The preservation of the means of knowledge among the lowest ranks is of more importance to the public than all the property of the rich men in the country. [John Adams]

Only by restoring the authority of knowledge can we improve teachers’ status, says Michele Ledda. Developing skills is important but it can neither precede nor replace knowledge for knowledge’s sake.  Our child-centred education system encourages an indifferent and even suspicious attitude towards the transmission of knowledge, seeing it as an activity fraught with dangers. This has been the case for so many decades that we have come to regard it as normal.

It is the legacy of the Lincoln School which sought and succeeded in dumbing down successive generations to the point of pig-ignorance.  Thus it is wonderful to see a few pundits starting to come round to the horror of what the socialists did to education and to human beings themselves.

Can we ever emerge from this malaise which should never ever have been allowed to occur?  Two of the saddest things I read was when I ran this youtube and commenters said, in as many words:

1.  Well, it hasn’t stopped her succeeding in life;

2.  It’s better to learn life skills than have knowledge.

Oh my goodness, where does one start?  That woman is not only ignorant but she is obstinate in her ignorance.  She said: “I’m listening to the words you say but I only hear what I want to hear.”  In other words – knowledge resistant and rude to go with it.  Multiply her by millions and you have a society ready to be taken over by ideology.

Why were Bibles in Latin and chained to pulpits?  Why did Guinevere act as she did?  Because she was in a state of ignorance.  Ignorance is power for someone else and is therefore in the political interests of oligarchs.

From knowledge is derived power and the ability to regulate and organize one’s thoughts.  An erudite and educated person is a person with world knowledge, with vastly more than he/she will ever call on.  So yes – learn the seven wonders of the ancient world.  Yes – learn the Roman numerals.  yes – read Plato in the original.

Point 1 above – if she has succeeded in life from that knowledge base, then heaven help that society.

Knowledge tailored to each stage

For such an anti-cognitive educational world we ive in, they’re very quick to load children up with all the knowledge they need about sex.  I suggest that the whole topic need never have been broached in schools in the first place.  Hell – it used to be that there was such a thing as a curriculum, where knowledge was imparted at the point the age and prior experience dictated it.

17 comments for “Knowledge

  1. January 25, 2010 at 00:32

    So what is that Knowledge and how do we get it? I can’t answer many of the questions to your quizzes but I do know I have the knowledge (wisdom?) to enable society to work better.

    I think I was taught that educational curricula that you shun and some of the subjects challenged me greatly. Very much so in two particular subjects. I had to decide between what I knew and what I was being taught in school.

    I think I have the right answer but I still can’t answer all your quiz questions 😉

  2. January 25, 2010 at 00:49

    “some of the subjects challenged me greatly. Very much so in two particular subjects. ”

    I’m intrigued to know what you are referring to here – do tell!

    I think kids are working hard in school, but they are not being taught stuff they need to know, their minds are being f***ed with.

  3. January 25, 2010 at 01:01

    TT, the two subjects were science and religion. The former challenged my beliefs (in one particular area) the later I was taught moral education rather than religious education.

  4. January 25, 2010 at 02:21

    “I’m listening to the words you say but I only hear what I want to hear.”

    Sounds like a religious person confronted with Nature to me. (I haven’t bothered to look at the video, it would wake the wife sleeping next to insomniac me, but I am guessing it is not what it sounds like to me). The problem is, people have very different views on which “knowledge” is valid. Give me ignorance over faith chosen by preference any day.

  5. January 25, 2010 at 07:35

    “The problem is, people have very different views on which “knowledge” is valid.”

    This is not the problem. This is the ordinary, natural situation. The problem is one small group of people – Fabian control-freak social engineers, have positioned themselves to dictate to the nation’s children what knowledge is valid.

  6. January 25, 2010 at 09:25

    What we who believe in cognitive education say is that there are facts and figures and though they can be dry, it’s in the skill of the teacher to bring them to life. It’s hard to find one where biases do not come through.

    For example, the soviet books which they were still using would look at 1066 as an example of the usurper avenged, of how the workers are exploited in a monarchy and so on. An English book of the same decades ago gave the story of how Harold had to ride back down, the vicissitudes on the way, how he had to let certain soldiers go back to their fields and still he managed to occupy the high ground.

    A historian would see the whole scene and convey, then arrange a bus trip to Hastings and though the kids weren’t really all that interested in the battlefield but in the ice cream stop, in later years they’d recall that.

    In Science, it was those experiments or dissecting the frog or seeing potential and kinetic energy in action that they remember.

