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Tom Stoppard: Tech is destroying the written word

Schools do too much science & maths, dammit!

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No Vids Heavyweight luvvie Sir Tom Stoppard has said that new technology in the home is destroying children's - and thus society's - appetite for the written word. He also considers that today's educational system places too much emphasis on maths and the sciences at the expense of the humanities.

Stoppard made the remarks while speaking to education reporters at a publicity event ahead of a summer school for teachers in which he will participate*.

"The printed word is no longer as in demand as when I was of the age of pupils or even at the age of the teachers teaching them," complained the noted playwright, author of such stage'n'screen works as Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead and writer of romanta-flick Shakespeare In Love.

Stoppard suggested that new technologies in the home and elsewhere lie behind the flight from writing, blaming the "world of technology" in which kids live and particularly "moving images" for grabbing kids' attention. He is of course at least partly to blame for this himself, having created "every line of dialogue" in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade among others.

The hefty litterateur also gave it as his opinion that education nowadays focuses too much on the sciences, maths and technology and not enough on the humanities.

"There was a period when I was 30 or 40 when science teaching was felt to have lagged and felt to be the area which would improve everybody's life, and I'm sure that that was the case and that was the right moment for that," said Sir Tom.

“Since then we have been more and more worried about the humanities being neglected and at the level of higher education that is a cause of enormous concern.”

Some might take issue with that: the latest figures show 10,000+ students enrolling to study English last year, making it the seventh most popular subject - far ahead of maths, sciences or engineering. Another 7,800 enrolled to study combinations of humanities and languages, and 8,510 more for History.

All in all, at least two students are reading humanities for every one doing actual science - unless you count such extremely popular subjects as Psychology, Computer Science and Sport Science among the sciences.

"I want to support the whole idea of the humanities and teaching the humanities as being something that even if it can't be quantitatively measured as other subjects it's as fundamental to all education," Stoppard reportedly added. ®

*Any corduroys wishing to participate will need to cough up £95 to the Prince's Teaching Institute, whose mission is to make teachers more inspiring.

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