How much is enough?

Dear Reader,

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) runs in schools from May 27th – June 3rd. Each year, schools are offered free material from a variety of third-party sources including Reconciliation Australia, Australians Together, and Cool.org for example. (Class Action has previously noted Cool.org providing lesson plans to schools suggesting students refuse to stand for the national anthem.)

Each year, NRW has a theme. Previous themes have included ‘Be a Voice for Generations’, ‘Reconciliation - more than a word’.. and ‘In this together.’ This year’s theme is ‘Now More than Ever’.

NRW claims this week is “a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.” However, it then goes on to explain NRW is “a reminder to all of us that no matter what, the fight for justice and the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will – and must – continue.”

Note those words: “no matter what, the fight for justice…” These named days are not joyous celebrations of our shared history and achievements, nor recognition of ‘moving forward together’. These days are dedicated to teaching children to fight… and fight against the ‘establishment’.

In any school year, students observe thirteen different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Culture ‘name-days’, and several weeks dedicated to ATSI issues. This is in addition to the ‘cross curriculum priority’ in the National Curriculum that mandates the embedding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Culture into every subject at every year level. This ‘dripping tap’ lasts all year, every year of a child’s schooling.

If only such emphasis was placed on the 3 Rs.


Shutting down critical thinking

Developed by the Greek philosopher Socrates, the ‘Socratic method’ of teaching critical thinking involves a dialogue between teacher and students, driven by the continual and probing questions of the teacher, in a concerted effort to explore the underlying beliefs that shape the students’ views and opinions. The Socratic method involves asking a series of questions to help the student arrive at the answer on their own. The student can also ask questions of the teacher for further clarification.

There is no set way of conducting a Socratic discussion, other than open-ended questioning to inspire thinking.

About three months ago, helped by Elon Musk reposting it, a video of American teacher Warren Smith skilfully and professionally employing the Socratic method in his class went viral.

At the start of the 4:49 minute video, a student claims J.K. Rowling is bigoted and transphobic. After forensically walking the students through a process of critical thinking and without any pressure whatsoever, the student comes to his own conclusion that his earlier statements about Rowling were wrong.

This teacher did not identify anyone in the class. Nor did he identify the school. The teacher did not take a position of his own. But by asking the students questions, this teacher gently and professionally did his job and enabled the students to think for themselves, to come to their own conclusions, and to not fall prey to ‘group think’. I would welcome this teacher in any school in Australia. If only there were more of him.

But Warren Smith has now been sacked. In a follow up video, Smith states that had that teaching video not gone viral, he believes he would have been sacked earlier.

Teaching ‘critical thinking’ to students is … critical, but sadly a practice lacking in our institutions today. As previously exposed by the IPA’s report ‘Who Teaches the Teachers? authored by Dr Bella D’Abrera, our teachers are being trained in political activism with scant regard to the philosophical understandings of the purpose of education. Charles Darwin University Lecturer in Education, Dr Stephen Bolaji said: “This lack of critical reasoning has contributed to the polarisation of moral issues and politics. It has also created a social media environment that reinforces ideas and beliefs, rather than challenging them through meaningful debate.”

As evidence of this, the Victorian Department of Education promotes a ‘Spotlight on STEM’ week from May 13-17th, to “shine a light on the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in our everyday lives.” However, the ‘Teachers for Palestine’ have used this STEM week to shine “a light on the importance of our union members’ ban on all STEM programs (in schools) sponsored by weapons companies. Companies like Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems that make lethal armaments and profit from the genocide in Gaza and wars around the world are interfering in education programs across Victorian public schools.”

This STEM activism also led to pro-Palestine protesters occupying parts of Melbourne University, denying other students regular class access and calling for the university to cut ties with weapons manufacturing companies and to disclose and divest companies “complicit in the genocide in Gaza”.

We need more Warren Smiths in our schools.

You can watch Smith’s 4.49min of a Socratic teaching session here:

When a STUDENT asks about J.K. ROWLING this happens (youtube.com)



Positive is as positive does

Students encounter extraordinary amounts of negativity in their school day. From subjecting them to collective guilt and a new ‘original sin’, to warnings of disaster and imminent death, and responsibility for every injustice in the world, schoolchildren carry a great weight on their young shoulders.

The impact of negativity on mental health and well-being is well documented. As are the benefits of gratitude and positive thinking.

In this release, Class Action offers teachers a short unit of work to assist students to reflect on and recognise some significant contributions Australia has made to the world. This is coupled with a short game to test their knowledge of some basic facts about Australia. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

You can download this unit here: Click here


Australian Pioneers - Caroline Chisholm-Teacher-and-Student-Guide

Class Action out and about


Australian Pioneers - Caroline Chisholm-Teacher-and-Student-Guide
“Mathematics has been gatekept by the West and defined to exclude entire cultures….” Rowena Ball claimed. Unsurprisingly, the allegation that maths is racist and therefore needs to be “decolonised” is not unique to ANU. Read more

Quote:

“Being positive in a negative situation is not naïve. It’s leadership”.

Anonymous


Support the IPA and Class Action Program by becoming IPA member today

I hope you have been finding my monthly updates from Class Action useful and informative. Many of you have responded showing your appreciation for the work we do and the impact it is having, which is why, I am taking this opportunity to invite you to become a member of the Institute of Public Affairs, which has started the Class Action program.

Become a Member

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I hope to welcome you as an IPA member soon.


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Colleen Harkin

National Manager, Class Action Program and Research Fellow