Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bland Curriculum constrictions

  James Paterson (IPA) in The Australian ( nov 11) and in Quadrant  makes a strong point about the reasons why Australians are now faced with more pedantic and overly bureaucratic education review . In presuming to tell teachers how to teach,  and what they are doing wrong ( perhaps rather than tell the parents ) our political parties are doing our best teachers and our educations system great wrong .  If only pollies wouldn't meddle or think they know things in other people's area of expertise.I must stop dreaming  

....And get back to a memorable lesson and how it happened . A good teacher  has a rather special way of approaching any subject , and its not helped by trying to define "The lesson" too closely in phrases and words  that everyone ( esp a non teacher ) understands. That is to bring boring forward and leave basic excitement outside the room . That is to make the teacher the educator of the bureau and as everyone knows on that subject -most of our best teachers don't want to go back to kindergarten .
The lesson is a whole and , like a good meal , is best enjoyed and approved  as a complete thing .
 I would argue  the case that it's  "the extras"and the links to them  ( the "externalities" in ecosystem or economics, if you like )  that often  make a subject  interesting  eg a powerful discussion on renewable energy links  maths, physics and plant biochemistry or fun food learning needs a bit of secondary level chemistry to make fun with food technology more than a mere list of checkboxes .Kids learn,  and learn how to learn by glimpsing process in nature , not nature in isolation - in categories . You will reduce boring if you have the right  links.     Kids,  like us, learn more by linking subjects than we do by studying them in isolation. Its part of what we say when we say "learning best by doing" too.
Just listing the components is just making a very, very long list,  which no teacher has time to check list ( even though bureau persons in Canberra and Spring street might )
There is a lot to be said for the old system in Victoria where non core subject matter is  categorized generally so that only the final product is approved ( rather than try and talk to the parts as they do in curriculum review)
For example learning about responsible use of alcohol is not a matter of telling kids how many stubbies is good for your health  . Good education is a matter of TRUST which means the pollies are probably undermining it by trying to take full control of it.
With alcohol and good health lessons you  either
-leave it to their parents,
-have a  clear approved lesson  of what is to be taught in a form parents can clearly understand ,( Vic system)
--or use only people the parents trust to teach the sensitive non core subjects ( has to be clear that they do ) .
Politicians meddling in the categories and undermining the trust and technical soveriegnty of a "good lesson " undermines,  like a good meal,  the right combination of ingredients that make them both interesting , tasty and memorable .Education should be edgy and the curriculum approach is anything but edgy.

Any more ideas on how we can avoid the ongoing dumbing down of education in Australia?
The stream of parents choosing private schools says something about  more interesting combinations of subjects and values than the plain flour meals offered as gospel in too many public schools