Engelse onderwijsminister pleit voor her-scholing van het onderwijs, na decennia van ont-scholing en verwijst hierbij naar de visie en het werk van E.D. Hirsch
Deze bijdrage kan het debat over de nieuwe Vlaamse eindtermen/leerplannen stofferen en animeren. De visie van Hirsch en van onderwijsminister Nick Gibb sluit nauw aan bij de inzet van Onderwijskrant en van onze actiegroep 'O-ZON' (Onderwijs Zonder ONtscholing) voor her-scholing i.p.v. ont-scholing, voor het belang van basiskennis en basisvaardigheden ...
How E. D. Hirsch Came to Shape UK Government Policy
Nick Gibb MP , onderwijsminister Engeland
No single writer has influenced my thinking on education more than E. D. Hirsch. Like any book which becomes seminal in ones intellectual journey, I distinctly remember the first time I encountered Hirschs work.
I was appointed shadow Minister for Schools in 2005. My researcher at the time, Edward Hardman, recommended that I read Hirschs The Schools We Need and Why We Dont Have Them (Hirsch, 1999), so I took it with me on my summer holiday to Savannah, Georgia. I began reading it on the beach and could not put it down. Back in my hotel room, I emailed Hirsch to explain my enthusiasm for his ideas.
Ever since, Hirschs books filled with post-it notes providing access to my favourite passages have come with me from opposition and into government. I recommend Hirschs books to anyone I meet with an interest in education policy, and I would like to think that his book sales this side of the Atlantic have seen a significant spike as a result. A familiarity with Hirsch serves me with perhaps the easiest indicator that someone in education gets it when it comes to understanding curriculum and pedagogy.
Reading The Schools We Need and Why We Dont Have Them, I had the strange sensation that Hirsch had taken my own inchoate and disparate thoughts on education, and turned them into an articulate and intellectually robust case for action. To quote Alexander Pope, Hirschs books showed me what oft was thought, but neer so well expressed.
Such an experience is invaluable for a minister. Though my mother was a primary school teacher, and I had always taken an interest in education from afar, I still required a crash course in education theory and debates once I became Shadow Minister for Schools. As with so many other professions, education has developed a language of its own, erecting barriers to entry for the interested layman. To implement an effective programme of reform, it was imperative that I and my colleagues learnt this language and Hirsch was our tutor.
Back when I was in opposition, it would not have been immediately obvious that, for example, the 2007 National Curriculum overlay of Personal, Learning and Thinking Skills (QCDA, 2007) was arrant nonsense. To the uninformed outsider, independent learning, learning to learn, and individualised instruction all sound misleadingly like reasonable ideas. However, reading Hirsch provided me with the mental armour to see these ideas for what they were, and fight them accordingly.
In 2009, Michael Gove gave a speech to the Royal Society of Arts (Gove, 2009) in which he acknowledged the influence E. D. Hirsch, and explained his vision for reform in eminently Hirschian terms: A society in which there is a widespread understanding of the nations past, a shared appreciation of cultural reference points, a common stock of knowledge on which all can draw, and trade, is a society in which we all understand each other better, one in which the ties that bind are stronger, and more resilient at times of strain.
Gove ended the speech by promising that, if entrusted with public power, he would completely overhaul the curriculum to ensure that the acquisition of knowledge within rigorous subject disciplines is properly valued and cherished. A year later, that is precisely what we set about doing.
In the first meeting with civil servants after the 2010 election to discuss the curriculum review, all the officials had bound copies of the Core Knowledge Curriculum. In this way, Hirschs work in America provided us with a tangible precedent for our thinking on the English National Curriculum, which could reassure civil servants that we were not entirely alone in our ideas. The American
Core Knowledge Curriculum reassured us on vital considerations within curriculum design, such as effective sequencing, language acquisition, and the importance of discrete disciplines. Perhaps more importantly, Hirschs arguments provided us with a compelling social justice case with which to argue for a knowl-edge-rich curriculum. One passage that has always stuck with me from the first chapter of The Schools we Need and Why We Dont Have Them explains the Matthew Effect within language acquisition. This is the accumulative advantage that pupils with large vocabularies experience once they begin school: because they know more, they learn more, and the gulf between them and their less advantaged peers grows ever wider.
As Matthew Chapter 25 states, For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. Applying this to education, Hirsch writes: Those children who possess the intellectual capital when they first arrive at school have the mental scaffolding and Velcro to gain still more knowledge. But those children who arrive at school lacking the relevant experience and vocabulary they see not, neither do they understand.
The inequality in terms of mental architecture, as measured through studies in language acquisition by the likes of Betty Hart and Todd Risely, provides a clear case for a knowledge based curriculum at an early stage. As they show (Hart and Risely, 2003), a child from a professional family will experience 2,153 words an hour by the age of 3 compared to a child from the most disadvantaged background who will hear only 616 words an hour. Whether or not it is the role of schools to combat this inequality remains frustratingly a point of debate. But at least the existence of such a gulf is now incontrovertible.
Vitally, this is an argument which falls upon receptive ears across the political spectrum. Hirsch has unfairly been character- and the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. Again, it focused instead upon Concepts such as Chronological understanding and Cause and consequence, and Processes such as Using evidence and Communicating about the past.
This was a curriculum which was actively hostile to teaching prescribed knowledge, and sought to minimise the importance of subject content wherever it could. In the conception of the 2007 national curriculum, knowledge was simply a means of acquiring the far more valuable skills. Whether you studied James I or Jack the Ripper, to do so was neither here nor there, provided you were learning the key historical process of using evidence.
