Manifesto

 “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”  -Thomas Jefferson

Higher education has become fundamentally unattainable for a large sector of the American population. Ecosa Institute believes that for the past fifty years government has withdrawn from the concept of a universal education. Funding has been reduced and regulation increased leading to budget cuts for faculty, increased teaching loads and more teaching by adjuncts and assistants.

To cover the costs of education that the government no longer covers, institutions have constantly raised tuition, forcing students into debt to be educated. Americans owe in student loan debt nearly $1.3 trillion and the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from last year.[1]  According to a 2007 U.S. Census Bureau report, only 34% of Americans 18 years of age and older hold college degrees and current statistics show that of all developed countries, the U.S.A. is the least educated in social issues. [2]

If indeed everyone is created equal, as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, then every citizen should have access to a quality education. Instead, we are moving towards a divided population where those who can’t pay don’t have the opportunity to thrive. Not only are the most educated likelier to have a well-paying job but those with the financial resources can shop for the best education and experiences.

Ignorance is never a good policy for a civilized country. It leads to a downward spiral in social engagement and civic involvement.[3] This creates a burgeoning population that cannot be employed to help solve the multiplying problems we face. We are, as in so many other things, wasting an enormous resource. Properly educated and activated these students could be engaged in problem-solving rather than being the problem. As the New York Times noted, [4] “Ensuring everybody has a college degree might not stanch the flow of riches to the very pinnacle of society. But it could deliver a powerful boost to the incomes and the well-being of struggling families in the bottom half.”

We believe that teaching to get a specific job is a nineteenth-century strategy. The World Economic Forum Report on The Future of Jobs identifies a top trend as “changing work environments and flexible working arrangements”. Looking to nature as a model that has been tested for millennia, it is clear that specialization is a losing strategy in a fast-changing environment. [5]  Yet higher education continues to emphasize specialization.

We believe this situation is untenable and is inevitably leading towards social unrest, increasing income inequality and huge economic and emotional costs.

As a thought leader in education focused on providing relevant skills that address the issues of the 21st century, we find this situation intolerable. While we keep our expenses as low as possible, many of our potential students do not have the financial resources to participate.

As a small school, we have fought against a biased playing field that only accepts traditional education as the standard for accreditation. This requires resources far beyond those of a small innovative institution. Many of the requirements for accreditation are designed for large institutions, which makes the ability to innovate more difficult and time-consuming.

It is with these realities in mind that the Ecosa Institute is embarking on a daring experiment.

We believe in the quality and kind of education we provide and are willing to take a leap that will prove that education is a priority for many people, businesses and organizations. To make this experiment work, we need the support of those who understand the importance of creating problem-solving abilities that go beyond “education for a job”.

Ecosa Institute will provide its semester program free to any student who wants to gain a first step into the future and who wants to work on preserving our planet.

We intend to make the selection process rigorous and to participate as a student will require the willingness to demonstrate an ability to think critically, do in-depth research and commit to a demanding program. The goal is to find students, regardless of income, who are most likely to create positive change in the world.

We intend moving into the future trusting in the intelligence of those who have made a successful life for themselves and are ready to support change. We know that one thing is crystal clear – that we can no longer create a positive future with business as usual. We hope you will join us in clearly demonstrating that innovation in education – and education funding – is crucial to our future.

For a viable future we believe:

  • Society must commit to ensuring that all people are provided a quality education regardless of ability to pay.
  • The current fiscal educational model that ensures a divided society – those who can pay to learn and those who can’t – must be changed.
  • The current consolidation of large institutions is stifling new approaches to education. Monopolies are not good for economics nor are they good for education, therefore:
  • Small experimental schools and colleges need to be supported and encouraged through a revised accreditation process.
  • Education should not be a financial investment that maximizes profit at the expense of quality.
  • Students should not be forced into debt to be educated.
  • Regardless of on-line education making delivery cheaper, the best education requires technology plus physical presence and human interactions unmediated by technology.
  • The 19th-century philosophy of education for employment is no longer valid as a pedagogic model.
  • Education needs to be focused on impact design that is driven by the need to solve the world’s many social, economic and environmental challenges in order to avoid societal decline.
  • Students should not only be provided technical knowledge, but also skills for surviving in fast-changing cultural, social and environmental conditions.
  • The responsibility of educating a new generation is the responsibility of all citizens who were educated in the past.
  • To create and demonstrate the importance of universal education, individual citizens and responsible companies and organizations need to provide leadership and support to bring these goals to reality.

[1] https://studentloanhero.com/student-loan-debt-statistics/

[2] The United States ranks twenty-fourth out of sixty-five educational systems. http://thelearningcurve.pearson.com/index/index-comparison/2014-highest

[3] According to the research firm IPSOS Mori, the United States ranks second out of fourteen countries in general ignorance about social statistics.https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3466/Perceptions-are-not-reality-10-things-the-world-gets-wrong.aspx#gallery%5Bm%5D/1/

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/29/business/economy/income-inequality-is-costing-the-us-on-social-issues.html?_r=0

[5] “Progress to extinction: increased specialisation causes the demise of animal clades”           P. Raia, F. Carotenuto, A. Mondanaro, S. Castiglione, F. Passaro, F. Saggese, M. Melchionna, C. Serio, L. Alessio, D. Silvestro & M. Fortelius http://www.nature.com/articles/srep30965

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