A glance at a typical school website will reveal just how excited they are about everything. They want to promote curiosity, enthusiasm, engagement, creativity! It all sounds so wonderful! You will also be treated to a dizzying array of close-up photographs of pupils sliding across the screen. As they gaze at test tubes and kick footballs, their faces are so curious, enthusiastic, engaged and creative! It’s a veritable rollercoaster ride of feel good experiences!
This slick marketing works just like adverts for fizzy drinks. You look at rapidly shifting images of happy, beautiful people drinking the fizzy drinks, and you make an emotional connection.
But the school websites are often as empty of content as the fizzy drinks whose marketing they emulate.
Content. Substance. That’s what’s missing. Enthusiastic about what? Creative with what? Engaged with what? Curious about what?
There are some things about which one should not be curious. Curiosity is like energy: children typically have plenty of it, and responsible adults have to exert their authority to channel it in the right direction. Children may be curious about what happens when they kick the smallest boy in the class. They may run energetically onto a busy road without looking first.
And it’s hard to stop children from being creative. They come up with creative ways to cheat on tests and to break uniform rules without our help. But if we want them to use language creatively, or to interpret history creatively, we’ll have to put a lot of knowledge into their heads, and we’ll have to be clear about what that knowledge should be. We will need a carefully designed, content rich curriculum. And many, many hours of hard work will be required to master the content.
This hard work may not involve the broad, toothy grins which are plastered all over the typical school website, but it will generate a quiet, deep and lasting satisfaction: the satisfaction of achieving a worthy goal through persistent effort.