October 11th 2008

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Australia's debt party is well and truly over

EDITORIAL: US financial meltdown worsens ...

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Why Congress has been wary about Wall Street bailout

EDUCATION: Radical left-wing agenda in store for our schools

DEFENCE: ADF now stretched to the uttermost

ASIA-PACIFIC: China's power projection in Fiji

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Concerns over Chinese investment in WA mining

OPINION: Taiwan's olive-branch to Beijing

DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: Small farms offer solution to world food shortages

BIOFUELS: Ethanol home-brew kit on sale

WESTERN AUSTRALIA: WA Nationals opt for partnership, not coalition

VICTORIA: Abortion bill cannot enforce gestational limits

ABORTION: Painfully taking the life of the most defenceless

OPINION: Scientism as the new fundamentalism

AS THE WORLD TURNS: British postage stamp honours Hitler admirer / Old and sick have a duty to die / Economics divorced from morality / The everyone-on-your-own society / Decline of male breadwinners

LETTERS: Evidence for global cooling disputed (letter)

BOOKS: ORIGINAL SIN: A Cultural History, by Alan Jacobs


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Radical left-wing agenda in store for our schools

by Kevin Donnelly

News Weekly, October 11, 2008
Cultural left ideology and social engineering feature prominently in a draft government document defining national educational goals, writes Kevin Donnelly.

If appointing Stuart Macintyre and Peter Freebody to write the framework for the national curriculum in history and English caused a ripple of concern, then the draft National Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians represents a tsunami.

The significance of the new national goals cannot be overestimated. The declaration is to be endorsed by federal, state and territory education ministers and it will set the agenda for all Australian schools, government and non-government, for the next 10 years or so.

The national goals are also significant in that they provide further evidence that the Rudd Government's commitment to an intellectually rigorous and balanced education system is nothing but empty rhetoric and political spin.

Julia Gillard is both Minister for Education and Minister for Social Inclusion and also a member of the socialist-inspired Fabian society, so it should not surprise that the draft declaration includes a commitment to overcome educational disadvantage suffered by indigenous children and those from a low socio-economic background.

What is surprising, mirroring the sentiments of old-style socialists like Victoria's one time Minister for Education and later Premier, Joan Kirner, is the declaration's statement that education must "achieve not only equality of opportunity but also equity of outcomes".

Ignored is the fact that no amount of positive discrimination by setting quotas for tertiary entry or dumbing down the curriculum - on the mistaken belief that academic, competitive studies favour the already privileged - can disguise the fact that recognising merit and ability is the best way to foster and reward talent.

Also forgotten is the latest research associated with the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) that proves that disadvantaged students in Australia, when compared to overseas students, have a much better chance of achieving success.

Of course, the concern for equity and fairness does not apply to those gifted students who, when compared to students in stronger overseas education systems, have less of a chance of achieving at the top of the scale.

Cultural left ideology and social engineering are not restricted to ensuring that all in society achieve what ALP governments decide are just and fair educational outcomes. The preamble to the national goals provides further evidence of bias.

Forget Australia's Judeo-Christian heritage and what we owe to Western civilisation. According to the declaration, students must be "Asia-literate" and become global citizens committed to cultural and religious diversity and difference and "peaceful conflict resolution".

Tell that to the Islamic fundamentalist conspiring to make jihad against Western-style democracies like Australia.

Much like Australia's outcomes-based education (the elephant in the room that has now been expunged from the educrat's lexicon), the national goals document abounds in new-age clichés.

The document is a "new declaration" for a "new century"; education "represents a universal constant for knowledge" and the world is one that is "radically evolving and uncertain".

The 21st century is characterised by "global integration and interdependence", "mobility and migration" and "globalisation and technological change". As a result, students must embrace information and communications technology (ICT), be environmentally aware and committed to "peaceful conflict resolution".

It's no secret that ALP governments across Australia wish to halt the growth of Catholic and independent schools. The Victorian Minister for Education, Bronwyn Pike, has floated the idea of integrating Catholic schools into the state system.

Promoting equity

The Federal Government is keen to make non-government schools reveal all sources of funding, making it easier to justify cutting back its contribution. Under the heading "Promoting equity, a foundation for achieving our goals", the statement is made that all school sectors must collaborate with governments in addressing educational inequities.