This had to change. The body of academic knowledge belongs to everyone, regardless of background, circumstance or job. The new National Curriculum published in 2013 (DFE, 2013) is a programme of study in the spirit of Hirsch. At primary school, the National Curriculum in English is properly sequenced so that pupils learn how to read and write in a structured and comprehensive fashion. In Year 2, pupils will be introduced to the apostrophe and the comma; in Year 4 they will encounter the possessive pronoun; and in Year 6 they will be taught about the colon, ellipsis and the passive voice. In our new more ambitious mathematics curriculum, pupils will be expected to multiply and divide proper fractions; calculate the area of parallelograms and triangles; and read any number up to 10,000,000 by the end of primary school, as well as having memorised their multiplication tables by the end of Year 4.
At secondary level, the curriculum is properly sequenced to allow the incremental accumulation of knowledge. For example, in Key Stage 3 Physics pupils will learn about forces as pushes or pulls, arising from the interaction between two objects, allowing them at Key Stage 4 to learn about acceleration caused by forces and Newtons First Law.
In English, we have established that all pupils should learn three Shakespeare plays over the course of their secondary school education. To aid their learning of English language, there is even an eighteen page appendix of grammatical terms, guidance and examples stretching from active voice to word family. Perhaps more important than such curriculum changes, though, is the intellectual excitement in favour of teaching knowledge that Hirsch has inspired. Hirsch has been the wellspring for innovative and challenging ideas amongst new generation of British educators.
Since 2012, Daisy Christodoulou, Robert Peal and Toby Young have all written books with explicit indebtedness to E. D. Hirsch. This is not to mention the countless blogs kept by the likes of Joe Kirby, Kris Boulton and Greg Ashman which have discussed and popularised the ideas of Hirsch.
Schools such as Pimlico Academy, Michaela Community School and the West London Free School (where three new primary schools are teaching an adapted version of Hirschs Core Knowledge scheme) have all embraced Hirschs ideas. Whilst these schools remain a small vanguard, they are treading a path upon which I am sure many more will embark in the coming years.
So why is it, in this internet age where countless views on education can be accessed for free online through blogs and twitter, is the voice of one English Literature Professor from Virginia so important? Why does an intellectual movement, such as that which is taking place in English education, still need a figurehead such as Hirsch?
Whilst pondering this question, I reached an amusingly Hirschian explanation. What Hirsch has provided English reformers with is a shared language. Re-reading Hirschs work, I realise how many terms which I now use on a daily basis I first came across when reading his books. I am thinking not just of Cultural literacy, but also national communication; common reference points; the education thoughtworld; intellectual capital and the supposed split between facts and skills. I will wager that for many of us, it was Hirsch who first exposed us to such ideas and concepts.
In this way, Hirschs work provides an unrivalled intellectual armoury with which reformers can equip themselves prior to engaging with the education establishment. At the back of The Schools We Need and Why We Dont Have Them, Hirsch even provides a glossary of education jargon, complete with some wonderfully Johnsonian definitions. For passive liste ing, Hirsch writes that this is a progressivist phrase caricaturing traditional education, which makes children sit silently in rows in factory-model schools, passively listening to what the teacher has to say, then merely memorizing facts.
Hirsch defines research has shown as a phrase used to preface and shore up educational claims. Often it is used selectively, even when the preponderant or most reliable research shows no such thing, as in the statement Research has shown that children learn best with hands-on methods. Today, Hirsch still provides inspiration for the next steps in Englands journey towards having a world class education system.
In Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (Hirsch, 1988) he writes that A curriculum reform designed to teach young child the basics of cultural literacy will thus require radical changes in textbooks and other teaching materials.
This is very much a live issue, as the former Chair of our National Curriculum Review Tim Oates made clear in his recent policy paper Why Textbooks Count (Oates, 2014). The next stage in the advance- ment of knowledge-based teaching must be the creation of a new generation of classroom resources. A start has been made with the introduction of Shanghai maths textbooks into English schools via our network of 34 maths hubs, but there is much more work still to be done.
In addition, Hirsch is right throughout his work to recognise that it is deficient ideas, and not deficient teaching calibre that is holding back our schools. I see this throughout the education sector: dedicated and hardworking teachers are not getting the results they deserve because they have been let down by the ideas fed to them by a deficient education thoughtworld.
In Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know, Hirsch repro-duces an extract from the introduction to Thorndike and Bakers 1917 school book Everyday Classics, an elementary schoolbook which aimed to introduce American schoolchildren to the canon. As the extract shows, one hundred years ago, it was seen as self-evident that such literature was the rightful inheritance of every citizen.
The authors wrote: We have chosen what is common, established, almost proverbial; what has become indisputably classic, what, in brief, every child in the land ought to know, because it is good, and because other people know it. The educational worth of such materials calls for no defence. In an age when the need of socialising and unifying our people is keenly felt, the value of a common stock of knowledge, a common set of ideals is obvious.
One hundred years on, such an outlook is far from obvious: it calls for a spirited defence, which will be opposed by no shortage of grandees in the education establishment. It is to our enduring benefit that E. D. Hirsch decided to take up this fight when he published Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs To Know in 1988, and has pursued it so doggedly and effectively ever since, inspiring a whole new generation of reformers in the UK and US.
Department for Education, (2013), The National Curriculum in England: framework document.
Gove, M, speech to the RSA 30 June 2009, What is education for?.
Hart and Risely, (2003), The Early. Catastrophe. The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.
Hirsch, E.D, (1988), Cultural literacy: what every American needs to know.
Hirsch, E.D, (1999), The Schools We Need: And Why We Dont Have Them.
Oates, November (2014), Why textbooks count: a policy paper.
Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority, (2007), The National Curriculum statutory requirements for key stages 3 and 4 from September 2008.