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School Is Not Enough
Children need purposeful work to develop agency and self-possession. That education is unlikely to happen in school.
What is education for?
Despite the fact that the education of ourselves and our children takes up a great deal of our lives, few stop to ask that simple question. Simon Sarris’s new article challenges the dominant assumptions about how children should be educated, focusing instead on how children develop the agency needed to become successful adults. Current institutions, Sarris believes, are currently acting as impediments to that goal:
It is difficult to blame young adults for thinking that work is fake and meaningless if we prescribe fake and meaningless work for the first two decades of their existence. When meaningful work is an adult-only activity, it is little wonder that adolescence is a period of great depression. It would be surprising if it was not. Unlike the past, where many smart children finished sooner, modern education endlessly ushers them towards an often farther and more abstract future—one so far away and abstract that some children become infected with the opposite of agency. They take on a learned helplessness and downplay that the future is a reality at all.
Raising agentic children is the prerequisite to having a society of agentic adults. Exposure to the serious work we currently reserve to adults will give them the confidence to become statesmen, innovators, and founders. Read Simon’s article to learn what that entails.
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Meanwhile, Harold Robertson recently wrote about the complex systems that make our society function, and how the current prioritization of equity over efficacy in the workplace is leading to their decay.
Ubiquitous ESG (economic, social, and government) or DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) mandates means that firms have to sacrifice competence in order to get access to capital:
The more subtle reason for pressure within publicly-traded companies is that they require ongoing relationships with a spiderweb of banks, credit ratings agencies, proxy advisory services, and most importantly, investors. Given that the loss of access to capital is an immediate death sentence for most businesses, the CEOs of publicly-traded companies tend to push diversity over competency even when the decline in firm performance is clear. CEOs would likely rather trade a small drag on profits margins than a potentially career-ending scandal from pushing back.
When this attitude flows into critical industries like air traffic control, energy infrastructure, and the military, human errors that compound into larger disasters can become increasingly common. The first signs of a dangerous degradation in America’s complex systems are already there:
Recently, the tremendous U.S. record for air safety established since the 1970s has been fraying at the edges. The first three months of 2023 saw nine near-miss incidents at U.S. airports, one with two planes coming within 100 feet of colliding. This terrifying uptick from years prior resulted in the FAA and NTSB convening safety summits in March and May, respectively. Whether they dared to discuss root causes seems unlikely.
Check out the rest of Harold’s article here.
PALLADIUM 10: Cultural Excellence
The latest edition of our quarterly print magazine is now available. Become a Palladium member today to receive your copy. The first batches of PALLADIUM 10 ship on June 21st.
Here’s what’s been on the front page lately:
“At the Edge of Life” With Pietro Boselli. The world’s most handsome engineer explains the advantages of drawing on many sources of experience and trusting your instincts.
School Is Not Enough by Simon Sarris. Children need purposeful work to develop agency and self-possession. That education is unlikely to happen in school.
Complex Systems Won’t Survive the Competence Crisis by Harold Robertson. Complex systems like air traffic and energy operate on rigorous competency. With the managers of these systems prioritizing goals like diversity, these networks are now eroding.
Industrial Civilization Needs a Biological Future by Adam Van Buskirk. The core “WEIRD” populations of industrial society are getting consumed by it. They need to biologically assert themselves for technological civilization to survive.
ESG Is the Opium of the Investors by Nicolas Villarreal. ESG has created a luxury good out of symbolic pro-social investing. In practice, it mainly replicates consensus ideology. Those who want to go beyond it must act directly on the world.
That’s all for now.