No More Power to Canberra!

I posed a question on Sophie’s thread which is yet to be answered – if Nelson’s mooted enquiry decides to turn English teaching on its head, how will it achieve its aims? The accreditation of teachers and the framing of curricula are state responsibilities. Getting away from the Sawyer/English debate, there are legitimate variations among the states in educational approach – for instance, a lot of Queensland parents and students would agree that having a tertiary score and Senior Certificate results dependent on progressive assessment over Years 11 and 12 is a much better thing (for learning certainly) than staking all your chips on the NSW HSC at the end of Year 12. DEST is a pestilential bureaucracy, which attempts to micro-manage higher and school education, and has done so since the lamentable Dawkins reforms in Canberra. Much as we might be concerned by the state of English education, is the solution centralising power in remote pollies and bureaucratic nooks and crannies in the national capital far from the chalkface? Do we want individual Universities to reframe their education of teachers on the basis of a one size fits all model designed in Canberra by bureaucrats not educators?

The Liberals seem to be determined centralisers these days – perhaps because their recent record of success at State elections is so very poor. No doubt scoring political points is always a factor too. Of course, it’s a trend which has its exceptions – as Tony Abbott proves while saying “don’t tell me your teeth are rotting, and you’ve been waiting three years to see a dentist, blame Bob Carr”.

Has anyone considered what will happen when there’s a Federal Labor government?

You’d think it’d be elementary politics 101 for the Libs to be able to see that if they centralise power in areas like Health, Education and IR one day a Labor government will be able to use the very same powers. It will happen, folks, maybe not in 2007 but some day. In 1993, people were saying British Labour were finished and the Tories would rule forever. But then I guess they think John Howard’s just warming up for a Menzies length reign.

I’m going with the Ronald Reagan line – let’s abolish the Federal Department of Education. Seriously. As John Quiggin one suggestion, let the Feds have Health and the States Education, and let’s be quit of the point-scoring, duplication and cost and blame shifting.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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observa
observa
2022 years ago

Some of us would agree that true Libs are digging their own grave here. It does go to the heart of the problem with Sawyer’s statements as head of a peak teaching body. The same article/views by an individual english teacher, wouldn’t rate a mention. Not hard to imagine the boot being on the other foot, with a Pentecostalist in Sawyer’s position railing about a dishonest, socialist Labor govt in future. So, are you coming round to the position of the libertarians here Mark? You know, absolute market choice with vouchers, private providers and accreditation agencies. Should Howard take the bull by the horns with a Senate majority?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

This comment I just posted on Sophie’s thread is at least as pertinent to your new thread, so I’ll post it here as well:

“AJ

I would normally agree with you, because I’m a federalist too. But children frequently move across state borders and have their education severely disrupted, especially when it happens in senior high school years. Therefore there needs to be a high degree of co-operation and co-ordination of both content and approach. It may not be necessary to go quite to the length of a national curriculum (they’ve tried before and failed to reach agreement), but certainly much better co-ordination than at present is needed.

As you concede, a national enquiry is fine. Hopefully that will uncover the fiasco of English teaching at senior high school level and recommend corrective action (although to what extent it will be successful is questionable given the pervasive influence of po mo-oriented teacher academics and their protegees), and will also push the need for greater curriculum co-ordination.

In a more general sense, although the notion of flexibility in experimenting with different solutions as an advantage of a federalist system is one I find attractive, I think we have to be cautious about using our children as subjects for experimentation. THAT’s too risky in my opinion.

Educational bureaucrats are notorious for adopting the latest educational fad and then changing it almost as often as their clothes. It’s a phenomenon well known to anyone who’s been involved with education for any length of time. Engineering/driving a new methodology or curriculum change seems to be the way education bureaucrats make a name for themselves and climb the greasy pole of career advancement.

Unfortunately it’s far too often at the expense of the students and classroom teachers at the “coalface”, who have to somehow find a way to implement these continual changes while still teaching kids effectively. Most do it by paying lip service to the latest fad and adopting enough of the jargon to avoid censure, but otherwise sticking with tried and true teaching methods. But it’s much more difficult (if not impossible) to do that where (as here) the fad is entrenched in a year 12 curriculum, so that their students are going to have to learn to regurgitate this crap or fail.”

