A Bita Crap

We’ve been trying to tone down the language on this blog. Honestly. But education reporters make it so damn hard.

To be fair, most of the reports of the passing of ACARA’s curriculum have been ok. Not good, not exhibiting much in the way of thought or memory or reflection, but ok. Sure, the reporters could have pointed out that the Wonderful New Curriculum is still secret, meaning nobody really knows whether the media releases are remotely accurate. They could have reported that the participants in ACARA’s final charade are still bound by ACARA’s insidious NDA and so have been cowed into not commenting. They could have reported that AMSI and AustMS have been silent, and most definitely have not signalled endorsement of the new mathematics curriculum. They could have pointed out that ACARA had screwed up royally, for years, and that the alleged improvements to the mathematics curriculum, if real and meaningful, only came about because of a massive campaign, a campaign which, until the very end, ACARA treated with utter contempt. But, after all, they’re education reporters; you can’t expect too much.

By and large, the reports have cut and pasted from ACARA‘s and Minister Robert‘s media releases, and including little else. Which is what one would expect and, really, is not totally unreasonable. The major story is that the curriculum has passed, and the process of getting there is far secondary and understandably, sort of, is forgotten. To the victor belongs the spoiled curriculum.

Then there is Natasha Bita.

Bita is The Australian’s Education Editor, and after the curriculum was approved she wrote an article, Back to basics in new school curriculum (Murdoch, paywalled). In the main, Bita’s article is the familiar stenography, quoting liberally from the media releases. Yeah, blaring the “back to basics” as fact rather than unsubstantiated claim is not great, but it is predictable and is no worse than the others. Bogey for the course. But Bita’s report also has some idiotic, astonishing, eye-plucking lines.

Bita’s report begins,

Phonics, times tables and Australian history lessons will be mandatory in Australian classrooms next year after the ­nation’s education ministers ­endorsed an old-school curriculum to ensure students master the basics.

An “old-school curriculum”? Yeah, complete with an old-school flying pig.

There is, of course, not a snowflake’s chance in Hell that ACARA’s curriculum is “old school”. Whatever changes ACARA might have made, whatever decades overdue shoring up of the basics there now might be, the curriculum won’t be a country mile from old-school. ACARA and their teams of yes-men stooges wouldn’t know old-school if it bit them.

Bita continues:

In changes given top marks by maths teachers, primary school students will be expected to add, subtract and multiply without using a calculator and will start learning their times ­tables in Year 2.

And which maths teachers would these be? The ones with superpowers permitting them to divine the still-secret curriculum? And “top marks” for Year 2 tables? From the Boalerised maths teachers who, now, won’t teach the mandated tabes in Year 4?

Then, after some stenography, mostly on the History battles, Bita gives us a short history lesson:

A previous version, widely condemned by maths teachers, had postponed the rote learning of multiplication from Year 3 to Year 4, and delayed teaching kids to tell the time until Year 2.

“Maths teachers”. Them maths teachers who, unlike mathematicians, were in on the making of the draft. It was them maths teachers, apparently, that whacked the original draft. Them maths teachers represented by such thoughtful and principled associations as AAMT and MAV, which were so loud and so strong in their “condemnation” of the draft.

Jesus, Natasha. Could you do worse?

Well, yes:

Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers chief executive Allan Dougan praised the latest change as a “step in the right direction’’.

“(Maths) fluency and making sure young people have not just problem-solving skills, but the basics to apply those skills, is really important,’’ Mr Dougan said.

Allan Dougan.

Allan Dougan, proud CEO of the, at best, silent AAMT. The Allan Dougan who seems to know plenty about the the approved curriculum, and of who we’ll bet plenty was consulted on the original draft, and who appears to have uttered not one single word of public criticism of the original draft. The Allan Dougan who promoted “problem-solving” and ridiculed the practising of skills. The Allan Dougan whose association schemed with an ethically challenged ACARA to write the idiotic Joint Statement as preemptive propaganda for the draft curriculum, and whose name appears as contact on the Joint Statement. That Allan Dougan.

Congratulations, Natasha. You’ve made the other education reporters appear to be Orwells.

UPDATE (03/04/22)

Greg Ashman has also written today on ACARA’s invisible curriculum, riffing on Bita’s nonsense.

7 Replies to “A Bita Crap”

  1. “primary school students will be expected to add, subtract and multiply without using a calculator”…

    I guess this shows that division without a calculator is considered unnecessary? Why is that? Do people think division is unsavoury?

    1. Very well observed, wst. I had overlooked that. It is exactly why, once ACARA deigns to release their curriculum, the thing should be gone through with a fine-toothed chainsaw.

      1. I think we also need to be prepared to argue why including certain things in the curriculum is important, because I suspect changes to the curriculum may actually reflect the views of a lot of people/education experts/teachers who just want to throw away a lot of things and say they’re not necessary anymore because it’s easier for people to just use calculators.

        I think one reason for students to learn how to divide is that it makes it easier to understand what rational numbers are. High school students seem to learn that they are the numbers whose decimal expansions either terminate or repeat. If I want to explain how this is a consequence of the definition of a rational number as a fraction of whole numbers, it’s a lot easier if the students are familiar with doing division step by step. But is that a good enough reason to make sure everyone learns how to do division without a calculator in primary school?

  2. Does anyone know when the next curriculum review is?
    I predict with the changes made that the maths’ results will still be sub standard.
    A recent PD school experience that was delivered by teachers who had been trained to deliver this PD was full of student centered activities.
    The problem solving approach to learning the basics will continue with the same poor outcomes.
    I have always been filled with dismay that somehow having primary school students recite the times tables ( I deliberately not use multiplication facts) , write them out and quizzing their recall was harmful.

    1. John, I think the curriculum review is supposed to be every five or six years. But it won’t do any good. As you note, primary teachers will do their aimless inquiry twaddle, no matter what the curriculum supposedly mandates. As long as the cult of inquiry dominates education faculties, nothing will change.

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