Science Inventory

The Emergy Basis for Formal Education in the United States


CAMPBELL, D. E. AND H. LU. The Emergy Basis for Formal Education in the United States. In Proceedings, EMERGY SYNTHESIS 5, Theory and Application of the Emergy Methodology: 5th Biennial Emergy Research Conference, Gainesville, FL, January 31 - February 02, 2007. Center for Environmental Policy, University of Florida, Gainsville, FL, 467-484, (2009).


This paper will be published in the proceedings of the 5th Biennial Emergy Research Conference. Its impact is uncertain, but it could be considerable within the worldwide community of emergy researchers, because the paper provides a detailed time series of estimates for the emergy required for the various levels of education. Such numbers for the United States were only available for the year 1980, prior to the publication of this paper. This paper breaks new ground in allowing, for the first time, an evaluation of a social process, i.e., teaching and learning, using emergy methods. This paper marks a step forward that opens the way to the evaluation of other social processes and it makes possible the development of a rigorous accounting system for mankind and nature based on this quasi-independent measure of the emergy of human service.


The education system of the United States from 1870 to 2006 was evaluated using emergy methods. The system was partitioned into three subsystems, elementary, secondary, and college education and the emergy inputs required to support each subsystem were determined for each year over the period of analysis. The emergy required to produce an individual with a given level of education was calculated by summing over the years of school needed to attain that level of knowledge. In 1980, the emergy per individual varied from 11.5 E16 sej/ind for a pre-school student to 157.4 E16 sej/ind for a PhD. The emergy of teaching and learning per hour spent in these processes was calculated as the sum of the emergy delivered by the education and experience of the teachers and the emergy brought to the process of learning by the students. The emergy of teaching and learning was an order of magnitude larger than the annual emergy required for the U.S. education system. The implication is that teaching and learning is a higher order social process related to the maintenance of the information cycle of the Nation. The results show that there is a ten-fold return on the emergy invested in operating the education system of the U.S.


Record Details:

Product Published Date: 04/01/2010
Record Last Revised: 06/23/2010
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 217584