man with steel artificial arm sitting in front of white table
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As the profession reacts to Spielman’s pushing for richer and better thought out curriculums (School Inspector Threatens D- For Exam Factories) it is time to return to thinking about a long term curriculum for pupils rather than a short term curriculum for the school. A while ago we published a controversial blog asking if it would ever be possible to create a curriculum for the white working class. Most replies suggested that people very much hoped we would never create such a curriculum. They did miss the point that we have already got a curriculum for the white working class – the one that they currently study and in some places, reject. We asked, why is it that those in the UK, ourselves included, react uncomfortably when asked to design a separate curriculum for anyone, rather like the curriculum which we see in Germany?

It now seems that Germany have issues with the two sided curriculum they design. Joe Kaeser, who leads the Siemens group, said at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed a thought he’s been having and saying for some time: the fourth industrial revolution is going to make a lot of people redundant. Anyone in a job where some of that work can be done by computers will see their sector shrink and this means large numbers of people will need to retrain for other careers. People will have to take the knowledge they have learned in one context and move to another working context. I suggest this gives us an opportunity to think about the knowledge we provide as part of the school curriculum as we, as a profession, are producing the 21st century generation of workers for this fourth industrial revolution.

Whilst I see many issues with Bourdieu’s work on habitus (a difficult to define body of knowledge which reproduces cultural and social hierarchies), I have found the notion of transposable habitus much more relevant to today’s society. This is the notion that when you arrive at a new context you use both your explicit and tacit knowledge to help you meet the challenges of the new context. My doctoral research found that pre-service teachers on arrival for their post graduate teaching course immediately set up private social networking groups through WhatsApp and closed Facebook pages, groups which excluded those in power: mentors, tutors and so forth. This tacit knowledge – the use of private social media interactions to subvert power lines, access & create knowledge, and resolve community & individual problems is both transposable and also seen in other areas of society. The European Research Group, run by Jacob Reese Mogg, uses a WhatsApp group to function from within the Conservative party.

There exists, I suggest, knowledge which is more transposable. Knowledge which is better suited to being moved from context to context. Knowledge which is not rooted precisely in context, but which functions very well when moved from one context to another: how to collaborate successfully, how to problem solve, fundamental ideas from academic subjects which apply to a wide range of situations and so forth. A transposable curriculum of knowledge which would help those entering a workplace going through the fourth industrial revolution. A period of regular transition rather than a lifetime of working in one context.

When I look at the curriculum in schools for transposable knowledge I see a variable picture. We are doing well in some areas and not so well in others. Knowing explicit knowledge as part of learning has improved, but the debate over what should be known has somewhat stalled, caught in an intellectual vice. There is also a lack of tacit knowledge in many of these curriculums. Something which Spielman sees in her attack on the ‘PiXLfication of education’.. Being able to interact with others online and physically in fluid ways e.g. as a temporary community of practice, is patchily done. Efficient online interactions are clearly not being taught despite efforts from the DfE to push it into the PSHE curriculum. It’s not only ‘programming in code’ that every child needs to know, it’s interacting with others online in a safe and productive way. Physical social interaction skills also need work. Being able to show up to a new context and be socially confident has to be part of a transposable habitus.

Imagine a GCSE in Physical and Online Social Interactions. Imagine Physical Education reformed as Physical and Mental Health Education. Can you? It’s that kind of contemporary and bold thinking I think we are missing from our curriculum planning as we move into this fourth industrial revolution. One that thinks hard about transposable knowledge and transposable tacit knowledge in a way that answers some of that question of how we as educators are ‘developing a curriculum for the 21st century’.

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