I was vaguely horrifed to hear Education Minister Julie Bishop pontificating about what education ought to be at the National Press Club today. I only caught the last few minutes (so maybe I do her an injustice) she seemed to be saying something like......Schools ought to be consulting with employers so that they can find out what parents want children to learn at school, and so that we may continue to have economic propsperity and they can share in it
Now I don't have much problem with that bald statement as a part of the vocational function that schools should see as theirs to address. But Minister Bishop seemed to be suggesting that this was the main function of education.
Here we have a travesty of educational philosophy, I suggest; and more than that a profound denigration of the role education should play in a civilised society.
If all it is meant to do is to provide fodder for the economic machine then God help us all.
Such a philosophy would spell the death of history, literature, pure maths, research science, music and anything that does not "upskill" the average participant.
We already see the narrowness that is engendered by those who, like Ms Bishop's Prime Ministerial colleague, have the narrowest of narrow views of what education in history is about, and who bandy the word "values" around and yet have no idea of the complexity of that sociological concept.
Contrast this with avid blog reader W who is a gifted educator (even if self-doubting) presently involved in helping immigrants to learn English. Earning a quarter of what Minister Bishop is reaping from the communal coffers, and struggling with a government that seems to think that 100 hours/student (or less) is all that they are prepared to fund; she has thrown herself into this work with gusto.
Ever looking for ways to engage her charges she tried to boil a potato in a classroom and set the fire alarms off, she is now confined to only using a microwave if she intends to teach English in such a challenging way.
To hear her talk about education is to hear one speak about a process which is immensely practical, and yet which is also mind-blowing. It is setting people free to live life.
She needs to talk to the good Minister and excite her too about the fact that education is more than just preparation for participation in the economy it is about engagement with the profundity of life, its challenges and its excitement...which, I suggest, is more than just being able to fill in a Centrelink form.
W's charges will remember her, I suggest, long after we have forgotten the narrow opportunistic philosophy of Julie Bishop and her boss....Julie who? I hear you ask