I find myself sitting down to write a few days after the General Election. This isn’t a political essay – I feel that our role as educators is to equip people to make independent, informed decisions rather than to tell them what those decisions ought to be. Yet, the occasion, coinciding unusually with the end of the year, does make it an unprecedented time for reflection and projection.
Back in the 1920s, Fritz Lang released his seminal dystopian science fiction film Metropolis. A reflection on the political situation in Weimar Germany, and a speculation on the world of the future, one can debate its prescience (HG Wells considered it ‘silly’), but not its impact on early cinema, or its place as an example of art and intellect contemplating what might be to come. I will confess that I only recently realised that end of the decade is imminent, and that we are, once again, moving into the ‘20s. We are, at least, entering a realm where the names of the decades will be a bit easier (it took a while for ‘Noughties’ to become common parlance, and I’m not sure what the last ten years will be referred to). Many of us will long for a time where resolving that conundrum is the most troubling thing we have to think about. But with a changing of the numbers comes a distinct changing of the guard, and this week feels rather different from last week. It is very much ‘the morning after’ and, perhaps unusually for the end of a decade, it seems like a time to look forward rather than backwards.
Not everything is of world-changing import. Inevitably, I have found myself contemplating Christmas dinner. At the age of 46, I have had (taking my best guess) around 42 official Christmas Day roast turkey dinners, plus an extraordinary number of extras, at various end-of-term events and other work and social dos, totalling into the 100s. I won’t reveal what my family had last year: if you happen to know, then our excuse is that we were on holiday in another country, we were tired and our children were very hungry, but it certainly wasn’t the normal fare. Personally, I quite like the traditional meal – I enjoy putting the radio on early on 25th December and setting about the potatoes and the sprouts – but, equally, I’m starting to think it might be time for a change.
What change needs to look like in an educational context is something that we think about a great deal. If there is anything to learn from the recent election campaign, it is that the unprecedented rate of change we talk about is a real thing; that there is a danger in confining oneself to an echo chamber where everyone agrees with you; and that the nature of modern media means that nuanced messages are drowned out by a saturation of soundbites. I may as well be better off bellowing that I’ll ‘get dinner done’ and worry about what we’re eating later on.
At AKS, we are pleased to be welcoming the brilliant educationalist Carmel Bones at the start of term. She will work with colleagues to continue to refine classroom practice to optimise it for the world of 2020. We will also be working on developing the skills of inquiry, to ensure our students are best placed to interpret and synthesise information when there is so much at hand. This isn’t change for change’s sake, but a necessary adaptation in the context in which we find ourselves. There is much in traditional approaches that we should maintain, and I have written before about the power of broad experiences to develop character and to reinforce academic excellence, but the danger of carrying on solely as before is tangible. As an educator, and for a school, the challenges are real, but incredibly exciting and certainly essential. The world is different today.