Some of the Australian readers of this blog will have noticed that Julie Bishop, Federal education minister, wants a national curriculum. Currently, the curriculum is set by the respective state governments. Why? Because, she claims, state education bureaucracies have been hijacked by left-wing ideologues who wish to impose their twisted views on the helpless students of Australia. She fulminates that some of the curriculum is “straight from Chairman Mao”. This is a little different from her comments at an education forum in June when she said the federal government was not interested in the idea of a national curriculum.
Well, I have a problem with this, and not because I’m a raving left-winger (which I am not).
First, all the state and territory governments are Labor…it seems a mite predictable that the Federal government wants to override state authority. Voters have continually voted the Victorian State Government in – presumably they feel confident in its ability to run the state education system, so let them. Bishop’s move reeks of a federal government frustrated that it cannot impose its will on more areas than it does currently.
Second, Bishop is upset that education bureaucrats force teachers to teach marxist and feminist approaches to Shakespeare. Well, that’s probably a good thing. We all come to a text with unexamined presuppositions – good English teaching is about helping students see that a text can mean different things from different perspectives. Bishop needs to stop slavering after a time when Latin was taught.
Third, Bishop assumes that a national curriculum will improve and literacy and numeracy standards. Is she serious? Good education requires a local application of flexible curriculum. More centralisation simply increases the difficulty in creating localised education. But of course, Bishop doesn’t want localised education, she wants a bland form of schooling that can be matched up to a set of measurable indicators. Then the schools that fail to measure up (mainly state schools) can be denied funding, which will then go to…no prizes for guessing.
What I find depressing is that while the denigrators constantly allege bias and “left-wing agendas” on the part of teachers, they never seem to see that their proposed alternatives are just as biased. Bishop’s idea of a “commonsense” curriculum is simply that which is commonsense to educators who comprise her proposed national board of studies, all from the “sensible centre” – if that’s not biased, what is?