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Education

“Mr. Head Democrat”: The Future of American Politics

September 9th, 2010 // 11:39 am @

In my recent book, The Coming Aristocracy, I wrote that the United States now lives in the era of the permanent campaign.

A young pollster in the Carter administration, Patrick Caddell, coined the term back in 1976, and he hit the nail right on the head. America used to gear up for campaigns, elect one of the candidates, and then settle down to let the winner lead the nation.

Not anymore.

Now we elect a candidate and then immediately increase the fervor of the debate. We pick sides before an election, and once the election is over we get really serious about the fight.

In the modern era of politics since Watergate, this permanent battle trend has continually increased. It is a new kind of politics, where few things are about leadership or wisdom and everything is about beating the other side.

In the last presidential campaign, I expected Senator Clinton to win the election — and I was surprised when Barack Obama took his party’s nomination. I quickly set out to learn everything I could about him, from original sources — his writings, speeches and public utterances.

What I found was interesting: Obama’s pre-presidential record and especially his book, The Audacity of Hope, was a blend of dynamic-populist leadership with an old-line liberal politics. The Democratic Party hadn’t seen that mixture since JFK.

My prediction was that Obama’s populism would him bring him a victory and then we’d see whether he emphasized leadership or liberalism. If he emphasized the leadership aspect, I said, he would become one of the great presidents of American history.

It was Leader Obama versus Politician Obama, and I was very interested to see which one would win out in the realities of modern Washington.

Three Americas

So far Politician Obama has dominated. This leaves the United States in an interesting place. In fact, it changes everything.

If you watched the historic night of the 2008 election and listened to the now-famous “Yes We Can” speech, you may not realize that this was the height of the Leader Obama.

Politician Obama has changed everything since that night.

For example, Leader Obama did something truly amazing in the modern political era — he carried a majority of the wealthy voters (those who make over $200,000 per year). He was the first Democrat to do so in the post-Watergate era, and this amazing statistic seemed to indicate a new type of politics ahead.

But his hard shift to the left after inauguration has changed this dynamic.

Note that the change isn’t among conservatives — they never liked him and few voted for him. The shift is in the 39% of the voting population that now don’t want to be called either liberals or conservatives.

This tri-lateral divide of the American political landscape is fascinating. There are roughly 28% of us who would donate to the Sierra Club, a competing 28% who would donate to The National Rifle Association, and a whopping 39% made up of two kinds of people: those who would donate to neither, and those who would donate to both!

We have the liberals in one camp, the conservatives in another, and in the largest faction we find a mixed group called independents. The far left and extreme right form their own small camps at the fringes.

“Mr. Head Democrat”

When President Obama took office he had a 70% approval rating — liberals, most of the far left, and nearly all of the independents. By September 1, 2009 his approval rating was down to 50%.

This is the biggest fall in the history of new presidents in so short a time, as David Brooks recently wrote in The New York Times. Brooks also noted that national anxiety is higher now than before Obama took office, and 59% of Americans now think the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Three events have underscored just how wide the divide in our nation has become. First was the outcry against President Obama’s address to school children — clearly many saw him as a politician rather than their president.

Second was the surprising money-raising power generated by Congressmen Wilson shouting “you lie” during the President’s speech (which the Senate rewarded by promptly adopting what Wilson was promoting with the outburst).

Third was the interesting way that President Obama managed to use his speech on health care to effectively accomplish two things: appear totally in charge and at the same time give up on many of the main points the Obama Administration had earlier supported (e.g. deficit spending on health care, no capped tax exemptions on health care, and raising taxes on the rich to pay for health care, etc.).

The strategy seems to be to get any bill called “Health Care” to pass.

These three concurrent events all point to one thing: President Obama is seen less as President of the United States and more as the Head Democrat. Politician over leader.

Ironically, this was the same story in the Bush Administration. Conservatives saw him as the President and liberals as the Head Republican. Today the roles are reversed.

But the telling point is how independents see the president. When they see a president as leader, popularity and support soars; the opposite occurs when independents see a president as politician.

Independent Power

The power resides in the independents, though neither major party has yet to admit it. Independents want three main things:

  1. Wise use of money by government.
  2. Strong national defense.
  3. Decentralization of power along with maintenance of state, local and individual powers.

Independents are more pragmatic than ideological, they don’t engage in emotional party-supporting, and they just want things to work.

Independents want to be safe from international and terrorist attacks, free, and prosperous. They want a strong government that does certain things very well and leaves the rest to the state, local or private sectors.

When the Bush Administration started its tenure with these goals, it won the conservative and independent votes and support, but lost independents when it turned to big government answers and huge spending increases (much higher than Clinton Administration budgets) in its final term.

When Leader Obama promised to cut foreign spending and bring a new era of real leadership to Washington, independents supported his candidacy against the daunting possibility of continued Bush-like policies under McCain.

Where liberals voted for Obama in the 2008 election, many independents voted more against Bush/McCain.

Later, as President Obama shelved his Leadership hat and flexed his Liberal-Partisanship muscles, independents were disappointed and reluctantly began to wane in their support for the Obama Administration. This trend is just getting started.

Independents are also withdrawing their support from the Democratic Congress — as they watch it too turn to party politics and shun leadership.

Of course, liberals still consider the President a great leader, as many conservatives did even when President Bush tried to spend and regulate his way to popularity.

But independents aren’t tied to any one party. They want results, and they’ll support candidates, Presidents and other officials who get the results they seek.

In this environment, leadership means getting support for your projects from your own party plus independents. Anything else fails.

