Letter: Knowledge nationby John KellyNews Weekly
, November 17, 2001
The "Knowledge Nation" conceit requires, as John Styles suggests (NW,
October 20), some scrutiny.
Rhetorically, it resonates like that other slick option: "Clever Country". Will it prove to be another clanging gong like its predecessor, which, through the operations of its educational apparatchiks, led the "true believers", especially battling parents, to accept that the best interests of their children lay in furnishing them with multiple non-essential "learning options", to prepare them for nonexistent jobs and makeshift career paths in the "Leisure Society"?
What did the "Clever Country" sales pitch produce?
Uninformed "choice" became the educational catch-cry of causes, philosophically underwritten by Kant and Hegel, and sociologically by neo-Marxism, which deny objective knowledge and jettison serious content for "process" and "praxis" - in the interests of gaining syllabus space for relativising attitudes, clearing the ground for socially and politically destructive ideologies (e.g. radical feminism, gay activism).
History "re-visioned" became "prophetic" cant and an instrument for forging cultural mythology.
Simultaneously, that considerable body of Western literature known as the canon was repudiated by a generation of educrats, well versed in slogans, who demonstrated little evidence of having been exposed to much, if any, of it.
"Equity", too, was much touted and subjected to a postmodernist manipulation that Swift and Orwell would have dined out on. It became a cashing-in on morally specious sentiment (1960s style) which repudiates the rational and religious basis of morality, stymies democratic debate, and confuses equality with homogeneity.
Radically "mixed-ability" classrooms and "integrated" courses became vehicles for producing in students a blandly relativistic outlook. "Certificates of Completion" (e.g. SACE, VCE), the phasing-out of marks and grades in reporting, and the push to abolish testing and examinations also served to promote the notion that every Jack and Jill is really the same.
A kind of corporate socialism came to rule - except in schools, many of which started years ago in near-poverty, whose appreciation of individual worth, achievement and potential, and resilient yet adaptable traditions, enabled them to employ strategies of resistance.
The "Clever Country", the "Vision Thing" and the "Leisure Society" were pretentious enough. It will take more than the vanity of "Knowledge Nation"-speak to re-convert true believers.John Kelly,