Thursday, April 28, 2011

Optimism and Pessimism about the future

Last week, I had two experiences which caused me to view the future more optimistically. The first was that I attended an event on systems dynamics and systems thinking hosted by Earl Haig high school here in Toronto.

The half-dozen students who organized this event have formed a system dynamics club at the high school, and held this event, complete with guest speakers, to educate their peers about systems thinking. These young people are far ahead of many adults in their realization of the importance of understanding how we make decisions.

The second experience was viewing a video which I learned about through the conference. The video is at:

This video shows three 6-year-old boys using a diagram of a reinforcing loop to solve relationship problems they were having on the playground. I found it incredibly inspiring. It is definitely worth watching.

The pessimism comes from the federal election we are experiencing, and the state of politics in Canada. Two things in particular are disturbing. As someone who emphasizes that the best decisions are made when we recognize our biases, identify our assumptions, seek out accurate information, cooperate with others, and behave civilly I find the behavior of Stephen Harper, our current Prime Minister, to be disappointing. He consistently tries to destroy, not debate, those who disagree with him. He chooses to ignore both scientific and economic experts when it comes to crimes and prisons, drug rehabilitation, and approaches to taxation. And he governs as a one-person show, without input from even members of his own party.

The other disturbing thing about the election is the sometimes irrational reaction that some people have had to the election and the candidates. One newspaper story told of a political science student who said "There's a lot I don't like in all the parties. So why would I pick one?" He intends to spoil his ballot.

I would hope that most voters will think things through a little bit more than this young man, and recognize that there are many decisions we have to make where we don't like any of the options, but we still have to choose. And further that if, like the majority of Canadians, you disagree with the way Stephen Harper conducts politics, that you think things though carefully before you vote on May 2. (If you are looking for practical information on voting strategically there is a website called which has more information.)

I debated long and hard whether to write a tip which contains a political stance. If my objection had been solely because I disagreed with someone's policies, I think I would have kept it to myself. But I'm truly concerned about the future of our country if Stephen Harper's approach to politics becomes the norm in Canada.

My hope is that the young people who are learning techniques for better cooperation and decision making don't lose these approaches when they become "adults."

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