What should we learn?Posted: March 18, 2014
Paul Martin writes
Recently, the ‘British design guru’ Stephen Bayley suggested that charm should be taught in school.
This follows in a long line of proposals, usually put forward by non-educationalists. They include handy characteristics such as knowing how to eat healthily, being able to deploy life-saving techniques and sporting expertise.
Teaching professionals often object wearily that there are already too few hours in the school day or ask who will do this extra teaching.
Schools are a victim of their own success being among few institutions that reliably deliver to everyone, but they cannot be expected to solve all society’s problems, yet alone take seriously every momentarily fashionable notion.
While we do need to take on as communities the responsibility of defining what we expect citizens to know and be able to do, there are five caveats:-
· The best place to learn will not always be in school.
· Learning will not be complete until well into adult life, if ever.
· Our view of what is desirable, or even essential, will vary between communities and over time.
· Not everyone will be able to acquire all the skills and knowledge we may consider desirable, so we will need to have some priorities.
· Our capacity to provide the required learning opportunities will occasionally fall short.
If this learning is to be lifelong and extensive, then we must consider what other institutions, current or to-be-invented, might take on this responsibility. We might consider employers and trade unions.
There are, of course, numerous voluntary organisations that may be well-placed to take on this work, though many of them find it hard to find volunteers in an era in which parents work long, late hours and entertainment often displaces activity.
Perhaps we should reinvent local Adult Education services as the ‘hub’ from which we might organise a broader context for learning supporting and sustaining us through life.