Writing about education reminds me of when Trump was elected. When I wrote something critical of The Donald, a number of people attacked me for being supportive of Hillary who – according to them – was responsible for just about every rotten decision that the United States has made over the past few years. I looked back over what I’d written and I couldn’t find anywhere that I’d said anything about Clinton at all. If you look back over my writing, you’ll find a number of times when I’ve been critical of the USA. Of course, those articles suggested that I go live in Russia, if I like it so much, even though I never said anything positive about it.
Just because I’m critical of one thing, doesn’t mean I support its enemies.
So when it comes to education, if you want to have a serious discussion about what’s wrong with it and how it could be improved, I’m more than happy to engage. If you want to tell me that there were halcyon days when everyone could read above the average and all students could do calculus in their heads, then I have to suggest that maybe you need to actually look at the reality and not your vague impression of the way it used to be.
When I read nonsense like today’s Sundary Herald-Sun, I have to wonder exactly how bad the education really was in days gone by, if people can read it without tearing up their newspaper and cancelling their subscriptions.
Now, I could do a long analysis of why it would be wrong to use Australia’s recent “poor” performance in the PISA rankings to assess the whole education system. I could also point out that America also writes similar articles about how their education system is failing. I could also speculate that we have large numbers of International students from China, which seems strange when we’re being asked to believe that their education system is so much superior to ours.
Even pointing out while the headline screamed “Back To Basics” while the PISA doesn’t test basic skills such as spelling and punctuation, but actually tests thinking; the ability to solve problems and think laterally.
All these things would make an interesting discussion and I’m sure that some would be able to happily find reasons why they can be ignored.
What perhaps was the most galling thing in the article was the idea that somehow students can study literacy and numeracy all the time without referring to anything else. It’s as though some people think if we just sat round drilling kids on the meaning of words, then their literacy would improve. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a place for the explicit teaching of vocabulary; I am suggesting that students need to do a lot of reading as well. It’s not – as Education Minister Dan Tehan suggested – that students shouldn’t do anything else until they’ve mastered literacy and numeracy… as though they shouldn’t learn any history, geography, health, music, drama or art until they’re literate. Let’s not acknowledge that many of these things help consolidate literacy and numeracy skills.
The paper asserted that 15 year-olds in Australia were several years behind the rest of the world in these tests. Actually, they did no such thing. They merely suggested that our rankings had dropped. While that’s not a good thing, I’d suggest that there a large number of fifteen year olds in third world countries that have had very little schooling and I’d be willing to suggest that we weren’t behind a number of these countries.
Whatever your beliefs on the literacy and numeracy levels, we can have a civilised and intelligent discussion on the best way to go forward in order to improve them. Notwithstanding that, I’d suggest that the push has nothing to do with literacy or numeracy. The idea is being pushed that we’re neglecting these things because the curriculum is too crowded with “left wing” concepts such as Australia wasn’t discovered by Captain Cook because there were already people living here, or that burning fossil fuel may be putting the planet at risk.
The editorial went on to say this in so many words: “From the anti-Australia Day forelock-tugging intelligentsia to the pro-injecting room drug apologists and the climate change alarmists, the views and rights of the average Australian are being trampled by the screaming fringe dwelling minority.”
Fringe dwelling? I thought most people accepted the idea of climate change, even if Australia day is still an excuse for bogans to wear the flag as a cape.
Anyway, It’s good to know that Morrison had a big win in the week when he not only managed to ignore the bushfires but he also managed to stop sick people getting treatment without Peter Dutton’s ok. It’s a great policy and there’s even talk of extending it to Medicare so that we can bring the Budget back to surplus by stopping people going to the doctor without the approval of Home Affairs. And in an effort to stop concerns about climate change, the government unveiled its latest weapon: Men with powerful guns that can shoot anyone reporting on any possible link between climate change and the fires.
How good are quiet Australians?
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