What should post-millennials know?

Saturday 22 October, 12.00 - 13.00 , Frobisher Auditorium 2 Millennial Dilemmas

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Watch the video of this session at the bottom of this page.

Our relationship with the storehouse of human knowledge seems ambivalent today, especially when we ask the question: what does the next generation really need to know? This uncertainty was illustrated in a recent spat between the Schools Minister Nick Gibb (55) and the popular singer songwriter Lily Allen (30). Allen argued that Gibb’s traditionalist curriculum reforms failed to promote the skills that the young need for a ‘big bad world’. The school curriculum, Allen suggested on Twitter and LBC, would be improved if it offered lessons in financial literacy, ‘a beginner’s guide to getting food’, as well as ‘an introduction to divorce’ and ‘the dangers of marriage.’ Gibb’s subsequent justification for traditional subjects was equally instrumentalist. ‘Not everyone is lucky enough to have a job like yours’, he told Allen on Twitter, ‘for many people Maths and Science are crucial to their life chances and careers.’

Few would dispute that the young have something to learn from the old ways of doing things, but there is little real consensus over what this might be. Progressives suggest past insights will be of little use in the future. Indeed, they argue that the old might have something to learn from the young and that to be really effective teachers need to listen to the voice of the post-millennials. In the past traditionalists might have suggested such thinking unduly flattered the young, but today they are rarely so bold. More typically they propose that with knowledge comes an instrumental reward: social mobility. Jam today? 

So are generational gaps and conflicts within education significant? Or do we agonise too much about intergenerational relations? Should the young show a greater respect for the wisdom of ages? Or would teachers be more effective if they took seriously the post-millennial perspective?