In this paper I will argue that Hirst's idea of forms of knowledge has a vital contribution to make to the education of teachers. In his 1965 paper, 'School Education and the Nature of Knowledge' (Hirst, 1974), Hirst argued that there are seven distinct forms of knowledge, each with its own unique concepts, distinctive logical structure, testability against experience and unique methods of testing. These seven forms of knowledge were mathematics, the physical sciences, the human sciences, history, religion, literature and the fine arts, and philosophy and moral knowledge. My paper, however, is not an attempt to reinstate forms of knowledge as such, as these have been effectively criticised in the literature (Barrow 1976, Pring 1976, Watt 1974). Rather, I wish to consider a feature of Hirst's argument little noticed in the literature, namely, that he proposed the existence of forms of knowledge as part of his attempt to give content to, and justify, a liberal education. In effect, he developed the notion of 'forms of knowledge' as part of an educational strategy to avoid, or minimise, the manipulation of beliefs. It is my contention that, if we as teacher educators are to properly sensitise student teachers to the dangers of indoctrination and belief manipulation inherent in their classroom practice, we need to introduce them to the problems that forms of knowledge were thought to solve and how the notion of a 'form of knowledge' can be suitably amended to provide a truly satisfactory solution. I should stress that my amendment to 'forms of knowledge' is not how Hirst himself has developed his notion in response to criticism. Rather, it is the outcome of my reflection of what of merit survives once the criticisms of the notion have been taken into account.
Woolcock, P. G.
Forms of Knowledge, Teacher Education and the Manipulation of Beliefs.
Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 14(1).