Somthing’s buggin’ me

Something Gary Stager said very loudly in his ACEC keynote is bugging me.

It was clear from his outline ahead of the conference, that he was going to stand in the street. “Who are the combatants in this latest revolution? Will children, democracy and creativity be the first casualties.”

This exploded mid-way when he dared to say. “Your government hates teachers and kids”.

He was talking about National Curriculum, and the lack of evidence in any other country that National Curriculum has had any positive effect in the outcomes for students.

Recently, Professor Cathie Holden, of Britain’s University of Exeter, urged the writers of the Australian national curriculum not to make the mistakes that her country is now fixing. She says that by focusing too narrowly on history, Australia’s curriculum risks failing to address big-picture education in fields such as civics and citizenship, global education, sustainability and economics.

The Melbourne Declaration  states that ”Australia values the central role of education in building a democratic, equitable and just society that is prosperous, cohesive and culturally diverse, and that values Australia’s indigenous cultures as a key part of the nation’s history, present and future”. It recognises that ”schools play a vital role in promoting the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, moral, spiritual and aesthetic development and wellbeing of young Australians”.

So why then, given the 500 or so people at ACEC – did the Victorian Minister opening the event not stay around for a single session? Is that why the opening speaker completely misread the audience and what they actually do and where they do it.

Why did no Ministers or envoys attend from any other state? – And why, given this is the most tech-savvy crowd that Australia can muster – did no one from the new National Curriculum Authority bother to show up to learn, or explain their mad-dog plan.

What Gary was telling teachers was clear. National Curriculum, lack of PD to transition, a focus on infrastucture and public websites to rank performance will lead to worse conditions for teachers and students. These new public powers will lead to ‘dark times’ he said. In Savannah USA, and entire workforce was fired – because it was a failing school. In the UK, schools that fail, have simply been closed.

In NSW, Erskine Park High School is seeing higher enrollment post mySchools. It looks online like it is a stunning performer in it’s demographically shaped area. In fact the boosted results come from the fact it is the only school in the area with an OC class (opportunity/gifted and talented).

If ACCE, which represents the ‘best of educational computing teachers’ cannot hold the attention of a single government educational minister  it leads me to wonder just who will?

I find it disgusting that NO-ONE from government attended a single session.

How dare a minister stand on stage, address people with no understanding, then leave. Even worse, why would you even invite them if they are not prepared to engage with the very people who give them office.

Gary is right on the money on this topic for me. We need to demand real evidence, real facts and real money to support those in most need – children.


9 thoughts on “Somthing’s buggin’ me

  1. Thanks for your kind words.

    I’m not sure of the direct quotes used from my talk, but I’m glad you’re encouraging people to fight the good fight.

    I love Australia and don’t want to see you lose your way.



    • I do wonder at times … we are such a distant, diverse nation that seems to find it very hard to deal with the issues you raised – especially for 70% of the students whom attend public school. ACEC is an important peak body that I hope will gain momentum to take evidence to government to at least make them account for some of the current policy. If not them, whom?

  2. “big-picture education in fields such as civics and citizenship, global education, sustainability and economics” ….

    I think that this attitude is NOT progressive – you CAN teach these elements through discipline based leaning. I am not suggesting that these subjects are faddish or unimportant but leaving a curriculum to areas which have not been fully developed would leave students with some sort of half-arsed, mish-mash of ‘well-meaning’topics without any skills to execute the learning that they are supposed meant to.

    I also made the argument here at New Matilda that there is only so much that students can do in one week and that the remit of the Melbourne Declaration goes *beyond* schools and teachers – the aims of this document extend clearly to the community as well.

    Disciplined-based learning can teach these issues, as they should, but teachers will need support to think about how they do this.

  3. How many principals attended this conference? I know one who did (good on him) but how many others? Even worse than this disturbing behaviour is, as you say, the fact that those who create the new edict are doing so from a distance and with no intention to communicate, let alone integrate. Food for thought, Dean, thanks.

  4. Same happened at the last 2 conferences I attended in NZ. The education minister (previusly a manager of motels and property in the private sector) gave the introductory speeches and then was whisked away to “other” engagements. No attempt to interact, no keynotes attended… Nothing to show she was moderately interested in what we were doing there or in the future of education in NZ or globally. Why bother coming at all?

    i believe we have a curriculum that allows for creativity and flexibility, but all we heard from the minister was how national standards would help identify children who were failing… another neagtive, deficit model of teching and learning. No wonder she didn,t stick around…there was little for her to relate to in the successes and positives that flooded the conferences.

  5. Sitting listening to some of the great speakers and presenters, and surrounded by many dedicated educators, I was dissappointed that many who make final decisions – the politicians, school principals and deputies – were not present or very poorly represented. How are they going to really understand about the issues without any interaction or immersion in discussions about the future of education and technologies that can be used in improvinging student learning?
    It is also dissappointing that many who work in the tech support areas don’t seem to attend.
    It would create a much better understanding of technology within the curriculum, and how it is applied, if some of the above actually attended sessions here.
    There often seems to be a gulf between practicing teachers and tech support people in schools that seems to stem form their very different perspectives and language.

    • Thanks … which lead to the burning questions – who is really leading schools. Those with badge of office, or those with personal infrastructure. We can’t confuse leadership with management and administration.

  6. Sounds like education in America, too. Government making policy for education makes about as much sense as me, a teacher, making policy for a Fortune 500 company that I have no understanding of or experience in. And yet, here we are.

    Maybe instead of telling teachers and the education community what is best from a theoretical standing, they should go to some of these conferences and LISTEN, maybe they should speak to students to find out how and what they think they should learn, or (heaven forbid) actually spend some real time in a classroom (not just an hour as an observer).

    Just a thought.

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