To achieve the above, all students are to be provided access to schooling that is "free from discrimination based on gender, language, sexual orientation, pregnancy, culture, ethnicity, religion or disability, and differences arising from student's socio-economic background or geographical location".

One wonders, as a condition of government funding, whether non-government schools will be made to adjust their enrolment procedures and curriculum to reflect the cultural Left's commitment to equity, social justice and acceptance of diversity.

Notwithstanding Minister Gillard's description of herself as an education traditionalist and Prime Minister Rudd's commitment to a back-to-basics, discipline-based approach to the curriculum, the national goals paper represents a dumbed-down approach.

While nodding in the direction of the basics and the subject disciplines, the declaration emphasises "multidisciplinary capabilities" and "generic skills", such as the ability to think flexibly, communicate well, work with others, solve problems, think creatively and innovate.

In a re-run of the Mayer Competencies that died a slow death during the early to mid-'90s, the intention is to structure the curriculum in terms of so-called business and real-world needs and expectations.

Ignored is that competencies and skills are best taught in the context of the established disciplines as they are subject-specific, and the education, to be worthwhile, should be valued for its own sake.

Assessment is another area that will suffer under the proposed national guidelines. The weekend before last year's federal election, the Labor Opposition released a media statement headed "Commitment to lift school standards".

Authorised by Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith, the ALP promised to implement A-to-E reporting, based on the argument that "parents are entitled to honest judgements about how well or badly their child is progressing at school.... We can't let children encounter the tough judgements of the real world, when it is too late".

Rigorous assessment?

Unfortunately, nobody appears to have told the authors of the recent draft declaration about the ALP's election promise. Under the heading "Assessment", it tells us that assessment must be "rigorous, comprehensive and forward-looking" - whatever that means.

Reflecting the prevalent care-share-grow approach to assessment much loved by progressive educators, readers are told that assessment has three roles: assessment for learning (diagnostic), assessment as learning (children self-assessing), and assessment of learning (assess student learning against goals and standards).

As has been discovered with outcomes-based education - under which children are assessed against vague, fuzzy and meaningless standards instead of being ranked one against the other, or marked 10 out of 10 - the new national goals paper will still leave parents in the dark.

The draft National Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians could not have been released at a more difficult time for teacher and school feedback. Not only is the process being rushed - the draft was released on September 8 and feedback is due by October 3 - but schools are set to have a two-week break.

Once again, classroom teachers have minimal time to give their views. Worse still, the way that the gaols are being developed, much like the way the national curriculum is being put together, shows that Australia's educational mafia is still in control. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

- Dr Kevin Donnelly is director of Melbourne-based Education Strategies and author of Dumbing Down (available for $24.95 from News Weekly Books).

Looking for a spark of grievance and fanning it into a flame

The diversity industry - the profession paid to harangue Americans about racism and sexism - has burrowed deep into the nation's elite prep schools. Where private secondary schools once inculcated American citizenship and patriotism, today they employ diversity professionals to show students their complicity in an unjust society.

Schools that strove to mould a homogeneous national elite now have enshrined "difference" as their organising principle. Aping the fractured curriculum of the university, many prep schools offer courses in "gay voices", the "construction of gender" and "racial identity".

This rush to import all that is divisive from the universities is a grievous missed opportunity to create an integrated, colour-indifferent society. By all accounts, many students enter high school blissfully free of divisive race-consciousness. But rather than encouraging their students' instinctive colour-blindness, the private-school leadership is determined to snuff it out....

Minority-only freshmen-orientation programs, as well as school assemblies favouring spokesmen for various privileged identities - gay, female, minority - reinforce the "difference" ideology. At Brearley, a Manhattan girls' day school, every class has a student "diversity monitor" to keep attention focused on "diversity issues"....

Young people quickly learn that their teachers see an awareness of difference, not commonality, as the highest civic good. "I have never felt more Indian than when I came to Phillips Academy," wrote Tara Gadgil in the Phillipian, Andover's student newspaper, last year. Gadgil contrasted the atmosphere at Andover with her school back home in Texas. There, she says, "I was never made to feel that I was any different [from the white students] and the kids ... never found the need or desire to speak about race relations."

- from Heather MacDonald, "The prep-school PC plague", City Journal (New York), Vol. 12, No. 2, Spring 2002.
URL: www.city-journal.org/html/12_2_the_prep.html


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