Guardians of a body of knowledge;Letter

17th April 1998 at 01:00
I read John MacBeath's article, "Just think about it" (April 10) with an interest which at times bordered on incredulity. In summary, I believe he was advocating a reduction in the acquisition of facts so as to favour the promotion of "thinking".

No one should deny the importance of allowing children to develop these "thinking" skills. But I'm sure many people would dispute the dichotomy he draws between this vital skill and the acquisition of knowledge.

I am convinced I'm not alone in believing that an indisputable cog in the educational wheel is the learning - indeed memorising, if necessary - of facts. Capital cities, important dates from history and the chanting of times tables are some examples.

Indeed, we must as teachers see ourselves as guardians of a body of knowledge which is to be passed on to the next generation. To quote Laurie Lee, we are "hammering in the golden nails", which is the first step in the formation of students able to think for themselves and see contemporary civilisation in the context of history.

Lastly, the author quotes with satisfaction the letter he received from a German pupil which was written in "excellent" English; the best way to learn a foreign language is to acquire the facts of grammar and vocabulary without which communication is any language is impossible.

Perhaps the answer is to take a fresh look at the medieval tradition of the trivium of grammar, dialectic and rhetoric. I recommend a wonderful article by Dorothy Sayers entitled "The lost tools of learning", in which she shows the connection between the acquisition of knowledge at an early age and the development of the critical faculties in adolescence.

L. Franchi

Queens Way, Alexandria

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now