For many years, there was a popular quiz show on television overseas called ‘Mastermind’, in which contestants had two minutes to answer questions on their own chosen specialist subject then two minutes on general knowledge. If the contestant did not know an answer, she would say “Pass” and go on to the next question, seeing how many questions she could get right in the time allocated. There have been many amusing parodies on this theme with one asking questions to which every answer was the word “Pass”, so the contestant got every question right without knowing any of the answers! “What word is used to send a ball from one player to another?”  Pass. “What word describes a route through a mountain range?” Pass! “What softer word is used to indicate someone has died?” Pass! What is the aim of pupils sitting exams?” Pass!

Now our special subject here today is this: Subjects in Schools. We will here subject the reader to the subject of Subjects, without being subjective; in other words, let us consider the subject of Subjects that should be taught in schools. In recent years, there have been various suggestions circulating on social media about subjects that some consider should be mandatory in schools. In one version, the subjects proposed were: Taxes, Coding, Cooking, Insurance, Basic Home Repair, Self-defence, Survival Skills, Social Etiquette, Personal Finance, Public Speaking, Car Maintenance, Stress Management. What will we say to these offerings? Pass?

Before we consider such subjects, we have to ask, in the light of all these added subjects, if the intention is that we should add them to the existing Subjects that are within the curriculum? Common sense would suggest that there simply is not time to add even more in place of existing Subjects. Parents are already complaining that there are too many subjects while teachers are complaining there is not enough time even with the existing subjects to prepare pupils for exams.

So then, if we cannot add these subjects to an already full curriculum, which ones will do the proposers wish to remove? Will parents now teach English, Maths and other specialist subjects? Are we just going to reverse the process and have parents teach subjects that teachers previously taught so that the teachers can now teach these subjects that the parents want included?

The reality is surely that the vast majority of those subjects being proposed to be taught in schools are in fact what the parents should already be doing. Is social etiquette not a central part of a parents’ role, raising a child to be respectful and considerate in society? Should a parent not be helping his child to take responsibility for basic house repairs or car maintenance? Is a parent not supposed to be teaching his child about financial management or is he just pouring pocket money at the child without giving them any responsibilities to go with it? Why is the parent not teaching the child cooking while the child is at home with the parent when he or she is doing the cooking? Stress Management…? Come on! And who is usually putting the child under stress, anyway?

If we are to go with this suggestion, we have to then ask this important question: what then are parents meant to teach their own children...? Are we to now assume that parents have absolutely no responsibility to teach their child anything? Next, they may wish schools to teach children how to brush their hair or teeth! What are they actually teaching their children now (and remember, these are the children of the parents)? Are parents simply now going to teach their children how to order others (especially teachers) to do things for them? Oh wait, we forgot: the parents’ role must continue to teach their children how to bribe, bully, blackmail… Or do they want schools to teach that as well? (Perhaps we need to teach sarcasm as well!)

Is such a proposal actually not giving the parents even more opportunities to complain about what schools are not doing, increasing the load on teachers and doing nothing themselves? After all, it is not that they want to subject unsuspecting schools to teach subjects that unwilling parents will not do. If we are to take up such proposals, we will only end up subjecting our children to a miserable life and bouts of manic depression. How we answer these questions about subjects will be very revealing; we may object to this subject, in fact. Are we a mastermind in this? Will we pass the test?

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.

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