Friday, July 07, 2023

Old-school skills for new teachers as education ministers take control

Good if it happens

Ministers from every state and territory have signed off on 14 old-school reforms, championed by federal Education Minister Jason Clare, to ensure that new teachers are taught how to be “confident and capable’’ in classrooms.

Imposing a tight six-month deadline, ministers agreed to ­develop practical teaching guidelines and amend accreditation standards for university teaching degrees by the end of this year.

From 2025, pre-service teachers will be banned from graduating until they have mastered the core teaching skills mandated by education ministers.

A new watchdog for teaching standards will check that universities have provided practical training for all graduates to teach reading and mathematics, regardless of whether they plan to teach in primary or high school.

Mr Clare said the reforms would make new teachers “better prepared from day one’’.

“A lot of teachers tell me they did not feel like they were prepared for the classroom when they finished university,’’ he said after his state and federal counterparts endorsed the teaching reforms on Thursday.

“Their university course didn’t prepare them well enough to teach things like literacy and numeracy and manage classroom behaviour, and that prac (practical placements in schools) wasn’t up to scratch.

“If we get this right, more student teachers will complete their degrees and more teachers will stay in the profession.’’

All ministers endorsed every recommendation from their Teacher Education Expert Panel, chaired by University of Sydney vice-chancellor Mark Scott, who began his career as a teacher.

South Australia's Education Minister Blair Boyer says workload issues are “number one” for teachers in Australian…
One in three final-year teaching undergraduates surveyed for the Scott Report complained that their degree had been “too theoretical and focused on teaching philosophies’’.

Some 60 per cent of trainee primary school teachers said they had not been given many opportunities to practise the explicit teaching of phonics in classrooms – essential for children to learn to read and write.

Only half said their degree had given them opportunities to evaluate students’ progress, adjust instruction and provide targeted feedback.

One graduate called for “less information on learning philosophers and more information on practical activities/lessons to teach curriculum areas”.

“More hands-on experience would have been more beneficial than constantly writing essays,’’ another trainee teacher said.

“I would have liked more instruction on behaviour management and how to build my skill set when dealing with children with defiant or destructive behaviours,” they added.

Universities will be given until the end of 2025 to rewrite their 300 existing teaching courses to include the core content mandated by the ministers.

The reforms will also force universities to reveal publicly the proportion of graduates with an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank above 80 – in the top 20 per cent of academic achievement.

Core content, to be compulsory for all teaching degrees, will include detailed explanations of how children learn; lesson planning; step-by-step “explicit instruction”; student assessment; and the provision of “specific, honest, constructive and clear’’ feedback to students and parents.

Phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension will be the basis of reading instruction. And all teachers must learn the six strands of mathematics – numbers, algebra, geometry, measurement, statistics, and probability.

Universities will have to teach graduates to identify “common neuromyths’’, which the Scott Report cites as the theories that there are multiple types of intelligence, and that children’s learning can be influenced by the left or right side of the brain.

Education degrees will teach how a student’s brain develops from early childhood through to adulthood, and the limits of working memory and “cognitive overload’’ for children.

Young teachers will learn the old-school skill of explicit instruction” by clearly explaining to children what they are expected to learn, chunked into small and manageable tasks.

Teachers will be taught to plan a sequence of lessons that include repetition and practice, so that children can retrieve their past learning and consolidate it into long-term memory.

Universities must ensure that teachers can provide worked examples for lessons, and wait until children are proficient before expecting them to solve problems on their own.

“Practices should include the use of structured lessons, clear and explicit instruction, effective questioning that encourages participation, reducing cognitive load and use of specific and positive feedback that acknowledges student effort,’’ the new standards state.

To be able to keep classes under control, teachers must be taught to “effectively model desired behaviour, such as respectful interactions, being organised, and being on time, to prompt positive behaviour by setting and reinforcing expectations”.

Acknowledging the increasing complexity of modern classrooms, all teaching degrees must include Aboriginal and Torres Strait history and culture, cultural diversity, and teaching methods tailored to children with common disabilities, such as autism.

The education ministers also agreed to establish an Initial Teacher Education Quality Assurance board that will report back to them every year on the quality and consistency of every teaching degree.

Each university will have to ­report publicly on the proportion students in teaching degrees from First Nations, remote area, migrant or low-income backgrounds – as well as course drop-out rates and employment outcomes for graduates.

State governments will be able to slap conditions on the accreditation of university courses that fail to comply with the guidelines – a move that could render graduates unemployable.

