussed here is vital to our national interests. In-fact, you could say that it’s a national treasure of sorts: Young and old men and women of varying backgrounds and ethnic persuasions scour their "Pocket Libraries" daily seeking to educate themselves, better their lives and expand their horizons.
When it comes to the tools and resources in our "Pocket Library" we need to ensure there's a level playing field. We must ensure the accuracy and integrity of the information available to the public, preserve our national heritage and cultivate advancements that strengthen our society.
So, why not:
For the reasons we've described, both these ideas make clear sense to us.
Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's socialist ideals are in-fact Utopian fantasies. They're a means to an apocalyptic end for American free enterprise, free speech and free expression. We’re not proposing an end to the free market in the case we've presented. Instead, we’re talking about centralizing a core set of vital public services; just like the United States postal service does for mail and package delivery. Not the whole enchilada mind you; just the meaty part of it.
We also argue that setting up such a service will lead to a much fairer competitive environment and open the door for a wide array of entrepreneurial business ventures within the affected industry categories. You only need look at the success of shipping companies like Federal Express, UPS and DHL to realize that opportunity will eventually open up in this space if the federal government steps in and asserts a degree of authority.
Jesus, I hope more Americans soon realize the strategic importance of the research tools that comprise our aggregate "Pocket Library" and demand immediate action from our lawmakers. Otherwise, we’re headed toward a world where George Orwell’s "Doublespeak" becomes a real possibility.
Author: Erik Gagnon - Managing Partner, Chi Rho Consulting