Three issues drive presidential politics in the U.S.: national security, the economy, and a sense of leadership. Win two, and you win the presidency. Win three, like the Republicans did with Reagan and the Democrats did with Obama, and you win the Congress too.

In the fall of 2009, President Obama is winning only one — the leadership thing — and this because he is a superb speaker, and so far independents see no true alternative to his leadership.

He must pass a health care bill, no matter what it actually does or says, just to maintain this leadership edge. Lose that, and the nation will return to a Carter-like period of no-trust and malaise.

A Tipping Point Trend

Of course, liberals naturally think President Obama is winning all three and conservatives say he is losing them all. That’s normal.

The fact that he has also lost the majority support of independents is the issue. He won on the leadership thing, but has turned increasingly politician ever since.

This rise of the independents is creating an interesting tension between the two-party system and the voting electorate.

If the Obama Administration backs away from hard-line liberalism, the expansion of government, and attempting to solve everything through increased regulation, and instead emphasizes leadership and pragmatic policies that really work, independents will swing Democrat in the polls and future elections. If not, they won’t.

Either way, the power of the independents will increase the divide between the left and the right. Indeed, divisiveness is a hallmark of an era of shifting like the one we are experiencing.

The first two such shifts in American history created a new political party — the Democratic Republicans in 1798 and later the Republicans in 1856.

The last time we faced such a major shift we totally restructured government power by creating the Social Security Administration, the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, a host of secretive agencies in Washington, and a drastic increase in government regulations and red tape.

Whatever the current shift brings, let’s hope for more of a Freedom Shift than a transfer of more power to Washington.

Some may say that a rebirth of freedom is too hard, that we can’t do it. Our response should be, “Yes we can.”

In truth, it is a matter of leadership over politics.

If independents keep being stifled in both of the major parties, their frustration will continue to grow.

When they side with the Democrats, the result is usually more spending on national programs that further undermine America’s fiscal strength, free-market system, and national defense.

When they side with Republicans, the result has been increased spending on international projects and even corrupt governance that weakens the economy, freedom, and American power.

In short, at some point independents are likely to either totally reform one of the parties or just start their own.

Investing in the Future

On a personal level, many independents are investing in gold (which always seems to increase in value when the government spends beyond its means) and McDonald’s (which grows when the economy is booming and keeps growing internationally even when the U.S. economy recedes).

On a national level, during a time of shifting it is natural to see people a little confused about where they stand. After all, the constants they have believed probably don’t apply anymore.

For example, Republicans are no longer the party of the rich and Democrats have quit being the party of the little guy. Also, voters can no longer count on the old certainties that Republicans want to reduce the size of government and Democrats want to decrease foreign involvements and focus on domestic policy.

Indeed, now both Republicans and Democrats drastically increase government spending and foreign entanglements — whoever is in office.

Learning From Both Sides

I once invited a regional politician, a well-known liberal and vocal Democrat, to speak at a graduation ceremony. His speech was liberal and, well, liberal.

Afterwards conservatives railed and argued for days about my selection of speaker. The students, in contrast, learned a great deal and the speech provided material for many long discussions and assignments.

A few liberals congratulated me on our selection of speaker, but conservatives called with their frustration. A few donors even stopped sending contributions.

A few years later we invited a conservative talk-show host to speak, and the entire process repeated itself — this time the conservatives were happy, the liberals were upset, and once again the students and anyone willing to relax and listen learned a great deal.

The most intriguing lessons from both of these events came from the few who made a point of really listening and learning from views not naturally their own. We often learn more in our disagreements than from those who just repeat what we already believe.

Nearly all who closely listened and learned from the speaker of a differing viewpoint exhibited the basic views of independents. This is a rising power in America, as of yet mostly unnoticed, but sure to shift everything in the years ahead.

Winning Elections Through Leadership

I doubt that any U.S. President, liberal or conservative, will be seen by the nation any time soon as truly “Mr. President” rather than “Mr. Head Democrat or Republican.”

When it does happen, it will be because Mr. or Madam President drops partisan politics and adopts the values of independents: strong national defense, a free economic system that spurs prosperity, and a strong and active government that does what it should and also leaves the rest to state, local and private entities.

I look forward to being led by a President, current or future, whose policies win the long-term support of Party + Independents. That’s leadership. Anything else is merely partisan politics.

Frankly, the next election feels a long ways away, and I hope President Obama will shed his partisan hat and take on the mantle of leadership that comes through so clearly in his book The Audacity of Hope. (I had the same hope with President Bush and his promise of compassionate conservatism, but it never materialized).

If not, other elections will come and the biggest block of voting Americans will go searching for a leader who will finally represent their goals. Whatever happens in elections, this growing group is poised to remake the future of American politics.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Education &Featured &Government &Independents &Liberty &Politics

Censors Versus Bashers: The New Education?

September 9th, 2010 // 11:24 am @

A friend once suggested that we should remove the writings of Robert Kiyosaki from our curriculum. When I asked him why, he said that Kiyosaki’s books contain a number of errors.

“Do the writings of Marx contain errors?” I responded.

“Well, yes,” he admitted.

“What about the writings of Freud, or Dewey?”

He agreed that these contain errors also.

“Should we remove them from the curriculum, too?” I asked, “Or do you think the students actually get a better education by reading these authors and facing their errors head on?”

“That makes sense,” he said.

I asked, “Which books do you know that contain no errors — that are totally perfect?”

He said that the scriptures come to mind, but he couldn’t think of any other books with no errors.

Before I could continue, he broke in: “But when you’re reading these known classics, of course you point out the errors. In the case of Robert Kiyosaki, people just read it and accept it at face value.”

