Economics & Education

Over the past two years there has been precious little that has been published in my new iteration of the blog: TGIF Any Day . That Blog continues to strive for a good look at the busy intersection of economics and ecology with continuing concerns for for the role of education in life. Recently I have been interested in the way economics plays a role in the life of an individual’s homeostatic (homeodynamic) protection and preservation of life itself; certainly a matter that can never be divorced from the individual’s ecology — an autobiographical study of where, why and how an individual (who) lives (what & when)  out a lifetime. I’m becoming more convinced that “learning” is not a very useful term. Education may be much more about the economy of life than it is about learning as our imprecise uses of the term suggest but never adequately define.

Let me digress. Life is characterized, because it can never be adequately defined, as organization, metabolism, and self-perpetuation. Life is self perpetuating because of a wholly internal process that has been labeled and widely used by biologists; homeostasis. The term is intended to reference and explain the way that metabolic (chemical) and systemic (physiological) processes sustain the balance of the internal environment of an organism. The physiologists who coined the term wanted to recognize that the balance is “fixed” and that deviations from this “fixity” would threaten the existence of life itself. Indeed, if body temperature fall outside a range of about 920-1060 F. (330-410 C.) life is threatened and intervention is rather urgently needed. However, it it well known that the internal environment is not fixed but is highly dynamic – within limits body and cell functions will inevitably ebb and flow across time with peaks and valleys in the graphical records made of the functions. Blood pressure, temperature and even hunger is never constant across a day or even a matter of minutes within a day. But there is a normal, dynamic range. Accordingly it certainly seems to be more appropriate to talk and write about homeodynamic conditions of cells and organisms than it is to use the old term “homeostasis.” That said, you can pay your money and take your choice about which term or another to use.

Inherent is this concept is the cell theory – that all organisms are composed of cells and products that cells produce and that cells are self-reproducing units that serve the functional attributes of tissues, organs and organ systems of an organism. The cells of the body are not fixed and across a time span of about seven years all the cells of our body are replaced by new cells. Exceptions of this generalization may occur in the brain, but there is continuing controversy over this. We do know that the parts of the brain cells (neurons) are highly dynamic and certainly ebb and flow constantly throughout a lifetime. Some parts of a neuron can change in a matter of milliseconds. Those rapid changes are essential for survival, enabling threats from the external environment. Change, growth, adaptation has value.

Accordingly it is unlikely to be correct to think about permanence as a feature of our lives; physical, intellectual, emotional or spiritual. Growth and decay (death) are part of out being. That means that our homeodynamic selves constantly establish a value for what happens in our lives. Values and economics are inextricably linked whether we are trying to understand global trade or the economy of survival. Learning may be a subset of this valuing process. We walk to explore and talk to communicate our needs for sustaining life. Hunger is painful, eating is pleasure. Do we really “learn” to walk and talk, or do we satisfy values that differentiate pain and pleasure?

It is value rather than learning that links our biology, and I will submit economics, with our education. Value is a universal consideration for everything that lives – that is from the smallest bacterial cell to the great trees of a forest and to the vast enterprise of human individuals enmeshed in civilization. The value of environmental support for life cannot ever be dismissed. That is why the human economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. Unfortunately we are not in good hands about values. Education may not be adequately focused. Clearly there are values that have not been learned.