BBC Future

60 Second Idea

‘Create the real university of life’

Each week a global thinker from the worlds of philosophy, science, psychology or the arts is given a minute to put forward a radical, inspiring or controversial idea – no matter how improbable – that they believe would change the world.

This week, writer, philosopher, television presenter and entrepreneur Alain de Botton suggests a way to reform education.

“I want to change how schools and universities teach people and what they teach in particular. I think we are very good at teaching practical subjects like accountancy and microbiology.

But what we are still very bad at doing is instructing young people systematically in many of the challenges of daily life: how to have relationships, how to bring up children, how to manage ones anxieties and ambitions, how to face mortality. These things are not systemically addressed in the education system.

So, in my ideal world I’d have regular classes in which the works of culture of humanity – literature, plays, works of art – are used as conduits to contemplate some of the large and important questions. We would stop treating self help - as I might call it - as something that is merely for idiots and see it as something that all of us have to wrestle with in order to have any chance of leading a good life.

So that’s my plan for a new kind of education system. ”

You can listen to Alain discuss his idea with professor of philosophy Susan Wolf and archaeologist-turned-novelist Alexandre Mitchell in more detail on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, where you can also download more 60-second ideas.

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