I replied, “But isn’t that all the more reason that a great education would include reading Kiyosaki and other influential books of our time and considering their truths as well as their errors?”

We had an excellent discussion, and he left agreeing that students were better off reading Kiyosaki and really thinking about it than not reading it at all.

Push Your Comfort Zone

But the question concerned me because I’ve heard it so many times before. Like the concerned parent who didn’t want her son to read or discuss Lord of the Flies.

After realizing that we would be discussing its flaws, she suddenly was very excited for her son to participate. Or the executive who objected to The Tipping Point because he felt that some of the conclusions weren’t adequately substantiated. When told he could share his views with the group, he was excited to attend.

thethinkerThe amazing thing is that so many of us today just assume that if someone puts a book on a reading list she must agree with everything it says.

Or we assume that if she has strong disagreements with something, she won’t recommend reading it — a sort of reverse censorship.

The result is the end of learning. If you don’t study new ideas that challenge the accepted wisdom, all that is left is brainwashing.

You end up with people who just accept whatever they read at face value; or you get people who believe they are deep thinkers because they know how to disagree with whatever they read.

Both of these extremes are lacking. The whole point of an education is to learn the ability to discern between good and bad, right and wrong, excellent and mediocre, true and false, useful and irrelevant, etc.

The best way to learn this is to experience great classics, and clarify their truths as well as their errors.

Once we gain this skill, we should apply it to current books, ideas, candidates, etc.

So why do we sometimes want to only read things we already agree with? At one level, it’s just more comfortable.

But at another level, education is about pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones — especially in our thinking.

The Battle

Unfortunately, we may be living in a strange conveyor belt saturated world with two competing sides — the Censors and the Bashers*. The Censors only want to read things without errors or personality. In other words, textbooks.

Every teacher knows that the quickest way to get rid of controversy is just to “dumb something down” to professional or technical jargon.

Ironically, when a book doesn’t say anything important, when it is “boring,” nobody seems to disagree with it. C.S. Lewis worried about just this thing when he wrote that our textbooks are educating “men without chests.”

The new formula for selecting a curriculum seems to be: No Genius or Personality = Flat and Dumbed Down Reading = No Controversy = Good Curriculum.

Of course, this makes for terrible education, because it shuts down thinking. The Censors don’t mean to do this, but the result of only reading what you agree with is the end of real thinking.

As for the second group, the Bashers, they thrive on controversy. But they never build anything. They just attack, criticizing those who are trying to make a positive difference.

Bashers never risk anything to make the world better, but they think they’re helping if they attack those who do. They are the natural response to the Censors.

Censors try to make sure that no controversy occurs, and in the process they unwittingly stop thinking (and suggest that everyone else do the same).

Of course, it’s vital to shelter children from evil and confusion, but Censors take it to the level of trying to shelter adults from dangerous ideas. In history, this always has terrible results — from Caesar to Hitler.

Bashers criticize the Hitlers of the world, but attack good ideas with just as much gusto. In fact, Bashers have come to believe that thinking means criticizing. They seldom use the word “thinking” without the modifier “critical” thinking.

But real thinking, including actually applying new ideas to build and improve the world, requires much more.

Are these two extremes the result of two full generations of conveyor belt education? Censors read The Lord of the Flies, Marx, Kiyosaki, or anything else that challenges the currently accepted wisdom, and say: “Let’s take this off the list — it has errors.”

Bashers, on the other hand, read the same books and say: “Here are all the errors; let’s list them one by one and focus on them.

Better still, let’s just attack the authors.” They believe this is critical thinking, but most of the time it only amounts to criticizing.

Be a Builder

Educated people, in contrast, read with eye for errors and also an openness to truth and application—whatever the source.

In fact, that’s a good definition of what it means to be educated: the ability to recognize and apply truth, regardless of its source or delivery.

As a result, a truly educated people is a free people. What we need is to be thinking people, and that is the purpose of education.

Even if some of our schools fail to educate, we can still put thinking at the center of our reading. Consider this three step approach:

  1. Let’s read the challenging books of our time, and carefully think about what they say.
  2. Where they’re wrong, let’s discuss and learn from the errors.
  3. Where they’re right, let’s work hard and take risks to apply them and build a better world.

As my friend and I finished our conversation, he surprised me — and taught me something. He said, “Before I leave, can you suggest several books I should be reading that will help me think more deeply?”

The truth is, most people aren’t really Censors or Bashers at heart. We just get into bad habits. Most people are really Builders, if you give them a chance.

In a world where widespread Conveyor Belt thinking has conditioned many of us to automatically censor or bash new ideas, we all need to do more thinking.

This simple but profound change could make all the difference in our society’s future. It would certainly have a wonderfully positive impact on modern education — or even just the personal education of anyone who applies it.

I think my answer surprised him, too: “I suggest that you start by reading Kiyosaki again, and this time write out a list of everything you learn that is true.

Then put it next to your list of errors. Finally, as you study both lists, consider what you can use from the lists to make a positive difference in the world.”

To his credit, my friend was open and excited to think, learn, and build.

*Thanks to James E. Faust for the concept of “Bashing vs. Building.”

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Education &Featured

Reconnecting with True & Effective Education

September 9th, 2010 // 11:01 am @

In recent years we have seen a domino effect of compounding crises, one following another.

Behind each crisis is a history — a series of causal events and circumstances that made the crisis inevitable.

Our failure to recognize the common root cause makes it unlikely that effective solutions will ever be put in place to free us from this cycle.

