Can We Have a REAL Education Revolution?


Can we move beyond Gonski and the paradigm imposed by the state and the teacher union bosses?

by B.York

I attended an over-crowded high school in Melbourne in the 1960s. There were 50 kids to a class. Today, the average is 24. Later, in the late 1970s, I was a teacher for a few years in the technical/secondary system and a relief teacher for periods in the 1980s. I have had a personal interest in education and schooling ever since.

My first reaction to current huffing and puffing about Gonski is that, when I look back on my experiences as a student, I am obliged to say that the quality of the teachers is more important than how many halls a school has. This is not to underplay the importance of good basic conditions. These have improved greatly since the 1960s, but there are still aspects in need of improvement. For instance, one thing I have never understood is why the state schools (I don’t know enough about the private sector) do not provide air-conditioning in each class-room during hot summer months. Is this a ‘green-save-the-planet’ thing? Within the system as it is, hot and humid classrooms obstruct students’ capacities to learn anything. I’m amazed that there has been no improvement on this front over the past 50 years.
graffiti school

I never would have expected to become an historian when I was a kid. It was touch-and-go as to whether I would get into university. No-one else in my family had reached that level of formal education (which was common for wage-worker families back then). But, despite being one of 50 kids in the class, I was inspired by a wonderful History teacher by the name of Itiel Bereson. We could have had ten kids in the class, or 70. He was inspirational. He mattered. He changed lives.

Second reaction. My experience as a classroom teacher in some pretty rough schools reinforced my feeling that the quality of teachers counts for a great deal and is underrated by those with an ‘industrial’ approach to teaching. To raise questions about quality was seen as akin to treachery, to serving ‘the bosses’ by pitting teacher against teacher. The emphasis was overwhelmingly on the day-to-day issues: holiday entitlements, wages, classroom hours, etc. I worked with a few teachers who were burned out and demoralised, and I worked with a few who were almost as good as Mr Bereson. The latter left their mark in the form of facilitating an interest in learning among some students. I don’t blame teachers: it’s easy to end up feeling like you’re just a glorified baby-sitter. And, as is the norm under capitalism, the workers (the teachers) were frequently consulted but never empowered. Yet it was, and is, the teachers who know best – the classroom teachers – not the senior executives in each school and even less the bureaucrats outside the schools.

Third: it’s about learning, not teaching. We forget what we’re taught but carry for life what we learn. Schools remain essentially the same structured institutions they were back in the days of the factory system in the C19th. They teach obedience to authority, no matter how they try to dress this up. The fact that I still refer to my inspirational teacher as “Mister Bereson” indicates how deeply this can go. Today, yes, teachers allow students to call them by their first names, sometimes, but this is superficial and doesn’t detract from the reality of a hierarchical structure, with the ‘font of all wisdom’ at the head of the classroom. Now, as in the C19th and C20th, schools imprison the mind. In the C21st we need a complete rethinking. Conservatism, the inclination to oppose significant change, and reactionary union bosses who think essentially in an ‘industrial’ way, are obstacles to necessary change.

Fourth: The old family structure of the early C20th no longer applies to most actual families. Working routines of parents, and indeed patterns of parenting, have changed. Hundred year old ‘school hours’ based on a late-morning-to-mid-afternoon single shift, are ridiculous in the C21st. They need to become flexible to meet the differing needs of parents. Shifts would be a good start.

Fifth: When our hierarchical school system, based on teaching, became free and compulsory in the late C19th, the mass of people were just starting to read and write. In the C21st, we have very high literacy and we have a thing called the World Wide Web. I observe young people increasingly teaching themselves – really learning – outside of school hours, thanks to the Internet. I know young people who have started the process of learning languages and musical instruments in this way, and teaching themselves techniques in sport and art and maths and Info Technologies as well. There’s no end to what one can learn via the Internet. Why then are young people of school age still compelled to be taught, for so many set hours each day, in buildings that are essentially no different in their arrangements and hierarchies than those of the factory era? Despite the placement of computers in schools, our old-fashioned and antiquated school system is holding back real learning.

