Yesterday, The Age held their annual Schools Summit. Of course we wouldn’t shell out a shekel to attend, presuming that not a lot could be learned, but reports on the Summit are here, here, here and here. And, what was learned? Clearly, not a lot.
Our main interest was in the idiotic Maths Wars discussion and the talk by ACARA’s CEO, David de Carvalho, and they appeared to be pretty nothing. But there were a couple notable things in the nothingness.
From the scant reports, it is difficult to know what to make of De Carvalho’s talk, but presumably it contained less of the triumphant twaddle exhibited last year. Greg Ashman described De Carvalho as “gently uncertain and slightly ruffled”. Of course if anybody had been permitted to ask him why the draft is currently Top Secret, and why ACARA’s current process is unsanctioned lunacy, De Carvalho might have been fully ruffled. But, it is obviously too much to expect proper questioning from a journalist-led summit.
On the mathematics draft, it would appear that De Carvalho was as honest and as forthright as ever. Ashman reports that
“[De Carvalho] claimed that he would have been disappointed if there had been no debate. In terms of the woeful draft mathematics curriculum, he acknowledged that there had been objections to the Year levels at which certain concepts were introduced and that there was a perception that the curriculum advocated certain pedagogical practices (teaching methods).
But, yeah, a few year-level switches, and a “perception” of pedagogical advocacy just about sums up the objections to the draft. As for the “debate” that apparently pleases De Carvalho, we’re not sure that he quite understands the meaning of that word. No matter, since it is all pretty much done. To quote Adam Carey, De Carvalho claims
“There’s agreement on 6 of 8 learning areas, humanities and maths still need tweaking.”
As for the “maths wars” discussion, without a single participating mathematician, it would appear that, predictably, the debate missed the whole goddam point. So Greg Ashman got to make his important point, yet again, that inquiry learning is nonsense. But Ashman’s important point is not the point, not that anyone cares. At least, however, we got to find out about a new clown.
One of the participants in the Maths Wars discussion was Russell Tytler, Professor of Science Education at Deakin University. Tytler’s thing appears to be “problem-solving” and inquiry learning, repackaged as “guided inquiry”, and plenty STEMmed. As for Tytler’s contribution yesterday, to quote Carey,
“Tytler says there is a problem with engagement in maths classrooms that explicit instruction can’t solve.”
Tytler’s solution, as it always is with these guys, is to “engage” the students in “maths classrooms” by embarking on some idiotic and pointless exploration and then slapping the label “maths” on it. This fools only fools, which includes, unfortunately, pretty much everyone.
But Tytler does have a point, since they also do this kind of thing in successful countries. To quote The Age‘s blog of yesterday,
“Professor Russell Tytler of Deakin University says it’s often overlooked that Singapore’s maths curriculum is also big on problem-solving. That’s one of the things the draft Australian curriculum was so heavily criticised for upon its initial release.”
Great panel, Age guys. You really know how to resolve a maths war.