Posts Tagged ‘NSW’

Proposal to Adopt Shooting as Part of the Curriculum

October 4, 2011

“Where did you learn to shoot like that?”

“I learnt it at school.”

I have long said that there is rampant extremism in our educational system.  Educational thinking lacks balance and is certainly devoid of common sense.  Too often good intentions become crazy ideas because they are taken too far.

To read that the New South Wales Education Department would even consider for a brief moment a proposal to bring target shooting into schools just made me shake my head in disbelief.  Of all the stupid, irresponsible, insane ideas (and there’s too many of them to count), this one surely takes the cake:

High school students could be allowed to shoot guns during school hours under a plan by the NSW Education Department.

An internal department submission has revealed an advanced plan to allow target shooting into extra-curricular programs at the state’s 650 high schools, The Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday.

It comes after the department consulted the NSW Shooters and Fishers Party and shooters associations about how to roll out target shooting into schools.

Deputy director-general schools Gregory Prior said the department was yet to make a decision about the issue.

Readers in the US might not flinch at such a program, but we in Australia do not have the right to bear arms in our constitution.  As a matter of fact, being in possession of a firearm is illegal.  Why on earth would we want to encourage in any way, shape or form the use of guns?

Sure it would engage disillusioned students.  It would be an absolute hit, I have no doubt about that.  But what kind of message would you be sendin?  Ask the kind folks of Columbine whether they think this initiative has merit.

Why can’t they think of responsible and productive ways to engage students?  Why does educational thinking continue to lean towards the radical instead of the sensible?

Classroom Free Schools

June 7, 2011

Why is it that just about every idea for improving teaching and learning borders on the extreme?  The idea of removing classroom walls from the classroom, and having up to 200 students occupy the same learning space is pure madness.  The school will tell you it’s working well and that kids aren’t distracted (would they tell you it was a failed experiment, and that the students have suffered because of it?)  How can a school that can afford proper classrooms think for a second that having a’ battery chicken’ approach to education is ideal?

I must be crazy, because they swear it is working:

THE blackboard has already gone from most NSW classrooms. Now, the head of a big school system is determined that the classroom itself joins it in the scrapbook of history.  ”It’s dead,” said Greg Whitby, the executive director of 78 schools in the Catholic diocese of Parramatta, which 42,000 students attend.  He is not alone.

The Sydney diocese has embarked on the same path for primary schools. Forty of the 112 primary schools already use large-form learning areas instead of classrooms and the diocese is keen to expand their use.  

Mr Whitby hopes to close the last classroom within five years, part of a transition to ”agile learning areas”, open-plan rooms where much larger groups – sometimes even the whole school – learn under one roof.

”Everyone thinks we’ve got a barn with 200 ferals running around and teachers screaming,” Mr Whitby said. But what the Herald saw – and heard – last week at St Monica’s Primary at North Parramatta was a mega classroom in which 197 students worked in different-sized groups at a range of tasks at the same time, seemingly without disturbing each other.

In one moment kindergarten children were learning to read and follow a recipe in the kitchen; a dozen children were working on laptops; 30 were watching video trailers they had produced; others were dressing for a play and many were at round tables on a variety of tasks.

Noisy? Certainly it is noisier than a traditional classroom but the children did not appear to be distracted. Mr Whitby and the teachers say discipline has improved since the school changed shape, assisted by funds from the Building the Education Revolution scheme.

The assistant principal, Mary-Jo Mason, said there were fewer behaviour problems: ”You really don’t have children off task.”

Mr Whitby attended a very different St Monica’s in the 1950s. ”It was in the mechanistic age when it was all about control and order with the assumption that the teacher knew everything,” he said. Teachers not only controlled students, they were also kept in strict control.

”We’ve micro-managed teachers’ work for too long. As soon as you take that control off, the creativity comes and they’re really focused on how they can do the job better,” Mr Whitby said.

Teacher-student ratios are unchanged and Ms Mason said better use could be made of auxiliary staff such as librarians and learning support workers. She believed students received more individual attention.

The transition to increasingly big learning areas covers the system from kindergarten to year 12 and is well advanced, despite resistance from parents, some of whom have voted with their feet.

”Parents have got to get used to the idea, because they all had their own teacher, 30 kids and a blackboard out the front,” said one father, Jason Jones.

Peta Capello attended a parents’ forum which ventilated frustration with the new order. ”In the real world when you go to work, are you in a small, closed room with rows of desks?” she asked. ”It can get noisy and you can have an annoying person near you and you have to learn to deal with it. That’s the real world.”

Classrooms with 25 kids get noisy.  You add another 170 odd students and you’re asking for trouble.  How does this meet the needs of easily distracted, anxious and special needs students?  Is there any teacher out there that would volunteer to teach in this sort of arrangement?  I credit the diocese for trying something new, and I hope it continues to work for them, but I wonder why they needed to reach for such an extreme change.

Balance and common sense is missing from education group think.  When the novelty of this program fades and the 200 kids start acting like … kids, the schools that take this idea up will be left wondering what to do next.

My tip:  Make sure your idea is sensible, well planned, balanced and puts the interests of the students first.

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