Is Education a Pathway to Success or Failure?

Lies, Lies, Lies (the power of lying)

The intention of this essay is not to suggest that Australians are stupid or unintelligent. On the contrary, as made evident during the Nazi Germany years, it is possible to dupe an entire population into believing the most implausible lies and yet relative few will question or resist.  Even though the threat of punishment and possibly death was a genuine fear, the widespread use of the mainstream media (at the time newspapers and radio) was a major influence on the German people’s psyche. History refers to this phenomenon as the lugenpresse or the lying press. Today, we call it fake news. Goebbels fully understood how to ensure the German people would not hinder the Nazi dream:

“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over”.

The limits of a few short pages do not allow for a comprehensive analysis of what has happened to the education system in Australia (and most of the Western world). The following presents a brief overview of one of the principal causes behind the many issues and dilemmas we face today: education and the consequent anaesthetising of the Australian spirit. This essay outlines how a deliberately orchestrated decline in educational standards amplifies the insidious effects of filling young minds with continual lies.

“The foundation for most public relations businesses is to spin truth into lies and lies into truth with the understanding that it doesn’t matter what’s true, it only matters what people believe is true.” [Captain Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace]

 The Education System Causes Greater Harm than Good

For decades, Australians have watched politicians indulge the self-serving interests of countless educational ‘experts’, lobbyists, unions, and most damaging of all, inadequately qualified careerists. The time, effort, and money that governments have put into ‘improving the quality of education’ have been incalculable. Despite such ‘investment’, little proof exists of a genuine effort to establish a lasting and effective ‘education revolution’, nor is there likely to be.

The reality is that within primary and secondary schools, management and students subject teachers to a relentless barrage of disrespect, subjugation, disempowerment, alienation, confusion, and abuse. This unwarranted harassment is so pervasive that it is a wonder that there are teachers who have retained even a vestige of enthusiasm and motivation to excel at their chosen profession. See:

Persistent union action often sparked by well-intended criticism or even proposals to change educational practice predictably upholds the deeply entrenched status quo. More often than not, the obstructive behaviours are enacted by a vocal minority many of whom have rarely set foot in a classroom for decades (if at all). A range of factors contribute to an attitude of change resistance in schools: candidates for university teaching degrees are accepted with low ATAR scores of 25%, many with poor English language skills; teaching was not the first choice degree due to rejection from entry into preferred courses; and, teachers burnt out from stress and work pressures, waiting to retire, or have lost interest in the profession. Another major influence on preventing change is that one in three teachers is a member of the Australian Education Union (AEU). As well as being a staunch supporter and funder of the Labor Party, the AEU’s main affiliate is the ACTU.

How often do we witness the familiar chant for the need to increase resources (particularly funds – think Gonski) based on the claim to sustain or even improve the quality of education, only to see such demands discarded once agreement on a pay rise is secured? To make matters worse, corporate style managerialism has assumed full control over the delivery of education consequently forcing teachers to cope the best they can without adequate support and resources. Pay rises do not equate to ensuring classrooms are properly resourced.

Each time someone in management assumes a position of authority, restructure follows restructure as a means to progress self-motivated ambitions for rapid promotion. Another overused managerial ploy to achieve recognition and status is to tout the ‘latest trend in educational practice’ as the pre-eminent model for improving learning even though it is often a proven failure in some other country.  Under the guise of raising educational standards and mask the waste of taxpayers’ dollars, Governments impose state and national curricula, standards, and tests, and massage the results to justify the enormous waste of money and time it takes to implement such measures. In reality, success is measured by the number of reports produced, not the quality of learning.

Our universities are anti-intellectual enclaves that proclaim unthinking, mentally homogenised, emotionally inept puppets as their ‘best and brightest’. On most campuses in Australia, leftists are in control within both the student and academic bodies. Ironically, in an environment that declares the pursuit of intellectual freedom as the highest ideal, free speech has become a liability. In a 2017 survey, 8 out of 42 Australian universities have policies that protect intellectual freedom. Thirty-four received a ‘red’ rating for having policies and/or actions that “are hostile to free speech on campus”.

Aggressive student groups and unions actively suppress oppositional ideas using any means possible. This can include charging excessive hire fees and imposing needless security costs on taxpayer funded venues to prevent unwelcome speakers from voicing their views. It is not surprising that a large part of the on and off-campus incivility witnessed today is the result of exposing our youth to a university experience.

