Well, not in those terms. Greg Ashman is always polite and professional, to a fault. But, clearly, ACARA has pissed Greg off.
As regular readers will be aware, ACARA’s Top Secret Draft Curriculum was not approved by the recent education ministers meeting, and consequently ACARA was effectively ordered by Acting Minister Robert to go back, to consult with “experts” and to get it right. For sundry reasons, this is an impossible and absurd assignment, but everyone in charge is hell-bent on pretending otherwise. And so, ACARA apparently went away to form a Top Secret Committee to engage in a Top Secret Consultation Process on their Top Secret Draft Curriculum.
To be fair, there are good reasons for ACARA’s Top Secrecy. After all, if the public and the media and the (genuine) experts were to have access to the process and to the current Draft then … Nope, we take it back. There are no reasons whatsoever. ACARA is simply out of their arrogant, cowardly, tiny little mind. The secrecy throughout is sufficient reason to wish for David de Carvalho and the entire ACARA Board to be sacked.
Anyway, back to Greg Ashman. As Greg revealed today in his excellent post, Why I will not be helping ACARA, Greg had been invited to be part of ACARA’s Top Secret Committee and to attend ACARA’s Top Secret Meeting on March 15. Greg writes in his post that he declined ACARA’s invitation. Why? Because Greg was pissed off by having to sign a “Deed of Confidentiality”.
Three cheers for Greg Ashman.
To be clear, it is reasonable to question why Greg was included as a candidate for ACARA’s Top Secret Committee, and the value of such an inclusion. In brief, our opinion is that we’d be happy for Greg to be on such a Not Top Secret Committee, but we find it a bit odd that he was given the opportunity. Greg is a smart guy and, although he naturally focuses on his own research and consequent edu-battles, Greg is batting for the Good Team, and he bats well for the Good Team. Nonetheless, it is far from clear why Greg was invited to be part of ACARA’s Top Secret Committee, and it is worthy of an explanation (which, of course, we’ll never get).
But, all that is beside the point here. The point here is that ACARA’s secrecy is idiotic and insidious, and Greg Ashman has called them on it.
Three more cheers for Greg Ashman.
15 Replies to “Greg Ashman Tells ACARA to Get Stuffed”
Three cheers for Mr Ashman! I’ve just purchased his two books and trust that it will return some balance to the force following my exposure to the dark side. Why the need for a ‘Deed of Confidentiality’? Surely ACARA realise that their incompetence will be revealed when the cloak of secrecy is lifted.
Hopefully there’s a kamikaze “expert” who leaves the draft on a train.
Indeed, that is what is required, although of course I don’t criticise anyone in such a position for not going kamikaze.
Yes, well done indeed to Greg.
Apart from being “pissed off by having to sign a “Deed of Confidentiality””, maybe Greg was also smart enough to consider the possibility that the inclusion of him (and others) was merely tokenistic. It wouldn’t be the first time an organisation tried to create the illusion of bipartisan consultation when the reality was that only one person (maybe two) actually made the important decisions.
And maybe Greg valued his good reputation enough to know that the names of all the people in ACARA’s Top Secret Committee would become known sooner or later and he didn’t want his name associated with the probable final draft.
As you say, Greg is “always polite and professional, to a fault” and even if the possible additional reasons given above were true, he would be unlikely to say so.
This highlights the fundamental problem – the people who should be on these committees are exactly the people who don’t want to be on them. And conversely …
“ACARA is simply out of their arrogant, cowardly, tiny little mind.” Nicely put.
Thanks, John. Of course there are plenty of reasons one might reject ACARA’s invitation, not least of which is the possibility/certainty, as you suggest, of being used by ACARA as a token. But, there are also strong arguments for accepting such an invitation, and I wouldn’t have been critical of Greg if had accepted. The fundamental fault here is not with anyone who accepts such an invitation, although it would help if some people had a little more humility regarding what, if anything, they have to offer. The fundamental fault lies with the perverse manner in which ACARA decides who is invited, and the process by which they are permitted to participate.
As to whether Greg had other, conscious or semi-conscious reasons for declining ACARA, I don’t know. Greg seems more a theory guy, and tends to not write about such political matters at all. I was surprised, and pleased, that he did on this occasion, but I wouldn’t read more into Greg’s post than what Greg wrote.
“the process by which they are permitted to participate”
IS completely perverse. This is for most of these Govt. organisations. Another – simple – example, much closer to home, is the secrecy that continues to surround the marking schemes for VCAA exams – a similar Deed of Confidentiality is required before participation is allowed.
