Australia. The land of Educational Minimalism

I came to Australia as part of the Ten Pound Pom scheme. I would like to say that the migration selection process involved some sort of test of intelligence or education levels but it did not. It was purely a physical selection process. Being physically capable of hard work for the foreseeable future and the ability to breed more physically capable specimens was the sole criteria. Not having a criminal record helped the process.

Australia has been built on physical labour. Generation after generation has earned a living based on physical labour and an educational level best suited to adding up a time sheet and signing it. This model has served Australia well in many ways with its abundance of sheep, coal and iron ore but these assets have fostered an attitude for many that education was low down the list of priorities. Who needs an education to be paid ridiculous amounts of money for digging holes in the ground and shipping the contents of the hole to China? It may take some time for Australia to understand that those days are gone and are unlikely to return, but that is that way it is.

Education has been downgraded to job training. Job training is basically monkey see, monkey do. With a few outstanding examples the Australian education system has been about producing clever monkeys. The latest pretence of an education revolution is the ‘Innovation Nation.’ A better description would be educational minimalism.

We have Malcolm Turnbull talking about Innovation and coding in the same sentence as if coding was is the answer to everything. Either Mr Turnbull knows nothing about coding or he is knowingly feeding Australia rubbish. Coding is a simple process that is quick and easy to learn. It requires the training of clever monkeys. There is nothing in coding that could require anything resembling innovation or any superior intellectual endeavour. Coding on its own means nothing.

If Australia is to have an education revolution it has to be more than training more clever monkeys. It has to be an intelligent and creative education system. Coding is not creative and requires very little thinking. It is a process of production, but who is going to think creatively about what to produce?

Thinking and creativity require a different type of education than has been the norm for Australia in the past. Creativity requires a very wide education and to be interested in everything. Clever monkeys are trained to do what they are required to do and no more. Creative people have to see the relationships between the seeming unrelated and this will often appear to be totally useless to clever monkeys. The current Australian education system is geared to the attitudes that if you cannot eat it, drink it, buy it or screw it then it is of no value.

The difference between the two models of education is that training teaches specific skills to perform a function and is its own end while creativity may posses certain skills but those skills are there to create a far larger goal. Creating a far larger goal requires a far greater range in education levels. The only way to create an education system that produces truly innovative and creative population is to have a very wide curriculum.

Rather than just teach science we need to teach what science is. The quantum physicist Richard Feynman said in one of his lectures that if something is not scientific it does not mean it is not true, only that it is not scientific. When we talk of science there is often a god-like aspect to our arguments. Science is very powerful but has multiple limitations. Malcolm Turnbull’s narrative that science is the alpha and omega of all progress belongs in the dark ages.

We need to teach how recognise fallacious argument. I used to wonder how politicians could get away with the arguments they put forward. Tony Abbott got away for years with totally meaningless three word slogans as a replacement any discernable argument of any substance. Does this make Australians stupid? I think not. I see it as an indictment of the Australian education systems that produces so many graduates that do not understand basic forms of argument and how to recognise a fallacious argument when they hear it. Mr Turnbull’s performance since his rise to power has not improved matters. Mr Turnbull just uses many more words and his delivery is much smoother in achieving the same intellectual amnesia.

We need to teach about the culture our first peoples and of peoples of other nations. Creative builds, it does not destroy. Building bridges to others peoples so we can create ways of living together for the benefit of all is creative. Clever monkeys build bombs. Clever monkeys lead race riots and call themselves patriots.

We need to teach what is required to protect our planet so that the human race can continue in balance with our environment. Creative people understand that finite resources will one day run out. The energy we need must be from a sustainable source. It is going to take an army of creative people to bring that about. Coding isn’t going to do it. In the mean time the clever monkeys continue to dig holes in the ground and burn the contents in the delusion that this can continue ad infinitum.

We need to first have a nation of well-educated creative and knowledgeable people, and then we can train them code if that is a skill they need to create whatever they are in the process of creating.

Scientists are useless unless they are creative scientists. Engineers are useless unless they are creative engineers. First must come the learning of how to think and create and then the specific training for roles they chose to fulfil.

But it does not stop there. A creative society is a wide and diverse complete society. We cannot ignore our cultural health or spiritual well being. Support for the arts and culture during the past few years has been decimated. More than that the Abbott government actively suppressed the arts and sought to bring our cultural lives under the control of the government. When an education is geared to training it has only one purpose and that is to train students to earn a living. The cultural health of a nation is the cohesion that keeps a culture intact. We cannot put a monetary value on cultural health so it is not a priority to many Australians, but if we destroy it our society disintegrates. Our education needs to maintain cultural well-being as a priority if we are not to lose cohesion as a society. Reducing universities to producing fodder for commerce and industry only adds to the decline in societal cohesion.

If Australia aims for well-educated creative population capable of thinking creatively how they use that creativity will be a matter of choice. If they need to learn how to code they will make that choice.

The current proposed paradigm being proposed by Malcolm Turnbull, teach kids how to code and the future will be perfect is simplistic in the extreme, and is based on the old model of producing clever monkeys. We need to have a real conversation about education. Do we want to create a cohesive society of people who can think creatively and make meaningful decisions, or do we only want job orientated students who can only act according to their training and allocated position in life? The later is another step towards Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World.

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