I am desperately trying to get back to hammering ACARA’s junk curriculum and VCAA’s junk VCE materials, but new crap keeps on coming. Here’s another one that must be done, and again it’ll just have to be quick.
On Friday, there was triple-banger reporting on a gang of school principals trying to kill the ATAR, Australia’s single-number entry system for senior students applying for university. First, The Age‘s Adam Carey had a free kick report based upon a letter fed to him, of a dozen Victorian principals approaching VCAA and VTAC with their “concerns” about the ATAR. That was followed by a more critical, levelling up report by Carey, and by an even-handed report by The Herald-Sun‘s Susie O’Brien (Murdoch, paywalled).
Let’s get straight to the point: these principals are fools, and what they are attempting is incredibly damaging. The kids who will get screwed by the destruction of objective standards are, as always, the shitkickers, the kids from everyday tough backgrounds in everyday and second rate public and poorer private schools, who will lose their chance to be evaluated in at least an approximately fair manner.
I don’t have the time or the desire to get into the details of this thing. It is all obvious, and Greg Ashman and CIS’s Glenn Fahey are quoted in the second Carey and the O’Brien articles, saying the right smart things, which is basically enough. I will just make a couple of quick points.
There is no need to remind readers that VCAA is a monumentally incompetent institution, which should be levelled and rebuilt from the ground up. VCAA has destroyed VCE, and more. VTAC is little better, a secret society of answerable-to-no-one boffin-clowns. So, of course the ATAR is pretty screwed. But the solution is not to replace the ATAR by some subjective it’s-the-vibe “learner profiles”. The solution is to establish a clear and proper view of what should be learned, and how to assess what is to be learned in a clear and proper manner.
It should also be noted that this idiocy was not born, or at least not nurtured, in schools. The gang of principals is seemingly led by University of Melbourne “Enterprise Professor“, Sandra Milligan, who is quoted extensively in Carey’s free kick, and who has “spearheaded” the “New Metrics” project. Proving, yet again, that there is nothing so stupid in school eduction that an education academic can’t make it way stupider.
Monash is not to be left out. O’Brien‘s report gives Monash Education lecturer Dr. Fiona Longmuir decent space to bash the ATAR, and the state of schools generally:
Dr Fiona Longmuir from Monash University said there was increasing disillusionment and disengagement in schools
“We know things like ATARs and other published measurement tools increase competition and pressure on students and also prescribe the type of learning that happens.
“It’s not working; we have to think about different ways,” she said.
Nonsense. The idea that “ATARs and other published measurement tools” are at the heart of “increasing disillusionment and disengagement” is ridiculous. The disillusionment comes from the fundamental meaninglessness of much of schooling. And why, dear Fiona, might that have occurred?
One of the all-time great, effective and devious political quotes was by Ronald Reagan:
Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.
The truth is, the problem is government by dumb thugs, such as Reagan, with no sense of how to govern, and with no recognition of or concern for the existing public good.
Education has been thoroughly perverted in Australia, and one of the strongest perverting forces has been education academia, always heavy on ideology and always clueless on the proper meaning of public education or the means to achieve it. And now we have Longmuir-Reagan lamenting the “disillusionment”. Jesus wept.
Yes, there is disillusionment. Yes, it is already bad. The game is way more rigged, and way more screwy, than it was even twenty years ago. But in order to fix it, in order to restore to the shitkickers a halfway sane and even playing field, Milligan and Longmuir are exactly the wrong people to consult.
Two of my favourite people are, as am I, shitkickers, older shitkickers who made it. These two shitkickers are people whose opinion I value as much as my own, people who I will always approach for comment and tough critique when working on a significant piece. Both these shitkickers, independently, made a point of telling me that there is no way they would have made it in the current system.
It’ll be way, way worse if Milligan and her convenient gang of fool principals get their way.