Magazine article Review - Institute of Public Affairs

Education Agenda

Magazine article Review - Institute of Public Affairs

Education Agenda

Article excerpt

Our Schools PC? Look at the Evidence

Judging by the hostile and often hysterical reaction to the Prime Minister's comments earlier this year about why parents are choosing nongovernment schools over government schools, one could be forgiven for thinking that it must have been a very scathing attack.

In fact, the Prime Minister's comments were mild and perfectly justifiable. On being asked by a newspaper reporter to comment on the reasons for the growth in non-government school enrolments, the Prime Minister said:

People are looking increasingly to send their kids to independent schools for a combination of reasons. For some of them, it's to do with the values-driven thing; they feel that government schools have become too politically correct and too values-neutral.

Instead of being out of step with what parents think, the PM's comments mirror unease about the way the Left has used schools to drive its politically correct, ideological view of education. A 1998 federally funded survey sponsored by DEETYA showed that 60 per cent of parents expressed 'concern that teachers are either not well-enough trained or professional enough to teach this program [civics] without bias'.

A second, more recent, survey carried out for the National Council of Independent Schools' Associations, concluded that parents choose non-government schools because such schools are more likely than government schools to inculcate values-such as respect for authority and discipline-that best reflect what happens in the home.

Evidence that education had long since forsaken any attempt to be objective and impartial is easy to find. Since the heady days of Woodstock, Viet Nam moratoriums and flower power, left-wing teacher educators, teacher unions and compliant bureaucracies have conspired to use education to attack the status quo.

Take the teacher unions' response to Australia's involvement in the war in Iraq. Not only did unions across Australia vehemently argue against our troops being involved, but teachers were told that they should 'take action in your workplace and community' and 'support students who take an anti-war stance'.

In line with what is PC, the union also argued that the only response to aggression and hostility is 'the avoidance of conflict and resolution of problems by peaceful means'. Tell that to the tens of thousands of Kurds and Iraqis brutally murdered and tortured by the Hussein regime.

The reality, since the late 1970s, is that teacher unions such as the Australian Education Union (AEU) have been captured by the Left. Not only is the education union a member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, but year after year it campaigns to elect State and Federal Labor governments.

Anyone familiar with that Union's 1988 and 1993 curriculum policies will know that it has long viewed Australian society as inequitable and socially unjust. Education, in the words of the Marxist theorist Althusser, is part of the 'ideological state apparatus' and those advocating change, in line with the teachings of Antonio Gramsci, must 'take the long march through the institutions'. As noted by Joan Kirner, one-time Victorian Premier and Education Minister, education has to be reshaped 'so that it is part of the socialist struggle for equality, participation and social change, rather than an instrument of the capitalist system'.

That the AEU embraces a politically correct view of the world can be seen by its views on assessment. Most Australians love to see their teams win and students love to compete. Not so the AEU; its 1993 policy rejects any form of assessment that is competitive, used to rank students or based on set year-level standards of achievement. Apparently, failing students is bad for their self-esteem and it is wrong to rank students, as some are seen to be better than others.

The result? Unlike those countries that perform best in international maths and science tests, where students are regularly tested, Australian students face their first high-stakes competitive examination at the end of secondary school. …

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