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On Freire, Hirsch and indoctrination: falling in love with statues is not always a good idea

In the first line of his epic poem, metamorphosis, the Roman poet Ovid sets the scene for the themes that he intends to cover, in nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora, my mind leads me to tell of forms changed into new bodies, or similar, myth and change is Ovid’s concern.

Later, much later, George Bernard Shaw borrowed a central character from the poem, Pygmalian, to name his most famous play. If you recall, Pygmalian falls in love with one of his own statues and with the help of Aphrodite brings the statue to life. I sometime wonder if you can fall in love with ideas in the same way, become blind to their flaws.

I was pondering Pygmalian, the play that is,  when reading Daisy Christodoulou’s BLOG about Ed Hirsch. His critics accuse his Core Knowledge Foundation of being, well to be impolite, little more than a tool of state indoctrination. In the play, a young cockney flower seller becomes the object of a bet made by  phoneticist Henry Higgins, to the effect that he could teach the unfortunate Doolittle the ways of the ruling classes and pass her off as a duchess. The joke, in so far as there is one, is that a linguistically perfect flower seller is no more authentic than the foul mouthed cockney flower seller. Shaw is lampooning Victorian values and middle class morality.

You see, I think that there are some bloggers who believe that if only the poor could be, well a little bit more like the middle classes, the world or at least this tiny part of the world would be, all the better. They believe that knowledge has intrinsic value and that there is a body of knowledge that allows people to be more successful in life.

Some knowledge does have intrinsic value and has a relationship with the real world. I suspect that medical knowledge has value in society and I am quite sure that it has some relationship with the real world, if I was to lose a limb , no amount of post modernist thought would grow it back again.

Of course the intrinsic value of knowledge does not give us any indication of it’s relative value. Medical knowledge is deemed to be more valuable than that of, for example, a binman, or Waste Disposal Engineer, if you will. We could argue forever about the relative value of knowledge, up to the point where the word banker is mentioned. Argument over, surely no one can consider that the knowledge of bankers is worth millions whilst teachers worth, well considerably less than millions. In this case, it is the markets that determines the relative value of knowledge. Good thing, or no I suppose is dependent upon opinion. Much much worse, in my view, is that the intrinsic value of educational knowledge is decided by someone like Michael Gove or, indeed, Tristram Hunt.

Relative value is not the only problem. Some knowledge is socially constructed, and has value only to the extent of the  inter-subjective value placed on it by society. Knowledge is not so much power but the powerful own knowledge. As Bourdieu points out culture and the knowledge of it, is a means of symbolic exchange. The Queen waves her pinky in the air when she drinks tea, to differentiate herself from you and me, the knowledge of how to drink tea like the Queen only works when you are the Queen. It has no intrinsic value,  if you, or I, try to waggle our pinky in Asda’s cafe we just look like social inadequates. And of course that’s the point, we are social inadequates, that is, if you believe, that the knowledge of the Queen is worth knowing.

Of course, Core Knowledge is fundamental to the work of Ed Hirsch. His  view is that accessing the knowledge of the powerful would empower the poor. I think that Hirsch has a point, allowing the poor to develop a discourse far removed from that of successful professionals is an issue. In the short term, in the here and now, it sounds like a fine idea. Why shouldn’t we teach youngsters the cultural literacy that they need to interact with middle class discourse?

The question, though, is whether the discourse of professionals, is actually success, when measured in terms, other than the success of an individual in the here and now. The Core Knowledge discourse is embedded in a very individualistic ideologically driven form of classic Liberalism that puts the markets and the individual at the  forefront of education.

The alternative to  Hirsch, is  Paulo Freire’s view  that you have to challenge the discourse of the powerful to achieve a more democratic society. And whether that has worked is debatable. It depends on your politics. You see most of the great thinkers of Philosophy, sociology or anything else do not think that knowledge is at the centre of cognition. In fact, cognition comprises of many things but language is regarded as one of the most important aspects of thinking. It shapes the way we think. What would the world be without language? You do not become culturally literate, that presumes that culture exists external to thought, rather culture defines how you think.

