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19 November 2004. Thought for the Week: "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and Corporate power."
Benito Mussolini

YET ANOTHER INQUIRY INTO THE EDUCATION SYSTEM

The on-going issue of too many students leaving school unable to competently read and write has surfaced once again. This time the Federal Coalition has launched a national inquiry into how children learn to read, The Australian 01/11/04. The debate, it is said, is focused on whether the phonics approach is the way to go or that the 'look-say' method is satisfactory, but needs some modifications.

How far back in the history of education in Australia will the inquiry go? More importantly, will the inquiry delve into the powerful forces who, 50 years or more ago, brought about such dramatic changes in the philosophy, policies and practices of education in this country?

Why was it that in the late 1800s early 1900s
The percentage of children of school age, five to fourteen years, able to read and write, increased from 59.1% in 1871 to 79.8% in 1901 and 90.27% in 1911. And yet, the size of the school population increased from 432,153 in 1871 to 890,572 in 1901.
(Ref: "Understanding Australian Education 1901-14" by John Lawry. Figures from Commonwealth Year Book 1924 pp477-8).

The 'New Education'
Will the inquiry delve into the introduction of the New Education into our institutions and the pedigree of the ideas from which it stemmed? "Even though a survey in November 1951 showed that pupils in primary school performed 'on the average at lower levels than pupils twenty years earlier,' the 'progressive' changes of the New Education spread to all the states," wrote Jean M. Wallis in The Subversion of Australian Education.

American scholar Russell Kirk made an evaluation of the New Education in 1954
It is, he said: "…a system in which the very tools to any sort of apprehension of systematic knowledge, spelling and grammar, mathematics and geography, are despised as boring impediments to 'socialization' -- why, is it possible to conceive of a system better calculated to starve the imagination, discourage the better student, and weaken Reason?" (Ref: Augustin G. Rudd. Bending the Twig, pp. 274, 275) Over thirty years ago the system was already failing our children!

In 1976 a Federal Parliamentary enquiry was told that between 30-40% of children were leaving primary school with a reading age of less than ten! Monash University lecturer in special education, Stewart Sykes, stated that many children were entering secondary schools 'functionally illiterate'! (The Age 18th May, 1976 cited in The Subversion of Australian Education by J.M. Wallis)

In the 1970s former teacher Jean Wallis wrote
"Today, imagination is the criteria in many class room activities. In essay writing and composition, correct spelling and sentence construction are no longer important. And grammar - grammar is DEAD, it belongs to a bygone age. In art, children are encouraged to express themselves without the "frustrating" discipline of learning how. Unintelligible drawings and finger paintings emerge which teachers describe as imaginative, exciting. At a later stage such creations are known as contemporary art, and with the taxpayers' money, Governments buy them to hang in picture galleries.
At all stages, the standard of education declines ever further.
A recent innovation, the Radford Scheme, which eliminates external examinations, is reported to have produced a further decline in standards where it has been introduced.

When challenged by the critics, modern educators state '.... In the years up to the fifties, a large number of students did not go beyond primary school and therefore their reading disabilities were not detected at secondary school level...Recent surveys do suggest a need to attach greater importance to the fundamentals although it is not perfectly obvious that the standard of the typical child of today is in any way inferior to that of his counter-part years ago.' (from Victoria Hansard, 28.4.76 page 270)."

So, we're to have yet another inquiry into why 'Johnny Can't Read'!

THE LOST TOOLS OF LEARNING

World-famous writer and dramatist, Dorothy L. Sayers, entered the debate on education in 1947 by putting forward proposals for improvement, but she wasn't too optimistic: "It is in the highest degree improbable that the reforms I propose will ever be carried into effect. Neither the parents, nor the training colleges, nor the examination boards, nor the boards of governors, nor the ministers of education would countenance them for a moment."

The stock argument is only partly true
"If we are to produce a society of educated people, fitted to preserve their intellectual freedom amid the complex pressures of our modern society, we must turn back the wheel of progress some four or five hundred years, to the point at which education began to lose sight of its true object, towards the end of the Middle Ages…The stock argument in favour of postponing the school leaving-age and prolonging the period of education generally is that there is now so much more to learn than there was in the Middle Ages. This is partly true, but not wholly. The modern boy and girl are certainly taught more subjects - but does that always mean that they actually know more?

The product of modern educational methods
"Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass-propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard-of and unimagined? Do you put this down to the mere mechanical fact that the press and radio and so on have made propaganda much easier to distribute over a wide area? Or do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible?

Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side? …Have you ever followed a discussion in the newspapers or elsewhere and noticed how frequently writers fail to define the terms they use? Or how often, if one man does define his terms, another will assume in his reply that he was using the terms in precisely the opposite sense to that in which he has already defined them?

Have you ever been faintly troubled by the amount of slipshod syntax going about? And if so, are you troubled because it is inelegant or because it may lead to dangerous misunderstanding? Do you ever find that young people, when they have left school, not only forget most of what they learnt (that is only to be expected) but forgot also, or betray that they have never really known, how to tackle a subject for themselves?

The Art of learning how to think
"Is not the great defect of our education today… that although we often succeed in teaching our pupils "subjects", we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning. It is as though we had taught a child mechanically and by rule of thumb, to play "The Harmonious Blacksmith" upon the piano, but had never taught him the scale or how to read music; so that, having memorized "The Harmonious Blacksmith", he still had not the faintest notion how to proceed from that to tackle "The Last Rose of Summer."

The Mediaeval Syllabus
"Let us now look at the mediaeval scheme of education - the syllabus of the schools. It does not matter, for the moment, whether it was used for small children or for older students; or how long people were supposed to take over it. What matters is the light it throws upon what the men of the Middle Ages supposed to be the object and the right order of the educative process.
The syllabus was divided into two parts; the Trivium and Quadrivium…"The interesting thing for us is the composition of the Trivium, which preceded the Quadrivium and was the preliminary discipline for it. It consisted of three parts: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, in that order.

Now the first thing we notice is that two at any rate of these "subjects" are not what we should call "subjects" at all: they are only methods of dealing with subjects. Grammar, indeed, is a "subject" in the sense that it does mean definitely learning a language - at that period it meant learning Latin. But language itself is simply the medium in which thought is expressed.

The intention - to teach the proper tools of learning
"The whole of the Trivium was, in fact, intended to teach the pupil the proper use of the tools of learning, before he began to apply them to "subjects" at all. First, he learned a language; not just how to order a meal in a foreign language, but the structure of language - a language, and hence of language itself - what it was, how it was put together and how it worked.
Secondly, he learned how to use language: how to define his terms and make accurate statements; how to construct an argument and how to detect fallacies in argument (his own arguments and other people's). Dialectic, that is to say, embraced logic and disputation.
Thirdly, he learned to express himself in language: how to say what he had to say elegantly and persuasively.

At the end of his course, he was required to compose a thesis upon some theme set by his masters or chosen by himself, and afterwards to defend his thesis against the criticism of the faculty. By this time he would have learned - or woe betide him - not merely to write an essay on paper, but to speak audibly and intelligibly from a platform, and to use his wits quickly when heckled. There would be questions, cogent and shrewd, from those who had already run the gauntlet of the debate.

Bits and pieces of mediaeval tradition still linger
"It is, of course, quite true that bits and pieces of the mediaeval tradition still linger, or have been revived, in the ordinary school syllabus of today. Some knowledge of grammar is still required when learning a foreign language - perhaps I should say, "is again required"; for during my own life-time we passed through a phase when the teaching of declensions and conjugations was considered rather reprehensible, and it was considered better to pick these things up as we went along.

School debating societies flourish; essays are written; the necessity for "self-expression" is stressed, and perhaps even overstressed. But these activities are cultivated more or less in detachment, as belonging to the special subjects in which they are pigeon-holed, rather than as forming one coherent scheme of mental training to which all "subjects" stand in a subordinate relation. "Grammar" belongs especially to the "subject" of foreign languages, and essay-writing to the "subject" called "English"; while dialectic has become almost entirely divorced from the rest of the curriculum, and is frequently practiced unsystematically and out of school-hours as a separate exercise, only very loosely related to the main business of learning.

Forging and learning to handle the 'tools' of learning
"Taken by and large, the great difference of emphasis between the two conceptions holds good: Modern education concentrates on teaching subjects, leaving the method of thinking, arguing, and expressing one's conclusions to be picked up by the scholar as he goes along. Mediaeval education concentrated on first forging and learning to handle the tools of learning, using whatever subject came handy as a piece of material on which to doodle until the use of the tool became second nature.
"Subjects" of some kind there must be, of course. One cannot learn the theory of grammar without learning an actual language, or learn to argue and orate without speaking about something in particular." (emphasis added…ed) Taken from The Lost Tools of Learning.