Sixth: The essence of learning is ‘out there’ in the real world. I learned ten times as much about politics and how power works as a young revolutionist who took to the streets to overthrow capitalism than I ever learned at school or in ‘Politics 1’ at university. As Mao said: “If you want knowledge, you must take part in the practice of changing reality”.

Seventh: A good education is one that encourages – I mean, really encourages – dissent and critical thinking. The best subject I ever studied was a high school subject called ‘Clear Thinking’. It set me on the road of rebellion, of questioning all received wisdom, as did my History teacher’s lessons about how the ancien regimes of Europe regarded themselves as a permanent part of a natural order. (And how so many people accepted that state of affairs, for so long, until they woke up and overthrew them). Today, schools basically indoctrinate kids into the dominant ideology, the gloom and doom ethos of a zombie social system. Not surprisingly, the National History Curriculum advocates the reactionary idea that human progress has reached its ‘natural limits’. I doubt whether there was a school in Australia that didn’t show its students Al Gore’s ‘global warming’ sci-fi documentary; and I doubt whether there were many that encouraged students to consider the science-based critiques of Gore’s alarmism.

23 Responses to “Can We Have a REAL Education Revolution?”

  1. 1 tomb

    great post Barry. We need to assess the transition from teaching to learning, sharing ideas and resources and assessing ideas based on what the idea is not who said it or how old they are or their formal qualifications. The next step I feel is to abolish the distinction between primary secondary and tertiary eductaion and then go lateral with people being able to study ideas on different levels, grade 4 english 2 nd year uni maths and year 10 geography. this would see 50 year olds and 7 year olds study the same ideas.

  2. 2 informally yours

    Thanks for commenting tomb, we home-school and are effectively teaching without level distinctions as you mention. (We generally base the ‘curriculum’ on Ed. Dept. defined skill mile-stones per grade level)And more lately the Accelerated Learning and Direct Instruction techniques and skill level tests done by the home-school headmaster. Yes every school gets a headmaster…

    All the kids in the street became meaner and more difficult after starting school – beginning to ‘play’ and isolate someone rather than include them. I’m so grateful for the more ‘relaxed’ relationship we have with our children that home-schooling allows.

    Today for instance we took the opportunity to take a country drive to the Barossa Valley and discussed all manner of things. We checked on the progress of the rather grand road and rail developments and bridge building happening on a scale not seen in South Australia before. Other topics like art, and agriculture, and the German history of South Australian settlement/industry; light, and colour and shadow; good development, bad development/architecture. We regularly go to the “whispering wall” dam and take a walk and discuss hydrology and technological change etc..

    As well as this more hands on approach the Net makes the opportunity to really reach for the stars in education delivery and I feel so annoyed that I didn’t get it anywhere near soon enough and effectively held back the delivery of video suite lectures when at Uni. (Mainly in deference to job preservation measures etc., via adherence to certain student staff ratios rather than unleashing the potential of academic work and creativity offered by the minimisation of the time spent giving and receiving repetitive presentations repeatedly to various small groups of noobs.

    Kudos to Coursera in Chrome to speed up the lecture delivery times with no reduction in understandability. Don’t get so bogged down doing free courses you can’t comment here.

  3. 3 Steve Owens

    Home schooling is great if the question is how do I give my children the best education.
    Private schooling is great if the question is how do I give my children the best education.
    But my question is how do we give the working classes children the best education.
    I believe that we can give individuals great outcomes if we tailor to their needs but if we want the best outcome not for individuals but for classes then we need a universal system of the highest order.
    Allow the wealthier to school privately we loose their lobbying to make the public system better. Allow the people who have the enthusiasm and the talent to home school then we loose that talent and enthusiasm from the public system.
    The drift to private and to home school makes the public system more of a ghetto, that is the last thing that working class children need.

