Forcing students to study science and maths doesn’t add up


The debate around Australia’s education system is growing more and more panicked every day. Amid falling academic standards and growing levels of public funding, both the Coalition and the ALP claim to have found the magic cure. In both cases, the cure is worse than the disease.

Bill Shorten wants to put computer coding in the national curriculum:

Coding is the literacy of the 21st century, and under Labor, every young Australian will have a chance to read, write, and work with the global language of the digital age.

This is bad policy for two key reasons: 1) It ignores widespread criticism of the national curriculum by principals, teachers and parents for being overcrowded, and 2) It ignores the fact that Australian children are already struggling with the basics – how to read, write and work with the English language. Without basic literacy and numeracy skills, Australian students are unable to achieve higher learning or compete in the world economy – even if they can computer code.

Now Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne wants to make mathematics and science mandatory for all Year 11 and 12 students:

According to the briefing note, Mr Pyne will use a report from the nation’s Chief Scientist Ian Chubb, which warns Australia risks being left behind in the innovation race, to seek a mandate from his state counterparts to develop a strategy to restore the focus on science and maths in both primary and secondary schools.

But Professor Chubb said it would be challenging to force all students to study maths and science. ‘As I’ve often said, it is difficult to make these subjects compulsory, but they should be made so compelling that everyone wants to do them.’

If Pyne chooses to listen to anything our Chief Scientist has to say, it should be his warning against forcing students to study these subjects. In the long-run, this policy will do more harm than good.

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The damaging truth behind student-free days


School-free days have no educational value for students. They are an excuse for teachers to be paid for attending their workplace, or strike, without doing any work.

More evidence of this emerged thanks to St Bede’s Primary School in Balwyn North, which has accidentally emailed parents an invitation to end-of-term drinks at Naked for Satan, a reward for staff because the school term is over, and the day is finishing early.

Upon questioning by the Herald Sun, the sender of the email, administrator Ms Comand, chose to defend the function, saying ‘We are not taking time off. We are entitled to these days – they are authorised by the CEO’.

You may be entitled to them, Ms Comand. But that does not make them right.

Parents are told by schools and education unions that the purpose of student-free days is to run professional development programs for teachers, planning and administration, curriculum development, and student reporting.

Students and teachers already receive approximately twelve to fourteen weeks off school a year. If professional development or any of these matters are needed, there is more than adequate opportunity to do so without encroaching upon school time.

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What Mad Max teaches us about the importance of property rights


Mad Max: Fury Road opens in cinemas today, and it is already bringing in rave reviews. The film is being praised for realising a world so foreign to us – a world of anarchy and violence ruled by warlords.

So why is that so foreign to us? What is it about our society that stops us living in a world on anarchy?

Property rights.

Having complete ownership of property, and having that ownership recognised by other members of society, is the theoretical basis from which much of our laws derive.

For example, I have a phone. I can do anything I want with my phone as long as it doesn’t interfere with other people’s property. I can lend you my phone, but only I can decide to do that. You can’t take it. If you do, you will be punished by the state.

If we lived in a society that did not recognise property rights, we would live in the society seen in Mad Max. If an individual parked himself on the outback highways the film is set in and decided that no-one could use the roads and that anyone who tried would have to hand over their possessions to the individual, there would be no method of stopping it that didn’t involve violence.

So when you watch the film, rest assured that our society’s respect for property rights means we will never be in the same frantic high-speed chases as we run away from warlords. Our society might not make a better movie, but it makes a better life.


Ignorance is strength at Australian universities


“Australia’s culture of open debate is increasingly sick”.

“Outrage, confected or otherwise, is a popular tool to condemn your opponents because it avoids the need to actually debate ideas.”

Those are the words of Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, in The Australian on Monday.

The University of Western Australia’s decision to bow to the shrill demands of a small but vocal minority and reject the proposed Australian Consensus Centre is a watershed moment for Australian universities and academia in this country.

The purpose of the Australian Consensus Centre was to advise on the best ways to tackle the world’s development challenges. This includes climate change and other issues regarding health, education and nutrition.

Bjørn Lomborg was to be an adjunct professor at the Australian Consensus Centre. His work at CCC has not set out to question the validity of the anthropogenic climate change hypothesis; his work simply seeks to assess the cost-benefit of various climate change policies, and how best to allocate scarce resources.

Bjørn Lomborg has strongly responded to UWA’s decision to reject his think tank in the Wall Street Journal:

Philanthropists, donors and policy makers must prioritize development goals. What Copenhagen Consensus does is ensure that such parties understand the price tags and potential outcomes for each option.

This work has shown that some aid projects do phenomenally well: For instance, providing contraception to the 215 million women across the globe who lack access to it would reduce maternal mortality and boost growth, producing $120 in social benefits for each dollar spent.

Other policies have lower multipliers. Getting sanitation to the poorest half of the world, for example, would produce only $3 of benefits for each dollar spent. This is worthy, but for a government with a limited development budget, it probably isn’t the first place to spend money.

We should focus resources where they will do the most good—not where they will make us feel the most good.

What is the lesson for young academics? Avoid producing research that could produce politically difficult answers. Steer clear of results that others might find contentious. Consider where your study could take you, and don’t go there if it means upsetting the status quo.

