Is Star Wars responsible for our academy system?

Adam Medlycott

Picture this. You head to your local cinema this weekend to watch the new Star Wars film. You sit down, the iconic black screen and Star Wars logo appears, the music starts and the text begins to scroll up the screen …

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the Woo-Key for Jedi Masters continues to provide trusted support for Jedi academies across the star systems.

Sounds far-fetched, right? I don’t think so. I’d argue that George Lucas and his Star Wars franchise have helped to shape our education system. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he had invented something like The Key for that far-off galaxy.

“Why are you making such a wild comparison, Adam?” I hear you ask. It’s not as strange as you may think, as I found out when I spent some time conducting research on ‘Wookieepedia’ (this is not another terrible pun, Wookieepedia does exist).

It turns out that all Jedi trainees attended a Jedi academy where they studied to become Jedi masters. Each academy was governed by an advisory council (or a governing body) which was responsible for ensuring that the curriculum was being taught and there were no traces of Sith teachings.

I would argue that the responsibilities of the advisory council were not too unlike the responsibilities of a board of trustees in an academy in England. Page 38 of the governance handbook explains that a board of trustees shares responsibility for the curriculum. Is this similarity a coincidence? I think not.

Star Wars logo

A more elegant education system for a more civilised age? (Wikimedia Commons)

In Jedi academies, Jedi masters (teachers) instructed trainees in the ways of the Force. But Jedi academies were also entitled to some curriculum freedoms, with certain practices varying from world to world. This doesn’t sound too different to the curriculum freedoms of our own academies.

No doubt members of the ‘Woo-Key’ would need clarification of what these curriculum freedoms are, like our own members do – although I doubt our own school leaders are concerned about whether they can teach children how to use a lightsaber.

I’d even argue that the ways of the Force have infiltrated the teachings in our own schools. According to Wookieepedia, the light side of the Force was aligned with happiness, compassion, self-knowledge and selflessness. By teaching the ways of the Force, Jedi masters were developing their trainees to be good people, guardians of peace and justice.

Now call me crazy – which if you’ve read this far, you probably already did – but this isn’t too dissimilar to the statutory duty of our own schools to promote British values and spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development. Advice from Department for Education on promoting British values and SMSC explains that schools should enable pupils to develop self-knowledge and distinguish right from wrong. Sounds like the ways of the Force to me!

So after conducting this research, I’m lead to the conclusion that way back in 2000, Tony Blair must have received a hologram message from George Lucas advising him on what the future of English education should look like:

Help me, Tony Blair, you’re my only hope.

Tony Blair listened, introduced the Learning and Skills Act and the academies system, and saved the Galactic Republic.

So at the weekend when you put on your Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia costume (I’ve already bought the clip-in buns for my hair) and head out to the cinema, just remember what George Lucas has done for not only popular culture but for our education system as well.

Nicky Morgan, I think you have competition for senator of the Galactic Empire … I mean secretary of state for education.

May the Force be with you.

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