This is my last reflective post at the turning of the year and before I set to and start to finalise presentations for two important talks in January.
During the past week, I have managed to see every member of the family, including the new arrival, J, who was born on Boxing Day. As I was the overnight cover following the panic telephone call at 11pm, I had some time to think about things.
J was born on 26th December 2014. If she enjoys good health, she could achieve the milestone of seeing in the next century, which is a salutary thought. Of more immediate importance are the milestones in between.
- She will start Primary school in September 2019.
- She will transfer to Secondary education in 2026.
- She will leave Secondary education in 2032 and if she goes to Higher education, could leave in 2035.
- We are talking 21 years from now, by which time I will be eighty three! Now that’s frightening.
Education in September 2014 experienced change such as I have not seen in forty plus years of active life in education, affecting curriculum, assessment and special needs, among many others, covering the whole range of education experiences. The final fruits of these changes cannot be anticipated before 2022, for Primary outcomes and 2029 for Secondary outcomes, if children are allowed to pursue the current plans unchanged. Unless they are changed, they will provide the complete educational experience for J.
J’s generation will become the responsible generation in their turn, probably from around 2054, when they reach forty.
What will they have faced?
- Debt- undoubtedly, as much of current life seems to be financed that way, including student finance. Will fewer go to university, if the greater number of available jobs are in pubs and cafes or other service industries?
- Housing- more limited opportunities perhaps, unless they inherit some base finance from earlier generations. Will housing be owned by a relatively small, wealthy, London, or SE-based class and rented by the majority, so that they are always paying rent?
- Insecurity and instability. There are more small-scale wars currently than I have ever known. Equally, the macho stances of many national leaders is of concern. Will Orwell and Huxley’s predictive writings come to fruition during the middle part of the century, just a bit later than they had envisaged? Do we have to be against someone to be happy?
- The climate is in some turmoil too, seemingly ignored by politicians. Weather patterns could dictate future food production, or housing security for some, making life a little more precarious.
We need children to be aware of their world, its complexity and diversity, to want to look at, to find out and understand the geography, the history and the cultures of the world, to speak languages, their own and others, with enthusiasm and enjoyment. They need to hear the stories of my childhood and others, to put time into perspective. They need the skills to explore, measure and judge phenomena. They need to be immersed in their own and other cultures and to delight in creating works of art and music that have a basis in the past and a view towards their own futures. They need to be scientists, artists, musicians, mathematicians, linguists, problem identifiers and solution finders, using a wide range of skills.
Sadly, I don’t think the current incarnation of education offering will do that. It embeds the skills and values of my own childhood and early schooling, in the 1950s. It does not stress problem solving or using and applying skills.
Life has shown me, often quite harshly, that that education was not enough and that it is more important to perceive of life-long learning as a reality, including learning from life itself, to develop the strength of personality that is occasionally needed when life gets tough.
In wishing J a long and happy life, I also wish that politicians, responsible for lives, would take a longer term view, rather than the timespan between elections, appealing to the lowest common denominator; the few voters whose votes actually make a difference.
Life is far more important than passing politicians.