Monday 28 June 2021

Natural Ignorance

 There's a passage in a book I'm currently reading (for review) where the author, a professor of biology at an English university, tells how, when he gets a new batch of first-year undergrads embarking on his ecology course, he takes them out for a walk on the campus, pointing out common trees and birds and finding out how many they can name. The results are depressing: these 18-year-olds, who have been through 13 years and more of school and have elected to study ecology, know almost nothing about the natural world around them. Around half of them can identify the likes of robins and blackbirds (though they might also apply the latter name to jackdaws and starlings). A very few can identify wrens and blue tits – and, when it comes to trees, almost none of these budding ecologists can identify such common species as sycamore and ash. What on earth is happening? Presumably these youngsters are being taught nothing of such matters in school, and have developed no independent interest in nature. When did 'nature study' cease to be a part of every child's education? And why? There are surely few more rewarding fields of study. It seems the more wildlife documentaries there are on television, the less anyone knows about the nature that is actually out there in the real world around them. 


  1. I fear that it probably has more to do with the ambitions of our education system.
    No longer are we educating the young to learn how to educate themselves, they are now mere receptacles for narrow, syllabus only, information to be regurgitated at the exam.