Education

School’s now focus firmly on what divides us, not what we share in common

Kevin Donnelly in The Australian on Tuesday argued that it’s now clear that the education sector’s ‘politically correct embrace of diversity and difference – the new code for multiculturalism – reigns supreme’:

As reported in yesterday’s The Australian, school officials at Sydney’s Hurstville Boys Campus, based on a literal interpretation of a hadith, told Muslim students that it was permissible to refuse to greet females in the customary way.

So much for the Christian ­admonition “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. And so much for the fact that Australian society only prospers and grows when there is a shared understanding of what constitutes civility and good manners.

… Education now embraces identity politics where the rights and privileges of particular ­individuals and groups nominated by the cultural Left are granted positive discrimination… Whereas in times past schools would teach all students about the values, beliefs and institutions that bind us as a nation and the debt owed to Western culture, the focus is now firmly on what ­divides us instead of what we share in common.Even worse, instead of their ­arguments being properly ­analysed and evaluated, anyone questioning multicultural groupthink is quickly condemned as Islamophobic, racist and intolerant.

As noted by the British journalist and author Patrick West: “Tolerance in the name of relativism has become its own intolerance. We are commended to respect all differences and anyone who dis-agrees shall be shouted down, ­silenced or slandered as a racist. Everyone must be tolerant. And that’s an order.”

The Australian National Curriculum advocates identity politics and the belief that all cultures must be treated equally. Christianity, instead of being acknowledged as one of the foundation stones on which Western culture rests and continues to depend, receives the same weighting as Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.

While the National Curriculum stipulates that subjects and areas of learning must celebrate diversity and difference, with a special focus an Asian and indigenous perspectives, scant time or attention is given to the history and significance of liberalism within the Western tradition.

The NSW Statement of Equity Principles endorsed by the recently established Education Standards Council also illustrates the way education has been captured by the cultural Left’s long march through the institutions. The school syllabus, associated materials and assessment guidelines all focus on “difference and diversity in the Australian community” where all must be respected and treated equally regardless of “cultural and linguistic heritage, gender, age, beliefs, socio-economic status, location, sexuality or disability”.

… Multiculturalism ignores the reality that some cultural practices and beliefs are un-Australian and that unless we want to follow the example of Britain and Europe, where the policy has led to ethnic ghettos, violence and social fragmentation, education must teach how to discriminate between what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable beliefs and ­values.There is also the irony that the very values that cultural relativists champion, such as tolerance and respect for others, are culturally specific. The liberties and freedoms we take for granted are embedded in Western culture, our Judeo-Christian heritage, and ­historical movements like the ­Enlightenment.

You can read the full article here ($)

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Trigger warnings have arrived at Australian universities

The anti-intellectual and seriously dangerous phenomena of trigger warnings has arrived at Australian universities.

The Age reported late last week that Australian lecturers have begun warning students about potentially graphic or sensitive content:

Australian academics are issuing so-called “trigger warnings” for confronting material in classrooms at the start of each semester, and before classes, to give students the chance to opt out.

These types of warnings encourage academics to not teach ideas, for fear of facing complaints, and students to ignore confronting ideas. And, as has been noted in the United States, there are serious mental health concerns about trigger warnings: they have the potential to establish fears students would otherwise not have, and encourage individuals to avoid addressing their fears.

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Once again: spending more does not improve educational outcomes

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In classic Labor style Bill Shorten opened the federal election campaign by re-announcing his promise to increase schools funding by $3.8 billion.

However, a report discussed in The Australian ($) last week has once again rubbished the notion that spending more will improve our educational outcomes:

Australia spends $132,945, on average, to educate a student from primary school to Year 10 — double the $66,463 spent on students in Shanghai and 40 per cent more than the $93,630 cost in South Korea, the latest comparative OECD data shows. More than half the students in Shanghai and nearly a third of Korean students top the class internationally in maths — compared with just one in seven Australian students.

One in five Australian students failed the minimum standard in maths in the OECD’s 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), compared with 3 per cent of Shanghai students and 9 per cent of Korean teenagers.

The simple reality is that blindly increasing expenditure, from Rudd-Gillard government’s ‘education revolution’ to the Gonski funding model, has failed to improve educational outcomes.

We need a back-to-basics approach which priorities high quality teaching methods, as well as rewarding capable teachers with performance based pay, if we are going to have any chance of keeping up with our Asian neighbors.

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Sanity prevails: Evangelical Union at USyd won’t be deregistered

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The University of Sydney Union has abandoned their plan to deregister the Evangelical Union.

