chapter  2
17 Pages

The Individual as Seeker after Knowledge

An initial knowledge agenda for teachers comprises matters of truth, background, the contrast with information, and the question of authority when seeking to introduce children to knowledge in classrooms. However, acquiring knowledge is not easy. Rather when we are trying to learn anything, our minds constantly shift focus in and around the subject matter; we sometimes lose our concentration, sometimes without being aware of it, and start thinking of other things. The psychological experience, the mental states, and the character of our consciousness as we acquire knowledge do not match any logical or analytic division between types of knowledge and/or between types of knowledge as constructed for learning. Our experience as learners or seekers after knowledge runs across traditional epistemological categories, sometimes haphazardly, sometimes directly, and often with some confusion. If in acquiring knowledge we are trying to discern the truth-in that ordinary sense-we are on a search, so that it makes sense to see ourselves not as knowers but as seekers, as Bruner describes. The seeker (after knowledge) experiences learning in two ways: the experience of the subject matter and of him or herself and how he or she stands in relation to that subject matter. We might mark this complexity by saying that, in learning, the material we are learning and ourselves as individuals are in some way interdependent. This is precisely where the questions by Belenky and colleagues (1986) pick up the complexity of the knowledge-individual relationship. In a classroom with an epistemological presence, the intricacy of the relation between public and private knowledge will be pervasive. We need to understand the distinction in order to help the child grasp it too.