When I was a kid, I was a very quiet and lonely girl. I never liked going around playing with other children in the neighbourhood and I never made friends at school. So when the school broke up in the summer I had three months to spend doing nothing! Worse still, I had to do nothing alone… apart from the daily fighting with my older brother, of course. So at the beginning of the summer holidays I always asked my mum to buy me some canvas and paint and I used to spend my days ‘painting’. Thank God none of those ‘masterpieces’ survived, so my reputation is still intact, but I wish I had had the opportunity to develop some painting skills. However, no one at school encouraged it and this is where I am trying to get here.
I have just read this article at The Guardian on Eric Schmidt’s Mac Taggard lecture where we condemns the British education system for promoting the divorce between arts and science. It maybe a quite simplistic view, but generally speaking I think he has a point here. Most primary schools in this country tend to have a very holistic approach to education, but when children enter secondary education this certainly materialises in a quite dramatic way. Children are then encouraged to focus on language and maths, with the Arts being regarded as luxury that will not take you anywhere in life. Get your GCSEs in English, Maths and a Science and you will be alright…
Long gone are the times when people used to be polymaths – when you could be a painter, a scientist, a poet and a politician, and all of these aspects of your education contributed to form you as an educated individual. Even the other day a friend of mine was really surprised by the fact that I, as an English language teacher, also had a strong interest in Metal music, liked history, painting and golf, as if these interests were incompatible. How would he react if I had told him that my favourite subject at school was biology? Not that I saying that I’m a polymath – far from it! I’m not that pretentious. What I am trying to say is that the broader your interests, the richer your experiences and understanding of life are likely to be. The problem is that nothing in our education system, or in our society as a whole, seems to foster this.
Sir Ken Robinson gave a marvellous talk for TED about 5 years ago on creativity and education and it does resonate with some of the issues raised by the Google chairman today. Links below 🙂