Knowledge. It’s important. Genuinely.
Not simply to feed the exams factory, but because it empowers. It enables those in possession of it to better interact and engage with the world around them. It develops resilience to ignorance which brings with it resilience to manipulation. It facilitates the identification, pursuit and experience of those things which satisfy the soul – the pursuit of the Good Life, as some might prefer to call it .
The question then becomes: why would we deny that to children? And more specifically, why would we be most stubborn in our denial toward those children who have already been denied it the most? If knowledge is capital, then why ignore poverty or assume that in this poverty can be found the means for making us richer?
In (one of) my subject(s), History, this is a live issue. If we expect a child to be able to analyse and evaluate the decisive factors in Elizabeth’s decision to execute her cousin (once removed), then they need to understand precisely how Mary’s claim to Elizabeth’s throne was construed. In short, to facilitate understanding (rather than learning those factors by rote) they need to know the historical equivalent of their times table – the family history, the spent family lines, the logic of divorce and marriage and succession, and so forth.
Not all children arrive at the level of sophistication required to enable them to synthesise such a morass of complex information and outline, to a high standard, precisely why Elizabeth chose to act as she did. Or at least not all arrive there at the same time. Yet in building their base, they give themselves the platform upon which to get there. In other words, the knowledge is not wasted, either in the pursuit and facilitation of understanding, nor in the broader development of intellect and the individual.
But it also goes deeper than that. In my relatively short experience in the classroom, one truth that has presented itself to me over and over is that kids like to know stuff. By and large they like to feel clever, indeed wise. It gives them a spring in their step. They like to correct answers, educate family members and hold, so far as their levels of maturity allow, intelligent discussions to which they can contribute as one whose contribution is respected.
Expressed differently, knowledge empowers; enlivens; ennobles.
And it does this, and can do this, irrespective of social class or family circumstance.
…et vir doctus robustus et validus