But universities will be able to apply for $5m in grants to get their teaching degrees up to scratch, with a $2.5m bonus for top-­performing institutions to share their expertise.

The ministers agreed to provide more classroom training for undergraduates, to be mentored by experienced teachers who could count the time spent supervising towards their hours of professional development.

They also agreed to a national ban on mobile phones in class.


Gender-sceptic doctor launches human rights challenge to ‘cheerleading’ pronouns policy

A doctor’s right to object on medical grounds to the unquestioning affirmation of children as the opposite gender faces a human rights test in Queensland, with a suspended psychiatrist filing a complaint against the state’s children’s hospital over transgender health policies.

Jillian Spencer alleges she was prevented from adopting a neutral therapeutic approach and instead forced to comply with gender-­affirming polices that risked causing substantial harm to young ­people, during the course of her employment as a senior staff specialist in the consultation liaison psychiatry team at the Queensland Children’s Hospital.

In a complaint lodged with the Queensland Human Rights ­Commission, Dr Spencer, who is openly critical of gender-affirming policies, reveals that she was subject to lawful employment directions that required her to use gender-­affirming pronouns at all times in her practise of medicine and ­refrain from dissuading any child and their family from seeking a ­referral to the hospital’s children’s gender clinic, which frequently prescribes puberty blockers and cross sex hormones to young teenagers.

“I was concerned about the increasing number of children and adolescents – especially biological females – presenting with gender dysphoria in the context of co­morbid mental health diagnoses and complex psychological issues, including trauma,” Dr Spencer writes in her complaint.

“I became very concerned about the potential harm our hospital was doing in immediately using preferred pronouns, that ­unquestioningly affirms a child’s perceived identity and sets them on a treatment pathway of medical intervention that purports to transition a young person into an identity that they are likely to outgrow if interventions of this kind are not applied.”

Dr Spencer, who was stood down from clinical duties at QCH three months ago following a ­patient complaint, is seeking amendments to health policy ­pursuant to the state’s Anti-­Discrimination Act that “no health worker may be required to use a patient’s preferred pronouns” and that “affirmation of a child’s gender identity cannot be imposed on health professionals”.

She also requests acknowledgment by the QCH that a rejection of the affirmation model of gender dysphoria treatment is a protected political belief and a reasonable professional judgment that is to be respected.

Dr Spencer said the gender-­affirmative pathway adopted by QCH in her professional opinion “seemed inconsistent with best medical practice of taking an evidence-led holistic approach to child and adolescent psychiatry”.

Staff were warned at education sessions there was a “grave risk of patient suicidality” if gender-­affirming interventions were not applied.

Tension within the hospital over transgender healthcare policies boiled over when management hung a large trans pride flag in the youth mental health unit waiting room, which Dr Spencer took down on the basis the area needed to be a neutral space.

Dr Spencer says she took the action some time after becoming extremely disturbed at the ­hospital’s policies when the psychiatry team was given an education session conducted by a nurse from the children’s gender clinic on chest binding for young female patients.

Dr Spencer later began using the pronoun “adult human female” in her email signature in protest at the pronouns and was reprimanded.

A spokesperson for Children’s Health Queensland said the organisation adopted a “universal person-centred care approach”.

“We respect the individual needs and preferences of every child and young person and their right to feel safe and supported while receiving clinical care through our service,” the CHQ statement said.

“This aligns with our responsibility as a Queensland government agency – where everyone employed is bound by public sector workplace policies and a code of conduct.

“Similarly, CHQ is committed to upholding the human rights of all people who connect with, or work within, our services.

“This reflects our obligations under the Human Rights Act 2019 to act and make decisions in a manner which supports and does not limit the human rights of ­patients, families and staff, unless such limitation is reasonable and demonstrably justifiable.”

Dr Spencer’s complaint was lodged with the QHRC late last month but CHQ said it hadn’t yet been notified.


Wake up, lefties, and reject wokeness -- says lomg-time Leftist, Clive Hamilton

It’s time the left pushed back against woke. Afraid of being branded a racist, misogynist or transphobe, the left has been browbeaten into silence by woke activists, even though the left enabled the modern movements for black rights, gay rights and feminism.

Left politics are about capitalism’s structural inequalities – corporate power, state capture, exploitation, consumerism and the brutalisation of everyday life for those at the bottom. It was committed to ending discrimination against marginalised groups before woke came along. But it knows that succeeding would still leave a society based on material inequality and power disparities.

