Mastermind: why was I underwhelmed?

Make no mistake, I admire the coolness under pressure displayed by the contestants in the recent series of Mastermind. They showed an amazing depth of knowledge in specialist subject areas and general knowledge. Described as one of the most rigorous and intellectual quiz shows around, why then did I feel a bit underwhelmed with it all as I watched the winner take out the title? 

My memories of the original series in the 1970s (hosted by Peter Sinclair) seemed much more exciting. These people seemed so intelligent and what they could recall was amazing. What was different this time around? The answer: a lot. Education has changed.

Back in the 1970s, being able to recall vast amounts of information was a skill that was widely admired because it was useful. If I wanted to find something out I would generally have to look it up in a reference book, or if I didn’t have one handy, take a trip to the library and search the shelves. It all took time, so having swift and efficient recall of a wide range of facts and knowledge was useful, very useful.

Nowadays it’s all different. I can look up facts and figures on my phone in a fraction of the time that it used to take. It all started to change in the 1980s when key skills and strategies began to be identified by governments, educators, and business interests. These were skills that were seen as essential for preparing society for the demands of the future where the only constant would be change. Having a whole lot of facts memorised was no longer a guarantee of success or an indicator of intelligence. The ability to analyse, synthesise, solve complex problems, show emotional intelligence and work in a team has become more valued. I’m thankful that education has made such strides in the last few decades.  
At the end of the day, Mastermind is a quiz show with a compelling and entertaining format that fits well with Sunday night viewing. But it has not kept up with the times. If Mastermind reflected what was valued in education in the seventies, what, I wonder would be a quiz show that would reflect the world of today? 
Jeremy Bloomfield
Accent Learning 13/09/2016


Great blog

Really interesting perspective. I wonder what that sort of quiz format be like - team problem solving? Creating strategies for success? But more like Stephen Hawking's 'Genius' team exercises and less like The Apprentice, hopefully!