Is It WHAT You Say? Or HOW You Say It?

Dear Reader,

It is so rare that I start this email with good news, I really want to savour this moment.

Since my last email to you, Federal Education Minister Jason Clare has announced a mandatory overhaul of the Initial Teacher Education courses that prepare graduate teachers for their professional service.

Universities have been put on notice to ensure that teacher training courses focus on the science of learning, teaching children literacy and numeracy, and keeping classrooms under control. Those that fail to meet the new standards risk losing funding or full accreditation for their courses.

Finally, our leaders are admitting that schools and universities are failing our children at delivering their basic educational needs – learn to read, write and do maths in an environment conducive to learning.

But if you think that our universities – drunk on their own greatness – will take this lying low, think again. The pushback has already started. In an article published in The Age, Professor Deborah Hayes, Professor of Education and Equity and Head of School at the University of Sydney’s School of Education and Social Work – the title says it all – called these eminently sensible requirements of teacher training courses as ‘politicisation of higher education and overreach’. [Read here]

So Professor Hayes thinks that demanding that teacher training courses focus on literacy, numeracy and class discipline is politicisation of the course. Yet, I can’t find her objecting to courses such as these which are being offered in the name of teacher training.

Pigments of the Imagination’ which boasts: ‘This unit will encourage students to consider their own definitions of race and explore the view that it is an imaginary concept.’ [Unit offered at Western Sydney University]

Social Perspectives in Education’ which asks: ‘Do schools reduce or reinforce inequalities based on social, cultural, economic, and gender differences?’. [Unit offered at University of New South Wales]

I’ll let you decide what amounts to politicisation of higher education. I spoke about how university teacher training has become ‘politically charged’ and ‘polluted’ on the Rita Panahi show on Sky News earlier in the year. [View here]

History – One and Free

Still, credit where credit is due – congratulations to Jason Clare MP for seizing control of university teacher-training courses and mandating a back-to-basics approach.

This intervention, however, is just a first step. For the same cadre of academics who put together these teacher training courses, have also put together the National Curriculum, which is counter-productive to good educational outcomes. Minister Clare’s job is not finished until the National Curriculum is removed.

New unit published: Aristotle’s method of persuasion

While the National Curriculum is still around, teachers across the country must adhere to it.

One of the things, the National Curriculum emphasises is teaching children the art of persuasive language. So far so good. Of course, here is how the National Curriculum, which is fixated on victimhood, suggests teachers can promote it:

‘Explaining the links between the continuities over the period such as the experiences and treatment of First Nations Australians, women and migrants.’ [View here]

Or perhaps:

‘analyse the views of men and women at different times regarding gender equity in Australia’ [View here]

Class Action thinks there are better ways to teach children how to persuade effectively – by introducing them to the master of the art, Greek philosopher Aristotle. Hence, we have published a new curriculum unit for Year 10 students entitled Persuasive Language – Aristotle’s Method of Persuasion. [Download here]

History – One and Free

This unit introduces students to Aristotle’s methods of persuasion – ethos, pathos, logos – and helps them analyse, identify and apply this knowledge by studying the US President Ronald Regan’s famous ‘Tear Down This Wall!’ speech, delivered by him in Berlin in 1987, which was critical in the fall of Communism across Europe.

As with all Class Action offerings, the unit includes detailed teacher guidelines, student worksheets, support visual material, and the National Curriculum markers necessary to justify its use in the classroom.

I want to thank Jessica Meney for her assistance in producing this unit.

Please do download the unit and share it with the parents and teachers in your life.

This unit would not be possible without your amazing support of the Class Action Program and the IPA. Thank you!

Class Action’s The Voice unit accepted by The Rule of Law Education Centre

In my last email, I had shared the latest curriculum unit for Year 9 students to be published by the Class Action program, The Voice Referendum – What’s It Got To Do With You? [View here] The unit will support teachers in holding a balanced discussion on the upcoming referendum on the Voice.

I am delighted to share that The Rule of Law Education Centre has agreed to include it among the resources and materials it shares with schools for students and the community to grasp legal concepts.

The Rule of Law Education Centre is an arm of the Rule of Law Institute of Australia. [Learn more] It operates education programs and initiatives to provide school and university students with an understanding of the importance of the Magna Carta and rule of law principles and how they relate to contemporary issues. The rule of law website receives around 440,000 page views per year.

Historical Lives Matter

A society that doesn’t know its history is doomed to repeat it. Sadly, this might be the fate of Victoria.

A worrying trend in Victorian schools is that Year 9 and 10 students are being encouraged to drop history from their subject preferences. This, in turn, could lead to the removal of Year 11 history as a subject offering, disrupting the continuity of learning and threatening the subject’s future in Year 12.

Deb Hull, Executive Officer of the History Teachers Association of Victoria (HTAV), rang the alarm bell on this in an article in the EducationHQ. The article quoted Hull saying:

‘Every year, I hear from people who are stepping down as head of [history] or head of humanities, because they’ve had to fight that fight every year, over and over and over, and they’re simply getting exhausted… They’re not valuing what it can do for students, how it improves critical thinking, how it can really support students with their written and verbal communication, their reasoning skills, [the list goes on],’ said Hull.

Hull said she was aware of senior students being counselled out of selecting history, with Year 9 and 10s prompted by careers advisors to drop it from their preferences. [Read here]

New ACMA powers and ‘The Ministry of Truth’

Most research agrees that kids spend as much as seven hours a day online. While on it, occasionally, they may tumble upon the truth by reading an IPA research report that questions conventional wisdom on contested issues, such as climate change or the need for free speech.

The federal government wants to put a stop to it.

New draft legislation, Communications Legislation Amendment (Combatting Misinformation and Disinformation) Bill 2023, gives Australian Communications and Media Authority sweeping powers to determine what can and cannot be said online. The draft legislation defines misinformation as material that is ‘false, misleading or deceptive’ and is ‘reasonably likely to cause serious harm.’ [Download the draft legislation here]

Here is how the legislation defines harm:

History – One and Free

Social media companies that don’t comply with ACMA’s demands stand to be fined millions of dollars.

Basically, on all important issues of the day, children [and adults] will only be allowed to hear the official, government line.

What is it that they say – George Orwell’s 1984 is a warning not an instruction manual?

However, the legislation is not law yet. The government is seeking feedback on the draft legislation till 20 August. I encourage you to share your feedback. [Visit here to give your feedback]

Class Action Out and About

Scootle is the national repository that provides Australian schools with digital resources aligned with the Australian curriculum. Two more Class Action’s units, Eureka: Protest, riot, rebellion or revolution? and How the Enlightenment came to Australia, are now published on Scootle and are freely available for any teacher who wants to use it. [View here and here]

On 1 July, I spoke before the the Goulburn Hume Women's Section of the Victorian Liberal Party held in Euroa, Victoria, to talk about Class Action.

On 21 July, I appeared on The Rita Pahani Show on Sky News Australia to discuss the inappropriateness of school’s using school uniforms and bags to promote political ideologies. [View here]

On 28 July, I was invited to launch an excellent new book, They are... Your Children: Take the Lead on Their Education, by education expert Cheryl Lacey on the role of parents in their child’s education. [View here]

Before I finish, as a testament to how far the left has moved away from its principles, I am ending with an old quote on free speech by one of the left’s absolute darlings, Noam Chomsky.

Goebbels was in favour of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favour of free speech, then you’re in favour of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favour of free speech.

Thankyou for your support.

Colleen Harkin

National Manager, Class Action Program and Research Fellow