We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting ForNovember 28, 2009
I recently received the following email:
Sorry for the direct email. I just came across your blog http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/ and I wondered if I could run something past you that might interest you. I’m working on a landmark independent documentary film that is coming out on education and I wondered might it be of interest for your blog.
You can watch/download the trailer here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUODHGy60no
The film, titled ‘We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For’, was inspired and guided by Lord Puttnam and Sir Michael Barber and explores the education system in the UK and asks whether the current system provides young people with the opportunity to develop their talents. High-profile figures sharing their personal experiences and views include Sir Richard Branson, Germaine Greer, Henry Winkler, Bill Bryson, Sir Ken Robinson and a wide range of education experts from around the world.
This thought-provoking film offers unique insight across generations and nations, and reveals a very inconvenient truth about education. The world is changing rapidly – but our education system is not keeping pace.
‘We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For’ follows the lives of five Swindon-based teenagers and the challenges they face during their education. It reveals the dislocation between our education system and the rapidly changing, globalised world which is increasingly dominated by digital technology, and focuses on the need for fundamental change in teaching and learning
Lord Puttnam said: “I’ve no doubt that ‘We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For’ has the potential to be a powerful catalyst for overdue educational reform. We need to provide all of our young people with an education that motivates them to learn, and enables them to discover what they are good at. ‘We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For’ is intended to act as nothing less than a wake-up call.”
By exploring some of the more innovative approaches to education around the world, the film offers a glimpse of the future. It shows how much more flexible, exciting and engaging learning could be for young people – and how our education system could support them in identifying and making the most of their individual talents.
Following the premiere of ‘We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For’ on Tuesday 17th November the film will be released online on request at http://www.wearethepeoplemovie.com and will also be syndicated free with the Guardian on Saturday 28th November
You can view the trailer here I wondered if you would like to talk about it on your blog?
I’m happy to oblige, James. Here is my review:
Why Lord Puttnam Can Stick His Stupid Documentary Up His Arse
Despite the hype in some of the publicity, “We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For” is not in any way a film. The Guardian may have distributed it, but didn’t even see fit to mention it on the front cover. (Curiously today’s Guardian did give almost all the space above its masthead to publicising its free “Kings and Queens Wallchart”.) “We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For” is simply a party political broadcast for the ignorance party. It might be messianic about education, but education is about “skills and attitudes” not learning. As a result the traditional school, built as it was for getting the masses to learn knowledge, is utterly outdated. “Doing reading, writing and arithmetic” is mentioned only in a derogatory way. Even “sitting down” is repeatedly condemned.
A succession of voices, who are either representatives of the education establishment or minor celebrities, promote a familiar case. The argument is the usual one for dumbing down. The future is uncertain, therefore all knowledge is outdated and so children must be prepared for their lives by becoming “adaptable”, “flexible” and everything other than knowledgeable. Knowledge is conformity, ignorance is individual. A system that aspires to ensuring that all should have knowledge is repressive. A system that tests that knowledge is wasting time on rote memorisation and missing the big picture of a future in which nobody needs to know anything. The important thing is for students to “question the world around them”, which for some reason is incompatible with being taught how to answer those questions. Children must be interested, creative and have high self-esteem. The last hundred years of educational theory never happened. Education now is like it was in the Victorian era. We have to adopt the ideas that were popular in the US in the twenties and the UK in the sixties because these ideas are new; Summerhill School (founded 1921) is presented as an innovation. Education is about drawing out from children what is already in them rather than giving them new knowledge. Everything must be relevant. Vocational skills aren’t valued enough. If students haven’t learnt enough then it was a mistake to try and teach them. If students haven’t enjoyed learning then it’s pointless. All must have prizes. Henry Winkler and Germaine Greer say so.
What makes it worse is the use of children. Child after child spouts clichés about education. How else can the filmmakers pretend their crap is for the sake of the children? Much concern is shown about the failures of the present system. Uneducated children have been failed by the system, nobody doubts this. But it takes the insanity of the zealot to blame educational failure on the academic focus of the education system, when anybody familiar with our schools can see that there is no academic focus for these children. This is a rant against authority in education, by the kind of people who do have authority in education. This is an argument for failed orthodoxy by presenting it as a radical departure. This is a polemic against academic standards by the kind of people who have already lowered the standards to nothing. This is an attack on the curriculum by the people who gave us the curriculum we have. This is an attempt to blame the failure of the educational system on the very values the system has already abandoned. This is a prolonged assault on a strawman education system that not only doesn’t exist, but would be far better than what we have now if it did exist. This is shameful lies combined with self-righteous sermons.
I am prepared to give some of the participants the benefit of the doubt, they might not have known how their contributions would be used, but too often the people who are already failing the next generation are given a platform to call for more of the same and explain how progressive, radical and compassionate it is to do so. It is such a colossal attempt to shift blame that you almost expect some of the interviewees to suggest that the Jews (or perhaps the freemasons or the Catholic Church) are behind our education system.
My hope is that for every Guardian reader who wastes their time on this call for ignorance justified as compassion, there are a dozen other readers who take the same amount of time to discuss with their children the content of the Kings and Queens Wallchart. The people I am waiting for are people who know enough history to have learnt from it.