• Creative writing: mapping the subject

      Belas, Oliver (The English Association, 2018-03-06)
      [From the introduction] My aim is to stitch together a three-part patchwork, to piece together some thoughts on: (i) Creative Writing as an academic discipline; (ii) the textual dynamics and contradictory cultural logic of the map; and (iii) knowledge, particularly the talk of ‘knowledge-based’ education that has driven recent reform in secondary education. Under the influence of Michel de Certeau and in light of an examination of the work of the map and of mapping, i will argue that Creative Writing, while it exemplifies a very real mode of knowing, is not and cannot be recognized as a site or space of knowledge by England’s current secondary-educational politics.
    • Education, knowledge, and symbolic form

      Belas, Oliver; University of Bedfordshire (2017-12-20)
      This article aims to introduce Ernst Cassirer, and his philosophy of symbolic form, to education studies, and, in doing so, to challenge the widespread but deeply flawed views of knowledge and so-called knowledge-based education that have shaped recent education policy in England. After sketching the current educational landscape, and then some of the main lines of flight in Cassirer’s work, time is given to a comparison with Heidegger—a more familiar figure by far in Anglophone philosophy than Cassirer, and who contributed to the displacement of Cassirer—in order to illustrate more clearly Cassirer’s original contribution, in particular to the relationship between knowledge and time. Cassirer’s view of knowledge stands in marked and critical contrast to that which has shaped recent educational reform in England, as he sees knowledge as a productive and expressive matter, and repudiates what I call the ‘building-blocks’ picture of knowledge and the hierarchisation of subject areas.
    • Knowledge, the curriculum, and democratic education: the curious case of school English

      Belas, Oliver (SAGE Publications, 2019-05-17)
      Debate over subject curricula is apt to descend into internecine squabbles over which (whose?) curriculum is best. Especially so with school English, because its domain(s) of knowledge have commonly been misunderstood, or, perhaps, misrepresented in the government’s programmes of study. After brief consideration of democratic education (problems of its form and meaning), I turn to issues of knowledge and disciplinarity, outlining two conceptions of knowledge – the one constitutive and phenomenological, the other stipulative and social-realist. Drawing on Michael Young and Johan Muller, I argue that, by social-realist standards of objectivity, school English in England -- as currently framed in national curriculum documents -- falls short of the standards of ‘powerful knowledge’ and of a democratic education conceived as social justice. Having considered knowledge and disciplinarity in broad terms, I consider the curricular case of school English, for it seems to me that the curious position of English in our national curriculum has resulted in a model that is either weakly, perhaps even un-, rooted in the network of academic disciplines that make up English studies.
    • On tacit knowledge for philosophy of education

      Belas, Oliver (Springer, 2017-11-17)
      This article offers a detailed reading Gascoigne and Thornton’s book Tacit Knowledge (2013), which aims to account for the tacitness of tacit knowledge (TK) while preserving its status as knowledge proper. I take issue with their characterization and rejection of the existential-phenomenological Background—which they presuppose even as they dismiss—and their claim that TK can be articulated “from within”—which betrays a residual Cartesianism, the result of their elision of conceptuality and propositionality. Knowledgeable acts instantiate capacities which we might know we have and of which we can be aware, but which are not propositionally structured at their “core”. Nevertheless, propositionality is necessary to what Robert Brandom calls, in Making It Explicit (1994) and Articulating Reasons (2000), “explicitation”, which notion also presupposes a tacit dimension, which is, simply, the embodied person (the knower), without which no conception of knowledge can get any purchase. On my view, there is no knowledgeable act that can be understood as such separately from the notion of skilled corporeal performance. The account I offer cannot make sense of so-called “knowledge-based” education, as opposed to systems and styles which supposedly privilege “contentless” skills over and above “knowledge”, because on the phenomenological and inferentialist lines I endorse, neither the concepts “knowledge” nor “skill” has any purchase or meaning without the other.
    • The perfectionist call of intelligibility : secondary English, creative writing, and moral education

      Belas, Oliver (The Canadian Philosophy of Education Society, 2016-11-29)
      This article puts forward moral-philosophical arguments for re-building and re-thinking secondary-level (high-school equivalent) English studies around creative writing practices. I take it that when educators and policy makers talk about such entities as the “well-rounded learner,” what we have, or should have, in mind is moral agents whose capacities for moral dialogue, judgement, and discourse are increased as a result of their formal educational experiences. In its current form, secondary English is built mainly, though not exclusively, around reading assessment; around, that is, demonstration of students’ “comprehension” of texts. There is little or no sense that the tradition and practice of literary criticism upon which this type of assessment is based is a writerly tradition. By making writing practices central to what it is to do English in the secondary classroom, I argue that we stand a better chance at helping students develop their capacities for self-expression, for articulating their developing webs of belief and for scrutinizing those webs of belief. I thus wish to think about English and Creative Writing Studies in light of Cavell’s moral perfectionism, and to conceive of it as an arts-practical subject and a mode by which one might, in Baldacchino’s sense, undergo a process of “unlearning.” My arguments are tailored to the English educational context. 
    • Popular science, pragmatism, and conceptual clarity

      Belas, Oliver; University of Bedfordshire (Associazione Pragma, 2014-07-08)
    • Subject English as citizenship education

      Belas, Oliver; Hopkins, Neil; University of Bedfordshire (Wiley, 2019-01-04)
      This article is equal parts educational history and political philosophy. We aim to remind readers that subject English (SE) and indeed state education emerge from the contradictory impulses of classical liberalism, and that, more than simply resembling citizenship education, SE emerges in the first instance as a form of highly normativising citizenship education. We further argue that, following England's recent educational reforms initiated by former Education Secretary Michael Gove, SE continues to be framed in moral terms consistent with citizenship education—again, of a highly normativising sort. England's current educational policy generally, and specifically the framing of SE, employs the language of liberal possibility, while ultimately espousing an invidious exclusionary and assimilationist politics. The framing of SE, moreover, is one that misrepresents the supposedly ‘rich and varied literary heritage’ it is supposed to exemplify and promote. The current political landscape in which the study of literature takes place is one where a crisis of liberalism is manifest (in terms of populism, radicalisation or apathy). However, we do not believe the answer is to retreat into a sealed, hermetic canon that excludes the reality that England and English literature are fundamentally multicultural and polyethnic. SE will be the poorer for not fully acknowledging and embodying this, for not enabling students to imaginatively and critically engage with characters and experiences that reflect both the present and long‐standing diversity of English society, as well as its present and long‐standing inequalities.