For a country with a population of just over three million, it’s not only rugby union where Wales punches above its weight.
In the cerebral fields of literature, poetry, art and music, Wales has contributed much. The Thomas brothers (Dylan and R S), Gruff Rhys, Augustus John, John Cale, The Mabinogion and the magnificently named Adam the Welshman are solid examples.
Wales is an ancient and mysterious country and its cultural traditions have had plenty of time to develop.
Fast-forward to 2019, however, and intellectual progress seems to have stalled. The Welsh Youth Parliament clearly is less interested in literature and language than ‘how to clean, and buy cars’:
Aside from the fact that instruction on how to buy a car probably isn’t going to take much time (you know how you buy anything – by having the money to pay for it, then handing it over? It’s like that), this suggested collection of life-hacks has nothing to do with intellectual development, and more to do with filling a void left by parents. It cannot be the job of Schools to fill in every time parents (or society) are judged to have failed. This does not mean we shouldn’t seek to educate via more than just subjects, but there is a limit to what Schools can achieve.
One shouldn’t blame the children of the Welsh Youth Parliament either. At least they’re not suggesting compulsory study of Shakin’ Stevens. But neither are they curriculum experts, and asking 14-year olds what they think should be taught in Schools is not something that would be enacted in fields taken more seriously than education. Pupils are always likely to revert to these sort of suggestions, partly because they have no idea about the more complex aspects of curriculum design.
There are two other points worth making:
- Why are we unconcerned with how fearful young people are about real life? The fact that they yearn for lessons in how to deal with grief, how to speak in public and how to maintain healthy relationships is a matter of genuine concern. I suspect this is a reflection of the confidence we have drained from this generation, with endless talk of safety, offence, resilience, mental health and vulnerability. The more we encourage these conversations, the more we seem to push our neuroses onto them. The curriculum suggestions of these children should act as a wake-up call for us.
- It is clear that these children have a very limited view of what an academic education can do for you. Knowledge and understanding is liberating and helps us to navigate the world better. It allows us to become independent thinkers. What they have done is analogous to understanding the need to become an independent thinker, and then suggesting that we introduce lessons on independent thinking. Education doesn’t work like that.
It is fine for children to have opinions on their education, but it’s also worth remembering the words of the late and great Douglas Adams:
“All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.”