    Gradually, social education took over and unproven methodologies such as that if you leave a kid to his own devices, he’ll be interested enough to learn on his own became the norm. The boffin kid existed but the majority took the easy way out and the onslaught from the media, TV, music, electronic games then the internet filled their heads, along with the drugs and inappropriate underage sex became facilitated rather than the old way where it was kept as a non-topic until the kid was ready – it was all forced on the kid and learning took a back seat.

    The story of Alfred and how he organized his militia, the travelling judges centuries later, Magna Carta and what it really meant and then the education in all the other disciplines right up to 4th Form gave a rounded person for whom all he’d learned took a back seat in life but it was nonetheless there in the back of the head and the whole gave an outlook on life.

    There are indeed different types of knowledge but that of East Enders, reality shows and which shoes Paris Hilton is wearing today, along with how to defraud the welfare system is not the type the society should be aspiring towards. Why are we hellbent on producing yahoos?

    There’s a political answer to that.

  7. January 25, 2010 at 10:06

    James writes: “… and commenters said, in as many words: 1. Well, it hasn’t stopped her succeeding in life; 2. It’s better to learn life skills than have knowledge.”

    Well, I’ve been back to those comments and don’t find that meaning. They are James’s words, not those of his commenters. Though there is contesting of the theme of James’s earlier post, I think it is more subtle than he makes out with “as many words”.

    I have a thought, though it would require more information than is likely to be available to us for it to be verified. It is that the video clip is television entertainment; for the public to star on it, they must be ‘highly entertaining’ compared to their peer applicants. Maybe this lady was hamming it up (at least just a bit) to deliver the entertainment, rather than just and only weaseling her way out of a performance failure. Who knows?

    But I stand by my view that she took the money ($10,000) rather than risking a guess for $25,000. Now, I doubt she was there using Bayesian Decision Analysis: determining that 40% confidence in her knowledge of Budapest’s capital status would be the break-even point for making the guess. Likewise, she probably was not viewing the utility to her (and her family) of an actual $25,000 as less than 2.5 times the utility of an actual $10,000 – merely that the certainty of $10,000 was more valuable to her than the greater but uncertain, return on her ‘performance’. But she is (if the programme is honestly run) better off by $10,000 for the totality of her ‘performance’ (including unshown heats). As to whether this one decision embodies her “succeeding in life” or demonstrates her having learned an adequacy of “life skills”, I doubt it. She showed some knowledge and/or analysis, of the time-invariant, place-invariant and nationality-invariant sort that I value; but I would not choose her as a companion, even for a brief period, and would not trust anything that I value to her.

    I have another thought. Hungary has a population of (just) over 10 million, as do several states of the USA. Which states have as their capitals: Albany, Harrisburg, San Franscisco and Springfield. Do take care; if that’s too easy, try states of India with these capitals: Bhubaneswar, Dhaka, Kolkata, Mumbai, Patna; the states have, respectively, populations of approximately 37, 162, 80, 97 and 82 million. Oh, and there is an important link between my two questions: can anyone identify it off the top of their heads?

    Best regards

  8. January 25, 2010 at 11:04

    Which reveals your own level of education, Nigel and when did you leave school? What was your educational course after that? Now I would ask you to come up to our local McDonalds and listen to a teenage conversation for ten minutes, noting the subject matter and level of articulation.

    I’ll mention one anecdote. In the library of a school in Russia where I was teaching, there was a VHS of different accents around Britain and it showed children being interviewed. I used it once only and the question from the Russian kids was whether that was typical in Britain. The grammar, the slurring of words, the jargon and the stunted, lazy thinking process was stark.

    Now, the question I asked myself was how the BBC could even have issued such a vid in the first place – it was such a bad example to set to foreigners about the state of our cognition over here. I told one group in university after a tough session on English idioms that about 70% of the class spoke better English and had a better grasp of grammar than perhaps the same percentage of Britons. The top two or three girls would walk into a university place in Britain.

    Even the section of the blogosphere and readership such as yourself in the penultimate paragraph here and perhaps Chris Dillow and others I could name are operating at a level way above the majority of Brits.

    This is only partly their fault. The system does not demand excellence, except in the upper levels of a specialized subject area, which is where teachers are finding that students’ lack of even analytical skills is a constraint on their progress.

    Sorry if I misinterpreted your remarks but you see my thrust is towards the overall malaise. Nigel, look at the age of the people who comment here in any depth – look at your own background. It’s a bygone era and this was revealed in the English exam boards having to constantly adjust the pass mark downwards. It’s hugely worrying.

  9. January 25, 2010 at 12:37

    Nigel – is to do with independence from Britain?

