Recently, we decided to look a little at the writings of ACARA’s CEO, David de Carvalho. There’s not a lot to see. De Carvalho’s writings exhibit the calm smugness typical of a Catholic intellectual lightweight, and without any proper consideration of how the ideas expounded might play out in practice. There is some discussion of the nature of the Australian Curriculum (and NAPLAN), but not a lot. There is little acknowledgment of criticism and essentially no attempt at rebuttal. Nonetheless, there are some excerpts worth noting and worth hammering.
In May last year, De Carvalho gave a Keynote address to the Christian Schools National Policy Forum. This was a month after the draft curriculum had been released and while “public consultation” was underway. De Carvalho’s address is worthy of careful scrutiny. Here, we shall just comment on one part of the address.
Midway through his presentation, De Carvalho notes that, while some areas of the Curriculum (supposedly) just required a nip and a tuck, the Mathematics Curriculum needed more extensive work:
Maths for example has required greater improvement and updating. As we all know, our PISA results in mathematics have been declining steadily over the last two decades, and we need to look how curriculum can make a contribution to turning this around. One way we are doing this is making it more explicit that students are expected to understand the mathematical concepts and procedures they are learning about and to be able to use to them to solve problems.
Three sentences, three pieces of tendentious nonsense. A hat-trick of ACARA twaddle.
First, although the current mathematics curriculum does indeed require improvement, or burning, ACARA had and has absolutely no mandate to undertake such radical reform. Secondly, PISA is garbage and, in any case, the draft curriculum will probably only make PISA results, as well as things that matter, much worse. Thirdly, making the requirement of “understanding” more “explicit” is misrepresenting the limited role of understanding in school mathematics, and it has drowned the draft curriculum’s content descriptions in meaningless meaningfulness, making them unreadable and critically misleading.
There is more, and it is worse.
De Carvalho goes on to note, briefly, the “public conversation” on the draft mathematics curriculum:
The public conversation about the Maths curriculum has already got underway in earnest and we have seen some of our proposed revisions being debated.
Reinforcing the statement that I referred to earlier from the US National Research Council, this joint statement from five of the leading maths and science organisations in the country is an indication of the level of interest out there about the curriculum.
“Just having knowledge is no longer enough. Instead, the abilities to problem-solve, mathematise, hypothesise, model are all skills that add worth to acquired knowledge. Mathematics learning cannot sit in silos that focus on content and procedures. Instead, it must be something that gives the knowledge purpose.”
Impressive work, Dave. You noted ACARA’s appalling mathematics draft is being “debated“, but somehow the single instance of this debate you could think to highlight was the idiotic Joint Statement, which came out before the release of the draft and thus before the draft could be debated, which was created for the sole purpose of supporting the draft, and which your scheming ACARA mates secretly helped create, secret help that ACARA has never subsequently acknowledged.
Really, really classy stuff, Dave. How very Jesuity of you.