the more I understand the less I know, the less I know the more I…



Why do we need to know things? In their article, ‘Exploring the Complex Interaction Between Governance and Knowledge Education’, Mihály Fazekas and Tracey Burns point out the varying ways in which ‘knowledge’ and ‘governance’ are inter-related through education and educational policy. Firstly, and most obviously, knowledge, which Fazekas and Burns term as ‘understanding’ and application of ‘information/data’, is necessary for any policy-making processes. These policy-making processes happen off the back of ‘worldviews’, putting into play beliefs, paradigms, and ‘epistemic communities’–indicating that governance happens not only with and through knowledge, but as knowledge. Basically put:

Policy beliefs, paradigms or worldviews as specific forms of knowledge are powerful mediums of governance. They not only define policy subsystems, groups of policy makers such as advocacy coalitions, issue networks, or epistemic communities, they also limit the range of alternatives and types of knowledge that policy makers are willing to consider. (p.16)

Educational policy tells us not only what we need to know but, and arguably primarily, how we need to reflect upon that knowledge. Policy tells us how we will know the things we know. Policy tells us that we will know ‘things’. Learning for exams is a policy-structured way of knowing, as is holding a strip of magnesium over a bunsen burner or learning a poem by heart. Continue reading “the more I understand the less I know, the less I know the more I…”


Why do governments fund education?

There is a pessimistic answer to this question (or is that maybe, the realist answer?) and the answer that an optimist (the idealist?) would give:

The optimist’s position is easy, to begin. Education is a civil right and governments thus have a social, humanitarian obligation to fund education and create an equity of access to the advantages that learning opportunities give to individuals.

The pessimist’s position is just as easy. Judging by the state of education and the social inequities that education structurally reproduces; judging by the nominal funding that the government actually set aside for education; and judging by the broad and deeply entrenched conditions of control that the government have over state-funded education compared to the private sector, the government funding of education is a transparent guarantee of leverage over how education works, who/what it serves, and what sorts of ideological ends and structures institutions of education reproduce.

schooled evaluation and cultivated accountability


This week my best friend came to visit my family in Cumbria. For two years he has been working as a primary school teacher, first on Hong Kong island, and now, just over the Chinese border, in Shenzhen.

He teaches the first grade international baccalaureate in a Canadian international school, with a group of 16 students. These children pick their own topic for the term, and my friend helps them design their own learning programme. They also design their own assessment methods at the beginning of the unit. They learn on a tailored, malleable curriculum, where mathematics, english, geography, art, history, and other subjects are all integrated into a topic, rather than learnt as separate disciplines. Independent of the assessments that the students design, my friend assesses the students for their capabilities in conceptual and evaluative understanding; on their ability to select, organise, connect and debate ideas; on their ability to enter into dialogue; to self-reflect; to question. For kinaesthetic ‘fidgeters’, he sticks velcro under the desk so that they can rub it with their hand and keep themselves busy, or he attaches a rubber band to a chair leg so that they can stretch it with their foot… Continue reading “schooled evaluation and cultivated accountability”

my good Christian school

At ten years old I kicked up a fuss willing my parents to send me to the local comprehensive (where most of my primary school friends would be going) rather than the Church of England state secondary school, St. Aidan’s, with my elder brother and sister.

My parents were resolute about their decision, and so I attended St. Aidan’s Church of England High School  until the age of 18. At this time in my life, I was already volunteering my summers up for ‘Christian camp’. These summer trips began when I was six or seven when I spent a week sleeping in a tent in the garden of the Bishop of York. We had to memorise a Bible passage and recite it as our tent was checked in the ‘tidy inspection’ each morning. The Bishop of York has deep, velvety cream carpet in his living room. We padded across it and sat cross-legged to watch a VHS on a TV wheeled into the corner or the room one rainy afternoon. Continue reading “my good Christian school”

Becoming: the post-Deleuzian discourse of the good teacher


I want to try to untangle Alex Moore’s really useful critique of the dominant discourse of ‘the ‘good’ teacher’, published in his book The Good Teacher: Dominant Discourses in Teaching and Teacher Education (2004), from his own use of what I would call a post-Deleuzian discourse of ‘becoming’. [In this week’s video,] Moore reiterates the thought of Deborah Bretzman, in stating that a good teacher is ‘an endless of process of becoming’, contrasting this to a state of ‘being’ a good teacher. Continue reading “Becoming: the post-Deleuzian discourse of the good teacher”

the ‘good’ teacher

Then said a teacher, Speak to us of Teaching.
And he said:
No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your mind.
The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and lovingness.
If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.
The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.
The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm, nor the voice that echoes it.
And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell you of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.
For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.
And even as each of you stands alone in God’s knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet (1923)

I am not religious (no matter the sentiment, I always feel slightly threatened by religion), but lately, I’ve taken to reading religious texts. Continue reading “the ‘good’ teacher”

A good teacher in my memory


My PhD supervisor is Dr Kélina Gotman, who has worked at King’s the entirety of the time I have been based there. Through this relationship we’ve struck up something of a friendship – I was over at her house eating pies and drinking wine this Sunday – and it’s so easily forgotten that she has been the most influential teacher in my academic life. The first time I met Kélina, she was teaching my first ever class of a course called ‘Introducing Literary Theories’. This was in the days when the university still budgeted for lecturers to take seminars, rather than postgraduate researchers known as Graduate Teaching ‘Assistants’; or ‘GTA’s, ‘TA’s or ‘PGTA’s, supposedly ‘supporting’ or reinforcing the learning that the students glean from the lectures. Continue reading “A good teacher in my memory”