As a boy I remember being captivated by Norton Juster’s story, The Phantom Tollbooth. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s an allegorical adventure that takes the main character of Milo on a journey to a fantasy land known as Dictionopolis, where all the world’s letters are grown in orchards. A rival kingdom, Digitopolis, where all the world’s numbers are mined, is in dispute over which is the more important. On his journey he meets many marvellous characters including a Tock (a watch dog – literally!) a Whether Man (sic); a Mathemagician and a Dodecahedron. The latter is a figure having twelve faces, each of which expresses a different emotion.
A Dodecahedron? Surely such a thing (like walruses) cannot really exist I thought. But there it was, on my page and in my imagination. My world, through reading, enlarged.
I was enraptured by the sheer playfulness of Juster’s vision and loved the idea personifying both figures of speech and mathematical concepts. Yesterday, as my school got to grips with the revised National Curriculum, I found myself transported back to that book especially the preposterous Dodecahedron. How? Why? (leaving aside the “You are just plain weird, Andrew”). Well, dear reader, it’s just that the revised National Curriculum has, it seems, finally made it to polyhedral dimensions.
The first few versions of the National Curriculum were pretty dull and two dimensional. The Education Reform Act of 1988 introduced the idea of it along with SATs and League Tables and those marvellous market forces to make everything better. Well, that was 20 years ago and ‘better’ is a highly relative term. Eh-hum. Moving swiftly on, hardly a month since then have the politicians resisted fiddling with the curriculum, introducing this and that until it became clear that just releasing another bolt-on was not going to cut it. This thing needed a complete overhaul.
And lo, it came about that the ‘new’ National Curriculum was published. It combines (deep breath required) the 14 main subjects; the 5 outcomes of the Every Child Matters agenda; the 3 functional skills; the 6 personal learning and thinking skills; and the 7 cross-curricula dimensions. That’s 35 glittering facets in all – polyhedralism to make even the poor Dodecahedron look plain by comparison.
Don’t misunderstand my light-hearted tone here – I am not mocking the complexity of our new (revised?) National Curriculum. Far from it. In fact, I’m am rather glad that our educational thinkers have conceded that education is complex. Actually, I think that they still haven’t charted all the dimensions of the thing. For a start, what about adding all the complexities of the emotional aspects of the curriculum or learning styles or curriculum provision for additional needs…
Anyway, at least they’ve made an effort this time to acknowledge the glorious intricacy of our work.
Oh and just in case you were wondering, a 35-sided (solid) shape is known as a triacontakaipentahedron.