Knowledge, skills and When Harry Met Sally

I’m reading Martin Robinson’s “Curriculum: Athena versus the Machine” at the moment. It’s a wonderful read.

The world of education is infested with instrumentalism, talk of “21st century skills”, uninformed speculation about artificial intelligence, non-stop bullshitting about “real world problem-solving” and a fixation with making education “relevant to students lives”. It’s more than slightly depressing.

Martin’s book which is about designing curricula that treat students as developing human beings rather than future employees, supposedly equipped with the skills to cope with jobs that haven’t even been invented yet. It is a real tonic and a reminder of how education used to be before the market took over.

While reading the book, I suddenly recalled a quote from the 1989 film, When Harry Met Sally. In the scene in question, Harry is chatting to a friend about Sally and exclaims: “But of course when I asked where she was when Kennedy was shot she said, “Ted Kennedy was shot?

And it occurred to me that the real purpose of education is to develop us all as human beings. No knowledge that we acquire in school and university is irrelevant. What’s in our head is a big part of who we are as human beings. What’s in our head affects every aspect of our lives, especially our relationships. So if we devalue knowledge on the basis of irrelevance, or because “we’ll always have Google”, we are doing more than changing the nature of education; we’re affecting human development and human beings’ ability to connect and communicate with others.

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