Hi everyone. My name is James and I have thought there should be more to education than an almost exclusive focus on a narrow band of traditional subject disciplines for ooh, I’d say about 12 years now. Some people say this makes me a “progressive”, and that therefore any ideas I have are silly. I don’t really know what progressive means, but if it’s the opposite of regressive then sign me up!

One thing people say about progressives (whatever they are) is that they want to do away with subject-based learning. However – in my case at least – nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I love subjects so much, I want to see many more of them in our schools.

My thinking is as follows: 1) Schools have been focused almost exclusively on teaching a narrow band of traditional subjects for as long as anyone can remember; 2) I don’t know if you’ve seen the news ever, but the world is in something of a mess. Conclusion: since we’re only alive for the blink of an eye, maybe we should try relaxing some of the odd top-down controls on what people can learn and when, which I lambasted in my last blog post.

Before anyone starts tweeting pictures of tin foil hats, I should clarify – I don’t mean to suggest that the world’s mess is directly caused by the fact that our education system focuses almost exclusively on a narrow band of traditional subject disciplines. Indeed, I am quite persuaded that the study of traditional subject disciplines enables at least some good things to happen. But it’s not helping enough for my liking.

Being a solution-focused kind of guy, I’ve made a list with a few suggestions for subjects that we could bring into schools. This is not intended as an exhaustive list, and obviously these couldn’t all be studied in an ongoing way – there wouldn’t be enough time – but perhaps we could start by running short 6-week short courses in them, and see how that goes. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, reader.

Active citizenship

  • Analysing the media
  • Argumentation
  • Consensus building
  • Debating
  • Finding sources
  • Interview techniques
  • Journalism
  • Logical fallacies
  • Making films
  • Philosophical enquiry
  • Photography
  • Photojournalism
  • Public speaking
  • Shorthand
  • Thinking and reasoning (eg the excellent outgoing OCR course)
  • Touch typing
  • Using a library
  • Verifying sources

Computing

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Coding
  • Cryptocurrencies
  • Cyber security
  • Ethical hacking
  • Internet studies
  • Linux
  • Making movies
  • Open source software
  • Programming
  • Robotics
  • Web design

Health and well-being

  • Cooking
  • First aid
  • Managing your finances
  • Medicine
  • Mental health
  • Parenting skills
  • Physical health

Enterprise and entrepreneurship

  • Applying for funding
  • Blogging and social media
  • Building a professional website
  • Customer relations
  • Events management
  • Graphic design – using GIMP
  • Leadership and management
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Project management
  • Securing investment
  • Starting a business
  • Tax and taxation
  • Writing for different audiences

Learning-related courses

  • Philosophy of education
  • The psychology of motivation
  • The cognitive science of learning
  • The art and science of goal setting
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Education research – what do we know about what works?
  • Managing your own learning
  • How to find reputable sources on the internet

Politics and economics

  • Animal rights
  • Campaigning
  • Crime and punishment
  • Domestic politics
  • Equality and fairness
  • Ethics
  • Global politics
  • Government and politics
  • History of politics
  • International relations
  • Law and the justice system
  • Local politics
  • Making sense of current affairs
  • Tolerance and discrimination
  • The history of protest
  • The history of trades union
  • Human rights

Taster courses for other subject disciplines

  • Astronomy
  • Classics
  • Economics
  • Electronics
  • History of art
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

This is all just top of the head stuff – no doubt this list reflects my own interests and biases. I would love to hear more suggestions for courses – please comment below if you have any ideas.

If expanding the subject base is the answer, what is the question?

I know all about the pressures on school leaders, but surely we can find an hour a week on the timetable where young people could explore some of these ideas? Obviously there would have to be some kind of quality assurance – for example, there could be a noticeboard where teachers can pitch ideas for courses, and if enough students express an interest then the teacher puts a 6-week course together and then has to present to governors and have it ratified or whatever. We’s only need to find an hour on the timetable – to begin with, at least.

The question facing us is not how, but why. And we can answer that with a question to any parent:

If there was a local school that offered courses like this, would you send your child there?

I know I would.