Where I come from there is a tradition of drinking Benedictine. For those not in the know Benedictine is a herbal liqueur developed by Alexandre Le Grand. I don’t know how many on eduTwitter drink “bene “n” hot” but I do, it’s a tradition. Apparently, soldiers from East Lancashire used to drink benedictine to keep warm during the first world war. Tradition is the means by which we are socialised into ways of knowing.
Of course, we all have reason. The power of reason enables each individual to escape their circumstance; only to an extent, or as Marx put it ” (wo) men make their own history but they do not make it as they please”.
Knowledge is power became the byword for the enlightenment. Subsequent thinkers such as Foucault and other postmodernists challenged the theory that knowledge is power, or rather, they agreed that knowledge is power but it carried the power of those who seek to oppress us, keep us subservient.
Postmodernists argued that the enlightenment concept of “the self” is a myth. Individuals do not use knowledge to think but rather are conditioned by it. Power is implicit to legitimised knowledge and language structures. Arguably society is a complex infrastructure of power relations at the heart of which is the “will to power”.
Each individual is seeking some means to exploit a position to achieve better in the competition of life. The left would argue that it is true of an Eton educated politician exploiting contacts to further their own career. The right would make the same point about progressive feminists or race campaigners over-exploiting the plight of others to establish some academic point or other. Power is ubiquitous. Like carbon monoxide, it is all around us, lethal to human emancipation.
This particular train of thought began with @surrealanarchy’s eduBlog about Roger Scruton and Michaela Community School. Roger Scruton is a well-renowned philosopher. I am not familiar with his work. I have read his polemics in the media and can only assume his scholarly work is much more insightful. The school strapline is “knowledge is power” and it’s vision “to know the best that has been said and thought”.
We believe all pupils, whatever their background, have a right to access the best that has been said and thought. This includes a variety of writers, from all parts of the world, and thinkers from all the ages. The curriculum at Michaela Community School ensures that pupils are knowledgeable enough about the world around them to transform it in the future.
The source of the the vision is the deficit knowledge model of Ed Hirsch.
Our curriculum will provide a contemporary approach to these timeless principles by utilizing best practice from across the world. In particular, we are inspired by the work of E.D. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge Curriculum in America. This curriculum has had great success in placing a traditional body of knowledge at the heart of its curriculum.
Knowledge is not power. Knowledge is a challenge to our ability to think. Descartes did not say “I know therefore I am,” he said, “I think therefore I am”. The enlightenment was not built with foundations based on knowledge but upon skepticism. If we do not understand and challenge knowledge; it imprisons us. That is the essence of the dialectic. The tradition, of tradition, is to challenge knowledge structures; to re-construct them in better ways.
I was still thinking about this as I read tweets by @imagininquiry about Foucault. Implicit to Foucault’s thinking is a challenge to modern forms of knowledge, rationality, social institutions, and subjectivity that seems given and natural but in fact are contingent socio-historical constructs of power and domination. For Foucault and Freire the essence of education is not to accumulate knowledge as a “thing in itself” but to learn how to challenge it; build upon it progressively and avoid creating new power structures even where they seem to have progressive foundations.