Third World America

Semi On LineI’m writing, again today, at the risk of offending some very fine people — and that is certainly not my intent.  But I am concerned enough to risk it.  I am in, what appears to be northeastern Wisconsin.  I drove through about an hour and a half of it yesterday on my way to my first day of staff development, and the land is magnificent.  I can see why people look for reasons to be outdoors here. 

It was an excellent day with about fifty educators from a fairly large geographic and relatively sparsely populated area, and we explored issues of contemporary literacy, some new web tools, and the effects that a new web is having on how we think about and use information.  I was especially impressed with the conversations that I had with a number of the participants and the discussions sprung out from the ideas that I was sharing.

But what was hovering just beyond these these conversations was the fact that a large percentage of the population that these educators serve are without Internet and a larger percentage who do have it, are still dialing in.  Part of the problem is that the area is fairly economically depressed.  Few natural resources, little industry, and it is simply on the way to the places that tourists and weekend sportsters go.  The main income seems to come from serving travelers on Friday and Sunday.

Does this mean that understanding the new shape of information, video game culture, and new literacy are less important for these teachers and their students.  Absolutely now.  Event of a majority of their students do not have access to online games, it is the connected students who will be defining the culture of all of our futures.  I’ve occasionally mentioned that in reading The World is Flat, I’ve had the impression that the United States, unless it acts, is risking becoming a third world nation in just a few decades.  I think that the real danger is that we may be allowing portions of the country to slip into the valleys, and it may be happening right now.

The shame of it is that this should not be happening.  The natural resource that defines success in a flattening world is human intellect.   And there is certainly no shortage of talent here in northeastern Wisconsin.  There is simply a shameful lack of access to them, and they have a shameful lack of access to their world.

Pressure should be applied to the telecommunications industry to do what they promised they would do in the ’90s, in return for enormous tax breaks — connect America to the high speed information grid, not just the parts of America that are thick enough, financially, to be in the Telco’s interest to connect.  I’m still disconnected in this hotel in Moose something, and can’t look up the references to the Telco scandal, at the writing of this blog.  But Bill Moyers did a program about it, which may be available on YouTube.  Also try looking up Bill Moyers and NCMR (National Conference on Media Reform) on YouTube.

Today, geography should not be a factor in who has access to the world of information, who the world of information has access to, nor who has the opportunities to tap into the info-verse and harness opportunities to serve and participate in the emerging global economy.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.