Saturday, October 07, 2006

Trendy lefty pinko feminist marxist postmodernists poisoning our children's minds again

Like the Prime Minister in his Australia Day speech, reading very slowly and carefully when he got to the bit about postmodernism in case he got any of it wrong, Julie Bishop this week looked very shaky and uncertain when detailing the alleged specifics of what was wrong with the schools system. The gospel according to Chairman Mao, eh? Who knew?

When Bishop accused the state education departments of 'hijacking' curricula, that hit-run verb implied a violent, illegal departure from some virtuous norm. What was this virtuous norm? Ratty's fond memories of primary school in the 1940s?

There was also a spectacular flaw in Bishop's 'logic': first-year law students need remedial English classes, therefore one must get rid of pinko trendy lefty bullshit like studying 'texts' (whatever they might be) at once. Spot the hole in that one and then drive a truck through it, amusing yourself the while with a vision of the classroom chaos that would ensue if you sat 2006's kids down in silent rows and tried to teach them formal grammar.

I assume the subtext and real import of Bishop's speech was 'education is run by the states and all the states are Labor so it just must all be vicious destructive trendy lefty crap and we're going to fix it'. Much mirth about 'texts', much insistence on Shakespeare, and no mention at all of the fact that if you're going to push for a higher and higher school leaving age (not because all students can cope with being in school for that long, but because we are in the middle of a technological revolution more extreme in its upheavals than the Industrial Revolution ever was, and with more ramifications for those it puts out of work), then you need to provide subjects that will be of a bit of use to these and other students when they get out into the world, and might stop them, for the moment, trashing the classroom, raping the teacher, blowing up the library and burning down their old primary schools after one too many failed attempts to get through a page of Titus Andronicus. Which Ratty and his henchpersons have, of course, all read.

But no. Put Henry V Part II back on the syllabus at once, you naughty naughty pinkos, or we will *chuckle* take away yet more of your funding.

It wasn't until I took up blogging that I realised in what contempt the humanities, as studied at school and especially at university, are held by a certain kind of person, usually male, who holds that the 'hard' subjects (and there are no prizes for guessing where, as a term of approbation, that adjective might come from) are the only ones worth knowing anything about. This is the problem that bedevils the feds at the moment whenever they try to talk in public about 'soft' stuff like history, language, so-called values and such. In order to talk intelligently (or even just intelligibly) on such subjects -- for example, to know what postmodernism and marxism actually are, much less to understand why they're not only not synonymous as Howard and Bishop seem to think but are, au contraire, pretty much mutually exclusive -- they are going to have to bite the bullet and consult someone who knows the answer. Not some bolshie up-himself right-wing journalist: someone in -- shudder -- the humanities.

I would love it if somebody did something to address the problems in schools, and the states are by no means off the hook here. If the conversation of my friends in teaching is anything to go by, then there is a huge disconnect between departmental rhetoric and classroom reality.

So maybe they should address some of the most serious problems first, like the fact that there are kids in schools and classes that are torture for them, and they respond by making it impossible for the other kids to learn, or the teachers to teach, anything at all. LIke the fact that parents now expect the schools to teach their kids life skills on top of everything else, largely because the parents now need two salaries in order to keep a family going and that means less time with the progeny. Like the fact that there is not enough government money in most state schools and far too much in the private ones, and favouring private schools in the name of 'choice', as a response to the financial reality of most Australian families' lives in 2006, has about it a whiff of insanity.

And I wonder whose fault that could be.

19 comments:

Liam said...

Mmmmm, Shakespeare. Far better than learning gender-studies and postmodern praxis-of-racism.
Yep, get 'em reading Merchant of Venice and Othello. As objective unconstructed texts. Quick!

Laura said...

Julie Bishop said the children should be reading literature like Patrick White.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Before or after their remedial reading classes, I wonder ...

Kate said...

*Stands, applauds, yells Huzzah!*

All this is conservative dog-whistling which doesn't make sense. At all. I've been contemplating going back to uni and doing a dip ed in teaching -- because writing is going so well for me right now -- but all this rubbish really frightens me. (As do children, but that's another issue.)

JahTeh said...

There was an item in the paper this morning about how we're lagging behind in science graduates as though a degree in science was a walk in the park that students are too lazy to take.

tigtog said...

