It never hurts to be prepared
Making pessimistic predictions for your pupils’ futures is generally frowned upon these days. Instead, teachers are supposed to be raising children’s aspirations so each of them wants to go to a world-class university, then on to a dynamic job in the high-tech knowledge economy of the future. Predict anything less and you’re an enemy of promise.
But what if the future is going to be grim for all of us? It is time to talk about “educating for the apocalypse”. After all, the world is facing what may be the worst economic crisis in nearly a century, oil and other key resources are running out, and environmental catastrophes are looming as a result of climate change. Mutually assured nuclear destruction may not be as a much of an immediate threat as it was in the 1960s, but bellicose states and international terror groups continue to develop advanced weaponry.
Meanwhile, intergenerational tensions will grow as more young people find themselves paying off debts they did not create and unable to afford their own home, if they can even get a job.
The most alarmist predictions may well be wrong. However, downplaying the risks and assuming the best outcome is how the banks created the financial crisis. The education sector is better than that.
The point of all this is not to give small children nightmares. Instead it is about re-evaluating the skills we give the next generation. Plus, preparing for, say, a world when the electricity grids may no longer work is an opportunity to learn all sorts of handy, Scout-type skills such as how to start fires. The government wants a “back to basics” curriculum, and you can’t get more back to basics than that.
Even the scenario of a mass zombie attack - which we hope is only fictional - can prove an engaging basis for geography lessons and cross- curricular teaching (page 5).
So, give a thought to educating for the apocalypse. Most modern professions will cease to exist if the world as we know it collapses. But, barring an event that wipes out mankind in its entirety, we will still need teachers.
Michael Shaw is editor of TESpro