  4. 4 Byork

    Steve, leaving aside the fact that working class children attend private schools and do home schooling as well as attend public schools, I have a problem with the notion that teaching obedience to authority and conformity, which is what basically happens across the board, is somehow good for working class kids. However, there is a point to be made, I think, as to how basic literacy and numeracy are best taught and learned in the early years. When I wrote that piece, I was thinking of working-class migrant kids I taught in one of the toughest schools in Australia (according to ‘Sixty Minutes’ which did a segment on the school, billing it in that way). Despite the best efforts of most teachers, who were frustrated not so much by the level of their wages but by a hierarchical system in which they had no real power, the state school system simply didn’t cater for the students’ needs, and that includes them individually and as part of a social class.

  5. 5 steve owens

    Barry I think that your attitude to school is a little dated.
    Once upon a time when Capitalism needed cannon fodder and factory fodder schools did try and induce within the student population the notion of obedience to authority and conformity but in a modern capitalist society like Australia much more is required of our class. There for schools have changed because the needs of capitalism has changed.
    When I was at school teachers hit us with a variety of weapons and being struck across the head was not seen as anything to complain about. I remember a teacher breaking his watch when giving Bernie a slap to the back of his head with the back of his hand. But if this violence was designed to make us obedient it had the reverse effect. Terry O’Brien became a hero for repeatedly placing notes on the teachers desk about advice on cheap watch repairs.
    Currently in Australia a report recommended that the government inject an extra $5 Billion into the school system and reform the funding method so that this new money be targeted at students most in need. This of course has got people arguing some saying yes implement the plan and some saying no then yes then yes but really no. So, as so often we see a class divide appear within an argument over how these schools within a capitalist system be run.
    Lines have been drawn, sides have been taken
    The only question left unanswered by your article is which side are you on?

  6. 6 steve owens

    Gonski report

    Key conclusions

    The report says Australia must aspire to have a schooling system that is among the best in the world for its quality and equity, and must prioritise support for its lowest performing students.

    It says every child should have access to the best possible education, regardless of where they live, the income of their family, or the school they attend.
    And it says no student in Australia should leave school without the basic skills and competencies needed to participate in the workforce and lead successful and productive lives.

  7. 7 Byork

    Steve, I don’t think I’m out of touch as I have over the past 16 years very closely followed the public/state educations at primary and secondary levels of two young people who are very close to me. There are different buzz-words and tables and chairs are shuffled around to make different formations, but it’s still within a classroom, a mini-prison, and young students are expected to think in a certain way. Those who don’t fit in – who are creative, for instance – have a hard time of it, and usually gather together a few cohorts of similar outlook and ‘wag’ school a lot so they can get on with learning and having fun outside the lock-up. They usually are in trouble for this.

    I can’t be excited by the pouring of more billions into this kind of system, but I can challenge it and join with others who think we need a new paradigm and a new structure and pattern of education. The idea mooted in my article for shifts in formal school hours would be welcomed by nearly all working class parents, though the proposal that school hours be greatly reduced probably wouldn’t be.

    A friend has told me that literacy rates aren’t as good as I claim. For instance, 25% of young people have problems with reading. There is certainly a need for special focus on this grouping, whose needs are different to the 75% who don’t have problems with reading. But my argument rests on the assumption that a level of literacy is achieved that should allow young people far greater scope for education outside the formal system; that that would be a very good thing, even within the framework of capitalism. And that’s the side I am on: those who oppose forced training in obedience to our ‘superiors’ and acceptance of wage-slavery, and those whose class interests are best served by such change (ie, the workers).

  8. 8 informally yours

    I start by assuming that the class side the ALP supporters take is the working class side! Then I ROFL… my head off.

    What a surprise that differences in budget and funding is trotted out as a class question for Steve. No indication whatsoever that the ‘liberals’ who control the education depts.,the ABC and other cultural institutions have failed miserably, and are turning out junk products across the spectrum of their feeble-minded influence.

