Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Heed the warnings!

I think by and large a national curriculum is quite a good idea.
It is not unreasonable to think that we should be able to say that if you go to school in Australia then there should be a capacity to say that if you have completed, say, 10 years of schooling then at least you have been exposed to the same general education in Tasmania as you might have been if you happened to have gone to school in Western Australia.
This is better than saying each State government, or worse each individual school , can decide what it likes about what is the core.
But this, of course, does not guarantee that everyone will be at the same level when they leave school. We still have to address the issues of scale, the problems of remote and small communities, and the ever-increasing disparity between private and public education. These are not, essentially, issues of curriculum...they are issues of resourcing, inequality and justice.
A national curriculum is "a good idea" if it is the genuine struggling of the educational community to grapple with what it means to "be educated" in 21st century Australia.
It is not a good idea if it is governments, politicians and/or bureaucrats making decisions about what is in the best interests of people and imposing that on the system.
This does not matter whether it is Labor or Liberal, Greens or Independents...while they are all entitled to their opinion they are not, cannot be, and should not be the only voices that are heard in this discussion.
So often they are. And of course there is enormous power and influence if you control the purse.
So much is immediately apparent in the opening salvos of the history debate.
Our politicians (eyes as ever on the polls) are already eyeing off public opinion and creating division about the curriculum..."too much aboriginal", "too much asian", "not enough British"....
Where, I ask, is the debate about what 'history' is?
One thing I know is that while history may often have been indoctrination (think of the way we have talked about WW1 and WW2 for example)...or what we now call 'political correctness'...that is, supporting particular political goal.
Education is ultimately about equipping a student to assess and evaluate situations for themselves. While this might require the gaining of certain fundamental skills (eg. spelling, factual information, numerical competency, language vocabulary etc....) it is not, in the end, being told what to think!

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