Subjects matter

18th July 2008 at 01:00
Professor John White has strange ideas about subjects - creations, he suggests, of policymakers in 1904, to keep the middle classes happy then and since, obsolete pillars of "a curriculum for a horse-drawn age" (TES, July 11)
Professor John White has strange ideas about subjects - creations, he suggests, of policymakers in 1904, to keep the middle classes happy then and since, obsolete pillars of "a curriculum for a horse-drawn age" (TES, July 11). In reality, key subjects - the natural sciences, geography, history - are categories of knowledge supported by distinct disciplines, which have evolved over centuries and continue to evolve and enable us to think clearly and rigorously about ourselves as humans and the world we live in.

Subject methodologies integrate skills and subject matter. One cannot think skilfully in the abstract. Certainly, we need an urgent review of the curriculum to consider what it now means to be educated. But the best way to ensure the next generation will lose the range of knowledge and disciplined ways of thinking necessary to meet the challenges it will face is to abandon subjects.

Professor White should note that the fact that his subject philosophy was flourishing 2,500 years ago in an age of aristocrats, slaves and ox-wagons does not make it any the less valuable now.

Martin Roberts, Former headteacher, The Cherwell School, Oxford.

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