Wisdom for Children

Simon Anholt and The Good Generation

"GoodCountry.org" Founder addresses educators.

Taken from the good generation page of goodcountry.org, here is the video transcript

I don't know I'm so sick of talking I've only just started it seems to be years and years and years that I've been standing on stages and I've been talking about the global challenges and it's taught I talk we will talk I'm really really desperate for something to happen and I think we all are something has really got to happen soon actually not soon now so for that reason the talk I'm going to give you this morning is not really a normal keynote it's actually something a little bit different I'm asking for your help you the people in this room and your colleagues around the world are I think exactly the people who can help me with a little project know what am I saying a big project which I'd like to launch I haven't really talked about this project very much in public yet I thought I'd wait until I met you this morning and tell you about it and see if I can get your help now I could do this appeal for help in about five minutes but I've actually got 23 minutes and 18 seconds so I'll give you a bit of background to it so you can perhaps understand where my thinking has come from and how its developed over the last 20 years it all starts well it always starts with a list a long list of all of the challenges that are facing Humanity in the 21st century and if you give me 30 seconds I can give you 30 grand challenges and I'm sure you can do the same we hear them all the time it usually starts with climate change and then it goes on to weapons proliferation conflict poverty inequality terror pandemics human rights abuses narco trafficking modern-day slavery small arms proliferation education illiteracy infant mortality we could go on and on and on and this is new this is the age of the long challenge it's never been like this before well in one sense it was like this before it was like this at the very very beginning do you remember 60 or 70 thousand years ago when we were one tribe living in Africa we were one tribe facing a single set of challenges and we worked together to face those challenges do you remember that and we were good we defeated most of those challenges and we survived and we prospered and we walked out of Africa and over the following tens of thousands of years we covered almost the whole planet the story of human progress since that day when we walked out of Africa has been a story of us the human tribe trying to get back together again and the amazing thing is that today as I stand here and talk to you we've almost achieved that aim we are within millimeters of being a single tribe again because we are within millimeters of all being able to talk to each other once again as if we were all sitting around the same campfire and of course we are once again all facing the same challenges and the reason that we're facing those challenges this time is all our own fault now for the last 20 years have Sabine said my day job has been advising governments around the world and when I asked them about their challenges what is it that's bothering you I began to notice very very soon after I started this work that I never heard any different answers to those challenges I can't remember the last time one country told me about a challenge it was facing that was purely 100 percent domestic every challenge that every country ever tells me about is a challenge I've heard 20 30 40 times before from other countries all of our problems today are thoroughly globalized in fact the problem with the world that we're living in at the moment is that our problems our challenges are more globalized than our solutions this is the imbalance Mexico can't fix drug trafficking on its own because it's bigger than Mexico its global China can't fix climate change because it's bigger than China its global and so forth Europe can't fix migration because it's bigger than Europe we have to work together if we're going to confront the challenges of the 21st century we need cooperation and collaboration between nations as the default but that's just the problem it's not the default it's never changed from that morning when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed and the nation-state came into being we are still countries of the world configured like warring competing tribes America first Britain first Guatemala first Iceland first we all do it all the time because that's the way we're still programmed and it's suicidal we have to learn to change the culture of governance worldwide from one that is fundamentally competitive to one that is fundamentally collaborative now thank you don't get me wrong I don't have a problem with competition I think competition is a very very valuable instinct it's a profoundly rooted part of human nature we all have it inside us and it's good it's powerful it has of course lifted billions of people out of poverty over the last century competition becomes a problem only when it is the only altar at which we worship and that has been the story for the last 80 years competition only makes sense when it is wisely mixed with cooperation and collaboration industry has known this for decades academia has known this for decades universities are almost the perfect example of organizations that compete and collaborate it's about time that countries learnt a lesson from universities and discovered that you can do both of those and it works now I mentioned just now the phrase America first but let me be clear I don't have a problem at all with President Trump's statement of America first it seems to me to be a statement of the bleeding obvious if you're the president of a country and you've been elected to lead them of course you put that country first but what I find depressing about the insinuation of many populist leaders today is the assumption that you coming first means everybody else has to come last and this is just plainly not the case so right now if we look at those global challenges you're adorable if we look at those global challenges it's very very easy to get extremely disheartened extremely depressed I actually sometimes wonder in some of the countries that are going through a great deal of misery and turbulence at the moment whether in fact the entire population isn't suffering from some mild persistent form of clinical depression I'm not kidding it really does feel that way doesn't it every day you turn on the TV or you open your browser hardly daring to see what's happened next and it's very very easy to get overwhelmed by this but I've thought about it and I've thought about it and I've talked about it and I've talked about it and I've come to the conclusion that you can actually simplify it down to two problems and two solutions so bear with me this is simplistic some people even call it naive but I was a little bit anxious about that word naive there is a sort of a tradition actually a modern habit of assuming that anything that is simple plus hopeful must be naive sometimes that's true but not always sometimes simple plus hopeful is just what we need and I'm hope I'm right about that so the two problems that humanity is facing at the moment forget the list of 30 grand challenges forget the SDGs for a moment those are all just symptoms of two underlying