Editorial - The future's not all it's cracked up to be, so thank heavens the past will always be with us

10th September 2010 at 01:00

The future is always frustrating. As The TES stands on the brink of its second century, it is tempting to sketch out the outlines of an exciting tomorrow. But why bother? We dream of being dazzled when we know we'll be disappointed. Readers of a certain age will recall that 50 years ago we expected by 2010 to be gliding around town in the latest flying Ford Anglia with not a care in the world because the robot had cooked the dinner and walked the dog. The food was pills, the clothes were shiny and the sex was alien. We were supposed to have holiday lets on the Moon, not in the Dordogne.

Not only does the future refuse to unravel on schedule in the way we predict, it also has the infuriating habit of delivering the pedestrian way ahead of the stellar. Did Captain Kirk ever send a text message or witness an artificial life form mark an exam? No, they were advances undreamt of by Star Trek scriptwriters, who got sidetracked by transporters and warp engines.

At the start of this millennium, The TES forecast a future of virtual teachers and schools.

Admittedly, we correctly prophesised that "mobile wireless devices with internet access" would one day deliver distance learning, though we never suspected that schools would outsource the maths department to India (page 1). But for the most part, schools remain of the brick variety and holo teachers do not shimmer in front of rapt pupils - and if they do, the GTC wants to know about it.

Duff predictions and disappointment are best avoided by taking lessons from our archives that have stood the test of time. Consider this absence note from 1978: "Craig was unable to come back to school yesterday as his mother was ill in bed. There was no way he went to see Grease." We can be absolutely certain that in 2110, Craig's great grandchildren will still be forging excuses.

Parents will continue to complain about teachers. "When Robert came back with his leg on Monday he called him a sesquidpedling vertybrate," one mother wrote in 1967. "I would have you know he is a good boy and has never had anything to do with drugs, though he does smoke a bit." We can confidently predict that Robert's descendants will be defending their offspring against unsympathetic teachers well into the next century.

Finally, The TES forecasts that teaching will remain as daunting a profession in 2063 as it did in 1963: "William David Pollock, aged 27, a customs officer of Hull, was fined #163;75 for failing to pay duty on 42 bottles of spirits. Pollock, said his solicitor, had been laying in a stock of drink for the time when he began a three-year course at a teacher training college."

If Mr Pollock survived his course, perhaps he will raise a glass to wish us well for our next century.


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