University education has become a commodity, a ‘product’ to be prepared and delivered at the cheapest cost, and sold to students at the highest possible price. In short, mass-produced courses are disseminated to mass audiences. Incorporation of quality teaching and depth of learning outcomes add needless costs and apart from being afforded the well practised lip service, are cast aside the curriculum design phase. Online delivery in particular, has proven to be an economic boon for these reasons and more. As more widgets (courses) are delivered, consistent with the corporate model, Universities employ more administrative staff than lecturers who actually teach.

Widespread casualisation of lecturing staff has removed opportunities for graduates to enter into an academic career and simultaneously diminished the quality of interaction between students and their lecturers. Moreover, there is now a generation of academic staff trained in postmodernist  theory and cultural / communication studies. As a result, they teach subjects framed around Marxist principles.

Of the universities that offer undergraduate history for example, it is difficult to discern the differences all three areas of study adhere to the same ideological framework and teach similar content and topics. There is one other aspect they all share – very few teach Western Civilisation (remember the Ramsay Centre fiasco?). Even though courses of this ilk claim to focus on fostering a ‘critical thinking’ mindset, rarely do any promote the purposeful honing of the effectiveness of a skill or practice through application, evaluation, and adaptation. I will refer to this as rational thinking.

With the exception of the radicalised socialist left agitators, the majority of students at all levels are silent and display no resistance to authority. Rather than foster creativity and rational thinking, administrators have pressured teachers and lecturers to endure teaching environments where students learn not to think. The Australian education system produces academic ineptitude that ripples throughout every facet of Australian society.

Is it more than coincidental that the lack of a basic grounding in rational thinking skills among the populace allows politicians and governments to do as they please?

How Good is Australian Education?

Ask anyone in charge of delivering education at any of the three-tiers, you will receive a standard response – that Australia is a world leader and sets the pace for other countries to follow. Although the general population believes the standard of education ranks high on the world stage, the disturbing reality is a gradual deterioration of Australian educational standards. All the while, Australians gradually accept diminishing opportunities for future economic advancement.

A report titled Innocenti Report Card 14 produced by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2017, ranked Australia 39 out of 41 high- and middle-income countries in achieving quality education. The report found that our country is falling behind in basic measures of teaching and learning. Romania and Turkey were ranked 40 and 41. There has been a marked decline in real terms in the Australian education space in Australia, partly because education reform has not moved beyond funding-model debates.

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) reported in 2016 that the performance of Australian students had declined since 2000 and now lags behind students in many Asian countries. In maths, only the top 10 per cent of Australian students achieved the same level as 40-50 per cent of students in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. The report identified five problem areas in Australian schools: declining maths and reading performance; a growing educational gap between rich and poor; large numbers of students below the expected standard for their year; one in five children starting school with developmental problems; and tellingly, low scoring students entering teaching courses.

Australia’s National Curriculum specifies three cross-curriculum priorities for primary and secondary education: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, and sustainability. Teachers must integrate all three into the teaching of all subject areas. This requirement applies equally to mathematics, physics, and chemistry.

It is surprising therefore the education has become a highly effective form of indoctrination with teachers forced to regurgitate information so their students can pass tests rather than become innovators and original thinkers. It is next to impossible for teachers to do otherwise. Currently, their performance ranking and thereby salary levels is determined by how their students perform on flawed standardised tests. Contrary to the repeated rhetoric of academic excellence, Governments direct schools and universities toward accountability, not the improvement of teaching and learning at the classroom level.

At a more fundamental level, the education (system) presumes students can absorb and understand increasingly more complex and difficult concepts and tasks, and neglects the prime importance of first ensuring they receive a solid grounding in observation, analysis, problem solving, and decision-making. Such presumptions are shifting towards preschool levels. There is no intellectual value in requiring young children to hold steadfast opinions about complex issues they are not ready to comprehend, let alone know anything about. Perhaps the real intention is to replace knowledge and understanding with rote indoctrination.

In short, the complexity and depth of understanding expected of schoolchildren is completely out of step with their innate learning needs and abilities. Memorising then repeating a fact is not the same as deriving its true meaning and applying the insight to another context.

Dig a little deeper and it is evident even more complex distinctions are rarely acknowledged: the gaps that divides education from learning and delivery from understanding; the organisation from the teacher and their students; the demands of management versus the needs of students; the intentions of saving costs versus making an investment for the future; and the agendas of government versus the real needs of society and the future. The list goes on, but the bigger picture (and the inevitable consequences) should be apparent.