    When it comes to education depts., liberalism produces junk thinkers who group think like mad and who overwhelmingly ‘believe’ the big issue in the world is climate fucking change… then because they have a steady government job and a good income, fly to Bali etc., for a holiday. At least the deep greens that reject liberalism can’t be faulted for being such dim-witted, two-faced phonies. The former mercifully spare us all the two-faces by serving up the poison as a direct assault on ‘modernity’ and the whole Neolithic revolution.

    Having abandoned the ‘radical socialists’ of the Trotskyite pseudoleft, (the bankrupt thinking that brought order and meaning to Steve’s youth), and now the bankrupt ‘peace’ movement that led to the dead end of Syrian style misery Steve is slipping into the grown up world of the mature liberal. ‘Love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal.’ Pardon me if I don’t buy any of the comfort-food premises that he now rests his ‘real world’ views on.

    The problem for me is that like Steve above, Gonski sprouts motherhood statements as if those same motherhood statements haven’t been the same ones sprouted for the last forty years with the same demands for increased funding, while results demonstrably continue on the road to hell!

    The problems that the Aboriginal ‘industry’ have sustained from previous unsolved realities is what the education depts., across the country for its part has generated. (Actually across the western industrialized world.) The self-censorship and Political Correctness has become so bad that there is an obvious fight going on against this massively dominant trend, and we’ve seen demographic movement towards more private schools, and home-school, and urgent Gonski reviews.

    Naturally everyone wants ‘a good education’ for children. They want it in Spain, and Greece just as much as they do anywhere else including Sweden and Australia. But there wouldn’t currently be any cretins in the first named countries suggesting that the big issue is more funding!

    There never was a ‘national’ education agenda as spruiked by ALPers, it was another ALP (Gillard) floundering reform program that not all states had signed up to. Previous aspects of the ALP” Ed. Revltn” are deeply contentious such as the NAPLAN tests whose aim was not really to test the child’s knowledge for self improvement but in a way that is potentially harmful to student self esteem and in a way deleterious to school/teacher flexibility. Students and schools are ranked according to how many ‘underachievers’ there are and parents’ know which schools to avoid if at all possible. Under these reforms productivity based wage increments are linked to teacher wage gains – and based upon student outcomes so that makes the teacher resent being brought down by the dummies…What a stench. Anything would be better than this divisive nonsense and attempt at uniformity.

    To go on as Steve has that working class kids will have a better outcome under Labor administration than Liberal administration is naive… at best,and more likely an opinion based in unambiguous tribal bigotry.

  9. 9 steve owens

    “I can’t be excited by the pouring of more billions into this kind of system,….” What does this mean? You are somehow neutral in the argument about increased funding?

    ” And that’s the side I am on: those who oppose forced training in obedience to our ‘superiors’ and acceptance of wage-slavery, and those whose class interests are best served by such change (ie, the workers).”
    What does this mean? You would only support an education system that opposes wage slavery? So let me get this straight we have to have a full on revolutionary education system that has no schools before you will support putting in extra money.
    Sorry Barry my kids start high school next year they cant wait for a revolution and I cant afford a “good” private school and Im certainly not going to home school.

  10. 10 Byork

    Steve, hopefully your kids will soon rebel against the state school system and demand, for instance, to be given both sides to issues such as ‘climate change’ and the opportunity to challenge the dominant ideology as presented (usually) by their teachers. You may not home school them but presumably you will provide a home environment that encourages them to pursue knowledge and to be engaged in the world outside the fenced school system. You’ll see them grow and flourish… and most of it will be in spite of, not because of, the current system, Gonski or not. If the left doesn’t think outside the box, then who will?

  11. 11 steve owens

    Thanks Barry one of my sons is reading I am Malala the other one gave up because he doesn’t like reading. I’m not too worried because one of the most intelligent people I ever met never read books on the basis that reading is a very inefficient way of gaining information, she preferred to ask questions and take detailed notes so Im happy to believe that rigid schooling doesn’t suit everyone. Id be happy to discuss with anyone ‘De schooling society’ by Ivan Illich which was a popular book when the anti school movement had some popularity.
    However the immediate problems of schools is what currently concerns me and yes Informally yours the struggle over education is part of the class struggle and unfortunately as with any part of the class struggle there is only one ‘left’ party that counts its members in the tens of thousands so any struggle that has any chance of success must engage that party no matter how much we may dislike that party. The alternative is to take a position that is irrelevant, choice is a bitch.

