The Multi-signed Public Letter: the End of Gonski?

The heading nearly said it all – ADVERTISEMENT

But the footnote completed the picture – Authorised by Angelo Gavrielatos, Federal President, Australian Education Union.

And so we had to endure yet  another multi-signed letter with all the likely suspects putting their names to a cause which most  could not articulate, let alone describe the policy details.  Among the suspects included lots of failed Premiers and lots of leaders from the left.

  • Bligh
  • Lawrence (under her leadership in WA, her government insisted on whole of language approach to teaching reading – a highway to illiteracy for some of our little ones)
  • Bartlett
  • Kirner (not joking – yes, she did try to destroy the Victorian education system but who is recalling?)
  • Beattie
  • Martin

And then Bob Brown, Bill Hayden (que?, I thought he had become sensible), Geoffrey Robertson (groan, the pompous windbag, but doesn’t he live in the UK?), Mick Dodson, Ron McCallum, Ged Kearney, Simon McKeon, Margaret Jackson, Mark Bouris (business types just LOVE to seem worthy), Tom Calma, Cassandra Goldie, Tim Costello (of course) and the list goes on.

Mind you, newspaper proprieters are not complaining – they are happy to have the revenue from the full page ads.

But it got me thinking – what possesses people to sign up to these letters?  Is it a case of affinity signing?  They don’t want to miss out because otherwise they may seem unimportant?

And what has been the fate of these multi-signed letters?  TEARS, DISAPPOINTMENT, RECRIMINATION.

Take the public letter signed by scores of economists, including Mervyn King who went on to become Governor of the Bank of England, addressed to Thatcher and her Chancellor about the supposed economic damage being wrought by her fiscal discipline.

Oops, spoke too soon, doing much professional reputational damage to those who signed the letter.

There are plenty of other examples.

I know what I would do if I were asked to sign one of these letters – politely decline and declare I had my own opinions.

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55 Responses to The Multi-signed Public Letter: the End of Gonski?

  1. nilk

    They get to feel like they’re doing or saying something?

    Grasping at straws here – I rarely sign anything I’ve not written myself or unless my quack or lawyer tell me I have to.

  2. Mark

    What makes people sign them? People of the left?

    It is the seeming to do something. They love to appear to be “progressing”. It is like twitter. Sincerity and fixing the ills of the world in 140 characters or less is perfect. With that little time you get to express you concern but nothing else.

    Expressing is what it is all about. Preferably from the safety of your smartphone. Doing something is optional and not required.

    It is also why Ginski is so popular and you have nailed the reason. They can’t articulate what it all means or why it is needed but it costs $5 billon a year. $5 billion!!!

    For that kind of money you get all kind of salves for the soul and it must be good for that cash outlay. Right? It is the figure that matters, the billions, not the outcome regardless that there are better outcomes around the world for less than we are spending. But the policy has kids in there somewhere and that’s Labor values if they remember correctly.

    Don’t forget one other point. Nearly all of those on the letter are, where and will be getting paid by the public purse at some point. Another $5 billion in the trough? Sign them up for that……for the kids mind you. And their values. It is all about the kiddies values.

  3. Entropy

    Definitely the seeming to care and concern for the perceptions of others that is very important to some people.

    What would be amusing is foe some current affairs program to front up to the signatories and ask them about a few of the Gonski details. I suspect if they got anything at all in reply it would be babble.

    As an aside, does this get counted as election campaigning? And do the signatories recognise it as such?

  4. Entropy

    Definitely the seeming to care and concern for the perceptions of others that is very important to some people.

    What would be amusing is for some current affairs program to front up to the signatories and ask them about a few of the Gonski details. I suspect if they got anything at all in reply it would be babble.

    As an aside, does this get counted as election campaigning? And do the signatories recognise it as such?

  5. Token

    They get to feel like they’re doing or saying something?

    These guys know what they are doing. They are using this “plan” to push through the usual grab bag of regressive anti-competitive policies to benefit certain already powerful (and under-performing) stakeholders.

    The Gonski report is a plan to take us down the route of California where teaching unions get more booty for their memebers (& thus the ALP benefits) while academic results slide.

  6. Louis Hissink

    Enumerate the goals of the Fabians, compare that list with the advertisement and also check who are not Fabians among the signatories to the consensus letter advertised.

  7. Rabz

    I sincerely hope post election that I never again hear the word ‘gonski’ used in the context of edumacation.

    As a relatively disinterested observer, even I am fully aware of why our ‘education system’ is so completely fucked.

    Why are so many young people invariably illiterate, innumerate and utterly ignorant of history?

