Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop caused quite a stir last week when she made a two-part suggestion about our education system. One, she proposed a standardised national curriculum, and two, she argued that the hegemony of left-wing ideology over our school system needs to be broken.
Her second proposal especially drew the ire from all the usual suspects. Education unions, officials and bureaucrats were quick to attack Bishop, and defend their turf. They of course denied any leftist slant to teaching, and claimed she was simply being provocative. Said one bureaucrat, Mary Bluett, president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union, “The minister’s comments add nothing to a genuine debate on education. They are insulting, ill-informed and designed to undermine public confidence in our education systems.”
Of course many would argue the public confidence in our education system is undermined exactly because of people like Bluett, and their long-standing advocacy of every radical theory and cause. It is the constant pushing of political correctness and leftist social agendas that has many parents concerned about the state of education today.
Indeed, Bishop is quite right to suggest that our schools are in the iron grip of leftist ideology. The radicalism of our school system which parents are concerned about and Julie Bishop warns about is easily documented. Hundreds of examples can be produced. Let me give just a few. Back in 1987 the Australian Teacher’s Federation called on teachers to educate students on male and female homosexuality as part of basic sex education.
In 1995 the Australia Education Union (AEU) called for mandatory AIDS and sex education for all students, beginning in primary school. The course should include “positive information about gays and lesbians,” the AEU said. The AEU argued that not only should these classes be mandatory for even primary school children, but parents who ban their children from attending such courses for religious and cultural reasons should be prosecuted by the law.
Imagine that: sending parents to jail if they do not share in the radical social experiments aimed at our young children. Unfortunately, this sort of madness is not exceptional, but just par for the course from our educational bureaucrats.
Such radical social engineering has nothing to do with education and everything to do with indoctrination. Schools should at a minimum teach students how to read and write. Yet while many students graduate from secondary school barely literate, they seem well versed in feminism, Marxism, and radical social experimentation.
The government proposals at cleaning out the rot have not come a moment too soon. They need to be discussed and action needs to be taken. Of course it should be stressed that most individual teachers are doing a great job and are not part of the problem. The real concern here are the many officials, bureaucrats, and certain teachers who seem to have an agenda they are determined to foist upon our students.
But can I suggest that even more work needs to be done in the area of education. And some pointers can come from the US. As is often the case, the culture wars are a lot further advanced in America, and the battle over education there has been waging for quite some time.
Several issues mooted there should be considered here. One is the concept of a voucher system. Basically this says that parental choice is crucial in education. Parents of, say, secondary school students should all be given education vouchers worth so much money, and parents can then decide where and how that voucher is spent.
Another activity undertaken in the US which could be implemented here is an independent assessment of the radical trends and teachers at our schools. For example, a number of conservative American groups monitor the universities, alerting parents to the various radical causes and courses offered there.
One author, David Horowitz, himself a former radical, has even penned a book, documenting the most left-leaning profs in America. His book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (Regnery, 2006), has caused controversy, of course, but is nonetheless a much-needed expose of the way the US academy has been hijacked by radicals and revolutionaries.
I suspect a similar audit of our school system would be in order. Much of the documentation in the Horowitz book came from interviews with students. While such research may be far from objective, it does still give us some understanding of what is being said and taught in our classrooms.
Perhaps a data base with parental and student concerns could be collected and maintained, and someone with a bit of time and expertise could put together an analysis of our education system, based in part of these concerns. I am sure many parents would have more peace of mind knowing just what can be expected from the university or course they are sending their children to.
This would not end the problem of our school’s radicalisation, but it would be a step forward. Along with the proposals of Bishop, such steps are urgently required. For too long the radicals have controlled our education system, and it is clearly time for much-needed change.