Australia/September 02, 2022/By: Peter Jones/Source: https://www.spectator.com.au/
Sir Tony Blair’s Tone-deaf suggestion that Stem subjects should dominate the curriculum of all schools would paradoxically take education back to the ancient world, when education was designed to benefit only the few.
Take Rome. Wealth in the ancient world lay in land, which the rich exploited for all it was worth. Needing to protect their investment, Romans used their power to ensure that it was they who governed the state. The education system was designed to train them in winning arguments in the Senate and to protect themselves and their money in the courts.
That left the remaining 90 per cent to fend for themselves, most trying to survive on a small land-holding, providing enough of a surplus to sell at market and buy what they could not themselves produce. Local workers and traders met that need, which increased dramatically as Rome’s power spread and its cities expanded.
But how on earth did they do that without someone to provide the training? They ‘sat by Nellie’, i.e. learned on the job. You could take your pick from, for example, butcher, baker, potter, textile or leather worker, barman, shipwright, metal-worker (different-shaped spoons were made to suit eating eggs and shellfish, and pouring liquids), sailor, blacksmith, carpenter, stonemason, tent-maker, fisherman, armpit-hair plucker, jeweller, gymnast, villa decorator (think Pompeii), or someone working on roofing or pottery technology (trusses, vaulting, concrete arches, decorative mould-made pots, lead glazes, etc). In Rome alone, more than 160 different jobs are recorded. One graffito says of its victim: ‘You’ve had various jobs – barman, baker, farmer, at the mint, salesman, now you’re flogging pots.’
Much better than being in school! And perhaps it is also all part of a cunning Blair wheeze. After all, does not Euan Blair run a business to help to ‘sit by Nellie’ precisely those millions who would never feature among the Stem-fancying elite? Perhaps not so Tone-deaf after all.