Our over-examined nation - Spear's Magazine

Our over-examined nation

You should examine your own beliefs and ask, what defines success?

As the Easter holidays approach, your children will soon face the dilemma of skiing or studying. Predictably you’ll tell them to get to work as the Three Valleys are only affordable to those with three A’s, but as you do, you should examine your own beliefs and ask, what defines success?

‘Modern education suggests it is getting top grades and entering the professions,’ says Zoe Readhead at Summerhill School. ’If you work with your head – as a doctor, lawyer or banker – then people admire you, but if you work with your hands – as an electrician, woodworker or artist – then they think you are second class.’

The attitude is born, in part, from Britain fighting its economic destiny as a small island post 1945 by creating an education system which pumps out test-takers instead of creative thinkers. How else can you explain leading grammar school Queen Elizabeth’s Barnet examining its pupils in every subject every six weeks?

Clearly, a balance needs to be struck. While Summerhill – where the pupils don’t have to go to lessons – may be too extreme, its principal, Readhead, is right to highlight the 21st century tendency of judging others by what they do, not who they are.

Advocating her alternative, she says, ‘Summerhill values the things that every good society wants just as much as exam results. Our students are tolerant, honest and take responsibility for their actions. Isn’t that the ultimate goal for all countries?’

Read more by Freddy Barker