From education to employment

Dancing the Night Away and Productivity in Education

Further Education has a penchant for jargon and an aptitude for not turning the frown upside down. We at FE News are committed to changing the public perception of FE, and in the first part of this new weekly submission, correspondent Paul Anderson takes a personal look at the week just gone in FE.

Twinkle Toes

Yesterday for the first time in a long time I danced with a woman. Not that I am much of a dancer. Give me a darkened room and I more likely to step on a toe than miss it. But I am just about old enough to realise that even if you can”t do something, pretending will often get you quite a long way.

The woman I was dancing with was a beautiful enigma. To her, I fear I was simply a variation on a theme. But I am nothing if not persistent, and when the evening ended, I found myself still in her company, travelling down one of those vast escalators in an underground station. As the gargantuan escalator spilled us out onto a horrendously overcrowded platform, I knew that there were only minutes to act, to make a romantic or heroic gesture that would tell her how I felt.

Now was the moment to unburden my heart, to discard all fear, to step forward into the unknown. So I screwed up my courage and asked, “What are your hobbies then?” “Hobbies?” she said. “Don’t you hate that word? Hobbies are what you have when you”re seven.” “Ok”. I said, reeling at the clever reply. “But what about your interests?” I continued. “Pretty much the same ones I had when I was seven”, she said. “Singing, playing the guitar, tap-dancing.”

The Morning After

When I woke up the next morning I felt as though a troupe of tap-dancers had spent the night practising in my head. I had to admit that she was right – hobbies isn’t a word you”d want to use on a date. But whatever you call it, that part of your life is incredibly important. My question may have been a lame one, but it limped in a fair direction: knowing someone’s hobbies is a central part of knowing who someone is, and how easily you might be able to get on with them.

If “hobbies” is a word that suffers under the weight of its own associations, here’s another: leisure. People were saying twenty years ago that the next big task for the West was to learn how to use its leisure properly. But if the recent pre-budget report is anything to go by, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has yet to face up to that civilisational challenge. For understandable reasons, he is more concerned about productivity, in particular China’s productivity.

Increased productivity, of course, should in theory afford us increased leisure and more time for our hobbies, tap-dancing or otherwise. But it never quite seems to work out that way – perhaps because we haven”t yet learnt how to use or value our leisure. To my mind, that’s where further education comes into its own. Ask the Chancellor, and he”ll tell you that education is there to make us productive and employable. If you ask me, it ought to have an equally important role in supporting and developing our quality of life.

Paul Anderson

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