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May 14, 2012 / mrespiers

The purpose of education must be to nurture optimism.

The purpose of education must be to nurture optimism.

Just take a look at the #500words posts so far: hope, independence, community, curiosity, connecting.

I too share the optimism and last year described (with a little assistance from AS Neil) the purpose of education as helping people to discover their inner compulsion and then nurturing it and I am happy to report that I have made some progress towards this on a personal and on a professional level since last year’s post.

I have tried to plan for this in my teaching and in my learning and the result has included: a student dressed as Spongebob Squarepants teaching a lesson in which the class designed a new house for Spongebob using pieces of fruit; a boy who had not said more than two or three words per lesson for most of the year teaching a lesson on mythological creatures without the use of any notes or powerpoint and having the class hanging on his every word, teaching myself how to use my camera and enrolling on my first online course.

I am optimistic that giving the students more autonomy to teach lessons about things that they know well will develop their confidence and their skills. I am optimistic that they will enjoy school more as a result. I am optimistic that developments such as Coursera will lead to more options for more people to engage in more learning.

My optimism is rooted in my own experiences of being a student and a teacher and also in the knowledge that education can be transformative in the most powerful ways.

I am however, troubled by some other incidents that have taken place in the last year: a boy was not excluded for being drunk on the school site because to exclude him would be to send him home to his drug addicted mum; I spent several hours with the police and lots of students trying to sort out quite a nasty incident of homophobic bullying; I read that 7% of children attend independent schools yet they produce 70% of high court judges, 32% of MPs and 54% of FTSE CEOs.

The cuts are biting and schools are expected to do more for less. There will inevitably be some compromises and I am less optimistic that students at comprehensive schools will get the chance to be a judge because schools are distracted more and more by the social work they are doing.

Perhaps my opening line should read ‘The purpose of education must be to nurture optimism despite political and economic realities’. Perhaps the key is to distinguish between what the purpose of education should be and what it actually is or appears to be. I remain optimistic that the purposed campaign may be the beginning of something that brings the ideal and the reality closer together.

I also like my friend’s idea that the purpose of education is to do better than ‘this lot in charge’.

Thanks for reading. @yogspiers

Other contributors –

#500words Take 2 –



Leave a Comment
  1. Doug Belshaw / May 14 2012 5:58 pm

    Thanks for the contribution, Eugene! Great to see your progress since last year but, as you say, still plenty to do!

    • mrespiers / May 17 2012 10:03 pm

      Thanks Doug, looking forward to doing more!

  2. Julia Skinner (@theheadsoffice) / May 16 2012 10:38 am

    An interesting post Eugene. Good to have found you!

    • mrespiers / May 17 2012 10:05 pm

      Thanks Julia. I’ll be in touch about the 100 wc and getting some of our older students involved as described at TMClevedon.

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