Rupert Murdoch has used his fourth Boyer Lecture to slam Australian schooling. No punches pulled here. “Our public education systems are a disgrace” was almost his opening sentence. And the reason is clear : “despite spending more and more money, our children seem to be learning less and less.”
A residual affection for the land of his birth is probably the main driving force of his critique. His country is going down the gurgler. It is a realistic assessment of the situation we are in. India and China especially are poised to wipe us out. Finland irks. Singapore and Korea also graduate students who both know more and think better than Aussie grads. Intellectual sophistication in Australia is an increasingly rare and obviously endangered phenomenon. Football commands the Aussie imagination. Those who study think of learning as work, from which escape must be regularly programmed in order to maintain sanity.
Explanations for poor results abound. The teaching staffs of our schools manifest a huge compassion for instance, for the children who have a low SES (Socio-Economic Status) rating, and stress that these children don’t/can’t learn because they don’t have space at home to do their homework. Murdoch is properly scathing about this and about all the other various excuses offered to explain why so many children are learning so little:”a whole industry of pedagogues (is) devoted to explaining why some schools and some students are failing. Some say classrooms are too large. Others complain that not enough public funding is devoted to this or that program. Still others will tell you that the students who come from certain backgrounds just can’t learn.”
While George Bush may be reasonably classified as a major disaster, someone seems to have provided him with a memorable, useful and highly pertinent assessment. (The US Dept of Ed has been a good deal more useful to humanity than its Dept Of Defence).His words were resonant. He said we should overthrow “the tyranny of low expectations”.(I have written more extensively on this dereliction of professional duty in a paper that can be read at http://review100childrenturn10.blogspot.com)
Murdoch is of the same view, that all our students need us to have high expectations of them, and”the real answer is to start pursuing success”.