There is something outside my house that makes me laugh every time I go anywhere. Below is a photo of a house that is just around the corner from where I live, I can see about one quarter of it from my front door. As you can see in the photo there is a road in front of the house, and that road is the boundary line between the neighborhood that I officially live in and the neighborhood of the people that live in that house. What you can not tell from the photo is that house is really the only one on that side of the road, to the right and behind is just all field.
In my section of my neighborhood, 3 roads run perpendicular to that road you can see in the photo. Located at the end of each road, on the far side of the street, are my neighborhood’s garbage drop-off and collection depots. Each depot services one road, which is about 20 houses each, but none of them apply to the house that is pictured…because they officially do not live in this neighborhood. You can see where two of these garbage areas are in the photo by the circles, pretty much located at the corners of their lot.
I have no idea which day is these people’s garbage day or anything like that, but whenever that day is, that morning between 6 and 8am, they have to take their trash out to the main road (not pictured), around the fields and walk for 10-15 minutes to wherever their designated garbage area is located. This is despite two garbage areas of my neighborhood being within garbage bag throwing distance from their property. This is what makes me laugh all the time, garbage day or not. I’m often so easily amused.
In older times, societies used to rely much more on geographical distinctions to marks such things like towns or countries or whatnot. Thanks to certain technologies, and maybe a result of population growth, we are not subject to the tyranny of mountain and river distinctions as much anymore. As technology and and other changes liberate us from some distinctions, it is not up to humans to arbitrarily create where new distinctions lie. The results, like with the garbage depots, can be hilarious or even purely awful, as when people create racial or gender distinctions that have no business being there. A lifting of distinction means that by listening to a situation, we are able to find and prescribe the existing distinction that best suits that situation.
I use the adjective existing with caution here, but keep it because I want to relate this story with education. This is not a matter that goes all the way back to defining the reality of the Universe, because once we step into an Educational Universe we are all positivists to some degree. Unlike the collection of stars and suns and everything out there, we know exactly what lies on the outside of Educational Big Bangs. The creator of any Educational System is intention, the intention of learning. Ultimately, this always leads back to the learner and their decision or human right to study, but what they want to learn is always the essence of why any Educational System is created.
The red garage door on the left side of the photo, directly across the road form the house, is my neighborhood’s fire department. The firefighters are all on call volunteers that live the neighborhood. One of my friends volunteers for this group, so one day I asked him if there was a fire would he and the other volunteers go to help. He answered that of course he would, and I have no doubt that there even exists any moral decision at that point. But, I explained to him that was not exactly what I was asking and rephrased my question. I asked him if there were any incident at that house, who would be alerted: this neighborhood’s fire department or the other neighborhood’s one. (I should say, that what you see in the photo is the entire fire “department”, not part of it. The garage contains a wagon that needs to be wheeled over to the pond so that water can be pumped through the hose. So, being across the street can increase response time significantly.) My friend didn’t know the answer.
Human made, dreamed up distinctions have potentially ethical consequences. Educational Technology and the filling in of Distributed Knowledge spectrums of place and moment are great things…however they do not eliminate what is out there, they open it up for us to make better suited selections.