  12. 12 informally yours

    I haven’t read De-Schooling Society,I shall look it up. Currently, some pedagogy uses the terminology ‘unschooling’, which certainly seems like it could be similar to the de-schooling mentioned.

    When you say “yes Informally yours the struggle over education is part of the class struggle” well what a revelation. As if you need to point that out – of course the class has an interest in education, and it is an on-going area of class struggle. That is so obvious that it seems ridiculous you would think you must point it out. IMV, it is false to intrinsically characterise either of the two-major parties with a set class perspective… but it is incredible to still equate anything the ALP does, or is, with being in the interests of the working class. All they ever do now is to work out what is in their electoral interests and go for it. Bleheh.

    The immediate problem of schools is not whether the Abbott government honours the Gonski reforms. Rather it is about the philosophy of the teacher/parent relations and student/parent/ teacher relations, and whether children have had enough sleep, and had enough to eat, and about the school yard culture and how they fit into the lunch time jungle. (or don’t) For the reception children the transition is often heart-wrenching.

    It all gets quite complicated as no clear route forward is evident through the competing sectarian interests the question ought to be whose actual interests ought schools serve? To me the answer is simple – they don’t serve the minister, they don’t serve teachers or principals they are there to serve children’s and their families needs.

    IMV this means assessing all children as to their dominant learning style and encouraging individuals in the most suitable way. To promote learning in ways that encourage, rather than pathologise their differences.

    I also think that the Restorative Justice approach can help fix some problems – this has been implemented in some schools, but it’s variable and does require certain communication skills that some people seem just not to have.

    Guess it has to become part of teacher training. Which brings us to part of the picture, and the issue of ‘parent training’, which is ever on the lips of many teachers I talk to. The Restorative Justice approach appears very useful for teaching consequences for actions, and ‘reparations’ – giving parents and teachers a tool to use at times of potential parent child conflict. Thus eliminating a wide scope of peripheral issues between families that can impact upon education performance. This approach could be further developed with resources if a policy to do so nationally were taken.

    There is a Luddite trend running through all education bureaucrats and this is hampering the development of education forms that fit the individual and the family. Kudos again to Coursera. One of the things I’ve noticed as a home-schooler is that there are many more online resources now than when we started – mainly put out there by education publishers who want a fee for subscription. Some of them are pretty ‘clunky.’ to say the least. These will increase and improve over time, but a review of the online presence of the education department is almost medieval.

    There is one school in Adelaide who has taken the brave step of closing their library in favour of internet usage so this shows that there are some exceptions to the rule, but by and large teachers and schools seem happy to teach us back to the good old Dark Ages and a world lit only by fire with the bigoted emphasis on teaching them not to stand on the shoulders of others and to be open,honest and above board but to tell all of their parents how to do the fucking laundry and light and temperature control the house,and water the garden. (Pity the Broken Hill Housewives Association can’t be raising that issue)

    There are a lot of other questions we need to get to the bottom of. Like is co-educational schooling always the best option. And what are the benefits of same sex schooling in teen and pre-teen demographic? The changes in SA I have watched is the move away from and back to the creation of ‘super schools’ that provide Kindergarten – yr12. This seems very convenient for parents who are workers, or walkers (as i was) at delivery and pick up time which is always stressful due to the lateness complications that can set in, especially for those with young children juggling daycare,kindy and school etc.. Not to mention those with parental and work commitments. (My personal health challenges precluded employment and “breeding” responsibilities.)

    Some of these super schools are in fact multi-campus with age groups at different sites, but ‘united’ under administration. For instance I don’t know if it is better for any percentage of children to participate in a two, three, or four tier system that a lot of the private schools organise around of same sex and Junior, Middle and Upper. (Private schools have also changed and now provide co-educational campuses. So, opinion seems divided in the ruling class as to whether girls become better young women, and boys become better young men and adults by being educated separately or together!)

