Monday, August 31, 2015

Does Australia have poor quality teachers?

In its amusing Leftist way, "New Matilda" has broached this question.  Conservative State and Federal politicians have said that the quality of teaching in Australian schools needs to be raised and this has aroused "New Matilda" ire.  So I read the characteristically long-winded article concerned right through looking for contrary evidence.  There was none. It was just a very wordy fulmination.  It was just an outpouring of rage, as one expects from Leftists. I reproduce some of it below.

Most amusing of all, they DO look at the evidence on one thing:  The policy of the last Labour government of giving every child a laptop computer.  So this wonderful Leftist idea worked wonders? No. They quite fairly point out that it did no good at all!

So are there any scholarly comments or constuctive suggestions in the article?  I can't see any.  It is just an offended shriek.

I was also amused that the two female writers confessed that they are not themselves teachers.  Leftists love "ad hominem" arguments so let me use one against them.  I taught for many years at both the secondary school and university levels and, along the way, got to see a bit about my fellow teachers.  And the unavoidable conclusion is that teacher quality is very patchy. 

And teacher training has got nothing to do with it.  Like university degrees for nurses, it may even be a negative influence.  The expansion of teacher training from one year to four has certainly not been shown to raise teaching quality.

As the "Teach for America" program has clearly shown, teachers are largely born, not made.  And born teachers are rare.  So I concur with the judgements of some of my fellow conservatives that teaching quality in our schools is often poor.

Unlike them and unlike "New Matilda", however, I have a solution that works and has been working for many years.  Teachers themselves usually decry it but the evidence has long been in.

What is needed are large class sizes so that the limited teaching talent that is available can be spread widely.  I can dig up plenty of research evidence to that effect if anybody wants it.

Teachers are the scapegoats for any shortcomings in our education system. Maurie Mulheron, the President of the NSW Teacher’s Federation, who is an actual teacher, who has taught actual students, in actual classrooms, argues that, “Many of our schools are akin to emergency wards in hospitals. No-one talks about the quality of doctors and nurses – they talk about the quality of health and the resources the hospitals need”.

Furthermore, reforms have characteristically happened to schools and teachers, rather than in collaboration with them. Funds are issued and cut upon the whim of the politician, and the syllabus, particularly Australian history, is a political plaything.

But if you ask Christopher Pyne, he will insist that a researcher once told him that “teachers are the biggest influence on student’s achievement”, and thus you do not need any more ‘resources’ aka ‘money’.

Piccoli and Pyne must be the products of exceptional maths teachers, because what they are doing is economically clever, albeit socially inexcusable. Pyne, in an article written at the beginning of the last year, argued:

“The quality of our teaching and quality of our teachers is seen as one of the important, if not most important, determinants affecting education performance…. A quality education system must be underpinned by quality teachers. The profession knows it, parents want it, our students deserve it and the nation needs it.”
Inspiring stuff. Except for the part where he says that teachers have been very bad for a while now, and despite his best efforts, he cannot sculpt a quality education system out of crappy teachers.

Apparently teachers are letting down parents, students, and, well, not to exaggerate, but the entire nation. You know how everything in the United States is Obama’s fault? Teachers are Australia’s Obama.

Can’t get a job? Thanks TEACHERS

Kicked your toe? Thanks TEACHERS

Nation goes to war? Thanks TEACHERS

If we weren’t so angry, we would almost respect Pyne’s political manoeuvre to shift all blame for everything that goes wrong onto one of the most underpaid and undervalued occupations.

It is borderline genius.

To clarify, Pyne would have us believe that it is the individuals who educate our nation’s children, who teach them to read and write, and add and subtract, and speak languages and draw, and play the bloody recorder (now THAT, they owe an apology for), and understand their bodies and sexual development, and discipline and focus, who are to blame for students’ less than exceptional results.

It is the individuals who accept the wage which may mean they can never own a home in Sydney, or claim helicopter rides on tax, or go out to fancy lunches and get drunk on Fridays, who must work harder, and study Masters and PhDs which do not necessarily correspond to more money, who need to ‘be better at your job plz’ quote Mr Pyne.

Pyne might have had a little more credibility if he had read the research correctly.

The Conversation ran an article a few years ago, which clarified that whilst teachers are the biggest in-school influence, various other school and non-school factors far outweigh the influence of teachers. Funding matters, as does socio-economic status, and available resources.

We’re no ‘Education Minister’, but we do not accept that the alleged “dumbing down” of students is a result of teacher quality.

You know what this week is, Pyne and Piccoli? It’s Book Week.

Primary School teachers all over Australia are dressed as Little Red Riding Hood. We would take your argument more seriously if you were dressed as Voldemort and Humpty Dumpty respectively. Oh, and Joe Hockey can be Robin Hood, except he steals from the poor and gives to the rich.

