Food for Thought

brain-food Recently, S. Korea announced that despite all the hostilities and tension with N. Korea, they would deliver food aid to the flood ravaged nation. (see AP article here.)

This got me thinking about my own views on food and then knowledge.

You see, I’ve always, always, always been adamant that food isn’t something one owns. It is to be shared and it is anyone’s right when at my house or in a restaurant, to share anything that is in my cupboard or on my plate. Food is sacred, life giving and not something to covet. It is the source of all our being and like one wouldn’t bottle and refuse air or oxygen to others in need – so to food.

Now I realize the practicalities and don’t take it to an extreme. “Need” is the definitive word here. Someone not hungry and who just wants to clean out my cupboard and resell my food – would get a swift kick. S.Korea is giving food aid because N.Korea needs it and that supercedes all else.

A brief aside. I remember once in Corsica, a very famous German politician came and visited us. We had an amazing evening of wine and food and conversation, laughter and music. The politician drank voluminously but finally, jet lagged and it being late, got up to go to his room. Dead drunk, he pulled out his wallet and threw some money on the table. Then, proceeded to go into the house where he fell upon the first visible “comfort” , a sofa and passed out. Hilarious but it solidifies the point that food is to be shared, it isn’t something just bought and sold.

What about knowledge? I truly believe that much of the bounty and abundance of modern society is because of the free and mostly unfettered flow of information. It is about access to the food of the brain – knowledge/information. Those that need – our students, the curious, the motivated and creative – they all should have access to it.

It is becoming abundantly clear that something is going and growing amiss. So many organization and individuals covet and commoditize knowledge. We put it into books beyond the access of many people. We take open source products and sell them, when it costs pennies (and I know about this – I offer free video conferencing and Learning management systems to schools or teachers and I am far from rich. But I find individuals selling these same products for hundreds of dollars / month!). Ads are with everything, even though cost is not prohibitive. Access is being charged to a higher and higher degree – in many cases, extravagantly almost to the point of usery. (one small beam of light, Tim Berners – Lee, one of the creators of the Internet, has called for FREE access for all). Why do so many go blind to this? As the internet consolidates, the walls ARE closing in and I think more educators should push back.

I won’t rant on. My post today is just to give everyone some food for thought. What about giving education a pass and letting students truly have full access to the world of knowledge. Allow teachers full reign to use knowledge and information in an educational setting?

Utopian? Yes. As Shelly said, “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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2 Responses

  1. Juregen says:

    Dear dduebel,

    Read your post, but it is difficult to completely agree with you.

    On a naive level, not taking into account the actual concept of scarcity, what you say is true.

    But as someone with an economics background, it is this very concept that makes it necessary for the world to make use of money, and consequently of costs and value.

    Educating the individual does not only carry benefits for the individual, it carries benefits for the whole society at large. But it takes huge amount of resources to educate just one person. And I believe that is where you step in.

    You want to see a high quality, low cost educational system in place that benefits society as a whole, and not just those who are selling it. I must admit, you have shown an excellent example of what is possible, but is it sustainable? How many people are willing to follow your model, especially since education is a Human Resource intensive Industry, and people are expensive (read: precious).

    The effect of technology on education still needs to be measured, once we can make education be reproduced at zero cost and actually be effective, your model will certainly be a possibility.

    Thank you.

  2. ddeubel says:


    finally replying and thanks for your own “food for thought”.

    Of course, I don’t really expect anyone to agree “fully” and realize my position is quite extreme or rather let me say – idealistic. But I put that position out there so that others might be more inclined to see the potential and possibility if indeed we truly start to put resources and time towards the effort of educating and less the business of educating.

    I know there has to be a happy medium but I’m not convinced like you, that people are so short term in their actions and thinking. It is a problem though. My position is a long term idea – in the short term, there is little immediate “give back” to the individual. But over time, my model would benefit us all (keeping things low cost, widely available, information not restricted by copyright/protectionism). Cost and value that you mention have to be seen over the long term – but never truly is. It takes vision and leadership to see the fruits that come later in the year.

    I’ll give you a practical example. I just posted about eteaching and online learning. This will happen in the future but for the moment, isn’t because there is a prohibitive cost factor. the technology is there but large companies or others with business models, have scooped in and really made a mess of making this widely available. It can be for a very low cost and we all would be able to teach online along with time in the class. Companies charge $100 of dollars for something that should cost a few. The mark up in technology is horrendous and most of the profit goes to stocks/portfolios and a few at the top (by a few I mean thousands but which are a few as oppossed to millions). I will provide a low cost alternative and I’d like to see what you think.

    We need people like myself willing to push back. I believe that. Yes, not everyone is going to do it just to live a normal life. I guess it is human nature to “score” as in make big bucks. But I believe there are people out there like Tim Berners Lee who don’t want to make just $$$$ and see the benefits and need to give education a pass so it can get stuff free and / or low cost.

    But yeah, you are right, I am idealistic 🙂


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