Up Front 06/15

For several weeks now there has been a slow, though not very subtle change to the decoration of the walls inside our house. In terms of interior design the result isn’t likely to win any prizes. Colours are scattered, lines are crooked and patterns are erratic to say the least. To the unaccustomed eye there is an overall randomness to the composition that even Tracey Emin might find hard to fathom. However there is a message—in fact several messages. Strategically placed pieces of paper of various shapes, sizes and thickness proudly display handwritten notes such as ‘Positives & Negatives’, ‘Destruction of Capitalism’ or ‘killed, 2,000—imprisoned, 327,000’. There is a section that talks about flame colours and one cryptic notice says ‘She thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave!’ At first sight these messages might seem utterly meaningless but open the pages of some of the GCSE revision guides that now cover every surface in the house and things become crystal clear. Every single word, line, pattern and graph on our kitchen, hall and living room walls plays a critical role in some greater equation. Our home is now a learning centre where each flat space has a piece of vital information that may change the outcome of a life. With two young people in the house taking GCSEs this year the stress level is a little higher than normal, but beyond the anxious moments there is always the question of what is important to a child’s future and what isn’t. At that age I recall feeling great resentment at spending so much time learning things that I believed wouldn’t ever play a role in my life again and no doubt the same irritation affects many students today. Whilst it’s obvious that most people don’t really know what direction their lives will take after finishing school, we are now a sophisticated enough society to realise that people’s brains are created differently and therefore intelligence takes on different forms that could be catered for in different ways. Maybe some of those picking up their exam results in August will go on to improve an educational system that occasionally seems as though it is trying to teach fish to play snooker.