While many correctly note that education is the key, this is usually only an introduction to an even more troubling crisis.

Violence, addiction, cultural decay, the degeneration of the family unit, deterioration of an aging infrastructure of buildings and resources, high rate of dropout of students as well as teachers, political manipulation of curriculum and personnel, and mediocre and falling test scores are all issues of extreme importance.

But after all of the other criticisms that can be made of our educational system, the final indictment is that too many of our children simply aren’t learning.

Because of this education disaster the twenty-first century has not fulfilled its promise as an Information Age, a Post-industrial Age, or an American Age.

It has instead been an Era of Crisis.

To break free from this long-term pattern of crisis we must first fix education, and to fix education we must address the real problem.

The deep reality of this failure is that education now too seldom involves the right kind of connection.

Consider the deeply moving and transformational experiences you had with teachers and educators in your life and I think you will agree that connection was a defining characteristic in virtually every example. Somehow that great teacher or mentor found a connection with you, and it helped you when you needed it.

Now add to your mental list the best characteristics of the greatest teachers in history, from Socrates to Mother Teresa. Now include those of the greatest mentors in literature and books, like Jo in Little Men, or the priest in Romeo and Juliet.

Add to the list the best from great teachers in contemporary movies, like Dead Poet’s Society and Freedom Writers.

Within this list we find a prescription for how to truly connect with, teach, and mentor young people.

This list is what great education is. This list is what Leadership Education is all about.

Our purpose is to put great mentors in the classroom with students and then watch as greatness emerges. And it does — because when teachers know that their entire purpose is to be the things on that list to the students in their care, miracles occur.

athomasjeffersoneducation-150x220-customAs I wrote in my book A Thomas Jefferson Education, academia today struggles because both teachers and students have lost the vision of their role in the educational process.

Every conceivable “fix” has been tried or proposed, while neglecting the obvious: It is the student’s job to supply the desire and effort to get an education for himself.

To this end, it is the teacher’s role to inspire — to do all those things on our mental list that lead to connection.

When teachers do those things, students study and learn and work hard; they actually get a great education and prepare for a great life.

Imagine a world where classrooms are filled with teachers who believe their students have genius within them and that it is their job to help each student find it and develop it.

I hope that in the decade ahead millions will read the book A Thomas Jefferson Education and help make this vision a reality in their homes and schools.

We must all spread the message that we can’t accept mediocre education anymore without dooming our nation’s freedom and prosperity, and that great education comes only when students choose to do the hard work of studying.

Students do this when they are exposed to transformational teaching and personalized mentoring.

So, what can you do? Be a mentor. Get fifty copies of A Thomas Jefferson Education and give them to people you know; tell them of your conviction that the future of America depends on great education as outlined in this book.

Start telling the story of the teacher or mentor who most changed your life, and ask others how teachers changed theirs.

We need to start talking about our great teachers, to make this discussion an American pastime. Great education means the difference, literally, between a future America of free enterprise and opportunity or something much less desirable.

In the next decade, we are choosing what kind of future we will pass on to our children and grandchildren.

And the choice will happen in our classrooms.

*This post  was adapted from prepared remarks that were delivered as a speech by Shanon Brooks on behalf of Oliver DeMille at the George Wythe University 2009 Philanthropic Gala at the Utah State Capitol.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Education &Leadership &Statesmanship

Biology: Not a Science Anymore

September 9th, 2010 // 10:52 am @

On the morning of September 11, 2001, biology stopped being a science. For that matter, so did physics and mathematics, but our focus here is on biology.

Historically, the great philosophers and thinkers divided knowledge into four major branches:

First, the sciences, or the things which can be proven empirically — based on evidence and fact.

Second, the arts, areas of knowledge that are best understood through experiencing beauty.

Third, the spiritual, which Aristotle called metaphysics and which many moderns narrowly refer to as ethics.

Fourth, the humane, meaning the realm of organizing and leading human beings, the highest level of which is statesmanship, with social leadership being a close second.

Before 9/11, biology clearly belonged to the branch of knowledge called science. But as the world watched the planes fly into the buildings that day, over and over on our screens, the field of biology moved firmly and irreversibly into the realm of statesmanship.

As early as the 1920s, economist John Maynard Keynes suggested that the 21st Century would be the Democratic Century, as democracy and capitalism would finally spread around the world.

By the early 1990s, futurists Alvin Toffler and John Naisbitt separately predicted that the 21st Century would be the Asian or the Pacific Century, due to the rising might of China and the other Asian economies.

By the end of the nineties, the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs types suggested that the true explosion of the next hundred years would be technological rather than national — that the 21st would be the Digital Century.

Social conservatives like Robert Bork and Patrick Buchanan even got into the prediction game, envisioning decades of serious crises as we “slouch toward Gomorrah.”

But as big as these trends may or may not turn out to be, one thing will almost certainly eclipse them all: The 21st Century will be the Century of Biology.

And statesmen and social leaders of the future had better prepare accordingly.

But how should we prepare? What exactly does “The Century of Biology” mean?

Simply put, the events of 9/11 and the commencement of the Fourth Turning catapulted biological thinking from the first branch (pure science in pursuit of knowledge) immediately into the fourth branch (thought processes used to organize human endeavors) [1].

Biology is no longer about the sterile exercise of our intellects to answer questions about living organisms. Now biology has morphed into a means by which societal vitality may be investigated and sustained.

In biology, certain well-trained experts work to maintain health and banish disease from individuals and communities. We call these people healers, physicians, veterinarians, and the like.

