Why The Day matters

Rachel Watson-Steward, The Day’s partnerships & audience manager, at Grasmere School, London, in July 2022.

By Richard Addis – (Last updated: 20 September 2022)

Piers Brendon’s magisterial book about the 1930s is called The Dark Valley. This autumn the world is heading for a new dark valley, very different but with echoes of the old. 

In the UK the news will be about repossessions, energy rationing, strikes, protest marches, a middle-class in revolt and a slowly-unfurling national nervous breakdown over the death of the Queen. There will be more ugly nationalism and a moral/political black hole of serious leadership when we least need one. 

In the wider world: recession, war, climate crisis, tensions in the geopolitical order, rampant inequality and wild advances in tech/biotech will blow up both our known knowns and known unknowns. 

Among the most thoughtful leaders in education, politics and media there is broad agreement: the institutions are failing, the systems are struggling, the media is increasingly irrelevant. Life is transforming. And education isn’t fit for purpose. 

This is serious stuff. And grim. But facing up to reality is less depressing than the standard approach: rearranging the deck chairs while the band plays on.

It also makes the work of The Day more crucial and important than ever — for the following reasons: 

  1. The Day is defined by its catchphrase: build a better world. My own Covid-generation, lockdown-hardened children are intently observing and rethinking the world around them with their friends. So are yours. So are thousands of others. 
  2. Events in the coming months will exponentially increase the sense of responsibility and empowerment among young people to campaign for change. 
  3. One of the leading indicators of success and happiness in later life remains reading ability. We believe that we are a powerful tool for the encouragement of reading. Many who find books daunting can approach reading through The Day’s short current affairs texts. We provide a full accessibility menu using the latest science to adapt text for specialist needs.   
  4. We maintain an ongoing ‘Glossary of Current Affairs’ which helps explain common acronyms, names, titles, organisations, ideas and terms to young people by using automated hover-over options as they read. 
  5. By recommending over 100 hand-picked examples per week of the best and most credible journalism in the world, we encourage a pathway to responsible adult understanding of current affairs and an intelligent engagement with world affairs.
  6. Our translations of news stories into French, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin and German encourage the study of other languages, promote multicultural understanding and broaden young minds. 
  7. Over the past decade schools have probably benefited greatly from the direct-instruction knowledge-rich (DIKR) revolution. But almost everyone acknowledges that now is the time for the pendulum to swing back towards what our children need and want: softer skills such as critical thinking, listening and speaking allied to real-world knowledge and civic/social engagement.
  8. Demand for this knowledge and these skills has been failed by supply. Cutbacks and government strictures have stripped schools of desperately needed training, teachers and resources. The Day is one of the few, classroom-ready, preparation-light, time-friendly, cross-curricular teaching aids that fits the bill.
  9. Teaching softer skills is one way of helping to address the worsening education gap which has been deepened by a narrow focus on test results while leaving other areas to the lottery of economic and cultural privilege — the lottery of birth. 
  10. Critical thinking is the only surefire, effective way to neutralise the flood of fake news, misinformation, disinformation, bigotry, bias and lies that permeates the free internet.
  11. Monitored classroom debate about hot-button controversies is an excellent antidote to  racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and all forms of intolerance. One of the most encouraging testimonials we received about The Day is that it markedly improved tolerance among 11-year-olds at one London primary school. 
  12. Our deep coverage of the climate crisis, the protests, the manifold political failures, the outstanding people such as Greta Thunberg and the incredible response of scientists and engineers — all of this helps to inspire the next generation of leaders. 
  13. Ultimately, in order to build a better world, we need new generations of people who are willing to get involved once again in the hard and messy work of debate and  compromise, protest and compromise, vision and compromise — that makes democracy such a powerful, human and imperfect system of government. The Day exists precisely to help inspire this return to civic engagement among the young.