This dominant, progressive group-think that pervades universities doesn’t just affect academics. It affects students all over the world, to the point where for some, the only choice left is to laugh. But we are all worse for it. The culture of muzzling ideas we don’t agree with not because they are bad, but because they fail to meet a perceived moral threshold is dangerous.

The reality is that there are thousands of students on Australian university campuses who are too afraid to make their voices heard and share their opinions because they dissent from the increasingly aggressive, dominant and hostile Left. It is time we talked about that.


Not even sceptical environmentalism is permitted in Academia


University of Western Australia’s planned Consensus Centre, to be led by world-leading academic Bjørn Lomborg, will not go ahead. Evidently, even Professor Lomborg’s “sceptical environmentalism” could not be tolerated.

Henry Ergas in The Australian ($):

Aristotle opens the Metaphysics with one of his most striking phrases: “By their nature, all men desire to know.” Quite so. But not at the University of Western Australia.

Nor is there any mystery as to why. According to a press release issued late Friday by the university’s vice-chancellor, Paul Johnson, the proposal … had met “strong opposition” and hence could not proceed.

Since there was no consensus to seek consensus, it was better to let ignorance flourish than for the merest shard of knowledge to creep in.

Andrew Bolt considers the implications of Academia driving this global warming ‘heretic’ out of Australia:

THE banning of Bjorn Lomborg disgraces our universities. It is a warning to the world not to send us their students.

Don’t study here, where free thought is punished. Where Leftist groupthink is viciously enforced.


Academic prejudice at the University of Western Australia


An example of the anti-intellectual prejudice of modern day academia has played out at the University of Western Australia this week. The planned Consensus Centre, which was to be headed by world-leading academic Bjørn Lomborg, has been rejected by UWA. The decision comes after a vocal backlash from activists that prefer to shout down ideas rather than debate them.

Herald Sun journalist Andrew Bolt’s analysis is worth reading. It’s particularly interesting to read through Bolt’s long list of academic grants that haven’t generated a peep from the narrow sectional interests that have caused a media storm over the Lomborg proposal.


Auntie gets top Marx for its latest idea


According to the ABC, having a loving family is now an unfair advantage that should be unacceptable to people all over Australia.

On Friday 1 May, philosopher Adam Swift appeared on ABC Radio National with presenter Joe Gelonesi to discuss why the family unit is the true cause of growing inequality in society. According to Swift, family interactions such as playing cricket or reading bedtime stories have a devastating impact on social mobility and equality:

The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t—the difference in their life chances—is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t.

This “devilish twist of evidence” led Gelonesi to his helpful conclusion “that perhaps in the interests of levelling the playing field, bedtime stories should also be restricted”. While this may seem absurd, Swift agrees. He encourages parents to think twice about engaging in activities with their children which may confer an unfair advantage on them:

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Peter Walsh on free speech and legal parasites


Nick Cater’s piece from yesterday (posted on FreedomWatch here) makes the point that the late Peter Walsh was not just a passionate supporter of deregulation and economic liberty, but was particularly critical of the authoritarianism that swept the Labor Party.

In that light, Walsh’s Australian Financial Review columns, published after he left parliament in 1993, make for some entertaining, and compelling, reading.

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Peter Walsh “uncommonly endowed with common sense”


Australia was very unfortunate to lose former Labor Senator Peter Walsh last week. The well respected politician from the Hawke/Keating years was the subject of a great opinion piece from Nick Cater this morning in The Australian:

Walsh, who died last week, aged 80, was uncommonly endowed with common sense, a virtue in short supply in today’s federal Labor Party. Confessions of a Failed Finance Minister, Walsh’s memoir published 20 years ago, provides a pertinent analysis of the moral arrogance that transformed Labor from the party of common people into the voice of the Balmain basketweavers.

From its “unseemly intimacy” with public sector unions, environmental activists and faith in global warming, to its adoption of “political correctness”:

Walsh foresaw the “cult” of political correctness that routinely smothers civic debate in these hypersensitive times. Its most pernicious consequence, said Walsh, was cultural relativity and a mood that threatened to undermine Australia’s Anglo-Celtic culture. “What psychotic disorder, what deep-seated se1f-loathing, causes people who are the beneficiaries of that heritage to constantly vilify and denigrate it?” he asks.

Labor, he suggested, was in danger of succumbing to a new illiberal force. The authoritarian Right, often associated with religion, had been superseded by “an authoritarian group which regards itself as Left progressive”.

“They are social engineers determined to control what people do, what they say — and if they could what people think — if necessary by legislation,” he wrote. Walsh strongly objected to Paul Keating’s amendments to the 1994 Racial Discrimination Act including the notorious section 18C, outlawing speech that might cause offence to an identifiable ethnic or racial group.

Read the rest of Cater’s article here ($).


An awful, awful idea

From Andrew Bolt’s blog:

Just passing on a story in a Fairfax newspaper about cracking down on people identifying with a certain race, without daring to comment.

The Fairfax story is from the Sydney Morning Herald, and says:

The Abbott government’s chief Indigenous adviser Warren Mundine wants a national database of Aboriginal people to resolve “once and for all” the controversial issue of proving Aboriginality.

Cataloguing members of a racial group? A truly chilling idea.


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