In one those situations when my son is trying to prove to me how much more he knows than me, he will bring me a blank map of the world and ask me to label the countries – or to fill in the gap of missing countries. Another favourite of his is to ask me to identify the flags of countries in the world. There is a bit of inconsistency here. As I wrote in my last blogpost, my children often tell me that we live in 2022 and not 1922. Asking me to identify about 200 flags or name all the countries in Asia and South and North America is what Geography teachers used to ask me to do in the 1970s and 1980s. And, since we live in 2020s, it is perhaps unfair for my son to want to humiliate me by asking me to identify flags and know exactly which country is where.
I am, of course, right, as my son’s Geography teacher confirmed before he dropped Geography for History. The teacher kindly or unkindly made me aware that my son had misunderstood what Geography is all about. That Geography teacher does not consider the ability to know about the position and the flag of each and every country of the United Nations a necessary or important knowledge. Of course, I fundamentally and profoundly disagree with that Geography teacher in every way imaginable. My reason is that passing exams is important, but it should not be the most important. What about just wanting to learn for the sake of knowledge, or just for curiosity. Is there still a place for those kinds of things?
This is not to blow my son’s trumpet and perhaps being able to place and name all the countries of the world, on the map and by flag, does not mean that you care about how people in the world live. However, someone who knows where people are is more likely to care, or at least be curious, about those people.
There is so much wrong with Britain at the present. However, there is also so much to celebrate about this country; two of those are:
- the British society and its social cohesion (relative)
- the education system.
There is no doubt those two things are linked and I’m not too naïve not to understand that many people will want to attack me head on over the notion of claiming those two are the best of British society. Many see the two things as not only linked, but also as where British society has major flaws. They will want to highlight the demerits of social mobility and the domination of public-school people in politics and top jobs and positions in society.
I agree there is a link between the two somewhere and that there are problematic areas, where there needs to be major improvements. However, I am not going to link these two things necessarily but to tackle each as a separate issue and to highlight how the so-called Generation Z in Britain has benefited from the content of the English Education curriculum and also what I call a very good degree of social integration and cohesion. Both of these issues have major flaws; however, we have to look at each in a global context and try to compare Britain with other countries in the world.
Britain is a country that used to rule the waves, with a firm grip on almost a third of the world’s population at some point in the past. It is now not only led by a government that is headed by a non-white person, but for which ethnic minorities are over-represented in the cabinet in comparison to the general British population. Ethnic minorities are not only well-represented in the arts and media, but also in commerce and pretty much all strata of society. Whilst we are not in the promised land yet, we ought, however, to take stock and celebrate what is a great achievement, despite the need for continuous improvement.
The point I made above may be a slight digression, but it is quite valid and related to the topic of this blogpost.
In the last three to four decades, I’ve witnessed what I consider to be real progress in British society, that is perhaps unmatched anywhere in the world. Politics is a rather risky territory to speak too much about and it is not my intention to offend people and I will always avoid that when I can. However, I will never shy away from saying what I consider to be the truth. For many people who voted for Brexit, they were looking for a less culturally diverse society, but what they are getting after Brexit is quite the exact opposite.
Returning to the main topic, young people in almost all parts of Britain are growing up in a country where they see the elites of society are made up of people of all races and cultural backgrounds. It is not perfect, but it is much better than in almost every country, except maybe America. One area in which British society is superior is that it is much less segregated along racial lines than in the USA. I am also of the view that Britain is much less racist than America.
The cultural diversity that exists in the middle and upper echelon of society is not only good for the children from the ethnic minorities but also from those who are white British. Young people in Britain are growing up and seeing role models and people in authority, not only of their own race but other races as well.
As for the education system, it is, on the whole, very good, as the curriculum is well-balanced and diverse.
I do, though, have major issues in many areas of the curriculum – mainly about the stories that are told, and perhaps History itself. One example of stories is in science, where, in areas like Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics, advancements that were made in certain periods in history by non-Europeans is rarely spoken about. One question that is never asked is why most named stars in the sky have non-Western names.
On a more optimistic note, one particular area in which I think there is tremendous progress is the way Religious Education is taught and its content. When I was in school, a small minority of teenagers were educated in Islamic schools and they learnt about Islamic studies. The Quran consists of everything in both the Jewish and the Christian books – the Torah and the Bible – and also additional material from Mohammed. The Muslim kids got to know a little about Christianity and Judaism, but from a different perspective. The Christian kids got to know a little about Judaism and Christianity, as they studied both the Old and the New Testaments. Like the overwhelming majority of people in the environment in which I grew up, everyone in my extended family went to either a Catholic or an Anglican School and we learnt about the Bible. In the 1970s, nothing was taught to Christian, Muslim and perhaps Jewish children about other faiths and beliefs. It is now different, as Religious Education, or Religious Studies, in schools takes a more holistic approach. Most children not only get to learn about the Abrahamic religions but also about the beliefs and practices of Buddhists and Hindus. Irrespective of whether you believe in something or nothing, being more knowledgeable is a good thing. Aside from the potential to raise awareness, it also allows one to see things from other people’s and cultures’ point of view.
Let us celebrate what is good about young people’s education and development as they grow. This should help us to look forward to a brighter future with optimism.
See here for the last blogpost in this series – https://excelinkeysubjects.com/generation-z-and-environmental-awareness/