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Teach them to thrive in new world

SURELY Chris Woodhead has a more thoughtful and perceptive view of how old values should be interpreted for a new age (TES, January 7)? According to the Government's own policies, the world of the 21st century will differ fundamentally from life in previous ones. To take advantage of these changes, Woodhead is right to emphasise the need to inculcate into the young a true appreciation of our culture.

Ours has been a culture that has witnessed constant struggle between those seeking the maintenance of the status quo and those thriving on adaptation and experimentation. In an age that rewards the production of new knowledge and innovation, civilisations must be adaptive or they surely face the danger of stagnation or worse. This requires leadership.

Why then does Woodhead develop an argument that is so unnecessarily confrontational and reactionary? The use of quotations is always problematic; out of context they are easily twisted. When speaking on behalf of the 21st Century Learning Initiative, I always stress the need to reverse the over-emphasis on the "formal classroom," and constantly make a plea for the recognition of informal, spontaneous leaning, and the role of creativity. This argument is supported by the Government's own report All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education.

Yet, Woodhead does not find this common ground but rather makes a subtle change to what I have said by inserting three words of his own "or our ridiculous" before "commitment to the formal classroom". He seeks to polarise, and obfuscate the fact that successful education and learning in the 21st century will require more than just increased government control and discipline over what happens in the classroom.

The reality is that the young people of today will have to be far wiser, far more knowledgeable, and far more energetic, than has been our generation. This means helping young people make connections between what they learn in the classroom and what they experience outside of it. If this type of inclusive learning environment is to flourish government will need to focus less on control and more on building partnerships based on trust and shared values.

John Abbott

The 21st Century Learning Initiative

LGC Heritage Foundation Offices


Letchworth, Hertfordshire

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