Diversity of perspective



“What are you watching?” daughter one asked only son the other day, trying to show an interest. “Well, the endo mytes are attacking the endo mans,” he said as they both stared at something vaguely hallucinogenic on the screen. “Oh,” said daughter one. There is a complete generation gap already emerging between those brought up in the age of DVDs [daughter one], the Youtuber generation [daughters two and three] and the Minecraft brigade [only son]. It makes it very difficult to find something that people will mutually enjoy. Daughter two googled the other day “my parents are always arguing about politics” on Youtube. I’m not sure there was a five-tip solution, but there were several entries. I have tried to explain that arguing can be positive and that essentially we agree.

Daughter one came with me to an event on Monday on India, technology and nationalism which was really interesting – about how technology can provide innovative solutions, but can also exclude already marginalised communities. It ranged across trolling on social media, smart cities, frugal innovation, globalisation such as outsourcing of call centres and the gig economy. On Wednesday it was an in-depth discussion of how to demystify economics, make it more relevant to people, about the failure of mainstream economists to predict the global crash and about the role of experts in the Brexit debate.

I’m hoping coming to the events will show daughter one that it is good to take into account many different perspectives. Daughter one is interested in that diversity of views and likes to question everything, which, to my mind, has to be a good thing. She is a bit tired of education, though, and is thinking of taking a year out before considering university – in large part to earn some money so she can afford to go. The main reason she is tired of education is the relentless focus on targets, but there are other issues that have influenced her choices over education. For instance, she dropped out of history, a subject she was doing really well in, because, as she said, it seemed obsessed with the Second World War to the exclusion of all other history and she felt this was because it made the UK look good. She wanted a much broader view of history. She was particularly interested in ancient Egypt. Surely education should provide that broader view and should take into account different perspectives? Understanding different points of view is surely important and of general benefit.

I studied Spanish and French. In the absence of history providing a broader context, one of the strengths of modern languages is that they encourage you to understand different perspectives from your own. Even when studying Spanish and French, though, I recall questioning the lack of women writers on the 20th century French literature syllabus. I said I wanted to read Marguerite Duras. I was told she wrote beautifully, but was perhaps a little lightweight. By this point I’d lost count of the “heavyweight” authors who I’d read whose central themes were the battle between body and mind – a battle I could not relate to at all. Why should there be a battle? Why should the two be in opposition to each other? I left university and read only women authors for at least a year afterwards. It’s not that I think women should only read female authors and that we should all live in silos, but the curriculum – and everything else – should surely reflect a diversity of views.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.

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