Cultural Literacy

Education: Despite promises to loosen the parameters on what must be taught, SATs and so on, the current government seems set to bring in yet more targets. This time, though, they are based on the American concept of “Cultural Literacy” as set out by ED Hirsch.

Such a core knowledge base makes many assumptions regarding Englishness or Britishness (which?); who decides what should be in the core? Why? How are other experiences and knowledge to be treated?

For me the worry is that knowledge is paramount over thinking. If we cannot think creatively and critically there’s no hope for us. For starters, knowledge is about “facts” but, on close inspection, facts often have many facets – we need to be able to evaluate their veracity, weighing them against each other – and, preferably, being aware of bias from our own background. Maybe that’s one point where I’d need to consider my “Englishness”. Or Somersetness. Or Californianness.

How many of us need to recall any of the facts we learned at school (or after) if we went to university? (I can’t remember Kreb’s Cycle now but I did a helluva good answer on it in an exam in the ‘80s.) But we use the learning, thinking, awareness, creativity and critical evaluation processes that we learned then in our daily lives now.

Cultural Literacy

Rule Britannia;
core knowledge kids should know:
C of E;
Do-re-mi;
Laura Ashley; CEO.

Rule Britannia;
we know what’s best for you:
rugby, cricket;
digestive biscuits;
Piglet and Winnie-the-Pooh.

Rule Britannia;
we’re your cultural elite
know what is best
forget the rest:
worship at our feet.

Rule Britannia;
ye merrie England still exists;
plebs in place
p(h)easants in braces;
when in doubt we all get pissed.

Rule Britannia;
don’t look for missing links.
read our tracts,
regurgitate our “facts”;
don’t think to learn,
don’t learn to think.

Based on a blog by Michael Rosen
and also on this piece from the Grauniad.

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8 Responses to Cultural Literacy

  1. harryowen says:

    If ‘education’ is not based on the encouragement of critical THINKING, then it is worthless. Thank you for this creative reminder.

  2. Oh very, very nice – playful and scathing at the same time, with a nice jolly “oh so British” rhythm to keep us all in step! A lot of fun!

    • Myfanwy Fox says:

      Cheers, Holly.
      The rhythm’s not sing-a-longable (everyone will be glad to know, if they’ve heard my singing) but glad the ‘rule Britannia’ gives the impression of the original.

  3. Interesting post Fran … agree Holly’s comments re the poem, love the rhythm …

  4. Myfanwy Fox says:

    Thanks, Polly.
    A quickie poem but shoved it out unedited so it’s topical.
    (Next blog will be about yesterday’s walk – thanks! But may be a day or two – work etc at the moment.)

  5. Adrian Mealing says:

    Cheers, Fran. The great Adrian Mitchell refused permission for his poems to be used in examinations for all those reasons! aye best, Adrian

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