Mastery? It’s hard enough just keeping up!

My son’s high school principal wrote the following in her fall newsletter welcoming students and parents back to school (emphasis is mine):

On Common Ground is one of the books I read this summer. The chapter written by Roland Barth, who is an educational consultant, researcher and writer, reinforces the importance of being a life-long learner. He writes that knowledge doubles every three years and technology goes through a new generation every 18 months. Barth goes on to write that it is estimated that 50 years ago students graduated from high school knowing 75% of what they would need to know for the rest of their lives. The estimate today is that graduates of our high schools leave knowing about 2% of what they will need to know in the future. And yet graduates today leave school knowing far more than they did 50 years ago. When you consider this, it is clear that the focus for our students needs to be on learning as much as they can while in school but also being inspired to continue to learn throughout their lives.

Her point being, of course, that the world is a much more complex place and that we all need to know and understand more about the world around us just to get by. And with the pace of technology showing no signs of slowing down, we need to continually learn new things.

In no area is this more important, in my opinion, or more hard to do than in the area of security. Dennis Kennedy recently wrote a piece about technology security at the personal level, referring also to a post by John Robb entitled Getting Small. But what I’m thinking about here is big picture security.

In What the Terrorists Want, originally published at Wired.com, security expert Bruce Schneier discusses the impact of terrorism on society. But more importantly, he discusses the reaction of society to terrorist acts and how those reactions tend to work in the terrorists’ favor.

The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics. The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act. …

The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to recognize that terrorism is just one of the risks we face, and not a particularly common one at that. And our job is to fight those politicians who use fear as an excuse to take away our liberties and promote security theater that wastes money and doesn’t make us any safer.

Consider these articles from Kennedy, Robb, and Schneier a lesson in life skills, and please pass it on to your kids. Aside from the warnings about online predators your kids get at school, that may well be the only security training they get (aside from that they get from the School of Hard Knocks).

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