  10. January 25, 2010 at 19:12

    James you don’t know our ages- that’s the virtue of being on the internet and anyway this blog’s audience is not neccessarily representative of anything, its too small. The average age of the commenters on my blog that I know for example is in their twenties, I’m in my twenties too and I’d wager know more than most sixty year olds about history and many other subjects.

    I don’t disagree with you, in the sense that I’m a traditional rigorous subjects man, incidentally partly because I believe that a traditional rigorous approach disarms some approaches to my own subject, and partly because I beleive in those subjects- I am against a purely factual basis though. Plenty of people who can answer quiz questions are morons- just see Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum for a description. Particularly when you confront the areas in which knowledge is uncertain- like the Battle of Hastings- it isn’t useful to have a purely facts based approach because you have to know that you don’t and can’t know what happened.

  11. January 25, 2010 at 20:55

    Tiberius, you mention Hastings. You also say, “It isn’t useful to have a purely facts based approach.” That’s right – not purely. What is needed with Hastings is similar to the investigation of a crime.

    1. Gather all known facts, primary sources and secondary sources and lay them out on the big table. There are many of these. Shift them round until they are in the right sequence;

    2. Look at all the anomalies and try to see them as part of the whole. If you can’t do that, then change the theory, rather than persist, e.g. with natural selection. Continue until all anomalies are taken care of;

    3. Now overlay the fact-backed theory on the overall European picture of those times and even further abroad – did any other strange phenomena occur around that time?

    4. Most importantly, look at the apocrypha. For example, with the origins of British nationhood, look at it from the point of view of the alternative literature about the Continent and the Venetians and keep an open mind.

    Finally, taking everything into account, without prejudice, come up with a best guess about what happened. If someone later uncovers an inconvenient fact, then unfortunately, the theory must be scrapped and one must start again.

    Now, out of all this, we can come up with some facts – Hastings occurred in 1066, it involved mainly William and Harold and it changed the course of English, nay British history. That much can be called a historical fact and as such, goes into the history books as Fact 2312 to be taught to children.

    From that, children now have a reference point to go by.

    The relativists though have the mentality of Elfansafetee officers and say: “We can’t know all aspects of this [even though we know a lot]. Therefore it is too iffy. Therefore, best not to teach it as a fact.”

    The relativists wish to do this to reduce all knowledge to the unknowable, therefore precluding all religion and all metaphysical. Therefore, Christianity must not be taught because it fails the Elfansafetee construct. The relativists have an agenda whilst ostensibly appearing reasonable and rational.

    In this matter, it is they who are not rational and the cognitive learning advocate who is.

  12. January 25, 2010 at 21:10

    Gracchi writes: “…, I’m in my twenties too and I’d wager know more than most sixty year olds about history and many other subjects.”

    This is an interesting view. I hear not dissimilar things from my younger daughter, just crossed 18, who tells me quite frequently that I am wrong, because her teacher teaches a ‘different truth’. Following James’s line, I could respond that her teacher teaches little but societal compliance: truth is elsewhere; or perhaps I have forgotten (through age and decrepitude), more than she has learned. Actually, I’m not yet at my sixtieth year, but merely equalling the number of Heinz varieties. However, I know one thing very well: advancing years much improve one’s understand of the vast extent of one’s ignorance, to say nothing of the realities of living.

    Equally important, is a firm grasp on reality and the truth. An anecdote (something I’m not really that fond of): some 39 years ago, I did an A-level practical exam in physics. On one question (relating to voltages across and current through a diode and resistor in series) the made measurements defied the reality that I understood (and had been taught). Being not entirely subservient to ‘exam rules’, thought fully appreciative that cheating was quite definitely beyond the pale, I ‘observed’ that my fellow examinees had the very same problem: I wrote on my exam paper what I had observed in my own experiment; particularly that it was not compliant with my knowledge of the relevant physics (which I also described). Following the exam, I kidnapped my experimental equipment (though did not remove it from the exam room) and registered a complaint. My physics teacher (Mr ..w…) poo-pooed by complaint and would have none of it. Very fortunately, the senior lab technician (Mr ..n.) diagnosed within minutes that (all) the ammeters had been set up with the wrong shunt resistance and were therefore miscalibrated. This was particularly good of him as the error was either his or that of one of his assistants: that man, unlike my degree-qualified teacher, was true to his scientific training – if there is doubt, check all the evidence.

    Thus we have the various clashes: of youthful arrogance over experience, of righteous confidence in one’s knowledge of what is truth (irrespective of age), of experience dismissing evidence on unscientific grounds, and of age failing to recognise its own failings.

