Children of Dune (Dune Chronicles, Book 3)
By Frank Herbert
Futures have long fascinated many members of our species. For thousands of years we have often desired to know our own futures and have gone to great lengths to find ways of predicting those futures. From astrology and witchcraft to physics and meteorology, we have continued to seek prescience throughout the development of our species. We may soon try to create a person who can see the future through genetic engineering or by interfacing their mind with computers.
Other members of our species have had a different interest in futures. They have sought to build for the future by establishing dominion over others and passing it on to others, to build for the future by creating libraries and passing the collected knowledge onto others, to build up resources and pass them on to others.
In addition, there are those who gamble with futures. Some might do it while playing with cards or dice, and some might do it with a futures exchange, and some might do it with their credit, including many national governments. Gambling with futures is as much a longstanding tradition as building them or predicting them.
Our current culture in the United States still retains strong interest in predicting the future, and great advances continue to be made in this capacity within the sciences. There is also a strong interest in gambling with the future money we may or may not earn, as we can see from the immense amounts of private and public debt and the occasional casino littering our country with the glitz and glamor of what is mostly false hope.
Meanwhile, our education system, such as it is, continues to produce increasingly large amounts of mediocre individuals when it should be producing excellent individuals who can help build a brighter future. Some blame our culture that prizes leisurely fruitless partying over fruitful hard work, and they have a point. Some blame the parents of the children who don’t want to do anything and have a sense of entitlement, saying that the parents have failed to instill the values of excellence in their children, and it’s true that some parents have failed their children in this regard. Some blame the teachers for not being effective teachers and making it too challenging for students, and others blame the teachers for not being effective and not challenging the students sufficiently, and both accusations have a point in that our education system is set up to work for those who make up the bulk of the bell curve, not those who are outliers on it. Some blame the overemphasis on academic rather than vocational courses for the problems in our educational system, and they have a point in that our culture currently prizes intellectual achievement over physical labor and that it is unsurprisingly reflected in our education system. Some blame the teacher’s unions for preventing the administrators from removing bad teachers from the schools, and that is sometimes a problem. Some blame the administrators for stifling teacher’s creativity and desire to be effective teachers through excessive regulation of their behavior and curriculum, and that is a problem as well.
With so many groups and individuals feeling that our education system has major or myriad problems, one might be forgiven for thinking that it is an important thing to us and that we would spend much time and money on it. And yet budget cuts and excuses for more budget cuts via the No Child Left Behind Act plague the education system. The pay scale for teachers is still not even equivalent to the compensation a professional with a professional degree and a high level of responsibility would command in the private sector, and we get exactly what we pay for. Parents sometimes expect that the school will act in loco parentis in a very literal sense, that they will not have to take the time to teach their children because the school is there to do it for them. And the schools have made every effort to live up to that expectation. You no longer have to explain the facts about puberty or sex to your children. You no longer have to talk to your children about how the political process works. You no longer have to talk to your children about what career to choose. The schools have structures in place to handle these things for the parents. We get a lot out of our education system for what we put into it, but when we put so little into it, what we get out is still insufficient.
And we are getting a very dark future out of our education system. We are getting futures of mediocrity and laziness. We are getting futures of idealism and entitlement. If we want bright futures, we have to invest in those futures by investing in our children, our nieces and nephews, and godchildren. We have to sacrifice the time and the money necessary to build those futures into something that can last long enough to help our children build even brighter futures for their children. Sadly, sacrifice is devalued in our culture and selfishness exalted, and thus we have a situation in which many call for sacrifice, but few are willing to actually make the sacrifices.
And so we go on predicting our futures and gambling with them, all the while failing to invest in them, which is arguably the best use of resources out of those three options. Humanity is hilarious. We’d rather see the future and gamble on it than really do anything to make it better.