    Here’s a hint – it’s for reasons that no amount of taxpayers’ extorted dollars will be able to remedy.

  8. Clancy of The Underpass

    Entropy,

    Overdue for another post?

  9. Splatacrobat

    what possesses people to sign up to these letters?

    Relevance deprivation syndrome.
    Same reason they go to 20/20 summits, talkfests about social justice, and other navel gazing pursuits.

    I had to laugh seeing Bill Hayden’s name up there. They must have been real desperate to fill up empty spaces on the page. If his boss Bob Hawke had kept his promise “No child would live in poverty by 1990” he would not have to promote scrounging more money now because all those poor kids would be wealthy educated middle class now and sending their kids to private school.

  10. Aynsley Kellow

    The ‘celebrity endorsement’ of some political cause is the ultimate conceit. The most egregious example is probably Bono campaigning for Third World debt forgiveness. Here we have a celebrity who wears Armani sunglasses, whose hat flies business class, who lives in a tax have, campaigning for governments to which he doesn’t pay tax to forgive debts to countries governed in many cases by cronies who have trousered large parts of the funds in the first place. No call for good governance reforms – just forgive them while I pay nothing.

    Call me cynical, but when Bono relocates to a jurisdicton where he pays taxes and swaps the Armanis for RayBans, I might take him seriously.

    All the others are, to a lesser extent, Pro Bono (as it were).

  11. Gab

    These types of letters are nothing more than a facebook “like” campaign.

  12. Keith

    It’s a wonder Peter Costello doesn’t die of shame. His brother is a continual embarrassment.
    Does anyone know the ratio of funds spent on real work versus advertising, hype and “management overhead” for World Vision. Last I heard, they even had economists on staff specialising in climate change.

    As for Gavrielatos, the idiot isn’t even numerate.

  13. Samuel J

    Why do they sign? Because they are either too stupid to write a letter on their own, or too lazy or both. It is an example of a logical fallacy: appeal to authority. As if five people signing a letter makes it better than one; or 300 people signing makes it better than one.

  14. WhaleHunt Fun

    “had my own opinions”
    Lefties do not have opinions. The are a space where one is written.
    That is why Leftism is not the opposite of rightism. It is merely the absence of it. Indeed the absence of anything, morality, ethics, humanity. A truer description is Absenteeism.

  15. Sleetmute

    Ditto the “Five Economists Plan”, later reheated by Andrew Leigh.

  16. WhaleHunt Fun

    Yes Gab.
    And how is Koni suffering from that campaign.
    Ah ha ha ha ha

  17. Samuel J

    The only times I would sign something with others would be:

    a Will or bequest;
    a cheque (which requires two people to sign);
    as report (eg an annual report or commissioned report) that requires two or more signatures;
    a legal instrument that requires multiple signatures.

    Otherwise I will write my own letters; opinions etc.

  18. Gab

    Strength in numbers, apparently.

  19. Samuel J

    On second thought, I don’t think they sign these types of statement because they are bright and lazy. It is because they are fundamentally stupid. Anyone signing such letters should be consigned to a lunatic asylum.

  20. Keith

    Otherwise I will write my own letters; opinions etc.

    Oh, but Samuel, that would make you solely responsible. Can’t have that sort of thing. (snort)

    The irony is that most of those listed above, could write a letter to a newspaper, and have a reasonable expectation that it would be published almost immediately, and probably get paid for it too.

  21. Des Deskperson

    On a slow day a few months back, I emailed the ‘I give a Gonski’ site saying that I was interested in the proposed reforms but concerned that there were effective performance management systems in place for public school teachers, since I did not wish to see any increases in funding used simply to prop up – let alone recruit – lazy and/or incompetent teachers. I asked for information on the systems in place in all or any Australian jurisdictions to deal with underperforming teachers and in particular how many public school teachers had been terminated for inefficiency in all or any jurisdiction in the most recent 12 month period for which figures were available.

    I assumed that, since the campaign is being sponsored, and apparently run by, the Australain Education Union, these figures would be easily available. I did not mention that, while I have no experience in public education, I’m well aware that it’s almost impossible to terminate an employee for inefficiency in other areas of the public sector.

    Of course, I had no reply, but I’m now listed as a ‘supporter’ of ‘I give a Gonski’ and get a torrent of propaganda emails – worse than Amazon or Crikey. I wonder how many others who contacted the site wanting information or clarrification – or indeed were critical of Gonski – have now been drafted as ‘supporters’??

  22. Milton von Smith

    Carmen Lawrence? Penny Easton could not be contacted for comment.