Mark, I certainly agree with your point about Commonwealth DEST, as I experience their micro-management nonsense at tertiary level. The best outcome would be for the States to get their acts together, take notice of the Nelson outcomes to the extent that it identifies the sorts of problems we’ve been discussing and proposes sensible corrective action, and achieve a much higher degree of interstate co-ordination. In other words, get their houses in order so they can resist a DEST takeover, which would certainly make matters even worse.

Rafe
2022 years ago

Yes, I have been railing against Federal centralism for some time, even to the extent of suggesting that nine out of ten Federal staff in Health and Education should be eliminated (decimation is not nearly enough). As Mark noted, even by the most pragmatic criteria, there has to be an ALP government in Canberra eventually, what then?
Lets see sensible moves at the State level.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

observa, no vouchers etc. do not follow from what I’m arguing.

Ken – yes, I think what needs to be achieved can be sorted out through co-ordination. There’s a lot of variation in subject choice, methods of assessment, and so on which is not a bad thing and the issues of minimum standards and children transferring between state systems can surely be addressed.

C.L.
2022 years ago

Ignore yokel State governments. Canberra should take over on setting national standards of literacy. If the States get in the way, they should be steamrollered.

Sorry Rafe, this degradation has been going on for decades under State governments. Your solution to the problem is to hand it back to the same people. There are single cities in the world with populations comparable to this whole continent’s.

We don’t need seven governments running literacy. See Babel. Tower.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

My goodness. CL’s not only a Santamaria socialist but a centralist as well!!!

Cameron Riley
2022 years ago

All government since the inception of Federation in 1901 have been anti-federalist. The Westminster system is poor at combatting centralisation of power. The States have been as complicit as the Commonwealth in this.

Kevin Donnelly
Kevin Donnelly
2022 years ago

Before you get too excited about the idea of a national curriculum, have a read of this:

The first thing to be said about a national curriculum is that arguments for and against have been going on for over 24 years. The CDC’s Core Curriculum for Australian Schools (1980), Doug White and Bill Hannan’s Manifesto for a Democratic Curriculum (1984) and finally, the Keating Government’s national curriculum statements and frameworks (1991-93), have all contributed to the debate.

Those baby boomer teachers who first started teaching during the mid 1970s will also know, while millions have been spent and thousands of hours expended, that all the attempts have either failed or have been counter productive and, while possibly good in theory, most classroom teachers have been less than impressed.

Why is this so? Firstly, attempts to develop a national curriculum have adopted a top down approach, one where education apparatchiks and consultants theorise and develop curriculum far removed from the realities of the classroom.

Instead of being based an strong academic standards and an impartial, balanced view of education, especially in history, geography and social studies, it is also true that recent curriculum documents have been ideologically driven and politically biased.

As noted by the NSW Vinson Report, the result is that teachers feel overwhelmed and stressed out when forced to implement cumbersome, bureaucratic and overly detailed curriculum frameworks that make their jobs harder and take time away from teaching.

It is also true that many parents feel students are being indoctrinated in areas like multiculturalism, gender studies, history and the environment and, as a result, they send their children to non-government schools where the values are more in tune with those of the home.

Secondly, as outlined in Why Our Schools are Failing, the history of curriculum development in Australia is one based on failed educational fads like whole language and fuzzy maths. The fact that the Keating Government’s national curriculum adopted outcomes based education also led to falling standards.

While partly responsible for developing Australia’s national curriculum statements and profiles, even Bruce Wilson now argues that the attempt was inherently flawed and that the outcome represents an “unsatisfactory political and intellectual compromise”

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Kevin, do you have a web page where you have the text of your articles on line? Posting a link allows readers to go there, and avoids the problem of disrupting the flow of a thread and making it harder to follow and read with a long post. Just an editorial suggestion :)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Mark

Kevin has sent me a chapter of his thesis, which I’ll format and post when I get a spare moment.

