A comment I wrote in response to the Daily Telegraph article. What do you think?
The implications of David Willetts comments in the Daily Telegraph values a system that privileges a form of study that is no longer viable in a globalised world. The internet has happened!! And this has changed the shape of knowledge by calling for a differentiation between information and application. Knowledge is no longer about an access to information that the Academy offered because ‘you can Google it’ now. Knowledge is about how that information is contextualise in terms of application – what does it mean, what action does it initiate. It is here that the globalisation of the internet has spawned a most interesting dichotomy because the disembodied realm of cyber-space has entered us into a 21st century where value is no longer in knowing the theory – the information - it is in the practical, embodied action of application – what you do with it. We can no longer justify the divide between theory and practice.
We live in a Western world that has the experience of modernism, and post-modernism and yet the sum of Willett’s comments seems to reveal a reversion to ‘I think therefore, I am’ as if the body were an unnecessary adornment to the brain muscle. If this was so the internet would be all we needed in order to be educated, we wouldn’t need to go to University, anyway, just sit at our computer screens but we know that in order to understand we need to experience. We are embodied beings not thoughts. Knowledge is derived from information that is made meaningful through experiences.
At the very least we must not fertilize the misconception of a divide between mind and body by sentencing the mind to an education that is experienceless because it is bodiless. By privileging a static theoretical approach we could make it impossible to have a fully rounded education. At a basic level Willets comments indicate an education that will disadvantage UK students by locking them into a system that is not fit for the purpose of being productive in a 21st century globalised world but instead hangs to the simplification of ideals and languages that were current hundreds of years ago.
But there is a further point here that the potential for knowledgeable understanding is actually denied when it is channelled into one way of perceiving the academic experience. There is no argument that dance at ‘A’ level needs to prove its worth within the context of theoretical math ‘A’ level. Any more than theoretical Math should have to prove itself within the context of the embodied understanding of dance. The point is the place these two have in the development of higher understanding. Dance ‘A’ level is the beginning of the road to physical literacy (Whitehead) and embodied cognition that are as vital to knowledge as a basic level of understanding the concept of calculus because ultimately we are in a lived world where knowledge will be acted upon, performed by us. The mind is the reflective action of the body, a knowledge across these is vital.
To condemn UK students to a hierarchy of subjects, as is suggested, is to impose limited access to whole swaths of well established academic themes, theories, literature, embodied practise and ‘knowledge’, that almost becomes a form of censorship and certainly will isolate UK educated students within the wider academic arena of the world.
- Adesola Akinley