    As frequent readers here will know, James and I often clash; doubtless, we both ‘feel’ that right is on our own side. Generally, I see that sometimes I’m wrong; mostly (IMHO) it is carelessness – that I’m happy (even keen) to correct voluntarily (see, for example: ). There are outstanding issues, such as my severe scepticism on Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming: on such things, time will eventually tell. Mostly, with James, I argue that he has insufficient evidence for his view; however, I do respect his gut feel – and sometimes feel the same way myself. However, in insisting on one’s view dominating the views (and lives) of others – eg in governmental ‘action’ one way or the other – there must surely be more than a feeling, a hunch, or even the balance of probabilities (often argued from suspect ‘statistics’). Government ‘action’ is, of course, all of brute force, one plan fits all, and legalised robbery.

    On the issue of the dumbing down of education in the UK, I feel with James that this is so. However, if we cannot find arguments sufficient to convince our fellows, we are failing. We are failing especially as we are setting ourselves as (somehow, perhaps intellectually) superior to our opponents, yet failing to win. That the demos (our audience) are unconvinced is a shame on us rather than on them: perhaps, unlike that lady in the video, they have not been convinced (assisted by us) of the limits of their knowledge, if not their understanding, and hence the inappropriateness of their (our) sitting in (mass) judgement on us all.

    Best regards

  13. January 26, 2010 at 08:19

    Nigel- possibly, but I do think that there is an arrogance of age as well to assume that experience equals knowledge. It does not neccessarily do so. Particularly when that experience is finite as it always must be and also when it is limited by a lack of anything more than reliance on a teacher’s word or a set of experiments done very early. I agree with you distrusting your teacher is a good idea, but going to the original evidence and reconstructing what is going on is the best method of getting to what I deem knowledge. Being sceptical about your own theories and realising that you are as likely to be wrong as right seems to me another fundemental truth- I think that that is true irrespective of age and youth and both of them have their own forms of arrogance.

    I said what I said because there are twenty year olds who know more about history in my definition- ie have examined more sources, understood more of their contexts- than many sixty year olds. The education system may have got worse or better but I’m not sure the progress or regress has been universal- particularly in history say there have been losses in terms of not knowing facts, but equally there are gains in terms of the fact that when I did the GCSE it was about looking at primary sources in a very primitive way. Looking at primary sources is much better than learning dates even if the sources are heavily selected as they are at that age.

  14. January 26, 2010 at 09:18

    I’d prefer that personality and age be left out of it. My reference to age was what has been taught in which decade. Therefore, someone in 1965 has been taught with a different methodology, different texts and different approach to someone in 2005, on a downwards sliding scale.

    I have seen 1943 textbooks too and consider them knowledge superior to subsequent books which could be called “knowledge-lite”. ESOL books are like that. Once crammed with information, now texts like Streetwise, Opportunities and the like are pretty pictures and ideas in English – very little hard information and why?

    1. Children would be bored;
    2. How can we know anything?

    Do you understand my annoyance with this?

    It would not be so bad if they linked to information on various topics but they don’t. Not only that but they contain errors and try to rename grammar – e.g. present progressive rather than present continuous. They also push this tolerance and relativity line to the limit.

    Contrast that to a book Britain Today, from a bit earlier, which gives students information on the Irish troubles, mentions the north south divide, talks about the amount of work each member of the Royal Family does or doesn’t do and goes into Brits’ reading habits by gender and age.

    One set of books teaches shoddy language, using estuary dialect and the other tells it as it is. That’s the sort of thing I’m referring to.

  15. January 28, 2010 at 08:18

    I can understand your annoyance James- I haven’t seen the textbooks so can’t comment, all I can talk about is the way that I was taught in the 1990s and I don’t think that it was neccessarily terrible. I’m pretty sure that there are good arguments that rigour has fallen since the 1940s in some instances but I don’t think the picture is uniform. I’d be interested to see some studies- it would be fascinating say to see what a randomly selected sample of people today understand and what a random sample of people from the forties understood.

  16. January 28, 2010 at 09:03

    It was in the 90s that the textbooks changed and so you might have used the older ones or not. A study such as you suggest would most likely reveal that knowledge is more specialized early. Given a 16 year old from both eras, the 16 year old then would have had more general knowledge on a wide variety of topics, as is shown in the occasional quizzes I run.

  17. January 28, 2010 at 21:32

    I think you need to go back a bit before the 90s and explore what was taught in High School, Secondary Modern and the Comprehensive. Did they have the same text books? Did they have the same curriculum? I don’t think they did…

    Just asking 😉

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