In the twenty-first century, certain people, well-educated in the thinking of modern biology, will seek to sustain the vitality and vanquish the ills of society. To my way of thinking, these individuals have only one best, all-encompassing name: statesmen.

There are at least eight sub-trends of the overarching shift from the Information Age to the Biology Age [1]. Each is significant, each is currently increasing its power, and each must be understood by the statesmen and social leaders of our day.

The first four trends are:

1. Business is coming to life.
2. Technology is coming to life.
3. Information is coming to life.
4. Culture is coming to life.

Together, these four trends are causing and will cause four other macro-trends, including:

5. The end of stability in national domestic life.
6. The end of security in all aspects of life — business, economic, governmental, etc.
7. The rising philosophy of General Evolution (not to be confused with micro- or macro-evolution).

And finally:

8. Biology as a branch of leadership and a central tenet of all statesmanship.

The impact on our lives can hardly be overstated.

All our central models and worldviews will change — or at least the language we use to support our views.

For example, in the 20th Century our vocabulary and ideas were infused with the teachings of physics: time, distance, size and mechanical interactions were the rule. We understood things by asking who? what? where? why? when? and how?

In contrast, in the Biology Century our central metaphors will be creativity, initiative, adaptability, and the organic interconnections of things.

Instead of seeing a world made up of atoms, we will see a universe that can only be understood by comprehending relationships — not just knowing that relationships exist, mind you, but truly understanding them.

(As a side note, some authors including Tom Peters have suggested that therefore the 21st Century will be totally dominated by women).

In short, as Daniel Pink put it, the Right Brain will lead the 21st Century [2].

Relationships in business will dominate the bottom line; relationships in government will determine success in security, trade, economics, and even freedom; relationships in families will create a new class system, just as family arrangements created all historical class systems.

Relationships, not atoms, are the building blocks of our universe.

Let’s consider some specific examples of this shift into the Century of Biology, starting with the future of business. Twentieth century business emphasized the mechanical approach, including planning, strategizing, predicting, engineering the company, and controlling change.

A whole mechanical-based leadership industry grew around dozens of books which outlined the seven keys to success or the three choices of leaders. All of this is now turning to biology [3]. Just consider the following business phrases now in use in the general corporate world:

  • Adaptive Organizations
  • Metabolic Companies
  • Evolutionary Corporations
  • Permanent Volatility
  • Connectivity
  • Non-Linear Systems
  • Organic Leadership
  • Cell Management
  • Organism Organization
  • People Power
  • Mutation Marketing
  • Going Viral
  • Responsive Customized Manufacturing

The list could go on. But consider another huge trend which is not only re-seeding the way leaders and managers work, but is actually re-focusing the products and services businesses offer.

Technology is literally coming alive.

In the excellent book It’s Alive: The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology, & Business by Christopher Meyer and Stan Davis, the authors outline several major fields of bio-technology in the coming decades, including, but not limited to, nano-tech and materials science.

Nano-tech, which literally means the technology of the very, very small, has virtually exploded in the past decade — and it is growing exponentially.

To summarize this exciting new field, suffice it to say that with current optical technology and the latest generation of super microscopes, almost anything can be done smaller.

For example, researchers can now manipulate atoms, see genes in action, watch proteins as they interact and DNA strands as they fold. Scientists have “slowed” light down enough to capture a photon particle, and they can routinely manipulate the gene.

Medical researchers can “see” directly into the cell and even laser inject a medication directly into a cell without a needle. Nano-technology is being pursued by numerous national militaries and a host of private companies.

Also consider the breakthroughs of materials science. Research is currently underway to create the matter compiler, which would deconstruct a substance and then re-pattern the molecules to form a different pre-programmed substance.

What does this mean?

Imagine if ancient alchemy and Star Trek replicators meet in the middle sometime around the year 2052.

Or consider the concept currently under design of the Universal Mentor — a wrist watch or a pair of glasses with a world wide web link and audio capability which listens to your conversations and pipes answers, facts, quotes and sources directly into your watch or earpiece.

Experience Entertainment may be the closest to manufacturing these coming gadgets — where the interactive movie or CD connects directly to the central nervous system or visual cortex so that you are Arnold Shwarzenegger or Angelina Jolie.

And already in operation is the Social Science Simulator, which scholars are using to predict the results of a certain policy or law.

As fantastic as these ideas may be, they are still all based on mechanical technology, right? For now, yes. But significant funding and research are being put into “smart” technologies — machines which think, learn, evolve and possibly even “feel”.

Of course, the movie industry has shown the dangers of this in a barrage of movies in the last twenty years. But two facts remain: bio-tech research is in its embryonic stage, and embryos grow and develop.

The ideas and developments I highlighted in the last article may all seem impossible, or at least impractical. But listen to Dr. Rodney Brooks, MIT Professor and Director of the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT. He says:

Fifty years ago, just after the Second World War, there was a transformation of engineering. Before that, engineering had been a craft-based exercise, but starting around 1950 it was transformed into a physics-based discipline. Now we are seeing the beginnings of a transformation of engineering again, this time into a largely biologically-based discipline…At MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, where I am director, I see signs of this transformation every day. We have torn out clean rooms where we used to make silicon chips and installed wet labs in their place, where we compile programs into DNA sequences that we splice into genomes in order to breed bacterial robots. Our thirty-year goal is to have such exquisite control over the genetics of living systems that instead of growing a tree, cutting it down, and building a table out of it, we will ultimately be able to grow the table. . . Similar transformations are happening throughout engineering departments, not just at MIT but all over the world.” [1]

Professor Brooks continues:

“Some of the early biological augmentations of ourselves may entail increasing the number of neurons in our cortex. Already these sorts of experiments are being carried out on rats. When extra layers of neurons are placed in the brain of a rat at a critical time in its development, its intelligence is enhanced relative to rats without this augmentation. As we better understand the hormonal balances that control the growth of our brain in childhood, we will perhaps be able to add sheets of neurons to our adult brains, adding a few points to our IQ and restoring our memory abilities to those we had when younger. There will likely be some errors and horror stories about augmentation gone haywire, but make no mistake — the technology, in fits and starts, will proceed.