All these issues and shortcomings (plus far more) is producing a reverse effect. Instead of cultivating knowledgeable and innovative students, the education system is slowly but surely dumbing down its graduates. This is not due to a lack of ability or intelligence in students. They cannot learn when they do not receive the opportunity to attain the skills to develop and test their own understandings.

The only thing one needs to understand about the Australian Education system is that students are no longer educated to think – at best, they learn enough to get a job. Even worse, the education system is not about learning – it acts  to preserve itself.

Enter the Age of Anti-intellectualism

To be generous, Australian education is reasonably proficient in transmitting basic skills and competencies for enabling graduates to enter a vocation. There are of course employers who would argue about the degree of competency and expertise of the graduates that end up on their books. Employers know the distinction between a qualification and the skills required to complete a task.

There is also the much greater threat to the advancement of society and the implications the well-hidden failures hold for the generations to follow. I refer to the increasing absence of proficiency displayed by graduates in the core skills of analysis, problem solving, and knowledge construction that are essential for cultivating and sustaining twenty-first century invention and innovation.

Cultivating a capacity for independent thought is no longer an educational priority

As practised today, Australian education stifles creativity and innovation. Its intractable methods and practices  are also inherently counterproductive to producing imaginative thinkers. Imaginative, independent thinking people are rarely encountered. In his book Sleepers, Wake (1982) Barry Jones emphasises (yes, he was Labor): “Despite the exponential increases in public education and access to information in the past century, the quality of debate appears to have become increasingly unsophisticated, appealing to the lowest common denominator of understanding.”

In short, there is a pervasive apathy and lack of interest in rationally understanding what is really occurring beneath the surface that is directly attributable to way the Australian (and other western countries) education system establish and teach curricula. Marxist inspired critical theory and its corrosive weapon for intellectual decay, critical thinking, will never accomplish such outcomes.

Marxist ideology has infiltrated all levels of the Australian education system.

Nothing has improved since 1982. Today, the predominant focus of education is on managing students and the transmission of prescribed ‘knowledge’ based on the assumption that no other factors are relevant. This mindset has given rise to an inflexible organisational and delivery model that is now so entrenched it is often difficult for teachers to do the job they were trained to do.

Thirteen years ago (2005), the standard of most popular songs were pitched at the third (3+) and fourth (4+) grade levels. Since then the absurdity of word use has increased with time. In the last year of study, 2014, chart-topping hits had a reading level equivalent to second or third grade. Broken into genres, the levels measured just 2.6 for Hip-hop/R&B, a tie of 2.9 for Rock and Pop, and faring best was Country at 3.3. Numbers aside, a cultural shift has occurred from intentional logical thought to fleeting reflexive reaction and living for the moment. Today, frivolous, meaningless radio and television content is both a symptom and confirmation of a decline in thinking standards.

Society focuses on entertainment, materialism, and self-promotion. When coupled with a undisciplined desire for instant gratification, it is little wonder people are unconsciously failing to realise that they are no longer the controllers of their futures. Worse, there is no understanding of how everything that they see and hear has affected the Australian way of life. All the while, the mindless pursuit of happiness and entertainment has allowed technology to infiltrate and in some instances, dominate users’ time and attention. All these signals highlight the consequences of a sub-standard education.

Most people in Western countries know very little beyond the superficial. They live in a world in which their reality is a product of the propaganda fed to them by ‘news organisations’, television, magazines, movies, and social media. For many, the only ‘information’ they receive are controlled explanations. The limited extent of their knowledge of the purpose and functionality of the objects, processes, and people that most affect their lives only serves to impede their cognitive growth. Even an attempt to question beyond what they have been told quickly leads to the blunt realisation that their opinion is viewed as invalid unless they belong to a group whose views and issues are on the mainstream media’s favourites list.

Social media has accelerated these destructive trends in that it has discarded the distinction between fact and fiction and claims authority to the notion that all knowledge is equal regardless of its logical soundness. It has consolidated a belief among its followers that the development of knowledge no longer requires the use of rational thought; is devoid of the need to reach consensus on meaning; and most importantly, does not emphasise a need to build a shared body of understanding. Remember, our universities set this regressive trend in motion when they adapted the principles of cultural marxism to establish what they refer to as cultural studies / critical theory.

The centuries old tried and true methods for deriving knowledge and understanding no longer applies to the social media cyberworld. Instead, ‘conclusions’ are so incoherently dispersed that completing mindsets and viewpoints, short-lived ‘memes’, and the illusion of shared interests are given equal status and assumed to be the majority worldview. Transitory ideas are spread around the world at the speed of light and generated at such a rapid pace that it is next to impossible to identify underlying truth or fact.

