Important Decisions by Important People

Important Decisions by Important People

‘The man who is denied the opportunity of taking decisions of importance

 begins to regard as important the decisions he is allowed to take.’ 

C. Northcote Parkinson, author and historian (1909-1993)

It could have been said more strongly, I think. While agreeing with Parkinson (except it must be s/he not he) the issue today is not simply denial of opportunity. It is poor education. Students are still being taught mainly how to pass exams. If you make exams the objective of education that is the result you must expect. 

Does it suit today’s needs? No, it does not.

So what are today’s important decisions? Climate obviously tops the list.  At present we are fighting forest fires with water pistols. War comes a close second – war and the dangers for world peace and world economic survival. The greater the armaments the more likely a world war. AI is itself a danger if in the wrong hands.  And wrong hands are multiplying faster than the law and order resources can stop them. 

Longer life demands more money to support the old and provide for the sick. Decreasing populations demand longer working life to ensure that there is enough usable labour to keep the essentials of a world population of 10Bn functioning. Volatile currencies and new methods of payment require late- life financial planning well ahead of what we have today. Not everyone has to be a qualified economist; all have to be able to chart their own income and expenditure.

These are dangerous issues. Authority, of whatever kind, can cope with them only if the people broadly agree. Expanded and assertive media foment disagreement with ever livelier attempts to shock and agitate. The concept of peaceful coexistence appears to recede with every new challenge. Strange when you think that jointly-faced fear often unites people.

The Important People we used to depend on are seen to be less dependable. The changes they have to deal with become more pressing. Education cannot solve this in an instant but it can do so faster than it is doing now. In truth, you have become an Important Person even if you didn’t want to. How you vote – or tolerate – the political environment in which you live, how you think about the problems of the world, not just your own problems, and how you make decisions that enable the planet and society to be sustainable for your children and grandchildren is the key to the future.

Here are the six things Education should be doing to equip the young.

[1] Show everyone the world. Teach them the geography, the politics, the risks, the fun and pleasure to be had from appreciating what they have. Teach them that ‘more’ often means ‘worse’ rather than better.

[2] Make everyone more numerate. Examine them to see what they understand about the cost of living, length of life, old age, saving. Explain the fallacy of passive income as passive for some and doubly pressurising for others. Show them how their life and health determines their contribution to society. 

[3] Tell everyone there is such a thing as society. It is a way of living agreeably, healthily and happily together. Ask them if they’d like to try it.

[4] Define a humanist code of behaviour for everyone. Explain that law can never enforce it, only personal human discipline can do so. Make our competitive instincts work for those less able to exercise them.

[5] Make everyone of every age aware that they are valuable and capable. Explain that GRIT is courage. Measure their courage.

[6] Give everyone enough votes to make their participation in politics credible. Add to the number of votes for selflessness; remove some (not all) for selfishness.

There’s a lot of everyone in that, isn’t there?

That’s because there are a lot of people.

Everyone, in fact.

Good morning

John Bittleston 

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02 August 2023