The International Baccalaureate: Types Of Knowledge Essay Samples
The International Baccalaureate: Two Types of Knowledge
Lived experience is regularly overlooked in school curriculum as means of engaging learners. Since the institutionalization of formal schooling in the post-war context, schooling has been utilized as a means to inculcate certain knowledge and values in individuals as a means for them to be productive members in society. Freire’s critique of this concept has been cogently put as students are empty vessels awaiting to be filled with knowledge. Teachers and textbooks are holders of such knowledge and carry the responsibility of filling young minds with certain knowledge and certain values. Overlooking this conception of schooling is the lived experiences of individuals.
Dewey noted that humans, from birth, are innately curious and innately social. Unlike many other animals, human existence is dependent on exploring, testing, observing, sharing and so on. All these traits are accelerated through interaction with others within a social group. Some of the 20th century’s greatest educationists coalesce around this belief and have long advocated for the re-structuring of the rigid didactic orientation to formal schooling.
In this essay, I will focus on how shared knowledge, or knowledge that is advocated and perpetuated by mainstream society through formal schooling, contradicts this mantra. Shared knowledge operates to stifle creativity and has the purpose of disregarding how one’s lived experience may shape their own worldview. As such, the experience of secondary education does not adequately prepare individuals for post-secondary education, and in particular university, whereby individuals are expected to demonstrate creativity, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking.
Noted French sociologist, Emile Durkheim, interpreted and supported the conception of formal schooling as essential to foster in individuals how to become socialized in contemporary society as functioning and law-abiding individuals. Following rigid requirements of attendance, obedience, discipline, and unbridled enthusiasm for learning have been hallmarks of formal schooling (Durkheim 70). Failure to comply within the confines of these parameters was deemed to be faulty socialization, and the particular community or family structure from which an individual emanated was the source of conflict. In this sense, the lived experiences and knowledge acquired outside of the school context was far too influential to properly educate a laggard, as they were known, and they were relegated to institutions for the mentally challenged or for other deemed delinquencies.
While there may be some merit to the position of the importance of socialization, the concept of creativity, curiosity, or even non-compliance have been central to the advancement of human civilization. If schools operate to limit such natural or innate characteristics, then it is highly likely that many individuals will be diverted from reaching their full potential. In this sense, the concept of socialization through schooling to become functioning citizens may in fact work against itself. Those unable to cope with the rigidity of the school system may not excel and encounter problems as they move to adulthood.
Personal, or individual knowledge, begins from birth and accumulates as one grows. Through experience with the world, objects, individuals, etc., people learn and are socialized into their family, community and national context. All these experiences function to shape the individual’s knowledge and world view (Dewey 94). One’s own interpretation of these experiences further solidifies how they perceive the world and their place within it. Altering this worldview is often promoted by the school system. The school system, which by law is compulsory for attendance for the ages of approximately 6 to 16, devalues this lived experience. How one perceives their environment, or how they learn (i.e., as visual learners rather than as kinesthetic learners) is displaced by a need to fulfill curricular requirements imposed by the state (e.g., Ministry of Education). Although there are benefits to socializing with others and exposure to structure and civility, such traits are also learned in daily life outside of the school context. Formal schooling has the opportunity to engage with individuals for them to question ideas, and more importantly, the shared knowledge to which they are exposed through school curriculum. Those who write textbooks and develop curriculum hold immense power through the actions of choice. As noted by Eisner in regards to content excluded from the curriculum,
“ schools have consequences not only by virtue of what they do not teach, but also by virtue of what they neglect to teach. What students cannot consider, what they don’t process they are unable to use, have consequences for the kinds of lives they lead” (Eisner 103).
The fact that schools neglect to acknowledge their role in reproducing individuals’ understanding of history, contemporary society, culture, the environment, etc., is a reflection of wider social issues. Certain groups of people continue to be marginalized in society (Freire 47). In this context, mainstream society supports Durkheim’s position; that is, it is the fault of the individual, or the community from which they emanate, for their inability to socialize according to those who control to so-called shared knowledge.
Until schools recognize that the shared knowledge infused into school curriculum largely shapes the personal knowledge of individuals, and has historically operated to reproduce inequalities in society, there is little hope for positive changes where the gap between groups is narrowed, and opportunities are more equally distributed.
Dewey, John. Democracy and education. Courier Dover Publications, 2004 (originally published
Durkheim, Emile. Education and society. Free Press, 1956.
Eisner, Elliot. The educational imagination. Vol. 103. New York: Macmillan, 1979.
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the oppressed. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2000.