It’s too late for my own children, but I’m going to ask something very specific of my grandchildren’s schools. In fact there’s a list of things I’ll want them to do.
1. Help them to find their element.
Help them to discover their special talents, and their unique individuality. Help them to engage with their creativity, their imaginations and their enthusiasms. Motivate them to pursue paths of learning that excite them and stimulate them. Set them on the road towards lifelong learning. Identify their strengths, as well as areas where they’re less able. Nurture their strengths, and work with them on their areas of weakness.
Do not talk to them about preparing for the world of work – we have no idea at this stage what opportunities for careers there may be. If they tell us they want to be doctors or engineers or acrobats or scientists or mathematicians or farmers or actors or winemakers – then they will let us know. Let them be co-determiners of their knowledge curriculum. Offer them many different pathways, but do not presume to know what they need to know. Show them how to take responsibility for their own learning, and how to be independent explorers and learners.
Help them to discover the almost limitless possibilities for creative living and learning in this world. Is this too much to ask? Or would you rather limit your ‘education’ to drilling them through to exam success in whatever paper qualifications happen to be around at the time they turn sixteen or eighteen? I’m sure by then there will be no GCSEs or Ebaccs or A levels, though no doubt there will be other splendidly-titled examinations dreamed up as vanity projects by future government ministers.
2. Help them to become fully evolved human beings.
This means helping them to begin a long journey in the course of which they will develop all six of their intelligences to very high levels.
Develop their love of learning. Stimulate their intellects – don’t just fill them up with imperial gallons of so-called Facts. Fill them with fascination, and let them discover all there is to know about our incredible planet. Fill them with awe and wonder, and develop in them the skills with which they will pursue their individual learning journeys. Help them to develop critical thinking so that they can see through the nonsense and lies that permeate our societies.
Let them learn alongside friends and classmates in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, not competition. Let them become socially intelligent with high levels of empathy. Allow them to learn how to communicate in many different ways.
Give them a love of literature, and open up treasuries of poetry, story and drama that will help them to discover their individual selves. Develop their personal intelligence. Allow them to know who they really are – what they think and feel.
Let them discover their individual voices. Let them express their individuality through writing, music and many different artforms, as well as a command of spoken language.
Allow them to discover the value of silence and meditation. Let them discover the value of intuition through listening to their own inner voices. Help them to understand and appreciate human values. Teach them the value of human virtues. Enable them to practice virtue in their living and learning. Promote spiritual intelligence.
Teach them ways to look after themselves physically. Promote fitness and health. Teach them physical skills and show them how to enjoy the benefits of physical fitness. Show them what it means to be physically intelligent. Show them how to learn through maximum use of their five physical senses.
Help them to appreciate the benefits and the drawbacks of instinctual behaviour – the things they do without conscious thought. Reinforce and develop their positive instincts. Show them how to manage negative instincts. Let them consider how instinctual intelligence can be advantageous, and how instinctual behaviour can be self-harming. Promote awareness of the meaning of instinctual intelligence, and the unconscious habits that serve us well.
Is this too much to ask?