    Some private schools now also have Kindergarten as part of the service. IMV Kindergarten until 8 or even 10 years of age is what is required and IMV constitutes the best placed injection of funding and expansion in the most gentle and effective manner. So for me this is the best option to expand upon in order to improve both individual outcomes, and eventually school/class room performance. And to prepare children for the (rather too limited) physical activity that places upon the attendee in stark contrast to the previous experience.

    I believe the looser forms of education provided at Kindy where the child gets exposure to the ‘themes of the day’ etc., but can mostly choose to engage in what he or she is interested in is best for under 10s. They don’t get so stressed and filled with performance fears and anxieties.

    Anyway must move on now but to let you know Steve that we’re working on a way to sign you up so that you are not in the Captcha code process – which ought to make your commenting process here more user friendly. From the look of it, the WordPress format is not very user friendly at any level, and we are still looking into the restoration of a general subscribe process but for now still need to sign people up via email request.

  13. 13 Steve Owens

    Barry you are putting the extreme anti school case which is fine. However Bill has been making a good case for ‘direct instruction’ Its hard to see how direct instruction fits into an anti school ciriculum although informally yours states that she has incorporated the two. My understanding was that direct instruction was a method overthrown by the anti school movement to be replaced (as a compromise) by the inquiry based learning model that now seems so inadequate.
    As to schools being prisons for children the school that my sons are going to next year (Aberfoyle High) has abolished all text books and replaced them with apps on ipads. All work to be submitted by email. Is this the sort of ludditism that they are supposed to rebel against? As to school bullying all new students are provided with an older student mentor because as the principal educator said students are much more likely to take a problem to a student rather than to an adult and in line with the schools zero tolerance to bullying policy they want to deal with this stuff asap
    As to rigid time table one family I know at this scool was encouraged to take school time off for their round Australia trip as a great learning opportunity.
    Im sure that the school wont be perfect and like at their primary school I will have my complaints but a prison? Several times this year I gave the boys the option of stayng home but they went to school because thats where their friends are, prison life cant be that bad.

  14. 14 Steve Owens
  15. 15 Steve Owens
  16. 16 Byork

    Steve, I think direct instruction can help establish a basic level of literacy from which young people can find their own paths to learning, on their own, with their friends and cohorts, and with others. The Internet is a big part of that – and it’s happening as we speak. As for your kids, they should rebel against the indoctrination that occurs in the schools system. This indoctrination into the notion that humanity has reached natural limits to progress (to use but the most common and pernicious example) can occur with or without hard copy text books. I didn’t mention bullying but would like a schools system that encourages students to overthrow the bully-boy system of capitalism, with its constant exploitation and bullying of the productive people. Your observation that your boys want to go to school because their friends are there brings to mind some hardened crims I met in Pentridge who said they preferred the prison regime to the difficulties (ie, responsibilities) of life outside. It’s also the same with many workers – friendships in the workplace are an antidote to an oppressive system. Had you kept your boys home for too many days, you would have had a knock on your door by the state, or they would have been punished in some way. In my part of Australia, young students can fail at the end of the year because they didn’t attend for the required number of days – yet they might be very bright and could easily pass the subjects. I have also found that schools will allow time off for students to travel, where this is regarded as being of educational value. Weekend leave, perhaps? It surprises me that you haven’t commented on the fact that schools teach obedience to authority and do not encourage genuinely critical thinking. Why support a system that churns out obedient wage-slaves? Seriously though, this hardly changes the reality of a rigid set of hours each day at which both teachers and students are meant to be in attendance. If you were to draw a diagram showing the power structure in a school and in a prison, it would be no different in essence. The fluff (like accrediting overseas trips for students or granting weekend leave to prisoners)doesn’t change this power structure; though, of course, there are contradictions within both systems and some students, like some prisoners, do become fed up, demand more, and rebel.

