Cheap solutions for Australia
Social humanism and socialism aim to maximize human happiness, human opportunity and human dignity. In contrast, the prevalent corporatist, neoliberal culture wants to maximize freedom for the smart and advantaged to profit from the resources of the world with an asserted “trickle down” effect bringing benefits to the less smart and less advantaged. However the worsening climate crisis and mounting social inequity in the Western democracies (aka Murdochracies, Lobbyocracies and Corporatocracies) have underscored the failure of neoliberalism (for a detailed discussion see “Social Humanism. A new metaphysics” by Melbourne philosopher Professor Brian Ellis; for review see Gideon Polya, “Book Review: “Social Humanism. A New Metaphysics” By Brian Ellis - Last Chance To Save Planet?” Countercurrents, 19 August 2012).
The failure of neoliberalism is well illustrated by Australia which is one of the world’s richest countries but has worsening social inequity that is most clearly seen in terms of annual avoidable deaths (annual avoidable mortality, excess death, or excess mortality) as a percentage of population which is zero(0) for White Australia but 1.8% for Indigenous Australia (the values of this parameter for South Asia and non-Arab Africa are 0.4% and 1.0%, respectively) i.e. 9,000 Indigenous Australians die avoidably from deprivation each year out of an Indigenous (Aboriginal) population of 0.5 million (Google “Aboriginal Genocide”).
The failure of neoliberalism in wealthy Australia has also been exposed by Australia’s Educational Apartheid system that means that the children of the wealthy go to well-resourced, taxpayer-subsidized private schools but most Australian children attend poorly resourced State schools run by the various State Governments. Australia’s Educational Apartheid system means that 46% of Australians are functionally illiterate and 53% are functionally innumerate (see section 3.1 in Josh Fear, “Choice overload. Australians coping with financial decisions”. The Australia Institute, Discussion paper 99 and “Educational Apartheid"); that 80% of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory fail to meet basic literacy and numeracy standards; and that the majority of Australian children who attend State-run schools (as opposed to taxpayer-subsidized private schools) are disproportionately excluded from a good education, university, good universities and top professional courses such as medicine and law.
In Australia voting is compulsory and preferential which means that a voter must numerically indicate his/her preference for all candidates on the ballot paper. Australian Federal politics is dominated by the pro-coal, pro-gas, pro-war, pro-Zionist , US lackey, neoliberal Gillard Labor Government (30% support), the pro-coal, pro-gas, pro-war, pro-Zionist , US lackey, neoliberal Liberal Party-National Party Coalition Opposition (46% support), the anti-war, pro-equity, pro-education, pro-environment Greens (about 12% support), independents and minor parties. Thus, except in a small number of “safe: Labor seats in which the Labor candidate would secure 50% of more of the primary votes, for a Labor candidate to be elected he would need preferences from other candidates.
The neoliberal Gillard Labor Government is facing a massive defeat in the forthcoming 14 September 2013 elections and has hit upon education as a key issue. A report it commissioned from an Australian businessman and philanthropist David Gonski has recommended a big increase in Federal and State education funding to bring all schools, whether State-run or private, up to an acceptable resourcing standard. The Gillard Labor Government has put forward a version of the Gonski proposals but so far only New South Wales (NSW, Australia’s most populous state with about one quarter of the Australian population) has agreed to come up with State funds needed to secure the offered billions of dollars of Federal funds. However, despite the NSW having a Coalition Government, the Federal Coalition Opposition says that it won’t support the Gillard Labor Gonski proposals unless all States come on board.
Gillard Labor is evidently using this education “reform” as a “wedge” to embarrass the Coalition Opposition but has very poor credentials when it comes to education. Thus to pay for its offer of increased funding for primary and secondary schools (elementary schools and high schools), Gillard Labor has ripped $4 billion off the universities and university students. Further, Labor has had nearly 6 years in office to tackle Educational Apartheid, noting that Gillard Labor would no more use the term Educational Apartheid than it would the equally well-justified term “Apartheid Israel”. Indeed it is not obvious that the Gillard Labor Government actually wants to seriously reform educational inequity on Australia, opting instead to be seen to be prepared to chuck a huge amount of taxpayer money at the problem knowing full well that it will be thrown out of office in 4 months’ time. Indeed, as set out below, there are many ways in which school education in Australia could be reformed at essentially no cost or at very little cost.
