We have lost our vision of what education is. The entirely modern idea of a comprehensive or liberal curriculum covering literature, the arts, science and mathematics that was available and accessible for all children has been put aside and is seen as ‘traditional’.
Instead of promoting inspiring subjects contemporary education policy aims for ‘edutainment’ and ‘relevance’, leaving science, modern languages and mathematics increasingly marginal or optional. Teachers and teacher educators need to have confidence in the ability of all children to learn what Matthew Arnold described as ‘the best that is known and thought in the world’. The educational solution for 2024 is to go back to the future.
In the misanthropic and dispiriting diatribe Straw Dogs, John Gray makes the ridiculous remark that ‘outside of science, progress is simply a myth’ - as if science were something insignificant to be casually dismissed. Science is central to our culture and what we are. Scientific progress is the central value of modern society. There was a time when intellectuals prided themselves on being dissenting. What we need for 2024 is a new generation of assenting intellectuals who, unlike anti-humanists, confidently stand up for science, reason and progress.
Dennis Hayes is author of Defending Higher Education: The Crisis of Confidence in the Academy (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and a contributor to Debating Humanism (buy this book from Amazon (UK)).