If I were, as my friend Atrios does not say, “your benevolent empress,” I’d structure education and the lives of most people this way:
First, society would pay everyone a living stipend. This would be enough to live on, in a rather basic manner. You could rent a room in a rooming house, take public transportation, eat self-prepared healthy food, get needed medical care, buy a winter coat every few years, have a basic phone and computer, buy seeds and a trowel. You could do nothing: sleep all day, watch tv, wander the byways, stare at mushrooms, read every book in your local public library. You could work at turning base materials into gold, spend decades translating ancient Sumerian into binary code, or give yourself over to raising the perfect La Cuisse de Nymphe Emu rose.
If you want more money than that, you could start your own business, hire out your services, or get credit for volunteering at a wide variety of public benefit places. You could quit when you want, try new things, live in dignity while you write your magnum opus, pray unceasingly, study the influence of Indo-European Goddesses on man-in-the-moon marigolds, begin working again in your old age to ensure your grandchildren a quality college education.
You could acquire as much extra as you want, but half of that money above a set amount (in today’s dollars, let’s say $1 million) gets paid to society in taxes. You can leave as much of your extra money as you like to your spouse or spouses, but they can’t leave it to anyone; what’s left over (in money or property) will revert to the state upon their death. Ditto for your children, nieces, nephews, etc. Trust me, we have accountants who can do this.
Second, everyone gets 18 chits at birth. Each chit is a year of formal/technical education. So your parents can use, let’s say, 6 of your chits for Montessori preschool and 12 of your chits for first through twelfth grade in a public (or a non-religious private) school. If the private school cost exceeds the value of the chit, your parents can pay that. Or they can use twelve of your chits for first through twelfth grade and then you can use the last six for a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Or they can send you to Montessori school on their dime, and to public school through twelfth grade for a fee, and then you can use your chits for bachelors, masters, and doctors degrees, followed by a JD. Or, . . . . well, you get the idea. If you’re the kind of kid who hates formal education and wants to drop out at 13, we won’t do stupid stuff (I used to teach high school, believe me. . . .) just to keep you in school and make our numbers look good. And, why would we? “Preventing drop outs” only matters if people can’t later drop back in.
If you hate school, you can go work in the world for a while and then, if and whenever you realize that you’d like to have technical training so that you can be a nurse practitioner, or a mechanic, or a sous chef; or you realize that you want a liberal education so you can read, write, and think about ideas; or you realize that you want to apprentice to a glass blower, or granite fabricator, or garden writer, then, well, you’ve still got ten whole chits left to cash in.
Third, regardless of how you and your parents use your chits, one of the major goals of education between the ages of about 11 and about 14 is for everyone to acquire a skill that can be used in different geographical regions. Think short-order cook, medical technician, basic programmer, bus driver, carpenter, farm worker, photographer’s assistant, videographer, tailor, massage therapist.
After twelfth grade, no one could go directly to college. Everyone would have to spend at least three, and preferably five, years taking their trade and living in different parts of the country/world. So, for example, you could get out of high school capable of being a teacher’s aide and you would then figure out where you’d like to live. You could spend a year in Tokyo, a year in the Appalachian Mountains, a year in Cleveland, a year in Wales, and a year in Miami. You could get out of high school capable of programming computers and spend six months in Palo Alto, six months in McLean Virginia, six months in Boston, six months in Bora Bora, six months in Bismarck, and six months in Madrid. You could get out of high school capable of working in a greenhouse and you could spend a year on a boat on the Amazon, a year on a satellite above Earth, and a year in Copenhagen. The goal of this would be for everyone to identify at least one place to which they could become attached, a place with which they could envision a life-long relationship, a spot that called to them above and beyond the work available.
THEN, at, say 22 or 25, those who wished to do so could begin a college education, either using their remaining chits, paying cash, or by agreeing that, for every year spent in college, they’d use the skills acquired in various volunteer capacities. Remember that, during this time, they’d be receiving their living stipend, so that the basic requirements of life would be covered. If loans were needed, society would provide them, in return for a commitment, over a thirty or forty year period, to return skilled work to the society. So physicians could do a few hours in a free clinic every week for the rest of their lives to “pay off” their medical degrees and violinists could show up and play at hospitals, schools, and nursing homes to pay for their advanced musical training. Herbalists could volunteer a few days a month at restaurants, day-care centers, toxic waste sites, or temples.
Under my benevolent system, by around their late 20s or 30s , a lot of people would get out of college and they’d know exactly where they wanted to live and practice their real profession and/or where they wanted to practice their earlier skill while applying, say, an arts degree, or their liberal arts learning, or a religious training. They’d move back to, say, Tokyo, or Palo Alto, or Bismarck, or the wheat fields of Sweden, and they’d begin to support the next couple of generations. Meanwhile, they’d be in relationship with their landbase. (Would some people always want to roam? Would some people fall in love with a tourist from another area and decide that they loved that person more than the land base and that they wanted to follow that person? Would some old people decide to follow their child and grandchild to a different place? Sure. But no one would enter real adulthood without having had the opportunity to try out various places and develop a real relationship with at least one of them.)
Fourth, let’s talk about reproduction. For the foreseeable future, Gaia will be overpopulated: too many people, not enough planet. So every man (straight or gay) who agrees to a vasectomy gets a very large payment, as does every woman (straight or gay) who agrees to a tubal ligation. If you agree to it before you’ve reproduced, your payment is larger than if you agree to it after you’ve reproduced. For every child after the first one, there will be a very large tax, in terms of cash and/or volunteer hours (and you have to perform them; you can’t pay someone else to do them for you.), and, well, I know this will make people scream, but I am, after all, your benevolent empresss, and after any third child, you and your partner get a free and nonnegotiable sterilization, a week at a spa, a gigantic screen tv, and an oak tree planted in your name.
I’m just getting started.
Picture found here