  23. JamesK

    Leftists see only shame in not being seen to be part of the superior intellect team of fellow morally superior humans aka leftists.

    Pride in profession or major cause they champion or intellectual honesty and rigour is thus subsumed.

    So feminists are feminazis, liberals are illliberal, Progressives are regressive, Black-Rights types are racialists, Gay-rights loathe gays agaimst SSM more than the Taliban and Islamic fundamentalists.

    Actually all of them loathe conservatives more than the Taliban and radical Islamists.

  24. brinkin

    I give a gonski,a cash free gonski,sack the worst 25% of the teachers,increase the class sizes,increase the salaries of the good teachers and lengthen the school year,problem solved.

  25. H B Bear

    Did someone have to lend Mother Russia their biro?

  26. Lew

    How the hell did Peter FitzSimons miss out on getting his name on the list. He’s usually first cab off the rank when he spots an opportunity to parade his pretensions as a leading member of the Socialist Aristocracy.

  27. Anthony

    Joan Kirner was a blight on the landscape of Victoria; a blight that has still not been fully erased, I see.

  28. kevin

    Just love the theme.
    If we give teachers more money, they will teach better.

  29. Andrew

    Reasons why our educational standards are going backwards:
    Curriculum: The Curriculum is very poor in some subjects. Especially English.
    Attitude to learning: compared to other countries it does not really stack up. Some principals and ‘experts’ are winding back work loads in these schools. That is going to put us quite a few years behind kids of the same year level in other countries who are many years ahead of Australian students in such areas.
    Teacher education: Teachers need to be taught better at University and the standard will be raised in the classrooms.

  30. Andrew

    Joan Kirner was a blight on the landscape of Victoria; a blight that has still not been fully erased, I see.

    Kennett cleaned up a fair bit of her mess.

  31. cuckoo

    This group letter was actually reported as the lead item on the half-hourly Radio National news bulletin, on that morning. In those same bulletins, the second item was a recap of Al Gore praising Julia Gillard and the Carbon Tax the previous night on ‘Lateline’. I guess this is what ABC radio news has to resort to on those days when the Greens haven’t sent through a press release in time to fill the top of the bulletin.

  32. WhaleHunt Fun

    If Abbot makes windturbines illegal to protect endangered bird species will Al Bore praise him too?

  33. candy

    strength in numbers, i guess.

  34. Keith

    – Teacher education: Teachers need to be taught better at University and the standard will be raised in the classrooms.

    They’re over-taught in uni. The bachelor of education course could be cut in half without detriment once all the indoctrination is removed. Boost practical teaching experiences during the course and ensure students actually want to be in the classroom and actually learn what it’s about.

  35. .

    Sure. However I’d like if they had a BSc or a BA as well with more practicums and base it more on internships.

  36. Viva

    They can’t articulate what it all means or why it is needed but it costs $5 billon a year. $5 billion!!!

    Yet another Education Revolution – not.

    I saw Bill Gates (who has donated squillions in eduction) being interviewed. Echoing the coalition stance he said education excellence revolved around excellent teachers – excellent teachers are the most interactive with students. The key is to help average teachers acquire those attributes. He also said that online teaching harnessing top global talent as presenters also has a place.

    The coalition should ask voters – who do you trust to spend Gonski dollars most wisely?

  37. Viva

    ‘I give a Gonski’

    God how I hate those twee lefty slogans especially their uber twee props such as the “sea of hands”.

    http://www.antarvictoria.org.au/user-data/home-page/ParlHse.jpg

  38. Andrew

    They’re over-taught in uni. The bachelor of education course could be cut in half without detriment once all the indoctrination is removed. Boost practical teaching experiences during the course and ensure students actually want to be in the classroom and actually learn what it’s about.

    Taught the wrong thing in my opinion and are not specialised enough in the particular area. Some teachers know the topic well but can not explain the content very. Other teachers have the ability to explain content well but can not teach it. A small number teachers have neither. I had one of those teachers this year when studying Chemistry.

    Sure. However I’d like if they had a BSc or a BA as well with more practicums and base it more on internships.

    Having a deeper knowledge in the area is also a great idea meaning that studying a BSc, BA or even BComm is ideal and then doing a DipEd. Too many just do an Education course and one of their units is what they are wanting to teach.

  39. brc

    Surely effective teaching is a craft like any other, and you won’t get good at it until you’ve done 10,000 hours. So might as well start the teachers out early and combine an apprenticeship/university mix to give them on the job training plus the theoretical topics.

    I think the problem we have now is that plenty of students want to go to university and do meaningless degrees, then decide that teaching is the only possible application of their pointless knowledge.