And, if we are to teach our children the language and knowledge of the social elite, how then do we challenge society and change it, presuming of course that change is desirable. You see I think that Gove has adopted Core Knowledge not because he wants to change the world or even give the poor a chance. I think that is, an example, of a politician expediently adopting the discourse of the Left to sell his idea. Gramsci is another Govian victim.

I think the reality is that Gove finds himself in a world of change. In a nation that is multi-cultural, multi-lingual and increasingly fractured.  Gove feels that what is required is less change, and more stability. I think he also thinks that improving the skills of the poor would make them more employable, less of an economic burden. Of course, you can see his point. If education was about resolving the social problems of the here and now, then Core Knowledge has some appeal. New Labour had Every Child Matters, whilst Gove has Core Knowledge. The success that Gove has had establishing the educational narrative that we currently have, is underlined by the fact that Gove has sold Core Knowledge as an educational policy, when in fact it is, in reality, a social one.

So the question is whether Core Knowledge is indoctrination? Well clearly it is. Is indoctrination always bad? That’s a difficult question. In strictly utilitarian terms you may argue that the indoctrination of the Liberal west is better than that of extremist Islam. Or the reverse possibly, depending on your stance.

Is it likely to improve social justice? I think not. I wonder how an education system that endorses the knowledge of the social elite could deliver social justice. This is not about evidence, in reality there is no evidence for one view or another.  Hirsch argues that to access the power of the social elite you have to buy into their ideas and knowledge. You have to be culturally literate. This suggests that culture is fixed, a “thing in itself”. By his own definition Hirsch believes in indoctrination. By its definition, indoctrination is the process of inculcating ideas and attitudes. Hirsch, accepts that, he just thinks that it is a good thing.

I can actually see his point. What I fail to see is how anyone can argue that Core Knowledge is not indoctrination. My guess is that sometimes you can fall too much in love with an idea.

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23 thoughts on “On Freire, Hirsch and indoctrination: falling in love with statues is not always a good idea

  1. I’m sure that I commented a while back that when you try to argue based on hidden agendas then you end up with nothing but ad hominems and here we are with a position dependent on criticising the motives of others but not their arguments. Now, perhaps every person who ever wanted the working class to have access to the discourse, opportunities, knowledge of the middle class, even working class people who want this, might have some sinister agenda beyond empowerment. But that in no way makes any kind of case for keeping the poor ignorant. You actually need to identify why the working class have such a weak sense of identity that if they were to encounter any part of middle class culture – if they were to understand it or appropriate it – they would be indoctrinated by it. You also need to explain why your conception of what the working class should think, even if it is based on the idea of some kind of existing proletarian consciousness that you believe exists and you wish to preserve, is actually any less a vision of a social elite than any other. After all, saying “we love the working class as they are” is, in practice, not much different from saying “know your place!” There’s really nothing appealing about an educated middle class person saying “this is not for the likes of you” even when they claim it’s meant with affection, respect and regard for the position of those they seek to deprive.

    Also, did you mean to be that personally insulting and patronising with the Pygmalian stuff? I’m really hoping it was an accident and you weren’t aware that Daisy’s from the east end.

    1. Of course I didn’t know Daisy was from the East End. I don’t know Daisy I’ve just read her 7 myths and responded to it. I was trying to make the point that Core Knowledge has echos of Shaw, because it does.

      I haven’t really personally criticised Daisy I was merely suggesting that sometimes you can love an idea so much you fall in love with it and become blind to it’s flaws. I write about what I find interesting. And I don’t have hidden agendas. It’s hardly a heinous insult.

      Not unusually I wonder whether you have read what I have written. I question whether the knowledge of the middle classes is worth knowing. I accept that medical knowledge has intrinsic value but not Dickens etc.

      Hirsch has an interesting idea, cultural literacy I kind of agree with it but at the same time wonder how you can change society if you only value the language of power.

      Point One

      “You actually need to identify why the working class have such a weak sense of identity that if they were to encounter any part of middle class culture – if they were to understand it or appropriate it – they would be indoctrinated by it.”