Comment
The problem goes much deeper than the education system churning out too many students who are unable to read and write competently and what 'modifications' are needed to help to them improve. The deeper problem is that of a system churning out too many who have not mastered the ability to think for themselves! They have not been "fitted to preserve their intellectual freedom." They have become more "susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass-propaganda to an extent once unimagined."
And undoubtedly, in the mass, "the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible!"

Further reading
"The Lost Tools of Learning" by Dorothy L. Sayers, 1947; "The Disaster Road: Planned Failure & Psychological Seduction in the Schools", by Jean M. Wallis, 1986; "Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling", by John Taylor Gatto 2002.
For background history of 'the ideological soil' in which the New Education 'took root', "The Culture of Critique" by Kenneth MacDonald 2002 is essential reading -- a few copies are still available.


WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR CONSTITUTION?

by Phillip D Butler
It has been announced Premier Bracks is going to amend Victoria's Constitution - and he has the numbers in both Houses to do so! What does he want to do? He wants to give "indigenous Australians constitutional recognition", according to the Sunday Herald Sun (7/11/04).
What does that mean and what will it mean for future legislation?
Whether you belong to a cricket club, football club, lawn bowls club - even a 'tiddly winks' club - there are rules of association, a 'constitution', and, in most cases a dissatisfied member can call an Extraordinary General Meeting. The Constitution usually allows for this.
Not so for Victoria's Constitution. Most Victorians have forgotten that it was the Liberal/Country Party - under Bolte - who used their massive majority in both Houses - to change the whole concept of the Victorian Constitution. "We have a mandate"!
A constitution should belong to the members, it should belong to the people - and if it is going to be amended, the "club members", the people, should have the final say.

THE ENGLISH REJECT REGIONAL PARLIAMENTS

Peter Wilson, The Weekend Australian's European correspondent, (6-7- November 2004) reports the north English have soundly trounced the Blair Labour Party's moves to merge their county and district councils. Of course it was only meant for their benefit, and the merger was meant to make room for the new level of regional government. But thankfully, voters in the far north of England have torpedoed the proposal for regional English parliaments that were seen by many (so the correspondent would have us believe…ed) as a step towards an Australian-style federal system of government.

In the first referendum on such a proposal, the northeast region on the Scottish border overwhelmingly rejected the idea, making the creation of English assemblies unlikely, at least for many years. While the Blair Government has already given Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland their own parliaments and devolved government powers (?) to these bodies, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott failed abysmally in his campaign for a new regional level of government in England, the largest component of the United Kingdom.

The northeast, around Newcastle and Durham, was chosen for the referendum because it has a strong regional identity and was considered the most likely to support a local assembly representing about 2.6 million people, which is about half the population of Victoria but still larger than the three smallest Australian states. But voters rejected the proposal out of hand, with a NO vote of 72 per cent.
Mr Prescott had campaigned for English assemblies for 20 years, and success in the northeast would have been followed by similar ballots in two other northern regions; and perhaps in six months other regions covering the rest of England.

Local policy directions?
The idea was that the elected assemblies would provide local policy direction on economic development, transport, housing, culture and tourism, overseeing some £350 million ($850 million) of annual spending now provided by the British Government, and influencing another £750 million ($1.8 billion). (This doesn't mean they would have had the power to govern themselves. It just meant they would have some input in discussions!)

And there you have it, it would seem seventy two per cent of the people rejected the fine-sounding proposal that they would have the right to policy direction. The policy really being: you will have the right to be 'consulted' but we are going to do what we have planned to do anyhow!

Regional governments
That is exactly what happened in Australia when the people were railroaded into local council amalgamations. We had the 'right' to be 'consulted' but it was always the plan to amalgamate the councils. Council amalgamations of course being the forerunners of 'regional governments'.
Wasn't it as a Keating government minister Simon Crean had Australia mapped out into 'regions'? And didn't the map show some of the 'regions' overlapped State boundaries? The States would just 'wither away' as the regional governments came more and more under the control of the Central Government in Canberra.
The English people still have their roots in their own culture, and there are those who remember that genuine local government has its roots deep in their distant past. Tony Blair and his 'new' Labour (read Fabian socialist) have been foiled in this move and will have to try another tack.


CREATION OPPOSES EVOLUTION? NO! CREATION AND EVOLUTION

For many, there seemed to be arguments 'for' and 'against' on both sides of the genuinely scientific debate of creation versus evolution. These folk would have found Graeme M. Clark's 'Letter to the Editor' in the Weekend Australian 6-7/3/04 of interest ("I am not a creationist"). Graeme Clark would be known for his development of the 'bionic ear'-- now known as the cochlear ear implant.
Why bring the matter up at this time? According to reports coming from America, with the re-election of George Bush, 'creation versus evolution' has come to the fore again in conservative circles.

