Smoke over The Gong, and zombie education “debate”

An odd conjunction but somehow fitting. Here, thanks to The Illawarra Mercury, is The Gong:


And now to education.  I am of course long retired, so part of me really couldn’t care less about all the zombies that are running around here in the — wait for it! — 21st century. Mine was in the main a 20th century career, with quite strong links to the 19th really via my grandfather, and eccentricities of my own such as studying Latin at Sydney University.

So right now on the ABC I read Teachers, schools in firing line as conservatives rail against ‘leftist agenda’.  This particular brand of horseshit has been around since the first days of my career, over fifty years ago. Happens I have had a few goes at driving a stake into its heart or firing the silver bullet on a number of occasions, some of them online. Take for example Literacy — Why I reject Kevin Donnelly’s educational analysis which dates back to 2004, when I was still teaching.  I labelled KD’s tome of the time as “probably the worst, the most stupid, book on education that I have read.” 

He is still at it, as witness also In which dashing Donners teases the pond by asking how good is democratic socialism … A comment there notes “Donnelly really does write the same column over and over again.”  So true.

Even had the honour of a Donnelly visitation or two myself: Donnelly is miffed (10/3/2007) and My, my, my… (18/8/2007).

Dr D appears a bit late in the ABC item, first dibs going to that other education guru Pauline Hanson. Here’s an extract:

One Nation voters are turning on the mainstream education system as conservatives across the country express a deep mistrust of what they say is a “leftist agenda” taking over the classroom.

Key points:

  • New data shows One Nation supporters are notably less satisfied with education, teachers than other voters
  • Conservatives warn “the tide is turning” and parents will look for alternatives
  • A teachers’ union has dismissed accusation of left bias and says the “three Rs” approach is no longer enough

Supporters of the minor party are also significantly less satisfied with the job teachers are doing than Australians of any other political leaning.

The root of the frustration can be traced to a wider dissatisfaction with the political landscape, and is expressed in new data from the Australia Talks National Survey.

The survey found 55 per cent of voters for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation were dissatisfied with the education system — well ahead of the major parties, the Greens and other minor political groups….

No real surprises there, I guess. Dr D figures further down:

Dr Donnelly is a former high school English teacher who has held positions on numerous state and national curriculum bodies and co-chaired the Federal Government’s National Curriculum Review in 2014.

Last year he released a new book, How Political Correctness Is Destroying Australia — Enemies Within and Without, which was officially launched by former prime minister Tony Abbott and broadcaster Alan Jones.

It includes chapters like “Thought police screening schoolbooks” and “Culture wars: the left’s university loonies”.

So boring seeing the same old same old being trotted out again and again!  But as I noted back in 2007:

I also reject either/or thinking about these matters. Reading, for example, is foolishly thought of as either phonics or whole language when it is both. Writing is not trad OR process writing OR genre — it is all of the above. When we get our heads around that we start getting somewhere.

Dr D, I haven’t read your latest book and I probably won’t, as you have written so much anyway in so many places. I read the 2004 book and wasn’t impressed. So it goes. I explained why I was not impressed at considerable length.

But then I’m just a grumpy old man, remember. Thank you nonetheless for your contributions here.