The ‘left-wing conspiracy’ in teacher education courses

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High-quality teaching is fundamental to student learning, and research shows that it is the largest in-school factor influencing student outcomes.

That is why Dr Jennifer Oriel’s warning ($) that university courses are shaping a generation of teachers to champion postcolonialism and neo-Marxism should be taken very seriously. Dr Oriel cited recent IPA research which showed that from 2004 to 2014, the number of Australian universities offering postcolonialism as a subject increased from 15 to 21, and of the 34 universities surveyed, post­colonialism/imperialism was the third most commonly offered history subject.

Dr Bill Allen however, disagrees. In an article in The Australian yesterday, Dr Allen argued that no ‘left-wing conspiracy’ exists inside teacher education courses ($) to create teachers hostile to Western Civilisation and Australian values. He claimed that in his own experience, most students studying teaching have never heard of neo-Marxist educational theorists Paulo Freire or Herbert Marcuse, and that even though students knew of Karl Marx, it didn’t matter because they don’t know ‘how Marx’s ideas might apply to their thinking about being a successful teacher’.

My own experience studying teaching has been Oriel’s reality, not Allen’s.

In one subject, an entire week was devoted to Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy, and how from the 1970s to today, ‘important social movements such as feminism’ have ‘blossomed’ as teachers ‘started to actively resist schooling structures that were seen to privilege a typically white, male and European viewpoint.’

We were told that as educators, we have an ‘important role to play as “public intellectuals”, who should fight the forces of social and economic oppression within which schools operate’. This is informed by critical pedagogy advocate Henry Giroux, who contends that neoliberal politics, pop culture, and corporations are negative ideological forces which must be fought in schools.

Only last week, I sat in classes that denigrated non-government schools, argued for trigger warnings in the classroom, and derided the idea of individual responsibility.

If there is no left-wing conspiracy in teacher education courses, I must be confused.

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