Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Missing: A Vision for our country!
Rod Orams - words of wisdom.
What is the vision for our country?
Although it is election time very few politicians seem to be concerned about the importance of having a shared vision for our country – they are of course focused on tax promises and winning elections. While one party blatantly appeals to individual selfishness and the other does at least focus more on the common good, what is missing is any consideration of the ‘bigger picture’ of where we are going. Nor are we being informed about the particular problems all countries have to face up to as we enter a post industrial era. Missing is a dialogue with all citizens about such issues, and possible future scenarios, that are the basis of a democracy.
What are the issues and opportunities New Zealand faces? There are, says business commentator Rod Orams, ‘big dynamics out there reshaping the world economy’, he asks, do the politicians ‘have any idea what we need to do to survive the threats and capitalize on the opportunities?’
The past has belonged to a certain kind of mind – the 'number crunchers' and linear thinkers – computer, or accountant like, qualities. The future, according to Daniel Pink in his book ‘A Whole New Mind’, belongs to a very different kind of people – creators, those with empathy, those who can recognize patterns and see connections between things, and, most of all, people who are their own meaning makers.
Orams, and others, point out that the ‘white collar’ knowledge workers are increasingly living in India and other low wage countries while technology is eliminating or automating certain kinds of work. China, in particular, is now able to produce in abundance manufacturing goods that make high wage Western countries like New Zealand vulnerable. As India and China ‘grow’ they will develop their own middle class who will become, in the very near future, their own inbuilt markets.
So, if some countries can do it cheaper, and computers can do it faster, what is it we need to do in New Zealand to stay ‘ahead of the wave’ and thrive in the future? More than lowering taxes I would think! And how will this relate to our education system? These are the questions we ought to be facing!
Orams warns of us, ‘that on our current trajectory we will trash our environment over the next couple of decades, making New Zealand a less desirable place to visit or grow things.’
He continues, ‘all we need to do is value what we have – our creativity, innovation, culture and environment – figure out how to turn these into unique services and products and learn how to sell them to the world.’
Only a few vanguard companies are doing this – the remainder, he says, if they don’t change, will drag the country down with them. What is required is imagination and ingenuity not simplistic tax cuts.
Innovative companies are doing just this, tapping into ‘kiwi’ creativity and risk taking and developing cultures that encourage workers to show initiative and to be continually inventive.
This certainly is not being reflected in our inflexible technocratic education system with its focus on preplanned measurable outcomes and set achievement targets.
We will need to create, or offer qualities, that are beyond just ‘high tech’. Information age skills will not be enough – we need to value empathy (nursing is a growing field), inventiveness, environmental sustainability, and to ensure our education system ‘produces’ students who have the future mindsets to take advantage of whatever opportunities come their way. It will be a ‘high tech high touch world’.
If the future depends on individual creativity and a sense of common destiny then schools will have to change dramatically. They will need to move away from the mass education vision of the last century and transform themselves into personalizing of learning by creating environments that develop the full potential and talents of all students.
To achieve a positive future scenario Orams believes we will need vision and leadership from our politicians. We need more than slogans and bribes and the bland ‘one dimensional’, managerialism and materialism that have infected us these past decades. To move beyond such a narrow self interest we need to create a national sense of purpose, or vision, that we all can see a role in; not just the wealthy few. And it is important that this sense of vision and empowerment should reach down to every one of us and not controlled by distant technocrats on our behalf. Elections ought not a time for selfish self interest but rather time for a national conversation about what kind of country we want to become, and what we all can do to contribute to realizing our shared destiny.
Education is an important means to achieve this.
If we were to 'revision' our country schools and teachers would have to change their mindsets as well. As in the business world, there are innovative schools and creative teachers we can learn from.
New minds are need to develop an innovative and inclusive country
It is, as Orams concludes, ‘a big ask’.