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Monday, September 07, 2015

The great thing about a 60s education was nobody told you you were special

When I look back at my upbringing in the 50s and 60s I don’t remember anyone ever telling me I was in any way “special".

Nobody suggested there might be a novel or a symphony inside me. I don’t think we ever had Creative Writing. In Art I don’t think we were ever encouraged to “let our imaginations run wild”. They just put things in front of us and we drew them. In drama we never improvised. We read the script. We learned poetry. If we wrote any poetry we were encouraged to keep it to ourselves.

I realise that by contemporary standards this may seem a terrible denial of the natural creativity of youth. It doesn’t bother me a bit.

When it came to school report time our teachers had nothing to say about us that couldn’t be condensed into a sentence. “Is struggling in this subject but occasionally calls for a life-belt” is one I remember. Teachers didn’t ask for our views. They didn’t pretend they found us fascinating.

We didn't mind. We knew we were lucky. We went to grammar school and by the time we got out National Service would be abolished. Therefore we had nothing to complain about and little to congratulate ourselves on either. Our education and upbringing seemed designed to communicate one message and the message was “you’re not all that".

When I read about the apparently intolerable pressure faced by today’s sixth formers I can’t help feeling it’s the inevitable corollary of a system that affects to believe everyone’s a bit more special than they are.