However, since the world doesn't have an infinite amount of resources to pour into education, a better question we want to answer is what kind of education should we spend our time and money on? What subjects in school should we focus on beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic? As this is a website about Sun Tzu's Art of War, the answer seems apparent, but bear with me here while I explain myself in more detail.
A sad trend I've been noticing over the last decade is colleges are downsizing or even discontinuing their offerings in philosophy. In the drive to offer more practical career-oriented studies, cutting philosophy seems like an easy decision. But that would be a grave mistake.
The study of philosophy is the study of logic, among other things. And the last time I checked, business decisions still hinge on logic. Otherwise, if a company keeps making illogical decisions, it will not survive long-term.
Furthermore, given the rather poor decision making of corporations in the news, it would do them some good to hire more philosophy majors. As a nation, we spend so much on audits, regulation, and providing assurances on the backend -- all necessary, of course -- but we fail to spend as much on the prevention of fraud, incompetence, and misjudgments on the frontend. In other words, instead of striving to not make a mess in the first place, we rather be proficient at cleaning that mess later on.
Universities that choose to cut their philosophy departments are making the same illogical decision. Instead of making sure companies are happy with the workforce graduating from their institutions, maybe they should make sure their real customers, the students themselves, are happy after their graduation. Focusing on career-based subjects isn't a well-rounded education. A well-rounded education has to include philosophy, which enables people to think for themselves, not only in their pursuit of economic prosperity but also in their pursuit of personal happiness.
Speaking of happiness (or should I say the lack of happiness), another disturbing trend I see is so pervasive that it is called the crisis next door: the opioid epidemic. According to the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), over 300,000 Americans have died from it since 2000. The economic cost in one year is estimated to be over $500 billion, or 2.8 percent of the GDP. To put this into perspective, to remedy one problem, it is costing us more than the US government spends on all welfare assistance for over 50 million Americans.
The debate over what is causing this opioid crisis will continue but two causes seem to stand out the most: despair and availability.
Regarding despair, who cannot identify with despair? Whether it's social or financial despair, there are many who cannot manage the stress and pressure. I believe promoting philosophy in schools can be an answer to relieving much of that stress and pressure. In ancient times, Greek and Roman parents sent their aspiring young sons to philosophers teaching them how to handle everyday challenges. They focused on how to deal with strong emotions and presented strategies on how to subdue them. These young men would then be more prepared and able to take on roles of public service assigned to them.
For some reason, this practice of formally teaching children how to overcome emotions has gone away and this responsibility has largely been transferred to the parents. Sounds reasonable until you consider that in over 60 percent of American households, both parents work for a living. So the chances of their children receiving proper life instruction outside of their television or mobile phone screens seem worse than in ancient Rome or Greece.
Regarding availability, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated, "Sales of prescription opioids in the U.S. nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014, but there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain Americans report [emphasis added]." And according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), at least 20 percent of patients with opioid prescriptions abuse them.
Now imagine if we can have a marketing campaign on philosophy just as effective as the ones put out by pharmaceutical companies. Aimed at young and old alike, philosophy would be on the minds of people seeking a different way of living. Philosophy certainly doesn't numb the mind to make the pain go away but it does activate the mind to prevent someone from abusing (or possibly even using) drugs in the first place. Therefore, let's make learning philosophy available and accessible as much as drugs, and provide people with more options to manage life's problems.
Of course I have considered the real physical pains people deal with in my thoughts today. Prescriptions for physical pain relief, including depression, will always be needed. But the matter of abusing them is a psychological condition that philosophy is adeptly designed for.
I have also considered young people needing to go through the natural process of maturity. Overcoming emotions takes much practice and experience. There is no way around that. Young people will inevitably have to go through life's stages in order to mature. But by teaching them philosophy and thus presenting to them smart, effective methods on how to tackle everyday issues, such as strong emotions, they don't necessarily have to experience hardships to learn and grow. They would be more prepared, which increases their chances of success.
Likewise, the philosophy of Sun Tzu's Art of War with good guidance provides students, young and old, time-tested methods on how to handle everyday conflict, a source of pain for many people. By learning how to plan out a strategy to resolve differences that are causing that conflict, people have a better chance of making that pain go away. This kind of education promotes better relationships at home and at work. This kind of education promotes a society where more people are able to function and contribute to a greater good, as we were born to do.
Thank you for reading my blog today. I will see you again real soon.