Australia’s education establishment…

…seems to be overly empathic and focused on data. Empathy is useful and important, but perhaps it’s gone too far. When we channel empathy in our public policy, negative consequences can arise, as Paul Bloom writes in his recent book on the topic. An overly empathic policy arena is a negative consequence of an otherwise positive development that is the rise of women in the world. No doubt they brought balance, but that has gone too far.

Overly focusing on data lead us to forget that people are more than data points to be manipulated. And when we focus on the things that we can measure, we forget the things we cannot measure, which are often more important. Such as the student’s mindset and the familial and societal educational culture.

Our educational establishment is also overly concerned with control. It does not have the confidence in an organic emergence of new institutions to solve problems. It makes the mistake of thinking that intention equals outcome. On an intimate level, this can often be true. But in the extended order society in which we live, they are often opposites.

I acknowledge that innovation is allowed in the system, and there is some degree of competition. We are allowed to design new courses, we have independent and Catholic schools sectors, we have a degree of flexibility in our schools. But our system is still, to a large extent, controlled from the centre, which makes it vulnerable and stifles innovation. Like other domains in society today, we have a quasi private sector that is still, to a large extent, controlled by government, giving government the power to take credit when things go well in the private sector, and blame greed and profit when things go badly. We also do not have a society sufficiently appreciate of private industry. Profit and wealth are still the subject of opprobrium (at least in education), and innovation, instead of being praised as a source of renewal, is seen as a source of widening inequality and exclusion. The truth is far from this.

We need more rational thinking and less emotion. More bold thinking and less control. More experimentation and less reaction.Education establishment: the ball is in your court. To succeed, not only does the establishment have to believe in innovation and freedom, but also convince others to do so. Thus, researchers, public intellectuals and politicians need to internalise and sell this message. Otherwise we drift into along as the sand shifts beneath our feet, and we get caught off guard and are forced to adapt hurriedly and painfully.

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