Archives for category: Lifelong learning

If we stop and take a look at ourselves it is not a pretty sight. We are in the midst of an unprecedented knowledge boom yet our world does not reflect this. Few parts of it have peace and real freedom yet we know that war only provides horror and intense suffering and sorrow and solves nothing. In the end the result only comes through peace talks. In a world in which we used the knowledge we have those talks would be at the beginning, not the end.

In countries not at war there is still unnecessary suffering and deprivation. We still haven’t learned to share and accept that having too much doesn’t bring happiness. Having too little inevitably brings misery and hardship. Over Xmas our Australian Prime Minister was photographed helping to serve lunch to some of our impoverished citizens. They already had too many helpers so that it’s only purpose was to rub in the fact that his many tax-deductible properties were keeping poor people in that situation. But that’s another story.

If we go back to the world scene, what should we do? Firstly I assume that there is no question that democracy is better than dictatorship. Free and fair elections for all should be the free and accepted norm for every country in the future. Secondly we need to ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to succeed according to their abilities, including physical ones. Thirdly, the leaders we choose should have these goals, not self fulfilment, self-gratification and enrichment which tend to be their current goals.

So where do we start? New knowledge seems to be the catalyst which is triggering the desire for a better world, and in particular the necessity for those in leadership roles and others to keep their knowledge updated. This would lead to better informed decision making. We can no longer expect one person to have the necessary qualifications to lead a country. We should look to electing a leadership team with a wide variety of skills and up-to-date knowledge. The days when someone with out dated knowledge of law can be treasurer, for example, should be long gone.

We need to move to an election criteria in which my final suggestion would be the first. We can no longer have a situation in which those who stand for election tell us, and partially listen to us, at election time then forget about us. We need to elect representatives who will represent us, not just themselves or their parties. We need to elect people who will represent us and have a well-established mechanism for doing so, with frequent opportunities to listen to their electorate, not just tell us after the event.

If our leaders are not prepared to keep up to date with their knowledge then they have no part in the 21st century world. Leaders who help to serve lunch to our poorest at Xmas need to be replaced by leaders who sit down and listen to all citizens so that they are aware of their needs, aspirations and ideas, including the poor. This is 21st century leadership. It needs to be a team with up-to-date appropriate knowledge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we speed towards 2017, which will mean that we are well ensconced in the 21st century, we still face a great deal of uncertainty and still have no concept of ourselves as guardians of this planet. Technology has helped in that people across the world, either close by or on the opposite side, can usually contact each other within seconds, but we still behave as individuals, with little concept of our joint role as preservers of humanity itself. In fact most people still think in terms of their own patch of land, be it the building they live in, the town/city and the country  their lives are clustered around, with minimum global concept beyond those limits.

The problems the world (this planet we have named earth) seems to have has little or no place in our, or our leaders, lives. Our thoughts seem to be focussed around our own little patch, a relic of mankind’s history, with no attempt to look beyond this. I once taught in a private girls school, which was favoured by at least one prime minister for the education of his daughter. One of the staff reckoned the school motto should be ‘Me’ because that seemed to be the students’ focus! That could easily apply to so many people in today’s world, including leaders.

We are all familiar with the industrial revolution and how it changed the lives of so many people. I suspect that this century will be recognised for the knowledge revolution which is likely to change the lives of far more people across the globe, both for better or worse. The latter effect will be entirely our responsibility as holders of this knowledge and responsible for how we use it.

There seems to be an acceptance of democracy as the most acceptable way of ruling, with greater personal freedom not only in choice of lifestyle but in expression of ideas and knowledge. It is not yet an idea anyone has perfected, with most countries having an unacceptable level of poverty and homelessness. Public demonstrations against the ruling party is a healthy part of this, unless they go on for too long (an indication that the people are not being listened to) or if violence is involved suggesting another agenda.

We enter the new year with one major player in world affairs having a leader who constantly  changes his mind and another who faces huge poverty levels (they don’t publish the figures) with an additional 6 million of his people facing job losses in major industries. Meanwhile his government is building weapons structures which threaten major trade routes. Hardly a positive picture.

