Home' Independence : Independence Vol 33 No 2 Oct 2008 Contents 40 Independence Volume 33 No. 2
on the curriculum. They can take a brain
apart or a computer apart, or build a mon-
ster if they're very young. We've created a
space where you can actually go at the pace
of your own curiosity and thought processes
rather than galloping through the curricu-
lum and ticking the boxes.
The whole point of science, which is to ask
a question and test it, seems to have gone to
the wall. Young people aren't doing science,
they're doing science facts, and that's per-
ceived to be boring. So my own view is that
somehow the curriculum should be adjusted
so it's an attitude and a spirit of enquiry that
one fosters, not just a learning of facts that
you then forget once you pass the exam.
This is not the Victorian era. You don't
have to recite lots and lots of grammar
or facts and things, because everything
is available. It's more what questions do
you ask, how to use the information you
have, how do you connect things up,
what's the big idea, how can you evaluate
it, what do you test it against, how does
it fit in with other things, what does this
mean to you in your life?
Do you need a fundamental discipline
knowledge to be able to ask those ques-
tions and seek those answers in a sophis-
You do -- it's what I call a conceptual
framework, and if you don't have a
conceptual framework, what questions
are you going to ask? You just sit there in
this answer-rich, question-poor world.
The dilemma then is balancing the con-
ceptual framework and discipline depth
on the one hand and enabling enough
time so that the framework is not seen
as an end in itself on the other -- a real
challenge for schools.
What's your message to teenagers about
looking after their brains?
First of all I'd say lay off any drugs unless
the doctor's given them to you. Alcohol
in moderation -- eventually -- but don't go
near cannabis because that is different from
alcohol. One of the myths is that it's the
same, and it's not. Cannabis can impair
your ability, even though that never mani-
fests itself as a clinical problem. So that
would be absolutely the first thing because
the way drugs work is to work at the con-
nections in your brain and it's the connec-
tions between your brain cells, the pattern
of connections, that make you the person
you are. So, blowing your mind is literally
what you're doing when you take drugs.
The second, as I say to my students at
Oxford, is that you have one rival only --
and that is yourself last week. The whole
issue is for you to do better than you did
last week. There will always be people
who are fatter, thinner, richer, poorer,
cleverer, stupider, older, younger than you
are and you don't want to get into an arms
race where you do things just to be better
than someone else. I know life is competi-
tive, but if you are doing your best and
competing with yourself of last week then
somehow everything else comes into place.
The whole trick is to really identify what
you enjoy doing, really work at those
things and enjoy them and don't beat up
on yourself because you're not perfect.
And how does Baroness Susan Greenfield
look after her brain and the attached body?
My Dad's 93 and my Mum's 81 and they
both are really fizzing. Mum's motto is,
'always go out'. They still go out and
they love going to parties and things and
they're the last to leave. So the first thing
is, always go out if you can. Don't turn
down invitations unless you're listening
to your body and it tells you you're tired.
Another of my Mum's sayings is, 'eat
and sleep whenever you can'. So, you eat
and sleep whenever you can, you go out
as much as you can, and above all you
keep an open mind and don't beat up on
yourself. I think the most corrosive and
unhealthy thing is stress and fretting and
worrying and plotting and machinating
and going over grievances. You know, it's
all very, very corrosive and daft.
Get out there and live, that's my idea.
Baroness Greenfield, thank you for
speaking with us. We look forward to
hosting you at our conference in 2009.
Baroness Greenfield was
interviewed by Garth Wynne,
Headmaster of Christ Church
Grammar School, Perth, WA.
Baroness Greenfield is a keynote speaker at
the 12th AHISA Biennial Conference, Leading
Schools for Tomorrow's People, to be held in
Hobart, Tasmania, 13-15 September 2009.
Baroness Susan Greenfield is Professor of
Synaptic Pharmacology at Lincoln College,
Oxford, where she leads a multi-discipli-
nary team investigating the physical basis
of the mind and its implications for our un-
derstanding of human behaviour, work and
society. She is also Director of the Royal
Institution of Great Britain, an independent
charity dedicated to connecting people with
the world of science, and Director of the
Institute for the Future of the Mind, which
undertakes cross-disciplinary research into
issues at the interface between neuroscience,
cognition and technology. In 2006 she
was installed as Chancellor of Heriot-Watt
In 2001 Baroness Greenfield was award-
ed the CBE for her contributions to the
public understanding of science and cre-
ated a life peer. In 2003 she received the
Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur.
In 2005 she was the SA Government's
'Thinker in Residence' in Adelaide.
Baroness Greenfield attended The Godol-
phin and Latymer School, an independent
secondary school for girls in London, and
is a graduate of St Hilda's College, Oxford.
She has received 28 honorary degrees.
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