On the train yesterday, I overheard an animated conversation between pupils about forthcoming GCSE exams. They were in the throes of revision, and were discussing strategies for different subjects.
The History GCSE came up, and various topics were discussed. One pupil commented that she would be all right as long as Stalin came up.
But after comparing various areas of historical knowledge, we came to the clincher: “I swear you can just put anything in there,” one girl commented. “Mr Smith told us to use our own knowledge. But how would you have any of your own knowledge about history?”
I couldn’t have put it better myself. When we don’t have a clear approach to teaching core knowledge, we often do end up depending on what pupils know in any case. This is how the disadvantaged are kept in their place.