11/06/2015 14:05 BST | Updated 11/06/2016 06:59 BST

We Need a Revolution in Thinking to Really Deal With Our Big Problems and It Needs to Start in Schools

I'm attached to philosophy. I'm attached to philosophy in the same way that some people love football but can't kick a ball. I'm attached to politics and history, although I think I have an internal self-educated limit placed on me.

I love the 'How the Light Gets In' (HTLGI) festival, that partly coincides with the Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye. They are separate events, but they both use this small market town, nestling on the border between England and Wales, to get people thinking. The book festival is definitely about books, and HTLGI is definitely about ideas and philosophy - about thinking.


Recently I took part in three events during the closing weekend of the festival. Two I thoroughly enjoyed, where I was a panelist talking about gender issues and altruism. The final event, where I was supposed to be the master of ceremonies at something called Midnight Mayhem, was a washout. As one member of the audience quipped "I thought we were coming to a debate, not a lecture." Oops, I found myself thinking, one thing I'm not good at is organising debates. And most debates I get involved in I tend to overtalk and over contribute.

The event ended on a low note and I made a note to myself that from now on they can keep their MCs.

But overall it was stimulating to be around people who were talking about thinking, and doing new kinds of thinking.

I am convinced, however bad I am at it myself, that we need to rethink the world. We need an intellectual revolution. We need to stop causing the crisis in education and in health and in politics that we are always rushing around trying to change.

I believe that we need to start with the schools. I work with homeless people and people in poverty. Most of their problems are manifested before they have left school. In fact many of them bring the problems into the classroom when they first begin.

There is a need to rethink the way governments run their departments. There is a need to look at how we fail a third of our school children who predictably will be the needy next generation.

For instance we need to turn our prisons, yes our prisons, into places of great learning. Places where those who have missed out earlier are given a second bite of the cherry, so that later they can be cherry-picked as not just smart but with skills that are useful.

HTLGI is described as Europe's largest thinking festival. Imagine going to some place to sharpen up your thinking? To meet other bright and inquisitive people who like you are set alight by finding new ways to think.

This is the second time I have been to the festival and I hope they ask me next year. They don't give you money but you get a large sunflower after your talk. And they pay your train fare and put you up in some very interesting places. (I ended up on a farm full of horses. My son now is converted to these four legged friends. We took wellingtons and windcheaters but alas there was no rain and mud).


Until we rethink where we are now in society, in our political and educational lives, we are living through groundhog day, treading water. We are marking time, and we are not going anywhere fast around dismantling poverty.

We are very good at making people slightly comfortable in poverty, but there are no big thinkers around dismantling it. Both political parties who have held the reigns of power recently have had a go at it. But there is not a lessening of poverty, more a kind of rearrangement of it - shifting it somewhere else, perhaps even relabelling it. But no dismantling poverty, as was witnessed in the days of the original creation of the welfare state.

HTLGI is a good beginning to kick thinking around, to start asking ourselves 'is our thinking up to the tasks ahead?'

With us only using around 15% of our great inventive brain there is room for expansion. I do think HTLGI is a very good way of turning that process into fun. Into an enjoyable festival-ly type affair where you can have fun, and think.

Though one cannot always promise the mud. You might need Glastonbury for that.