A Preliminary Note
It is with great sadness that we record the death of David Young earlier this month. David did sterling work in the 1980s and -90s in the Leeds Project, of which he was Chairman, speaking frequently in the House of Lords about this, and becoming a trustee of the Initiative about the time he retired as Bishop of Ripon through ill health – a tragedy as he was one of the fittest men I’ve known and was still participating in the London Marathon in his early sixties.
It was on April 8th that I finished the manuscript (really the conclusion of five years’ writing, taking the first two attempts into account), and sent copies to all trustees. At our meeting on April 29th it was agreed to press ahead immediately with the pre-production edition of the book so as to attract influence, sponsors, publishers, and new trustees. “Camera-ready” copy was produced within two weeks, and 750 copies of the book were delivered on June 1st, nearly 200 of which had been distributed by mid July – a month ago. At that trustees’ meeting I was told not to take on further review-generating lectures, but to concentrate on the marketing and dissemination of the book, and the identification of new trustees. I issued the memo The Initiative in Changing Times to all trustees on July 3rd in which I described the five separate groups of people who had to be addressed simultaneously to achieve our objective.
- The general public, who need to see in this a new vision for the bringing up of children.
- Key opinion formers who could turn this into a national agenda.
- New trustees who could take responsibility for the Initiative’s future, and help provide operating costs.
- Politicians who could see in these ideas a way of drawing home, school and community together to create a more dynamic society.
- The 14-25 age group who, with energy to spare, should shortly become the driving force for such a new way of doing things.
Two weeks later, partly in preparation for a lecture to be given in Sydney, Australia and partly to catch the interest of Iain Duncan Smith as David Cameron’s Deputy for Social Policy, I wrote A Question of Democracy (copy enclosed). Apart from the book itself this is probably the most important piece I have ever written. IDS particularly picked up on the key section from page 11 which reads:
“I fear that, as ever busier individuals, we have become so distracted by our technological progress that we have been blinded to the threat that people who have been overschooled but undereducated pose to the on-going well-being of civilisation. The truth has to be that the more confused adults feel themselves to be about the big issues of life, the less willing they are in their turn to give their adolescent children the space to work things out for themselves. Uncertain adults breed uninvolved, inexperienced adolescents: a society that has to rediscover reasons for its faith in the future is a mean place in which to bring up children. A whole new way of doing things has to be found. We each have to start thinking strategically, and that involves analysing problems in depth by separating out symptoms from causes, appreciating other people’s perceptions, and above all avoiding the temptation to set up still more short-term panaceas that have so characterised the last twenty or thirty years, and which simply detract from long-term solutions”.
That IDS was quick to spot this may well help us at a political level. However, the acknowledgement that this is the political/social environment in which the Initiative has to operate must shape all our strategy. There is no doubting that English society has been dumbed down by politicians and the media for so long that relatively few are able to see what role they can play in to such a complex situation. Consequently there is a broken society out there waiting, I would argue, for the vision and inspiration that the Initiative can provide.
In the ten weeks that have elapsed since the book was “published” I have been pushing hard with all five groups of people. This proverbially represents getting all the necessary ‘ducks lined up in a row’. That is precisely how it is. Only when each these groups is activated individually will the result be far greater than the sum of the individual bits.
On July 9th David and Tom most generously agreed to continue underwriting the Initiative’s central costs at £10,000 a month for the rest of the year. Whether this is going to be long enough before fresh funds can be identified I just don’t know. Each of the ‘ducks’ have minds of their own. We have to get them facing the same way. It goes like this. Publishers, it seems, just don’t believe that the public-at-large is interested enough in education to justify putting sufficient funds into marketing this as a potential best seller. But without it being marketed in such a way there was little point in my having sweated so long to write it, and you to support me. BUT if a publisher realised that this could become a political priority, then they could see it very differently. Here is where the next ‘but’ comes in; however personally interested a politician may be in all this their enthusiasm would quickly dissipate if it didn’t excite their constituents. And it would all fall to pieces if those most involved in the bringing-up of children – parents and teachers – had no faith in the ideas we are putting forward.
So I’m having to balance all the ‘ducks’ very carefully indeed. The last thing any of us want is for this to go off half-cock – such as opting to go with a publisher who will publish quickly but not invest sufficient in marketing. Which ties up with finding new trustees. The moment we can find one, two or more trustees who know their way through this jungle, and hopefully have the funds to employ an expert to help me get both the publishing and the televising of these ideas developed in the most appropriate way, then we’ll be able to draw the political and professional interest together.