Pauline Hanson’s divisive comments on education yesterday are merely the tip of a very problematic iceberg. The solution lies within, and from the top. We need leadership to enable a vast rethink.

 

 

 

I think it was articulated best in that old, ancient and profoundly wise proverb; “Opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one.” The main problem I find with the current climate of our society, propagated by the media, is that it seems many an arsehole has the platform and opportunity to spew forth their diarrheic tirade of small-minded and ill-informed opinions upon we the people. Climate change deniers, scaremongers, sensationalists and even Donald Trump’s opinions are given weight by the broad public for some unknown reason. Welcome to the parade of ignorance, our very own, Pauline Hanson.

In Australian politics, we are scraping the bottom of the barrel when a national platform designed for rigorous social discourse and debate, our government, gives a microphone to amplify small-minded opinion based not on fact or provable data, but anecdotal opinion.

To be fair there is so much ignorance that could be unpacked with anything One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson says that even thinking about it, I grow weary in spirit and despair at the human race. But let us find the strength within and look at her latest foray into the complex issues of education in modern Australia. In parliament yesterday, the government was discussing the upcoming vote of “Gonski 2.0” – the foreseeable future funding of Australian education that looks to inject $18.6 billion dollars from the federal government as a school funding package to help improve education throughout Australia. During parliamentary time, the voice of all sensible reason and level-headed rationality was given their chance to add some weight and balance to the conversation surrounding this important issue…wait, no…it was, once described by our deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, as “bat poo crazy,” Pauline.

Some of the brain nuggets that managed to escape Pauline’s labyrinthine rat maze of cognitive objectivity were the need to remove autistic children from mainstream classrooms, create a more competitive environment in the classroom, safe schools is rubbish and children shouldn’t have rights. Just some lovely sentiments shared that encourage all Australians to band together and continue to endeavour in creating a more inclusive and better Australia for all, to quote an outdated (much like Pauline’s philosophies) and obscure pop culture trope from ages past – “not”.

It is pure ignorance to make any claims about removing autistic students and students with learning disabilities from “regular” classrooms on the basis of “improving” education.

With the attitude that school should reflect “the real world”, shouldn’t we be trying to create a place where an individual’s value isn’t based on the perceived ranking within the community? Isn’t teaching a child to be more accepting, patient, kind and caring to those in their community only going to shape them to continue those tendencies into adulthood? To what has our society become so cynical and greedy that these fundamental human values become an unwanted trait to instil into future generations?

One good point Pauline did make was that university isn’t the highest calling of education. I heartily agree. This is in direct contrast though of her prior claims of having more rigorous testing for students to determine their worth and strengthen the need of striving to compete. As Pauline says, “life is competition. Life is about striving to do the best you can. Unless you know what standard you’re at, how much further do you know how much you need to strive?” I am one of these “do-gooders” that would rather my students feel good about themselves than for them to achieve perfect marks in an arbitrary exam. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs stipulates that before an individual can begin to become self-actualising they first have to have their psychological, safety, love/belonging and esteem needs met.

This is what the modern classroom aims to provide.

Self-actualised adults are more valuable in the workforce and to society than a merely academically proficient robot that is capable of paying taxes and continuing the status quo until death. The examination and assessment process is slowly changing in Australia, but still relies very heavily on outdated and ineffective modes of grading the transference of knowledge. The education system is geared towards proficiency, not mastery. In any grading system, there should be an opportunity to repeat an examination until 100% is achievable.

As an adult there are countless opportunities and avenues for anyone to achieve whatever they’d like to achieve; a percentage, an exam, an assessment or a grade has never held me back. I like to tell my students doing their HSC in NSW how unimportant the HSC exams are in life to ease their stress and bring a more balanced perspective for their future. Full disclosure: I scored 40.5 for my UAI (back when it was called the University Admission Index), but now I have two (almost three) university degrees in my pocket and I’m now a teacher.

Self-actualised adults are more valuable in the workforce and to society than a merely academically proficient robot that is capable of paying taxes and continuing the status quo until death.

It is pure ignorance to make any claims about removing autistic students and students with learning disabilities from “regular” classrooms on the basis of “improving” education. Inclusive education is a very difficult and complex issue. There are no easy answers or one-size-fits-all templates. Every student is an individual. Schools should exist to meet the educational needs of the students. Students are not commodities to meet the needs of the educational institutions. If a student isn’t flourishing learning mathematics we don’t remove them from the classroom. A good teacher adjusts the learning materials to better suit the needs of the student to help them understand and learn better. So should be the attitude of schools to promote learning for all students.

I would suggest to Pauline to actually read to gain a broader perspective of the possibilities of education. Probably the first book I’d give her is Inclusive education: Supporting diversity in the classroom. It might be scary, but I think she could learn a thing or two. If education should reflect the “real world,” then let’s embrace the diversity in our schooling system to promote a shared experience between people of different socioeconomic, gendered, religious, ethnic and learning capabilities.

We as a society need to expect more from our leadership. The Pauline Hansons, Donald Trumps and Margaret Courts of the world are entitled to their opinions, but does society really need to be subjected to them as well? We need to hold these people up to a higher standard. The sensational stories these people create through their continually biased and controversial rhetoric just needs to be ignored.

If we want the classroom to be a reflection of societies’ real world then we need to be the ones who are modelling compassion, patience, self-actualisation and a greater sense of caring towards each other in all aspects of our lives to inspire the generations who come after us.

 

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