When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional.
Thomas Sowell said that each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late. We have not been doing a good job of that lately. And not for about 70 years at least.
Public education in Australia, and it seems in NZ, Canada, the UK and the USA, has a lot of explaining to do. Our state schools and university systems have had their Roman moment and carelessly, perhaps intentionally ruined, since mid-last century, just as C.S. Lewis foreshadowed in The Abolition of Man.
Our bloated, unsustainable, progressive training systems cost taxpayers a bomb. Their total actual cost is incalculable but evident in the so-called debt-crisis exploding amongst young US college graduates, causing them to forego their next steps in life such as buying a house, getting married and having children or travelling or starting a business. Many people will be on the hook forever for their useless degrees, wasting their lives. Others have decided that university is perhaps no longer the way to go for their children.
The disaster in Australia is that as usual we bought a lemon that we can’t afford to run. Our schools sometimes seem as useful as our desalination plants. In the seventies, we pulled the plates off a reasonably good system, and used it as a paddock basher. Now we’ve flogged the thing to death and it’s a bomb and nothing we bolt on will make any difference. And all of this is just another dreadful confirmation of Robert Conquest’s Second Law and a failure to heed C.S. Lewis’s warning.
In Australia, a child is probably lucky to survive their public schooling mentally intact, let alone come away with rudimentary adult skills in the English language and literature, ancient and modern history, geography, botany, biology, logic, mathematics, chemistry and physics. Their home lives may unfortunately also be largely devoid of domestic and physical skills or any appreciation of a natural world behind the silvery screen.
We pay through the teeth for fewer skills, less employability and a rising population of empty-headed, hysterical and ‘activised’ (activated?) climate millennarians who apparently greatly respect atmospheric science but biological science not so much. We have brought up Generation Henny Penny, an age cohort that is lost in both time and space. [NB: Gen Z seems promising, but that is for another post!].
A complete overhaul of education – focus, funding, employment, management and curriculum etc. – in Australia is the only way to go. The stats indicate that we effectively de-platformed ourselves in education years ago thanks mostly to a cultural cringe the size of the Simpson (a large desert in Australia), an expensive attachment to mostly foreign pedagogical fads, constantly bending over to unions and an unhealthy obsession with the dollar and the lowest common denominator.
Australia could have high quality fee-for-service charter-like schools that are privately run and neither government-funded nor unionised like the public system. They could be locally overseen by councils but follow a state curriculum, in their way at their pace. We could abolish the Commonwealth Department of Education and let a much much smaller agency guide and oversee a national model curriculum.
A typical school day might run from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, with a bit of sport and music at either end. The curriculum would reflect our Australian culture and be saturated with lessons on our characteristics, culture, history, achievements and place in the world. Billeting with bush families, working for Australian charities and volunteering in rural towns by students and university graduands should be encouraged to properly ground, connect and advance young Australians with their country.
When I see a magpie I see Australia, where black and white meld into a smart, swift and beautiful creature who makes the magical sound of our morning. The black and white parts go together so we can fly.
Australia is Anglo-Aboriginal too so our shared history, Old World animals and ancient wrinkled landscape would be necessary for all rounded and grounded Australians to understand. To me this it would mean the school curriculum would look a lot less like Diwali, Ramadan and Harmony Day, and more Tjkurrpa in the land of drought and flooding rains.
Australian students could explore local stories and see if there are in fact six seasons in some of our northern parts, and what about the northern seasons of Kumpupirntily, that vast dry lake known as Lake Disappointment where cannibals ate people and lived under a lake with a sun that never set? According to our national museum, the Seven Sisters (Pleiades star group or Minyipuru Jukurrpa) also travel across the sky in line with wells on the Canning Stock Route. Where and what is the Canning Stock Route? What’s the difference between the Martu and the Warlpiri stories and why?
I am not here talking about faux spiritualism or pc studies to impress the multi-culti mindset. I am referring to learning more about our nation’s history and culture. We should put out tales back into mainstream folklore. Our kids can learn not just where the wild things are but about the nasty Ngayurnangalku who resemble people (except for the large fangs and long curved fingernails) and chomp on their victims beside a disappointing lake. (Sounds a bit like a Lemony Snicket book).
Why don’t we know all our own folk tales, land routes and natural science and history just like we know the names and lives of no-nothing Hollywood celebrities? Australia’s cultural forgetting began long ago as mainstream culture was shafted six ways from Sunday by the surface glitter of a pervasive pop culture. It happened because our school system was a shallow, useless, expensive dud that failed its charges by not preparing sensible little Australians for this stupid, ruthless, ignorant, careless, mad, beautiful and astonishing world.
In this link, a couple of my favourite American conservatives have a great discussion on related things in this video. At one stage, Larry Elder warns that we need to do better by the children. Yes! They should be our most important aim since we fund these influential institutions that purport to educate our little barbarians, and if we are lucky they help turn our kids into sensible, strong Australians rooted in time not just in space.
Universities too must re-examine their missions, their income streams and business models, ‘fess up to feasting off the annual harvest of international students, and tighten their standards until a smaller, brighter local cohort appears amongst their student populations. Both at the teaching and learning level, Australians must also shake off the newly installed but widespread belief that everyone should go to uni. We are, as a country, way more productive and diverse than that.
Our schools and universities both here and across the Commonwealth and beyond, were invaded (as predicted by others), in the post-war long march of the Frankfurters, the Fabians, New Left, Third Way, Ecofascists-whatever. The higher end of our edjumacation system should attract fewer gender and critical theory studies students and compete for more budding scholars and thinkers in disciplines at the pointy end.
Plus, you don’t need a degree in fine arts to make beds for international visitors in Cairns or draw on chai lattes for office mice in some edgy Sydney lane way. Thankfully, there will forever be limited jobs for passionate critical theorists and practitioners of interpretative dance here in Australia (and in the world).
I noticed at university myself how ‘conflict studies’ or peace studies, women’s studies and so many other kinds of ‘studies’ were absolutely everywhere. It wasn’t like being at a university at all more like a think tank or the public service where everyone essentially agrees with each other, like Gerard Henderson says of those sneering, self-congratulating ABC TV panels.
All the ‘studies’ programs I saw seemed ultimately directed either in tone or topic against the US (and/or us) and her history, system and politics (and/or ours). All the academic staff were experts too, carefully studying their tired post-modern phantoms instead of any hillbilly elegies that might have opened their eyes a little. Thus, in the case of Sydney’s US Studies Centre, for example, not one of its eminent minds predicted the outcome of the 2016 US election. Not one came within cooee. (I am sooo pleased that I did, being innately deplorable as I am, but FMD so could have Blind Freddie).
Last year, Prof Niall Ferguson and Dave Rubin had a poignant, pertinent discussion on, amongst other things, the decline of the academy in the United States. At one point Ferguson recounts how he looked around the table at a meeting of his department one day only to realise that almost all his scholarly friends had left, retired, moved away, or been otherwise deposed by the pomo faculty lounge. Lifelong colleagues were gradually moved on, not as one might imagine by brilliant young classicists stepping up to the plate, but by angry professors of studies, and so the hallowed halls were hollowed out one chair at a time.
Next post: RoadScholar’s first guest post! Topic? edjumacation of course.