Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thoughts on Education

I doubt that education is a universal panacea to society's woes.

Education is often held to be a solution to the problems that ail society; the moral degeneration of our youth, the stagnation of our economy, the increase in incivility, the demise of the family, all these and more. While education may indeed prove helpful to these issues, I don't think it's wise to consider it a silver bullet to each and every problem.

At the very least, pushing everything to schools and teachers isn't going to work.

Every problem that affects us on a national level isn't a simple one that can be traced to a single root cause, much less a cause stemming from an inadequate or flawed education. If we fail to recognise problems for what they are, and address the entire basket of root causes, not only will we fail to resolve the initial problems, we will also end with a compromised education for an entire generation of students.

My belief is that most issues are socioeconomic in nature, and can be better addressed by dispensing funds to social programs, or to needy receipients. While increasing funds alloted to education isn't a bad idea per se, I believe that funds can be spent more intelligently. Improving school facilities, raising teacher wages, or increasing teaching staff aren't bad ideas, and will indeed help resolve problems stemming from inadequate infrastructure or low quality of teachers. However, simple initatives like school lunches have been shown to have as great an impact on educational outcomes. Thus, we should make proper assessments as to whether our spending is directed to obtain the greatest effect.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Wish and Miracle Stones

I was tasked to collect two different, but related, artifacts- a wish stone, and a miracle stone.

Of course, these artifacts do not exist in reality, which is why I can discuss it with you.

On the surface, these items work in the same way: while grasping the stone in your hands, you state your desire, and it is fulfilled. Then it vanishes from your possession.

The difference between a wish stone and a miracle stone is the difference between a wish and a miracle.

A wish is fundamentally a strong desire for something to happen; that something is not impossible, but merely difficult or unlikely to occur.

A miracle is an impossibility that has manifested itself.

A wish is a wish, and a miracle is a miracle. It is not possible to perform a miracle, even with the power of a wish stone.

Similarly, a miracle stone cannot grant any wish.

Of course, from the perspective of us humans, a miracle stone is far more powerful than a wish stone, and should thus be able to duplicate the functions of a wish stone.

A saw is far more capable of cutting wood than a knife, but just try carving wood with a saw.

The problem with miracle and wish stones is that aside from their powers, they are utterly impossible to distinguish. Not only do they share the same appearance, they share the identical size, weight, texture, etc. Every single detail is the same, as if they were manufactured from the same mystical source. One can easily mistake a wish stone for a miracle stone, and vice versa.

It is not difficult to see the problem here. The stone is used up when one states his desire to be fulfilled. Whether the desire is realized is another matter altogether.

The difficulty of finding even a single stone makes this a troublesome issue. One cannot simply keep trying until they find a correct miracle or wish stone.

I have heard rumors of someone asking for the ability to know the locations of every miracle stone. Such an ability would enable him to tell the difference between a miracle stone and a wish stone, which is an impossibility that can be granted by a miracle stone. Another rumor tells of someone that asked to be able to find thousands of stones, which is insanely difficult, but not impossible, and thus can be granted using a wish stone.

Those rumors end with them just having the wrong type of stone for their requests.

In fact, there are few tales of someone successfully using a wish or miracle stone. The successful stories are apocryphal at best.

I did, of course, manage to complete my task, and deliver the required artifacts.

Of course, such a thing is impossible, which is why I can tell you how I did it.

It simply isn’t very difficult to acquire stones that vanish when spoken to.