“By the midpoint of the twenty-first century, we will have many, many new biological capabilities. Some of them seem fanciful today, just as projections about the speed, memory, and price of today’s computers would have seemed fanciful to the engineers working on the first digital computers in 1950.” [2]

Psychology and mathematics are also turning biological. As Marc Hauser, Professor in the Department of Psychology and Program in Neurosciences at Harvard University, wrote:

“A chicken with a piece of quail brain bows its head like a quail but crows like a chicken. A seventy-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease, confined to his wheelchair, receives a piece of brain from a pig and in no time at all is out golfing, without a hint of his porcine accessory. This is not science fiction, a la Douglas Adams. This is scientific fact. Today we can swap brain tissue not just among individuals of the same species but between species. In the next fifty years such exquisite neurobiology will have revolutionized our understanding of the brain—of how it is wired up during development and how it has evolved over time.”

And consider these thoughts from Ian Stewart, the 1995 recipient of the Royal Society’s Michael Faraday medal:

“Far more influential, and far more radical, will be the mathematics inspired by the biosciences: biomathematics. As the triumphal announcements about the human genome give way to a new realism about the results, it has become clear that merely sequencing DNA does not get us very far in understanding organisms, or even in curing diseases. There are huge gaps in our understanding of the link between genes and organisms. . . .

“Genes are part of a dynamic control process that not only makes proteins but modifies them and gets them to the right place in a developing organism at the right moment in its life history. The understanding of this process will require much more than a mere list of DNA codes, and most of what’s missing has to be mathematical. But it will be a new kind of mathematics, one that blends the dynamics of organism growth with the molecular information processing of DNA. . . . The new biomathematics will be a strange new mixture of . . . analysis, geometry, and informatics. Plus lots of biology, of course.” [3]

Stewart also says:

“Today, complex systems are being studied in two main areas—biology and finance. A stock market, for instance, has many agents who interact by buying and selling stocks and shares. Out of this interaction emerges the financial world. The mathematics of finance and commerce will be revolutionized by throwing away the current “linear” models and introducing ones whose mathematical structure more accurately reflects the real world.

“Even more dramatically, mathematics will invade new areas of human activity altogether—social science, the arts, even politics. However, mathematics will not be used in the same way as it is currently used in the physical sciences.” [4]

And National Medal of Technology recipient Ray Kurzweil writes:

“. . .‘narrow’ AI [includes] machine intelligence that equals or exceeds human intelligence for specific tasks. Every time you send an e-mail or make a cell phone call, intelligent algorithms route the information. AI programs diagnose heart disease, fly and land airplanes, guide autonomous weapons, make automated investment decisions for a trillion dollars’ worth of funds and guide industrial processes. These were all research projects a couple of decades ago.

“So what are the prospects for ‘strong’ AI . . . with the full range of human intelligence? We can meet the hardware requirements . . . . [W]e need about 10 quadrillion calculations a second to provide a functional equivalent to all the regions of the brain. IBM’s Blue Gene/L computer is already at 100 trillion. If we plug in the semiconductor industry’s projections, we can see that 10 quadrillion calculations a second will be available for $1,000 by around 2020.” [5]

The ramifications are mind boggling, and the science is clearly here to stay.

But how is this all shifting to the realm of statesmanship and social leadership? The answer is profound. Genetic engineering, cloning, bio-mathematics and direct genetic healing cross the boundaries between science and leadership on many levels.

Jefferson spoke for all the great freedom philosophers of history when he wrote, “all men are created equal.” Indeed, this is the most basic tenet of free government, free markets and just laws.

But what if a new generation of children aren’t created equal?

What if only the very rich, or citizens in certain leading nations, can afford the gene scripting that gives their children the brains of Aristotle, the strength and speed of a professional football player, the height of a pro basketball center, and the looks of Apollo?

What if some men and women really are created “more equal than others?”

Politicians may try to stop the use of this technology for a time, just like they met in diplomatic summits and signed treaties to stop the technologies of the machine gun, chemical weapons, mind-enhancing drugs for entertainment, or nuclear weapons.

But where the technology exists, human beings will find a way to use it. The statesmen of the 21st Century will have to do better than just passing laws or signing treaties.

Indeed, the statesmen and social leaders of our generation will face a host of challenges unimagined by Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Gandhi, Churchill, or Mother Teresa. Which is why we must be better prepared than any generation before us — in virtue, wisdom, diplomacy and courage.

We must be the best educated of any generation — ever.

Just consider the emerging concept of General Evolution[1], as taught by Meyer and Davis[2].

Whereas micro-evolution means that external pressures, adaptation and mutation lead to evolution within a species, and macro-evolution refers to one species evolving into another, the evolution debate is now infused with a whole new issue.

General Evolution argues that all things, not just biological organisms, evolve along the same lines as Darwin’s micro-evolution.

In short, agents act to create, the creations face selective pressures and either perish or overcome, they overcome by connecting with other agents and then adapting, such adaptation causes them to evolve to a whole new level, where they self-organize, replicate or reproduce, and start over.

