How do you like your fruit?

14th April 2006 at 01:00
If I asked you to talk about apples, what would you say? They grow in Kent? There are lots of varieties? They're good for cooking? If any of these come to mind, you are probably a left-brain thinker - analytical, knowledge-based.

If, on the other hand, you were to talk about the supremacy of Golden Delicious because of intensive marketing, the importance of preserving ancient varieties, the use of the apple in mythology - well, all of that indicates a right-brain thinker, less interested in facts and better able to think laterally and widely.

Next question: does it matter? Answer: probably, as the latest thinking is that people who are able to access the whole brain, who know the facts but think more widely, are likely to be the most successful in whatever they do. And right-brain thinkers have a greater chance of success as simple knowledge becomes more the preserve of computers and the internet - and thus of everyone.

If everyone has the information, who has the edge? Someone who can think beyond the simple information. Someone who has the spark of creativity.

Television programmes such as Get Smarter in a Week are the modern equivalent of those public service broadcasts of the 1950s, telling us a hundred things to do with a turnip because good fresh food was hard to come by. The modern programmes are concerned to make us smarter because it's good for the country for people to have modern skills such as literacy, numeracy, and competence with computers.

Fun programmes with a serious message about how we could all be smarter should be a great antidote to the "Don't be a geek" culture in schools, or the cheerful boast we hear every day from adults: "I could never do maths."

Can you imagine anyone admitting to being stupid about driving and not feeling guilty about it?

Jamie Oliver did more than improve school meals; he made cookery "cool" and attractive. He happily tells us to "slosh in some of this!" and "bung in more if you fancy it!" He gives us permission to be ourselves, to be more creative, to access the whole brain and see where it takes us.

The interesting thing in schools will be whether they and the education system can accommodate such attitudes and such new wisdom. League tables do not acknowledge creativity very well, and the new emphasis on good grades in core subjects - English, maths, science and a modern foreign language - casts subjects such as art into outer darkness.

Facts are now available to everyone at the touch of a button. Success in the future is going to need more. Now, tell me about oranges...

Hilary Moriarty Hilary Moriarty is headmistress of Bedgebury school in Kent, but writes here in a personal capacity

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