David Kindersley on education

I have not so far had anything to say about the riots which spread around urban England this summer. I was in Enfield on the day the riots spread there from Tottenham where they had started; I described the incredibly peaceful day I had here, in the words “North-east London was held at bay, and there was a feeling of peace finally achieved.”

Then, last night, I came upon this:

… the worst has happened and no doubt there is more to come. The last few nights have seen rioting youths in some of our major cities. What education did they endure and how is it that nothing worthwhile doing occurs to them. Could it be that the Educational Authorities have not realised that education is for leisure and not work. The western world in which we live today is a world of plenty certainly compared to the thirties. It really ought to be possible to help the young, emerging into the adult world which now offers them no work and will increasingly offer less and less employment – to look for the benefits of leisure. This at least would be a more worthwhile exercise than education for “form filling”.

That was written by David Kindersley, who was one of Britain’s leading letter designers, responsible for the lettering on the new British Library. It is in a book entitled Mr Eric Gill: Further Thoughts of an Apprentice.

Kindersley’s unique perspective on education arises in part from his apprenticeship to Gill, the stonecutter and type designer. In Gill’s workshop, life and property were communal, family and employees not distinguished (to the horror of Kindersley’s stockbroker father).

I don’t know exactly when the book was written, or when the riots referred to occurred. The book is copyright 1967, additional material copyright 1982; it is not made entirely clear, but I think this is part of the additional material.

If it is, then clearly in 30 years very little has changed, and Education Authorities still don’t have much idea what they are educating people for.

About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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2 Responses to David Kindersley on education

  1. Jonathan Kirby says:

    While there is nothing wrong (and much good, even essential) in educating people with the skills they may need in the world of work, it does seem that we in universities are heading too much in the direction of measuring what we teach by this one outcome, perhaps forgetting that learning has benefits for the rest of life as well, not to mention sometimes being a pleasure in itself.

    While I am not sure if mathematics offers a great deal for understanding human relationships (other subjects certainly do), I see lessons for being a better and more informed citizen in a great deal of undergraduate mathematics, most obviously in advanced numeracy such as statistics.

    • A brief example. Every university maths teacher has had the experience “Can you just check my homework before I hand it in?” One thing maths has to offer is that you can take responsibility for your own work. This is far wider than just training for employment.

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