There is a great deal that NAPLAN cannot test. Among them is enthusiasm for learning and teacher quality.

So it’s time for Pyne and Piccoli, who have fabricated the teacher’s fall, and criticised them for not doing it all, to get all the state governments and all those Liberal men, to try and build up the teaching profession again. [How?  More money, I guess.  That's the invariant call from teacher unions.  It has never been shown to work, however]


US-style independent schools could boost grades in Australia: new report

The excerpt below is what appeared in The Brisbane Times, the Brisbane tentacle of the Fairfax hate organization. It was a lead-in to a story in the "Age". I read the Fairfax press most days and I have yet to see one positive story about the Abbott government since it was elected. They are fanatical.

So how come the story below is favourable to conservative ideas? It was a mistake, apparently. It has now been wiped from all Fairfax platforms. Only the paragraph below remains. CIS will no doubt publish Trish Jha's report in due course so we will eventually see what it says anyway

US-style privately-owned public schools should be rolled out in Australia to boost academic standards, a new report by libertarian think-tank, the Centre for Independent Studies argues. Privately-run public schools, or charter schools as they are known in the US, are funded by the government and run by private entities, which have full autonomy over the schools' finances, staffing and curriculum.  The schools, which do not charge fees, could boost innovation in the sector by giving schools more freedom, and giving disadvantaged students more choice, writes the report's lead author, Trisha Ja."..

Student Fascists at a Melbourne university

Student protesters have forcibly restrained as they sought to block Education Minister Christopher Pyne from visiting a Melbourne university.

Mr Pyne arrived at the Footscray campus of Victoria University this morning to speak at its centenary celebration, from which media were barred.

About a dozen protesters scuffled with security guards and tried to block Mr Pyne's access to the building, but they were pushed aside.

Mr Pyne left about 30 minutes later in his car via a rear garage door and did not speak to reporters.

The students were reportedly protesting over Mr Pyne's proposal to deregulate university fees.


70 per cent cut in aid to Africa

The 14 African diplomatic heads of mission in Canberra have asked the Australian Government and Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee to reassess Australia's aid commitment after a 70 per cent cut in aid to Africa.

African diplomats have told SBS they don't want handouts but partnerships and funding for tertiary scholarships.

At the Australian National University the number of African students on scholarships has shrunk from 20 to 2.

Gilbert Mbipan from Cameroon is the Deputy Director in his country's Ministry of Trade. He on a study scholarship at the ANU and considers himself one of the lucky ones.

"I am here to study public policy," he said. "The scholarships are very important for the students who come to study and for their country."

"[But] The cuts have impacted on those who were supposed to come. You see so many people who really wanted to come [to Australia to study]. They did apply but they couldn't come."

Uganda's High Commissioner to Canberra Enoch Nkuruho, along with all African heads of diplomatic missions in Australia, has appealed for the cuts to be reconsidered.

"The representation was about the cutting of the budget. We appreciate the problem Australia is facing, but we still feel that Africa lost out very heavily," High Commissioner Nkuruho said.

"Cutting aid for education, reducing the scholarships is a mistake. I came to Australia on one of those scholarships and the benefit Australia has got is that they have a High Commissioner, I am working for Uganda and at the same time I am working for Australia."

Aid funds in the 2015 budget were cut overall, but funding to Africa was hit the hardest.

Ramped up during the Rudd-Gillard years in the campaign for a UN Security Council, aid to Africa peaked at $231 million and was then cut by the Abbott Government to $32 million as it focused aid spending on the Asia Pacific region.

The federal government said it stands by its decision on aid spending in Africa.


The narrowing of debate in Australia

It might not be irrelevant that Labor Senator Sam Dastyari is an Iranian.  They are a wonderfully tolerant lot in Iran, are they not?  The commentary below is from Britain

"That extraordinary shift in intolerance is something all liberals, like me, should be worried about. Gay marriage is not a liberal issue; it has a deeply illiberal streak."

So said spiked’s editor Brendan O’Neill when he appeared on Australia’s leading political discussion show Q&A last week. He didn’t need to provide an example of this illiberal streak. His fellow panellists proceeded to do that for him. How else to describe the response of *Labor Senator Sam Dastyari* to the claim of anti-gay-marriage campaigner Katy Faust that, in America, her home country, ‘[opponents of gay marriage] felt like they could not speak up’: ‘The politician in me tells me that I should be saying that while I disagree with your views, I wholeheartedly respect them but I find that very hard… This American evangelical claptrap is the last thing we need in the debate.’ He didn’t argue with her. He didn’t tolerate her beliefs. He dismissed them. And he called for their expulsion from public debate.

