[Squeakland] the non universals

Bill Kerr billkerr at gmail.com
Fri Aug 17 17:25:34 PDT 2007

On 8/17/07, David Corking <lists at dcorking.com> wrote:

> > But what if the
> > secondary math teachers complained loudly? I don't think they are in
> > any decision process that I can find.
> I don't know the US systems very well.  I would like to think that
> school boards and education departments consult professionals first.
> Are there countries where that does happen?

hi David,

Curriculum statements have become contentious and politicised beasts because
they are the main instrument of attempted control over teachers work. Many
stakeholders fighting over problematic ideologies.

As long ago as 1994 two Australian academics - rather than describing them
as academics I should say two of the most notable educational maths
researchers in Australia - wrote a book ('The National Curriculum Debacle'
by Nerida Ellerton and Ken Clements) complaining bitterly that the leading
maths educational research group in Australia had not been listened to in
the development of the then national profiles. This book is really a blow by
blow description of the farcical process as well as a critique of outcomes
based education

In more recent times in Western Australia (Australian education system is a
State responsibility) there has been outrage at attempts at curriculum
reform. One perception has been that outcomes based education has led to a
watering down and socialisation of the maths / science curriculum. To quote
retired Associate Professor Steve Kessell, Science and Mathematics Education
Centre, Curtin University, letter to The Sunday Times 21/5/2006: "Learning
about the sociology of the cosmetics industry is not real chemistry,
discussing whether air bags should be mandatory is not real physics ... A
'culturally sensitive curriculum' borders on nonsense ..." This is but one
small sample of a flood of complaint. See the PLATO (People Lobbying Against
Teaching Outcomes) website for a lot more detail http://www.platowa.com/ btw
I'm not endorsing their approach just pointing out how contested this area
has become

My understanding is that this trend is world wide:
"Wellington Grey, a physics teachers in the UK, has written an open
the conversion of physics in his country from a science of precise
measurement and calculation into "... something else, something nebulous and
ill defined"

To critique it thoroughly would require a hard look at outcomes based

Summarising some of the issues:
- watering down, diluting, trivializing science and maths curriculum
- converting science / maths content into sociological content
- using discovery or inquiry based learning as a substitute for hard facts

This appears to be occurring systematically in western education systems.
(Not in developing countries who are serious about catching up to the west
and actively promote the importance of maths, science and computing

This is a big topic. Science and maths education seems to be polarising
between a back to basics movement and soft sociological reform, often
ineffectual "discovery learning". I believe there is a third way, that
traditional science education can be reformed and still remain real science.
Student designed computer simulations using software such as Etoys / Squeak
could play an important role here.

Bill Kerr
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