Education Is The Key To Cleaning Up This ApartmentCommentary • Opinion • Back To School • ISSUE 37•10 • Mar 21, 2001 By Brett Kogan Brett Kogan My fellow housemates, I have heard your concerns and, believe me, I share them. Look around you. What do you see? A sink overflowing with unwashed dishes. Laundry that has gone neglected for several weeks. Dust balls under the couch. Indeed, this once-proud apartment has fallen into a state of abject squalor.To adequately address this situation, serious steps must be taken. It will do no good to employ superficial, stopgap measures. No, we must cut to the very core of the problem if we are to enact lasting change. That is why I maintain that education is the key to cleaning up this apartment.What good are short-sighted, temporary measures like the proposal to punish those who leave their underwear on the bathroom floor or a plate of chicken bones on top of the TV for three weeks? Such punitive approaches, attractive as they may be to their proponents, are a mere "band-aid" solution, failing to address the root causes of this complex, multi-faceted apartment-cleanliness problem. What we need is not simply to clean up whatever mess we happen to see, but rather to fundamentally change the way we think about garbage itself through sweeping, broad-based educational initiatives.It is not enough to draw up, as some have advocated, a rotating list of weekly chores, and then post this list on the fridge. Fellow housemates, I ask you: What good is such shallow rhetoric when the very fridge itself is rotten to the core? Education is the only way to ensure that the problem is confronted not just on the surface, but all the way to the decomposing heads of cabbage deep inside.We must be proactive, not reactive, if we are to one day achieve our eventual goal of building a society in which the prevention of dirty dishes is stressed in our schools in early childhood, not 15 years later when the dishes are already piled high in the sink. Only then can we make strides toward genuine, lasting improvement. The stink, the germs, the lack of usable silverware and drinking glasses–these are all merely symptoms of the real problem. The real "dirt" is not on the dishes themselves, but in the minds of those who would allow them to pile up unchecked.We need to raise awareness of our apartment's cleaning needs on every level. We must develop a basic core curriculum that focuses not just on our need for someone to run out and buy a toilet-bowl scrubber, but on the reasons why such a toilet-bowl scrubber does not exist in our home now and must in the future.Without education, we may wipe away that thick layer of grime from the kitchen countertop and stove, but we will never truly wipe away the grime in our hearts and souls that caused such a mess in the first place. To be sure, some of us are messier than others. In fact, it has been argued a number of times in the past that the lion's share of the problem is due to one person, namely me. I admit that these allegations are not without merit. But this is not about pointing fingers, my fellow housemates, about who left that half-eaten Hostess Ding Dong on top of whose VCR. Such infighting and "blame games" cannot have a victor. These are problems we must share equally, for they affect us all.To confront these problems, one thing is certain: We need education. And to educate ourselves properly, unfortunately, the reality is that we will need money. A great deal of money. I have no doubt that some of you will resist such a notion, but who can put a price tag on cleanliness? It is vital that we view this money not as one housemate "scamming" or "ripping off" the others–allegations with which we are familiar from past incidents–but rather, as a priceless investment in our collective future.With that money, of course, will come the great responsibility of seeing to it that it is spent wisely on educational initiatives that lead to greater cleanliness for all of us. Therefore, someone is clearly needed to oversee this important investment in our future. And since it needs to be someone with a thorough understanding of the full scope of cleanliness issues facing the apartment, I hereby nominate myself.With your support, I am confident I can foster an environment in which all of us, not just some, live cleaner domestic lives. It's going to require everyone to pull together, but I know that if we allocate enough energy and resources to this cause, it can happen. It may take a long time. It may not even happen in our lifetimes. But remember, lasting change never happens overnight. So please pledge generously for my proposed housemate-based cleanliness-education initiative. Nothing less than the eventual cleaning of this apartment is at stake.