• 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.