Friday, March 27, 2015
Security, Common Sense and Education
A few weeks ago, we moved into our new apartment here at Lanzhou University. The lock on the front door was not working well so we got a locksmith to change it. A few days later, we forgot our keys inside and locked ourselves out. We returned to the locksmith to pay him to open the door for us but he said he could not. He did not have the tools or the expertise. We could only get someone from Lanzhou (one hour away) to unlock it without keys. It was 9 pm at night, cold and it was not looking promising. We thought about a hotel, my classes the following day and so on. Luckily, my wife remembered that we had given an extra key to a trusted friend right after the installation the new lock. After a phone call and a five-minute wait, we were safely inside our house.
A couple of months ago a similar thing happened to us in Guangzhou and it took about 30 seconds for the locksmith to pick the “high security lock”. A pattern about security and what it really is, begins to emerge from just these two incidents.
In the USA, governments are spending millions of dollars on new prisons while educational spending is defunded. We focus our teaching on math and science and on examinations, while criminality is on the rise.
In the world we are spending billions to secure ourselves from terrorism and precious little is spent on education that teaches children how to get along with each other, how to tolerate or appreciate diversity how to understand and listen to people who have different religions or belief systems. We are living in a multicultural world while failing to see beyond the next sad story in the news.
We create open-systems like the internet and then after seeing the results, we try to implement security. We create governments with guaranteed freedoms and then pass laws to fix the abuses.
Smart criminals are flourishing and those who seek to walk civilization backward are living in paradise.
We fail to use common sense in our solutions. In engineering - be it in software, in governments or in building bridges we consistently omit common sense. We fail to take the long view and see that fundamentally the problem lies in our parenting and in our systems of education. We treat children like cars that all need four wheels and think that if they have four wheels they will grow up happy. We forget about braking systems and about quality. We forget we are human until another human tragedy takes lives and then we ask, “How could this happen?” and “Who is to blame?”
The crash of the Germanwings plane in March of 2015 shows the extreme futility of our directions and out efforts. After 911, we made cockpit doors that can keep out terrorists but we forgot that pilots need to eat, drink and use the bathrooms. At those times, the door is open. Moreover, we created locks that can be locked from the inside to keep out the bad guys. But as we have seen the bad guys can be on the inside and they can lock out the good guys. Then we have another tragic loss of life, another wave of angst, another failed “solution”.
I think we need a fundamental rethinking of all of these issues. We need to understand and build educational systems that are not assembly lines, which seek to find and enhance the basic goodness in every child. We need to facilitate the growth of adults who understand what really leads to happiness and what leads to sorrow. We need adults who can exercise creative and critical thinking skills and such adults only come into being after once being children: spiritually and mentally healthy children.
Will this prevent every disaster? No, it will not. Some people will always slip through the cracks, but it should make better engineers, better thinking and should make for a much happier society. We should be more “secure” without bigger locks, more happy without more drugs and common sense might just begin to flourish.