Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What Did You Learn In School Today?

So do kids like going to school any more? The thought is prompted by two stories I have read over recent days in the press. The first comes from the UK and is one of those you have a "loony" tag description in your Del.icio.us account for. A new £4.7 million school in Sheffield is to be branded "a place for learning" rather than a "school" as the latter term as negative connotations. According to the Guardian article, the headteacher of Sheffield's Watercliffe Meadow, Linda Kingdon, said "We were able to start from scratch and create a new type of learning experience. There are no whistles or bells or locked doors. We wanted to de-institutionalise the place and bring the school closer to real life." 
The surprise is, of course, that anyone can believe that you bring an intuition closer to real life by adopting this particular approach to re-branding. No doubt the press will label it as "political correctness" but it isn't. It is in a direct descendant of the concept of corporate re-branding : the belief that change comes about by tinkering with images. It is, of course, rubbish (or perhaps that should be "down-river pre-recyclable detritus").
According to an article in yesterday's Washingtom Post, kids in America have a far more robust attitude to school. The piece tells the story of a six-year old from Northern Neck, Virginia who missed the school bus one morning and therefore decided to drive his parent's Ford Taurus van to school. The kid managed to drive the van - standing at the wheel as he was too small to sit - for over 10 miles before skidding and hitting a utility pole. He negotiated road intersections, overtook a number of other cars, and navigated almost all the way to the school before swerving off the road to avoid a truck. On being interviewed, the kid - who was anxious not to miss his PE lesson - said that he simply made use of the skills he had learnt playing the computer game "Grand Theft Auto". Heart-lifting, isn't it.

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