From the Daily Mail, we learn that the Department of Education has ‘called on teachers to create an atmosphere in which it is trendy to work hard and “boffins” are not bullied for being too brainy.’
Yes, teachers and all those in authority should ensure that bullying is stamped out in any place where they have a say, whether or not it is a ‘boffin’ being bullied, so that goes without saying.
I am more interested in this new assignment to teachers to ‘create an atmosphere in which it is trendy to work hard’. For starters, if any school can achieve this, it will be the first school ever on the face of the earth to do so. Schoolchildren have never, since the beginning of time, seen hard work as ‘trendy’, and they are not about to start now. In any case, I do not think they should be encouraged to do so. They are children, after all, and it is only to be expected that there are some things (school work, etc) that they will not embrace with the same enthusiasm as they do other things (playing, etc).
In addition, the notion that something must be made ‘trendy’ before we can encourage our children to do it, is something I find baffling. What about instilling in them the idea that hard work may not be fun, but in the end, it yields the fruits of success, a sense of achievement, and respect among peers? What about the idea that applying oneself to something, whatever the difficulties, frustrations, and challenges, might be something worth doing? What about the idea that sometimes we may not feel like doing something, but that self-discipline and dedication, irrespective of the views of others, are values to be exalted in every case? These are the lessons we should be teaching our children.
By trying to get teachers to pretend that hard work is ‘trendy’, the Department of Education is sending out a message that nothing is worth doing unless one can get superficial pleasure from it. They are preaching to children, telling them that they can attain things in life on their own terms. This is grossly irresponsible. Children do not rule the world, and sooner or later, they will learn that ‘trendiness’ does not make things happen. Far better to put trendiness in its real place, as a sometimes fun, often times diverting, ineffectual concept. In the real business of life, there is very little room for trendiness. There are many issues in this life in which the views of children are irrelevant. They need to be told that some things (eg hard work) are necessary, whether or not they are trendy. And they need to be told why.
Children should be encouraged to reach out for the tray of goodies that life can offer. However, with all this ‘trendiness’ talk, what the Department of Education is doing is kneeling at the feet of children and offering them the world on their (the children’s) own terms. Instead of encouraging them to aim high, and reach for a world outside their own, the Department is reshaping the valuable things in life so that they accord with the fleeting values of children. This I find surprising, and somewhat saddening.