On Cultivating Culture Through Continued Education

    The government should provide tax intensives for continued education beyond academia as a means of cultivating culture through social gatherings. It is critical that I point out that the aim should be to cultivate and not preserve culture.

     Please note that this article is not for or against religious practice -- For the record I am agnostic, on any given day the degree to which I believe a God may exist can vary. One thing I do know for certain though, is irrespective of whether or not there is a God, I believe I live my life in such a way that it would does not matter.

Brief Analysis:
    The inspiration behind this proposal is an attempt to try and address the need for social gatherings. Traditionally, most people would gather in churches, temples, mosques or other religious institutions. However, as agnosticism, atheism and even people of faith stop gathering in these traditional means, we as a society begin to lose something good. Many people are already trying to keep people believing in various religious doctrines; however, I think we need to accept the fact that going forward, a large part of society may never have an interest in attending religious gatherings.
     There is an obvious divide that can be widened when gatherings are split among religious lines, but at the same time, throughout history there are many times when we have seen the capacity for great change - for better and worse - that can be driven from social gatherings. In the past few years I've been travelling to many different parts of the world, and one thing that has always stood out to me is the diversity of lifestyles. Further, in North America I have met a number of people who have always expressed a feeling of detachment from their neighbors. For a variety of reasons (discussed below) our society has become less open, and less social. This is especially disturbing to me as a Canadian since we are such a center for immigrants and we could definitely benefit from a more connected lifestyle.
      In small towns everyone can easily get to know each other. There is an interesting mention of the rule of 150 in "The Tipping Point" by Malcom Gladwell. Basically, this alludes to the fact that there is a limited number of people you can know well, because in order to know someone well, you need to know everyone they know. Apparently on average most people can only really get to know 150 people well. As a result, small towns can often have a strong community vibe because there are a lot of people who know each other, in addition to knowing how everyone knows everyone else. The same thing applies to church goers and in countries like India, Cuba and cities like Montreal: everyone gets to know their neighbors. They build up a strong community as a result.
     For a number of reasons this has dissipated from our society, I believe that there is an opportunity here to fill the void being left behind. We can reconnect people through education. I recent started getting into Salsa dancing, and I feel the salsa communities in general are very welcoming, they love teaching each other and making friends. Since most people aren't as invested in the outcomes of their performance, there is less competition amongst those in attendance. Hence, as Randy Paush mentioned in his inspiration speech, we can use continued education, continued sports or dance activities as a means of teaching people important things about life. As he said, you don't put your kids in football leagues so they learn how to play the game, you put them in there so they learn the values of team work, and developing social skills.
     As immigrants come to our country they often never have met people of other ethnicities/religions/race. I honestly believe most people who hold prejudicial values, have not met enough people across a diverse array of backgrounds to come to the natural conclusion that there are more similarities amongst people than there are differences.

Idle Speculation On Why Our Societies Have Become Less Social:
    In my opinion it is fairly obvious that there is a sense of social divide that is introduced when immigrants come to our country and we are not overly welcoming. Simply being over involved in our own lives and not reaching out to the new people in our towns and cities can make them seem unfriendly to outsiders. Toronto and New York are good examples of this, because I know them to be friendly cities; however, this is only the case when I go out of my way to make friends first.
    I think one major factor, which may be overlooked a lot is the campaigns to teach kids 'not to talk to strangers'. I understand the concept and why it came to be; however, with the obsession that followed, I feel that in our society its frowned upon for adults to even say hello to kids. Further, kids never talk to each other because they see their parents always in a hurry going through life without talking to other strangers. People stick to their inner circles - if your new and don't have one, tough. Its very reminiscent to me of high school where the outcasts eventually band together; however, they always have an inner resentment for having been left out. Further, I believe kids are vital in shaping how immigrants behave because their parents who don't know many people talk to their kids a lot about what they did in school. When they are told again and again that they shouldn't talk to strangers -- an odd concept for someone from countries where this is the norm -- the notion can stick. They remember the warning since its a bizarre thing to teach children if it wasn't warranted. I believe its unwarranted.
    I have never been one to let people change the way i live my life because of their stupidity. Though, looking at the number of people who okay with limiting the amount of liquid we can take on a plane, or the number of people okay with going to a billion dollar war as a result of an attack, I guess I may be an exception. Perhaps I can offer another argument: When you know more people in your society, there is a greater chance that you will find out where the perverts are, perhaps even catch them without having to restrict the social development of your kids. Perhaps, when there is always an adult you know around the corner, you wouldn't pick on other kids, or steal for fun.

    I truly believe in the benefits of social cohesion. We need to have more. I also believe it is in part the governments responsibility to ensure the population is healthy both physically and mentally. Providing people a means of getting to know others through a sort of on-going education program would be a great step in the right direction. Think Sunday school, where instead of learning about literature, you learn about dance, art, math, or anything you want. There are no grades, there is a social aspect and its not a large time commitment. Of course, you can't force people to do this, so the best way is bring it about is to tax those who don't... or rather, give a rebate to those who do :)

Related Links:
    - Tipping Point on Amazon (I encourage you to check other stores as well)
    -  Is Canada losing its social cohesion, Are we becoming strangers to each other?