problems one the way that countries behave - the way that people behave every single one of those global challenges has got one thing in common it's our fault we've done it people and countries the way that they behave together are one of the main reasons why we're not making more progress in resolving those challenges the behavior of people is one of the main reasons why they don't go away why they persist and why we keep on developing new ones so we're never going to make any progress we're never going to be able to move for unless we can change as I said before the way that countries behave and as I'm going to say now the way that people behave so changing the way that countries behave is a big long story it's to do as I said with the culture of governance it's to do with the way that we elect our politicians around the world it's to do with the way that we as citizens behave and the degree to which we understand or take the trouble to understand the issues that our politicians are dealing with it's to do with education of course because everything's to do with education I've spent the last twenty years trying kind of stupidly on my own to change the way that countries behave I have not succeeded in fact after doing this government advisory trying to help countries to engage more productively and more collaboratively with the international community and proving to them that this actually makes better policy than thinking only of yourself proving to them that it's possible and effective to harmonize your domestic and your international responsibilities I realized after my fifty fourth country but before I saw an actual change in the culture of governance I was going to be 962 and it would be a little bit late for me even if it wasn't too late for everybody else so I began to think to myself well maybe what we actually need here is what we call a pincer action like a pair of scissors if I and I hope many other people and I'm working on that too are giving private advice to governments and showing to them helping them to understand how collaborating more is actually more competitive behavior will improve their economies will improve their societies and their cultures if we've also got those politicians voters or in the cases where they're not democratic at least the people who don't kick them out of power saying the same things then maybe things really could start to change but I said that every problem was fundamentally a problem of human behavior and if people are the problem then are the solution why do people behave the way they behave well the simplest possible answer is because that's the way that they've been educated and one of the reasons why things are really not looking better any quicker is because we still bring up our children in the way that we brought them up before our problems became globalized we're still teaching them and training them to expect to live in a closed domestic society we're not yet bringing them up to be global citizens we're not yet bringing them up to understand the interconnectedness and the interdependence of the human race and of the planet that we all live on this is the thing that's got to change it's very very difficult to change the behavior of adults and this is a lesson that Greta Turnberry is discovering this week she's been discovering it all her young life you take an adult and you shake them but they will not change because by the time you've reached the age of 30 you've already decided everything it's so so hard to change the behavior of grown-ups but kids huh it's easy the jesuits the Christian sect used to say in their schools give me the boy and I will give you the man they haven't invented women when they made up that there's something very profoundly true and potentially very sinister of course in that statement but let's look at the profound truth of it the way that we bring up our children is of course the shape of the world tomorrow now this is kind of so obvious and particularly with you guys I feel a little bit ashamed about pointing it out because it is as Homer Simpson would say a little bit da and in fact all over the world there are thousands maybe more maybe tens of thousands of educational projects which are trying very hard some of them with enormous success to bring up a new generation of children that instead of running away from the world's challenges will run towards them and that's what we need and there are thousands of these projects the problem is that they're too many they're too small they're not sufficiently ambitious most of them and they're very local and they tend to be just one subject you've got sub-national regions of Canada teaching children about climate change you've got individual schools or groups of schools in sub-saharan Africa teaching children about tolerance and that's great and we know it works because every time somebody tries an experiment like that we can see the potential and very often even the reality of it actually making a big difference for those tiny tiny numbers but as I said right at the beginning I'm sick of talking and one of the things that's really really dawning on all of us suddenly right now almost this week is that we have reached a crisis point the talking has got to be added on to some action right now and immediately so here's my suggestion and here's what I'd like your help with what I think we need now is we need to embrace all of those educational projects around the world we need to accept and understand that basically what they're trying to do is to create a better generation and we need to pull them together and we need to turn them into a single global compact the idea occurred to me just a few months ago and for various reasons I was looking at the websites of a lot of NGOs and chair and I began to notice the same phrased occurring over and over again on these websites almost in the same words every time it said something like and we must leave the world in a better state for our children and I found myself thinking that is so arrogant isn't it the idea that you can take some gigantic systemic crisis like climate change which has taken the emissions and commissions of billions of people centuries to perpetrate and you're going to fix it before you check out sometimes you know believe it or not we're just a little bit too impatient sometimes we fail to understand the speed at which humanity really does operate it's slower than we would like and at the moment it might even be slower than we need but we must hold our nerve because this is going to take a generation it will take a generation because that's exactly the timeframe that's required to replace the psychological cultural and social DNA that has caused all the global challenges so what I'm suggesting is this a project which I'm calling the good generation and the idea behind the good generation is very simply that we start off with a gigantic online global conversation we try and include as many people as we possibly can from all over the world and we ask them to join this discussion about what are the virtues or as we would say in the West the values that can lead towards a new generation a generation that as I said runs towards the challenges instead of running away from them how do we want to raise our children and I would hope I don't know how long this will take but at the end of this big