Ebacc v E=mc2

As well you know, there’s a shift in the floorboards under the feet of our young learners at the moment, and those who are entrusted to educate them. It rather depends on your point of view whether this feels like a shift backwards or forwards.

It seems to me that we are working within the paradigm that those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it, rather too closely. Never before has our ‘progression’ moved so rapidly, and never before have we struggled so to keep up.

It may be true of every age, I can only speak from my own perspective, but it seems to me that we are caught, at present, in a double bind. My generation grew up being told that elders knew better, and it was taken for granted that, having been around for longer, they knew more about the life we were growing up to lead. However, as most of us adults know, it’s very convenient to have a young person around to install and instruct in the use of any new piece of technology introduced into the house, and the older generation can no longer be said to know more about modern existence.

Surely this is a major switcheroo? No wonder it’s so difficult for those that have pursued power, and now find themselves in the old-fashioned possession of it, to acknowledge that they are no longer the most ‘up-to-speed’ – especially if they have received what is commonly agreed to be the best education money can buy. How embarrassing it must seem from their perspective to take on board that there’s a younger, less privileged cohort that can hack them into submission.

Yes, I’m being glib – but there’s a deeper and more important point. We are at a place in our civilisation where, but that we could realise it, our children and young people have a better idea of what they need to learn to necessitate a bright new dawn, than we give them credit for.

Of course everyone needs to have essential literacy and numeracy skills, and of course there is value in much of traditional teaching and learning styles – however, the world is moving too quickly to rely on the historical priorities of our ancient educational establishments.

Just take a quick stock-take of the successful people of today that you can call to mind, off the top of your head. I’m willing to bet that they are people for whom, once basic skills had been mastered, success came about due to an ability to think creatively; risk take; communicate effectively and inspirationally; and most of all – exposure to high expectations and confidence to strive to reach those heights.

There’s a long list of people, including Einstein, whose poor school record is wheeled out anecdotally, but how come this is only ever seen as trivia, rather than a starting point for discussion about how we make the best of our young people’s minds and potential, and what we want our educational system to achieve?

If we are to make the most of ourselves as a society and a species, can we not learn to have greater trust in our rising generations and to humble ourselves to what they may be able to teach us? This is not to say that, if we’ve done our growing up properly, we will always have learning to impart to those who haven’t been on the planet as long as us – but let’s not be too proud to acknowledge that the learning can go both ways, and therefore benefit us all.

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