Thursday, May 24, 2012

My 500 words for purpos/ed

I’ve always loved Miss Jean Brodie’s pronouncement that “the word "education" comes from the root e from ex, out, and duco, I lead. It means a leading out.”  And in our digital world it is surely true that we must be more concerned about leading thinkers out than forcing thinking in. What is the point of forcing in a myriad facts and figures that are ready-to-hand and a click of a mouse?  

But what would really happen if we took Jean Brodie’s maxim to heart? I dread to think. No doubt in a few years students it would be compulsory, we would be facing “leading out” tests, there would be “leading out” grades and “leading out” certificates.  Somehow we can’t let a good idea happen without wanting to give it a score. And that’s where the real issue lies.

Who was it who said that the things that can be measured are not always the things worth measuring? Someone pretty bright I would guess. Certainly not someone from the DfE or Ofsted. For them education is nothing more than simple arithmetic. The child who is number 5 needs to become number 6, the child at number 6 needs to become 6+.

How much is that missing? Our children are inheriting a world that we have pretty much destroyed. We have crippled our ecosystem and exhausted our resources.  Where there used to be idealism today there is commercialism,  and now even knowledge and learning have been pulled into that merry dance, with higher education being seen as nothing more than a means to a higher wage, a bigger house, a better car.

So perhaps the purpose of education is to get ourselves back onto a more human path, to somehow nurture and support the new generation to not only come to terms with their miserable legacy, but to transform it.  We need to help our youngsters find the strength and confidence to go beyond the shallowness of the world we are leaving to them, and empower them to take a leap into a brighter future.

Of course we do need to support the development of the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic but we also need to provide opportunities for the development of  those many other talents that are equally “basic” – collaboration, creativity, problem solving, logical thinking, empathy, oracy, compassion, curiosity, community building, movement, dance, laughter… few of which can be tested, but all of which are incredibly valuable.

But perhaps we also have to reflect that the purpose of education is not just to encourage the development of these talents in our children. Maybe it is also to provide those rare chances for our masters, our leaders and our selves to see that sometimes a child can teach us more than we could ever teach them.