A little bit of Ned Kelly spirit is required to combat the technocrats in charge in Aussie (and now in New Zealand).
Guest blog by Phil Cullen
Ex Director Primary Education Queensland.
Check out Phil's website.
ORWELL IS HERE!
The year of Orwell and the introduction of Orwellism has been delayed.
In the 1950s when we first read about a future manipulated, dysfunctional society, 1984 seemed to be so far away. ‘1984’ didn’t happen when it should have. Society was fairly comfortable in 1984, except for Queensland. The leader there had been appointed by divine authority, he had suggested; and made some curious judgements about schooling on moral grounds.
None could even imagine, then, a future where the country was run by a focussed control-pedant , who preferred to rule by fear-based, heavy-handed distrust and make decisions about schooling just to illustrate his/her authoritative control.
By the 1960s, the western world was on the cusp of creating a school culture of learning that would have had no equal in history. These years produced the greatest thinkers and writers of the 20th century; and teachers of the time, straining to shatter the shackles of colonial styles of teaching-learning were about to break loose. They read and they observed and they talked and they listened and they shared. The mood of the late sixties and seventies with its Deweys, Goodlads, Bassetts, Parrys, Postmann & Weingartners, Holts, Plowdens, Cleggs...such a long list of child-oriented scholars and writers...was one of hope.
Every state Australian state bureaucracy appointed visionaries to important positions [e.g. Guymer in Q’ld, Swan in NSW, Jones in S.A., Shears in Vic., Beare in ACT] irrespective of the local political power base. Schooling was on the up and up - despite one or two attacks [e.g Back to Basics, M:ACOS] that the press enjoyed featuring.
The dystopic political arrangements for an Orwell-1984-style-Australia were put on hold for a quarter-of-a-century. It was destined to happen as soon as despotic managerialists and measurers introduced euphemisms as articles of faith [e.g. ‘outsource’ = don’t trust your own; ‘down-size’= sack those you fear] circa 1990. The public learned to tolerate this inconsistent square-peg ruddism [in Q‘ld. in particular] without dissent; and ‘orewellism’ entered the language as a suitable descriptor for what eventually happened in 2009. Big Brother showed himself.
Turn back to the real 1984.
The year itself, might have been considered a fizzer for those who had trusted George Orwell’s predictions, but child-oriented schooling itself was well under way and schools were happily optimistic at that time. Big Brothers were not necessary. Teachers believed in themselves. They felt proud of what they were doing.
I could open a Principals Conference in 1984 by saying “There is no task so demanding, no occupation [apart from that of religious minister or priest] so ethically professional than that of a primary or secondary teacher. Its impact on the welfare of the world, the care for people as people, the influence that it has on the achievements of each person and subsequently of each nation places the profession as something apart from all other occupations. It is concerned about a nation’s most precious commodity and its richest resource – children. It is a self-monitoring, self-improving profession ...and it is in this context that we have foregathered. We hope to make a determined and realistic commitment to enlivening classroom practices because they are the base-line of what we are all on about.”
The conference was about ‘Excellence in Teaching’. Attenders talked about teaching and learning and on how to improve both. They could say that and do that in 1984 and believe in solid, immovable professional ethics. No jumped-up politician, lawyer or sciolist would dare to tell teachers what to do and how to do it. The force felt solidly professional from top to bottom and remained so until 1990 or thereabouts.
We can’t make those sort of statements that I made, anymore. The political Darleks, ‘utterly without pity, compassion or remorse with every emotion removed except hate’ have moved in. Professional schooling principles have backed off.
A 2011 national conference for principals [that I ‘attended’ on-line] was about improving scores on national blanket tests. Schooling by numbers. Pupil welfare and progress did not get much of a mention. Ethics had travelled a long way .
It was another sign that Orwellism was well entrenched. It had twenty-five years to arrive and it had infected all parts quickly.
What is orwellism?
Described as oligarchical dictatorship, based on a nonsensical, peculiar thought process that manipulates social structures on behalf of the most powerful, participants can indulge in double-thinking by holding two contradictory beliefs and believing in both. Teachers can believe in freedom to learn and use fear-driven practice techniques to prepare for Big Brother’s NAPLAN tests.
Thus, by embracing inconsistent concepts, school principals can acquiesce to the decadent political view that low test scores indicate poor teaching and shabbily-run schools; and their professional conscience won't worry them. Professionally neutered, they are unable to dissent from or offer ethical advice to political masters. The work-force generally is on the same wave-length. The school-tardy, both pupils and teachers, must be punished; and all adults generally subscribe to this notion.
With ethical principles in suspension through political mandate, this further entrenches the style of Orwellian oligarchical dictatorship that decries individuality and teaching ethics.
Teachers are told what to do and what to think. School leaders acquiesce as it is easier to do do so. Double-think prevails. True-blue professional codes are trashed with organizational approval. The sycophants feel even more secure and comfortable; and the ultimate victims are not taken into account at any stage. .
Whereas politicians kept out of –perhaps avoided - serious curriculum considerations in the real 1984, there has been a change of social climate since then. As George O himself said in the other ‘1984’, “ In our age, there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’ ; and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasion, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.” So its welcome to that sort of world for all 2011 school personnel and clients.
Teachers probably sense the outrageously camouflaged intentions of our fat controllers, but cannot do anything about it. If the playing field was level, their organizations would be able to say to Her Overbearance, “We won't give your tests to our pupils. We love them and want them to learn. It is unworthy of you to ask us to do so and a serious breach of schooling ethics.”
The field is very steep. The ball gets away from you if you don’t try to stop it. Orwellism is in full swing in dystopic Australia