As for his comments, I can’t speak for others but I’ve been finding them very wortwhile and to the point. I don’t personally find their length excessive, in fact given Kevin’s expertise in the area I’m pleased he’s prepared to devote the time to make them. Think Jack Strocchi if you reckon Kevin’s are long comments.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Ken, I wasn’t referring to Kevin’s comments in general – and I’m glad to have him here as a commenter – just to the practice of pasting in an article – as above, parts of which are not necessarily germane to the thread.

Kevin Donnelly
Kevin Donnelly
2022 years ago

Mark, sorry about that. I am aware of the need to keep things short; but being a busy person, I do not always have the time to edit and rewrite.

I should have a webpage with all the articles, but never got around to it. Is it expensive to do?

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

I don’t think it’s expensive, Kevin, probably just the domain and server costs but I’m no expert. Ken might know, or Andrew Norton and Rafe Champion who maintain their own websites where they post their articles.

Ken Miles
Ken Miles
2022 years ago

It is also true that many parents feel students are being indoctrinated in areas like multiculturalism, gender studies, history and the environment and, as a result, they send their children to non-government schools where the values are more in tune with those of the home.

Hi Kevin,

I’ve been trying to find out (unsuccessfully) for some time exactly what kids are being indoctrinated about the environment?

While it has been a while since I was at school (plus it was the NZ system) nothing which I was taught was inconsistent with the scientific literature.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

For anyone who doubts Mark B’s comments about the sheer idiocy of DEST’s micro-management of tertiary education, here’s an example I’ve run foul of only today. CDU Law School has always made heavy reliance on visiting academics from interstate and overseas, to spice up our offering of elective units. Given our very small staff and remoteness, it’s just about the only way we can offer a decent range of electives to students.

Typically we find out about the fact that an academic is going to pay us a visit aboput a semester in advance (although it can be later). As a result, we’ve added into our law degree program a couple of “floating” elective units with open content, and we add those to the teaching program whenever we find out we’re going to have a visiting academic willing to deliver a lecture series for us. Usually the subject wll be offered in intensive mode in the June-July semester break, because that’s when people like to visit Darwin – the weather is beautiful then, but freezing cold “down south”.

However, I’ve now discovered we can’t do this anymore. DEST rules insist that no university subject can be offered unless it has been programmed and notified to DEST by October the previous year. What useful purpose is served by DEST insisting on pre-approving every single unit taught by every faculty and school in every university in Australia is beyond my comprehension. But the consequence for us is that we can no longer make use of visiting academics to deliver intensive units in mid year, unless they’ve told us they’re coming before October the previous year!!!!

It isn’t quite as criminal as the teaching of HSC English, but it’s bad enough.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

It’s typical, Ken. A decision is made by somewhere a long way away from where the work’s actually done with no idea of the implications and practical consequences.

A research “concentration” I used to work in (which was really just a grouping set up because it was decreed that everyone had to belong to either one of these or a research centre) was required to report on internationalisation. We weren’t provided with any guidelines as to what this meant. On asking for clarification, we were told we could interpret it as having at least one international PhD student. We explained in turn that these are difficult to recruit as they’re ineligible for Federal Gov’t funding and they have to pay full fees, and that we didn’t have any money to fund a scholarship. We were then told we weren’t sufficiently internationalised. The apparent consequences of this were nil in real terms but apparently punishment is visited by endless forms, reports and correspondence with bureaucrats. The final solution was to establish a committee to work on an “internationalisation strategy” and to draft a “statement of intent” and “operational and measurable indicators”. Needless to say the said committee never met, and this appeared to make the whole question go away.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

ps – neat article in the Higher Ed today by an economist about the misuse of language in business schools. He points out that “strategic” and “management” are probably the most used terms with the least meaning attached to them in the workforce today.

Kevin Donnelly
Kevin Donnelly
2022 years ago

Hi Ken Miles,

One of the chapters in my book looks at how the PC movement has impacted on school curriculum, it’s entitled ‘education and the culture wars’ and it can be downloaded from:

http://www.mrcltd.org.au/content.cfm?PageID=PubsMonographs

It deals mostly with English and history, but there is a little on geography and the environment.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Kevin, is it true that history is no longer taught as a discrete subject in secondary school – that it’s chunked up under vegie stuff like ‘science and the environment’? I’ve a friend who lectures in sociology at Monash who told me this was so. Scary as hell if true.

