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Writing for Don’t Divide Us, Alex Standish considers the ways in which a seemingly well-intentioned campaign by Students Organising for Sustainability and the University and College Union is actually elitist, anti-democratic and, if successful, likely to make lives worse for many who are already disadvantaged.

The first question to ask is why are a group of students and the largest lecturers union in the UK seeking to use their campaign to ‘transform how and what we learn’ in schools and universities rather than raising awareness about these political issues? Their approach implies that there is something wrong with our current curriculum, even though students already learn about climate change and Britain’s colonial past in school subjects. Secondly, why would they put forward such as campaign without discussing the potential for indoctrination (tying learning to political outcomes) which will undoubtedly compromise the educational mission of schools and universities?

Read on at Don’t Divide Us.

The second edition of What Schools Should Teach: Disciplines, Subjects and the Pursuit of Truth (UCL Press 2021), edited by Education Forum members Alka Sehgal Cuthbert and Alex Standish, has been given a glowing review in the journal of the British Educational Research Association (BERA)…

“…One of the book’s strengths is that it responds to and rejects these demands using the argument that the justification for such curriculum knowledge is epistemic, not political. Ideologies and beliefs are created in political and socio-cultural conditions. In contrast, disciplinary knowledge is created within the process of its epistemic structuration. It is at the point where the knowledge is applied to the material world that it is open to ideological appropriation. However, that appropriation is not because of the power generated from its epistemic character but by the politics of knowledge use.”

The full review is available on the BERA site.

What Schools Should Teach: Disciplines, Subjects and the Pursuit of Truth is available in paperback, hardback and PDF versions from UCL Press.

Educator David J. Ferrero assesses the second edition of What Should Schools Teach?: Disciplines, Subjects and the Pursuit of Truth, edited by Education Forum members Alka Sehgal Cuthbert and Alex Standish…

What Should Schools Teach? is a profoundly countercultural book. It is nonetheless a book by and for professional educators whose contributors bring epistemological sophistication, extensive pedagogical content knowledge and a strong grasp of their disciplines’ intellectual and institutional histories to the question posed by the book’s audacious title.

…[It] restores much needed sanity to debates about schooling’s purpose. It makes an excellent primer for aspiring teachers, will be of interest to parents and other interested laypersons, and should be mandatory reading for educational policymakers throughout the Anglophone world.

Read the full review on Areo.

A perfect storm of competing pressures threatens to shortcut critical thinking about curriculum, writes Alka Sehgal Cuthbert in Schools Week…

For some, Ofsted’s emphasis on a knowledge-rich curriculum for all students has represented a welcome change from filling in content to fit schemas of generic skills. For many, and especially for leaders tasked with previously unimaginable levels of monitoring, predicting and recording, it has been understandably bewildering.

Amid this upheaval in school expectations and practices, schools have now been tasked with a new social justice mission, and the effect is especially pronounced in subjects like English literature, whose purpose and content are too broad and, as a result, hotly debated.

English teachers are increasingly expected to use their reading lists to promote active anti-racism. That pressure finds its source in a political outlook that shifts the terms of the debate from its usual dichotomy – wavering between the poles of understanding/expression and rule-bound linguistics/literary techniques – to put its entire focus on representation.

But, while the rhetoric is persuasive, the concept of representation has a long and contested history. At its worst, the idea is used to portray readers as blank slates rather than imaginatively active participants. It is used to justify control over what they are given access to, and how…

Read the whole article on Schools Week.

What Should Schools Teach? Disciplines, subjects and the pursuit of truth – edited by Education Forum members Alka Sehgal Cuthbert and Alex Standish as part of UCL Press’s Knowledge and the Curriculum book series – is now available in an expanded second addition.

In a special webinar to celebrate its publication, contributors Cosette Crisan, Michael Reiss, Christine Counsel, Alka Sehgal Cuthbert and Simon Toyne outlined the thinking behind their chapters, and UCL Professor of Curriulum Zongyi Deng responded with his thoughts on the book’s contribution to current educational discourse.

The video of the discussion can be seen on the UCL website.

Some quotes from Ian Mitchell’s review of the expanded second edition of What Should Schools Teach? (UCL Press, 2021), which was edited by Education Forum members Alka Seghal Cuthbert and Alex Standish.

‘…Seghal Cuthbert and Standish, aided by their team of subject experts, inject a healthy blend of cerebral intellect, classroom experience, and plain common sense into the curriculum debate. The well-researched content makes the contributors worthy of attention, with more than enough expertise to warrant moments of candour. There is no getting away, for instance, from the title’s implied meaning: what schools should be doing is not necessarily what they are doing.’

‘…if freed from the shackles of instrumental policies, teachers could even find themselves united by a simplicity of purpose, namely a moral, aesthetic and epistemological model of teaching and learning…’

‘If there is a common thread within the subject chapters, it is the need to understand and appreciate each discipline’s inherent value. Academic subjects are at best conservative (with a small ‘c’) in that they must conserve their discipline’s intrinsic value. It is a point made explicitly by Physics specialist, Gareth Sturdy (although it is echoed implicitly elsewhere): ‘we need to find, or re-find, what is truly unique about what we do, not only within the discipline but within the whole school, and have a robust faith in its intrinsic worth’.

Read the full review on the Secondary Ideas blog.