Woke is neither progressive nor left when it reduces politics to individual self-expression and identity. And woke politics is anti-democratic when its call-out tactics and cancel culture create a punitive and exclusionary environment. Fear of being publicly shamed, bullied, cancelled or even fired is stifling sincere dialogue, not least among academics.

Bigots should be called out, but anathemising those with a progressive but different view is divisive and unfair. Opinions that are annoying, upsetting or infuriating are not necessarily intolerant or harmful, let alone “hateful”. They are an everyday part of living in a democratic society.

The only way to understand and effectively respond to opinions you don’t like is to first listen to them. Yet balaclava-clad woke agitators have threatened gender-critical feminists such as Holly Lawford-Smith, an associate professor in political philosophy at the University of Melbourne, so that now she needs security guards on campus. It’s unforgiveable. They want to silence her, going so far as to denounce students taking her feminism course as “fascists”. So, studying different views should be forbidden?

Despite its radical style, woke politics is perfect for the neoliberal era of individualism and identity-making. Woke politics is easily co-opted by corporations. They borrow woke’s language and symbols as marketing tools while continuing to exploit their workers.

Take Qantas, praised for its prominent role in the equal-marriage campaign, yet at the same time squeezing its workers for all they are worth. Gay CEOs of rainbow companies are just as capable of playing hardball with their workers as straight ones.

The sometimes-feverish performance of wokeness plays perfectly to the right’s love of a war over “political correctness gone mad”, enabling those on the right to present themselves as the champions of free speech. Because woke agitators have a hair-trigger for any sign of “oppression” of those marginalised by their race or gender, they appear to be left-wing, allowing the right to use their anti-democratic actions to tar everyone on the left with the same extremist brush.

When wokeness sidelines capitalism’s structural inequalities, wrote Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, it empowers the liberal elite to pose as defenders of the marginalised (think teals and woke-washed corporations). And it allows alt-right populists to become the champions of the “real people” against corporate and “deep state” elites (think Donald Trump).

Woke defines everyone by the identity that woke imposes on them. The marginalised become their trauma, and their trauma entitles them alone to speak. Of course, they should have a voice in matters that affect them. They’ve been silenced or drowned out for too long.

But when woke activists insist that “lived experience” is the only qualification for being heard, the restriction rules out broader political conversations. And it rules out dialogue with other marginalised groups with their own “truths”.

Woke rejects the Enlightenment’s primacy of reason. “Cries of pain deserve a hearing and a response,” writes leftist philosopher Susan Neiman, “but they are no more privileged a source of authority than careful arguments.”

When the marginalised are reduced to their trauma, they are trapped there. But a person of colour is more than their colour; a transgender person is more than their gender. We are all householders, workers, lovers, sons or daughters and citizens with an interest in our societies.

Indigenous people I have spoken with regard with wry amusement the awe in which they are held by woke activists. In the Greens, the worship of victimhood is rife, giving rise to some woeful decisions. And intolerance in the trans “debate” borders on the extreme with calls to punish those who do not toe the wokest of woke lines.

The youth climate movement that sprang from Greta Thunberg’s lone protest has been taken over by wokeness so that now it’s illegitimate to campaign for climate protection unless you campaign for social justice at the same time. Fixing the climate crisis is too urgent to wait for other problems to be solved first. Apart from diluting the energy put into climate campaigning, woke ideology is driving more conservative young people away.

There is more than one progressive view of Indigenous questions (ask Indigenous people themselves). There is more than one progressive view of equal marriage (assimilation into mainstream institutions means erasure of unique LGBTQ identities). And there is more than one left-wing view on sex and gender (there’s more to it than self-definition).

The left will always oppose discrimination and vilification of marginalised people and support their right to live in peace and dignity. But when woke activists demand that everyone speaks with a single voice – theirs – they do the marginalised and progressive politics no favours.



Judith Sloan

While many Speccie readers will know that our Prime Minister has an economics degree from Sydney University, fewer will appreciate that he doesn’t have a real economics degree. I’m not being pompous or condescending here; it’s just that he opted for the nascent political economy stream which is essentially Marxism broken into different subjects. He also managed to squeeze three years of study into four.

For many years, the Economics Department at Sydney University was rent asunder, with some key left-wing figures fighting the standard curriculum that had been offered to students studying economics at the university. The neo-classical framework, plus lashings of Keynesian stuff and some econometrics (empirical estimation), just didn’t cut it for them.

