Cultural Education: Think Terminator Not Terminal

Why we do what we do

Posted by: Danny Myers | November 29th, 2017

I’ll be leaving The Mighty Creatives at the end of this week. I’ve worked with and among some incredibly talented people doing some incredibly valuable work. So, naturally after working for an arts education charity for over two years I’ve been reflecting on algorithms, robots and care homes.

This is obviously where I wade in with some context. First up, we aren’t in the process of nudging toward some kind of Terminator dystopia or a 2001 type battle at the next evolutionary gateway, but we are headed toward a radically tech-reshaped economy. The brilliant but cruel and brutal efficiencies of previous industrial revolutions changed lives in a way we now take for granted - schools, cities, weekends, unions, Coronation Street.

This one – the fourth apparently - will again make demands on our lives that we will soon take for granted. From the following, tease out what has and hasn’t happened since not very long ago. Shopping without shops, careers without offices, jobs without contracts, weeks without weekends, James Corden, a minimum income, young and old cared for together, the Isle of Man as an international base for global corporations, surgery without surgeons, schools without arts or drama departments.

Each of these grand or not so grand ideas and developments are asking us to rethink how we perceive one public good with another; to rethink the value of our own time, the value of what we might have previously taken for granted. Cultural education, a private and public good that I regard as priceless, is however, at risk from being under-valued and taken for granted; its' intrinsic and extrinsic value significantly diminished as changes to policies and the curriculum struggle to cope, let alone adapt effectively to that thing called ‘change’.

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I came to work for The Mighty Creatives because I thought that cultural education is a fundamental right - a right too often denied from young people who already have to cope with other social disadvantages. I leave working for The Mighty Creatives even more convinced that this is the case because it prepares young people to accommodate and embrace the challenges set by these dizzyingly fast changes .

While it might be lovely to think one of our programmes will produce a great award-winning talent, it isn’t the point of what we do. While it is equally nourishing to think our work enrichens many lives from cradle to career with a deeper understanding of the vibrancy and variety of our existence, that isn’t the only reason behind what we do (though it’s a really good one to be fair). No, by giving young people the chance to be creative, to understand the technique, complexity and beauty of that process, to engage with other people in the development of ideas into something tangible and widely enjoyed, to build their confidence, to place themselves and their work in a wider, global exchange of ideas and creativity, this is probably now the most important reason for the work that we do.

This is because it is now absolutely necessary to train young people so as to be able to call upon them to be more human, less robot. It will allow them to be teachers (we’re always going to need them), carers, designers, mechanics, doctors, event managers, curators, directors, personal trainers, dieticians, chefs, producers, communicators, people. All require human interaction and creative thinking every day. Being able to access, understand your own creativity and communicate that effectively with other human beings will be - probably already is - a more fundamental skill than spelling, grammar or mental arithmetic. Those other skills are being fought on a battlefield long since lost to tech.

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The Mighty Creatives are at the forefront of placing a value on those fundamentally human skills in and out of schools. Arts Award gives a learning framework to artistic, creative and critical thinking that thousands of young people in the East Midlands have benefited from. Artsmark now ensures hundreds of schools in the region embeds into their planning how creative thinking can be applied across all subject learning. Which, when you think about it, is how it is out there in our jobs and lives, and so is why we need to think about a creative economy not a creative sector (there isn’t a maths sector we tot up for example). And, through our Emerge programmes, for dozens of artists, hundreds of young people and a burgeoning band of young entrepreneurs, we are designing and delivering a rich variety of project based learning opportunities - sometimes cunningly disguised as festival programmes - to help give young people the chance to enjoy, develop and realise the value of this vital, lifelong resource; their own creativity.

It’s been a privilege and pleasure helping to design and deliver such rich and valuable programmes. And all this time, I thought I was a Director of an Arts Education charity, it turns out I was Sarah Connor. Kinda.

Hasta la vista.


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