What should we teach our children? Well certainly the National Curriculum hasn't lived up to its promise, though we probably needed one. What we have is rigid in its methods of teaching while outside school hours kids can take in whatever they please from a largely unregulated media. Paradoxically, the content that's so grindingly taught is slavishly related to what's likely to appeal to them once they've gone home.
In state schoolspupils in Arts and Humanities at leastare given what they are expected to enjoy, based on the kinds of activities that are believed to be their preferred way of life. Thus book have to be easily read, racy, trendy and appeal to their ambitions to acquire money and possessions, to copy their hollow idols and to enjoy without effort.
Classics are largely avoided because they require pupils to think and form reasoned judgements, to imagine what they cannot see. Music Lessons encourage children to ape the popular tunes of the day; they're given a keyboard to play and told they're composing. Listening to classics is out for the same reason that good literature is out, and only those with parents who can afford it are given instrumental tuition.
These days a child is taught to read (if s/he's lucky) and then, having acquired the skill, given little to stimulate his/her desire for literature. Vocabulary in set books must not stetch, grammar and punctuation must not matter, content must reflect the status quo of the child who relies on visual images and seeks to emulate the characters within. Grammar is taught but superficially and half-heartedly. Obviously it's there in their books and relatively accurate, but attention is not drawn to it. Clause analysis may have been too severely hammered into children's minds years ago, but still a degree of understanding of how a sentence works is necessary, so long as it underpins and is related to what they read and write. As it is, the average school-leaver is content to know how to send "txt" messages.
Children don't lack imagination, but it rarely departs from what they see on TV or in computer games, and these are nearly always centred on acquisition and violence. Good children's literature is still being written but it means little to readers unless it's served up like the inferior stuff isin TV plays or filmsand so one brand is confused with the other, and corrupting the good is much more often the result than improving the bad. Even drama, as a school subject, doesn't help matters. Pupils never read good plays outside text books, they're told to improvise from their own experiences, again overwhelmingly influenced by the visual media.
School choirs and school orchestras, except in exceptional state schools, are rare now. Instrumental tuition is not funded and there are not enough pianist teachers to introduce children to musical structure; music played in assemblies is almost never classical or jazz. "Classical" is a dirty word, regarded with derision or accused of causing a headache. You can't expect a child to compose without theoretical knowledge, just as you need grammar to enable them to write creatively. Theory can't be taught without a teacher who knows the stuff himself and can introduce examples of recorded music or play chords on the piano to illustrate lessons.
Teachers can't be blamed for all this, and there aren't enough of them anyway; far more need to be employed and paid for out of the taxes from obscenely paid business giants, sports stars and celebrities. No, teachers mostly grew up with the same educational experiences as their pupils. Teachers and their employers are dominated by the commercial worldbut they don't have to submit to it. No one, unfortunately, can stop the continuous blast of the modern media, but perhaps children could be protected from it during their school years.
Time after school could be devoted to the introduction of good literature and musicand art. Of course this would have to be in a relaxed atmosphere; any follow-up would have to be confined to lessons earlier in the day. Unfair to overworked teachers? Of course, but there are plenty of retired and other interested parties who could be paid to oversee these sessions without needing teaching qualifications. Voluntary attendance could be extended to weekends and holidays.
Rescued from a diet of violence and pap, children could begin to aspire to appreciation of the arts rather than setting their sights purely on ambitions to acquire money and material goods. Many would also aspire to become creative themselves. Such experiences would inspire justice, humanity, care for the environment and peace.