We have been talking over how to improve democracy. Yesterday we considered votes for children and what might be called meritocratic democracy (earning the right to vote on an issue by formally studying it and gaining work experience in that area). We also have been discussing "face-to-face democracy," where a citizen's own integrity limits voting only for individuals that they know directly and have worked or interacted with recently, or from participating in consultations only on issues that they are duly familiar with.
Behind these are other ideas that we have gone over on the Badi' Blog in the past. One i democracy in the workplace through a worker's constitution and bill of rights, privileges and responsibilities. Another is democratizing corporations by means of a revised corporate charter and, through profit and power sharing, the erasure of artificial dichotomies among workers, managers and owners. I also advocate giving much more power to essential trades and professions, especially teachers, doctors and farmers, in exchange for their full participation in a meritocratic democracy. These learned experts would be duty bound, as a result, to help extend democracy into the earliest roots of education.
Before going further, let me say: at the heart of any democracy is a universal duty that in any bill of rights should come before all rights and privileges: the obligation of every citizen to learn and earn a living from a trade or profession (that is, everybody learns a trade or craft, and those who show interest and ability learn a profession as well).
Given all this, in a meritocratic democracy each child would apprentice at an early age to a craft or tradesperson, preferably in an area in which the pupil has expressed interest or shown an aptitude in. These very young apprentices would be encouraged not only to help with his or her master tradesperson's labor but also to participate fully in every deliberation and policy decision that the trade obliges her to participate in. As I said yesterday, there is no reason that a young apprentice who works hard and qualifies technically should not be given a full vote. This, rather than writing a test on theory that is soon forgotten, that earns a mark and then is thrown away, would encourage a sense of grave responsibility in children at an early age.
One aspect of face-to-face, meritocratic democracy that I have not gone into yet is peer review.
Our educational system at all levels ignores completely the ability of a student to work well in a group. The only thing that will get a student ahead is his or her ability to write a test, alone and unaided. Teachers are chosen for how well they write examinations, not for how well they can teach, which is itself a highly social group skill. When a group of kids do work together on a group project, only the result is marked. If one of them does more work than the others, or even if one blocks the group, the assessment is done exclusively by the teacher. Our autocratic traditions preclude the obvious conclusion: the most qualified person to assess one's ability to work in a group is another member of that group.
In the workplace it is the same. Co-workers are in a better position to judge a worker's social contribution and group skills than the boss. In politics it is the same -- and this is a fundamental flaw of democracy that must be addressed. From every point of view the people best qualified to say how well a leader is doing are not the people, not even his own party, it is those who work with him behind closed doors. Not coincidentally, these are least in a position to offer a frank assessment, even if they were immune from retaliation and were properly trained to give a fair judgement in the first place.
In order to address this flaw we must go back to the kindergarten level, the very moment children first come together. That is the moment training in cooperation must start. The teacher in kindergarten should have the children play cooperative games and report afterwards on how well their peers helped the group. If necessary the whole game and each child's later comments can be videotaped and reviewed together -- football teams use this method of review routinely together to improve their teamwork, and this is far more important than any game. This group review -- and review of their own assessments -- would force the children to think about the consequences of their attitudes and behavior in a group. When the next game comes up, which is designed to follow up on what the first cooperative game taught, the child will be ready to improve upon his or her previous social performance.
If similar peer reviews went on with increasing sophistication throughout our education we might expect that a prime minister or president -- if such a powerful position is tolerated -- would not surround himself with cowering toadies offering a front to the world, but he would want rather to challenge himself by seeking out as diverse a group as possible. This would assure that he sees every point of view early on and would also enable him to display their obligatory peer reviews to the world, showing that his ability to work well with others is worthy of one occupying the highest position in the land.
This peer review, I think, is essential to the cosmopolitanism that Immanuel Kant, in the last words of his Cosmopolitan History, held up as the goal of our human nature.
"Although this government at present exists only as a rough outline, nevertheless in all the members there is rising a feeling which each has for the preservation of the whole. This gives hope finally that after many reformative revolutions, a universal cosmopolitan condition, which Nature has as her ultimate purpose, will come into being as the womb wherein all the original capacities of the human race can develop." (last words in: Kant, Cosmopolitan History, p. 260)