Sunday, November 12, 2006

Furphy Watch

Remember how, thanks to the long march of Maoist educators through the institutions, our education system is so debased that here in Victoria, schools have dropped teaching kids real English in favour of pop-culture and SMS messaging?

In case you’d forgotten, Saturday's Hun published a timely reminder from Neil Mitchell, under the headline “Dumb and Dumber”.

Mitchell is the nearest equivalent to Alan Jones we have here in Melbourne. So you might expect Melburnians to regard Mitchell as the thinking man’s Alan Jones. We don't, for two reasons: firstly, the phrase “thinking man’s Alan Jones” is an obvious oxymoron and secondly, on the evidence of today’s article, Mitchell doesn’t put enough thought of his own into his work to qualify as the thinking man’s anything. He begins:

IF it is horror stories you want from Australia's education system, it is horror stories you will get.

Teachers and bureaucrats are creating them faster than you can throw a duster across a classroom.

Such as the course we are running here in Victoria to study text messages.



Why waste time learning SMS shorthand when there is a perfectly acceptable language called English.

If the teacher must teach gibberish, is it unreasonable to suggest they teach the real language first?

Perhaps they don't know how. The written advice to teachers from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority seems to use words that have not been invented.


The one fact that Mitchell’s article – one of only two or three in the whole piece, the rest comprising a lot of supposition and speculation (like the last two quoted paragraphs above) – is that there is indeed, an English unit available for use in schools that want to teach students a short, 4 activity course on SMS messaging.

Most of the other facts about the unit – such as that at most, it would involve 4 to 8 class sessions over one or two weeks of English for students in Years 8 to 10 – Mitchell happily ignores in favour of innuendo about the general stupidity and ignorance of teachers and education bureaucrats. It’s not until halfway through his piece that he gets over the his fit of brain-farting for long enough to try his hand at examining the question in a balanced way. By then the damage is already done.

In that later, balanced section, Mitchell takes up the problem of conflict between schools and parents, caused by their mutually antagonistic perceptions:

Many schools still believe a good parent is an ignorant parent, tolerated rather than encouraged.

Many parents still see teachers as lazy, with long holidays, short hours and the singular ambition of turning their children into clones of Martin Kingham.


I wonder where those parents are getting that idea about teachers – it couldn’t be articles like this one, could it?

Mitchell’s article reminds me of those famous words at the end of John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the facts don’t fit the legend print the legend.”

Even if the legend is just a grubby, politically inspired urban legend.

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