I Can See Clarely Now the Brain is Gone

Last week, the Federal Minister for Education, Jason Clare released Strong Beginnings, his remarkable report designed to shake up initial teacher education. We really want to write about the report but we have this old-fashioned idea of reading things before writing about them, and we simply haven’t had the time. We haven’t even had the time to read properly the many opinion pieces on Clare’s report.* So for now, making a couple quick points and directing readers to Greg Ashman will have to suffice.

The heart of Clare’s report is the mandating of “core content” in ITE programs. This content is framed around four categories:

  • The brain and learning
  • Effective pedagogical practices
  • Classroom management
  • Responsive teaching

The report pushes back explicitly and strongly against the current educational orthodoxy, the child-centred inquiry mush that is endemic in educational faculties. The report does so, however, with annoying and concerning neurospeak, with reference to “the direct application of cognitive science to teaching and learning” and “how the brain learns” and “neuromyths”, and on and on. That is not good.

Let’s be clear: the Brain Boys are never going to solve our educational woes. A proper culture of teaching and learning will never emerge from a lab rat approach, from treating education as if it were a science. So, although the pushback against the inquiry cult is very very welcome, the “science of learning” gang can be just as blinkered and ideological, just as …

Nah. They’re way better.

The Brain Boys can be tiresome and preachy and obvious and off the point, and they ain’t gonna fix things. But they’re way better than the status quo, and they can definitely help. Clare’s report has to be for the better. Any report that pisses off the likes of Viv Ellis has to be a serious plus.

*) The most informative and/or thoughtful and/or annoying pieces are by Natasha Bita, Greg Ashman, Ross Fox, Debra Hayes, Jenny Gore, Monash Faculty of Education, Australian Financial Review, Glenn Fahey, Julie Hare and Paul Kelly (many paywalled).


8 Replies to “I Can See Clarely Now the Brain is Gone”

  1. So far I have already seen 3 edubabble university profs in Fairfax papers and the Conversation indignantly rebutting the arguments in this initiative. Despite this “new” approach (“new”- as in old…like teachers actually teaching and holding students accountable) being trialled in 60 schools and shown to be effective in literacy and class room behaviours.

    The threat of disaccreditation for courses not taking direction from the report was delightful to read and really riled them.

    Pracy of arguments of said professors of education: Basically the education departments at universities want to double down on student driven learning and being allowed to run sociology experiments, posing as teacher training, without external interference.

    I’ve been to 20+ years of conferences where complete crap has been presented as the next big thing that will fix everything wrong in education. How dare anyone stop them from teaching their favourite bits and progressing the next fad!

    Will the Scott/Clare report fix anything? Probably not. But it might give individual schools a chance to improve without educrats coming down on them

    1. That’s a very good point. The education faculties will work hard to not listen to Clare. But Clare’s report may wake up individual schools, and it will give license to individual teachers to push back against schools that don’t wake up.

    2. It is interesting to check whether the academic experts in education are registered teachers. This is easy to do in Victoria. I don’t know about other states.

        1. If there were a review of medical practice in Australia, I would expect that the review would be dominated by medical practitioners.

      1. Pity the VIT register doesn’t tell us if any of them WERE registered teachers who bought their tickets on the PD gravy train…

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