Why context is the most important lesson we can teach in the classroom.

Children writing together

It can take a lifetime to gain a real appreciation of our place in this world. I think of it as a continual voyage towards enlightenment with every new experience.

However the older I get the more I see instances where we are failing to provide the next generation with the tools they need to achieve anywhere near the same self-awareness.

Curriculum in schools have been shifted back to knowledge focused when to gain that knowledge outside of school is as simple as asking your phone. At the same time less and less effort is being applied to the wider set of life skills that each and every child needs.

Life skills such as evaluating what we see and hear; identifying where there may be a underlying bias, a declaration of ‘truth’ from a position of ignorance or simply an outright lie are where the focus should be. Siri, Alexa, Google and Cortana are a long way from being able to step up to that challenge so we need to equip our children to be able to make up the shortfall for themselves.

 I know it’s not all doom and gloom, my son has already had classes where they have discussed morality and ethics; I don’t remember the trolley problem ever being discussed 30 years ago, and thankfully progress has been made in terms of liberal thinking around attitudes towards sexuality and equality even if we are still battling on some fronts (and at risk of going over the edge in some instances).

History was never a subject I particularly enjoyed at school and the detailed specifics of who, where and when still aren’t a draw. I’d happily recommend starting with something like Bill Bryson’s ‘a short history of nearly everything’ though.

Not quite all the history you need in school but about the right level of perspective 

It’s how things fit together and how we got where we are today that help to build an informed perspective on why things are the way they are, and why people believe and do the things they do.

It’s this context that we need to convey, along with the critical thinking skills for them to identify the right path forward for the society they will lead in the mid to late 21st century. One where there are challenges enough to tackle without the addition of having to wait until adulthood to make a start in understanding of their place in the world and how to navigate it.

Lecture over 🙂


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