Meanwhile, on a lesser scale, countries such as Australia have their own struggle with the knowledge boom. The Prime Minister has publicly denounced the advice of the chief scientist on climate change, an essential part of the world’s survival. Neither the Prime Minister, or his senior cabinet, seem to have any expertise in this area. In fields where they do have knowledge it was obtained in the last century and is largely out of date, but unrecognised as such. This is why it is so important to employ qualified advisors and take their advice.

We need to change our approach to governance, and sharing our planet, if we are to survive.

 

It is fairly easy to measure progress in technological terms, although how we appropriately or otherwise apply it is less so, but trying to do the same the same with moral progress is a very different story.

If we look back on our history, from mankind starting out from one specific area and spreading to inhabit almost the whole world, we have made enormous progress. Things we regard as fairly trivial today, such as early man learning how to swim and subsequently including fish in the diet, and the influence of this on the development of our brains, were huge steps forward at the time. Can we say the same about our moral development?

What sort of people are we electing as our leaders to take our own particular patch of the world forward? The westernised world has moved on from leaders who led by the example of brute force but what have we replaced it with? Whoever wins the U.S. election will be someone who has reached their present position through being rich, not by their ability except through being able to take money off other people (i.e.getting rich). Neither of them seem to feel that the unnecessary and debilitating wealth imbalance is anything that should concern them.

In other countries there seems to be a reliance on the ability of one side or another to acquire more weapons, and more powerful weapons, than the other side. Acquiring manpower for those weapons is achieved through fear or loyalty. Last night I watched a documentary on the war in Afghanistan by a western reporter embedded with the government army. What a dreadfully derelict country that is, and it would be difficult to make it prosperous for all its citizens even without a war.

Our moral progress is woefully behind our technological progress in most, if not all, the world. How can we move over to work together and make sure every human being has the opportunity to lead a happy life, with at least all our basic needs satisfied and with hope of rising above that level. The current situation in which our behaviour is threatening the very existence of life support on earth is bringing some of us together, although there are some inadequately educated people who are opposing even this idea, making it more difficult to address universally.

If only we could form a united world in which people put down their weapons and gave away their wealth to work towards mankind’s survival. After all, our primitive ancestors managed to achieve this.

 

 

These are the two major influences in my life at present and as time goes on they both get more urgent!

I have always been interested in education, not only personally but because I spent almost all of my life teaching, mainly in high schools but also University. I also continuously updated my own knowledge base, ending up with 5 degrees, the latest, a Ph.D. at age 76. I had one short stint away from teaching learning to be a computer programmer but found I missed human company as in those days programmers worked on their own! What a different world!

Computers have made a huge change in human life, something we can expect to continue to happen. We should have seen the knowledge explosion coming. From our early history we know that as groups grew their knowledge and new ideas grew with them. Today we can contact people across the world instantaneously so obviously our knowledge is growing at the same rate.

This is why life long learning becomes increasingly important, and it shows! The main people who seem to be unaware of its importance are those to whom it should be obvious, and be vitally necessary, our leaders. What is happening in Syria currently is an absolute disgrace. It is happening because leaders around the world were educated in the last century and have missed out on the knowledge which has happened since, at a time when the world is going through a knowledge explosion. How else can we explain why today’s leaders see a problem and take the old-fashioned way out of it, which usually means inhumane, costly and ineffective solutions, usually killing. Eventually, after much regrettable behaviour and death and suffering, not of course to the leaders, they decide to talk about the problem. How unintelligent this path is.

At citizen level we worry about the crime rate yet the only solution we use is to protect society from criminals by locking them up for a while. When they are released the majority go out and repeat the cycle. This isn’t a 21st century solution, it is a 20th century band-aid. We know so much more now.

So many people wonder how the USA has got itself into the current situation where leadership choice in the most influential country in the world seems to rest on which group can come up with the most dirt about the other. How uneducated! There are far bigger problems than this in the world such as liberty, poverty, disease, lack of access to food and fresh water and education which we should be tackling.

