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Should Globalisation Pitfalls Be Taught In Secondary School

Opinion / February 12, 2010

The rapidly changing face of commerce is fast becoming influenced by global players rather than individual countries. Updates to the curriculum and teaching resources are needed to educate school children for adulthood. But the rate of change in technology is so phenomenal lessons learnt in year seven could be completely out of date by year 10.

Remember life before desk top computers, world wide web, search engines, iPod and mobile phones? Surprisingly you don’t have to go that far back in history. I recall my first experience of an electronic calculator. The size of an old CRT television it filled the desk. The beast was the pride and joy of the office, able to calculate all manner of maths at the speed of sound. Now, the same capacity is embedded in mobile phones able to spring into life instantly and calculate addition, multiplication and division with the flick of a thumb and at the speed of light. Perhaps what’s more to the point, already many of us have to think what was a CRT TV? But this is not my main concern.

Written communication in the past comprised of letters, phone calls and maybe the odd telex. The speed of delivery was, in today’s terms, incredibly slow. But this also induced an inherent amount of valuable thinking time. Many burning issues resolved themselves, and more importantly, there was time for a degree of lateral thinking. The time lag inevitability meant communications were more on need to know basis and addressed to maximum of one level of management up or down in the command chain. Now instant forms of contact have evolved along with our communication culture. Interactions are rapid, seemingly endless and simple to effect. Urgency pervades all information spinning it in a vortex that beams content far and wide across vast arrays of publication media. Emails can be copied to every member of a company known on the planet and these are not just the spammers. We have forgotten protocol and launched into a broadcast mode that competes with the news channels. The overburdened recipients become disinterested or distracted. But this is not my biggest concern.

In the past searching for information could be a painstaking and thankless task. Reference libraries needed probing, information gleaned and analysed. Considered thought emerged and it all took time. Today Google et al. can complete the task in a nano seconds. We are engulfed in facts that answer, inform and astound.  Yet this success masks failure. Wikipedia, that font of knowledge has outgrown its capacity to factually inform. The essential governance to check facts and edit content is sinking under the increasing volumes of data it cannot possibly digest. So it doesn’t, and the flames of the immense fire it created are starting to burn down and loose their heat. Children used to an environment where facts are a click away are now apt to skim information and present an argument that has little depth. An English essay compares unfavourably to a Twitter message of 140 characters. Why bother with researching facts when the web has the potential answer. But this is not my biggest concern.

Some mould breaking products have emerged from the investment in design and technology. Normally they are launched into a home market that can recover the investment and sustain viable sales. Stage two of the growth plan was to seek expansion in export markets. Now the market is global. Products are launched simultaneously in countries around the world. And yet the best design may fail. In the clamour for the latest must-have product fuelled by massive marketing expenditure,  a lower standard product can win through. The Betamax versus VHS, Apple vs. Microsoft comparisons are legion and it is the consumer that looses out. But this is not my biggest concern.

Our lives are becoming controlled by behemoths with phenomenal global strength.  Cultural boundaries are being breached for the sake of manufacturing simplicity.  And suddenly the world is shrinking. Brand names have achieved parasitic growth like the invasive fig tree that offers the sweet fruit but eventually causes the host tree to wither and die. Our high streets are becoming a bland modular design with similar shops, layouts and brands. One shopping mall looks like any other. You could be in Sheffield, Singapore or Sydney. And this is a great shame. Diversity, culture, and choice are being surreptitiously eroded.  Google has established immense power, and as we know, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Google mantra of “Do no Evil” will be tested and, I imagine, quietly abandoned as market dominance requires an aggressive defence mechanism to repel challengers. The absorption of a local provider would be of no consequence and would add to their critical mass but not necessarily benefit the consumer.

The growth in global dominance by any entity is my concern. As the larger companies grow they risk spectacular collapse. Who would have predicted Lehman Brothers, Chrysler and Japan Airlines would be in financial ruin despite a dominance that appeared insurmountable. If these massive entities can fail all must be considered fallible. An avalanche thundering down the mountain devouring everything in its path starts with a single snowflake. We need to be wary of international giants fuelled by inexorable growth, be they Microsoft, Google, Ebay, Amazon, Facebook or Twitter and ask what is it they want compared to what we are prepared to give up or risk. The world is a fantastic environment full of wonderment and local cultures. It would be a lesser place if boundaries become blurred, we all spoke one language and became controlled by single entities. Maybe “Animal Farm” by George Orwell really is just around the corner. In the meantime I need a Coke.


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