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

I am enough of an old style conservative to rail against the new centralism being sprouted by the Libs these days. All the arguements against it that we waved when ALP types were propounding centralist solutions still hold good when Liberals propose them.

Kevin Donnelly’s arguments against seem pretty persuasive to me. If I was a parent, I would be pretty wary about any attempt to have a top down solution imposed from Canberra. (I would also encourage any offspring I might theoretically have to go for the I.B. which may be a casualty of centralisation.)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

“is it true that history is no longer taught as a discrete subject in secondary school – that it’s chunked up under vegie stuff like ‘science and the environment’?”

Rob, I don’t know about other states, but in the NT up to Year 10 it’s certainly true that history is taught along with a weird and miscellaneous group of subjects under the name SOSE (Studies of Society and Environment). SOSE is described in the following terms in the NT curriculum framework document:

“The Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE) Learning Area incorporates the
disciplines of History, Geography, Politics, Economics, Business and Careers. Through SOSE,
learners explore and critically construct their knowledge and understandings about the
society in which they live and their place within it. They investigate the changing world
in terms of natural and social systems, culture, place and resources, examining how these
changes infl uence and impact on their lives, society and the environment.
SOSE explores a range of regional, national and global contexts, providing opportunities
to constructively critique and propose solutions to a range of social and environmental
issues. Learners use social inquiry to investigate the past and present and to explore
future possibilities. The study of SOSE encourages learners to become purposeful,
involved, well-informed citizens who are able to make reasoned judgements and critical
decisions about the world in which they live. The study of the environment enables
learners to understand the complex inter-relations between the natural and built
environment and encourages them to take action and be environmentally responsible in
caring for places and building a better future for all.
The SOSE Learning Area is based on integrated processes and rich skills that combine
rigorous meta-cognitive strategies with multi-media literacies to support the construction
of learner understanding and knowledge. Learners will investigate and respond to
situations, use their initiative to seek solutions, generate plans and carry out courses of
action. They will be guided to become self-regulated, innovative researchers who carry
out projects, actions or services to completion; actively investigating, communicating
and participating. Opportunities exist to work collaboratively and refl ect on learning
experiences so as to adapt or modify their approach. Critical literacy skills are developed
by analysing and evaluating sources for use to support or develop their own viewpoint.
Communication skills are developed by using, producing and presenting accurate texts
that fulfi l their purpose.”

Fortunately in years 11 and 12, these subjects are taught separately (see, for example, the subject offerings at Casuarina Senior College where my daughter Rebecca studies (http://www.csc.nt.edu.au/curriculum/socedfaculty.html)

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Thanks, Ken.

Say this aloud without laughing:

‘The SOSE Learning Area is based on integrated processes and rich skills that combine rigorous meta-cognitive strategies with multi-media literacies to support the construction of learner understanding and knowledge.’

My cat could write more sensible stuff than that. In fact, she just did. Get off the keyboard, Francesca.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Same deal in Qld.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Ken, my cat liked this one on the thread you listed:

In Modern History 1 (1919 to 1939):
‘Totalitarian Regimes (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy & Japan)’

Umm… something missing? I could have sworn my cat muttered something about Lenin, Stalin, the gulag, 20 million dead……

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Troppo is about to suffer from a bad case of Nietzsche’s eternal return. Mention the gulags and guess where this thread will go?

Here’s a clue (approximately the second half of the 128 comments are dominated by one theme):

http://troppoarmadillo.ubersportingpundit.com/archives/008227.html

Please, no one mention bloody Quadrant!

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Sorry. All the same…..

