19/12/2014

Is science really more important than art at school?

By Benjamin Farrell

Nicky Morgan

Britain's creative industries are renowned world-wide, so why is our education secretary undermining the importance of creative subjects in our school system?

A few weeks ago I was hanging a ceiling light in my living room. The shade was held by three chains; I would have work out how to evenly space the three holes I drilled around the light fitting. As I gazed at the ceiling the terrible realisation dawned on me: twelve years after my final maths lesson, at long last, here was an occasion to use trigonometry.

I was struck by a flashback: myself in school, adolescent and bored, staring at a blackboard and wondering when any of this maths stuff would ever come in useful.

Nicky Morgan has decided that the only way to keep your career options open is to study maths or science at school. Now I’m the first to admit that sure, those who go into banking or engineering may well earn a bit more than I do. But in a country that is known globally for its creative output, it is disappointing to hear our education secretary say something like this. British companies are world leaders in creative fields – in film and post-production, in video games, in fashion, branding, music, theatre and architecture… I could go on.

Morgan claims that students have been pushed towards the arts and humanities by those who believe that these subjects are more useful in later life. But, she says, “this couldn’t be further from the truth”.

There is clearly a reason why vocational subjects have grown in popularity. Of course it is extremely important that as a country we continue to produce top-notch scientists, economists and mathematicians, but we are not all born to become academics, so it surely makes sense to play to our strengths and celebrate our differences. It’s not a case of either being a nuclear physicist or a penniless artist. There is huge world out there of creative possibilities.

Mrs Morgan’s comments are dangerous because they belittle any subject that isn’t maths or science. Should we simply encourage our children to aim for the highest payslip? Or rather, to seek a rewarding, enjoyable career that plays to their strengths and interests? If you’re not inclined towards maths or sciences, choosing to study them at A Level is unlikely to suddenly make you fall in love with them. If your passion is in a creative field, perhaps you should follow your calling and actually turn it into your career.

And in a world where machines and computers are becoming increasingly able to do our jobs for us, what is the one thing they can’t do? Think creatively. So perhaps it makes more sense than ever to follow your passion for art, music, design, or whatever it may be that doesn’t conform with Nicky Morgan’s views.

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