Friday, October 27, 2006


So proposals for vast new spending on State education are greeted with skepticism even on the Left. They rightly fear that it would discredit all government spending

Gordon Brown's pledge to raise state school funding to the same level as that enjoyed by private schools has been criticised by a committee of MPs. The Education Select Committee's investigation of public expenditure in education also condemned a lack of transparency and cautioned that taxpayers might not wish to pay for state schools in future unless ministers can demonstrate that the resources are being used wisely. This lack of information, the Labour-dominated committee said, would not only be bad for taxpayers but could also "undermine the electorate's willingness to fund public services".

But the MPs reserved their harshest criticism for the Chancellor's commitment in this year's Budget to raise the level of funding per pupil in state schools from 5,000 to 8,000 pounds, the average spending per head in independent schools. Although Mr Brown was widely praised for his pledge in March, The Times quickly established from Treasury sources that this was only an aspiration. After questioning Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, and David Bell, his top official, the MPs said that it remained to be seen how the aspiration would be backed up with funding.

The select committee said that it was hard to judge when this pledge could ever be met. "Without a timescale it is hard to be certain when the target would be met," the report stated. "The debate on what is the appropriate level of per-pupil funding is important. Future policy announcements should have a more substantial basis."

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has since estimated that it would cost 17 billion to close the gap between the public and private sectors and that this would not be achieved until at least 2014.

The MPs also warned that there was no way to demonstrate whether the Government's increased funding for schools had been effective and had succeeded in providing better education or more highly qualified students. Since Labour came into office, public spending on education has risen from 21.43 billion in 1997-08 to 34.35 billion in 2005-06. But recent figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that only 41 per cent of pupils achieved five grades A* to C in English, maths and science and only 26 per cent of pupils got good grades in English, maths, science and a language - a fall of 4 percentage points from 2002.

Last night a spokesman said that the Government had invested record amounts in education, and "as a result we are seeing more schools with more teachers and better results". "Investment in education is a key priority for the Government. As the Chancellor said in his Budget speech, the Government's long-term aim is that we raise average investment per pupil to today's private school level. That position remains unchanged."


Deconstructive criticism

The evidence upholds the belief that the teaching of English has fallen victim to political correctness, writes Australia's Kevin Donnelly

Geoff Masters, head of the Australian Council for Educational Research and the person in charge of the commonwealth-funded inquiry into state and territory Year 12 subjects, argues concerns about school curriculums being politically correct are without foundation. In relation to senior school English -- in particular, the NSW Higher School Certificate course -- Masters concludes there is no left-wing bias and that federal Education Minister Julie Bishop's concerns about the cultural Left taking the long march through the education system are misplaced.

Masters is wrong. As those who have followed the articles in these pages about the effect of critical literacy on English teaching and the way the theory approach of teaching has destroyed the moral and aesthetic quality of the literary canon know, there is ample evidence of how English has been politicised.

In NSW, students are made to deconstruct texts such as Shakespeare's Othello and Tim Winton's Cloudstreet from a Marxist, feminist, postmodern and post-colonial perspective. The Board of Studies English stage 6 annotated professional readings support document, designed to tell teachers how English should be taught, is awash with the kind of gobbledygook associated with theory.

In opposition to the more traditional approach to literature, NSW teachers are urged to adopt what is termed "critical-postmodernist pedagogy'', described as: "This involves drawing on and seeking to integrate into a dynamic, strategic synthesis the currently evolving and ever mutating discourses of critical pedagogy, cultural studies and postmodernism, within which notions of popular culture, textuality, rhetoric and the politics and pleasures of representation become the primary focus of attention in both 'creative' and 'critical' terms.''

As argued by writer Sophie Masson, the result is that good students jump through the hoops as they know what has to be done, while less able students drown in the arcane and turgid jargon associated with the new English.

The Victorian and Queensland English studies are also prime examples of the impact of the cultural Left on the classroom. The Victorian study asks students to analyse texts from a range of perspectives. These include: "Marxist, feminist, psychoanalytical, reader-response, deconstructionist (and) postmodern''. In a similar vein, the Queensland literature syllabus favours an approach that argues that all texts are inherently political as "texts play their part in upholding or challenging prevailing world views and compete with one another to persuade readers to accept versions on offer''.

Western Australia, not to be outdone, in addition to making students respond to texts "using different theoretical frameworks [for example, Marxist, post-colonial, feminist, psychoanalytic]'' and checking "for consistency, contradiction and the privileging of some ideas over others'', argues that there is nothing universal or profound about classic literature.

The basis for this is that "the concept of the literary is socially and historically constructed rather than objective or self-evident'' and "texts and reading practices enact particular ideologies, playing an important role in the production and maintenance of social identities and reinforcing or contesting dominant ideological understandings''.

Within the new English, as a result of theory, William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is criticised for its emphasis on stereotypical heterosexual love and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness for being inherently racist. Even worse, students' appreciation of literature is destroyed as they spend time analysing mobile-phone messages, graffiti and Australian Idol.

Evidence that senior school English courses have fallen victim to politically correct theory is easy to find. The reasons the cultural Left has targeted English are also clear. Professional associations such as the Australian Association for the Teaching of English are staunch advocates of critical literacy and theory. Both the AATE and sympathetic teacher academics such as Allan Luke, Wayne Sawyer and Bill Green argue English teaching must be used to transform society.

Says Luke: "We would argue that text analysis and critical reading activities should lead on to action with and against the text. That is, there is a need to translate text analysis into cultural action, into institutional intervention and community projects.''



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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