To make matters much worse, add the ability to influence popular opinion using advanced software algorithms to present or not present factual viewpoints, it becomes clear that social media is a force for spreading malevolent propaganda and not simply a convenient means for accessing information and entertainment, and connect with other individual and groups.

Australia no longer observes a laissez-faire capitalist system. In its place is an economy built on debt-based money creation, duplicitous privatisation, coercion of government by corporate and financial interests, and a covertly advancing welfare state. Governments unashamedly take the wealth of the productive and wastefully divert it to ‘buy’ the support of the unproductive.

Australia has become a nation of divided groups and individuals with no shared common understanding and national pride. Instead, there is only a distorted sense of cause surreptitiously induce by self-interest groups that have no intent of serving the greater good. By not questioning the official narratives and through their actions, inactions, and rare reactions, Australians have empowered governments and corporations to do whatever they want, react the way they want, and to use the power of disinformation to manipulate and distract the general population without fear of long-term consequence.

Even more destructive is the tactic of heralding substance and integrity using empty words and gestures that are devoid of any intent to effect real change. This deceitful practice dominates Australian politics today. While politicians and their weasel-word spin-doctors elevate trivial and even false issues to the centre stage, they rarely discuss the problems and concerns shared by the majority. As politicians and the MSM facetiously remind us, the best solution to fixing the nation’s problems is to adjust the feelings attached to them and allow identity groups to ‘enlighten’ those who find it difficult to grasp the finer points.

The tried and tested enlightenment era inspired methods of discussion and analysis, ranging from due process through to pure scientific method, are no longer valid. Such methods (it is claimed) ignore emotional concerns and unfairly favour the interests of ‘straight white males’. Today, everyone has a voice, every narrative accepted without question, and once the negative feelings subside, all the (nasty) problems will be resolved. The consequences of buying into such diversions are severe. That which is important and oftentimes crucial is lost in the mire of confusion and illusion that remains.

Hilton (XYZ) sums up the extent and precariousness of our current state of entrapment:

They never notice the demographic replacement of the West, the moral corruption, the financialisation of every aspect of life and subsequent debt enslavement … we let ourselves be enslaved to pleasure and made blind by ignorance. We succumbed to a hostile elite who obscured their agenda by hiding among us. We stopped fighting, because we didn’t know who our enemy is. We let our good nature and our openness be weaponised against us. We let ourselves be deceived.

It is disturbing enough to observe the gradual deterioration of educational standards (in that we end up with a population who think they have a quality education). All the while, we learn to live with diminishing standards due to the gradual repositioning of the definitions of the terms ‘quality’ and ‘standards’ so that over time, we unthinkingly believe that nothing has changed (or worse that our lives are improving).

Small Steps to Thwart the Consequences

While it is not practical to stop the lugenpresse from spreading its deceptive agenda, nor can we easily repair the damage caused by the education system, it is possible to adopt a few simple steps that can assist to insulate against the dangers of believing in a false reality. The first step of course is to acknowledge that a lie repeated often eventually becomes the ‘truth’.

Tom Stafford provides timely advice on what we can do to regain control over our thoughts in his book titled “How Liars create the illusion of truth” []. I have briefly paraphrased a few of his insights:

Every time we hear or read something and attempt to logically assess it against all we know, we soon realise there are not enough hours in the day to do all that is needed. We recognise that continuously applying reasoning powers to ensuring we have all the facts is a limited exercise. However, if we allow continual repetition to influence our beliefs, then there is a risk our judgements will be in error. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are misleading. In general, relying on how often we hear something is not always a good strategy for judging truth. Over time, because of the necessity to make quick judgements, we may easily succumb to accept the illusion of truth.

Once we are aware of the effect, we can act to guard against it. There are several ways to avoid the trap. One is to question why we believe something is factual. If it sounds plausible, ask whether that belief is true or if we have repeatedly heard it is true.  The second is to stop repeating falsehoods. We live in a world where facts matter, and should matter. If we repeat something without checking it is true, then we are contributing to a cultural norm in which the boundaries between lies and truth are difficult to discern, or worse, not discerned at all.

My personal hope is that this advice will prove helpful. For now, my closing thought on this topic follows below:

As the current education graduates increase their hold on government and corporate reins, the problems of today will pale into insignificance