  17. 17 steve owens

    “This indoctrination into the notion that humanity has reached natural limits to progress (to use but the most common and pernicious example)”
    Well Jack and Liam have been at school now for 7 years
    I asked Jack and Liam if they thought that humanity had reached a natural limit to progress.
    No prompting Jack said “nah”
    Liam said “no theres still the universe to explore.”
    Jack after some consideration changed his answer to “yes because 2 billion people are without water.” by which I think he means human progress is being limited by people not having resources like water.
    Looks like those teachers arnt doing their indoctrination job at least not on these two
    When I was at school the Vietnam war was on and I think that the teachers were trying very hard to influence us. I remember a reading list including The Ugly American, 1984, Animal Farm, All Quiet on the Western Front, Poets such as Sassoon and Owen. I also read Robert Graves Goodbye to All That. I dont think that it was on the reading list but I got it from school (great book) I also read Catch 22 and we saw it as school outing. Surely anyone wanting to indoctrinate kids into a society that wanted conformists would never go any where near those texts
    I was just about to hit send when Liam said “oh dad about that question of reaching natural limits we cant have because women in places like Afghanistan don’t have full rights”

  18. 18 byork

    Steve, the books you listed can be seen as falling within the dominant liberal ideology. Why shouldn’t schools have promoted such pacifist and conservative tracts? (Animal Farm is conservative in the sense that it suggests there’s no point trying to change anything fundamentally as you’ll just end up with a worse set of rulers). Had any of your teachers suggested texts by Mao or Ho Chi Minh, they would have been brought into line. When I was at high school, there was a small group of teachers who were strongly opposed to US and allied intervention in Vietnam and they did their best to influence us students – as did a smaller group of teachers who supported the war. The former were seen as a problem and officially admonished. The school system instead organised busloads of students to attend the welcoming for President Johnson. My dad sent me to school with a letter saying that under no circumstances was I to attend. My real eudcaton came outside the formal system, though, yes, there were contradictions within it – in spite of it. My reading flourished through the motivation to learn more necessitated by my active involvement in the movement to stop the US war and to change society.

  19. 19 Steve Owens
    Barry the governments move to enforce/encourage school attendance of the most disadvantaged people in the country is to be welcomed but is somewhat at odds with your anti school agenda

  20. 20 Byork

    Steve, basic literacy and numeracy are essential and the remote communities that suffer ‘third world’ conditions are not the rest of Australia. If my understanding of how terrible things are in those communities is correct, they would love to have the levels of literacy and numeracy of the migrant working-class kids I taught in the city.

  21. 21 steve owens

    Sorry Barry I must be arguing with someone else. I was arguing with a guy that said “They teach obedience to authority” “schools imprison the mind” “school system is holding back real learning””thats the side Im on: those who oppose forced training in obedience” “why support a system that churns out obedient wage slaves”

  22. 22 Byork

    You were arguing with someone who also said: “Hundred year old ‘school hours’ based on a late-morning-to-mid-afternoon single shift, are ridiculous in the C21st. They need to become flexible to meet the differing needs of parents. Shifts would be a good start”. This suggests a role for some continuing structured system, though greatly reduced. The situation in remote communities is different and I’m not opposed to a Direct Instruction kind of method if it yields results in those areas. If it raises their literacy levels to those of the low-income migrant working class students I taught in a city, then there will have been an improvement. Hopefully, they will eventually rebel against the system that gave them useful tools, like reading and writing, and in the process they will really begin the journey of learning outside the four-walls. To become individuals who are NOT obedient wage-slaves will require rebellion against the ethos that they were taught at school.

  23. 23 Steve Owens

    Barry you seem to be unaware of the contradiction in the position that you present. You support an anti school position but at the same time support the expansion of the number of truancy officers. Truancy officers are at the leading edge of coercive schooling (one step short of bringing in the police)
    An anti school position implies a critique of the teacher centric model that existed when we were students yet here you are praising Direct Instruction which is an extreme teacher centric model.

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