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OPINION: Learn or perish

by Devin Houston | August 25, 2021 at 5:25 a.m.

Many millennia ago, when humans lived in caves and mud huts, with no access to the internet, phone systems, or even running water, for that matter, education was absolutely Darwinian: You either learned, or you died. Those who couldn't perform tasks necessary for life did not have the option to teach; they just died. Thus, natural selection favored those who followed the actions of those who could, not those who couldn't.

Once humans were around long enough to invent history, some means of passing on Man's knowledge to future generations was needed, which prompted the invention of schools. In the beginning, all schools were home schools. However, once adults started comparing notes, they found that combining schools into larger classes was a more efficient way of teaching children since all homes passed along the same information. Furthermore, consolidation of schooling allowed moms to accompany the men on hunting trips, pillages, fort construction and boat building, not to mention time away from those screaming kids. The #MeToo movement was centuries away from reality, so men could exert some dominance over women in workplace environments unless they succumbed to a poisoned dinner prepared by an angry mate.

I am an advocate of schools, having spent 23 years as a student of learning institutions. In school, I learned the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic without the help of cute characters on Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers. My generation, as children, only interacted with teachers, not from videos or downloaded apps. Instead, we learned through rote memorization, the whole class voicing the spelling of words on the blackboard or repeating the mantra of addition and subtraction. The only visual aid I recall is the use of flashcards to memorize multiplication tables. The advent of streaming media allowed a proliferation of children's channels filled with cute rainbow unicorns and friendly talking dogs who instruct our children on proper socialization. Unfortunately, I believe that such nonsense, along with songs like "Baby Shark," are harming the mental health of adults.

Some say we never stop learning, and I heartily agree. But I question whether we need schools to supply the learning. I bring this up because I realized that YouTube videos taught me almost everything I've learned over the last 10 years. So, yes, I will just come out and say it: YouTube is the future of education. YouTube showed me how to change a bushing in a skid steer. I became proficient in sharpening knives and mower blades. I learned the best way to make a gin martini, barbeque brisket, and repair computers; all provided on YouTube.

The best thing about YouTube is that it makes education easy. Say I want to learn how to play Lynyrd Skynyrd's song "Simple Man" on guitar. I just type in those words in YouTube's search function, and a dozen videos of how to play "Simple Man" pop up. Sure enough, in just a few minutes, I've got the chords and timing down. For some reason, my version doesn't sound as good as the videos, but I'm sure I'll find another video to explain why. First, I need to find one that tells me how to train my old fingers to make faster chord changes.

Who needs plumbers? Not me. I watched a few videos on soldering copper pipe, installing Pex tubing, replacing the controller on my well pump, and I am good to go. I am bound to save money on those future repair bills! Car and truck repair is a breeze since mechanics started posting how-to videos online. Of course, you may need to spend money on equipment that car shops use to do professional repairs, or better yet, check out the videos that tell you how to make do-it-yourself equipment. Need to air up a tire on a wheel, but the bead is too loose on the wheel? Forget about buying an expensive air-blasting tool; just squirt some flammable ether into the tire, throw in a match and watch it pop into place! Now you're the tool! Some of those videos resulted in explosions and bodily injury, but they were most likely slow learners.

I have a serious interest in learning woodworking. YouTube has hundreds of videos illustrating how to make cabinets, rip a 4x8 piece of plywood, make dovetail joints, and route a piece of molding. I just have to find a few thousand dollars to purchase the table saw, jointer, band saw, and drill press I'll need to do a professional job. Not to mention clamps, jigs, and other assorted tools. I'm sure I can recover my expenses when I start turning trees into lumber with my new portable sawmill!

You may criticize my thinking since what I have mentioned may be learned in technical schools. But I see the future. At some point, physicians and dentists will realize that they can make money from publishing how-to videos of their particular skill set. Need to remove that large wart on your leg? Got an aching molar? Just watch a few videos of the procedure with a trusted friend and get ready to save some money! Plus, you will be the life of the party as you boast to your friends about your newfound skills. Next on the list to watch: ten easy steps to remove your gallbladder.

What's that? Your "friend" botched that surgery, but you can't afford a lawyer? Well, just keyword "malpractice law" into YouTube's search engine and learn all about suing that so-called friend for damages and emotional injury! Yes, dubious lawyers have already uploaded videos to YouTube on the proper means of filing malpractice and other types of lawsuits. Then, in just a few hours of viewing videos, you too can impress a jury with your YouTube-acquired legal knowledge. Of course, another upside is not having $200,000 in student loan debt!

So, those who are highly educated professionals, or have technical expertise, prepare for the future. If you can, do, and post it on YouTube. And even if you can't, post your failures. I'm sure others will learn from your mistakes, or at the least be amused.

-- Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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