Faith-based societies at the University of Sydney were facing deprivation of monetary resources and access to campus facilities over their requirement that members be Christian.

However, in a big win for freedom of association on campus, the union announced in a media statement today that faith based clubs and societies would be able to decide the conditions of their membership:

After long and thoughtful consultation with our religious communities on campus, the University of Sydney Union Board of Directors resolved at the April Board Meeting to amend the C&S Regulations to allow faith based declarations as a condition of membership and Executives of faith based clubs registered under the USU C&S program.

The Board has listened to its members and acknowledges the importance of such declarations to some of our faith based clubs and societies.

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University of Queensland Union cupcake stunt perfectly illustrates progressive hypocrisy

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The University of Queensland has been thrown into spotlight by a ‘Feminist Week’ bake sale stunt.

The UQ Union is charging people different amounts for cupcakes depending on their gender, race and sexuality. The UQ Union website explains the principles of the bake sale:

Specific to each faculty, each baked good will only cost you the proportion of $1.00 that you earn comparative to men (or, if you identify as a man, all baked goods with cost you $1.00!).

For example, if you are a woman of colour in the legal profession, a baked good at the stall will only cost you 55 cents!

Ironically, as one student commented on a student Facebook group page, the union may be contradicting state and federal anti-discrimination law in the process.

The very people who are usually the most stringent supporters of anti-discrimination laws are themselves discriminating. The hypocrisy never ends.

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First they came for the Evangelicals, now they’re coming for the Catholics

The University of Sydney Union is at it again, this time targeting the 88-year old Catholic Society over the requirement that executive members are Catholic.

In a repeat of the situation facing the Evangelical Union, the Catholic Society is facing deregistration because of their “discriminatory” policy.

The Australian reports on this latest attack on freedom of association on campus:

“It’s a surreal situation,” ­society president Francis Tamer said. “We have been told we are discriminating against people ­because you have to be Catholic to be on the executive. Of course you do — we are the Catholic ­Society.”

One of the university’s best known Catholic alumni, Tony Abbott, agrees, saying “it seems like a hell of a double standard” given that Sydney University has long offered both a “women’s room” and a Koori Centre for ­indigenous students…

Similarly, Liberal and Labor clubs on campus have pointed out that they would expect their members to be Labourites and Liberals.

In the other ongoing case at Sydney University, the Evangelical Union voted 71-1 to not remove their requirement that voting members identify with Jesus Christ.

In response, the Union has delayed the decision to deregister the Evangelical Union, stating that the final decision is yet to be made due to legal complexity.

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Political correctness rampant at Australian universities

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From the Daily Telegraph today, which reported on a damning study authored by Matthew Lesh, into free speech at Australian universities:

RAMPANT political correctness is stifling free speech on Australian university campuses and students’ feelings are being prioritised over academic debate, according to a damning investigation by the Institute of Public Affairs.

Some campuses have banned the use of gender-specific words including “Mr”, “Mrs”, “man” and “sportsmanlike”.

And Western Sydney University has gone even further by outlawing the use of sarcasm.

IPA research fellow Matthew Lesh said the bans have led to many students being accused of sexism and others persecuted for their political views.

… Mr Lesh called for university guidelines and policies restricting intellectual freedom to be abolished…

“It is impossible to develop and discuss ideas in an atmosphere where certain concepts are restricted.” Cases highlighted by the IPA include: Students at Macquarie University will be accused of harassment if they say something regarded as “not welcome”.

Don’t dare say “man the offices” at Newcastle University or commend someone for being “sportsmanlike”, as anything with the word “man” is off limits, along with “Mrs” and “Miss”.

The University of Sydney’s Union has threatened to deregister an 86year-old evangelical society because it requires members to declare their faith in Jesus.

Mr Lesh also said a bid to set up a Men’s Shed group for male students to support each other at Sydney University was blocked for being “too masculine”, but was allowed to go ahead after it appointed a Queer Officer, a Women’s Officer and an Ethno Culture Officer.

The paper’s editorial also had this to say:

Politically correct excesses now dominate thinking at our universities, leading to a call from Institute of Public Affairs research fellow Matthew Lesh to abolish university guidelines and policies restricting intellectual freedom.

“We have policies that now forbid sarcasm and making people feel ‘uncomfortable’,” Lesh told The Daily Telegraph. “We need to have a public debate about this.

“Universities depend on free and open intellectual debate. It is impossible to develop and discuss ideas in an atmosphere where certain concepts are restricted.” But how is a debate over these issues possible given so many severe limitations?