In biology the agent is the cell, made up of smaller agents such as proteins. In society the agent is the family, in an economy it is a business, in physics it is an atom, and so on. In the Information Age the agent is software, and if it actually does evolve, then it will naturally meet the criteria of being alive.

This may seem far-fetched, but who is to say that the biology code of G,T,A,C is inherently superior to the binary code of 1 and 0? Both were created or inspired by the same God. Indeed, numerous researchers are currently combining the two.

Interestingly, many of the strongest proponents of both sides of the 20th Century debate over macro evolution versus creationism are natural believers in General Evolution.

The atheistic skeptic already believes that man is god, so why can’t we create other beings in our own image that hopefully are like us in all the good ways but don’t inherit our flaws?

And the religious person believes that God created man, and that He also gave us the gift to create.

Why then can’t we create smart machines that learn and improve themselves as well as those that just do what the programmer says?

They will never take the place of human beings, just like cats and dogs never take the place of our children — but for people who don’t have children in the home, pets and smart machines might be excellent company.

In any case, in more practical terms, many (if not a majority) of the entrepreneurs of the 21st Century will only succeed if they infuse biology into their companies — in terms of products and especially relationships.

The mothers, fathers, entrepreneurs, social leaders, social entrepreneurs, community leaders and national and world statesmen of the 21st Century need to think biologically. They need to realize that families, schools, nations, and societies are organic, not mechanical.

For example, mothers are much more like arms than bumpers — you can’t just pull one off and replace it, without creating excruciating and lasting pain. Schools that treat teachers like factory workers instead of best friends will be full of students with glazed over eyes who can’t wait to get out of school. Why should they study if they hate the place?

Nations which pass laws mechanically, just assuming that whatever is legal will be followed by everyone regardless of their deepest beliefs, will not succeed.

People are disposed to “suffer a long chain of abuses,” but at some point the soul comes out and slaves rise against masters — not because they want to, but because deep within them they have to. It’s who they are. It’s their biology, and their spirit.

In less extreme nations, where slavery is outlawed, but the laws slowly promote immorality and become less and less just, the same pattern emerges. Eventually the people stand up, speak out, and do whatever it takes to win back their freedoms and re-institute virtue and goodness.

When positive change occurs, it does so biologically, organically, not mechanically. Like the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Civil Rights movement, few can predict it and then suddenly, in a few short years it is over and the world is changed. In retrospect, it seems inevitable.

That is what statesmanship and social leadership are about: preparing yourself to recognize unforeseen opportunity and lead change when the time is finally right.

20th Century experts may continue to suggest a mechanical strategy and a well-formed plan for the change, but a deep reading of history shows that the most important changes don’t happen that way.

Missions Worth Pursuing

The great changes of the 21st Century will happen biologically, naturally, as you submit to your Higher Power, focus your life on the mission given to you, and do what our generation was born to do.

In the 21st Century, there is nothing stopping us from feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, educating the ignorant, and freeing the captive. These are each biological imperatives. They are why our generation was born.

These are the missions worth pursuing. If you are giving your life to something else, please reconsider. You were born for a purpose. Find out what it is, and dedicate your whole biology to it — your body, heart, mind, and even your soul. Such grand purposes are the core of the human being. It is who we are. It is why we were born.

7 Areas of Focus for 21st Century Leaders

Specifically, the leaders of the 21st Century will lead biology in the following seven arenas. Each of us needs to become a student of all of them, and others that will naturally emerge in the decades ahead. Indeed, by 2020 I predict that to “be educated” will mean that you are literate in all seven, and a master of at least a few.

The 7 divisions of the new biology are:

  1. A vision of the future that is simultaneously accurate, good, and transformational.
  2. Adaptability and flexibility in the face of frequent change.
  3. Robustness and strength in overcoming all the challenges of this generation.
  4. The spirit of innovation, of destabilizing things that seem to be okay but are actually mediocre.
  5. Exploration and experimentation of good ideas and “impossible” dreams.
  6. Depth relationships — meaning a life focus on the most important relationships, with spouse, children, family and a few intimate others.
  7. Breadth relationships — including ministering to the people of the world by building friendships in every nation and people.

These are the great imperatives of statesmen, social leaders, mothers, and fathers in the 21st Century. And each of these is a biological process.

Where & How to Get This Education

Our vision is to train world-class statesmen who are true experts in these organic processes.

Leadership Education provides an in-depth study of what constitutes our society — the basic political, governmental, legal, economic, social, cultural, business and family forms which make up a society. It is, in the broad sense, the new biology.

Whereas rocket science studies inanimate objects, students study these seven biological challenges. They also master an eighth challenge, which is the highest struggle biology has ever known: how to build the ideal society.

If you were born to be one of the statesmen or stateswomen of the 21st Century, let nothing stop you from getting a true statesman’s education.

What Will You Invest In?

Whatever your focus is during the next decade, in the Century of Biology it is finally time to dedicate ourselves to solving the world’s problems.

Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, liberating the captive and teaching the ignorant are not just good ideas; they are our biological purpose in the decades ahead. They are why we are here.

We are biological beings. Biological entities don’t just exist, they live. Such beings learn, adapt, and at the highest levels, serve. They meet challenges and change the world. This is your heritage. It is the reason you are here. Live up to it.

Finally, the highest level of biology is investment. Whatever living organisms invest in tends to create their legacy and their future. Most living things invest primarily in survival. Man-made organizations tend to focus their investment on growing.

