by Ross Sharp

From “Lateline”, February 17th, 2012  …

Christopher Pyne, Opposition Education Spokesman: “The Government is throwing money at education through things like school halls and laptop computers, that’s where the extra spending has come. What they haven’t done is focused on what really matters, which is traditional methods of teaching” (my italics).

I do not know what this means.

I work for a publisher, a book publisher. Most of what we do is for the secondary and tertiary education markets.

I’m not in any way involved in the content or the marketing or production of what we publish, I’m more “middle-middle-meh management” over there in the corner, adding things up and such.

Around the middle of the last decade, a secondary school textbook would typically comprise a hardcopy book and a CD-Rom that was either stuck on the cover or one of the inside flaps.

I haven’t seen a CD-Rom in years.

What happens now, I believe, is that the high-school student goes to a website, and then types in an address, and then types in a registration code or whatnot to log-in, and the student does all this via a computer, a not unusual device to encounter in this day of modern marvels not powered by steam, think modern refrigeration and the bagless vacuum cleaner or the fax. The student will then have access to all manner of educational material and exercises, interactive this-and-that, links to here-and-there, resources to explore and studies to study, and all of this is accompanied by a book made of paper as well. With words and pictures in it.

This is how the kiddies learn their “readin’, writin’, ‘n’ ‘rithmatic” nowadays.

Yes, this is “how our children is learnin’”.

Once they’re done with learnin’ ‘emselves how to make chicken scratches on ruled sheets of paper with pens and pencils, write their names, add some, and wipe their arses and wash their hands, they set about other subjects, more complex things requiring substantially more complex thought, and in the learnin’ of all this confoundin’ complexity, tools need to be employed on a regular basis, tools that can only be employed on a computer, one of which each and every school student needs in order to be (at least) a half-clever bastard of some worth.

This is how we work now. How we learn. How we do business. How we find stuff out. How we communicate.

Computers. Computing things. Giving us answers to questions.

It is the “traditional method of teaching”.

Not sitting about in a dusty recreation of a classroom from 1964, on a too-small rickety wooden chair at a too-small rickety wooden desk with a hole for an inkwell, a frayed and ratty textbook from 1954 in front of you. “Read chapters 15 and 16 and keep quiet”, says teacher, and you look down at the textbook and some student from two generations before you has scribbled penis’s across the photograph of African tribesmen on page 137.

Back in the days, those glory days, when children lived out their sweetly innocent and uncomplicated lives in a Ginger Meggs world, making billy-carts from orange crates on weekends, back in those days of “traditional methods of teaching”, when you took your own saucepans to the local Chinese for takeaway and milk came in fucking bottles.

That’s bollocks, all that.