Sir H makes an excellent point above:
“Surely ACARA realise that their incompetence will be revealed when the cloak of secrecy is lifted”
My response would be that nothing can be done “the cloak of secrecy is lifted” and the draft has been officially approved by the Ministers. But plenty can be done if the badness is leaked. This is what ACARA would be most afraid of. As Marty has said, it’s total arrogance and cowardice.
Don’t derail. VCAA can wait.
Of course it’d be great if stuff leaked. Hilariously, my interminable guerilla war with ACARA began with such a leak. But, leaks aren’t always easy. What is really irritating is when people with important knowledge can comment publicly and legally but, from pure thoughtlessness or pure strategic stupidity, decline to do so.
I wonder if a FOI request might prove worthwhile..? Maybe not, but it would have interesting political ramifications if ACARA declined a very specific and well-worded FOI request. *Asking for a friend*
Also, I believe Mr Ashman being approached and then hit with an NDA to sign in order to participate was more of an attempt to silence than an intent to consult, n’est ce pas? The best way to counteract that damned inconvenient open letter would be to entice – and subsequently gag – its main instigator to the fold, perhaps..? *Not asking for a friend*
An FOI is almost certainly useless, and I’ve already applied. Even if successful it will take weeks at a minimum to get anything, and most likely it will take months.
Also, to address your political point, in regard to my previous FOI, ACARA have been very professional. The FOI process is intrinsically slow, and ACARA might have made different decisions, which would have sped things up, but I don’t think their decisions were malicious or without merit. (By way of comparison, in regard to my first FOI and its lead up, ACARA were complete dicks.)
As for Greg Ashman, don’t get too conspiratorial. ACARA’s confidentiality thing is insidious but standard. It is safe to assume that ACARA were genuinely intending to “consult” with Ashman, if only because Minister Robert gave them no choice. The problem is that ACARA has no damn clue what the word “consult” means.
ACARA is, by its very nature, fundamentally a political organisation, as are many other three- and four-letter acronym organisations in the edusphere. The primary goal of all politicians is ‘self-preservation at all costs’ and they expect such primal existential behaviour from others. In their incestuous world, where the ends very much justify the means, behind every smiling face there stalks a potential knife-wielding Brutus. Consequently, politicians generally do not subscribe to the dismissive premise of coincidences because they realise that behind every coincidence there is quite probably a strategy lurking, and the higher up the proverbial greasy pole one climbs ‘quite probably’ tends towards ‘quite possibly’ which, approaching the summit, rapidly converges towards ‘very likely’.
In the case of the unsuccessful attempted seduction of Greg Ashman, whether it was by conscious intent (i.e. conspiratorial) or happenstance (i.e. coincidental) the result would have been identical: an influential critic silenced via a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Any politician worthy of the title would heavily lean towards the former explanation rather than the latter one if for no other reason than ‘bitter experience’. Personally, I try to observe the Battle for Curriculum 9.0 through a political lens and not through a mathematical or logical one. As such, I’ve come to the conclusion that the open letter was the most effective counterstrike fired by the Rebel Forces against The Empire in decades (if not of all time). Can the Maths Wars be won? Yes, but only via politics. And, until that open letter, that is precisely why we’ve collectively failed.
Sir H, I agree that the open letter was absolutely critical to establishing a visible and focussed opposition to the draft mathematics curriculum. The lack of such a letter opposing the equally appalling science curriculum is why the equally appalling science curriculum has escaped such scrutiny, and will sail through to poison a generation of minds. (Well done, you silent, idiot scientists.)
On Ashman’s invitation, for obvious reasons and for I-can’t-disclose reasons, it is extremely unlikely that he was invited as a means of silencing him. The most one might, and reliably, say is that ACARA would be pleased with the consequence of any silencing of Ashman.
Good job Greg, yes, and looking at his description of the deed, it’s amazing that anybody (sycophants aside) would ever sign it.
Thanks, Glen. As I wrote in reply to John, there are still strong arguments for signing and participating. Of course I would never receive such an invitation, but would I have signed? I don’t know, but I might have. One plausibly plausible approach is:
a) Sign the Deed.
b) Make it public that one has signed the Deed, and then declare an opinion on the moral bankruptcy and insidiousness of ACARA’s demand.
c) Participate and take the opportunity to hammer ACARA full force.
d) Subsequently make public one’s participation and declare the (inevitable) farcicality of ACARA’s draft and review process.
Of course, for such a strategy one would want a solid legal opinion on (b) and (d), and how far one could push it. But that still entails work and risk. Again, I wouldn’t criticise anyone for not being willing to go down that route.
I’m surprised Greg didn’t have to sign a confidentiality deed agreeing not to talk about the confidentiality deed, before he could read the confidentiality deed.
Yeah, a backwards Zeno’s Confidentiality Agreement. But that’s part of my point. There must be others who, at least to some extent have shareable knowledge of this process.