      I didn’t say they did. All education is indoctrination. My point was to question whether middle class knowledge is worth knowing and whether the particular knowledge being advocated was being appropriated by a political ideology.

      “The question, though, is whether the discourse of professionals, is actually success, when measured in terms, other than the success of an individual in the here and now. The Core Knowledge discourse is embedded in a very individualistic ideologically driven form of classic Liberalism that puts the markets and the individual at the forefront of education.”

      Point 2

      “But that in no way makes any kind of case for keeping the poor ignorant.”

      I agree I actually said this:

      “His view is that accessing the knowledge of the powerful would empower the poor. I think that Hirsch has a point, allowing the poor to develop a discourse far removed from that of successful professionals is an issue.”

      So I partially agree with Hirsch

      “There’s really nothing appealing about an educated middle class person saying “this is not for the likes of you” even when they claim it’s meant with affection, respect and regard for the position of those they seek to deprive.”

      Agreed but I didn’t say that.

      I re-iterate I said this:

      “I think that Hirsch has a point, allowing the poor to develop a discourse far removed from that of successful professionals is an issue.”

      My point was that the purpose of education is to emancipate people but I question whether that can be done by teaching them the discourse of the middle classes.

      And that if you do teach people the discourse of the middle classes whether in big picture terms you can ever change society for the better.

      And I always refer to Bourdieu and Lyotard. The value of most knowledge is not intrinsic. It only has value because few people know it. If lot’s of people know it, it would have no value.

      Finally as I say all education is indoctrination. Mostly the indoctrination is tacit. Core Knowledge makes it explicit.

      1. “Not unusually I wonder whether you have read what I have written. I question whether the knowledge of the middle classes is worth knowing. I accept that medical knowledge has intrinsic value but not Dickens etc.”

        I ignored this point as it seems pretty irrelevant. Or perhaps I just mean nonsensical. Seems to me that one might learn medicine for an extrinsic purpose, e.g. to earn money as a doctor, and about Dickens for an intrinsic purpose, i.e. because it is good, in itself, to know Dickens.

        Regardless, where does it get us? You can decry particular types of knowledge if you like. You are still doing so from a position of being middle class.

        “I didn’t say they did. All education is indoctrination.”

        Not in the sense most people use the word.

        “My point was to question whether middle class knowledge is worth knowing and whether the particular knowledge being advocated was being appropriated by a political ideology.”

        That latter point is an ad hominem. The former point seems unhelpful unless you are willing to either a) suggest something else to be learnt or b) advocate barring the working class from education.

        “The question, though, is whether the discourse of professionals, is actually success, when measured in terms, other than the success of an individual in the here and now. The Core Knowledge discourse is embedded in a very individualistic ideologically driven form of classic Liberalism that puts the markets and the individual at the forefront of education.”

        Better keep the working class poor and powerless, then, if advancing their interests is ideologically suspect.

        “My point was that the purpose of education is to emancipate people but I question whether that can be done by teaching them the discourse of the middle classes.”

        And I questioned the advantages of keeping the working class ignorant of that discourse, a point you seem to have dismissed rather than answered.

      2. “I ignored this point as it seems pretty irrelevant. Or perhaps I just mean nonsensical. Seems to me that one might learn medicine for an extrinsic purpose, e.g. to earn money as a doctor, and about Dickens for an intrinsic purpose, i.e. because it is good, in itself, to know Dickens.”

        It’s not non sensical it’s at the core of the debate. How do we value knowledge. You might think Dickens is good “in itself” but I may not. How do we value it?

        That is what I am truing to get at.

        “Regardless, where does it get us? You can decry particular types of knowledge if you like. You are still doing so from a position of being middle class.”

        You place a value on being middle class. Maybe I don’t. How do you value being middle class when to all intents and purposes many tradesman or the traditional working classes earn more.

        How do I value my “middle class” knowledge, if society doesn’t. Or at least doesn;t in any meaningful way that I can identify.

        “That latter point is an ad hominem. The former point seems unhelpful unless you are willing to either a) suggest something else to be learnt or b) advocate barring the working class from education.”

