Radicalization of Geographical Education in Singapore through Powerful Knowledge and Powerful Pedagogy, pp. 3 of 5

Young openly dismisses the importance of the everyday knowledge of the student in the curriculum, which is something that does not sit well with me. The curriculum should not exclude the everyday knowledge of students as posited by Young (2010), but rather it should include it and build on it. It should include students’ everyday narratives and concepts, and then branch out from there. Students are not without agency - they should be allowed to use their own personal experience as an object of study in the curriculum (Roberts, 2014). We cannot view students as mere recipients of knowledge at the bottom of the hierarchy. Instead, curriculum makers should see students as part of the curriculum-making process (Lambert & Morgan, 2010; Biddulph, 2013) as co-creators of knowledge because students are capable of bringing “geographical behaviours, perception and skills” (Lambert & Morgan, 2010, p. 50) with them into the lesson.

It is then the role of the teacher to use pedagogy to tease these rich personal experiences out from the students as objects of study rather than as tools aiding study. Cloke, Crang, and Goodwin (2005) encourage students to build connections between their everyday experiences and what they are studying by being

"aware of the human geographies wrapped up in and represented by the food you eat, the news you read, the films you watch, the music you listen to, the television you gaze at (and) think about how what you read in books or articles connects or doesn’t to your everyday life and why that might be (p. 602)."

I agree with Roberts (2014) in saying when the everyday knowledge of students is brought into the curriculum as school knowledge, students will be motivated to learn it as they can make (better) sense of it. This knowledge would then be more “powerful” because it actually means something to the students.

Going to school to seek knowledge in itself already provides opportunities for learning to students from less privileged backgrounds and a curriculum that includes their experiences cannot be claimed to “discriminate against disadvantaged, and particularly working class and ethnic minority pupils” (Young, 2010, p. 22). With the appropriate administrative systems and pedagogical skills in place, the curriculum can be shaped and “meaningful connection between these necessarily remote disciplinary worlds and the students’ everyday experience” (Beck, 2013, p. 187) can be made. Hence Young’s argument that such a school curriculum will “inevitably perpetuate an elitist and unequal system and continue to deny learning opportunities to many students from disadvantaged homes” (2010, p. 29) cannot stand.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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