Monday, 18 April 2011

Education, Common Sense and the Future

Our children are undoubtedly the future and, unless we start right now to cut through self-interest, shallow politics, greed and thirst for wealth and power, then the future is not as bright as Star Trek's Captain James T Kirk and his team would like us to believe. 
I take as a lead to this post, part of a guest post I contributed to the delightful Kona Macphee's 'discussion' blog, "that elusive clarity", entitled "six things" which was basically a "micro-interview with creative and interesting people" (me, interesting, creative?) the relevant questions in which are "One thing I'd love to change" and "One thing I hope for".
One thing I'd love to change...
"If there is one thing I would like to change in the world, it is this: that we alter the processes by which we educate our children. This would essentially be to temper the ever increasing emphasis on exam results for the under-sixteens, which has pushed out so much of the type of learning that is essential for human survival, like collaboration, cooperation and team work, which can be so enhanced by ‘field’ exercises and forms of sport, which have been marginalised in the mainstream because of the fear of litigation and the focus on exam results and league tables. Given that I am neither a teacher nor do I have any experience in education, except for seven years serving as an industry representative on the Board of Governors of the local junior school, my brief would be roughly as follows.
From the age of thirteen or fourteen (or maybe earlier), I’d propose that we should start to ply students with regular and significant doses of knowledge and skills across a whole range of areas of life designed to equip them for a world they will soon enter. This ‘Life Skills’ part of the curriculum would be considered ‘core’ and include a whole array of subjects on Home, Work, Social, Family and Community. There will always be an educational elite and a need to ensure they can fulfil their potential as future leaders, but the educational mission for everyone else (the vast majority of us, in other words) has to be realistic. As much as I truly believe in the importance of learning the essential principles of language, mathematics and science, knowledge of these is neither use nor ornament if a child cannot first be armed with knowledge of the most basic of life skills and a confidence that comes from this. Until they know how to deal with the challenges of an uncertain world, they will not be able to absorb the principles of the academic world."
and One thing I hope for...
"A world that places far greater importance on caring for and giving a better chance in life to our children – they are guardians of the future of humanity. I hope for a world whose religious structure is more rational and inclusive, less divisive, exclusive and polarized, and that has the courage to denounce and cast out extremism and provide a clear example for children on how best to lead their lives. I hope for a world where family values are promoted as of the highest importance; a world whose political hierarchy and structure is such that politicians are somehow freed from the unwritten imperatives of greedy ambition, so that the young, instead of becoming premature cynics, will want to understand the issues and feel better able to vote with integrity; and, last but not least, a world in which the media have enough integrity to communicate this accurately… [now, I’m drifting into a dream of utopia!]"
I don't believe the Utopia bit at the end there, but having contemplated this aspect of our education system in this country, in pursuit of relevant ideas for this 'common sense' approach, I was prompted through Twitter by @StoryingShef to visit the Zoe Weil web site and her Institute for Humane Education. This, to say the least, adds a more revolutionary dimension to my proposal above. It seems to have much to offer, at least in terms of how we should start to think about the world's conservation issues, to say nothing of it's unhappy instability. Whilst I can see her ideas and her whole process being shot down in flames by the the rich and powerful of the world, by those with vested interests in exploiting the current established mores of the First World's economic model - as well as by those who aspire to riches and power - railing against which would seem to be folly, it is difficult to resist the Star Trekian dream!
[I was amused to read in the Wikipedia description of Star Trek that it is known, not as a story, or even as a TV series, but as a "Media Franchise". Oh dear, some people spend too much time looking at their own anatomy!]

P.S. Another link that is more than worth a look at is the article on Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College. It is both inspiring and possible.

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