Challenging accepted truths

The best kind of education challenges accepted truths and invites us to see see the world from different perspectives: two talks this week have done that. On Tuesday, Dr Peter Frankopan‘s  Civics talk on Byzantium challenged our Eurocentric view of history through sharing his knowledge and love of all things to do with the Byzantine Empire, warning us that the history we read today may make sense but often “it doctors the past” and that Byzantine history has been “the victim of a hatchet job”, its name expropriated to mean opaque and deliberately difficult. The massive achievements of the Islamic Renaissance, the civilization and wealth that led in 1300 to Istanbul/Byzantium having a population of half a million and Baghdad a million (set against London and Paris being in the 30-50K region) and the transfer of mathematical and scientific knowledge from the East to the West were all fluently marshalled. As an invitation to try and see other people and other civilizations differently Peter’s talk was a brilliant exhortation akin to Shahidul Alam‘s Global Awareness lecture, Humanising the Other. “There’s no reason to have barriers as to what you should know; ask yourself, what questions am I not asking? Find something you love, find out more about it and then ask yourself where you stand.”

Rosie W’s Jaw, Creativity in Education, did a similar thing, except her aim was to challenge the accepted view of education. Basing her talk around Ken Robinson’s RSA YouTube video on this subject, she interwove the visual with her own argument for a more enlightened approach by governments to education. Scary though it is to address 500+ people, especially when you are talking about an area of specialism for teachers, Rosie showed how you can challenge the accepted view in a compelling and lucid way.

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.