by Tim Middleton
There was a wonderful report circulating overseas a while back about a man who went into a supermarket (which stocked not only food and drinks, but also clothes) during Covid lockdown restrictions to buy food, dressed only in his underpants. Staff were appalled by him coming in without his clothes on and the security people were summoned to evict him from the store. The man, naturally, refused, saying the shop had no right to remove him because the store had closed its clothes section, on the grounds that clothes shops were not an essential service. If they were not essential, he argued, he did not need to wear them! This pandemic has certainly helped us consider what we deem as essential, though for many people it appeared that the one essential needed was toilet paper! However, we may have discovered by now that there are more essential things.
What then do we consider to be essential? A long-running, popular radio programme overseas called Desert Island Discs has the presenter interview celebrities about their lives while interspersing the interview with the eight songs they would like to take with them if they were to be stranded on a desert island. They are also invited to name one book and one other item that they would wish to have with them. When it comes to cutting down our favourite songs or music to just eight tracks, that becomes a difficult choice — what would we choose? And only one book and one other item? That would all take considerable amount of careful consideration.
It is, however, a similar exercise that we all undertake when we travel overseas as we are only allowed to take a limited amount of luggage, as determined by weight; this is not always an easy task to do. Most of us want to take much more so we have to work out what we really will need (our “must haves”) and then leave behind those things that we could do without (our “nice to haves”). What it comes down to is this: what must we have? Teenagers may well argue the one thing they must have is their smart phone; businessmen might argue that connectivity, internet, wifi are all absolutely essential in today’s modern world. Most folk, however, would say that it must be food and drink; we need such basic commodities to survive. They are essential!
So if we say something is “essential” what do we mean? Essential means the item, event, value is absolutely necessary; it is extremely important; it is fundamental, vital (literally, life-giving), cardinal. In fact, it comes down to this: it is what belongs to, and makes up, the very essence of the thing, the heart of it, the life-force, its very purpose. Food and drink, therefore, may well be essential but what do we need to get them? Money! So, money is essential, in order to buy the food and drink! What happens, however, if we do not have money? We have to earn money, by working — and how can we work? Through education.
Education is essential. [Note, it is education that is essential, not qualifications.] The fact that education is essential is enshrined in our Constitution whereby it is a Right of every child. Indeed the Constitution adds that “A child’s best interests are paramount in every matter concerning the child.” Education is certainly paramount in terms of the health and development of every child. The fact that the law states every child must attend school (at least at Primary level) further endorses the fact that education is paramount, essential. Children are to be educated, no question.
Education is what we can, and must, take with us wherever we go in the world, even when we can take nothing else; it is our passport to work, fulfilment, purpose, happiness, health. It is valid in any and every country. It cannot be taken away. Education is the very essence of life; we are here on this earth to learn, to grow, to develop, to understand, to relate, to discover, to explore, to create. We need it to understand this pandemic, whether we are a top scientist or the man in the street.
The only education many children of this world are getting currently is that their education is being undermined, undervalued and unsung. If we do not understand that we may well find we are the ones caught with our trousers down; we will be stranded on not much more than a desert island. We must face the music. It all comes down to the bare necessities — the man in the supermarket knew all about that. It is in every child’s best interests to be educated.
- 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.