I was struck by an incident on a train recently which left me thinking about the eduction system (as always) but I suppose there’s also a shift in my thinking as my girl is coming up to school age soon.
I was on a train heading towards Hampton Court and was sat next to a family of four. They were clearly heading there and the dad had a guide book of some sort in his hands. He began asking the eldest girl questions about Henry V111. It began as a gentle chat and turned into a rather amazing game between the two.
“What was the name of Henry’s grandmother?” “what was the sister called?” “Was Lady Jane ever queen?” “Who was the son of…” “What was the name of…” excuse me as I forget the details of this family tree but lets just say the questions became more random. Well I say random but they were focused on one thing and one thing only. The recall of a family tree long long dead and the girl got every single question right! Don’t get me wrong, it was impressive. She was about ten years old and I can’t even remember the questions let alone the answers but so what I wondered? Why did it matter? As the questions progressed and he searched for something she surely wouldn’t know he was bursting with pride at this girls ability to recall. But I had to stop myself saying “You’re asking the wrong questions!!!!”
Take the question “How old was Edward V1 when he was crowned king?”. “9!” she cried! “Yes” he said before moving on. Wait a minute. A king at nine? how old are you? ten? Imagine that. Being crowned king! Is that something you would like? I wonder what it must be like to be so young with so much power? Would you want help to make key decisions? How would you know who to trust? What changes would you like to make if you were king now? Do you think you would make a good king? Do you think children could lead a country as well as an adult? etc etc etc.
The facts are great but surely just something this child was regurgitating in the moment, held momentarily in her head. But there is no connection, no meaning, no relevance. The facts become data. Something to be stored rather than something to be interrogated. Without the human angle, the deep questions that interrogate those facts they are surely pointless. So yes dad, be proud, she was amazing but I think, nope, I know, she is capable of much much more.