Bad News Day

Aussie Friends of Treehorn
Bad News Day
Is it all lost?
Some people have a bad hair day. In one day, I heard some seriously bad news as far as the future of Australian schooling is concerned.
UNSCHOOLING    Homeschooler Ken Woolford of Toowomba tells me that the number of families in Toowoomba that have now turned to teaching their children at home is between 200 and 300. This number for a city the size of Toowoomba would have been unthinkable when schools were free to teach. Since then, I am told, the numbers are real and are increasing day by day. OMG!
Multiplied by the number of cities around Australia with similar populations, it surely means that thousands of families around Australia are opting-out of mainstream test-based, fear-driven schooling and now wisely provide that love and attention and on-going challenge and self-evaluation that are essential to learning – the foundations for high achievement – at home. Schools don’t seem to cater for those sorts of things. Children are destined to sit still all day with tablets, electronic slates, ipads and look at white boards for 12 years.
Ken is involved with a centre that assists parents who teach children at home. 75 families have visited the centre this year! [Ken reckons that NAPLAN could be dropped completely and no one would be wiser ….or dumber. I don’t agree. All kids would be a helluva lot better learners if they were taught to learn at school in the same  manner that he and his wife teach their children at home.]
While this comes as no surprise under present circumstances, my vision of children bursting a blood vessel to get to school each day because of the wonderful learning challenges there…the personal interchanges, the play, the fun…. enjoying the beauty of Mathematics and Arithmetic, the wonders of science and the pleasures that our wonderful English language creates [including its challenging spelling and grammar]; each in his or her own learning style using endless appropriate teaching styles,  that schools are supposed to provide,  has been blasted apart ………. I am now convinced that no job educator or parent cares much about how children learn BEST….anymore.   It hurts. I had such faith.
DIRECT INSTRUCTION A recently retired teacher described to me what she was ordered to use DI because her Queensland school was forced to undertake the direct/explicit instruction gimmick, recently imported from the US. What she described seemed like the kind of bang-crash-wallop methods that a lot of us used to get kids to pass the Scholarship Examination way-back-when. The kids hated school and were turned off learning, but they passed the exam. We did a lot of damage.
This new DI method – is one of those located at the extreme didactic [sermonising] end of the teaching strategies continuum  –
                                                                                   Didactic                                          Group                                       Maieutic
     Adult Directed                                  Inter-action                                 Child-based
using only a few kinds of learning interaction. They appeal to the vanity of our federal minister and his Jesuit mind-set; and the state ministers, no doubt,  feel too underpowered to resist.
Criticised by endless numbers of US cognitive development theorists and practitioners, DI has its Australian critics:
  • DI focuses on teacher control of lesson pacing and content and does not encourage the engagement with student cultural resources, background knowledge and community context.
  • It deskills teachers by routinizing their work and downplaying their professional capacity to vary instructional pace and curriculum content depending on the student cohort and context.
  • It works through strict tracking of student progress and ability grouping, which research shows can severely disadvantage some students.
  • Finally, it places the teacher and child in a rigid relationship where the teacher is always the one with the power and knowledge with limited allowance or recognition of individual and cultural difference.  This relationship is not conducive to local adaptation of lessons or content to accommodate community, cultural or individual differences, creativity and innovation in teaching and learning.  [Allan Luke]
Real professional [vis-a-vis job] primary school teachers need to ask themselves whether this kind of forced confinement of young children in a special kind of nasty detention centre for children’s learning, practising more at the lower extremity of legitimate teaching strategies and enduring the requirement forced on them to suspend their ethical principles, is morally defensible and ethical.
CURRICULUM REPORT  Then word arrived that the Donnelly-Wilshire report was about to become available.  Ho hum.
However, are you looking forward as much as I am to the comments by our school experts about the influence of SBTs on a curriculum and the kinds of impact that they have on the classroom curriculum in action aka children’s learning? It is about the curriculum. If the curriculum in the classroom has been treated seriously, it’s bye-bye NAPLAN, for sure.
Otherwise.  Ho hum.
What a day. Thank God it’s Friday.
Phil Clullen […’s all a John Zupp] 41 Cominan Avenue Banora Point   Australia  2486   07 5524 6443

2 thoughts on “Bad News Day

  1. Pingback: Bad News Day | Leadership, Innovation, and Crea...

  2. DI sounds a lot like the ‘ACE’ instruction model employed by certain ‘Christian Academies’ that place students in isolated learning carrels – similar to the boxes in the Chapel in the ‘Model Prison’ at Port Arthur which allowed prisoners to see the priest conducting the service, but preventing them from interacting with their fellow ‘felons’. The 19th Century prison authorities shut down this ‘behaviour modification model’ for the most hardened adult convicts when they realized it was sending them insane.
    Norwegian authorities have had much more success with treating ‘bad’ people with respect.

    No doubt about it, our Federal (and State) education ministers, both Labor and Liberal have had some appallingly bad ‘old’ ideas recently. Being retired has certainly improved my health.

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