        My being “middle class” is not ad hominem but my suggesting that knowledge is being politicised is? How does that work out?

        If you are to suggest that the politicisation of knowledge is ad hominem how can we ever discuss anything?

        “Better keep the working class poor and powerless, then, if advancing their interests is ideologically suspect.”

        You aren’t advancing their interests. Quite the opposite.Implicit to your assumptions is this red herring.

        “And I questioned the advantages of keeping the working class ignorant of that discourse, a point you seem to have dismissed rather than answered.”

        I make the point over and over again. That presumes that the knowledge of the middle classes is worth knowing. I question whether it is.

        You don’t seem to be dealing with the central issue, which is what makes knowledge valuable. That is the important question

      3. “Out of interest what do you think of Bourdieu’s arguments around Social and Cultural Capital?”

        Depends how you define them but identifying that knowledge has cultural capital is fine. The problem starts when you try to suggest that knowledge has intrinsic value just because it has cultural capital, as Old Andrew tries to do.

    2. After all, saying “we love the working class as they are” is, in practice, not much different from saying “know your place!”

      this is not true..how about the fact that the working class often knows why they are oppressed and who it benefits…that’s valuable knowledge …the problem is they have this knowledge but often they are not in a position which could afford them the ability to use that knowledge to better their circumstances….working class people aren’t stupid and they don’t deserve their place and that’s not what the author means by this statement and it’s plainly obvious if one take the time to think about it for a second. what the author means by the statement that “we love working class people as they are”, is they are not responsible for their oppression and there’s nothing inherently wrong with them that makes them oppressed…and certainly their oppression is not a result of a lack of “middle-class” knowledge as your false equivalence would seem to suggest…what is “middle-class” knowledge anyway? In America, middle-class people tend to be more timid in the face of power and privilege then working-class people…they become sheep, politically illiterate sheep as a result of their education…unless of course their education outside the formal schooling system and mass media system prevents them from becoming sheep ..and indeed there are many who are able to avoid becoming sheep. I think a more important question to ask is what is deficient in the education of privileged people that causes them to oppress working people. I think society would do well to reflect on that question..cause I’m sure they’re reading Shakespeare…and yet what good is it doing for society? how about the indoctrination of the privileged at places like Harvard and Yale…I think the poor would benefit more from reading Freire then reading Shakespeare and indeed plenty of poor and working-class people in Latin America have been empowered and positively impacted by the writings of Freire …why? cause he speaks to their condition as oppressed individuals needing to throw off the yoke of oppression….does shakespeare do that?and yet which author is included in CK..this just demonstrates how CK is just purely arbitrary…the problem is not with the works in CK….the problem is with the entire concept of a CK as being inherently valuable to everyone regardless of their circumstances and regardless of the knowledge which they already bring to the table from their experiences outside of a formal schooling system…no one is saying that this knowledge can’t be interrogated and critiqued but of course this is an argument that gets repeated over and over again by critics of critical pedagogy.it’s a pure strawman argument..it is necessary to bring the knowledge that students learn outside the classroom into the classroom so that knowledge can be valued, critiqued, interrogated, and analyzed…not so it can be blindly accepted by the teacher as inherent truth…Freire is clear on this…advocates of critical pedagogy are clear on this…yet critics continue to argue a strawman for solely ideological reasons.

  2. Is knowledge of Freire in England part of the everyday discourse of the kids of the working class or does knowledge of Freire belong more to a privileged middle class academic elite?

    Who owns Shakespeare? The bourgeoisie?

    1. Thank you for commenting. I’m not sure I fully understand your point in the context of what I have written but anyway…..!

      For the record I am not an academic. I teach and am prodded, poked and observed the same as others on here.

      I am paid less than some skilled and semi skilled workers in local factories and certainly less than many tradesmen.

      But the real question is whether Shakespeare has any intrinsic value. Clearly it doesn’t. Other than the fact that the knowledge allows you to access a certain discourse it’s pretty pointless to know.

      So the question is whether teaching lots of people knowledge that has almost no intrinsic value and whose only value rests on the fact that relatively few people know it, is purposeful.

