Are we in a common sense black hole?

common sense
common sense

I have been reflecting recently on the differences between education, wisdom, knowledge and common sense – and where our current educational system might leave us.

It all started at home.

I live in a flat with a door entry system. At the main entrance there’s a keypad with the numbers 0-9 on it and clear instructions on how to use it – basically, press the number of the flat you’re going to, followed by the call button.

Simples, as one of my favourite advertising personalities would say.

Except, it appears, that, like all of the 50-odd flats that use the system, my flat is a double digit number, that is, over nine.

The first inkling that there might be a problem was when a young lady who had an appointment with me phoned from the main door asking how to get in.

Slightly mystified, I talked her through it on the phone and she duly found her way to my front door.

Then, earlier this week a young tradesman, who found his way into the building without ringing the doorbell, asked me how to get in without a key.

“Well, you use the key pad,” I explained.

“Aye, but the numbers only go up to nine,” was the response.

What can you say? Only that this young man demonstrated his ability to do a fantastic job when he got to work.

These two events were over the period when Monday evenings had me glued to the television watching University Challenge.

There was sheer delight (when I got the occasional question correct), and wonder both at the depth of the students’ knowledge and ability to answer questions that I didn’t even understand, and their lack of knowledge of everyday matters.

So I have been wondering about just how we are educating our young people.

We certainly need people who have specialist expertise, knowledge and skills – scientists, doctors, lawyers, electricians, plumbers, for example.

But we also need people with common sense – and that, to me, seems to be where we are failing educationally.

I have worked with youngsters fresh out of higher education with no idea of how to behave in the workplace, others with letters after their names who have no idea of what is going on in the world, locally, nationally or, heaven forfend, internationally.

Still others have lacked the basic common sense that would have allowed them to work out the simplest of problems – door entry systems, for example.

What is common to all these areas that have caused me to ponder is that they concerned, by and large, young people.

So why would a time-served tradesman, or a qualified interior designer, both in their early 20s, fail to get into my building without help?

Over the years there have been dozens of visitors, many of them very elderly, and none of them – I repeat, none of them – have failed to master the mysteries of our door entry system.

Time to put common sense on the curriculum?