I want to talk about a topic so volatile and delicate it could be a kitten made of nitroglycerin: subject knowledge. And, for once, I don’t mean looking at what children know, because that’s a discussion that can currently be enjoyed on channels 1-100 on your Sky box (other cable providers are, of course, available). It’s a good debate, and an important one. But it isn’t this one.
This sermon is about teacher knowledge. What do you know about what you teach? It can be a sobering reflection, for me as much as anyone else. The personal is political, so here’s some history. I studied philosophy, because that’s where all the good-looking people earning big bucks started out [check this – Ed]. It was at the University of Glasgow, where you wisely begin with three subjects (English literature, philosophy and politics for me), narrowing one’s focus in year three, continuing to an optional master’s degree in year four. I received a joint honours MA in politics and philosophy. I learned a good deal about Thomas Hobbes and the social contract, type/token mistakes and the 100 best gags of Andrea Dworkin. You will note that, fascinating as these topics are, none of them particularly prepare you for a Year 7 lesson on the 5 Ks of Sikhism, the concept of authority and law in Judaism, or the Passion of Gethsemane.