      And the answer is clearly no. As I point out knowing how to drink tea like the Queen is only useful to the Queen.

      1. Perhaps you didn’t understand my point because I didn’t make a point, I asked a couple of questions. Thank you for replying. Your answers are interesting.

        If knowledge of Shakespeare is pretty pointless and has no intrinsic value does that also mean that knowledge of any art is pretty pointless and has no intrinsic value?

        I would venture that more people know Shakespeare & his works than know of both Lyotard and Bourdieu and their works, therefore does the fact that you ‘always refer’ to them suffer from the complaint that you make about this knowledge only having value because relatively few people know about it ?

        Should your obscure arguments be ignored as they only have value because only relatively few people think like you about, say, Shakespeare?

      2. “If knowledge of Shakespeare is pretty pointless and has no intrinsic value does that also mean that knowledge of any art is pretty pointless and has no intrinsic value?”

        How are these two questions related? How does “any art” relate to Shakespeare?

        I think when the author said “relatively few people know about it” what she meant to say was relatively few people have deemed it intrinsically valuable for no better reason except that they were in a position of power and privilege to do so…in that case the knowledge is not actually intrinsically valuable…it’s valuable because a few people who view themselves as more cultured and sophisticated then us peons were able to dictate to the school system what we should know and how we should know about it…yet another system of power with no legitimacy.

  3. I think knowledge only has value to a person as it empowers and makes them become more fully human in the Freirian sense…what you do you think? It seems people love to debate over what knowledge is valuable which clearly is a pointless debate because it’s different for every person…It would seem a much more interesting question to ask is how does this knowledge or that knowledge become valuable to the individual…I think this is an especially important question for teachers

    1. Or perhaps it becomes important to society and the relationship between social knowledge and that of individual knowledge.

      Thank you for commenting Reflective thinking.

    2. If you are attacking the idea of knowledge as doxa rather than as logos then do we have to argue that there is a hierarchy of knowledge? If there is a hierarchy of knowledge and some knowledge is more important than other knowledge then what is tthe argument you posit about what this knowledge is and why it is more important?

      Secondly, do you think the individual is more important than the collective? If so, do you agree with Margaret Thatcher that ‘there is no such thing as society’ and that collective knowledge, culture and customs are oppressors of the free individual who should have dominion over all, completely sustained by what they want, finding their own way, with the consequences that might pertain to that type of organising principle?

      The value of knowledge is a marketised concept I suppose? Valuable knowledge could be exchanged or used to barter one’s way through life. Capitalism in extremis. Is there the possibility that some forms of knowledge might actually be more nourishing for the human spirit than other ‘knowledges’? Is there a baseness of knowledge that one could be, say, corrupted by? Is there a ‘truth’ in knowledge, a ‘beauty’ in knowledge that can elevate humanity towards wisdom and eloquence in the hope that we might improve ourselves beyond just the material?

      1. Hi SurrealAnarchy you ask some interesting questions but I’ve lost track of whose responding to who.

        The comments section of word press is not clear. Is the post above aimed at me?

  4. “It’s not non sensical it’s at the core of the debate. How do we value knowledge. You might think Dickens is good “in itself” but I may not. How do we value it?”

    And, as I say, this i irrelevant. It is already valued. Now you may wish to argue that the working class shouldn’t have access to this valued knowledge, but it is up to you to make this case, and not up to others to establish why it is valued in order to justify letting the working class know about it.

    “You place a value on being middle class. Maybe I don’t.”

    You are missing the point. Why are your opinions not equally subject to the charges you make against others?

    “My being “middle class” is not ad hominem but my suggesting that knowledge is being politicised is? How does that work out?”

    They are both ad hominems. That’s the point.

    “If you are to suggest that the politicisation of knowledge is ad hominem how can we ever discuss anything?”

    I don’t have a clue how you expect to discuss anything. As I’ve already pointed out.

    “You aren’t advancing their interests.”

    Aren’t I? Is it not in the interests of the working class to have access to what the middle classes have? Is deprivation good for the likes of them?

    “I make the point over and over again. That presumes that the knowledge of the middle classes is worth knowing. I question whether it is.”

