With the imminent birth of my first child I am often left contemplating what nuggets of wisdom I want to teach him. Do I pass on my extreme intolerance for intolerance? My unwavering confidence in human goodwill or even my conviction amongst all the skills one can learn, creativity is the one worth the most of our time. The truth is I shouldn’t really teach him any of these things, coming from me he will be learning them by rote and that won’t serve him well at all.
What is alarmingly apparent with the current government is how far they are from realising this. It seems they believe that if all children are told things, they will soak them up, digest and then regurgitate them on queue as adults. At best this will achieve the continuation of the Tory ethos of grow the economy at all costs including at the expense of educational diversity that the UK has previously been famous for.
At worst this is a cynical ruse by the Conservative party to rid the country of troublesome thinkers and intellectuals. It is told that one is only educated when one realises how little one knows, if we continue to teach children to learn by rote the children who fail will give up and the ones that succeed will only succeed in thinking they know it all. Come to think about that does sound a lot like Michael Gove.
I will digress for a moment here as recently the government has been discussing what types of religious views are tolerable to bear witness to in modern society and which should be censored. There have been suggestions that religious clerics whom are judged to have contentious beliefs may have to get articles and propaganda approved by the police before they can publish. I will do my best to avoid mentioning a certain book here as to do so would be a cliche but to give police censoring powers is a little dystopian for anybodies ears.
This isn’t a grown up solution. It is through hearing distasteful messages of hate that we can offer riposte. It is only with counter arguments that we can hope to understand and defeat things we find unpalatable, to outlaw them you only serve to make them counter culture and hide them from plain sight.
The creeping idea that university educations are only worthwhile if they teach a vocation such as law, teaching or engineering pervades the right wing media and politics, and yet we cry out when we hear of ‘career politicians’ who stepped out of their Oxbridge top hat and tails straight in to Westminster. Just as valuable are the students devoting their formative years to ancient Norse poetry or Middle Eastern History not because lucrative jobs await but because no lucrative jobs await. Without these students knowledge will be lost, lessons of the past forgotten and the skills required to master such esoteric subjects will diminish.
When confronted with things that are challenging we need to think around the problem, defeat it with intelligence and real values such as justice, fairness, equality and freedom. A problem is not defeated by banning, censoring, criminalising and polarising. You just end up creating more problems.
When my son is born I will come across this conundrum again and it will be up to me to decide what to teach him. I may decide however it’s not what he thinks, but how he thinks.
Thanks to Polyp for the use of his fabulous cartoons – you can visit his website here