Sunday, February 10, 2013

Going Dutch

Last week it was officially announced that the EBacc was dead. At the wake, Gove re-iterated his homespun philosophy of education. We already know he's living in the past but he seems to really believe in the battle between 'traditionalists' and 'progressives' - the signature binary of educational debates in the late 70s and early 80s. I thought we'd all moved on. Anyway, in trying to rally his troops, he's been re-asserting the importance of a content-based curriculum stuffed full of facts. Education has always been far more than that, and learning far richer. Jean Lave pointed out the habit that reformers have of trying to improve learning by focusing on teaching, powerfully asserting that whilst the two may overlap, they are by no means the same thing. Asking ourselves what is important to learn, is always a good starting point. But even before we get to that point we need some handle on learning itself. Gove seems to equate it with memorising. Remembering the capital cities of the world may depend more on memory than learning. What, for example, if they change - as they have the annoying habit of doing. Does that mean we've remembered wrongly or just remembered redundant information? Did we learn anything at all in memorising them? Would it help me in a pub quizz? It's not a simple matter. This is not to argue that we shouldn't commit anything to memory, merely to suggest that we should disentangle this from learning....and from education. I can remember the names of the original Clash line-up, the album names and most track titles: I didn't learn them; but I can't seem to forget them, either. It doesn't really help me in daily life, but then neither does knowing about the ins and outs of the English monarchy in history. Could I honestly say that I'm a better citizen, or a more cultured individual because I learnt these things in school and then forgot them as a young adult? My interest in the Glorious Revolution and what the Dutch monarch brought to England has been fired by living close to Revolution House and reading this book. We never did William of Orange at school; I thought it was humorous to have a king who was also a fruit, it appealed to my schoolboy humour. It was only relatively recently that I learnt about how oranges were actually used iconographically in portraits. That seems to be something called learning, and how it's bound up with relevance, interest and tactics. Can the same be said for non-human agents - I'm also interested in how we might say that the Tesco Clubcard (or Amazon) 'learns' about my consumerist peccadilloes - should we be sending technology to school. What might it learn?


Unknown said...

Hi Guy
If you really want to go Dutch, read my edublog on education and on research digital literacy ( mainly in Dutch) ;-)
See you

Guy Merchant said...

Hi Jeroen, thanks for your comment! It's all I can do to keep up with your speed-reading on Goodreads...