Britain’s bizarre plan to take schooling back to the Stone Age

Britain’s bizarre plan to take schooling back to the Stone Age

As a society we have come to value the importance of creativity for prosperity and we have invested plenty of resources into understanding how to make employees more creative. Unfortunately, our children often do not receive the same treatment. New legislation in the UK effectively bans schools from being made into remotely innovative or attractive environments.

From the Guardian:

Curves are to be banned in a new generation of no-frills school buildings, according to a government crackdown on what it believes is wasteful extravagance in educational architecture.

Design templates unveiled for 261 replacement school buildings also prohibit folding internal partitions to subdivide classrooms, roof terraces that can be used as play areas, glazed walls and translucent plastic roofs

It is part of a plan by the education secretary, Michael Gove, to cut school building costs by 30% and save up to £6m per school compared to Labour's Building Schools for the Future project….

The templates tell architects new schools should have "no curves or 'faceted' curves", corners should be square, ceilings should be left bare and buildings should be clad in nothing more expensive than render or metal panels above head height. As much repetition as possible should be used to keep costs down.

"A standardised approach should be taken, with the aim of creating simple designs that have the potential to be replicated on a number of sites," the templates state. "This may be achieved by using standardised dimensions for similar types of spaces that are integrated into an efficient planning and structural grid."

Modern architecture in British state schools will soon be extinct by law

A freely available 1998 edition of Harvard Business Review titled How to kill creativity, has a fantastically poignant discussion on the topic:

“Managers at one company undermined employee’s creativity by continually changing goals and interfering with process... In many companies, new ideas are met not with open minds but with time consuming layers of evaluation.” 

In British schools however, the “time consuming layers of evaluation” that some businesses suffer are to be replaced by ridiculously arbitrary Orwellian barriers. It is clear that there is no evidence that the new rules will save money. Cheap building materials and innovative techniques are constantly being created, it is painfully obvious that there is no intrinsic link between the number of curves a structure has and the cost of construction.

An outdoor area in a Welsh school which coincidentally happens to take advantage of other innovative technologies including solar panels and a biomass boiler.

Architects have the resources and the will to turn new schools in to inspiring environments for innovation. Instead schools are to be forced to be constructed in plain standardised blocks with no consideration of the effect our environment has on the way we learn but every consideration for the sheer volume of children that can be squeezed in to each building’s strictly defined walls.

The raft of “reforms” the British government is planning goes far beyond building rules. Coursework is to be abandoned in subjects including English and maths as the tide is turned back to the old fashioned rote exam. Creative subjects including music, art, drama and design will no longer contribute to a child’s qualifications as they leave secondary school and will instead likely be abandoned by both teachers and students who see no reason in teaching or studying subjects which earn no qualifications. The British Government has decided that now the only subjects deemed worthwhile of earning qualifications at secondary school level are English, Maths, Science, Languages, History and Geography - taking the British school system straight from one extreme to the other. The Education secretary has even announced a new focus on old fashioned learning facts by rote.

In short, new schools are to be Colditz-like structures made from old fashioned materials and are to be places where children are taught only old fashioned subjects using old fashioned techniques and examined using old fashioned testing methods. Welcome to the Stone Age.


Amabile, T., Conti, R., Coon, H., Lazenby, J., & Herron, M. (1996). Assessing the work environment for creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 39 (5), 1154-1184 DOI: 10.2307/256995 Available online at:

Amabile, T. (1998). How to kill creativity. Harvard Business Review, 76 (5) PMID: 10185433 Available online at:

Image Credit: Base Structures 

A brief history of human dignity

What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.

Credit: Benjavisa Ruangvaree / AdobeStock
Sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies
  • Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
  • That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
  • We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
Keep reading Show less

Urban foxes self-evolve, exhibiting Darwin’s domestication syndrome

A new study finds surprising evidence of the self-evolution of urban foxes.

A fox at the door of 10 Downing Street on Janurary 13, 2015.

Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • A study from the University of Glasgow finds urban foxes evolved differently compared to rural foxes.
  • The skulls of the urban foxes are adapted to scavenging for food rather than hunting it.
  • The evolutionary changes correspond to Charles Darwin's "domestication syndrome."

How much can living in the city change you? If you were an urban fox, you could be evolving yourself to a whole new stage and becoming more like a dog, according to a fascinating new study.

Researchers compared skulls from rural foxes around London with foxes who lived inside the city and found important variations. Rural foxes showed adaptation for speed and hunting after quick, small prey, while urban fox skulls exhibited changes that made it easier for them to scavenge, looking through human refuse for food, rather than chasing it. Their snouts were shorter and stronger, making it easier to open packages and chew up leftovers. They also have smaller brains, not meant for hunting but for interacting with stationary food sources, reports Science magazine.

Interestingly, there was much similarity found between the male and female skulls of the urban foxes.

The observed changes correspond to what Charles Darwin called the "domestication syndrome," comprised of traits that go along with an animal's transition from being wild, to tamed, to domesticated.

The study was led by Kevin Parsons, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Glasgow.

"What's really fascinating here is that the foxes are doing this to themselves," Parsons told the BBC. "This is the result of foxes that have decided to live near people, showing these traits that make them look more like domesticated animals."

The researchers are not suggesting you should go out and get a fox as a house-pet just yet. But they are seeing the evolutionary process taking place that's moving the urban foxes along the path towards becoming more like dogs and cats, explained the study's co-author Dr. Andrew Kitchener from National Museums Scotland.

A fox beneath a tree in Greenwich park, south east London

A fox beneath a tree in Greenwich park, south east London on May 14, 2020.

Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP

"Some of the basic environmental aspects that may have occurred during the initial phases of domestication for our current pets, like dogs and cats, were probably similar to the conditions in which our urban foxes and other urban animals are living today," said Kitchener. "So, adapting to life around humans actually primes some animals for domestication."

The specimen came from the National Museum Scotland's collection of around 1,500 fox skulls.

You can read the study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

fox sleeping beneath stadium seats

A fox at the LV County Championship, Division two match between Surrey and Derbyshire at The Brit Oval on April 9, 2010 in London, England.

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

​'The time is now' for cryptocurrencies, PayPal CEO says

Is Bitcoin akin to 'digital gold'?

Technology & Innovation
  • In October, PayPal announced that it would begin allowing users to buy, sell, and hold cryptocurrencies.
  • Other major fintech companies—Square, Fidelity, SoFi—have also recently begun investing heavily in cryptocurrencies.
  • While prices are volatile, many investors believe cryptocurrencies are a relatively safe bet because blockchain technology will prove itself over the long term.
Keep reading Show less

"Clean meat" approved for sale in Singapore

Singapore has approved the sale of a lab-grown meat product in an effort to secure its food supplies against disease and climate change.

Credit: Adobe Stock / Big Think
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Singapore has become the first country to approve the sale of a lab-grown meat product.
  • Eat Just, the company behind the product, will have a small-scale commercial launch of its chicken bites.
  • So-called "clean meats" may reduce our reliance on livestock farming, which kills billions of animals worldwide every year.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Scroll down to load more…