    On what grounds? What are the advantages of ignorance?

    “You don’t seem to be dealing with the central issue, which is what makes knowledge valuable. That is the important question”

    It really isn’t. Hirsch’s argument accepts that the knowledge is already valued by the elite. Perhaps, the elite are wrong, perhaps ignorance of what they know has its advantages, but so far you have not come up with anything to justify this. Or deal with the problem that any position from a middle class person about what the working class shouldn’t no, is as external to the working class as any opinion about what they should know but without even having egalitarianism as a justification.

    1. “And, as I say, this i irrelevant. It is already valued. Now you may wish to argue that the working class shouldn’t have access to this valued knowledge, but it is up to you to make this case, and not up to others to establish why it is valued in order to justify letting the working class know about it.”

      And I say the process of how it became valued is exactly what is relevant. This is not about which class should have access to which knowledge. that’s different from talking about what knowledge is going to be valuable for each individual and how a teacher has to go about deciding that…taking into account class as well as other factors. I don’t know why you view class as the sole determining factor anyway…obviously it’s important but it’s not the only thing that”s important.. when a teacher makes the decision to teach one thing he or she is inevitably excluding a lot of other things…that’s just inevitable whether the teacher adheres to CK or not… this is the problem with a CK. it’s inherently limiting because inevitably it excludes a lot of knowledge and makes a decision on which knowledge is valuable for the student without knowing the student. the question is not whether both the poor and the middle class should have access to Hirsch’s core knowledge…the question is why in the world is there a core knowledge, that anyone regardless of class, should be absolutely required to know…you really misunderstand what the debate is about here…who is arguing that the working class shouldn’t have access to all the knowledge that is included in CK?…no one is arguing that..so stop arguing a strawman…the argument that I am making at least and I see the author making is that there shouldn’t be a CK whether for rich or for poor or for middle class….proponents of CK have to argue why the tons of knowledge outside the CK shouldn’t be taught…you wanna take up defending that?? I would like to hear a coherent and reasoned justification for that.

      “Perhaps, the elite are wrong, perhaps ignorance of what they know has its advantages, but so far you have not come up with anything to justify this.”

      I’ve already come up with some justifications…why don’t you answer them???why don’t you tell me why they don’t make any sense? instead of just repeating yourself over and over again and arguing strawmen

      “Aren’t I? Is it not in the interests of the working class to have access to what the middle classes have? Is deprivation good for the likes of them?”

      it seems like your conflating the economic well-being of a person with whether or not they know anything about Shakespeare or Dickens? please explain how the latter causes the former…perhaps they are correlated just because the middle class person might have received a curriculum in which Shakespeare and Dickens were taught and the working class student did not but to say that there’s causation here…that’s absurd on it’s face…your burden is to prove the intrinsic value and you don’t prove it by making this argument. students who are born into the middle and upper class receive a broader curriculum…poor kids are drilled in test prep and receive narrower curriculum…at least that is how it’s done here in the U.S…but that’s just correlation…their narrower curriculum didn’t cause their class status..

    2. in other words this….”People who are powerful have knowledge, it does not mean that the knowledge they have gives them power. Or at least the knowledge that gives them power may not be worth knowing. Indeed it may be the kind of knowledge that no one should value.” (taken from solocontrotutti’s last post) in order to justify CK you have to prove that the people who have power and privilege got their power and privilege because they learn CK and the poor kids don’t…you can’t prove this..the notion is patently absurd and it’s also elitist…George W. Bush didn’t become president of the U.S.A. because he’s smarter then you or me, God forbid…George W. Bush became president of the U.S. because their were power structures already in place which allowed him to attain that position. it’s that simple…and that’s why this defense that somehow CK is justified because it allows the privileged and middle classes to have better lives then the poor is patently absurd…the poor and the working classes all across the world are where they are because the privileged classes have built power structures which allow them to expand and retain their privilege at the expense of huge masses of people..not because they know CK and poor people don’t..I can’t believe we actually have to make this point since really it should be on the level of conventional wisdom.

