While researching in some old magazines recently I discovered an article called ‘Love Affairs’ which was published in the Goldsmiths Review of 1989, a magazine produced by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and distributed to members.
The writer, Geoffrey Wilson OBE, was then chief inspector of schools for Kirklees LEA. He wrote the article because ‘the educational prescriptions of the National Curriculum into which the child now has to fit leaves little room to have those deep love affairs which were of significance to all of us in the past.’ His prime concern being, ‘it does not even pay lip service to those deeper and more profound values associated with the spiritual and emotional growth of children which were of paramount importance to those……concerned with the teaching of craft and design in the sixties and seventies.’
Wilson continues, ‘some of us remember revelling in the aesthetics of skill; the child with his eyes closed stroking his cheek with a piece of finished wood; or marvelling as he raised a piece of silver or used a graver or spokeshave.’
Wilson had hoped the National Curriculum would be a chance to redress the imbalance of a system which had only contempt for technical subjects. Instead five dissimilar components were amalgamated: Technology; Craft, Design and Technology/ Home Economics/ Information Technology/ Art/ Business Studies. Wilson said if there was one thing he believed after a lifetime in education it was that good learning takes place in the company of experts and to put together these five incompatible bedfellows could only be a recipe for disaster.
He then laid out a list of ten ‘confusions’.
1 Personal worth is confused with personal status and position.
2 Satisfaction is confused with reward.
3 Personal identity is confused with personal possessions.
4 Personal responsibility is confused with conformity.
5 Respect is confused with obedience.
6 Strength and resolve are confused with toughness and ruthlessness.
7 Change is confused with progress.
8 Education is confused with cleverness.
9 Fulfilment is confused with enjoyment.
10 Urgency is confused with importance.
Government, he says, comes down in favour of the measurable, instrumental features which form the second words in each confusion. Who moves the human spirit? Who will dare, other than in protest, to make those imaginative leaps encouraged by the old education system? We are classified by the words we use and management, delivery, assessment, audit, client, market place, discipline, toughness have become the ‘in’ words.
He ended with this story: ‘When Michaelangelo was going to Rome to see the Pope prior to his being employed to build the great dome of St. Peter’s and paint the Sistine Chapel, he took with him a reference which said: The bearer of these presents is Michaelangelo the sculptor….his nature is such that he requires to be drawn out by kindness and encouragement – but if love be shown him and he be treated really well, he will accomplish things that will make the whole world wonder.
The making of beautiful things requires care, compassion, encouragement and love.
(Photograph of The Lady of the Lake, taken during filming)