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 nearly five years ago now. Her inspired site, “that elusive clarity“, is no longer active, but selected pages from it are still accessible. One of the interesting ideas Kona had was to conduct “micro-interview with creative and interesting people”. This series interviews was entitled “six things”, i.e. six questions about the person. I was reminded of this recently, almost by accident and felt it both timely and relevant to air at this time, whilst we are this month thinking about vulnerable ‘at risk’ youngsters.

I confess, at the time, I was wondering why Kona had asked me, since I was unaware that I was in the slightest bit ‘interesting’ or particularly ‘creative’; not least of all, I was not in the same league as a majority of published authors and poets she was interviewing at the same time! I realise now, of course. that everyone of us, who ever walked this earth, is a unique individual and is uniquely interesting as well as innately capable of being creative, in whatever form. The questions from my “six things” interview, that I felt were of most relevance to this month’s theme are: “One thing I’d love to change” and “One thing I hope for“. So, here are my responses … verbose as ever!

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 result statistics for the under-sixteens, that distorted educations original intent, and which has excluded 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 certain forms of sport, which have been marginalised in the mainstream because of the fear of litigation and the excessive focus on exam results and (school) league tables. Given that I am neither a teacher nor do I have any direct experience in education, except for seven years serving as an industry representative on the Board of Governors of one of our local schools, 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 avail students with regular and significant doses of knowledge and skills across a whole range of areas of real life designed to equip them for a world they will soon enter. This ‘Life Skills’ part of the curriculum should be considered ‘core’ and include a whole array of subjects on Home, Work, Social, Family, Community and the rule of law, as well as basic finance and the Micawber Principle. There will always be an educational elite and a need to ensure they can fulfil their potential as future leaders, although we should also ensure that they too receive ‘Life Skills’ education. 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 and moral integrity 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 career centred, self-serving ambition. This would be so as to help the young, instead of becoming premature cynics, to want to understand the issues and feel better able to vote with integrity and feel that their vote means something and thereby be motivated to get involved. Last but not least, I hope for a world in which the media are forced to have enough integrity to communicate this accurately, which of course will facing, head on, the issue of monopoly media ownership and all that this entails … and no, I don’t think I am dreaming of utopia!”

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; by exploiting the current established mores of the First World’s economic model; and feeding our fears of not aspiring to ambitions of wealth; inducing fear of material inadequacy, unemployment, poverty and destitution, rather than encouraging a people, who are free-thinkers. Railing against a dependence on consumerism and continuous economic ‘growth’ would seem to be folly. 

It may be difficult to resist the Star Trepan dream, but let us start to encourage more free-thinking, more discovery of the true self.

[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 … and their balance sheet!]

To conclude with some sage advice from one who knows from experience, this article is well worth reading:  “Five Things I Have Learned” by Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College.  It is both inspiring and possible.

– John Anstie

© 2015, essay, John Anstie, All rights reserved

One thought on “Education, Common Sense . . . and The Future

  1. During the Clinton administration and welfare reform after the 1996 Personal Responsiblity and Work Opportunity Act, there were many pilot programs and best practice programs developed that educated and taught skills to people transitioning off of welfare and/or those who had dropped out of high school before graduation. Program operators had groups of pregnant teens, welfare program participants, foster youth and other “special populations” do things like study and select the health plan that would work for them, do a business plan for something that was needed in their neighborhood … that sort of thing. The students were allowed to select their own projects. These programs worked well as far as I remember. They taught basic skills, how to find and analyze problems and information, how to formulate questions and a proposal, and how to work as teams. Nothing substantive was ever implemented across the board and for more than that sort period of enthusiasm before our attention was grabbed by some other hot movement or topic of the day.

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