Bitcoin education can change the world, but it has to be community-led, independent and focused on putting tools in students’ hands.
This is an opinion editorial by John Dennehy, founder of the My First Bitcoin education program based in El Salvador.
Community-led, independent, impartial Bitcoin education will change the world.
I know that most people would superficially agree on the importance of education, but to be honest, that is often just lip service. So, let’s break down why Bitcoin education matters so much and why we need to not only agree that it’s important, but to take action.
Bitcoin is money, yes, of course. But that’s just scratching the surface. Bitcoin is also a tool that, when used correctly, empowers the individual. It gives us agency in our own lives which encourages decentralization and personal responsibility. All of those things will echo far beyond money, they will change the very relationship we have with the concept of power.
Every previous revolution has been focused on which group wields power — Bitcoin can help us change the relationship we have with power itself. It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of this potential.
But realizing that potential is not a certainty. And the best way to predict the future is to create it.
Education is the first step in bringing new people into the space and thus, it will have a significant impact on the path they continue down. That’s why it must be pure. The profound potential of Bitcoin is that it allows individuals to make their own choices, so to begin that journey by telling students what to think is not just counter-productive, it’s counter-revolutionary.
Community-led, independent, impartial Bitcoin education is an idea whose time has come. This is a revolution, the first steps that new people take must maintain the core ethos of Bitcoin.
But how? How do we turn that theory into reality? Talk is cheap, proof of work is what matters.
My First Bitcoin is working on how to implement this style of Bitcoin education in El Salvador and beyond, and we are learning some lessons quickly.
These efforts have to be led by the community. That means that when we enter a new area, we identify the best students with the potential to be teachers and we train them to do just that and to keep teaching long after we leave. Local context matters too, and the people who understand that best are the ones who have deep roots.
Bitcoin education has to be interactive and Bitcoin tools have to be used. A lot of people are skeptical of Bitcoin because it is not physical — so it’s important to put it into their hands and show, rather than tell, whenever possible. We do this by sending sats to students’ phones in class. We also gift them with sats at meetups, where we often negotiate a discount with the bar or restaurant that is hosting for anyone who pays with bitcoin to encourage attendees’ first real-world transactions. Using Bitcoin is always easier than people think and demonstrating that firsthand is extremely effective.
It also has to be simple and accessible. Unnecessary complexity is a problem in the fiat world that encourages dependency rather than agency. Things such as law, taxes or even auto repairs are so complex that we need to trust someone else to navigate those systems for us, which leads to centralization and a deferral of responsibility. If we are striving to create a world that empowers the individual, we must create systems that are accessible.
There will always be more advanced learning that is needed and that will be necessarily complex, but the first steps a new student takes into the world of Bitcoin should be simple and accessible. It has to be useful. This is where local context matters, because Bitcoin will solve different problems for different people. It could be convenience, or cost, or censorship resistance, or so many other things. This is why the teacher has to be local, they know the context that matters most.
And it can’t be about making profit. Greed is a powerful thing, and many people are drawn to Bitcoin because they think it can make them more dollars. No.
Bitcoin is not a way to make more dollars, it’s a way to make dollars irrelevant. To teach people how to make profit is to entrench them into the old way of thinking — the goal should be the reverse. The power of Bitcoin is that it teaches us to think about the world in a new way, to think about ourselves in a new way. In the fiat world, money and power are synonymous. If the goal of trading bitcoin is creating more comparative power over others, then that’s the same mentality of the legacy world and will simply change who wields power, rather than changing our relationship with power. Bitcoin changes the incentive structure and encourages collaboration while giving agency to the individual. Trading encourages competition while encouraging centralization of authority.
Bitcoin will win, that is certain. What we get to decide is how.
It will be a long and difficult journey to ensure that Bitcoin is not co-opted by the negative forces of centralization. This is the greatest challenge of our time. If we do this right, we can change the future course of civilization.
Community-led, independent, impartial Bitcoin education is an idea whose time has come. Start a project in your own community and make the status quo irrelevant.
This is a guest post by John Dennehy. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.
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