A Whole New Education
We don’t need a new education system because of the internet, advanced search engines or artificial intelligence. We need it because our speed and ability of communicating has burgeoned too widely and too rapidly and we are unable to handle it. Apart from sorting the truth from the lies, we have to re-examine what is freedom when it can be so swiftly and easily abused, what is a right when it can be a life-threatening deprivation to those in need and what is a vote when its impact appears to be less than a teardrop in an ocean.
Writing about the way in which capitalism is contributing to the destruction of democracy, Martin Wolf, Financial Times Chief Economist, said: “Capitalism itself created the demand and the need for a far more educated and far more engaged population that demanded rights”. We have seen this coming for at least two centuries. Only now has the landslide turned into an avalanche. TikTok may be the name of an app but it is also a reminder that time, as expressed by technological progress, is passing faster with every day.
So what is it that a Whole New Education must teach?
The three R’s for sure. They are supposed to be taught now. Not very well in my opinion. When every third word is either a four-letter F curse or a four-letter filler ‘like’, when subtracting 2 from 4 requires the use of a calculator, when a sworn oath has become meaningless, I’m not sure we even know what the three R’s are any more. Without them the personal languages and calculations we use will proliferate to the point where Gen C can’t communicate with Gen D – even if they know the other exists. It is partly why discussion is becoming so aggressive.
The technologies must be learnt as well – not just the intriguing scientific complexity but the dangers, too. The internet is the greatest invention of my lifetime. It would have been an even greater one if we had thought about how to secure it, police it and make it safe. Its use and facility is being increasingly constrained by the need for security – and the constraints are not keeping pace with the invasions.
An individual’s coping with all this can be either “It’s not my job so I shall carry on making as much success of my work and life as I can within the parameters over which I have some control” or “National and international governance of ten billion people cannot be controlled by parliaments alone. Everyone now has to behave like a world citizen to create standards that are sustainable”. The choice is often presented as ideological – East Vs. West. In practice, it is quite different from that. It is a decision – not yet made – about what humanity is to be in the future and how to ensure the survival of it.
Today’s requirement is for strategy, not a further proliferation of tactics.
Educating future generations and equipping them to behave sustainably is fundamental to achieve the desirable attributes we claim to espouse daily. Whether we are headed for an eternal paradise after life is unknown. That we have the brains and other resources to create a worldy paradise has become increasingly evident in my lifetime. That we are dramatically failing to do so sadly becomes more obvious day by day.
The moral education that accompanied some religious beliefs has faded where those faiths have been called into doubt. There are still many believers whose good behaviour is guided by their faith. But religious institutions became self-serving, more controlling and less appealing at a time when personal responsibility was becoming a bigger necessity as a result of enhanced communications. You cannot half educate people without risking distorted thinking. As Alexander Pope said in his Essay on Criticism “A little learning is a dangerous thing”.
A whole new education is needed if we are to get humanity’s strategy right enough to make a success of our worldly paradise. If we are going to live increasingly long lives, possibly becoming immortal one day if we wish, we must become the creators of our own environment.
Do we have the philosophical wisdom to achieve this? Of course we do.
So why are we not doing it?
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07 April 2023