Rob Ford, Part 3

These illustrations came from:Andersen, Hans Christian. Fairy Tales by Hans Andersen. Arthur Rackham, illustrator. London: George G. Harrap, 1932.

The Emperor’s New Clothes
  Fairy Tales by Hans Andersen.
Arthur Rackham, illustrator.

What happens next will be both interesting and important. And not because anyone cares at all about what happens to Rob Ford. He can take his great personal wealth and disappear unmissed. Important principles are at stake.

Was it morally or ethically right for a private citizen to challenge and bring him to account for a (relatively) minor transgression? Was it morally or ethically right for an appointed judge to interfere in the career of an elected official according to the letter of a law that even the judge disagreed with?

Should he be allowed to run again? If not, why not?   If he runs, he may well win. Then what?

Because our leaders seem not to know how to lead. And our voters do not seem to know how to choose. French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) said “In democracy we get the government we deserve”. Was de Tocqueville right?

Before retiring I taught English and history to gifted students in grades six, seven, and eight. We rarely mentioned issues of civics or leadership. I taught a social sciences approach to history. Today I went back to see whether curriculum guidelines have changed.The answer is NO. Here is an example from the history guidelines for those grades: History involves the examination of individuals and unique events, as well as of groups, movements, institutions, nations, and eras… Students learn how lessons from the past can be used to make wise decisions for the present and the future. As well, by exploring various points of view and evaluating a variety of historical evidence, they practise achieving a balanced perspective. In these ways,  the study of history helps prepare students to be contributing and responsible citizens in a complex society characterized by rapid technological, economic, political, and social change.

Our lessons were about Native lifestyles on the Great Lakes region, including how they built their shelters and organized their villages. An exceptionally bright young boy in grade six insisted that he wanted to learn about American involvement in Vietnam instead, because his father always got so angry and upset about it. Another wanted to find out whether German history would have been different without Hitler, or English history without Churchill. What if Hitler was English and Churchill was German? Was it the people or the leader that made the difference? They both agreed to do a project on the Natives and write a test… if they passed it, I would write independent project  challenges for them to study what they wanted. Both these students wanted to investigate issues of leadership and individual decision-making.

My two sons and their friends played Dungeons and Dragons, and later a series of tactical board games such as Squad Leader. I have the general impression, perhaps incorrect, that there was a great deal of thinking, negotiation, and decision-making involved in these games, all of which involved playing in a group. It seems that the digital games now so popular do not demand those skills. Perception and manual dexterity… speed… are more important, and you play alone, against the computer, rather than with your friends to reconstruct a scenario.

This feels very relevant… what constitutes good, or even great leadership… and where do we learn and master the skills?  Why are electoral choices often so difficult… choosing between candidates and parties we dislike equally or choosing not to vote at all. And why are we so often disappointed at the graft, deceit, and sexual indiscretion that brings so many “leaders” down?

Here is an article I found on-line: The Philosophical Foundations of Leadership. The article is long: here is a ruthlessly shortened version of the first paragraph:

Such a fascination there is with leadership… many persons become obsessed with the mechanics, techniques, styles, and personalities. What is conspicuously absent is the thinking underpinning the politics of leadership… We in the West live in what many would like to consider a democracy, and the essence of this type of system is the ability of a population to select its leader. People point to a leader who is benign, corrupt, sincere, charismatic or whatever, but few persons may realize that there is a profound philosophical underpinning to leadership. The “issues” may be discussed – usually in a superficial way – but rarely do we see a thought processes or ethos generating them…    Leadership is merely a tip of a very large politically philosophical iceberg.

An associated article Leadership Theories summarizes styles of leadership up to the seventies. Theories are commonly categorized by which aspect is believed to define the leader the most. The most widespread one’s are: Great Man Theory, Trait Theory, Behavioural Theories, Contingency Theories, Transactional Theories and Transformational Theories.

The ideas fascinated me, but didn’t answer my questions.

Should Rob Ford be re-elected, if only to assert the principle that the will of the electorate should be more important than strict adherence to a badly written law? Or should the law, even a “bad” or ambiguous law, always be more important. The implications and consequences are HUGE!

What is the role of leadership… the Hitler/Churchill conundrum… or trying to change the outcome of a war game by altering decisions?

How are kids to-day learning leadership skills?

And which of those leadership theories, if any, is most relevant to today’s challenges?

I don’t know! I am much better at finding questions than answering them. You tell me!

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