Living a life where I am educator within one system and researcher within another provides me with interesting perspectives on different things. And from time to time – which should be the way that it happens – one side of my life informs decisions and feelings on the other. Which happened in a rather large way earlier in the week when I was taking a prospective parent on a tour of the school. While we were chatting about different things and he mentioned the ‘Excellence and Enterprise‘ document, and how he saw it as an “exciting” time for public education in the Territory.
Now this was interesting to me on a number of levels. Once I established that he didn’t have anything to do with the department and that he was indeed an interested parent, I asked him why it was that he read the document (it is 52 pages of government speak), so he told me about how he wanted his child to go to a public school, but had never been in a position to have that happen, and now he was using the document as a reason to have the conversation to get his child out of an independent school and into a government one.
This ‘framework for school improvement’ was put out in response to the drift of school students from the state based educational system to the private sector in the high school years. Now, I am not going to engage in a public v private debate here, well not today, but what I am finding interesting is the reaction to this document from the schools. So far they haven’t really had much to say, but I have a feeling that they are going to.
I am tempted with this particular document to consign it to the special place I have reserved for government documents which reinforce the commodification of education, those which take the language of learning and turn it into the language of production. I have been having this rant for years, starting in Queensland with reviews of the curriculum documents and Productive Pedagogies, and continuing through my time in Victoria (loved ‘The White Album’ visually though, any educational document which is the same shape as an LP cover and printed on vellum – making it almost impossible to read – deserves a special place on the shelf). Now while I may be tempted to do away with it, I am not going to, I can’t. This time I am going to engage with it.
What is so different about this one? Well aside from the picture of my son in it, on the surface (when I say on the surface I have only read it once, I need to again to make sure of my thinking), it is the step too far in the neo-liberal educational policies which have done their best to destroy public education in this country. But that could be just my opinion.
Go read it… see what you think.
And how does all of this relate to the other work I am doing – I am reading educational leadership theory, about how participating in the game of education as a teacher is no longer rewarded, about how educational practices are judged out of context and how teachers are leaving the profession in droves. Reading Excellence and Enterprise and understanding what some of the realities of that document are (as opposed to the feel good general principles which are outlined in it), I am left shaking my head and wondering why I bother.