Tag Archives: education

Love Affairs – Part One

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)  


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Commercial sins?

I took my grandsons out for the day yesterday. We went to Maryport Aquarium, my plan being to spend the morning looking at the fishy displays then lunch before going on to an indoor play park. We had the aquarium to ourselves and the displays were excellent although I needed to lift the youngest (age 2) to see inside every tank situated at my eyeline but the oldest (age 4) became frightened by the sound of waves splashing in the big-sea pool so we whizzed round the whole place in less than five minutes.


I thought I would pacify him in the café. It’s a good café, not only serving delicious homemade cakes but with an excellent choice of kids meals not based on chips (my boys don’t like chips) and a perfect view of the harbour to keep their interest. I ordered coffee, they wanted ice cream.


Outside it was trying to snow, two swans swam around the harbour and men were working on the deck of a fishing trawler docked on the opposite quay. I thought great, lots of interesting things for the boys to watch and I’ll have ten minutes respite to drink my coffee. But nothing is simple with toddlers! They only like vanilla ice cream. The waitress tried to tempt them with ‘Rocky Horror’, ‘Death by Chocolate’, ‘Sweet Strawberry Dreams’ or ‘Paradise Road’. No, it had to be vanilla! The waitress said they had vanilla ice cream in the gift shop but not in the café so I could go to the gift shop for their ice creams. I looked longingly at my coffee and the two boys sitting at the table waiting. I looked at the long path through the gift shop to the ice cream freezer sitting beside the entrance. The gift-shop was virtually as big as the aquarium except the floor was loaded with baskets containing the sort of bright coloured toys kids of two and four years old think of as treasure. I suggested it would be better if the waitress could get the ice creams. Eventually she obliged.


When we finished in the café the boys wanted to go to the outside play area being it was themed around a pirate ship. It was bitterly cold and trying to snow but they thought it was wonderful having the whole playground to themselves. If only to warm up we raced through the aquarium a second time, with more success. Obviously the ice cream sustained Oscar’s fear of waves. The rays were still fast asleep, the sharks looked hungry and we followed an escapee through the sunken ship. I’m not sure what the crab made of the boys but they loved copying its unique way of walking.


I survived the battle through the gift-shop. We didn’t purchase the fluffy dinosaur or plastic helicopter with fixed blades (daddy can’t fix it). There were no tears either but I wish the people who came up with these money-spinning layouts gave the option to exit without running the gauntlet of toys and sweets placed at toddler level, particularly when the displays we paid to see weren’t.

 Photo shows the view from Maryport across the Solway Firth to southern Scotland.Image

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