The clash over gay marriage, and O’Neill’s contention that its advocacy is fuelled by something profoundly intolerant, certainly caused a stir, with the Australian, ABC News and the Daily Mail, among others, all reporting on it.

But Dastyari’s attack on Faust, his bald suggestion that some people, some views, do not deserve to be heard, merely reflected the wider political- and media-class response to the oh-so-shocking deviations from the ‘gay marriage is great’ script. The Sydney Morning Herald, for instance, called Faust and O’Neill ‘the tin-foil hat brigade’, as if questioning gay marriage is akin to the belief that The Communists are using radio waves to control our brains. And O’Neill himself was waved away, with barely a nod to what he actually said, as ‘a defender of the heterosexual sponge industry’. The SMH piece went on: ‘O’Neill, a British writer whose ability to get on your nerves is so pronounced that mosquitoes must find him annoying…  like being taken hostage by an opinionated dentist… schtick… prancing shock value… ability to talk under water… he had a lesson for the ladies… a pat on the head only implied…’ As columnist Andrew Bolt said: ‘That’s not a review. It’s not an argument.  It’s just a great blast of abuse to drown out an opposing view.’

Elsewhere, the Guardian said O’Neill was ‘playing the contrarian’. Because no one could seriously be criticising gay marriage, could they? Such a comment said nothing about O’Neill, who, as spiked readers will know, is passionately serious in his politics. But the doubt-free complacency of the so-called progressive set simply cannot imagine anyone wanting to dissent from their views. Such is the blindness of the smug.

Twitter, the official echo chamber for progressive intolerance, was likewise predictably outraged. ‘Brendan O’Neill – just another extremist that would be better keeping his mouth shut’, read one tweet. ‘The sooner we [send] Brendan O’Neill and Katy Faust packing out of our country the better’, read another. Tweeters’ language ranged from the pulpit to the gutter, but the sentiment was the same: people who criticise gay marriage should be shut up, excommunicated, booted out. Their views ought to be unsayable, their beliefs heretical, their arguments silenced.

Some commentators did notice what O’Neill called this ‘illiberal streak’ to the gay-marriage debate. At the Sunshine Coast Daily, one opined, ‘the intolerance shown by those supporting marriage equality towards those with a contrary view is often uglier than the prejudice they protest’. At the Australian Financial Review another remarked, ‘when did we become such a nation of oversensitive, reactive whingers?’. Defending O’Neill and other commentators who have got into trouble in Oz recently, she said: ‘How beige our culture would be without the scandal-chasers and the shock-jocks and the cads.’ But these commentators were islands of reasonableness in a sea of frothing, sweary, often pompous, intolerance.

What this reaction to a contrary opinion on gay marriage captures is deeply troubling: a militant conformism. The parameters of public debate, the areas in which ideas and opinions can do battle, are shrinking before our eyes. A few years ago, arguing that the institution of marriage is a heterosexual institution would have been considered an unremarkable, and perfectly legitimate, view. But now this view is being pushed beyond the boundaries of what is acceptable, of what is appropriate. To defend traditional marriage today is to ask for the tweet-happy to brand ‘bigot’ across your face, turn you into a mocking meme, or just shame you back under the supposed rock from whence you crawled. Criticism of gay marriage is called hateful, discriminatory, backward. In the garb of progress, a virulent illiberalism is taking over public life, delineating what views are permissible and what views are not, what views aid the progressive cause, and what views are to be silenced.

Australia is not a trailblazer here. Throughout the Western world, the drive to institutionalise gay marriage has been shot through with authoritarianism. In France two years ago, thousands of protesters against gay marriage were dispersed by tear-gas-deploying riot police. In America, opposition to gay marriage often prompts a public ‘outing’, vilification, and sometimes job loss, as Mozilla’s co-founder Brendan Eich found to his cost in April last year – ‘purge the bigots’, urged one commentator. And in the UK, as Tim Farron, the new Lib Dem leader, and Christian, discovered, supporting gay marriage is a passport into polite political society, one which is withheld until you affirm your loyalty to the rainbow flag.

Nor is gay marriage the only issue around which strict orthodoxies are calcifying. Climate change, multiculturalism and feminism are all issues on which there is only one correct view. To be sceptical of the impact of climate change, or to challenge the censoriousness of feminism, is to incur the wrath of the right-thinking. Not that critics of the new orthodoxies are challenged on their views. Rather, they are branded – as deniers, as misogynists, indeed, as bigots. By their labels, they shall be known – and shamed.

As spiked’s editor himself put it in the Australian: ‘The response to Q&A shows that gay marriage is not a liberal issue. Rather, what we have here is the further colonisation of public life by an elite strata of society – the chattering class – and the vigorous expulsion of all those who do not genuflect to their orthodoxies.’ The right-thinking and progressive might not realise it yet, but they are at the vanguard of a new Dark Ages.


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