The Megaphone - Myths and Realities
May 05, 2016 | The Megaphone | by guest columnist Greg Cudmore
The Megaphone offers you the chance to share your opinion with other Learning Press readers...
One such reader, Greg Cudmore, is fast becoming a regular columnist at The Learning Press.
This time, he looks to explode a few myths - because, he says, any reputable education system should champion Hemingway’s call to cultivate students with finely tuned, in-built crap detectors.
Myth 1: Governments in Australia should be pilloried for not spending more on education
Governments, in fact, spend over $80 billion on education annually, an increase of 25% in the past ten years.
Just how much should they spend?
Double expenditure and spend the same as they do on welfare?
Or spend more on education at the expense of the unemployed, homeless and disadvantaged?
Will educational lobbyists be silent only when every school has a swimming pool, theatre and sport stadium like those enjoyed by the wealthiest private schools?
Will increasing teacher numbers and their salaries, reducing class sizes and connecting every student to the cloud end the debate about adequate education funding?
Or could it be that education spending is a bottomless pit where the amount spent bears little resemblance to better learning outcomes?
Despite increased spending over the past decades there is evidence that standards have actually declined.
Forty years ago my students could write more coherently and fluently than today’s graduates.
Australia’s standing in international literacy and numeracy league tables has waned.
And yet the solution is to throw good money after the bad.
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we hope that we can spend our way out of our educational recession.
Myth 2: The latest gadgets, gimmicks and fads will improve educational outcomes
Millions of dollars have been spent injecting software and hardware into our schools.
The mantra of a lap top on every desk is seen as self-evident despite the reality that there is no demonstrable evidence that today’s graduates are any smarter than their erstwhile deprived counterparts who were deprived of interactive white boards and PowerPoint.
Curricula and assessment regimes are adopted and jettisoned like the latest fashions and there is never a shortage of new jargon as teachers are continually upskilled to adopt the next best thing.
The teaching of spelling and grammar are lampooned so that the current graduates are barely able to use the written word as proficiently as my parents, who left school at the end of Year 8 during the Great Depression.
It doesn’t matter if students do not master any content, it’s learning how to learn that matters!
A quality education has little to do with equipment or trendy curricula or pedagogy but everything to do with setting clear and unambiguous educational goals in our schools and quality teachers who can implement these goals.
Myth 3: Schools today are preparing students for life and work in the 21st century
For the past century or more, schools have looked much the same.
Post-industrial revolution mass education demanded a skilled workforce.
As well as mass producing literate and numerate graduates, schools instilled in students the virtues that they would need to survive.
Discipline, docility, conformity, obedience and loyalty to king and country were paramount.
They were very much finishing schools, sanding off the rough edges, getting kids to sit up straight and largely to be seen and not heard.
If the cane was needed to bring them into line, then so be it.
Today the clarion call is to graduate creative problem solvers who can think outside the box.
The mantra that students will work in many jobs during their lives assumes a flexibility and resilience which is not typical of the goals of traditional schooling.
And yet modern schools still persist with the same paradigm.
Parents want to send their children to the best schools which can boast of solid discipline, strict uniforms and conservative haircuts.
More than ever, schools are committed to graduating students who will best adapt to the treadmill of the rat race which is our consumer materialistic culture.
Our school will get you the best grades, the best chance at the best university and the best chance of a high paying job and a slice of brick-veneered happiness!
To succeed in school, students are taught not to rock the boat, not to challenge the system and certainly not to develop their crap detectors.
Given their teachers succeeded in a system that suffocates creative and radical thought, it is no accident that schools will continue to be bastions of conservatism, maintaining the status quo and socializing their students to play the game.
Unless schools radically change, they will continue to graduate conforming consumer clones instead of free thinking, interesting and truly educated human beings.
by Greg Cudmore
The writer has recently retired after 45 years teaching in Independent schools in Victoria and Queensland.
For more by Greg click here