Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Gove slams 'bias against knowledge'

Michael Gove said education was good in itself, not just for its practical uses
Michael Gove said education was good in itself, not just for its practical uses

The UK is suffering from a "bias against knowledge", Education Secretary Michael Gove has said.

Certain subjects - such as French lesbian poetry - are dismissed by some as "useless luxuries", he claimed. Others have railed against plans to raise the school leaving age and higher qualifications for teachers, he said.

Mr Gove argued that while it is important to study subjects that teach vital skills, it is also important to study for the sake of knowledge and learning.

He told the Independent Academies Association Conference in central London: "I fear the anti-intellectual bias in our way of life has, at times, become a bias against knowledge and a suspicion of education as a good in itself.

"The bias against knowledge was displayed when MPs argued against raising the school leaving age, when trade unions argued against demanding higher qualifications for teachers and when teachers demanded that texts in literature classes be relevant rather than revelatory for their readers.

"This bias against knowledge manifested itself most recently when the otherwise saintly inventor Sir James Dyson had a crack at people who want to go to university to learn French lesbian poetry rather than applying themselves to matters technical.

"Having devoted as much of my department's discretionary budget as possible to attracting more teachers into maths and science subjects, including computer science, I am certainly no enemy of equipping people with the skills required to master technology. But I am certainly an enemy of those who would deprecate the study of French lesbian poetry.

"Because the casual dismissal of poetry as though it were a useless luxury and its study a self-indulgence is a display of prejudice. It is another example of the bias against knowledge."

His remarks come after Sir James, who became Britain's 22nd richest man by developing bagless vacuum cleaners, said we should talk more about technology so that "little Angelina wanting to go off to study French lesbian poetry will suddenly realise that things like keeping an aircraft industry, developing nuclear energy, high-speed trains, all these things are important".

Mr Gove added: "We should demand every school is a good school because of the potential of education to power economic growth, advance social mobility and make opportunity more equal. But it is also important to emphasise that education is a good in itself - beyond, indeed above - any economic, social or political use to which it might be put."

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