Before one dollar is spent on Gonski-style education "reforms", there are many urgent educational procedural reforms that should be introduced that will either not actually cost anything or cost very little but will dramatically address Educational Apartheid, functional illiteracy and functional innumeracy. Below is a list of 37 zero- or low-cost things that can and should be done now to radically improve pre-tertiary education in Australia (some are already being done at some schools).
1. Zero tolerance for truancy (a massive problem for Indigenous students).
2. Zero tolerance for class disruption.
3. Compulsory sport.
4. Compulsory musical instrument, singing, poetry and art.
5. Compulsory intellectual games e.g. chess and bridge.
6. Urgent, compulsory,/voluntary mix of on-the-job training for English as a Second Language teaching, especially for teachers involved in teaching Aborigines and recent migrant populations.
7. A language other than English from early primary school onwards (exploiting the huge resource represented Aboriginal and migrant families)
8. Greatly increased involvement in family in teaching and learning (e.g. see #7).
9. A comprehensive, family-approved, multiple mentor system for all children involving trades people, professional, sports people, all kinds of focused people etc.
10. Compulsory learn to swim programs.
11. Extra dedicated classes for 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) catch-up.
12. Properly approved and appropriate teaching aide employment for people on benefits.
13. Rigorously secure and confidential mechanisms for child reportage of bullying, physical abuse and sexual abuse whether inside or inside of school, noting that 34% .of Australian women and 16% of Australian men have been sexually abused as children (see Gideon Polya, “Horrendous Australian child sexual abuse. Mainstream media ignore 4.4 million victims”, MWC News, 15 November 2012).
14. Cessation of any state funding for any private schools committing child intellectual abuse by foisting egregious falsehood on children e.g. gender discrimination, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, sexual guilt, racism, jingoism, creationism, intelligent design, other religious clap-trap (virgin birth etc) and the right to invade, devastate and ethnically cleanse other countries.
15. Use by state school children of taxpayer-funded private school resources.
16. Partnership between particular state and private schools.
17. Highly empowering Accredited Remote Learning (ARL) involving off-campus, text-based learning (Google “Accredited Remote Learning”).
18. University-secondary school links and mentoring.
19. Explicit text-based curricula (see item #17).
20. 3Rs testing while making sure that this does not pervert education (so-called NAPLAN - National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy - 3Rs testing is Australia is much criticized for this as is such testing in the US).
21. A book for every child (former Labor Opposition Leader Mark Latham's excellent bottom-up idea).
22. Modest incentives and financial "bribes" for student improvement.
23. Zero tolerance for bullying.
24. Family-linked cultural studies for all with this being a major item for Indigenous Australian children (of some 250 Indigenous languages before the European invasion. in 1788, only about 50 remain).
25. Secular humanist Visitors to address the intellectual child abuse by religious schools (see item #14).
26. Compulsory and expert health, hygiene, sex, welfare, human rights and diet advice.
27. Free healthy lunches.
28. Basic level acquisition of a long list of skills to be recorded by stamping in a student "passport" (e.g. under "S", sewing, soldering, sailing, singing, speechifying, solidarity, skepticism, sexual hygiene).
29. Local university and vocational Tertiary and Further Educational (TAFE) institutional linkage to schools with inputs including talks, open days, advice, mentoring and tours for students and teachers.
30. For each school an expert advisory council made up of academics, educators, and other professionals to report immediately on all educational deficiencies (e.g. the lack of the above).
31. Selective schools for academically gifted students.
32. Technical high schools that would not preclude university entrance.
33. Streaming within schools to give better tuition for students with different abilities and attainments.
34. Confidential and secure systems for assisting the needs of disabled or sick students.
35. Schemes for increasing participation of disabled children e.g. disabled sports.
36. An attempt at a confidential safety net to try to maximize available help for disadvantaged children.
37. School-based mentoring and interviews so that no child falls through the cracks.
Educational Apartheid is not confined to Australia. It is widespread throughout the world (Google "Educational Apartheid”). More money for education is useful but in the absence of equitable funding great things can be achieved through good will, imagination and expertise.
The adult world is failing to address the worsening climate crisis and it seems now inevitable that we will be bequeathing a severely damaged and threatened world to our children and grandchildren (e.g. see “Are we doomed?” Gideon Polya, “Doha climate change inaction. Only 5 years left to act”, MWC News, 9 December 2102; and “2011 climate change course”). The least we could do is to educate the next generations to enable them to best deal with the mess we have left behind. Voters should insist that all education should be free and of good quality.
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|Allen L. Jasson|
|William John Cox|