A Facebook post by Debbie Bradley has raised some important points about the hypocrisy of modern education.  In her (or rather her daughter’s case) this was about the gender bias of uniform rules, and how a failure to conform to them demeans and humiliates girls, and contributes to the mindset that blames the victims of rape.

I would like to give another example of the hypocrisy of educational institutions.  As a youngster I didn’t like team sports.  I’m an only child and my mother was an only child.  My father and his brother had their own baggage.  This isn’t a sob story, I had friends and would probably have had more if I had been encouraged to push myself in my interests.  I did judo and was reasonably competent at it.  I did swimming, but not competitively – I was a lifeguard from the age of 16, so I must have been reasonably competent at it.  Neither of these were school activities.  There, I did cross-country running – again, not competitively, but I did so fairly consistently until I was in my 50s – I’m slow, but that’s OK when you do something for yourself.  I did gymnastics too, and even got a couple of badges, but I wasn’t any good at that.  (I just did it because one of the girls in my class did…  well, I was a boy, after all!)

For reasons of economy of scale, I am sure, school encouraged us to do team sports.  The message we were fed was that team sports taught us to work… in teams (which was an essential skill for the world of work).  If you didn’t do team sports, then you were a bit odd – “not well adapted socially”, “a loner”, “unlikely to do well in a people-oriented job”, and so on.

Of course, employers (well, their self-appointed spokespeople anyway) told politicians that they needed to do more to encourage team-working skills.  And, introversion wasn’t even a concept that teachers discussed in those days.

While I don’t remember ever being tempted to do so, but for reasons that were never explained properly, and yet the irony of which was all too clear, in almost everything else at school and university the message was simple: individual contribution is all that matters.  Helping in exams was cheating; helping in projects meant that they couldn’t be marked; helping with essays led to plagiarism.  Never mind collaboration.

As I embark on a new stage in my career (I hope to have begun a masters’ degree in photography shortly) I am reminded of all this because one of the key aspects of modern photography practice is COLLABORATION!  We will see where that leads!

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