Our answers may lie in untried solutions

Before we sing the praises of two concrete “projects” that provide solutions to various challenges, let us stop to think critically about our attitudes to seeking, recognizing and accepting solutions.

It is amazing how many solutions to overcome some of our country’s major challenges already exist. The same goes for some of our provincial, city and even our personal challenges.

If that is true, the obvious question is: why do we not take advantage of these solutions? There are generally three reasons: we don’t know they exist; we are uncomfortable with the ideas inherent in the solutions proposed; and we are not willing to make the effort required.

Any combination of those three reasons may also apply in a given situation. Similarly, it should be noted that our discomfort with an idea may simply be due to our desire to get or to hold on to power and influence; our material and financial greed; our emotions and moral sensitivities; and/ or our ideological and religious values.

There is no need to list the detailed aspects of the policy and practical challenges that our society and, very specifically, our geographic and cultural communities are facing.

Efficient, effective and affordable solutions would certainly be welcomed in these and other areas. Most solutions involve creativity and innovation in the way we think, the way we do things and the way we combine a range of different skills. Let us now look at actual examples of things that work, that successfully address some of the major concerns of modern society.

The Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University is the “top ranked university incubator in Canada and the fifth in the world.” It is a perfect example of collaboration involving past and present students, budding entrepreneurs, the university, the business sector and (directly or indirectly) the three levels of government. Its strengths include creativity, practical education in motion and its contribution to the transformation and growth of the economy.

The Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics is another one of Canada’s world class initiatives. Based in Waterloo, it is a joint effort of private and public partners. It is internationally recognized as a thinking and research centre that attracts the world’s best scientific minds to address the most abstract and foundational issues in theoretical physics. Its theoretical work leads to discoveries of principles, products and services that can enhance all areas of our lives. And it shares with the public, teachers and students “the wonder and mystery of the universe.”

These two examples are particularly significant because they correct some of the systemic and structural weaknesses of our system of “education” and our system of schooling.

If we are capable of the type of creative thinking and innovative action and collaboration that produced such highly successful “projects”, why do we not apply the same systemic and structural principles to identify and implement solutions to the long list of challenges our society continues to face?