40 of us, heads and deputies from MK, met together on Thursday with Geoff Dean, to think about issues around courage and curriculum, creativity and common sense, what was good in the past and why we needed to look hard at the future. It was really a good day, but it was again a sustained assault on the botched job that is current government curricular policy. Whether it amounted to beauty in the midst of decay, I can’t be sure. The reaction of colleagues to Geoff was good to see. He has been officially gone from Milton Keynes since 2008, but has had a lot of input into various schools since. However, there was a warm response both to his teaching and the spirit in which he brought it which oscillated between the insightful and outspoken.
It is a good place here also to say thank you to Jan Brown, head of Emerson Valley School, whose brainchild and events these have been, and who is retiring in the summer. From the moment I arrived in Milton Keynes, she has been kind, thoughtful and helpful, and often speaks about the job as one that is more than usually tough but one that we would not exchange, just for the privilege of teaching and transforming adults and children.
I would like to have the time to write more about this, and when the opportunity comes, I may. In the meantime, the slides from the presentation are really worth a browse through, and contain much of the content that Geoff spoke to and pinged discussions from.
What stays with me from Geoff’s talk are these:
- that at some time, and at some stage, we are going to have to have the confidence or courage to take a Luddite approach to the standards agenda, if it gets in the way of what we know and understand of how children learn and create
- that the future, using Keri Facer’s approach, is to be built for and not prepared against (future building is an opportunity, future-proofing will prove impossible)
- that we have to position ourselves with regard to technology so that we remain its masters and are not slavish imitators of fashion. Just because something exists is not sufficient argument for using it. I will have to read Albert Borgmann to give me a better handle on this.
- that politicians are more interested in impact and international comparisons than they are in children. They have little idea of the future beyond the next election, and therefore have little time for anything that does not satisfy the editor of the Daily Mail.
- that we have little idea of the future and even less of what learners’ needs will be so what we teach them must be able to be used to tackle this uncertainty, to be supple and reflective learners, able to be confident to cope with change and rooted in good values.
- that the future may well be catastrophic, and that there are good reasons why our society may fail, but that there is evidence of a generation of people already envisioning a world beyond this.
However, there are a whole crowd of other reflections. Try these.
- Jesus Christ knows the future of his world intimately and has “seen the end from the beginning”.
- The church, as we know it, has no obvious plan to help prepare for this future and is mainly threatened by it.
- The need for people to know Jesus, walk with him and follow his teaching has never been greater.
- If Jesus is, as Colossians 2:3 tells us, the Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”, then we have a limitless source of insight and understanding about everything in the expanding universe and on how to live our lives.
- Schools, and especially schools with a Christian foundation and populated by a community of goodwill, can be right at the centre of God’s purposes in any community and we need to find ways of exploiting this.
Last night, whilst 30-35 of us were out for a meal to say goodbye to the redoubtable and much-loved Ian Fraser, a friend asked me had we settled into life in Milton Keynes. I appreciate the question, because it keeps me glued to what is important. My reply was not flattering to the churches we have tried to attend, BUT it pointed out to me that the school I lead is almost certainly the warmest, most encouraging, most purposeful, most blessed community of people I have ever belonged to. If anything, they are my church, where I am fed, challenged and have whatever ministry is given me. We are beloved of God and beloved of one another. This is at the heart of Alan Wilson’s assertion that I made in June last year and keep coming back to:
The only way to prepare children for the future is to enable them to live fully, authentically, generously in the present, so that as an uncertain future unfolds, they will find joy and practise love, to shape their world as well as react to it.