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Actually it may not be as bad as you think, Mark. We could give Rafe the URL and email address of the NT Board of Studies and send him off to administer his Inquisition to them. With a bit of luck it will keep him occupied for months.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

I know I’ve asked this question before, but why are you guys at Troppo so down on Quadrant? Come on, it’s mainly socialist revisionists revisiting their radical pasts. Like me. I’ve got a piece coming out in the March edition which, if unedited, will include this deathless (ha ha!) passage:

‘Small wonder the Left has gone mad. The burden of error piled upon error, mistake on mistake, is too much to bear. Worse yet is the mute, unendurable reproach of the murdered millions. They were the ones who paid the price for the Left’s idealism, the nihilistic or utopian fantasies that contradicted all human experience. The West itself never paid; it was far too rich, and far too sensible, to take the Marxist yearnings seriously enough to try them out for itself. But its radical academy inducted in and indoctrinated the second and third world’s most able and ambitious students

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Please, please don’t encourage Rafe, Rob!

I’m of half a mind to add ‘Quadrant’ to the MT Blacklist :)

Sylvia
Sylvia
2022 years ago

Any opinions from anyone knowledgeable about the Queensland Core Skills test, a 2-day test taken mid-year in Year 12 to complement the other assessment methods?

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Sylvia, the CST was introduced following the Viviani Report into Tertiary Entrance in the early 90s which I wrote a consultancy report on at the time – though it was a long time ago so I can’t recall the details of what the CST’s format is. However, it has much the same role as its predecessor the ASAT test which I did at High School. Because there are no external exams in Queensland, the function of the CST is basically scaling. In other words, it’s used to ensure consistency of grading across schools. ASAT assigned a ranking to schools and TE scores were then relative to that ranking. I’m not sure but I think the CST might be individual – we never got to know our ASAT scores and there was criticism of ASAT because allegedly private schools used to discourage their less performing students from sitting it. It would have been difficult to apply such a measure individually in the 80s because of the then state of IT.

ASAT was very similar to the Federal public service exam I sat at one point – basically testing things like pattern recognition, comprehension, critical reasoning ability.

I suspect a bit of googling would give you some info on the CST – the relevant administering body is called from memory the Queesland Studies Authority (which replaced things like the Board of Senior Secondary Studies).

David Tiley
2022 years ago

“‘Small wonder the Left has gone mad” – Rob, that is a deluded notion. Just deluded.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

David, here’s the horrible paragraph that follows (ppmcg will kill me for this):

‘The results speak for themselves. It was at the feet of his radical professors in Paris that Pol Pot received the ideological training that he deployed to devastating effect in Cambodia. Those on the Left who offered apologias for the Khmer Rouge (and there was no shortage of them, in the1970’s) should have experienced the moral equivalent of a near-death experience when the full extent of the horror became known. Still

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Reading my last post it occurs to me that some people might think I was making light of the Cambodian killing fields. I was not. I was not trying to score rhetorical points. My heart goes out to the people of that ancient and beautiful land who have endured so much, and to whom the world owes a debt it can never repay.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Can I ask people with respect to please confine themselves to the topic of the thread? My patience with endless discussions of the contribution of Quadrant is at an end. The article being quoted has nothing whatever to do with the concerns of this thread. Please be more careful about remaining relevant and avoid posting irrelevant material. I’ve already indicated I don’t think general discussions about history, fascism and communism are at all germane to a post on federalism.

Kevin Donnelly
Kevin Donnelly
2022 years ago

Rob and Ken,

Such is the sorry state of history teaching in our schools that David Kemp initiated a review; the only problem was that the review was carried out by academics partly responsible for the mess. History has been swallowed by pro mo and is now called studies of the society and the environment. Sorry about plugging the book again, but the chapter ‘the culture wars’ gives detailed examples. My favorite is the Queensland syllabus that argues that all knowledge is tentative (I actually believe in truth and objectivity), that students must be taught a social-critical approach where they deconstruct, blah, blah, how privilige and marginalisation are created and how the consumer of a text is positioned by the author. I wont even mention the PC, black armband view of history.

Kevin Donnelly
Kevin Donnelly
2022 years ago

Sylvia,

As far as I know the Queensland score skills test is a general type intelligence test; the results of which are used to confirm and moderate school-based assessment. As the year 12 exam is not norm-referenced, standardised or moderated there needs to be some way of getting consistency across the state.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Sorry, Mark. You’re quite right.