Although frequently infuriated by the statements and preoccupations of my union, the NSW Teachers Federation, I fully appreciate its value and remain a member. Among other things, this means that I receive its glossy monthly newsletter, which bears the imaginative title Education. In the issue that arrived today, there was an opinion piece by a casual teacher that is also available on the Federation’s website.
You would think that an article in a union organ would be an unlikely place to find a paean to “neoliberal” values in education, especially in the midst of the usual digs against private schools. But as we have already seen, the world of educational progressivism is full of surprises.
The article began in unpromising fashion:
As Professor Ken Robinson, educational guru and activist, rightly pointed out…
Undeterred, I carried on:
…the education industry is ripe for disruption.
Ah…why, one is tempted to ask? Ms. Reid considers an explanation superfluous, perhaps because the idea of “disruptors” of moribund industries is so ingrained in public discourse by now. And the intellectual progenitors of this idea, of course, are the likes of Friedrich Hayek and Joseph Schumpeter (Mr. “Creative Destruction”) – apostles of the free market. The distinction between responding to the changing wants and needs of the marketplace and delivering what is best for children in the long term, which often means resisting fashionable change, is one that needs to be made eloquently and repeatedly.
Elsewhere in the article, there are two other very telling comments:
[The “industrial model”] no longer works…
Again, we are spared the trouble of an explanation why,
…and, like Charles Darwin rightly pointed out, the survival of the fittest is not the most intelligent or the strongest, but the one who can adapt to change.
Darwinism? Survival of the fittest? I will leave readers to draw their own connotations here.
We then have a brief excursus on the long-debunked theory of multiple intelligences, before the following statement:
In the age of Google,…
“Kids can just look it up!”
…SQ and EQ* are becoming more valued than IQ.
Note the use of the past participle. Not “important”, “valued”. Valued by whom? The answer is obvious.
And yet this argument has regularly been shown to fail on its own terms. Just today, an anecdotal but very credible article appeared in the Fairfax press, suggesting that despite all the much-trumpeted references to “creativity” and the like in job advertisements, in the real world of employment it is the basic skills that are lacking, and sorely missed.
The rest of the article barely deserves a serious analysis. It is one long parade of Robinson-inspired nonsense overladen with some typical anti-private-school clichés and a profoundly patronising idea of “educating” parents about the wonders of the progressivist agenda. But the appearance of the article in a union publication is a sad sign of the times.
* “spiritual quotient” and “emotional quotient”, apparently. Don’t ask.