Heard on Radio 4’s Start The Week this week:
A very interesting thought to begin this or indeed any week! One that teachers might put to their students. What are the most important problems currently affecting our daily lives?
- When should we end the covid lockdown, now that government has apparently abandoned following “the science”?
- Should we make wellbeing, mental health and gross national happiness the drivers of our efforts to improve society?
- What is the best way to go about “levelling up”?
- Who should pay for the billions if not trillions needed to rebuild our society and our post-covid economy?
- How can the arts make a difference to people’s lives, and how can they help us to investigate the many problems we face in our daily lives?
- Why do politicians use national flags when speaking to the nation?
- How can we improve our system of government?
- How can we improve our system of education?
Are these questions that can be addressed by science – or by philosophy and an examination of our values? Indeed – are they questions that can be left to politicians?
Surely we can all agree that intellect and logic alone have their limitations. Values and ideas about virtuous lives and virtuous societies have to be matters for metaphysics and what some of us call spiritual intelligence. And after all the clever arguments in the world we still then have to make up our own minds – bearing in mind our own needs and preferences (insight and personal intelligence), the needs of others (empathy and social intelligence), and the needs of the planet – if we (and it) are to survive in ways that living things including ourselves can cope with. Many children are already addressing these issues – which many adults seem unwilling to face in any serious fashion. Well they would, wouldn’t they?
We all need to use our multiple intelligences in a variety of ways every single day of our lives. We rely heavily on our instincts, our intuition, our sensory inputs, our empathy and relationships, our self-knowledge – in all our decision-making, no matter how big or how small it may be.
Therefore we should educate our children and young people in what’s at stake in becoming rounded, balanced, three-dimensional human beings – and what’s required in order to attain those goals.
We sometimes talk glibly about the importance of relationships education, how to become emotionally intelligent, how to behave respectfully, harmoniously, non-violently and peacefully – but how much time is actually spent in schools and in other places of learning on what we often call PSHE – personal, social and ‘health’ education – and SMSC – spiritual, moral, social and cultural learning? Bearing in mind that as of last year (2020) ‘relationships education’ is compulsory in all schools?
We also have to consider that bodies like the CBI and the BCC – representing both large and small employers – have long called for a reinvention of our system of education in order to benefit students, teachers and indeed employers.
Other countries have also abandoned 19th century approaches to education – that serve no one in our complex, technologically advanced societies in the 21st century. Approaches that serve mainly to grade individuals on the basis of their ability to perform well in timed tests and exams.
It should be borne in mind also that the leaders of some of our most prestigious public schools have also called for the abandonment of GCSEs and a narrow 3 or 4 subject A level curriculum, and have opted for the international baccalaureate instead.
Science and scientific approaches to our common problems have no regard for five of our six intelligences. Science relies on the intellect, on logic and scientific ‘proof’ (not bad in themselves) even though individual and societal progress often rely on direct experience and observation, intuition, imagination, and creative, divergent thinking. To what extent can teachers and schools develop these capacities when politicians are demanding nothing more than “driving up standards” – often because simplistic thinking about success in high stakes exams seems to resonate well with an electorate that’s not being encouraged to think about the real needs of children and society, only about academic attainment as a way to success in life and “a way out of poverty”. It’s the poverty of so much thinking about education that’s the real issue in our brave new world.
Meanwhile, we’ll continue to lobby for an education system that helps to reduce mental ill health and teenage depression, that benefits students and teachers alike, that encourages more of our most able people to enter and remain within the profession, that brings joy to learning, that personalises learning according to the individual needs and preferences of young people, that produces more lifelong learners who enjoy learning for its own sake and not in order to attain extrinsic rewards.
Roll on the day when balanced three-dimensional people are as valued or more valued than those who can balance on the peak of the academic pyramid, and often fall off it.
From our archive:
Gross National Happiness and Education, Bhutan
3Di Model of Intelligences
3Di Model of Intelligences and Philosophy
The CBI’s call for changes to the education system