Education: The Political Football

It is a term many of us will have heard before: political football. It is one that I have, personally, used many times. It is something which educators in Britain, and other countries, today will understand. I won’t go into the ins and outs of politics, as this blog is solely a reflection of my practice and policies which may affect that practice. It is also a reflection of the articles, books and journals which I read. So… let’s begin.

“We need a system designed not for yesterday, but for today.” (Blair, 1998)

I am passionate about education. I believe in it. I believe that every child in the world should have access to a rich and diverse education. Over my life time, which isn’t very long, I have seen only 4 governments: John Major’s; Tony Blair’s; Gordon Brown’s; and David Cameron’s. Although I don’t necessarily agree with all of the changes which have been made recently, I do agree with some. I believe that children today are very lucky to be educated in England.  I believe that, despite what some people would have you believe, we have a strong army of excellent teachers who feel as privileged as me to be involved in the education system.

What I don’t believe in is the education system being used as the aforementioned political football. I don’t believe that politicians should use educational policy to win votes. I don’t believe that politicians should manipulate the curriculum on a whim, just to score some points over the previous leading party. Education is vital! And not just for the future economic status of our country.

“It’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp.” (Robinson, 2006)

This is something which is backed up by many people, including Sue Pollard in her book ‘Toxic Childhood’. There is an argument here that, by stifling children’s creativity, we are going to end up unable to take advantage of the world which previous generations have created for us. Ken Robinson is a campaigner for creativity in education and schools, and I found myself really moved by something he said in a TED talk a few years ago. Education has increasingly become about training children up into adults who can slot into a job which contributes economically to our society. Artists and musicians do not contribute economically to our society, so they’re not important… or are they? Is there something which is more important to our society’s development than being economically afloat? I believe that there is. I believe that through a diverse and creative curriculum, children can become thinkers. Children can grow and develop into adults who are able to think. I posed a thought to Michael Gove at the London Festival of Education in 2012, which wasn’t answered: surely by curbing children’s access to creativity in the classroom, you are condemning a generation to being incapable of original thought.

I’m not arguing against the importance of literacy and numeracy lessons. I’m just simply arguing the case for creativity and diversity within the classroom. I am especially arguing the case for the development of our children’s social and emotional intelligence. A man by the name of Robin Stern argues this case in depth: it is the adults who, as children, were well developed socially and emotionally manage to cultivate successful relationships and careers. It is these children who are socially and emotionally secure who feel safe in a creative and curious environment. And as Robinson says, ‘curiosity is the engine of achievement.’

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