Yesterday I attended a seminar at the House of Lords, somewhere I’d never been before. In terms of the nation’s heritage, it’s grand and impressive inside, if somewhat reminiscent of a public school. It’s well worth a visit, especially as it gives one some important clues as to why politicians seem so stuck in the past rather than looking towards the future.
In many ways, the session I attended was little better. It was entitled ‘A New Vision for Design Education: is design learning at school fit for purpose?’, and organised by the ‘Associate Parliamentary Design & Innovation Group‘, whoever they are. It was a gathering of the great and the good in the field, all very eloquently expressing the purpose and benefits of design education. Here’s the question I asked the panel:
“All the values and aspirations expressed here today were initially identified and developed in the 1970s. It didn’t succeed then in scaling itself up and being embedded in the curriculum, so how and why should it now, particularly in the context of the current political ideology in which Schools Minister Nick Gibbs recently welcomed the decrease in the time that pupils studied subjects such as Art and Design, Design and Technology and Drama as ‘an encouraging trend’?”
Sadly no-one really responded to this challenge, although one of the panel did say something about it being important not to be pessimistic, which I regret to say I still am. No-one really said anything that had not been said already during the past 35 years. It was all largely about preparing students for life in the last quarter of the 20th Century rather than the first quarter of the 21st Century, and as a means of recruiting new designers for the old profession. The potential impact on design education of the rapid shift towards on-line learning, and how the industry itself will need to respond to the changing circumstances of a population being able to design and make things for themselves at a local level using CAD and 3D printers, was not mentioned. And I didn’t notice anyone in the audience with an iPad, and neither was I aware of anyone providing a live commentary via Twitter.
On the positive side it was good to hear everyone essentially in agreement about the importance of design education, and an emerging consensus that a lot of the problem was that the message was not being co-ordinated and driven by a single body, though there were no suggestions as to who this might be, let alone any volunteers. Strangely no-one mentioned the fact that design education provides an almost perfect fit with the wider specification for what are currently referred to as 21st Century Skills.
However I did learn one thing I didn’t know before. Apparently no current member of parliament has the faintest idea what design is all about (OK, well we have all already guessed that). Except for one, who owns a 15% stake in his family wallpaper and fabric design business. Any idea as to who it might be? No? OK, here’s a clue:
* Lordy Lord – as in the expression used to “express frustration, exasperation, worry, or tiredness”. Pretty much sums up my response really.
Image credit: Oliver Quinlan