So where does ageing fit into all this? Same problems. I’ve just come across another world-wide group in this field who I am sure likes to think of themselves as world leaders, the IAGG. Yet they also don’t give discounts to pensioners to attend their next international conference and presumably don’t really want us there. Conferences on ageing without the ageing? Another example of a group educated in the 20th century who haven’t moved on. Ageing is currently a major problem, created by the so-called experts who haven’t yet realised that to be efficient and successful in their work they need to involve the real experts, ageing people themselves.

So many problems in the world would no longer exist, or be solved, if leaders updated their knowledge and education so that they thought and spoke from a 21st century knowledge platform.

 

Last night I went to a talk about how the digitised world is changing our lives, not just as individuals but more importantly how it is changing the world around us.

As individuals we are mildly concerned about personal security of ourselves and particularly our children. There are many benefits from having a mobile phone which I personally appreciate knowing that if I am ever in strife I can get help, no matter where I am. This is probably the reasoning parents go through when giving their children a phone, not realising how it can be abused, including by school bullies, causing an enormous amount of distress. Many of those doing the bullying are probably just adopting the culture of other kids without realising how harmful it can be, particularly when they live in a world where bullying is not properly defined and therefore recognisable.

The speaker at the talk mentioned that the school her brother’s children go to (in the USA) use fingerprints for identification. They no longer need to take the role and automatically know which children are at school. If they do multiple checks during the day they also know where each child is. At the most recent school bombing in that country parents were called to the school, unable to be told if their children were involved until they got to the school. There are usually pluses and minuses in new systems.

What last night’s talk was mainly about was digital change in the workplace and the necessity for people from all different areas of expertise to be involved. The value of teams was mentioned, and particularly teams composed of people from different age groups. I hope that this aspect of our new lives will be taken up by others. We not only need experts representing different areas of progress in the digitalised world but also we need to be able to put them in perspective in a time frame.

We cannot avoid this new world we are moving into, which offers us so many benefits, but we need to recognise it as a mixed blessing which we need to make sure we have control of, not an easy task particularly as it attracts talented people who see its potential to harm others without being caught.

One of the main problems with it is that often senior people who are sanctioning its use in their business are not as fully aware that it has drawbacks as well as its benefits. The recent hacking of the Australian Census, which is not universally accepted as a hacking event, shows the difficulties. The fact that it couldn’t be denied as a hacking event even by the top experts in the country shows the degree of difficulty the world faces with the new technology.

No matter how complex the topic is we need to keep ourselves grounded. It amused me that in arranging a discussion on what is probably the major problem facing the world today the organisers hadn’t thought to arrange for the old technology of microphones to be used making it hard for some of us to follow the discussion!

The other day I watched the American debate between the two major candidates for President. Both of them are very wealthy, with one boasting of his wealth to prove how successful he is in life, the currently accepted measure. The picture would be very different if people in so-called developed countries worshipped different goals, one in which everyone was equal, with some having more appropriate talents than others, a group of succeeders who felt obliged to help those less well-endowed. This of course would be a very different world in which war, misery and suffering were greatly reduced  and we could take a common pride in our world, our planet and our achievements. We would go a long way towards this if we stopped applying the word ‘wealthy’ to people who are actually money addicts whose craving for the substance is never satisfied. The problem is that the object of their desire can’t be grown, it has to be taken from other people. Yet these are the people we look up to as potential leaders.

Another word which is frequently abused is the word ‘education’. I think most people would define it as an opportunity to gain knowledge. Unfortunately our definition stops there, particularly when we try to define how such a desirable situation is to be achieved. If we do try, we continue we use words like schools and books, with today adding more sophisticated equipment, such as computers.

These thoughts arose when I took my granddaughters to a school holiday program run by the National Museum of Australia. The theme for every program is based on whatever exhibition the museum currently has running, in this case medieval life. The children were firstly given some knowledge about the topic and then they were asked to make something appropriate, in this case their own crown and shield, which they take home, and they also help to build a castle which successive groups of children will add to. The magic in this program is the talent and imagination the teachers (and helpers) have put into it. It is a non-competitive environment and the children automatically strive to produce their best efforts simply because they are interested and want to. The fact that the teaching staff are also really enjoying what they are doing is the magic ingredient which makes this work.

