Friday, 9 October 2009


In order to squeeze every possible educational moment out of our day, the children and I were listening to 'Great Inventors' in the car on our drive to choir. Yesterday it was the turn of Marconi, the inventor of radio.Marconi was home educated until he was twelve and allowed by his Irish mother to indulge his passion for all things electrical, including building a box on the roof which collected static in thunderstorms and rang a bell in the house. (I am not sure I would let my child play on the roof or with thunderstorms, no matter how autonomous I was trying to let them be!) Although he then went to technical college, he was so absorbed in his interest in electricity that he failed all his exams and was not admitted to university. (His furious and disappointed father would destroy any of his son's experiments he found about the house so his mother hid all his equipment in the attic.)

Of course his mother did not know that her son would turn out to invent the radio, to be prolifically decorated or ascribed by the British Postmaster General as being the saviour of the survivors of the Titanic; it must have been scary at times when her son did not follow any kind of conventional educational route, to the point of failing his exams. And of course, not all children will grow up to make world-changing inventions. But I was inspired by this story to wonder what would happen if more children were allowed to discover and then follow their passion, indulge themselves more in the things that fill them with joy and interest, were less constrained by a National Curriculum of a little of everything and less bound by a traditional school-exam-university path. How might our world be changed and who else might be saved?

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