The Caucasian cultures that arose in Europe and spread throughout Western Civilization invest mainly in assets. In contrast, the Hebrews traditionally saw education as the highest investment. Many cultures around the world invest in relationships or family as the highest goal. And a number of Asian cultures emphasize investing in beauty or meaning.

michelangelo-finger-of-godYou are what you invest in– you’ll put your best time, best effort and deepest desires into your primary investment in life. So choose your investment well. Because whatever you choose, it will define you, as well as your failure and your success.

For statesmen and social leaders, there is only one choice: a special type of biological relationship called Service. If your life is lost in serving the good of the world, you will find yourself.

And maybe, if I can be so bold, you will become something much, much more than a biological being.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd Online.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Arts &Education &Leadership &Science &Statesmanship &Technology

The Calm Before the Storm

September 9th, 2010 // 10:42 am @

gatheringstormYears ago I moderated a discussion about the writings of John Adams and how much we need to apply today the things he taught more than two centuries ago.

One of the participants asked poignantly, “So what do we DO about all this?”

Others expressed similar concerns: Theory is okay, but what can really be done to impact society the way the American Founders did? Or the way other great statesmen and stateswomen in history did?

So much needs to be done in society; what can we do to make a difference?

This concern is not an isolated one. For at least the past fifty years, the classroom experience has been widely separated from “the real world.”

Reading, studying, discussing and writing are things done by students and academics — in a place not quite part of the real world of business, family, law, politics and current events.

So it is natural to ask what we can do — as if studying itself is not doing something.

Yet this was not the case for the great statesmen and stateswomen of history. Virtually all of them spent a significant portion of their lives reading, studying, writing and discussing — particularly in the classics.

Yes, they did other things; but it is doubtful that they could have done them without the scholarly preparation in character and competence.

I am not alone in my understanding that there are storms ahead — certainly the cycles of history suggest there are, for our nation and for other nations.

I do not know what they will be, nor do I believe that the future is ominous or doomed. I am an optimist. I believe that the best America and humanity have to offer are still ahead.

So mark these words well: Every generation faces its challenges, and ours will be no different. Our children and grandchildren will face their challenges. This is what I mean when I say that storms are ahead.

Despite a hectic and challenging world, made more complex by 9/11, we are today in a relative era of calm.

It is a calm before the storms that will inevitably come to our generation, just like they have come to all past generations and will come to those in the future — until God and mankind create a better world.

Arguably, the most important things we can and must DO in the calm before the storm is to prepare. Secondly, no type of preparation is more important than character and knowledge preparation — both of which are impacted by reading, writing, discussing and studying.

In 1764 George Washington didn’t do anything “big” to make a difference in society — except read and study and write and discuss great ideas. In other words, he prepared.

He had been at it for over five years by then, and would spend five more years just reading, studying and discussing great ideas before he would (perhaps before he could) do the big things. But when the storms came, he was prepared.

Nor did James Madison, Thomas Jefferson nor John Adams do the big things to make a difference in 1764. All three spent most of the year reading, studying and discussing the great ideas — in addition to the basics of making a living, going to school, raising families or living life.

But in addition to regular life, while most of their peers just made a living or went to school, they choose to do more: they read, studied, wrote, and discussed great ideas from the classics.

When the storms came their peers wondered what to do. But they already knew.

It was still hard, it still took everything their generation had to give, it still tested them to the depths of their bodies and souls — but they knew what to do because of what they had done in the calm: they had read, studied and discussed classics and history, in addition to living their normal lives.

Find a crisis or time of challenge in history, and you will find one of two things: either a nation with at least a few people who read, studied and discussed the classics in the calm before the storm, or a nation that failed to pass its tests, trials and storms.

I have found no exceptions in history.

Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln are examples. They prepared by reading, studying and discussing the great classics during the calm periods; when storms came they knew how to handle them.

Can you imagine the outcome of the American Revolution if the Founders hadn’t read and discussed classics? Or of the Civil War if Lincoln had just done business and politics but never spent hours and hours reading the great works? Or of World War II if Churchill hadn’t read the classics but just been a successful businessman or politician?

And the same applies to lesser known leaders and statesmen at the community and local levels. Application is essential; preparation is vital. And in the calm before the storm, preparation is even more critical than application.

Churchill even titles his history of 1919-1939 The Gathering Storm. And arguably the greatest folly of this period was that the leaders of the time were ignorant of or ignored the lessons of history and the classics.

Churchill himself spent much of this time trying to convince the leaders that the lessons of history needed to be heeded — lessons he had learned in the calm before the storm, lessons he learned in over a decade of reading, studying, writing, and discussing.

Reading, studying, writing and discussing is doing something. At certain times in history, it is the most important thing.

The real question is, are we doing it as well as the Founders? As well as Lincoln, Washington, Churchill or Gandhi? Or more to the point: are we doing it as well as we must? If not, we must improve. We must do better.

If we are doing as well as Lincoln or Churchill or Madison in our “calm” period of reading and learning, then we are DOING something indeed! And it will have consequences.

This is what Leadership Education is all about. Liberty, Prosperity and good government worldwide are a natural result of a world where people read, write, study, discuss and apply history and the classics.

If we do not do these things well, then our “calm before the storm,” our preparation time of the early 21st century, will likely be the same as other periods of history where reading, writing, studying and discussing classics was ignored — the beginning of failure in the storms ahead.

But I do not think so. I believe that in our generation, as in times past, just a small group of committed individuals can make all the difference.

Image Credit: salaud.

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Globe and Mail bestselling co-author of LeaderShift, and a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Blog &Education &Featured &History &Statesmanship

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