Thursday, January 22, 2004

Howard Fires First Salvo - State schools are povo

Yep once again we have a national election looming and Howard takes a calculated swipe at government schools and teachers. Of course he doesn't have to say much for the circus to begin - media, teachers, his cronies, academics, parents - everyone with some stake (small or large) in education has subsequently weighed in to the debate.

Basically, Howard has said that the movement of students into the private school system (and there are various figures going around) is because government schools are 'too politically correct' and 'too values neutral'. Howard also says govt. schools often take an 'antiseptic view' of many issues (like banning Santa, or not having nativity plays). He pinches the 'choice' nerve to gain cheap polictial points.

I wonder how someone can be politically correct and values-neutral at the same time? It would seem to me that political correctness assumes a belief in something. Of course, Howard is talking about his belief that his own values are not taught in schools. In 'The Age' editorial (22 Jan) does a nice hatched job on Mr Howard's nonsensical and ridiculus argument.

There are many others too - below is a short selection.

Some worse than Howard's comments, such as Kevin Donnelly's mess in 'The Australian' (21 Jan) 'Teachers Unions Fail the Grade'. Donnelly seems intent on having a go at just about everything except Howard's education policys. But I'm sure not many people read it - very poor. Sounds a bit like a student essay.

Gerard Henderson adds his two cents worth - more in terms of what he sees as Labor's challenge in education with the coming election and the movement of students to private schools.

Richard Teese has a go back at Howard in 'The Age' (Jan 22) 'Go to the bottom of the class PM'. He makes some interesting comments about the image and status of some private schools and how this can portray the tappings of moral value while actually hiding the fact that these schools often struggle with teaching values in today's culturally pluralistic world. Rather than these trappings of moral and ethical values, Teese suggests that human relationships are what really counts, the creation of which does not depend on where you go to school, but how you do at school. He argues that success for all students helps build a platform for moral and political values, where failure tends towards authoritarianism.

There is another interesting article from Jennifer Buckingham, 'The Age' (22 Jan), "Schools' performances should be made public". Some interesting examples of education funding decisions overseas, and some explanation of Howard's assumptions about the reasons parents are increasingly sending their kids to private schools. I'm not sure it I like her angle on school reporting etc. but it seems this is something that government schools will never fully get away from - 'the accountability thing'.

Anyway, there is selection of views. What do you think?

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