conversation we'll end up with a set of virtues or values maybe five or six maybe eight or ten I don't know probably not more than ten and then what we're going to do is we're going to create a global compact around those educational values now if anybody thinks that that's difficult they're right if anybody thinks it's impossible they're wrong because we've done it before and if anybody thinks that creating a global Accord on values as sensitive as the way that we bring up our children is too difficult because of cultural differences because of linguistic and religious and geographical and economic differences take a look at a document called the UN Charter on Human Rights it's a very very moving document and it's a demonstration indeed as is the UN Charter itself but when humanity really does need to get together those cultural differences aren't an obstacle for very long trust me I'm an anthropologist if we really need to get together and we really need to agree on these things we can do it it's not rocket science in fact one of the problems in the world today if you ask me is that we have a tendency to exaggerate our differences fundamentally this is pretty straightforward and pretty practical we've got to stop messing up the planet and we've got to stop fighting each other you can't get more simple than that and I've never come across a half-decent culture or religion that doesn't agree with those fundamental principles so once we then collected all of these values together and we've designed this global compact then I have a sort of a vision in my mind that we might get perhaps a hundred perhaps two hundred ministers of Education from all over the world to meet together and sign this compact for some reason which I won't go into now in my mind it's in Venice I sort of see these hundred ministers of Education coming into Sint Mark's Square in gondolas well they wouldn't go into the square they've come to the Grand Canal in gondolas and they walk through and they'd meet at the proko gratia their care and they would sign this Global Compact and it would be live-streamed all over the world and the 10% of people minimum 10 percent of the people who my research tells me think of themselves as global citizens first and citizens of their own nations second will suddenly feel an unfamiliar sensation in their breasts a feeling of hope maybe we're not all going to hell in a handbasket maybe we are moving forwards maybe we can move maybe we just have to hold our nerve for one generation but we can do it so that's the little project don't do that save it till the end I'm running out of time so that's the project now here's why I want is to tell you about him because obviously it is pretty ambitious and obviously if I have and if anybody who's working with me on this shares that determination to make it not talk but action to make it actually happen then I'm gonna need some help right now it is just me and I need a big powerful partner to help me push this through and to make sure that it happens and happens well and happens for good and I thought to myself the ideal partner is probably the world's universities because universities are just perfect their centers of learning they're international there in every city in many towns all over the world people in universities because they're scholars and because they're researchers will understand and a great many of them will probably share these fundamental beliefs they're connected the universities of the world are a sort of new diplomatic network which has never really been lit up yet but it could and it should universities understand education and this is all about education they understand it technically they understand it personally because that's how they got there universities can form the bridge between governments and children universities can help understand exactly how we're going to teach these children to be the new generation that we so badly need I'm not suggesting by the way that we should go around the world teaching climate change or teaching tolerance because that has been tried before and it doesn't always work my own experience of Education is that if you want to change people's behavior in a positive way you have to do it with them being aware of it then you need their permission you can't just inject them with something without them realizing it and they have to be a participant our discussant in the process and it's much better if you're teaching them something that is inherently useful at the same time so for example if you want to teach tolerance don't teach tour let's teach cultural anthropology I know this myself because I tried it on my own children when they were about six if you teach cultural and with anthropology to six-year-olds a is a subject they absolutely love and be more importantly they start to take a scientific pride in understanding cultural difference and if you take a scientific pride in understanding cultural difference you are incapable of tolerance intolerance you are incapable of ignorance or racism it's just not in your being because your scientific pride rebels against it so this is the kind of approach if we want to cure climate change we don't teach kids about climate change we teach them about meteorology or oceanography so maybe they'll switch off the damn light when they leave the bedroom that's the way that it works we come at it sideways so that's really pretty much everything I wanted to tell you the good generation is a project that I want to launch as soon as possible and what I wanted to do today because I had the honor and the privilege of being able to speak to you about it first I wanted to ask you will you help and if you do want to help let's talk about it let's have a conversation I suggest Twitter I think Twitter is really good for these kinds of things of course you can also email me if you want if you want to email me directly that I'd be absolutely thrilled Simon at good dot country Simon at good dot country I'd love to hear from you and I will answer the email if everybody 6,000 people send me an email on the same day it might take a week or two for me to answer but I will answer but I think more useful for the general open conversation so we can all know what each other is saying let's use Twitter and let's use the hashtag good generation hashtag good generation and let's discuss a few things let's do a trial run of that big global discussion about the values and the virtues that would underpin this if you've got suggestions about what those values or virtues should be if you know about work that's already been done in this area let's tweet about it let's discuss it and see how it goes I want to get a sense of how many people within this group within this global community are keen to participate I want to talk to you about how it could work at the individual level of your university there's a whole other conversation there about what makes a good University like a good country one that harmonizes its internal responsibilities with the responsibilities of the world around it and that's part of the motivation for getting involved let's discuss that and if we find that there is a willingness amongst a reasonable number of people in institutions to do this together then for heaven's sake let's do it together [Applause]

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