Education. We’ve all had one, and it made us what we are today. Whether we received a formal education at an expensive, high-class, elite private school, or whether we learned the hard way at the school of hard knocks (aka the "public school"), we all, in one way or another, passed through what, for want of a better term, we shall call the Australian education system.
And as such, we all have our particular complaints about schools. They’re not strict enough. They’re too strict. The teachers are unmotivated. The teachers are too motivated. The economics curriculum spends too much time on Keynesian models and gives insufficient credit to the Chicago School. The library is on fire. And so on.
This is why, as you may remember, Kevin Rudd promised an education revolution at last year’s election. "I will start an education revolution!" Rudd would shriek furiously at press conferences, and the nation would swoon at his strength and decisiveness and the vague hint of violence in his eyes.
But how would he do it? How would he address the problem of our abysmal schools, where the only thing more blatant than the teachers’ efforts to transmit leftist propaganda is the students’ slack-jawed indifference? We waited with bated breath.
Well now the time has come, it seems. Having undertaken the Apology Revolution, the Alcopops Revolution and the Giving People Lots Of Money Revolution, the Government has got around to education, with the National Curriculum Board releasing its recommendations for how to implement an effective national approach to our schools.
Key to this is history, with the board recommending less focus on Australian history, and more attention to global history. This is vitally important, because for one thing, our own destiny in this corner of the planet has always been shaped to a huge extent by events going on in foreign lands; and secondly, Australian history is really, really boring.
Seriously, do you remember doing Australian history at school? The Rum Rebellion and the Eureka Stockade and Federation and oh God I’m falling asleep just typing it out now. Sometimes we would hear about other countries’ histories, and they were all full of civil wars and angry Indians and guillotines and mad rapist emperors, but just as we were getting excited it would be back to Australian history and more gold-panning and sheep.
It was Hell, I tell you. Let’s learn more about General Custer and the Black Hole of Calcutta, less about Captain Cook discovering the Blue Mountains and Harold Holt choking on his vomit watching The Dismissal. Our children are never going to use this information anyway — let’s at least give them a thrill.
Of course, Tony Abbott has weighed in, as per his 1994 election promise to say something pointless in a whiny, grating voice on every issue that ever arises in Australia. He believes that Australian students should learn more about English history, on the basis that it is important to learn about "where we came from". England, of course, is where Abbott himself came from, which only emphasises the importance of history as a means to avoiding the mistakes of the past.
Also, history will become compulsory for all students up until Year 10, which will be good for them, cutting time wasted on meaningless pseudo-subjects like "home science" and "commerce".
So the changes for the history curriculum are most welcome, as is the decision to get back to a traditional grammar-based teaching of English, and get away from the trendy, avant-garde, laissez-faire, haute-couture approach that has seen standards slip so far that the only way modern youth can express itself articulately is to use French.
The state of literacy in this country is an absolute disgrace. Go up to any youngster in the street today and ask them the difference between an adjective and an adverb. They will give you a blank stare, and then have you arrested. That’s what our system has done. More lessons on basic grammar, fewer on stranger danger, I say.
We need to move away from modern trends in English, where students spend all day studying shoe commercials and Home and Away and answering essay questions like "wht u thnk bout sbtxt? gr8?" and "Alibrandi iz a noob. Dizcuz."
If we want our children to become fully rounded, confident, innovative, respectful contributors to society, we have to get back to Shakespeare. Why? I don’t know. Nobody knows. But research shows that the remedy for every educational problem is to get back to Shakespeare, and while it might be fashionable in today’s schools to spit on science and vomit on facts, I don’t swing that way.
Of course, the education revolution isn’t just about curriculum. The Federal Government is absolutely committed to increasing resources, pumping millions upon millions into our overstretched schools and providing every student with access to a laptop on a rotating seven-day roster.
Furthermore, the Government will make available detailed data on all schools’ performances, so that we can see which schools are good, and which schools are ethnic.
Some criticise this "league table" approach and fear that it will lead to discrimination against schools from lower socio-economic areas, but as Julia Gillard might rightly point out, if we can’t discriminate against those from lower socio-economic areas, just who can we discriminate against? A little clear thinking, please.
Unfortunately, this mention of stupid poor people leads me to my final, rather depressing point. Yes, the education revolution is worthy, yes it’s well conceptualised, yes I like laptops. But there is an elephant in the room here, a big, fat, mentally challenged elephant. And the elephant is this: the education revolution will not work, because children are stupid.
I know you’ve noticed this. I know you’ve seen them, hanging around on street corners with their baggy shorts and stupid floppy haircuts. I know you’ve heard them grunting to each other in their strange, inelegant moron patois. I know you’ve fantasised about running them down in your car. Kids are stupid. They deliberately spend money to put singing animals on their mobile phones. They get pregnant at the drop of a hat. They like the Presets. Since I left school, I’ve noticed that the children are getting dumber every year.
And so no matter how many well intentioned, carefully thought-out education policies are implemented, they’ll never work, because children today simply lack the mental capacity to be educated. It’s natural selection: the boom in call-centres and McDonald’s means stupidity has actually become an evolutionary advantage.
So go ahead with your education revolution, Kevin. But don’t expect it to do any good. I have seen the future, and it is misspelt.
Donate To New Matilda
New Matilda is a small, independent media outlet. We survive through reader contributions, and never losing a lawsuit. If you got something from this article, giving something back helps us to continue speaking truth to power. Every little bit counts.