IV. Project Summary
The Mega Foundation is a tax-exempt non-profit corporation established to create and implement programs that aid in the development of severely gifted individuals and their ideas. Freedom of intellectual inquiry and expression is one of the clearest benefits, and most urgent necessities, of modern democratic society. One requirement of intellectual freedom is that no institution or group of institutions be permitted to exercise too great a measure of control over intellectual commerce (in the traditional, non-entrepreneurial sense). This is because by their nature, institutions tend to enforce standards of ideological orthodoxy and intellectual conformity without being able to guarantee or establish with certainty that their ideas are correct or their standards justified.
The American higher education system currently possesses a virtual monopoly on intellectual commerce, particularly with respect to the public and private funding of research. That is, university degrees and affiliations are typically required for the issuance of research grants and in filling positions of intellectual influence. Because the university system is actively standardized by way of accreditation, this requirement amounts to a restrictive, and therefore unhealthy, standardization of intellectual commerce, and an unavoidable obstacle to intellectual and artistic freedom.
Academic standardization of intellectual commerce extends to the system of technical and scientific journals which publish new results in the sciences and humanities. To an extent depending on their degree of “respectability”, these journals routinely reject new ideas that run against the grain of professional consensus, especially where they represent radical departures within their fields of inquiry, are interdisciplinary (involve more or less than one established field of inquiry), carry unwanted philosophical baggage, are presented in an unorthodox way, or are perceived to come from academically uncredentialed or unaffiliated authors.
Unfortunately, professional consensus can be (and often is) wrong, especially in the theoretical phase of scientific inquiry. The fact that academia is a cornerstone of modern civilization is thus no justification for awarding it, or its degree-holders or affiliates, a stranglehold on the intellectual life of humankind. Humanity has the inalienable right to manifest its intellectual destiny in the mind of any human being capable of generating and developing new and beneficial ideas, irrespective of all other factors, and no such person should be denied a voice on grounds of inadequate credentials.
There are those who maintain that because academic credentials are equally available to everyone, everyone has an equal chance to participate in intellectual commerce. But of course, this is in no way true. The mill of academic credentialization is in many cases prohibitively expensive to enter, requiring that those of limited means incur mountains of personal debt while students from privileged social, economic and cultural backgrounds enjoy immense advantages. Propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding, financial aid is not equally available to everyone and not every kind of student is made to feel equally at home by Big Education.
This asymmetry tends to work most strongly, and with the greatest potential for loss, against underprivileged but highly intelligent, original and individualistic students, whose own self-insight may give them a far better idea of how and what they should learn than the curricular platitudes of any disinterested instructor or faculty committee charged with the aggregate processing of large numbers of students. Higher education is, after all, a business, and its corporate entities are inevitably more interested in quantity of education, which is lucrative and bureaucratically feasible, than quality of education for a few extraordinarily gifted individuals who may need more than the usual amount of individualized attention and understanding.
It might be objected that the general welfare has nothing to do with a small gifted minority, and that everyone should be helped on an equal basis without discrimination based on intellectual ability or originality. However, this is clearly an oversimplification. First, with but few exceptions, the highly-gifted population deviates from various social and psychological norms and is often victimized by discrimination as a result, and this constitutes a social injustice in need of remedy. Secondly, as any educator is well aware, educational efficiency requires the differential assessment of intellectual ability and development, which in turn requires scales of measurement on which people are differently situated. Accordingly, academia is often considered a worthy recipient of aid and assistance despite its reliance on differential (and therefore “discriminative”) assessments of cognitive ability.
But most importantly, because the highly gifted population has been responsible for a disproportionate share of our intellectual progress and thus constitutes a critical human resource, anything that saves any part of it from dropping through the sieve-like bureaucratic machinery of the formal education system is of potential benefit to society and should be strongly encouraged. To deny this is to insupportably assert that the intellectual monopoly enjoyed by academia should be maintained at all costs, and that even if academia is not infallible (and it most certainly is not), it should be permitted to routinely and casually squander perhaps the most valuable resource available to mankind.
Some maintain that the Internet, with its vast potential to enhance freedom of expression, has ended academia’s monopoly on the intellectual destiny of humankind. But while it is true that the Internet opens up new vistas of self-expression to authors and thinkers, the noise factor is tremendous. This creates a problem: along with the noise, much of the most valuable content is inevitably filtered out by those best able to understand it. In consequence, intellectual influence remains concentrated in the hands of a closed loop of highly credentialed elites who, on the whole, could not care less about talented people excluded from the system due to educational or bureaucratic inefficiency.
The Mega Foundation aims to provide an alternative to academia, and thus to provide an open, unrigged intellectual marketplace better suited to the free-form, often dialectically-motivated exploratory and expressive styles of intellectually and creatively gifted individuals. By focusing on the gifted, it attempts to reclaim an invaluable human resource that continues to slip through gaping cracks in the system, countering the “noise factor” with a new standard of credentialization designed to match the individual’s capacity for meaningful intellectual production rather than the bureaucratic convenience of a disinterested, largely self-absorbed academic elite.
In addition to promoting intellectual freedom and reclaiming lost intellectual resources, the Mega Foundation investigates the nature of giftedness with an eye to bettering the plight of the gifted and optimizing the human intellect on the individual and aggregate levels. It advocates socially-beneficial improvements in the quality of education available in primary, secondary, and university-level educational settings, especially with regard to science and ethics. And for those ready for a more advanced approach to bettering the human condition, it provides a solid conceptual framework with the potential to help unify a nation and a world still torn by disagreement and strife.
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