Education for the 21st century 25 October 2008
I believe we need a thorough overhaul of our education system. Yes, there should be plenty of emphasis on spelling, mental arithmetic and learning tables but surely in addition to vocational study, there’s a need to take a more holistic approach that gives equal importance to the personal development of more fully rounded individuals.
This means the nurturing of our young to become citizens who are capable of thinking for themselves and not being too easily influenced by government propaganda or some of the media nonsense. Many of us don’t realise just how much the establishment elite and the big corporations control our lives via the media to serve their interests and maintain the status quo, regardless of which government is in power. I’m not talking conspiracy theories here – it’s more of an insidious complicity between the ruling elite and the rest of us. It doesn’t much matter which of the main political parties is in power - big business, with its media links, calls the shots. All three main parties rely on business backers to gain power and to stay in power: So how can we ever logically expect a truly radical party that represents the best interests of the nation as a whole?
In short, I think a healthy society needs people who are prepared to question everything around them, be it on political, social, economic or religious issues.
Parents vary in their ability or inclination to encourage their children to ask questions about life around them (maybe due to the pressures of modern living) and so it is vitally important that schools fill this gap.
Education should not just be about facts but also about the testing of the validity of facts.
We also need to be encouraged to feel more empathy for others and be a little more inclined to self-scrutiny i.e. to examine our own biases and motives before we condemn others. Perhaps, above all, we need to recognize the biased information we often receive via the media which is overwhelmingly influenced by politics and big business. I would question the assumption made by many of us that we are an enlightened society. In making comparisons with several other countries of the world, we probably are relatively enlightened but we should not be so smug as to think we are continually making progress as a culture merely because, like America, we are becoming more technically advanced. Technological development can never be a substitute for human development. Technical progress is important, of course, but it depends on where the technology is concentrated and how it benefits mankind in the long run. For example, is building and promoting more advanced and deadlier weapons technology really progress? Do we really need enough weapons to destroy the world over and over again? I don’t think so.
Instead of being educated to get on with people around the world, too often, we seem to be educated to seek confrontation. Politicians would have us believe that wars are just a nasty reality, but is that perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy rather than an inevitable fact of life in this world of corrupt and greedy power?
I believe all schools should introduce more and more philosophical discussions into lessons. For instance History is a subject full of myths and matters of conjecture and open to different interpretations. Instead of just feeding students with hard ‘facts’ (which are sometimes myths), students should be encouraged to form their own opinions from a wide body of evidence. They should also be taught how other subjects tie in with History and interrelate.
There is so much we can learn from history and yet our politicians, in their arrogance, so often choose not to learn.
Education should not be used merely to produce work fodder for the economy with the individual’s interests being of secondary importance. Our school children need to be offered a broad and imaginative enough education to hold their interest. Unfortunately, it seems to me, both teachers and pupils are unable to achieve this because they have more and more pressure put on them by constant tests, government tinkering and obsession with targets. These targets are often virtually useless and seem to be a means of making the government look good via the "spin department".
Education should be conducted in a happy and interesting environment and can only be achieved if pupils are allowed to learn at their own speed and not made to feel they are failures just because they don’t pass every test that comes along.
Education should put less emphasis on status and qualifications for professional careers.
I’m sure a good plumber can be at least as, if not more important, as some over-paid management or human affairs consultant, for example.