Education for careers and citizenship, we might say, is for enabling free
participation in a free society. Such claims can be greeted with knowing
nods and affirming murmurs. After all, who doesnt want to be associated
with the enablement of free choice in a free society?
we can nod and murmur too easily. We do better to understand now how people
are driven into - and away from both career development and political
And the more we understand the harder it is to see how we can think of
what we do as enabling choice. In order honestly to work in this field
we need to be clearer about some challenging distinctions: between choice
and impulse, and habit, and instinct. We need, also, to know how to work
with choice in its social context. Career and citizenship are socially
stratified what people do are markers for unevenly distributed
access. Furthermore, notions of a free-standing self, making
free choices, ignores too much of the impact of family and neighbourhood
attachments on what people do. And we have not yet worked out how allegiances
to group beliefs and values impact political and career choices.
Few people have given as much thought to the relationship between choice
and action than philosopher Daniel Dennett. Like Richard
Rorty he uses up-to-date evolutionary thinking - to introduce us to
ourselves as species.
His central conclusion is that we become more able to make choices the
higher up the food chain we climb indeed knowing how to do that
has survival value. The key is complexity: the more factors we can take
into consideration, the more likely we are to make a useful move. This
is no argument for the KISS principle keep it simple stupid.
For our species the challenge was first gather or die; later
hunt or die; and then cooperate or die. It is
now, says Daniel Dennett, think or die.
His appeal is to science, and so he does not deny the reality of causes
and effects in what we do. But, he says, the more we learn to see the
way things are in a range of different ways, then the less - for us -
anything is inevitable. That is our freedom.
Daniel Dennetts work does much to clarify that list of challenging
distinctions. And the clarity has practical value. Its implications for
careers work and education for citizenship are urgent and demanding. If
we mean to really do the work, rather than just meet the targets, we cannot
afford to ignore them.
a 'A good read' for serious thinkers the Café will review
Daniel Dennett (2003). Freedom Evolves. London: Allen Lane.
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power of complexity for
enabling career development
in career thinking
(look for Antonio Damasio and Steven Pinker)
on how the Café helps with future developments