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I still have not found.

Tim Middleton

In the last twenty years, the Me Too movement, founded by Tarana Burke to “assist survivors of sexual violence, especially women of colour” by encouraging them to speak out about their experiences, has gained great credibility around the world. It calls for “healing and transformation, empowerment through empathy, shifting cultural narratives and practices and advancing a global survivor-led movement to end sexual violence”; it cares for the individual and for the community.

Thirty years before the Me Too movement, there was another powerful force which began in the music industry. This was the Irish rock band U2, who have gained massive world-wide recognition not simply for their musical success (150 million records sold worldwide — 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other band - inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility) but equally and more significantly for their commitment to human rights and social justice causes.

U2 had many hit singles and albums, including ‘One’, ‘Beautiful Day’, ‘With or Without You’ but one song lingers on as one of their rock classics — ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’. The lyrics describe how “I have climbed highest mountains; I have run through the fields, I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls”, all with the intent “Only to be with you” but the sad refrain throughout is “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.

In a similar way, this writer has travelled round the country and the world, has attended conferences and workshops, has visited schools and watched school sport, has chatted with parents and teachers and Ministry officials; has spoken at large and small gatherings but has to confess “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” with regard to education.

Education still tends to focus on skills, on drills, on frills, on thrills and grills (as it roasts what is seen to be wrong and it toasts ability only), yet all that seems to do is kills — it kills the soul. It is set on raising leaders, putting great emphasis on leadership yet why are there so many adult books on leadership if schools have taught it? We have a society that has no sense or respect of time (events start late, attendees come when they feel like it) but has no respect for queues, especially on the roads. We live in a society too where we are expected to pay for service which should be free and honoured, without the need of a bribe or favour (explicit or implicit). Should we go on?

What then are we looking for? We are looking for an education that focuses on the spirit of education and not the legalistic letter of Acts, Statutory Instruments and the like, one that fulfils the intended purpose of it rather than the veneer of qualifications. We want an education that produces principled children not programmed children (those who simply do things when in uniform or in sight of elders or authority, instead of doing it because it is right), nor privileged ones (who think they are superior for nor worthy reason). We want an education that is focussed on inspiring children, not on inspecting schools. We want an education that will centre on innovation as opposed to indoctrination (which only leads to others making the same mistakes as previously). We need an education that delights far more in service than in seniority (which is only a thinly-disguised variation of superiority or indeed ‘sin-iority’).

We are looking for an education that will focus on restoration more than retribution or simply reputation; for an education that celebrates progress instead of success; that highlights values more than victories and rights more than results. We seek an education that markets resourcefulness not resources, rations not ratios, attitude not aptitude, the person rather than the position. We long for an education that will determine to develop a better person rather than a better player, one that recognises the importance of EQ over IQ.

U2 have always looked to bring about a better world. We could do the same by raising children a better way. We press on for the education we are looking for, the education that will stop youngsters continually looking for something else. That way we may prevent sexual violence, the lack of human rights and social injustice, amongst other things. You too...? Me too.

Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.

Email: tim@atszim.org website:  atszim.org

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