Monday, May 07, 2007

When Prominent People Look Like Fools

The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.
- Sir William Preece, chief engineer of the British Post Office, 1876

Imagine how Preece would feel if he knew that today we can play television programs and movies, take pictures or videos and display them on the internet, write and check email as well as exchanging voice messages iwth today's cell phones. Soon we will also pay for our purchases using our phones when we reach a checkout desk.

It should be noted that people in the UK today often receive two snailmail deliveries on weekdays and one on Saturdays, so Preece's successors were not asleep at the wheel.

This quote reminds me of several relating to computers and the internet, most of which you have likely read so I won't bore you by repeating them. The most outstanding of these was Bill Gates declaring that 64 KB of memory ought to be enough for anyone.

How can such prominent people be so far off in their predictions? For one thing, most of them were middle age or older when they made their now-embarrassing declarations. As people get older, they want their world to remain the same as much as possible because it has taken them so many years to gain a reasonable understanding of it as it is (was).

However, nothing remains the same, in nature or in human lives. That which appears to maintain the status quo is most likely decaying beneath the surface. The only constant in this world today is change.

Many people are not prepared for major changes in their lives, such as when they lose their jobs or their spouses. The kinds of skills necessary to cope with the downturns of life form part of the emotional development that children are supposed to go through as they grow toward adulthood.

Many don't get enough coping skills. Their parents either don't know what to teach them or they believe that children should not be "burdened" with possible tragedies that might befall them later in life. Just mentioning the words drugs, alcohol, suicide, Prozac, therapist, murder, divorce and abuse is sufficient to remind us that not nearly enough people have the skills they need to cope with their lives.

Coping skills can be taught. They aren't being taught by enough parents today, maybe because the parents don't know the skills to teach their kids or maybe because they lose the opportunity to teach them at the right time. How many parents have been shocked by news of their children being arrested for drug use or being pregnant before it had even occurred to them to teach their offspring about these topics?

The only way to ensure that the emotional development of each child is addressed properly and each stage's components effected at the right time is the way we have always managed matters that parents could not handle on their own: we turn it over to teachers. It only makes sense for teachers to cover matters of emotional devleopment (as well as parents) so that every child will have the same ability to cope with the ups and downs that life will throw at them.

A few decades ago students could expect that the company that hired them when they left school may employ them for their entire careers. Today it is more likely that a person will have ten quite different jobs through their working lives. Most of them will be like careers in themselves.

Kids need to know not only how to get their first job, but how and when to pursue a new job and to secure the skills needed to do the new job (career) when the time arrives. They need to know what to do when they are dismissed, other than to apply for social assostance.

They need to know what to do when change smacks them in the face. Those things are teachable.

You can talk with your friends and neighbours about this, maybe get together a presentation to make to the principals of local schools. One success in one school and word will spread until entire school distrincts will adopt your plan.

Someone has to get the ball rolling. I nominate you.

Just talk to people about it. Emotional development is as important to a child as itellectual, physical or social devleopment. Schools today mostly address intellectual development according to their prescribed curricula.

Get talking about it. You can save a lot of lives from being messed up in the future.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make life's toughest problems a little easier to understand and to provide some solutions that everyone can follow.
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