Mark Latham commented on NSW maths results on Sky News arguing that the introduction of wokeness into the curriculum and the lack of specialised teachers lay behind the accellerating declines in performance
Many people will disagree reflexively with Mr Latham perhaps because he’s appearing on Sky News and represents One Nation, but there is a huge problem with education…and there always has been. I don’t think anyone has ever said “the system is doing a great job let’s let it be”.
I disagree with Mr Latham that wokeness is the problem per se. I don’t like the way that controversial ideas are being taught as fact in schools to young children, but all of that is symptomatic of deeper problem: People seem to lack the ability and willingness to think critically about things.
If being critical is something you want your culture to do, you have to nuture it. Being critical requires you to actively seek out weakness in other people’s ideas and arguments and point them out. This is risky because it is potenitally threatening to the person whose ideas are being examined. Teachers are supposed to teach critical thinking, but it’s actually very hard to do when kids are trying to learn the basics of the subject at the same time.
Philosophy allows students to consider in a structured way arguments about every day life. Everyone has ideas about everyday life. Everyone has ideas that are flawed because ideas are models of the universe, not the universe itself. There are arguments to be had and everyone shall be humbled. Instead of philosophy being at the core of efforts to encourage critical thinking, the once core subject (except in France), has been abandoned. Instead, the term “crtitical” has come to be associated with marxist approaches.
In the education bureaucracy there are large numbers of ex teachers who are terrified of going back to the classroom. They are always seeking ways to make changes because changes mean they have more work and they are incentivised to make change projects that will get approved. The “woke” changes that Mr Latham refers to flow from a set of ideas that have become socially acceptable among many elite decision makers. The reasons for that are many, and debateable, but among the consequences is a lack of critical thinking, but a belief that critical thinking has taken place because the output leans in a marxist direction.
What you absolutely do not see is the widespread adoption of continuous improvement management processes that will lead to useful data collection and consequent policy adjustment. This goes right down to what a teacher in the classroom does to manage their own teaching. What data do they collect and reflect on? How will they measure the effectiveness of any changes that they make each year? Are they supported by the system around them so that hypotheses about what actually works can be evaluated with some kind of rigour? Can they share their ideas and findings without fear?
What education needs is an ISO9001 type of quality management system, and everyone needs to study philosophy. Wokeness must be challenged with reason, data and rigour, not more ideology.