Our problem is that when we think about education we rarely think in terms of creating a non-competitive environment in which all concerned, from classroom teachers, to school principals, to education departments of universities, to ministries of education can encourage students to be imaginative, to think differently, and to come up with new ideas. Yet these are the talents people living and working in the 21st century need. The problem is that those involved in education are either innovative young teachers who frequently end up toeing the line, or older people whose goal is the next promotion. We then test the success of the current system by using past methods which are no longer relevant in the 21st century, national testing which really measures little yet takes up a lot of time and money.

If we really want a world in which most people can be successful and achieve then we need to rethink our values and the words we use to define them. We need to work out what the world and its populations need and work towards it. We all need to move into the 21st century with more appropriate definitions and goals. Otherwise the planet will become  unlivable and our descendants will die out.

Given the rise and rise of Donald Trump in the US I can only assume that Australia is not the only country to have a mixed approach to desirable standards for its citizens to achieve. If all else is equal then money (addiction) apparently surpasses everything else. We have come full circle since the Christian religion (amongst others) was the dominant force and there was a somewhat half-hearted attempt to spread wealth and assets more evenly so that all could benefit. Now if you are rich (a money addict) you are dominant and your ideas prevail. Your personal education, long since overtaken by your need for more and more money, is no longer important. For the record, it is 48 years since Donald Trump did any formal learning and 36 years for Malcolm Turnbull, in economics for Trump and Law for Turnbull. In both fields there have been dramatic advances in learning to adapt to our changing technological world in the intervening years.

If we turn to the other end of the spectrum, the unemployed and the welfare recipients, we find that there is a different emphasis. Suddenly we acknowledge the need for them to be educated, with both Australia and New Zealand recently assuming that lack of this vital commodity is their problem.

If we turn to our schools we also acknowledge the world we live in and realise that technology, including science and mathematics knowledge, is the way we should be going, equipping our children for this recognised future.

If we really want to create a viable world in which we all share its benefits regardless of our starting point in life, the skills we were equipped with, and the lucky breaks we have had along the way, then we need to work out together what our goals should be as we share this planet. Obviously we can’t all aspire to be like the people we choose as our leaders and potential leaders, collecting as much money as we can off other people. This is a limited goal for very few people and also not a very intelligent one.

So what is the solution? It is many years now since the term ‘lifelong education’ was introduced into our vocabulary but it has few adherents, surprising since the lack of it has so many consequences, particularly given the speed with which modern knowledge is expanding.

It is even longer since early man settled in ever larger groups and as the groups grew so did the pace of new ideas. Not only are we forming ever larger groups today but communication between different groups can be instantaneous, thus rapidly expanding our knowledge base. Knowledge, and its availability, are growing at an unprecedented rate.

Surely we should be capable of recognising the type of leaders appropriate for this new world and abandoning the old stereotype of those only capable of amassing personal wealth, taken off others, dismissing the need for personal knowledge accumulation. This is not a valid path for the world of the 21st century.

Earlier this week Playschool, an Australian children’s TV programme, celebrated 50 years of providing entertainment and learning to Australia’s youngest people. The programme has been, and hopefully always will be, under the guidance of experts in early education. A brilliant idea that children should have the best right from the beginning. If you mention the word ‘Playschool’ to millions of Australians the opening tune pops up in their heads. Not only did the program teach that it’s OK to be different but included such differences through the presenters themselves and the participating children. Music, dancing and singing, which I believe are essential to all human beings, were, and are, a major part of each episode. To those Australians trying to deny their connections to this programme I only have to mention Big Ted and Jemima to bring back memories.

On the actual birthday ABC TV aired their Q and A programme featuring the leader of a political party based on highlighting political and religious differences, and fostering a lack of understanding between them, a group which has recently re-entered our parliament. France has just suffered yet another mass murder based once again on religious differences. And in the US a money addict has been anointed head of one of their major parties and will stand for President later in the year. Not a happy and prosperous world.

