Should we teach useful knowledge? The poverty of a ‘useful’ curriculum

Clio et cetera

This question is doing the rounds a bit on Twitter at the moment with numerous people jumping in to claim that we should be teaching only those things that are ‘useful’ to pupils. Sometimes this is dressed up as ‘knowledge has to be applied’ or something to that effect. Images such as this capture this kind of mindset:


Or this one (thanks to @websofsubstance for sharing):


In some ways the idea that we should teach only that knowledge that is useful to children is a difficult one to challenge: you certainly would not wish to teach someone something that there are going to have no use for at all.

The problem with this approach is that nothing is ‘useful’ by definition: something is only useful for something else. By arguing that we should teach useful things, what we are really doing is arguing for what kind of person we expect…

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