I know I give the Beeb a hard time here, but actually we love their education sites. I do, however, have a problem with the theories of knowledge that underpin some of the questions that appear, for example, here. Buried somewhere in there is a question which asks you to pick out "the opinion" from a choice of three options: (a) the fizzy drink is yummy. (b) Contents: 250 mls. (c) Ingredients: water, sugar. Of course you can see what they're getting at but in my opinion, all the options are technically opinions, since all statements, even those which appear to describe reality fairly precisely, are actually only just that - opinions. This because we can never be completely sure of our knowledge.
Rod Liddle wrote in the Spectator recently that we will always have grounds to grumble about the content of a school education, but that we should just get over it and generally get on with it. Trouble is, I'm not so sure. Isn't this just a way of perpetuating error needlessly? How I see it is that there are some things one could swallow, (and hopefully correct at home) and other things that are just too devastating to one's world view to let pass. If, for example, TB were really to allow school children be taught creationism in an uncritical fashion, I think I really would have a major problem. This isn't setting the bar too high imo.
But in this instance I do wonder if I am getting just a little too picky in thinking that it is a problem to encourage my children to think that a fact is a fact and that's that. Perhaps I should just get over this grating sensation and bury my critical rationalist urges until I can get my hands on the kids and explain to them that the Beeb's epistemology doesn't seem so good. Or could it really be the BIG problem that it appears to me to be?
Hmm...well it is the case that theories about the nature of knowledge underpin and inform all other areas of knowledge and it's acquisition. Getting these theories seemingly right will allow for the growth of knowledge and a mature ethical outlook. Getting it wrong scrambles this process, either by rendering the thinker a fundamentalist, a relativist or a post-modernist, with all the attendant ethical problems that these positions entail. This problem therefore is BIG.
Then again, I do know of one quite remarkable family in which the parents would make precisely the same criticisms of the epistemology that is commonly taught in schools and yet because their children love school, they cope with the errors and correct them as and when. One of the first ethical errors that this family avoids is to compel their children to go to school against their will. These children love school and clearly thrive in it, and since the parents teach fallibilism as a basic principal, it appears not to damage the children's thinking one jot. My guess is though, that these children are the rare exception and that most will leave school with a pretty muddied view of how reality probably stacks up.