If only all these people had started their early lives, and education, by learning that people are different and that these differences should be respected. We all have the right to live together working towards a common good. We all have the right to be different and pull together, through understanding each other, to create a prosperous and safe world for us all. These were the messages that Playschool taught millions of young Australians through love and understanding. I wonder if that is why we live in such a relatively peaceful country today? Thanks Playschool for what you have done for us individually, for our families and for what you contributed to Australia for over 50 years.

 

 

 

 

 

So many changes are happening in the world that affects me, yet change can lead in different directions, not always based on the common good.

We’ve just had elections here in Australia which could take us either way, either to improve we way we live or worsen it. The British have had an even more traumatic vote on whether to leave the European Union or not and in the background the Americans are preparing to elect a new President. These are all happening in particularly prominent countries, whereas most of what is happening in the rest of the world tends to fit into the ‘more of the same’ basket, with decisions largely only affecting those living in that country.

The Australian election is important to me as it obviously affects me but whether we are affected locally or internationally, we are still dependant on a relatively small handful of people for decision-making guidance. The British vote was a frightening example of this. Two men with parallel backgrounds coming through the cream of the British education system came to opposite positions on whether to stay in the European Union or not.

How could this happen?  Surely with all the access they had to knowledge and information they should have come to similar conclusions, whether staying or exiting would be better for the countries involved, particularly given that their education and training should have enabled the leaders of the two sides to sort the available knowledge accurately and intelligently? Given that the decision taken will have a huge impact on the people involved it places the population in a very vulnerable position.

Other decision-making situations could have equally devastating results, particularly the US elections. Decisions taken there tend to affect far more than merely the people under that jurisdiction.

The general population needs more information and guidance and we need it from intelligent, well-educated people who are not driven by their own particular dreams and aspirations.

Change is inevitable as the world in its entirety changes. How we manage that change depends on the information given to us about particular situations and who gives it to us in terms of their own particular aspirations.

Is the problem the fact that our access to knowledge is changing and we are not yet trained to know how to deal with it? Meanwhile what are our decisions based on, and what should they be based on, particularly in the collective field of voting?

This week, in a country to Australia’s north, students set off, unarmed they claim, to march to their Prime Minister’s office to protest against his alleged rorts, believing he is setting aside, inappropriately, money for his own personal use. The result was police firing on the students, with at least one in hospital and others too frightened to seek treatment. There are no reports of any police being hurt, certainly not shot. The political reaction has been just as bad with parliament suspended for many weeks, presumably so that no awkward questions can be asked, not only about what happened with the students but also about their allegations. Is this democracy and if not, why not?

The situation in the USA is equally inexplicable. How can a man whose only claim to achievement seems to be the ability to collect money off other people have the distinct possibility of becoming the next President? It seems that in the USA the present incumbent of the position is the only non-rich person who has made it to that office. The other current alternative candidate herself fits the rich bill.

In Australia the incumbent prime Minister has the same qualification, that of being able to collect money off others and thus become rich. He had a lot of ability when younger but hasn’t found it necessary to formally upgrade his knowledge base for nearly 40 years, in spite of the massive increase in knowledge in the world.

New technology, and other new knowledge, is rapidly changing our world but our leaders seem to feel it unnecessary to keep themselves up to date and we as electors seem to feel that the only criteria for leadership is the ability to collect money from others. If we look at the messy world around us it seems to be true that people get what they deserve when they vote yet there are so many others striving to create a better world in an infinite number of fields.

There is at least one movement in Australia trying to choose our representatives in a way that more accurately reflects what ordinary voters, and hence the majority of people want. I suspect that means a fair go for all and settling disputes through conversation, not useless violence followed by conversation. After all, it is ordinary people who suffer the violence and aftermath of it. The current refugees are testament to this.

Meanwhile the pot of gold at the end of this story continues to be overlooked. The enormous wealth of knowledge, information, experience and ideas locked up in older people continues to be dismissed as a burden, with older people regarded as second class, dependent citizens. I only hope that those who come after the present generation of leaders will have learned more from their education and recognise the knowledge, expertise and value, not burden, of older people. Then we can have the sort of world ordinary citizens, including older people, really want.