What Would Happen If...?
Bill Long 8/2/05
Thinking About Free Learning I
For the last day or so I have been helping my son get ready for his freshman (oops.."first," as they call it now) year at college. While trying to see if he had his immunizations in order, I began to wonder what might happen if a person, rather than just filling out forms or attending to the problem to be solved by a given assignment, just decided to get to the bottom of the questions being asked and then followed the threads uncovered by answering these basic questions. I wonder where life would lead. Let me give you a few illustrations of what I mean in this and the next essay, based on work that I am now doing.
The Immunization Form
The form is a pretty standard one, and first asks for information on when he had his measles immunization. It says "Measles (rubeola)." I thought for a moment. 'What if I wanted to do some research on measles? Now I have the Latin name for it, so I could begin. When was it first diagnosed? By whom? Where? Was there disagreement on what this disease should be called? The "rubeola" indicates that "redness" is in view, but why not call it "calescentia" or something, which would emphasize the "heat" a person gives off who is afflicted with it? How frequent have major outbreaks been? When did the immunization develop? How was it developed? Was there a big political fight in getting a compulsory immunization for it? What was the nature of that fight?"
I note that there is a little box in the corner where a person who objects to immunizations for "personal" reasons may sign. Hm, I thought further. "What this little box means is that there was a big fight, someplace and time in the past, where people felt that requiring immunizations was another way of government's trying to control our lives. Were the objections religiously-based? medically? politically? By whom? And when? When was this "box" included on the form? And, what constitutes a "personal" objection? Was this ever litigated? Is it comparable to a conscientious objector status for the military?" All of these questions washed over me upon reading the first category: Measles.
As you see, I could multiply my questions as I went through each one of the vaccines or immunizations. For example, most colleges now highly recommend (is there a difference between this and "recommend"?) that students get a meningococcal vaccine (Hm, what is the difference between a vaccination and immunization? There must be a history that I don't know about there..). Will this "recommendation" this year turn into a "requirement" in three years? What will it take? Just as it takes a drunken frat boy plummeting four stories into an empty swimming pool to make college administrators wake up to the fact that fraternities need to be reined in, maybe it will take a meningitis outbreak that wipes out a dorm of kids to get this raised from a "highly recommended" to "required" category. So, the compliance form implicates the history of medicine and the political struggles to get a listing. It dawned on me that each line of the form probably obscures a complex medical, religious, and political history. Why didn't chickenpox make the list? Or other diseases?
Then we could think about the immunizations themselves. What do they put in those things anyway? I think you need a degree in chemistry to understand that. And, why does it cost what it does? Where do they get the supply? Who are the makers of the stuff that goes into the immunizations? To what extent do the makers of the stuff have contracts with health departments in such a way that they can just produce the stuff, sit back and wait for the dough to come in? How much of a company's business is supplying these vaccines? Does anyone have a "lock" on the market? If so, are Sherman Antitrust concerns implicated? These are just a few of the questions that come to mind as I try to help out my son.
What if a person just decided that what she was going to do in life was simply to understand the things that she was being asked to sign? I mean really understand things? Could that person survive? Or would she die of the diseases against which she was supposed to be immunized because she was still studying up on the nature of the immunizations? But why not encourage people to learn in this way? Even if the person never got down to "work," and lived a completely useless life from the perspective of our culture, she would probably be the most interesting person in the world.
I have often thought of becoming a private tutor, instead of teaching in a law school or college. This would be my "curriculum." I think I would starve, don't you?
Copyright © 2004-2009 William R. Long