The moment debate participants feel awkward or unwelcome, or if a point is made that may contain dangerous levels of sarcasm, the whole debate would be called off.

We need a debate on a better name for our over-protective institutes of tertiary learning. Maybe kinderversities?

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Religious freedom is under attack at Australian universities

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The University of Sydney Union has threatened to deregister the Sydney University Evangelical Union over the requirement that members have faith in Jesus Christ.

The University of Sydney Union, a student-led multi-million dollar organisation responsible for the provision of services and management of the university’s clubs and societies program, considers the requirement that members of a Christian club be Christian as “discriminatory”.

Deregistration, in practice, would starve the Evangelical Union access to funding, orientation week stalls, and room bookings, making it very difficult for the society function.

This move comes from the same University of Sydney Union which has spaces exclusively reserved for queer, female and international students.

Bible Society, which has previously reported on discrimination against Christians on campuses across Australia, reports on comments from Sydney University Evangelical Union president George Bishop:

The Executive believes that it is necessary, to maintain our identity as a Christian group, to maintain a faith-based declaration as part of the membership process

The Executive believes that individuals who wish to join any society need to be able to ascribe to the core beliefs, objects and aims of the society – which for a Christian society necessarily include faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.

The University of Sydney Union, which all students fund through a compulsorily levy, the Student Services and Amenities Fee, is supposed to equally represent all students. However, it appears some students are more equal than others.

 

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Are students finally starting to wake up?

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The Australian student left has already begun advocating for trigger warnings and more safe spaces on campus. However, the news is not all bleak. Two new articles, both written by students, show there is still reason for some optimism.

Josh Koby Wooller, a University of Sydney student, has written an insightful piece for his student newspaper, Honi Soit, about the campaign to expunge all mentions of Cecil Rhodes at at Oxford University:

Dealing with the past through our current understanding of society requires no nuanced or contextual understanding and undermines the study of history. Tearing down a statue does nothing more than impose our values upon the past, therefore creating an impossible standard for figures in history. We are in effect engaging in historical revisionism…

No figure in history lives up to the standard of the present, simply because they were not surrounded by the contextual values of our era. Cecil Rhodes is a racist, but the image of the Rhodes scholarship is not. Many Rhodes scholars have campaigned against the colonialism and racism championed by Rhodes himself. His legacy to the university has changed since colonialism.

Meanwhile, University of Queensland student John Slater has written an opinion piece for the Brisbane Times condemning the safe space movement, and the recent cases of racial segregation at QUT:

Campus activism used to be about liberating individuals from being defined by their gender, race or sexuality. UQ student Merle Thornton made history in 1965 when she chained herself to Brisbane’s Regatta Hotel after being told women wouldn’t be served a drink…

If discrimination or bullying is a genuine issue for Indigenous students – or for women, queer and disabled students for that matter – why not root out the rot at its source? Why not deal with the bigots and bullies before construction began on race-selective study rooms?

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It’s a no-brainer: smart teachers mean smart children

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If you’ve had the feeling that your child – or you – might be brighter than the teacher, you may not be wrong.

In a Herald Sun piece, Melbourne teacher Christopher Bantick slammed the ‘intellectual heft’ of aspiring teachers, enabled by the failure of universities to enforce a high standard:

It’s a no-brainer that if you put a thick teacher in front of kids, then they will not achieve… I am in my fourth decade of being a secondary teacher and I have seen academic standards decline in teachers.

In the last seven years, the required ATAR score for teaching courses in Victoria has been falling, from 75 in 2009 to 60 in 2016. In fact, an ATAR score of just 34.80 – out of 99.95 – can see someone become a teacher.

You can hardly argue that this results in the “best and brightest” teaching our children.

Bantick argues the blame falls squarely with our universities:

The reality is this: universities, especially not premier league performers, set low ATAR scores or no ATAR scores for teaching to ensure they get enough students. Teaching is their milch cow.

There is a direct correlation between high-performing ATAR scores and academically sound teaching.

High-quality teaching is the single most important in-school factor influencing student outcomes, according to research from both the OECD and AITSL Chair John Hattie. And the best teachers are also discipline authorities with deep knowledge of their subject matter, as educational psychologist Lee Shulman contends in his seminal paper, ‘Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform‘:

To teach all students according to today’s standards, teachers need to understand subject matter deeply and flexibly so they can help students create useful cognitive maps, relate one idea to another, and address misconceptions.

It should be a no-brainer. Smart teachers results in smart students. It’s really that simple.

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