What is knowledge rich? Part 6: the status of everyday knowledge

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

(Hirst, 1993)

A central claim in the powerful knowledge thesis is that ‘it is not like common-sense, rooted in specific contexts of our experience. This means that powerful knowledge can be the basis for generalisations and thinking beyond particular contexts or cases …’ [1]

It follows that powerful knowledge requires formal education.

But is there really a gulf between subject-based (schooled) and everyday knowledge as Young argues?

Are everyday concepts detached from and outside the world of subject-based concepts?

Is powerful knowledge a delimited area?

And what is it about this everyday musical knowledge that lacks the power to enable thinking beyond its imminent presence and its particularity?

Well, this case for powerful knowledge won’t do.

In music we recognise the significance of what is termed musical enculturation – all that which is learnt intentionally or unintentionally as a part of growing up and as part of our musical socialisation. All those tunes that come into our head, all the thrumming, hummings and dancings, vocalisations and musings through which we experience and come to know music and from which we are able to move from the particular to the general in our cognitions, perceptions and conceptualisations. Children come to school with vast amounts of musical experience, thick everyday knowledge of music and we should mind the gap between this and how music is in the school.

No gulf but the potential of a powerful dialogue.

Music is engaged with not so that students can indwell a unique conceptual scheme but because it is, yes, wait for it, a significant social cultural practice and which flourishes where rootedness in specific contexts of our experience play a fundamental source of knowing, knowledge and meaning making.

And of course, for its place in the school to be justified much attention needs to be paid to aims or if you prefer to purposes.

As John White points out neither Hirst nor Young attend to aims, rather they leap into curriculum thus starting in the wrong place. And we see this more widely and so vividly in our present educational discourse.


[1] White, J. (2018) The weakness of ‘powerful knowledge’. London Review of Education, 16, 2: 325-335.





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