Powered By Blogger

Thursday 5 May 2011

What if we turned everything upside down?

One of my earliest memories is from about the age of four. I was at home with my family and everyone was eating bags of crisps - or potato chips if you want to get all American on me. The bag, I recall, had a little cartoon man on the front – perhaps made by Smiths or KP – and I had opened my bag from the bottom. The man was upside down. At four years old I clearly couldn’t accept that state of affairs so I turned it upside down to open from the other end. Disaster.
A clear learning opportunity, wouldn’t you say? I never lost another crisp in my life; so isn’t turning things upside down sometimes a clever way of making things better. Even different. Reading Guy Claxton’s ‘What’s the Point of School?’ recently I came across this passage;
‘Imagine a society...in which physical education, design technology and art are the three most highly esteemed subjects, and English, maths and science are obviously less important because they only merit one lesson each a week, and they became optional when you are fourteen.’
He goes on: ‘The outstanding successes of the school are those who are strong, fit and physically agile; who can solve practical problems by inventing and building useful gadgets;  and who can make elegant sculptures and great photographs.’
Now I know there will be readers of this who will be thinking, ‘That’s Rubbish’, ‘Maybe’ or ‘Wouldn’t that be nice?’ but it has rattled my cage somewhat over the last few days. We may indeed mock Claxton’s suggestion but on closer inspection it could have some merit.  What happens when we, the teachers and adults, become jaded, uninspired by work, and desperate for something new? Most of the teachers I know would fit into one of the following groups: we wish we could play a musical instrument in our spare time; we may start to enjoy sketching or ceramics as a creative outlet; we take a photography course and buy an expensive camera; we join a gym.
Quite simply, we desire all of the things which at the moment are, perhaps, the least respected subject areas in our school system, the things we value less. We actively discourage the skills we ourselves desire thirty years later.  Ironic? Perhaps. However, what I think it does is suggest a great conversation to be had. I’m not suggesting we should change everything just for the sake of change but if we are to truly encourage engagement with Curriculum for Excellence we at least need to have these ‘out of the box’ conversations. In fact, we not only need to think outside of the box but, as again I read somewhere recently (apologies for forgetting exactly where), we need to create a new box that doesn’t even look like a box.
Whatever happens, whatever the Curriculum turns out to look like, let’s get talking. And we can start by turning things upside down and seeing what they look like. We can do this, people. Let's do it together.


  1. Your point about how we seek interest and to recharge our batteries by involving ourselves in the so-called minority (from an education pov)is so true. We find it easier to compartmentalise than to try something new in schools... hence the reason we have such distinct departments (in secondary school, certainly), when most learning is not limited in this way.

  2. And is it not symptomatic of the fact that we wait, perhaps, thirty years to realise what we should have learned all along. Madness not to take something from that. Yet we return to school and perpetuate the same old myths...

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I'm new to Blogging myself and am never quite sure what they are for, whether they are for the writer or for the reader. There are certainly a few people who have sent me book proposals recently who are writing just for themselves so I have sent them off to do a blog instead. That said, you pick a point - and I think one is all that is needed in a blog - and run with it and it does make you think. Not angry or take action or change your mind - just think. So, if that is your purpose, then well done. I even know who Partick Thistle are now.

    One of things I like best about the connected world is following the connections - your lists of other blogs, for example, is impressive!

    Hope that helps - keep up the good work.


    (And the box thing was me from a Tweet!)