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Liar, liar, pants on fire!

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By Jonathan Milne


We are used to receiving misleading information. Donald Trump is possibly leading the field (as of 5 August, his 928th day in office, he had made 12,019 false or misleading claims).

The trend towards political lies has led to the idea of post-truth politics. To some extent politicians have always been post-truth, although the game has changed now that social media can spread lies globally within seconds. Lies feed on a hunger for certainty.

In our particular area, we experience the politics of education. For example, the government is right to be engaging with vocational education and also to launch the wellbeing budget. Even if they’re making the best possible changes, the outcomes are going to be debated in the post-truth climate and there will be a different spin from each political direction.

In regard to vocational education, the government has to figure which jobs are headed for extinction and which are sustainable. If we build houses faster than our sewage systems can cope, we are in the poo.

On the theme of wellbeing, I wonder whether New Zealand’s high rate of youth suicide has something to do with education.

TLC knows that our students report a considerable overall improvement in well-being. Could it be that the TLC approach is relevant to reducing the number of suicides in New Zealand? Would it help if more students were able to build vocations around their creativity?

We don’t know whether New Zealand’s present education system is ideal for mental health or the economy.

Too many things are taken for granted. Do exam results give a useful indication of a student’s potential? Is it good to have students sitting at their desks for much of the day? Do school rules help or hinder?

TLC has opted for an approach that has value for a significant percentage of students. We avoid exams, although we do emphasise motivation and help students to seek out a path that has meaning for them. We don’t target any particular area of ‘vocation’, although we are sensitive to the fact that employers are keen on people who can come up with creative solutions. We recognise that many students are going to create careers that aren’t on the radar at present.

I’m suggesting that openness to constructive diversity is a good tactic to moderate ‘lies’ that are built on embedded conventions. It can help us to get past the prejudices that enable people like Donald Trump to get a foothold.

It makes a difference if we think in terms of what we are FOR rather that what we are against. Historically the most successful leadership has involved tolerance and diversity. Our own political system has moved in a positive direction and could become an example to the world. We have a lot more work to do.

Bonus Link
Buffy Sainte-Marie is descended from the Cree Indian tribe in Canada. She is famous as an activist singer and collaborated with Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Neil Young. One of her great songs is about lies – click here for Suffer the Little Children.


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