Ah yes, lazy kids who won't study science just because the country needs it. Nothing at all to do with a culture that glorifies wealth acquisition above all else, and kids not being so stupid they can't see that you don't get rich quick in science.

Why, you might study for years and research for years and never ever get a Nobel Prize! What's the use of that?

Pavlov's Cat said...

Tigtog, that is exactly, exactly right. I've noticed lately in conversations how whenever one (well, no, two or more) is/are trying to thrash out why something or other is the case, in the current climate, it seems to come back again and again to Mammon and the way the money gods are being anointed again and again, right before our eyes.

comicstriphero said...

Interesting to see how this will all play out - I'm struggling to see where the votes are in this. Maybe it's more of the weird paranoid personal crusades of this government than anything else (remember the National Gallery hoo-hah?).

Also, thought the Chairman Mao reference was an odd choice - is it nasty of me to think that not a whole lot of people would know who he was? Howard's right, we need to get back to basics on history...

And on:
it seems to come back again and again to Mammon
Hope this isn't too off topic, but following a recent 10-year high school reunion, a small booklet was circulated in which alumni had nominated such things as their greatest achievement.

I'd say about 65% nominated their mortgage as their greatest achievement.

genevieve said...

Titus Andronicus my arse. The leftiest pinko thing the Bard ever touched - took Seneca's text and slavishly remodelled it, just like a pomo ponce.
Try NOT deconstructing it and see how you get on with the kiddies.

Pavlov's Cat said...

There's just not enough lit crit around of the 'Titus Andronicus my arse' variety, I reckon. Cuts straight to the heart of it.

(As it were.)

W. Shak. was indeed the pomo-est of ponces, what with all that sampling and source-pinching and remodelling. Excellent point.

Melly` said...

My son Will is .. somewhat challenged... at school. (Brilliant at maths challenged at anything with english wherein my girls excel at the opposite) He now attends lessons an hour earlier...and part of me... felt that he should not have to do that...but yes the other half says let him do it. It is bewildering trying to raise kids.

I think maybe it was gender related. I didnt ever read him A.A. Milne etc... and I forcefed that down my girls throats. (with wonderful results.. my girls are fun)

I still think educating kids is... the best way. Show them all we can.

kate said...

I've been resisting the urge to write to Julie Bishop to point out that reading Machiavelli didn't turn me into a Liberal voter.

ThirdCat said...

" There's just not enough lit crit around of the 'Titus Andronicus my arse' variety, I reckon. "

My brother on his last year eleven assignment before he stopped pretending to even care less: "Macbeth didn't shit in his own nest. Lady Macbeth did."

Bernice said...

And of course, if today's students were to study Shakespeare as a method to ensure their literacy levels were of a sufficiently high standard, well - reading & speaking a form of early modern English would probably reduce their employment opportunities - unless of course we were to open a copy of the Globe Theatre in every major centre in the country & employ them all as authentic ushers.
& as for studying grammar, then would we see debate about whether we should be emphasising applied linguistics, discourse analysis, multimodal analysis, corpus linguistics (monolingual or multilingual corpora), the place of lexicographic studies, & let's not forget computational linguistics! Mmm i can just imagine the cabinet meetings about that one.....

shula said...

Sister-girl, you always say it so very well.

Arthur_Vandelay said...

Trackback.

There was also a spectacular flaw in Bishop's 'logic': first-year law students need remedial English classes, therefore one must get rid of pinko trendy lefty bullshit like studying 'texts' (whatever they might be) at once. Spot the hole in that one and then drive a truck through it, amusing yourself the while with a vision of the classroom chaos that would ensue if you sat 2006's kids down in silent rows and tried to teach them formal grammar.

Absolutely. Bishop's nonsequitur itself suggests that, however dire the literacy crisis might be, there is a far more urgent need for instruction in basic critical thinking skills.

yellowbrickroad said...

I'm always amused by the eternal insistence that Shakespeare is some sort of ahistorical source of educational Evian water ... The horrors in power don't seem to realize the horrors in power are a large part of Shakespeare's concern & subject.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Well, exactly. Much less realising that he is, as Genevieve has so cleverly pointed out, a postmodernist.

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