There is a danger, in the lower year groups of schools, of having too many subjects in the curriculum—and of supposing that before pupils start working on the public examination syllabuses, it is all right for them to be given not much more than smatterings, tasters and audiovisual material in the style of the mass media.
Sir Richard Livingstone observes:
‘… Is there any hope of escaping from an overcrowded curriculum? And overcrowding, in education as in housing, means ill-health, and turns the school into an intellectual slum. Life in such a slum breeds a disease, common, serious and often overlooked. It does not teach the pupil the meaning of knowledge. It must almost inevitably consist of superficial information—there is no time for more. Smatterings make life interesting and they have their uses; but their use is limited and they are the more dangerous, because they incline us to think that we know when we do not know. Uneducated people are a danger to the world, but they are not as dangerous as a less recognised menace—the half educated, who have learnt enough to express an opinion on subjects which they do not really know, but have never learned to be aware of their ignorance. Such people are familiar pests in every department of life, and a main duty of education is to diminish their number. It cannot do this by giving the knowledge required—omniscience is not a practical aim—but you can show people what knowledge is, so that they are aware when they do not possess it, and it achieves this in a very simple way, by seeing that the pupil studies at least one subject in the curriculum so thoroughly and so far, that he knows what knowledge is, how difficult it is to attain, how much industry, thoroughness, precision and persistence it demands, if we are even to have a distant sight of it.’
R W Livingstone, Some Tasks for Education, OUP 1946, pp. 7-8.
Younger pupils are entitled to receive some initiation into the skills of scholarship, the training of memory, and the pursuit of knowledge in depth.