I’ve just finished Robert Peston’s book WTF? (that’s what it is called, not my attempt to sound cool). It is about Brexit and politics, which won’t be everyone’s idea of a good read. I liked it. It passed the time and I learnt a few things. What I take away from the book is that the outcome of the referendum was very dependent on a small number of things, not least of all the smart way the Leave side campaigned.
The book is full of stats and economic analysis, much of which I will not remember. I wonder whether that matters? What remains in my mind mostly is some change in my view of the matter, backed up with random facts and stories. The book has left an impression on my mind, like the indentation on a cushion, but the specifics are likely to fade away quite quickly, I suspect.
I have always found troubling the idea that time can pass without any evidence of how it was spent. What I mean is that part of my life can happen and nothing material has changed as a result; nothing learnt, nothing gained. Time seems scarce and to waste it, irresponsible.
This notion is both a source of psychological drive and a wellbeing bear-trap.
Would it be okay for me to read a book and later remember nothing of it, and remain unchanged by the experience? Should I consider this to be merely filling time, valid down time, or a justifiable pass time. How we describe this time reflects how we value it.
Of course, it is unlikely that we can be truly left unchanged by an experience. At the least (a phrase which shows my bias) we might bring about relaxation, refocus our distracted mind, or simply rest a tired body. I have become more mindful of being mindful, of attending to the art of being unproductive and of questioning my utilitarian view of time. However, the thought of not valuing time – of ‘wasting’ time – still makes me deeply uncomfortable, and always will. Is it just me, or do you think the people who named the quiz show ‘Pointless’ were actually making this point? It’s an in-joke, right?
As I climbed Snowdon last week, bathed in beautiful winter sunshine, I was maxed out on mindfulness; left with inner peace and stunning memories, to which I shall return when this term serves up its usual distasteful dishes. Time need not be productively used, but its scarcity mustn’t be forgotten; time is a precious thing.
Tom Sherrington made this point about schools and the curriculum:
“Knowledge must be retained, not merely encountered.”
I believe this is an important truth when it comes to education. Schooling is not a pass time, down time or a way of filling time. The curriculum cannot be the book we read, only to forget. What we choose to teach should be the knowledge that will change who students are, how they see the world and interact with it – powerful knowledge. This knowledge is too valuable to be ignored, to be merely encountered.
School time is precious. It is the only time we have to equip students with the powerful knowledge they will be unlikely to acquire elsewhere in their lives. For this reason it must be productive, and never wasted. That is not to say that other ways of using time are not valuable; go for a walk, build a tree-house, fly a kite, or one of the other things on Mr Hinds’ list. Watch Pointless if you really want to. Switch off your television set and go and do something else less boring instead, why don’t you? But let schools stay focused on the curriculum because students won’t get that time again.