It doesn’t happen often that I have the chance of writing about the subjects I’m studying at university. Unfortunately, when it has happened it always was for negative reasons. It is no different this time.
This week, AQA (the organisation responsible for GCSE, AS and A levels in England) has announced that AS and A-levels in Archaeology and Art History will be suppressed in the next two years and the ;last exams will be sit in 2018. The official reason behind it was that there are not many students applying for them, hence the cancellation (see link below)
As it was for the Building Bill (that will be discussed and maybe passed in autumn), the outcome of such measures seems only one. To penalise the subjects that are not ‘hard’. If you followed Rudd’s comments at the Tory conference, you might have an idea about what cutting humanities and classical subjects means for the government ruling the United Kingdom in 2016. It means offering a narrower outlook and general education to the young generations. It means that legions of teenagers will grow up with less cultured ideas and many will probably lack critical thinking too. STEM graduates also benefit from such subjects. My husband is an engineer and values a knowledge in history and heritage as important as all the rest. So why should pupils of the future have less opportunities than their counterparts living at present?
This new direction in government policy could be addressed in a few points:
1 ) It is undoubtedly true that many humanities subjects do not always offer professional careers later on, hence they are deemed ‘useless’ or ‘unprofitable’ in the long term. This could explain why so many students preferred not to study classical studies, archaeology or history of art at A level.
2 ) However, they are a useful tool to develop critical thinking; the latter seems increasingly dangerous in a country where the politicians demonise anyone having a different identity or nationality as non-patriotic and treacherous. As of yesterday, a Tory councillor had started a petition to consider support of EU membership of the UK as treason. Thank God the imbecile was suspended later on.
3 ) Many countries do suffer from lack of scientists and engineers. A quick look to any skilled immigration list in every western country will make you regret you didn’t study a STEM subject.
The main issue I have with the last point is that not everybody is inclined to study a technical, scientific or math subject. I suffered for ages at school in Italy because Maths and me live on two different planets. Beyond simple mathematical calculus, I’m in the fog about all the rest. Main reason why my dreams of studying Astronomy were… doomed to remain dreams! I wouldn’t have gotten far, clearly 😉
In conclusion, the suppression of general culture and classical studies is never a good idea and should have been encouraged instead of taking such an opportunity away from English students. An opportunity that English government is not very fussed about after its members have decided that uneducated and uncultured masses are easier to rule, this is quite evident from the Brexit referendum onwards. Strange that this line of thought comes directly from ancient governments and politics; funny that the above mentioned members of Parliament probably enjoyed to be educated in Classical studies only to realise that the plebs should not learn what they did.