For some years, the leader of the political economy wing, Ted Wheelwright, did battle with conventional economist and department head, Warren Hogan. Believe me, it was a bitter fight and some students became deeply involved, including our very own Anthony Albanese. There were demos and sit-ins – it all became quite willing.

There are no prizes for guessing which side Albo was on. There is even a photo floating around of him on a rooftop declaring his support for political economy. In later years, he named Wheelwright as the economist who has most influenced him.

Note here Red Ted was obsessively hostile to capitalism, in general, and multinational companies, in particular. He even set up a research centre to look into the evils of multinational companies. For a while, he was on the board of the Commonwealth Bank before it was privatised, which beggars belief. He was a Labor appointee, needless to say.

Eventually, things settled down at Sydney University, with the political economy stream completely separating from the conventional economics degree. Students could choose one or the other and peace finally prevailed. But it’s not clear the Economics Department at the university ever fully recovered.

Fast forward those decades, it’s clear that all that rabble-rousing, left-wing talk had a lasting impact on our Prime Minister. It involves a deep suspicion of business, in general, but of big business especially. Society would be so much better off if the means of production were largely held by the government and, in this way, the needs of the citizens could be met on an equitable basis. (Pause for laughter here.) That was the clear messaging the youthful Albo was being served up during his university days.

The real tragedy is he seems to have failed to grasp the basics of economics, including the reliable supply and demand curves, the concept of opportunity cost, the importance of incentives and the mutual benefits of free exchange between buyers and sellers.

It’s actually not rocket science and plenty of people without economics degrees seriously get it – treasurer Paul Keating is a good example. Sadly, our Prime Minister doesn’t get it. He is a firm believer in a sort of voodoo economics in which magic puddings miraculously appear, as long as it’s Labor policy. Shall we call it Albonomics?

His curious way of analysing things is most apparent when he talks about the care economy. Let’s be clear here, there is no such thing as the care economy. Thankfully, most caring that goes on is completely outside the control of governments: it is about love, assuming responsibility and mutual obligation.

But when care involves distinct transactions, the government is often deeply involved, directly subsiding the transaction as well as regulating its nature – the required qualifications of the carer, the way in which the transaction must occur, etc.

A classic example is childcare. Leaving aside parents caring for their children which is to be discouraged, the government has only one model in mind when it comes to childcare – regulated centres with specified staff-child ratios and required qualifications of staff. Now according to Albo, there are great economic benefits from taxpayers throwing close to $13 billion per year at subsidising childcare fees.

But this is where his ignorance on economics really shows up. Most people would understand that when supply is essentially fixed, at least in the short term, any measure to increase demand will lead to higher prices.

Given that places at childcare centres are currently hard to come by, the recent cranking up of the fee subsidy rates will inevitably lead to higher fees. It already has. But Albo thinks that he can get the ACCC onto the case and this will somehow limit the rate of fee increases. No, Albo, it’s just supply and demand, something you would have learned about if you had done a proper economics course.

He also doesn’t seem to understand the difference between production and productivity. To his way of thinking, the greater subsidisation of childcare will lead to higher female workforce participation and higher productivity. Not so fast.

All the estimates of what economists call the supply elasticity – that would probably be a new term for Albo, one that Wheelwright probably never used – indicate that the boost to female participation is trivial. Work by both the Productivity Commission and Ben Phillips of the ANU indicates that there is a very meagre supply response to higher subsidy rates.

And here’s another tip: production and productivity are not the same thing. Assuming that there is some supply response to the new subsidy rates, that will be an increase in production. But what happens to productivity is a different matter.

If it is the case that most high-productivity/highly paid women are already participating to their preferred extent prior to the change, then the likely impact on productivity is negative as lower-quality workers are drawn into the workforce or work more hours. (Note to Albo: [labour] productivity is output per hour worked.)

There’s another area that really has me, an economist, baffled – that’s Albo’s assertion that higher wages lead to higher productivity. He has discovered a new law of economics – OK, he has just made it up. But the best thing about Albo’s new law of economics is that it enables him to ‘give respect’ to the workers, or should that be ‘the wukkers’?

Now all sensible economists know that simply mandating higher wages does nothing for productivity and seriously runs the risk that employers will lay off workers or reduce their hours. To be sure, in the long run, higher wages may induce automation and other labour-saving initiatives which will increase productivity, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what Albo has in mind. It results in lower employment – fewer workers, fewer union members.

Sadly for Albo, there are actually no new laws of economics, even if Ted told him otherwise. We can only watch now as things unravel. ?




No comments: