Control by Sciolists

The biggest threat during one of the worst times in the history of education was the English system of payment by results.  It provided an excellent example of what not to do.  It is about to re-emerge in Australia and will have an impact.  When the number-crunchers and bean-counters controlled British schools in the 1860s,  schools were pressured to produce results on examinations conducted by School Inspectors.

The Revised Code 1862,  the ‘revolution’ of the period, turned schools into test factories.  Robert Lowe, who introduced the Code and possessed only a superficial albeit  sciolistic knowledge of schooling, said that ‘…teachers who oppose the code are as impertinent as chickens wishing to decide the sauce in which they should be served.’  It is of interest to note that Joel Klein, ex-lawyer,  sciolist of some repute and principal overseas adviser to Australia’s Minister for Education said ‘…resistance [to his test-based scheme] from educators should not deter the Government from its role.’ [2008]

British teachers,  during the Revised Code [read ‘new revolution’ for Australian purposes] period,  concentrated on grant-earning subjects and neglected other work through the 1860s, since their livelihood depended on the test results.  ‘Mechanical style teaching’,  as it was called,  returned to the classroom and teachers,  generally,  felt demoralised.  Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth and Matthew Arnold led the fight for a return to learning-oriented classrooms.

After a tour of continental schools in 1867,  Arnold remarked on the obvious ‘deadness,  slackness and discouragement’  in his beloved British schools.  There was,  he said,  ‘… a lack of intelligent light.’  Both Kay-Shuttleworth and Arnold were very influential and respected for their business and literary connections,  so the populace listened.  If only Australia had such influential observers at the present time!  Help!!  Someone!!  A mining magnate.  An editor.  A writer.  A magazine.

Changing from a school-based operation to management based started in the 1980-90s.  Things went ‘Back to Drastics’,  for sure and certain,  and, now,  contemporary proposals will only make things worse.  [8. How ‘Back to Drastics’ Happened]

What is the school experience of those in control of education departments, test construction  and school deelopment  throughout Australia and also of those in critical positions in schools?  Who is running things?

Who is influencing the Federal Minister of Education?  Surely such a position of control of primary schooling demands the seeking of advice from people who know more about primary schools than any other group in the Commonwealth.  Is the Minister constantly seeking advice from the Australian Primary Principals’  Association or does the incumbent expect it to plead?  Indeed, does the Association  tell the Minister, with experienced based gumption what should be done:. Does the Minister care ?  Is notice taken of the Australian Government Principals Association.  If there is no close,  indeed very close,  connection with those in the schools and their representatives,  then the education revolution is a political sham and the country’s future in jeopardy.  It is as important as that.

What can be done about it?

Messrs Kay-Shuttleworth and Arnold, where are you when we need you ?  Even though you are Poms, you have been there. Your kind of influence has been replaced by a New York brand of fear-driven motivation. You, at least, know the difference.

Australia needs  a revolution for sure ….a fair-dinkum  Australia-made  school-based revolution. What’s so wrong with using the accumulated experience of Aussie school-based battlers ?