Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Britains Got Talent: We Just Need to Redefine Talent

Scary feeding in today's Times a third of our 6-18 year olds define talent as being able to sing, 10% being good at football, 8% being as dancing with only 1% thinking academic achievement was a talent. They seem to think talent is having the ability to do something that may eventually get you on TV.

What a sorry state we're in if that is what is going to define our young people as they will grow up thinking they do not have any talent but they do. It brings to mind the fate of the Golgafrincham B Ark encountered by Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It contained what were deemed to be the useless third, ie not the money people or the actual workers, of the population in a vain attempt to fit off a population explosion. Amongst their number was a telephone sanitiser not necessarily the most high profile of talents but in the end a vital one that the Golgafrincham's dearly needed as the population, the Guide tells us, was eventually wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone.

We still need young people with a talent for science to go into research to help join the fight against those virulent diseases out there. Or those who can write to tell us what is happening through journalism or speaking out and making their voices heard to bring about change. Or with an artistic bent not to perform necessarily but to produce, whether that is television, art, architecture to give us something or somewhere to enjoy.

Not all of us can be top class and well played performers. Yes many us can dream and some of us will achieve but none of us will survive if that is all we aim for. We need thinkers and doers as well people who are talented in oh so many way that is what society is about and that is what our talent pool contains. If our young people realise that they can have self esteem knowing that they have a talent/s, which they can then use to the maximum of their ability.

As the biblical parable of the talents tells us each has been given something, some more than others it is how we use the talents we've been given that will bring a reward. If we sit back and don't even use what we have but hanker after the unacheiveable what good are we? Let's wake up, and wake others up that there is far more talent out there than just what the TV audience wants to see.


Ideas of Civilisation said...


I agree in principle with your views but am not convinced that much has changed in the years since I was at school (and the many years since I was 6!).

People have always gravitated towards ‘exciting’ roles and ones that may even make them money. Certainly when I was at school all the boys (or at least the majority of them) would have wanted to be footballers. Obviously though they didn’t and so now do a variety of useful jobs instead.

The poll doesn’t give a breakdown of how the ages chosen (or at least your blog doesn’t). I’m willing to get that the more realistic choices are likely to have come from people who are slightly older and thus have a more realistic and experienced outlook on life.

Where I do agree though is on schools doing more to encourage all pupils, but especially older ones closer to making choices about their future life/career, to think about what they can best to do to reach their full potential.

Over the last few years in Glasgow there’s been a big drop in the number of young people leaving and going straight into unemployment. The biggest drops have been in schools that hired full-time, specialised and professional careers advice and I don’t think this is an accident.

It would be good to see more of this. Whilst still letting younger people dream of course – the world would be a dull place otherwise!

Stephen Glenn said...

IoC it's not the aspiation to 'exciting roles' that is the issue per se. I too had dreams of being a footballer and unlike many with such dreams did actually reach towards the pinnacle in two sports.

It is the recognition of what is a talent that is the issue. Admittedly it always has been. I remember when I was at school counting to about ten before raising my hand to answer yet another question.

However, the media do seem to focus on the 'talents' that are bankable. Shows like that kids spelling quiz and The Kids are Alright may well go some way to buck the trend. There is a need to nuture all real talents rather than encouraging too much false hope, so that many of those who appear distraught having been rejected on X Factor when all the world see they clearly do not have talent in that particular area do find their own self-worth and feel thewy do have value, rather than pursuing a track which seem to be all they want out of life.

Ideas of Civilisation said...


I can see your point. It would be good to try and encourage people with talents outwith sport to be proud of them but there's definitely always been a part of the school pupil psyche which seems to prevent this. In fairness I don't think it's just this country.

In terms of the media I do think that too of the most successful (and thus depressing shows) on TV completely support your idea of not celebrating success; ‘The Weakest Link’, where there is an incentive not to be the most intelligent and ‘Deal or no Deal’ where there is no skill whatsoever required.

This is probably getting quite deep (and thus probably wrong) but I do wonder the extent to which the decline to traditional industries, especially in concentrated local areas, leads people to this desire for fame/fortune. In the past there was at least some sort of career structure for people locally, perhaps following a parent’s path, whereas now there is much more uncertainty meaning people want to grab on to celebrity culture and the quick route to fame.

Either that or young people have always had these dreams but it’s only now we get to see it on our TV screens every week. Or not, if you live in my house!


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