2 weeks ago we took the 3 older girls to see a local production of CATS (an ambitious choice for a community theater group to say the least). And they loved it. But a review of that event is not the purpose of this post.
When talking about the show with my mother she spoke about a radio interview she had heard recently. In it the interviewee was talking about the need to develop cultural fitness.
That comment taps into a pet peeve of mine. We have pushed the education system in many ways, based on the hot button topics of the day. Sometimes we have pushed to ensure a baseline amount of physical activity per day or week. OR we have pushed for more time spent on maths or numeracy. Or maybe it is science that needs more time. Or maybe the concern of the era is literacy. Or maybe technology? BUt I have yet to hear people complaining that the school system is not doing enough to develop cultural literacy (or fitness as the above interview suggested). And this is a problem (in my opinion).
Maybe I should name my bias. 25 years ago I was in my first year of university. I was an Education student with a Drama major. And I knew that the high school curriculum in this province was changing. This change was to highlight science. But the reality was that this round of change would make it very difficult for a student to take all 3 sciences and also carry a Fine Art through all 3 grades of high school. And those of us who wanted to teach Fine Arts courses were a little disconcerted.
But you see I think we are a poorer society if we do not develop cultural literacy in people. And to do that you need to do it throughout life. You can't just expect it to happen as adults. This is not to say that extra time set aside for physical health, or numeracy or science, or technology or literacy are not important, obviously they are. But cultural studies and fine arts are equally important in the long term. In fact it is my belief that one of the requirements for a high school diploma should be at least one fine arts course (music, drama, visual arts whatever). And in earlier grades a more general introduction not only to performance and technique but also to history and styles of these arts.
Developing a society that is culturally literate will (at the least) help us all do better at trivia games. Btu I think we will benefit in ways far beyond that.
By the way the above named changes in emphasis to the education system have had another casualty. My minor in my BEd degree was social studies (history, geography, civics etc) . And a lack of emphasis on those subjects also has a detrimental effect on our effective functioning as a society.
So what do we do? How do we develop an education system that provides a fully wholistic idea of fitness and still have it cost-effective or time-effective? I don't know. Given that I also think all students should be heavily encouraged to learn at least one language fluently in addition to their mother tongue and that all Canadian students should have to travel across the country by land as part of their high school education and that all students should have a basic introduction to World Religions (arguably this should be part of the Social Studies curriculum) as a part of basic education I may not be the best person to ask.
Still we can dream right????