What sort of world will our children grow up in? We can never know for sure, but the world sure as hell is giving us strong hints.
I was born in 1981; Thatcherism as a political movement was gaining ground, but did we know then that it would last for so long? Could we ever have imagined then, as the AIDS virus began to spread across the world and was called the “gay disease”, that marriage between two consenting adults – of any gender – would be legalised in the UK thirty years later? How could we ever envisage that a centre-left government, at the turn of the 21st century, would get into bed with a centre-right American government and commit to a war in the Middle East?
It would be almost impossible, at any point, to imagine that a country could have changed its values and views in the space of a few decades. What will our collective values be in thirty years hence? What will our world look like? What will our ethics look like? Climate change is considered a huge priority by many, something to be dismissed by others – or to be done at a slower pace. My son will live through climate change priorities being a huge part of his life, more so than it appeared in my childhood; electric cars will be more common, and petrol and diesal cars will be objects of wonder in his childrens’ lives.
But it so often fascinates me that people try and predict what is going to happen so precisely over the next ten / twenty / thirty years, but don’t set up an education system that plans ahead for those predicted changes. What happens if those changes don’t come to pass? Do we change the education system again to a different format?
Our schools change anyway; my son tells me about his day-to-day schooling, and some of it seems so different to the one I had. There’s more emphasis on the outside world and the local community; trups happen where they just engage with the local area (Bryan once went on a trip to ASDA with his class to see how the food was distributed and where it all cam from), and everything seems a lot more linked up than I can remember (although I suspect I have very few memories that are entirely accurate from that time).
Sex education is happening earlier and more healthily now, in my view; children have learning about it together, not segregated by gender. I can recall being split up into boys and girls at secondary school (there was nothing at primary school), and boys never learnt about what the girls had been told and vice verse. Everything was treated with a veil of secrecy, and perhaps even a bit of shame.
Perhaps the question I asked at the beginning of this post isn’t right; we don’t know what sort of world our children are going to grow up in. We can predict some of the themes, but the crystal ball is murky; there’s so much uncertainty and violence and emotion in the world that we can’t – don’t – always think rationally. Climate change, data security, and technology will loom big, but so will all of the unknown factors that we simply can’t control.
We need to allow our children the opportunity to learn about themselves, so that they can be strong and curious and dynamic as they grow up. I remember Sir Ken Robinson, a brilliant professor of education who was funny, intelligent, and a great public speaker right up to his recent death, saying that education needs to be flexible and adaptive to the individual, not expecting the individual to fit into a set way of learning. Not everyone learns the same, and not everyone sees the world in precisely the same way. For every person on Earth, there is a different view of it; many overlap and agree for the most part, but everyone is unique.
Why do we not have a world of human society that allows for flexibility and difference, rather than expecting everyone to fir into a particular box? Right Wing or Left Wing, social or introverted, gay or straight? Why do we all have to live by a label and be expected to stick to that label for our entire lives? We shouldn’t; we should allow children the opportunity to learn their own personality and give them the chance to enjoy learning in a way that helps them?
I don’t know what the future holds for our children, but I know that I would prefer a generation prepared for it by being creative, unique, and appreciated for being themselves. In a world where children can grow up into whatever is right for them, that world suddenly becomes a lot more exciting and interesting because it’s open to all possibilities. I can’t wait to see the adult my son becomes, and I want him to be his own man – not the man I’m telling him to be or that society is telling him he should be. He should just be happy in whatever he does, and that gives him a lot more power to change the world as a result.