What use is knowledge without skills?

23rd November 2012 at 00:00

"Are you ready to go boldly?" (Cover story, 9 November) gets to the heart of the Gove agenda, namely his favouring one half of the false dichotomy of knowledge versus skills. Knowing grammatical units (and their interplay) is only useful in context. A word only has a grammatical form or function in its "parent" sentence. Likewise, knowing the name of Henry VIII or any other supposed signifier of cultural literacy is only relevant in the context of what they mean.

Unfortunately, English teachers have shamefully shied away from admitting the chasm in their grammatical knowledge by convincing themselves that it's irrelevant. This collective self-delusion has resulted only in our being ridiculously unaware of how our own language really works.

Education is a fine balance of knowledge and skills; of teaching the application of knowledge. Knowing that ending the sentence with the adverb "boldly" is more effective because it emphasises meaning, rather than doing it because we know that splitting the infinitive is "wrong", is the interplay between knowledge and skills that we should be promoting.

Guy Essex, Truro, Cornwall.

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