At the time Mr. Clark wrote
"Colin Kline has his facts wrong (Letters, 28/1) and has clearly misread or not read my book Science and God. It is not a "fundamentalist book" and it does not "denigrate science". It does not "espouse creationism as the only possible hypothesis to adopt". On the contrary, it states that creationism as such is not actually a scientific theory since it does not explain the "how" of creation and for that reason I am not a "creationist".
As for the theory of evolution, all theories are by their nature open to question.
Evolution on a macro scale (change from one species to another) is not without contrary evidence, as pointed out in my book of 25 years ago. Since then, molecular biology has helped explain some of the discrepancies. However, I consider the body of evidence is best interpreted as God working through evolutionary mechanisms, some of which are presently unknown.

In any case, the essence of the scientific process is an open mind, without which I could never have pursued the development of a bionic ear, as it was generally considered by scientists as impossible.
Readers might refer to my later books to get a fuller appreciation of the science involved in the bionic ear: Sounds from Silence, Allen & Unwin, 2000 and Cochlear Implants: Fundamentals and Applications Springer Verlag, 2003.

I have a broader concern with Colin Kline's letter in that he appears to be saying that any judging panel should automatically exclude a "creationist" from receiving an award, no matter how solid his/her scientific achievements are in practice. This could be seen as prejudice."


DELUSIONS OF EMPIRE

by Justin Raimondo Antiwar.com 20/10/04
The epistemology of imperialism - 'the problem with you peaceniks is that you're too 'reality-based'!
"Ron Suskind, former Wall Street Journal reporter and author has a piece in the New York Times Magazine that is the talk of the internet, and with good reason: it is a devastating portrait of this "faith-based" presidency, with its religio-cultural idiosyncrasies and foibles. But it is not only that. Suskind manages to capture, in a series of vivid anecdotes, the political psychopathology that motivates this administration and shapes its perception.
Here is the money quote:
"In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend - but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency. "The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'
I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

Anyone who believes that governments create reality is living in a fantasy world, and is surely no conservative, neo- or otherwise, either politically or temperamentally.

A voracious appetite for power
As the conservative philosopher Claes Ryn has pointed out: "Only great conceit could inspire a dream of armed world hegemony. The ideology of benevolent American empire and global democracy dresses up a voracious appetite for power. It signifies the ascent to power of a new kind of American, one profoundly at odds with that older type who aspired to modesty and self-restraint."

Conceit, as I have pointed out before, has been the defining characteristic of the imperialistic personality, but the sort of hubris exhibited above -- "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality" -- goes beyond anything the world has yet seen. The maddest of Roman emperors took care to propitiate the gods, even as they accorded themselves divine status. But none dared venture their own creation myth. This is not just a new kind of American, as Professor Ryn would have it, but a new species of madmen.

The epistemology of modern-day imperialism gives us a glimpse into minds afflicted with a novel form of mental illness, one made possible not only by the concentration of centralized power in the American metropolis, but also by advanced technology and the evolution of the military arts. The savage thug who believes he can control reality by the use of his club -- Ayn Rand called this archetype "Atilla," after the infamous Hun -- has been supplanted by the Gucci-suited technocrat who believes he can create reality by simply pushing a button or issuing an order.

By commanding black-winged jet fighters to blast his enemies out of existence, the modern Attila believes he is constructing a new reality, one where his whims, his prejudices, his prissy little orthodoxies have the force of natural law. In short, the neocons are just plain crazy, albeit in a historically unique fashion. This explains a lot. It explains the peculiar stubbornness that refuses to acknowledge error, even as Iraq implodes. It explains our rulers' utter indifference to being caught in so many lies -- the disappearing "weapons of mass destruction," the illusory "links" between Saddam and 9/11, the brazen "cherry-picking" of sexed-up intelligence, and the outright forgeries. They aren't lying - they're creating "new realities."

The militant craziness of this sort of mindset also explains the casual cruelty involved in implementing the neoconservatives' vision of empire. It explains Abu Ghraib, not as an aberration but as the new norm. It's okay to bomb cities filled with civilians, to lock up and torture anyone who gets in your way, all the while proclaiming that you come as a "liberator." You always hurt the one you love - if you're a sadist, that is.

