Google chairman Eric Schmidt has taken time out from telling people to get over their fear of real names on Google+ to smack down the UK education system, citing “a drift to the humanities” that has left the country floundering when it comes to digital development. “I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn’t even taught as standard in UK schools,” Schmidt said during the MacTaggart lecture in Edinburgh The Guardian reports, pointing out that “your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it’s made.” According to the Google exec, while the UK “invented computers in both concept and practice” it is currently “throwing away” that heritage.
Schmidt pointed to the tendency for those in the arts and science camps to “denigrate the other” and ignore the possibility of standing with a foot in each. What’s needed, he maintained, was polymaths: people with broader expertise.
“Over the past century, the UK has stopped nurturing its polymaths. You need to bring art and science back together … [The Victorian era] was a time when the same people wrote poetry and built bridges … Lewis Carroll didn’t just write one of the classic fairytales of all time. He was also a mathematics tutor at Oxford. James Clerk Maxwell was described by Einstein as among the best physicists since Newton – but was also a published poet” Eric Schmidt, chairman, Google
On startups, meanwhile, while Schmidt highlighted the large number of companies incubated in the UK, he suggested more work was needed to capitalize on that and keep talent local. “There’s little point getting a thousand seeds to sprout if they are then left to wither or transplanted overseas” he cautioned, warning that “if you don’t address this, then the UK will continue to be where inventions are born, but not bred for long-term success.”