- Sandra Ericson
Is Ignorance a Disability
Updated: Oct 22, 2022
If you have a fully-functional body and mind and are in a secure home, are you still disabled? The disability could be ignorance; it is why there is public education. But public education today is choosy, and it does not remove or ameliorate the most personally damaging ignorance because it selectively educates to cover the academic basics and jobs; it does not educate on how to live, raise a family, plan a life, or retain lifetime health. This personal AWOL education eventually disables increasing numbers of people as they try to live in our highly complex country. The poverty that symbolizes this disability becomes generational. Too many are ignorant of navigating the algorithmic social systems that rule life today; they are clueless about meeting human and family needs, the essential life skills, including finance, housing, physical and mental health, child care, consumer protection, and life planning. More significant numbers of children emerge from eighteen years as minors at home and school to be personally and functionally disabled, unable to transition into adulthood. In adulthood, as challenges increase and the disability grows into a barrier, impaired people begin to grasp the significance of the problem as they must use society and its complex systems to further a career, establish a home and family, or solve health or financial issues; they start to realize how disabled they are.
At that point, in a merit-based, zero-sum society geared toward wealth and status, many new adults without life knowledge cope by simply delaying maturation. They move back home (a trend even before the pandemic); some dissolve into social media subcultures for support or forge ahead in trial and error mode, expecting failure but hoping to learn from it; or many regress to “what they know”, the part-time jobs that resemble their college gigs. The middle class vanishes; the income gap grows, but the actual cost is personal. What sets in more profoundly for each person is an existential fear for their lives and livelihood — their fate. Then, as they age and evaluate or compare themselves to others more privileged in their life path, anger and depression develop, the sense of being trapped or marginalized becomes internalized, and a target for blame is sought. Men without introspective skills or the patience to chip away at a larger goal resort to toxic masculinity, social violence, aggression, or impulsive actions for short-term goals — taking, not creating. Many realize they cannot compete and cling to countercultures; they believe in misguided values, become attracted to criminality, adopt the false power of violence, and lie to get by. The disability of not being able to participate in society to achieve stability and prosperity becomes cumulative and eventually causes mental and physical health and social function to decline; it prompts escape addiction and, increasingly, loss of housing. Dysfunctional people fall further behind and eventually drop out of the culture they cannot comprehend. Becoming homeless takes ten years, about the same time as the education to prevent it.
The Human Services Department in Oregon estimates that one in five people in Oregon needs its services and acknowledges that Oregon has more children in foster care than the national average. These facts mean that an even more significant number of families are on the precipice of failure, waiting. Even as adults with dependents, they still lack and need the education that equips them to be resilient, cope with change, and work sequentially through to personal stability and safety. That process is educational.
For the United States to rebuild its population against the predation of capitalism and restore human-centered life, education needs to be universal; every person must have access to it before adulthood. Public education can deliver that -- and should. Human beings, as a species, take a long time to develop; the time required dictates that we cannot be selective about preventing human failure, applying it to some but not all. It must be a formal program in all K-14 schools. This missing education creates personal, community and national human capital and economic productivity, enabling and empowering millions of Americans.
It is called Human Ecology.