My eldest daughter attends the local high school, she is in grade nine this year.
She is a high achiever, which fills me with pride, as my own school years were filled with disappointment, especially when it came to school reports.
Imagine my discomfort, then, when she tells me she has been stressed out over a geography assignment that is due the next day.
She had hardly made any progress at all and I was horrified that this model student suddenly seemed to have given up the ghost and was shirking her responsibilities.
As any parent would, I sat down with her and tried to help her get the work done, which is where things got a bit surreal, to say the least.
I have spent many years doing technical writing, on and off; instruction manuals, user guides, accreditation programs and induction courses, etc.
The main priority in that area is to ensure that the material is being interfaced to the end-user/recipient in a clear and concise way that they can ingest and understand.
One would think school assignments, having education as their stated goal, would be exemplary in this regard.
The assignment my daughter had brought home was not written by the teacher, but is part of the National Curriculum, introduced into Australia a few years ago and based on the Gonski scheme.
Repeating another countries miserable failures is national policy in Australia, so it stood to reason this sad excuse for an education system would turn up here.
Anyway, back to the document.
My daughter was distraught that she was so far behind, so I had to explain to her that I was having difficulties myself in eliciting the actual meaning of the assignment’s guidelines.
Together we were able to nut out the first two pages, and the change it wrought upon my daughter indicated that it was time well spent.
I wrote a note for her teacher that night and was pleased to hear that the teacher was happy to be made aware of the issue, my daughter being the only one in the class she had not been worried about because of her high achievements in the past.
Now, that’s an insight, isn’t it?
The teacher was now clearly concerned about every child in her class being able to complete the assignment.
Not surprising, really, when one considers the absolutely awful composition of the project’s guidelines.
To say this paper was ambiguously worded is to do the writer an injustice. Indeed, if obfuscation was the documents goal then the writer deserves a knighthood, so obscurely hidden was it’s meaning.
One has to ask, how did this piece of illegible garbage find its way into Queensland’s education system?
I think it’s all about the money.
People who put together these assignments are, without doubt, well paid.
They doubtless have half the alphabet after their name, having spent years to gain the necessary education to befuddle lesser mortals.
Lofty wording and large words are used to justify their salary, and all too often those who make the decisions are suitably impressed by things they don’t wish to acknowledge that they can’t understand.
However, in achieving the dizzying heights of academic stardom, they have lost what one would ordinarily consider a rather handy trait in their profession;
The ability to TEACH!
To stand before a group of people and be a smugly superior git with letters after his name is of no use in imparting knowledge to the people seated before you. You may have their admiration, their awe or even their undying loyalty, but you don’t have access to their heart and mind.
To compose a school assignment about manufacturing and its geographical impacts that is able to confuse someone like myself (three times a tradesman in manufacturing and a technical writer in manufacturing to boot) is not good work; it is an outstanding failure.
The fact that the person who failed so miserably at their assigned task doubtless takes home a six figure salary is laughable, but sad.
The most imperative thing for any teacher is the ability to put the information across in a way our student will not only understand, but apply in their lives.
The current system breeds hostility of the student towards the lessons, as they don’t understand what it is they are trying to learn. What do people do to something they don’t understand?
That’s right, ignorance breeds hatred.
So many argue that kids today don’t want to learn, but the heart of the matter lies within the inability of the students to comprehend what is being taught.
The teachers are, in general, doing their best, but they have a too-large class full of confused people to which they have to apply these terrible documents.
I admire teachers; they’re people who carry out a task in which they are frustrated at every turn.
They do it because they care, until, at least for some, it becomes so hard that they cease to care.
We have had enough of the school system ourselves. We’re going to take full advantage of my stay at home status and put both our girls into the School of Distance Education next year.
Classes are online, with a student to teacher ratio of 1:20 at worst, instead of the 1:35 at state schools.
The biggest attraction, at least for us, is that participation is considered a privilege, and an unruly student is simply logged out and sent back to state school, so my two girls and their thirst for knowledge will no longer sit frustrated as the class around them challenges and trolls the teacher mercilessly.
Gone too are the countless hours wasted on sport, for which this country has a sick obsession, along with parades, uniforms, fund-raisers, you name all the time wasters that see the average student getting around three hours per day of actual learning done.
Even that figure is generous, as distraction and interruption reduce this even further.
Naturally, as is the case with all things in life, it ain’t all roses.
Aside from the obvious problem of too much time at home, there is the social issue as well. I have seen how some who are home schooled develop social problems, but I’m confident we have enough of a busy social life to counteract that.
The plain fact of the matter is, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and the appalling state school system has left us with no choice.
I am happy for the future of our two, but I shudder at the thought of today’s students entering the work force.