Trust, Cognitive Skills, and Democracy
Many thanks for taking the time write and send such a compelling critique of our current situation and prospects for the future.
To state an oft-used phrase, “It’s complicated.” In looking at some of the material published by and about various Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) programs, I came across one done by Daniel Schnitzlein from Hannover, Germany titled “The relationship between trust, cognitive skills, and democracy - evidence from 30 countries around the world.”
Based on the data collected from 30 countries—many are OECD members—prior to 2019, the chart below on page 4 ranks the US 10th.
Obviously, this covers a time just before COVID, the 2020 election, Jan 6th, etc., etc. If the OECD sponsored a follow-on study, I can’t imagine the US faring as well. In fact, I submit the lineup would change substantially for many of the countries represented. My point being that people’s trust in their institutions as well as their capabilities to develop and / or apply their cognitive skills have both declined over the past 3-4 years. As a result, democracy has faltered not just in the US, but worldwide.
Reversing this trend cannot be mandated from the top as trust must be rebuilt from the bottom up. This makes your observation and counsel so spot-on:
“I believe this will be a happier and better year if we all do even a little something to join forces and promote democratic actions (made in part in reference to “Republicans for Democracy” by David Leonhardt) …” 1
Doing that requires a significant uptick in social and emotional skills as identified in the OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 project and summarized in the “In Brief-Skills for 2030” summary. Below is the second page:
And the story I tell myself is that the Gen Z and Gen Alpha (my grandkids, for instance) already know it’s up to them to carry the brunt of the load AND they have or are acquiring the know-how in terms of social and emotional skills necessary to be successful. My commitment is to give them and their Gen X and Millennial parents whatever support and encouragement I can to make the paths they must travel to unity, love, and justice among all as less traumatic as possible. And that includes connecting people, joining forces, advancing community-based initiatives, furthering localization — whatever it takes to restore trust from the bottom up and build the cognitive skills of each and all so their collective capabilities can be applied in addressing the myriad wicked problems that confront us at every turn.
- Leonhardt, David. “Republicans for Democracy.” The New York Times, 6 Jan. 2022. NYTimes.com, www.nytimes.com/2022/01/0… [return]