“So, you’re wanting to be a London cabbie, then? Hope you’re prepared to put in all the hard work it takes to do the job? All the study?” asked the slightly gruff, porcine man.
“Er, yes. I’ve just got the Blue Book, and I’ve started trying to learn the roads and runs and that…” replied the enthusiastic young man.
“The what? Oh, yeh, you won’t be needing that. The Blue Book, I mean. We don’t really use that anymore for studying to be a cabbie.”
“You don’t… I mean, I don’t need the Blue Book? But it’s got all the runs and routes in it? The ones I… I mean, I thought the Blue Book was the main source of, you know… The Knowledge.”
The gruff man snorted. “‘The Knowledge’? Yeh, we don’t call it that anymore.”
The young man knotted his brow. “Huh? What do you mean? Why don’t you…?”
“Yeh, we don’t call it The Knowledge anymore. I mean knowledge is important, of course. But the people at Transport for London realised that it was more important to have higher order skills. They decided that we need cabbies who can analyse the routes, evaluate them and create new runs. No good just knowing the runs. Here, it’s all based on this.” The gruff man pointed to a poster on his wall:
“See?” he continued. “These things are much more important than the knowledge itself, so we focus on those instead.”
“Oh, right.” said the young man, perplexed. ” So how would I go about learning the… erm…”
“We now call it The Skills. As I say, The Knowledge isn’t really a thing anymore.”
“Right. So… how would I go about learning, The, er, Skills? I mean, I suppose I still need to learn the routes and runs first, right? I’d have to know that stuff first, wouldn’t I?”
“Hey, I’m not saying knowledge isn’t important. We all know it’s the foundation on which the higher order skills are built. We’re not that stupid.”
“Okay. I was a little worried then that I wouldn’t get the chance to do The Knowledge…”
“We don’t call it that…”
“Yeh, of course. I mean, I was worried I wouldn’t get to learn all the routes and runs. My old man was a cabbie and he prided himself on learning The Kno… on knowing his way around London. I’d like to follow in his footsteps. So how do I go about learning the runs? What sort of time frame are we talking about?”
“I tell you what: you take your Blue Book out into the lobby and sit and read it for a bit. When you’ve got an idea of some of the runs, we’ll get you started on The Skills; the higher order stuff. I’m going for a coffee and a fag. Shall we say half an hour?”
“Half an hour?” The young man’s mouth hung open for a few seconds, before he snapped it shut and composed himself. “Doesn’t it take years to really know this stuff? I thought you said knowledge is the foundation…”
“Oh, it is. It is. We’d be stupid if we said it wasn’t. But it’s also really important to make sure that you are able to do the higher order stuff too. You go and get some of your knowledge and then when I’m back, we’ll sort out your tickets for your trip to Mumbai. I take it you are available to fly this week?”
“Yes, I’m… wait… what? Fly…? Mumbai…? This week…?”
“Yeh. Mumbai’s the best place, usually. But if you’d rather do Shanghai, we can…”
“Why would I need to go to Mumbai?” The young man was utterly perplexed. “I want to be a cabbie in London. I want to… I want to…”
“You need to do a placement overseas in order to learn The Skills. You’ll basically need to apply your knowledge to the streets of Mumbai. You’ll go there and learn how to evaluate and analyse and to be creative. Then you can come back to London and apply those skills so you can drive around better. Honestly, you’ll like Mumbai. Or Shanghai. Whichever you choose. I mean, if either of those are really a problem for you, I suppose we could send you to New York…”
“I don’t have a problem with those places… I mean, I do have a problem with them in that they aren’t London! It’s not the places themselves. I just want to be cabbie in London so I need to learn about London streets! Why would I…?”
“The Skills, son. You’ll need to learn The Skills. As I said before, you’ll need to learn how to create new routes. You’ll need to learn how to evaluate which route to take in rush hour or where to divert if there’s been an accident. You’ll need to analyse traffic reports in order to ensure you have all the details. Those things are really important. Higher order, innit?”
“But won’t it be better if I just learn The Knowledge…”
“We don’t use that…” the gruff man insisted.
“If I just learned… The Knowledge,” the young man darted a forceful look at his interlocutor as he mouthed the words, “I could just apply that knowledge to what I needed to do. The Knowledge would ensure that I’d know what routes to take at certain times. The Knowledge would mean that analysis and evaluation and creation would be more-or-less automatic: I’d be able to make quick decisions of analysis and evaluation and change my route using the knowledge I’d have of the runs. I’d be able to create new runs without really thinking too hard. Why do I need to learn these skills in a different place and then try and apply those skills to the place where I actually need to use them? It doesn’t make sense. I understand that creativity and evaluation and analysis are important to a cabbie, but these are things that just spring forth from a sound understanding of The Knowledge. I don’t need to learn creativity as a discrete skill. It’s nonsense.” The young man sunk back into his seat.
“Right. I see.” The gruff man looked thoughtful, but not entirely dejected. Then he smiled, and spoke again. “You have a problem with the Bloom’s taxonomy approach to cabbie training? I understand that. It’s not the way you like to learn things. You don’t think you need to learn creativity. That’s okay.”
The young man looked on, breathless. The gruff man continued. “There is another approach to cabbie training we could use. You’ll like this one.”
He pointed to another poster, this time on the adjoining wall.
“Now, at the moment, you are at the SOLO Prestructural stage. But what if we got you thinking about driving a cab in an Extended Abstract way….”
13 thoughts on “The Knowledge”
Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.
This is brilliant!
And then Uber comes along
Ha, totally! Sir Othmar, your education fables are a treasures 🙂
Reblogged this on The FE Manager and commented:
Not a taxing read at any level. Excellent
Very funny, but how is this relevant? Switch the story round so that for example it’s about wanting to learn to play tennis and buying all the ‘how to’ books rather than putting in the practice. Or the rules of chess or many other examples. Too simplistic to talk about academic knowledge in this way, just because of the London cabbies’ tradition of ‘The Knowledge’.
How do you learn to play tennis without knowing stuff? Are you saying you wouldn’t learn how to play, the rules, the aim of the game, etc. before trying to play?
That’s right, yes. Children’s first tennis lessons involve repeatedly knocking the ball back over the net to the coach at close quarters. It’s a while (quite a while) before they get to play a game against an opponent, which requires them to know the rules. (But I retract the chess example!) My worry is that the concept of ‘knowledge’ has become a shibboleth in a polarised debate. I don’t think the tussle is always helpful.