The Horror of Hirsch

It is all becoming clear.

Before shining a light on this illumination [do see my previous posting] I want to state on the one hand I was keen and pleased to have my instinctive prejudices confirmed, and on the other, I did actually pause to reflect as objectively as my deep-rooted educational antibodies would allow and question whether I was too quick to confirm.

No, not too quick.

The healthy instant signals were in Gibb’s article from Knowledge and the Curriculum where, in addition to himself, he cites supporters of Hirsch’s views as Michael Gove – well, that’s the first nail – and then a person who he describes as one of a ‘new generation of British educators’, Toby Young! Yes, that’s the journalist who resigned from a position as non-executive director on the board of the Office of Students because of his offensive tweets.

It only takes two big and nasty nails some times.

Without feeling any need to justify/qualify, that is enough for me. I have listened to/read plenty from people like these over many years to abhor their views on education and the positions of influence they have held in which to wreak damage because of this.

More broadly, Hirsch’s knowledge-based curriculum is clearly the influence for content and direction in the recent Ofsted Curriculum Workshops where for the English curriculum in particular a ‘Big Vocabulary’ policy is being promoted and, for example, touted with Hirschian zeal by Bradley Simmons HMI, Regional Director, South West. Hearing him speak was quite enough to alienate me.

It is, quite simply, a ‘more is more’ philosophy: more knowledge leads to more everything; more vocabulary leads to more everything. If you are a Tory, this will clearly appeal as a fundamental desire.

Having just re-read Gove’s ‘anti-Mr Men’ speech [here] again, I didn’t find Hirsch mentioned, but there are numerous self-serving and obnoxious references to content and knowledge – carefully selected and in many cases probably made-up – that show where the influences come from. Again, I acknowledge my prejudices, but surely the most judicious and objective read will spot the rhetorical machinations over evidence this tirade delivers?

Oh, and by the way, no, I am not saying knowledge isn’t important! Don’t be so stupid.

What I am against is making knowledge the legend upon which the mythology is written.

So, for example, what do I mean by the preceding comment and its seemingly clever assertion? I am playing primarily with the term ‘legend’, linked obviously to ‘mythology’, but I use it more as its implication of inscription and wording on a map – signposts to something. Knowledge of that definition would help unpick my satire and suggestion. But there are ways to arrive at that knowledge, and that is the ‘problem’ of a curriculum, as I see it, perceived from simplistic notions of ‘knowledge’ by Gibb and other numbnuts.

Yes, it is much deeper than this, both my embrace of what ‘knowledge’ is and why we need that, and the other of the other knowledge junkies.

So much of what Gove and Gibbs and others like them see in their knowledge-led curriculum is the teaching of something that can be easily tested and then measured. Oh yes it is. And in that simplistic drive, skills and creativity and other aspects of learning are pushed aside.

Oh yes they are.

That’s my knowledge.

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