    When in reality the real goal of schooling should be to engender a desire in the child for lifelong learning. If you can get that bit right, the rest must surely follow.

  40. Andrew

    I think the problem we have now is that plenty of students want to go to university and do meaningless degrees, then decide that teaching is the only possible application of their pointless knowledge.

    This is an important point. I am doing a BA at Melbourne this year. Many of the majors would not lead to employment other than teaching. Here’s a list of the majors (excluding Languages).

    Ancient World Studies
    Anthropology and Social Theory
    Art History
    Asian Studies
    Australian Indigenous Studies
    Australian Studies
    Classics
    Creative Writing
    Criminology
    Economics
    English and Theatre Studies
    Gender Studies
    Geography
    Hebrew and Jewish Studies
    History
    History and Philosophy of Science
    Islamic Studies
    Linguistics and Applied Linguistics
    Media and Communications
    Philosophy
    Politics and International Studies
    Psychology
    Screen and Cultural Studies
    Sociology
    Spanish and Latin American Studies

    Very few would lead to employment yet this course is the most popular uni course in the country. The ones I am doing certainly would, but I am looking to do a postgraduate study as well.

  41. Token

    I look at that list and wonder if it is better we teach people tangible skills and tell them to aspire to be an autodidact using the resources of Amazon and Itune U.

    Seriously, Creative Writing? That is a TAFE skill.

  42. Andrew

    I look at that list and wonder if it is better we teach people tangible skills and tell them to aspire to be an autodidact using the resources of Amazon and Itune U.

    Seriously, Creative Writing? That is a TAFE skill.

    Yes, that is being taught at Australia’s best (if not, 2nd best) university.

  43. Token

    I left the many “Studies” alone as they are a one way ticket to the unemployment queue for all except the tiny majority that can get onto the public teet.

    All including Languages are skills can be obtained for a fraction of the cost online from universities specialising in those areas.

    I studied language at university, I am learning a language via a series of podcasts and watching Youtube.

  44. dd

    Seriously, Creative Writing? That is a TAFE skill

    It’s not a skill that can be taught in a course at all. Charles Dickens, Stephen King, Hemingway,…. these people simply started writing and learned along the way. Until recently there was no such thing as a creative writing degree.

    Creative writing courses turn out a lot of disappointed, frustrated people. They promise what they cannot and do not deliver. They are a blight on the academic landscape.

  45. Rabz

    I am learning a language

    What language would that be, Tokes?

  46. Andrew

    I personally think learning a language online or through a podcast would be very difficult, so I do think that learning a language at an institution is the best way or going to a country that speaks the language.

  47. Token

    I personally think learning a language online or through a podcast would be very difficult

    Its a case of finding ways to apply it. 20 years ago university language labs and SBS radio were the only way to get access to media in a language.

    Now it is as easy as turning on digial radio or going to Youtube. I agree the best is to go in country or find a way to use the language regularly.

    Rabz, I’ve noted before my wife is Taiwanese and she is speaks to the kids in Mandarin. I’m going to Adult Ed, using podcasts and youtube to keep up with my 3yo.
    method mixing with the community, going to the local community college. All for the princely sum of a couple hundred dollars a year. Compare that to university fees.

  48. ugh

    “Joan Kirner was a blight on the landscape of Victoria; a blight that has still not been fully erased, I see.

    Kennett cleaned up a fair bit of her mess.”

    But even Kennett couldn’t clean up Gillard!

    Gillard started in politics as Kirner’s Chief of Staff – and I think most will agree that Gillard has shown strikingly similar political, media and economic management skills.

  49. Rabz

    Mandarin.

    We all know what happened to the last famous speaker of mandarin as second language in this country, Tokes!

    This f*cking language!”

  50. Token

    That is one of the few times I agree with him Rabz.

  51. Entropy

    taff – and I think most will agree that Gillard has shown strikingly similar political, media and economic management skills.

    This leads to the scary thought that Victoria’s troubles weren’t Kirner’s fault at all, but her COS.

    But then again, I watched some show on the ABC once that the producers no doubt thought presented her in a good light (of course) but as far as I was concerned she was out of central casting as the dumb commie.

  52. James Hargrave

    Just to respond to Andrew: Ancient World Studies is enforced-bureaucrat-speak for archaeology, and is a term much disliked by those who, er…, teach and practise archaeology at the impossibly self-satisfied U of Melbourne. But ‘AWS’, classics and many other disciplines are hidden from view in the ‘School of Historical and Philosophical Studies’ – until the next re-organization, that is).

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