Is this really the best we can do?

Is this really the best we can do?

So, in 2014, the G20 summit is coming to Australia, and Australia is, I believe taking on the Chair for the G20. I think this is the first time that we’ve been the chair, so quite rightly it’s a bit of a big deal – a recognition of Australia’s place in the global economy, if that kind of thing is important to you. If you want to read more about this kind of thing, including the arcane system of selecting who chairs the summits, and how the ‘troika’ governs the G20, then I suggest you start off with Wikipedia, and give up when it all begins to sound like a cross between a science-fiction novel and the vampire council. That’s not what I want to talk about, anyway. I wanted to discuss the Office of the PM’s response to the G20 summit.

Despite what you may thing, economics to school kids is not a particularly sexy topic. For most children that I’ve worked with, knowledge of the current account deficit sits a lot further down their heirarchy than who’s sleeping with who, when they are going to get pissed next and, for some of them, how they can achieve while they’re at school. So be it. We were all teenagers once, and, considering some of the staff I’ve worked with, perhaps some of us still are.

So, pretty regularly, the government will put together some half-assed plan to make finance and economics ‘sexy’. I’ve seen some good ideas – especially the ones using simulations, or models to show how income is affected. I’ve seen some shocking ones, too, where there were tired old teaching resources re-purposed, and whole economies built upon beads and bits of string. But, to this day, I have never seen such a pathetic response to the issue of finance, the economy and the average citizen’s role in it as that which came across my desk today.

In order to commemorate Australia’s chairpersonship and the summit being held in Australia, Australian students are being asked to… wait for it…design a postage stamp. No, seriously. Here we are, with some of the most educated, most powerful men in the Western – heck, the whole world, and instead of seeing it as an opportunity to encourage young people to state their views about society, instead of seeing it as a chance to get young people to ask questions about their economic future, no, the government is asking young people to design the fancy equivalent of a poster.

Lord, help me.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not criticising Design. I think it’s fascinating. But, I think when the G20 summit is in town, perhaps we should be encouraging young people to do more than make a pretty picture.