The air of sneering superiority displayed by Suskind's anonymous White House aide comes straight from the top: we saw it in the debates, in the scowling visage of King George the Lesser. In his formulaic assertions, his indifference to logic, his inability to admit error, the president was clearly and visibly ensconced in his own private reality. This nearsighted hauteur, the new imperial style of our rulers, is memorably dramatized in Suskind's account:
"Who besides guys like me are part of the reality-based community? Many of the other elected officials in Washington, it would seem. A group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress were called in to discuss Iraq sometime before the October 2002 vote authorizing Bush to move forward. A Republican senator recently told Time Magazine that the president walked in and said: 'Look, I want your vote. I'm not going to debate it with you.' When one of the senators began to ask a question, Bush snapped, 'Look, I'm not going to debate it with you.'"
How does one debate a ruler who has the power to "create new realities"?
The answer is: one doesn't.

In this new conception of America's chief executive, Bush isn't the president, or even a monarch in the traditional sense, but the virtual embodiment of the American hyper-power: accountable to nothing and no one, either human or divine.

The cruelty of Abu Ghraib, the needless slaughter of the war and its aftermath of planned chaos, the campaign of deception that made it all possible -- none of this matters to our Promethean overlords, who, in "creating new realities" in the Middle East -- nay, the world! -- are beyond good and evil. These Actors of History are the creators of our destiny, while the rest of us are just along for the ride.

If ever a ruling class deserved its downfall, it's this one. The great problem, however, is that they're going to drag the rest of us down with them.
Let the builders of a new American Empire prattle on about us poor relations in the "reality-based community" all they like. Because the reality they deny is catching up with them, in Iraq -- and on the home front. The economic and geopolitical realities of declaring war against a billion-plus Muslims -- what the loonier neocons call "World War IV" -- exist independently of their ideological prescriptions, as American troops are learning to their sorrow and ours every day in Iraq. Sooner or later, the reality our rulers think they create is going to have its revenge - the costs, in dollars and lives and human misery, are being counted even as I write.
Who will pay, in the end? When will there be an accounting? Soon, I hope.

Those who want some respite from the madness of an ideologically-driven foreign policy are already embracing this concept of the "reality-based community." Because reality is precisely what this White House has been evading when it comes to the Iraqi misadventure, and the wider "war on terrorism" we are pretending to fight. This administration is making war on nation-states when the real enemy is a supranational movement that flourishes in the rubble of our conquests, and spreads over the bombed-out ruins like a poisonous weed. You want reality-based analysis? This war has benefited only two actors in the Middle East drama: bin Laden and Ariel Sharon. The extremists are empowered, instead of isolated, and the future is war, war, and more war, as far as the eye can see….

Our republic cannot and will not survive a regime of perpetual war: if our enemies didn't unite to exact revenge, inciting the global countryside against the American metropolis, the internal pressures and corruptions of empire would be our undoing in any event. One way or another, reality catches up with empires, which is why their bones litter the roadside, skulls grinning at the ironies of power reduced to dust."


SYDNEY CONSERVATIVE SPEAKERS' CLUB

The next meeting of the Sydney CSC will be held on Thursday evening 25th November, 2004. The last meeting for the year is an Open Night, where you are invited to have your say for five minutes. You are to advise the Chairman on arrival of your subject. Questions may be asked at the end of the session.
The venue is the Lithuanian Club, 16 East Terrace, Bankstown. Bring a friend for the first time and the entrance fee of $5.00 will be waived. Books will be on display for sale from the Heritage Book Service.

BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS

"A Race Against Time: Racial heresies for the 21st Century," edited by George McDaniel. What does the future hold for the West? Must our Civilisation give way before the waves of Third World newcomers? It is increasingly clear that race and civilisation cannot be separated; that only the people who created a culture can sustain it. Price: $45.00 includes postage.

"Killing Hope: US Military & CIA Interventions since WW II," by William Blum.
The West has been soundly conditioned to react Pavlovianly to a number of psycho-political terms; 'swear words' such as 'communist' or 'fascist', terms intended to conjure up mental pictures from Stalinist purges to slave-labour camps. A 'Them' agin 'Us' reflex.
"Them" can mean a peasant in the Philippines, a mural-painter in Nicaragua, or a legally-elected prime minister in British Guiana - but all, somehow, presented as part of the same monolithic conspiracy; all in some way, a threat to our Way of Life. William Blum has done a mammoth service to his people by listing the destabilising, revolutionary activities of the U.S. Military and the CIA, from China in the 1940s to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Price $40.00 posted.

© Published by the Australian League of Rights, P.O. Box 27 Happy Valley, SA 5159