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  • Sandra Ericson

The First Pillar

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

As we all wonder what's next in this turbulent world, educators are outright stumped. With limited funds and capacity, what should be their priorities?

In chronological order, there are three reasons for public education: To develop a complete person, able to function well within society, to develop professional skills for self-support, and to instill the best principles of civic life.

But why waste time and money on developing a person before getting down to making money and voting? Isn’t that what homes and parents are supposed to do?

Answer: Human capital — the payoff for that time and money spent by educators to develop a complete person. Human capital is responsible for 70% of the US economy. Human capital is any personal, human quality or value that can improve economic output and productivity. Education creates those qualities and values, in the home and school.

In 2021, after fifty years of neglect in the schools, entire families currently lack the skills critical for sustaining personal and, therefore, national economic success. Unless schools teach those skills, they will slowly disappear in the home — and have. The missing educational program has two names: Before the 1980s, it was called Home Economics. The contemporary version, with adaptation to climate change, is titled Human Ecology. The schools stopped offering it in the 1980s.

As a basis of national economic policy, Mom and Dad can no longer be relied upon to raise capable and resilient children. Alarming numbers of poor single women are raising children; 50% of all marriages end in divorce, 50% of all households are single persons, and 40 million people live at or below the poverty level. Birth rates are dropping as young women reject the burden of both home and work; and there are more ‘dark patterns’ in consumer marketing, tricking consumers into poor decision-making. Placing a bet on households alone to produce human capital is not a good bet. Each emerging demographic factor, positive or negative, drives belief systems, cultures, local economies, politics, and social division.

Intellectual human capital is the well-spring of humane national progress. It must be taught. It is not intrinsic; it is not acquired by osmosis; it is not intuitive; it is not dependent solely on location, social class, wealth, natural resources, or other externally derived forces. It is internal, and while many factors influence it, it nonetheless results from the quality and character of each individual’s decision-making.

The base knowledge for personal decision-making is accomplished through a learning process. At present, school systems deny children their own whole life human capital by withholding the educational program that provides it, concentrating instead on that which meets employer expectations.

Here are the payoffs for Human Ecology programs in the schools:

  • It inculcates agency and confidence in individuals, enabling them to think through a decision and lowering the potential for emotional responses.

  • It instills respect for science as children learn how to meet generic human health and safety needs and share resources with all people.

  • It lowers the sunk-cost mentality and builds resilience independent of occupation, health, location, or other social influences that change throughout life.

  • It prevents cognitive overload and enables greater comprehension while navigating today’s complex social systems.

  • It identifies with students that wealth is more than money or real estate; it also is contentment, prosperity, and personal expression through art or family. It instills in all adults a communal mindset as they make unique, professional, or political decisions.

  • It underpins a nation’s resilience and faster recovery after catastrophe or collapse of resources.

  • It prevents widespread poverty and the resulting progression to social unrest, violence, and social collapse.

  • It enables adaptation as the nation copes with climate change, global communities, increasing social diversity, and aging populations.

  • It raises the bar for political office holders and builds trust, as the public will judge candidates against a higher standard.

Universal education in Human Ecology is the first pillar of national long-term growth, resilience, and stability.

Originally posted on Next Stage Radicals.

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