Friday, 5 May 2017

Inflating Expectations

Focusing On Everything

New Zealand's retiring Minister of Education, Hekia Parata has made a very valid point on the occasion of her departure.  She criticizes curriculum creep--that incessant appetite and demand for government schools to teach everything from schoolyard marbles to peace studies.  One suppressed premise of this demand is that school time is without limit.  The curriculum creepers assume that time--in particular school time--is elastic, plastic, and without limit.

Here is Parata:
Outgoing Education Minister Hekia Parata says a push for schools to cover all civic and social responsibilities needs to be resisted - saying families and society must step up.  Parata highlighted the issue during an exit interview with the Herald before she steps down from the role on May 1, with Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye expected to take over.

"We should demand a lot from our education system because we have a quality one. But we shouldn't demand everything," Parata said.  "Financial literacy, sex education, bullying - any number of issues - whenever they emerge in the public domain the first response is, 'This should be taught by schools'. I think there needs to be a much fairer shared responsibility here between parents, family, whanau.  [NZ Herald]
We have a never ending river of demand to include more in the curriculum of the government schools.
 Let us count some of the ripples and waves of the rushing torrent:  peace studies, gender studies, sex-education, time management, financial literacy, barista skills, bullying, racism, cultural awareness, multi-culti, community, food, nutrition, diet, and meditation--the list goes on and on.  However, the stark reality is this: every additional topic or module takes time away from the core curriculum: English, maths, and science.  Around this core a series of derived subjects exist: such as history, literature, music, and geography.  Serious attention to this list of core and derived subjects consumes all time available in schools--if they are taught thoroughly and properly.

Curriculum creep is eroding quality education in our government schools.  Why is this happening?  Minister Parata again:
"Schools are there to deliver an education. They are not there to take over all the roles and responsibilities of families or society. The more there is balance in those expectations the more the schools can have the space to be the best that it can be."  [Emphasis, ours.]
The decline in familial responsibility in educating children is seen everywhere.  It is even more the case in the past fifteen years now that  most adults in families are also working.  In many cases both mother (or female carer) and father (or male carer) are working full-time, and consigning their pre-school children to government day-care.  Right from the get-go the expectation is created that the role of parents is to work, the role of the state is to educate our children--in everything.

For Parata to call for more balance between school and family makes sense, but those days are now long gone.  That horse bolted from the stable a couple of decades ago.  It is a forlorn lament for a more civilised era when parents were required by society, the community, and the state to be parents.  Clearly this is now an antiquated, antique notion.  The flip side of the resulting calamitous social disintegration is the demand and expectation--which Parata criticises--that government schools are to replace parents and civilise and cultivate and nurture our children.  And that inevitably means curriculum creep.  Equally inevitable is students who have an incomplete and incompetent knowledge of the core subjects--which are the key to all other subjects--particularly the limited, controlled short list of derived subjects.  In other words, schools are now inflated to failure if not worthlessness.

Everyone used to know that in order to succeed at anything, focus is critical.  The reigning educational "focus" is that schools should be deliver on every changing wind and fad and fancy.  The upshot is a slip-sliding away into institutionalised ignorance.

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