*This is a copy of the text I wrote for Bracket Vol. 3 (out December 2011) a Singapore based design journal. GO AND BUY IT
‘We don’t need no education’ so sang Pink Floyd in 1979, one of the most well educated bands in pop history. Idiots. Education needs defending and protecting, it’s a fragile state rather like love or democracy. If we are fortunate, we are educated to self-teach from a young age, a love affair with learning that continues throughout our lives. It’s an investment in emotion.
The prevailing ‘cool’ of my youth was the Pink Floyd mentality of ‘fight the system, don’t believe the hype and fight for your freedom of expression’. All important ideas that still hold true, however what this simplistic mantra leaves out is the simple fact that education also is an accessory to aid critical thinking and creative collaboration, it provides access to, and analysis of, information and feeds curiosity and imagination. In short, knowledge is power.
Twelve years on from my graduation from art college in the U.K. And it’s the economic, not the emotional, investment in education is being called to the fore by current students in art and design. I studied fine art, one of the most abstract degree courses possible. What was the point of it? Can you teach creativity? Can you teach love? No. But you can teach the ability to spot creativity or love when you stumble across it. You can inspire confidence in self belief. Sometimes the argument in education seems to go against free will and creative spirit, but increasingly it’s the fact that education has become a business and a production line that destroys the innate power of education and it’s ability for change. The students that demonstrate on the streets of London on behalf of education act like dissatisfied customers, for that is what they have become. Further education has become an ugly business ruled by statistics and the prevailing culture of professionalism.
It’s therefore heartening to read the answers put forth by the creatives in this edition of Bracket who remind us that education isn’t just a number crunching production line of worker bees but its also the route to self expression and happiness. The consensus is that education never stops, it’s a lifelong adventure. Some of us had good experiences of education growing up, others bad, but again the prevailing shared piece of wisdom is to keep going, get stuck in and jump into the unknown. Have self belief. The other highly visual clue to the path of education revealed here is that self expression is a driving force in the quest for knowledge.
Education shouldn’t just be about sliding into a job at the end of it. We will always need pioneers to overwhelm the status quo. We need more pioneers to assist thinking on creative education. The role of teacher or tutor is an extremely demanding position to take, it’s almost a cliché to suggest that, it’s a truism. Each of us knows from experience that we would not be doing what we do today if it were not for those that taught us. How many of us are putting our experience to use by teaching the next generation in whatever capacity we can? Different cultures adopt different approaches, the Dutch creative system allows many designers work a studio practice and put in a number of hours to teach students, it is almost a duty of honour. Sadly this progressive system is being eroded in many countries at present due to economic constraints, educators cannot access their students and engage in a productive manner.
It is assumed that creativity will blossom anywhere but it needs constant nurturing. We need to carry on tending the environment to allow it to grow. Education is one of the richest natural resources we have. We do need Education, that’s something we’ve learnt.