Is passion all that matters in education?

3 June 2009

Is stirring a pupil’s passion all that matters in edcation? Ken Robinson’s new book, The Element, suggests that this is at the heart of getting the best out of children. I appeared on Radio 3’s Nightwaves arguing a little differently. I said that if teachers just tell pupils to follow their passions then they could find all sorts of problems: some pupils’ passions are violent and anti-social. Robinson’s book is deeply disingenuous: it is a materialistic self-help book disguised as a philosophical tract about how to save society. It is crammed full of celebrity examples which are not examined analytically, but cravenly, slavishly adoring characters such as Paul McCartney, Mick Fleetwood, and Meg Ryan! Showing us that they followed their passion and became hugely successful, why don’t you?

Robinson didn’t like my criticisms, and declared that I hadn’t read the book – which I had, very carefully.

He is from the Sixties, grammar-school educated generation that now are the establishment in education. He’s chaired numerous committees and earned a knighthood. Nevertheless, he hasn’t seen first hand the chaos that his ideas have left behind: the wishy-washy emphasis on creativity has led to a fatal erosion of standards and an unprecedented attack on the traditional subjects in schools, leaving the curriculum stripped bare of content.

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