What is knowledge rich? Part 2: social practices

‘… we must shift from seeing education as primarily concerned with knowledge to seeing it as primarily concerned with social practices’.

(Hirst, 1993)

In Part 1 I began my enquiry into the current interest in knowledge-led and knowledge-rich curriculum and the case of music education by returning to the thesis of Paul Hirst first set out in 1965 and its revision in his final paper in 1993 one year after the installation of a national curriculum.

The question of knowledge and the curriculum was much debated between 1965 and the coming of the National Curriculum 1988-1992. Out of this debate the will for a common curriculum rooted in knowledge, skills and understanding of subjects won the day and became a statutory requirement. The state had arbitrated. The curriculum had now become a political entity.

In this blog I want to explore the idea of music education as primarily conceived of as a social practice and not primarily concerned with knowledge.

What is a social practice?

I work from the example of bell ringing.

Hidden away in the Teme Valley lies the hamlet of Shelley Beauchamp. Until the 1980s it was served by a one teacher primary school and a set of hand bells. It took great pride in its hand bell ringing while taking its pupils singing and recorder playing a little for granted.

Hand bell ringing is an activity that has been practised for at least fifteen hundred years and as long as gamelan playing in Indonesia, another bell sounding activity. Bell ringing itself has much longer provenance.

We might want to put together all bell sounding activities into one category of activity and thus include carillon playing and much more. In this way it may be argued that the practice becomes more substantial, have wider cultural significance. Or we might simply view it as a sub-practice of what we understand as music making.

Hand bell ringing is a social practice. It is a participatory, relational, cultural activity with an ethical framework and as such is educational.

In my local primary school there are no hand bells but the steel pans are resounding.

‘… we must shift from seeing education as primarily concerned with knowledge to seeing it as primarily concerned with social practices’.

(Hirst, 1993)

 

[For tintinnabulation see youtube and Arvo Part-Benjamin Britten]

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