Just some dot points for the future …

What follows is the text of an e-mail I sent on March 12, 2013 to a friend and colleague—a devout Muslim woman, mother, scholar, and associate of my wife’s—after Nancy and I had shared a meal with her and her family at their home in Western Sydney:
As we wove effortlessly through Sydney’s congested thoroughfares on our way to Liverpool yesterday, and then from Liverpool to Sydney this morning, the driver and I talked nonstop. Family, Islam, Australia as a great place to live, the extremists who want to import their fanatical doctrines, Apple and Steve Jobs’ tireless pursuit of excellence: those were just some of the themes we explored. The driver, younger than me, was bearded, Lebanese, proudly Muslim, proudly Australian. (My ancestors, from England, Germany and Scotland, had settled in NSW and Victoria in the 1850s and  intermarried–marrying for love across religious boundaries, Catholic and Protestant.) As two males, both interested in working as seamlessly as possible with technological tools, Abdul and I fell easily into techie talk, but at a deeper level there was a shared sense of commonality and values. Although I didn’t put this proposition to him in quite these words, I’m sure he would agree with the sentiment: If we want to make sure that Australia will be a great place for our children and our grandkids to live in, then there are a few things we need to do.

These are just some thoughts I typed into Evernote on my iPhone on the plane on the way back. It is not a political manifesto. Nor is it a call for civic action–just some dot points for the future that I thought were worth recording.
DECENCY This has been a precious Australian asset. One way to refresh Australia’s reserves of decency is to stop taking away the freedom of children who arrive through the back door on boats with their parents.
COMMONSENSE If Australia is to be in a position to feed the growing middle-class populations of Asia, we need to protect and even reclaim our arable land rather than giving it up so freely to developers and drillers.
OPENNESS At every level of our society–from Junior primary to parliament, body corporate and Legacy  club–we need to encourage respectful debate, based on reason and evidence.
OPTIMISM We have a responsibility to plant seeds of hope, not despair, in the young ones. To do otherwise is to fail our ancestors, who would have wanted us to be as strong and adventurous and upbeat as they were when they left their homelands for this country.
Best wishes,
Brian
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2 thoughts on “Just some dot points for the future …

  1. I am pleased to hear Brian’s emphasis on action
    and his example of environmental
    sustainability as a focus for contributions.

    Action arising from learning and higher education.
    Action directed towards the (local and
    global) community. Action to make a positive
    difference for the future. These are emphases
    that I haven’t seen much in our new courses and
    that we have a chance to include in the
    MEDI.

    Brian mentioned some ‘dot points for the future’
    and I would like to add to that list:
    Knowledge. He said at the planning day last week
    that we were ‘knowledge workers’. In order
    to be informed contributors to the debates, the
    ‘common’ sense and enlightened optimism, we
    need to have a deep sense of history of the
    issues. This is hard work, delving below the
    surface of the bite-sized chunks of easily
    digested information and opinion.

    One of the writers that has encapsulated this for
    me in the past years is Edgar Morin in
    Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the future.
    I quote his summary (in part) about
    knowledge: ‘Knowing about knowledge should figure
    as a primary requirement to prepare the
    mind to confront the constant threat of error and
    illusion that parasitise the human mind.
    It is a question of arming minds in the vital
    combat for lucidity.’

    Morin also confronts uncertainties as a complex
    lesson. He says that ‘Education should include the
    study of uncertainties that have emerged in the
    physical sciences…, the science of biological
    evolution, the historical sciences…. We should
    learn to navigate on a sea of uncertainties,
    sailing in and around islands of certainty.’

    Morin also says that ‘Earth Identity’ is a complex
    lesson that needs to directly influence education.
    He emphasises our interdependency on a planetary
    scale and how we cannot achieve a clear idea of
    this interdependency when we fragment our learning
    into disciplines.

    Like

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