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.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today