A remarkable ting happened the other day.
While the U.S. Secretary of State was publicly cleaning his shotgun, some words dropped from his lips to the effect that he might not have to use the damn thing if some event (which he considered unlikely) were to happen.
And then, magically, the world began to shift gears and leaders started talking like (dare I say?) diplomats. Diplomats! For a while I had completely forgotten that diplomacy was supposed to be the mother tongue of people like the Secretary of State. And probably it was.
Maybe those words dropped haphazardly as if he were muttering something he remembered from an old Johnny Cash song: “Don’t take your gun to town, son, leave your gun at home.”
To settle a score, prove a point, corner some resources or gain an advantage we have not advanced one measly inch beyond where we were when the Boomers came of age. And we Boomers (yes, count me one) were quite certain we had answers to the problems vexing the world.
Unfortunately, we didn’t. We had some fantastic musical spokespeople who created anthems we still wish we could all live by (“Give Peace a Chance,” “Treat Your Children Well,” etc.), but nothing was solved.
Instead, problems have multiplied, only now our arsenal of things to kill, taze and electronically obliterate has grown. Lucky us.
Stay with me; I’m going somewhere with this.
The problem is not just that the language of diplomacy is neglected. The problem is also the thought processes that get us into no-win situations in which diplomacy isn’t even an option.
It’s called binary thinking. It’s what makes us draw lines in the sand. It’s what makes Met fans think Yankee fans are evil, and vice versa. It’s why the Democrats sit on one side of the floor and the Republicans on the other side, even though they are both Granfalloons.
What makes binary thinking really insidious is the way in which we can decry it and teach it to our children at the same time.
So what I want to know is this: With a world on the constant brink of violence, with our ability to govern ourselves at a 50-year low and our ability to flame each other at a 50-year high, why is our educational obsession about things like standardized test scores?
If we need to obsess over anything, shouldn’t we perhaps obsess over things like our children’s ability to work collaboratively, to synthesize and communicate what they know, to solve complex problems and learn the lost language of diplomacy?
Little things like that could actually change the world.