Yesterday we had a whole-cohort leading learning session about aspirations. This involved 1000 people having a conversation about this education issue in one room. There was a Question Time style panel and a Powerpoint but it was made really interactive with twitter feeds and whole-cohort voting on whether they agreed with what people said.
The session started off with the general platitudes about aspiration for every pupil but it really got interesting when the facilitator, Ndidi (who I think did a great job), started asking some difficult questions about dreams versus aspirations and academic aspirations versus non-academic.
Predictably for a bunch of lefty 20 somethings, most were steadfast in their belief that they would support any aspiration their imaginary children had, no matter what society thought of it. I was with them up to this point.
Ndidi made it more concrete by asking whether the system should move to having a 50:50 split of academic and non-academic subjects on the timetable. Most still supported this.
She then asked whether we would want our own children to take the non-academic route, if they showed equal promise at both.
Realising, I think, that it’s all too easy to claim that in the abstract, Ndidi brought it down to earth, asking whether anyone had siblings still at school and what we wanted for them. I put my hand up and the roaming mike came to me.
I was honest and said while my brother was talented at both science and football, if I had to choose one for him to concentrate on it would be science. That route is statistically far more likely to be successful for him. Whilst I’m sure he would figure his life out if he abandoned academics and concentrated on football, I think his life will be easier and less stressful with the more traditional route.
I was quite taken aback at the negative response to that comment.
Let’s be clear here. I wasn’t saying he shouldn’t play football. I was asked what my aspirations for him looked like. And they are academic, with, I’m sure, a lot of football played on the side.
I’m still frustrated by the response I got. We have a shortage of STEM workers in this country. That’s not the case for footballers. So, yes, I do think we should, all other things equal be promoting maths and science. Do we not want the children we educate to leave being employable? I think we are doing students a grave, grave disservice if we don’t give them the chance, and perhaps the push, to excel in areas where jobs are available rather than where they are not.