Sunday, 19 August 2007

“Education, education, education"

That was Tony (I’m leaving now, byeee) Blair’s big thing in his first term. Even I remember it despite being a mere amoeba at the time. I was slap bang in the middle of my education about to embark on the, supposedly, most formative years of my life.

I felt it then and I feel it now, I was shafted. Even before being submerged in a world of SATs, GCSE and A-level exams, I was labelled. It’s a strange experience being labelled anything when your very young. It wasn’t that I was a hyperactive or disruptive pupil, I just tended to daydream, a lot. This, I imagine, was seen as an affront to my teachers who mistook my wondering mind for a lack of cognitive ability. There were other ‘tell tell’ signs too. I didn’t have much interest in reading, my handwriting was very bad, and I didn’t do very well in class exams. ‘Ah ha,’ they concluded, this is obviously a sign of learning difficulties. I remember being taken out of class at least twice a week and being brought to a small room. Luckily, there was no chair with straps, electrodes or surgical equipment. There were however, bored games, picture cards and marbles. The horror!

The teacher who, I’ve either forgotten her name or erased it, would sit me down and we’d read books that consisted of, ‘Tim has a red hat and likes to sit on a matt.’ Even at a young age I knew I wasn’t stupid. I had discussions with teachers that went beyond, ‘miss miss Timmy kicked me.’ I’d ask for more information on the Egyptians or Vikings or if that story about Newton and the apple were true.

This trend carried on, until my last year of primary school. I always excelled in the Arts as well as the Humanities. Some teachers were obviously perceptive enough to see some vestiges of intelligence and treated me accordingly. Others were just bastards. In any case, in the last year I was lucky enough to have a liverpuddlian teacher named …., ah, bollocks that’s always the way. He allowed me to read what I liked and I was very much into the literary exploits of Molder and Scully from the X-files. I even remember him telling me, “teachers are just people, they like to be able to catergorise students.” And there it was, my first real truth from an adult, outside of the family.

What all this rambling is meant to encapsulate, is my first hand experience of the education system failing to capitalise on my love for English, the Humanities and the Arts and instead quite literally forced me to pick subjects in my later years that would, ‘get me a job.’ I felt almost completely alone for ages, as everyone I knew seemed to be buying the same message, that providing that you absorb every text book and provide carbon copy answers, not only will you succeed in your academic career but also your vocational one.

I couldn’t believe it. Here I was surround by people who were gushing out figures and dates that had absolutely no resonance with them.

A lot of my friends are finishing their degrees now and all come back with similar complaints.
“I’ve tried to get a job but everyone else who applied had either more experience or a Masters.” What now then? If the vast majority of people in my school year have gone on to do degrees does that not indicate a rise of robots with 1sts, 2-1s, 2-2s, as massive inflation?

In any case, its not just because I’m an academic failure and deeply jealous…I want one now! With nations like China and India producing many more robots, with text books tattooed onto their very beings, than this country is, perhaps then our biggest commodity will be creativity.

After all it’s very hard to teach creativity to a robot, it’s much easier to nurture it in humans. And had it not been for a measly 2% of the teachers through my academic life doing just that, I might have turned out like one of them. All steel and no soul.

If you haven’t switched off completely, and you might have, what with the large number of robots about, then watch this video. Its Sir Ken Robinson giving a speech at the recent TED lectures, which I’ll probably write about too as it’s ‘awesome.’ He covers the same points that I have and more, in a succinct and amusing way, that you’d expect from a man of his years. Go Ken!

1 comment:

Joanna Steele said...

For a person to be born with the subconscious knowledge of what they are here do, without yet knowing what is out there, seems far more remarkable than ticking the boxes set my an excel examination. You are right to criticise an educational system that has treated my generation as an experiment that has turned out bloated and in need of some revolutionary medication.