It’s always problematic writing about education because nearly everyone has an opinion. Now, I’m not the sort of person who thinks that non-teachers have no right to any input. However, I tend to find that those not working in schools frequently fit into two categories with their opinions on the subject:
- Everything was just fine when I went to school a number of years ago and – even though I don’t remember much of what I learnt – it was all good and any changes that have happened since are just some silly fad which is destroying our future.
- Education was shocking when I went through and I was thoroughly bored and nothing was of any use and there have been no attempts to improve the system since I left, so I can give you an authorative opinion that it’s still shocking even after I’m told that schools no longer do that/are now doing what I suggested.
That’s fine. It’s always interesting to hear the opinions of others. Some things are worth taking on board. However, there is one group of people I’d exclude and ban from expressing any opinion about education and that’s politicians. You see the terrible danger with politicians is that have the power to try and mandate their latest thought bubble.
That’s not really accurate. It’s usually not so much a “thought” bubble, as a “this will sound good going to the election” bubble.
So, in Victoria, Matthew “The Family” Guy has announced that Victorian schools will be instructed to teach “Australian values” under a Liberal Government, as well as getting rid of all this trendy nonsense of teaching about sustainability, Asia and aboriginal history. Of course, Safe Schools goes because an Australian environment needs to be dangerous and there’s also going to be a greater concentration on “literacy, numeracy and writing.” Writing, of course, being a totally separate thing from literacy.
Now, there’s a lot to unpack in Matthew Guy’s statement because it was several sentences long. But it’s the idea of “Australian values” that most intrigues me. Coupled with the removal of sustainability from the curriculum, it sounds like we’ll be spending a lot of time teaching kids how to chop down trees, spellling the name of the tree correctly, counting the leaves and then writiing about how good it is to have totally cleared the land and made it easier for fracking to occur.
I just find it difficult because it wasn’t so long ago that federal politicians were telling us that schools had no business teaching values and that we should leave that up to the parents. But now we should be teaching Australian values.
Strangely, Guy seemed to think that Australian values were the “inherent dignity of the individual, religious tolerance, the principles of the Western enlightenment — such as freedom of speech, equality before the law and government by consent”. I presume by ‘government by consent’ he means that one is allowed to govern after Rupert gives his consent, but if anyone has a better theory, I’m happy to hear it.
However, I remember a speech a few years ago, where John Howard said that “self reliance, a fair go, pulling together, and having a go” were the enduring Australian values. Of course, these are uniquely Australian values and any boat people who are self-reliant enough to have a go and pull together to make it anywhere near the coast don’t deserve a fair go – just a go straight to detention, because we don’t want foreigners trying to steal our these values because they belong to us… Of course, many will point out that this detention policy was necessary to prevent people coming here and it must also be remembered that this was in the days when blaming the Howard government for the drownings when the SIEV-X sank, was cheap politics. It was only after there were drownings under Labor that it became the government’s fault.
Then, not long after Mr Howard’s speech, schools were issued with a poster showing Simpson and his donkey, which set out nine values for Australian schooling: care and compassion; doing your best; fair go; freedom; honesty and trustworthiness; integrity; respect; responsibility; and understanding, tolerance and inclusion.
Of course, there was bit of controversy because Simpson was an illegal immigrant who spent a lot of time with a donkey, but I don’t remember Cory Bernardi worrying about the poster encouraging people to marry animals. However, behind the scenes he must have been working away because I could find the poster with an internet search. I tried several different ways to search.
I presume it must have been because of the background of the man and his beast, and not because governments since have ignored every sngle one of the values on the poster.