      1. I think there are inevitably problems with the idea of central dictation of Core Knowledge. However, in England, there should be no doubt that teaching Shakespeare to Children is far more enriching and important than teaching the oeuvre of One Direction or the gameplay of Call of Duty. As a society we should discuss and make choices and where people come together values are able to be decided and these will inevitably alter with time and debate. That isto say that we should have the debate, it is not to say that some knowledge is ‘middle class’. Knowledge, itself, is classless.

      2. it depends on how you use call of duty…for instance you could use it to talk about the militarization of culture…the difference between war in a video game and war in real life…..how we’ve so trivialized war and what it means about our values….values we may not even be fully aware of…I mean you could probably use it to access a number of discourses that I can’t name off the top of my head..obviously this doesn’t mean that you all play COD in class…what teacher would honestly suggest such a thing? only one who doesn’t know what he or she is doing…one who has no goal in mind except “let the kids be free and explore”. as the author says the knowledge is used to access a particular discourse…knowledge of call of duty is knowledge at the level of doxa…when it’s used to access a discourse….when that discourse is then used to affect society…then it becomes logos..then it becomes meaningful..then it becomes empowering….then it makes you more aware of the forces which shape your existence in the world, forces which you might not recognize yet but once you do, you might seek to extricate yourself from their grasp in order to become more fully human in the Freirian sense….this is the same with Shakespeare…I’m always amazed at professors who tell their students “you should value this because it’s one of the great works…it because it’s considered high culture.” and then they teach it from this high perch, asserting that students just have to get it and if they don’t oh well, there’s something flawed about you…you’re not sophisticated enough to appreciate this beautiful old English…I’ve had teachers tell me this…I had a teacher tell me I don’t belong in honors English because, during a socratic seminar, I sought to bring up the negative implications of basing your society off religious fanaticism while discussing the Scarlet Letter..I sought to make parallels with Islamic fundamentalism.but no when your a “New Criticism” teacher you treat works as autonomous…you divorce them from their historical context and their societal implications and all you focus on is the aesthetics of the work..you analyze the symbolism and the motifs and all the other literary devices to death until eventually you feel like your English teacher is just literally making stuff up about what this symbol means or what that symbol means..and eventually you start thinking to yourself, “What is the purpose of this?” What does this teach me about myself, my relation to the world, this book’s relation to the world. and then I realized my teacher actually views this as a science, I can’t have my own thoughts about this book..I can’t express my own thoughts about this book…I can’t get outside this discourse she’s using to analyze this book because for her, either it’s right or it’s wrong and my relation to the work doesn’t matter..and you know what…I was made to feel stupid because of this “New Criticism”….unworthy…like there was something high and mighty beyond my comprehension and will to conform….well thank you teacher for ruining the Scarlet Letter for me..well I didn’t know it back in high school…but now I know there’s a word for this I already mentioned “New Criticism” and I’ve read the critiques and now, from an academic point of view I understand what I felt back then…and it’s incredibly empowering..I am certain that if students were made aware of what New Criticism is and then think about their frustrations with assigned reading in English Class, they would absolutely feel vindicated …perhaps I might even go back and read the scarlet letter again now that I’m free of the constraints which that teacher set upon me…I don’t know….

        I agree…I do think knowledge is classless…those comments were directed at teachingbattleground who has implied a number of times that knowledge is associated with class.

    3. It seems to me that there there is one argument that needs to be resolved and it’s summed up here:

      “And, as I say, this is irrelevant. It is already valued. Now you may wish to argue that the working class shouldn’t have access to this valued knowledge, but it is up to you to make this case, and not up to others to establish why it is valued in order to justify letting the working class know about it.”

      And let me make it clear I’m not attributing any ideologies to anyone rather how do you change society when it’s values are wrong.

      That is to say, how would you maintain the argument in apartheid South Africa, Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany?

      In the 1850’s would you have maintained the view that gay people should be imprisoned?

      As reflectivethinking says: the context in which something is valued is important. It is not possible to justify the stance that we have to value what is already valued.

      How would the enlightenment ever occurred if society accepted the view that something that is already valued is the only thing that’s worth valuing?

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