icon_tel icon_fb icon_instagram icon_twitter icon_linkedin

Headmaster's Blog

kitchen vs restaurant culture

With all that is going on right now there is an even greater danger that our children expect everything to be put on a plate for them without perhaps the awareness that to succeed in life you need to demonstrate resilience, drive and curiosity. I call this the restaurant culture where one orders a meal, not necessarily knowing exactly what it will be like but nevertheless expecting it to be of a high quality and placed in front of you without making the effort to produce it for yourself.  

There is a sense that this is perhaps okay because our pupils are facing unique challenges with COVID-19 and therefore every assistance that can be afforded them is appropriate to get them through these times. Indeed, even where schools in recent months have been able to continue to offer a good education in the virtual world, whether it be on Google, Microsoft or Zoom, lessons have been delivered with less opportunity for the pupils to engage than they would have done in their real school settings. It has certainly been my experience that as a school we have been able to get through a lot of material with the pupils but is that sufficient in terms of what they are going to need for the world into which they will be embarking and searching for employment in a short while? Is it enough to have the information without having been challenged to do more by themselves? I’m not convinced. 

The alternative is the kitchen culture where you have all the ingredients available to you (providing you have prepared beforehand!) and you use them, alongside your own initiative, to create something that is a reflection of you; you have the same ingredients as will have appeared in the restaurant meal but you will have worked out how to use them and understood the process along the way to provide a finished piece that will demonstrate ingenuity, consideration and application of your understanding. 

Surely, facilitating a kitchen culture is what we really want for our children. Continuing with the metaphor, when they go into a restaurant they will have a better understanding of what they are ordering and they will be able to ask the waiter pertinent questions to inform their choice rather than just accepting the description on the menu. When our children are going into the workplace to be interviewed for jobs, that is what the employers will be looking for because they will not want their employees to have been rolled off the factory production line simply able to do what everyone else can do, they will be searching for those capable of independent and creative thinking. 

This then brings me onto the ever more important issue of the mental health and well-being of our youth. It is crucial right now but it is also important that we do not look to make excuses for them. We are quick to criticise the millennial generation amongst whom there is an expectation that everything will just work out for them as they expect it to and that they deserve what they get, not because they have necessarily worked for it but because it is just what they are entitled to. That may seem a bit harsh; we have cultivated this attitude and belief and in so doing we find ourselves facing an unprecedented number of mental health cases amongst our youth because they lack the resilience that has been instilled in previous generations. Sadly, as a generation, it is harder to do something that is not premeditated or conventional, even though society requires that of them more than ever before. 

If we can create a kitchen generation who seek to be creative and are capable of producing something special through their efforts and with the support of their teachers to guide them, always looking to cultivate an innate curiosity of spirit, so many of the challenges society is facing right now, and specifically those faced by our children, will be much more manageable. 

Education is at a crossroads. There is such a fear that this generation of children are being failed by schools because of what they may be missing out on as a result of the impact of COVID-19 but if we accept this to be true and the remedy is to just give them what they need right now to get them through exams, are we not failing them and society further down the line? We will be setting ourselves up for a terrible fall if we do not strive to foster a kitchen generation and instead create the restaurant generation that will always have high expectations but expect it to be served to them without really knowing what they are getting. Going to a restaurant is a great experience, one I am sure we value more than ever before, but let’s not overlook the value of the kitchen in helping us appreciate what we have and how those fine meals can be achieved.