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. Not for about 70 years at least.
Public education in Australia, and no doubt 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.
And these bloated, unsustainable, progressive systems cost taxpayers a bomb, which is evident in the 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.
The disaster in Australia is that, as usual, we bought a lemon that we can’t afford to run. Our schools seem as useful as our desalination plants. Some years ago, we pulled the plates off our perfectly good system, and used it as a paddock basher. Since the seventies, we’ve flogged the thing to death and now it’s a bomb and nothing we bolt on will make any difference. All of it is just another dreadful confirmation of Robert Conquest’s Second Law.
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, logic, mathematics, chemistry and physics. Their home lives may unfortunately also be largely devoid of real 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 millenarians who apparently love the thought of atmospheric science but not biological science. We 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 thinking, funding, employment, management and curriculum in Australia is the only way. The stats indicate we effectively de-platformed ourselves in education years ago and mostly thanks to a cultural cringe the size of the Simpson (a large desert in Australia), an expensive attachment to foreign pedagogical fads, always bending over to unions and an unhealthy obsession with the lowest common denominator.
Instead, Australia could have high quality fee-for-service charter-like schools that are privately run and neither religiously-oriented, government-funded nor unionised like the public system. These 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 like ACARA guide and oversee the national model curriculum.
A typical school day might run from 830 am to 530 pm, with a bit of sport at either end of every day. The curriculum would consciously reflect our Australian cultural uniqueness and be saturated with lessons on Australia, its characteristics, culture, history, achievements and place in the world. Billeting with bush families, working for Australian charities and volunteering in rural towns as well as the cities by students and university graduands would be encouraged in order to properly ground, connect and advance all Australians.
Modern Australia is also Anglo-Aboriginal, so Aboriginal Australia, 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 Diwali, Ramadan and Harmony Day, and more Tjkurrpa in our land of drought and flooding rains.
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.
Australian students could explore local stories and see if there are in fact six seasons in some of our northern parts. 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 the national museum, the Seven Sisters (Pleiades star group aka Minyipuru Jukurrpa) 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 some faux spiritualism studies to impress the multi-culti mindset. I am referring to learning more about our national culture, where it came from and what thereof it is made. We should put back some of our cultural tales into mainstream folklore, including the nasty Ngayurnangalku who resemble people, except for their large fangs and the long curved fingernails, and chomp on their victims beside the disappointing lake. (Sounds almost like a Lemony Snicket book!).
Why don’t we know all our own folk tales, land routes and natural science and history just as we know the names and lives of no-nothing Hollywood celebrities? Australia’s gradual cultural forgetting occurred as our mainstream culture was shafted six ways from Sunday by the surface glitter of 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.
A couple of my favourite US conservatives have a great discussion on many things in this video but in one part, Larry Elder again warns us that we need to do better by the children. Yes! They should be our most important aim because we fund these influential institutions that purport to educate our own little barbarians, and if we are lucky they help turn our kids into a people rooted in time, not just in space.
Universities too need to 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 shake off the newly installed yet apparently widespread belief that everyone should go to uni. We are, as a country, way more productive than that.
Our schools and universities 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 studies, critical theory and fine arts devotees and compete for more scholars and thinkers in disciplines of the pointy end.
Plus, you don’t need a degree in fine arts to make beds for international visitors in Cairns, or draw pictures on 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 while at university myself how ‘conflict studies’ or peace studies, women’s studies and many other kinds of ‘studies’ and their enthusiastic proponents 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 panels.
All the ‘studies’ programs I saw seemed ultimately to be directed against elements of the US (or us) and her history, system and politics (or ours). All the academic staff were experts too, carefully studying their tired post-modern phantoms instead of hillbilly elegies. Thus, in the case of the US Studies Centre, for example, not one of its eminent persons accurately predicted the outcome of the 2016 election. No one came within cooee. (I am sooo pleased that I did, being innately deplorable as I am, but FMD so could Blind Freddie).
Last year, Prof Niall Ferguson and Dave Rubin had an often poignant 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. His colleagues had been gradually moved on, not by brilliant young classicists stepping up to the plate but by angry professors of studies, and the hallowed halls hollowed out one chair at a time.
Next post: RoadScholar’s first Guest Post!!! Topic? edjumacation of course.