Letter: Only connect 3

December 7, 2001

Colin Evans urges us to follow the fashion when he complains that "understand" is a cliche. We are told to deconstruct it into its constituent parts: things our students should be able to do - "describe, analyse, apply, evaluate, theorise".

It depends what you mean by the word "do". Education is a complex activity and the outcome is equally complex. Even complete knowledge of the parts cannot define, still less explain, the whole. However adept and exact we may be in defining and testing these constituents, we cannot reproduce the phenomenon of understanding. Attempting to do so produces a recipe for training dogs or programming computers. Perhaps helping people to learn how to think is a start? Or is that just another cliche?

David Harvey
Department of agricultural economics and food marketing
University of Newcastle upon Tyne

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