Social Chemistry

In all this discussion of the weaknesses of the national school curriculum (tots ag, of course), we should not lose sight of the fact that a number of the state-based school curricula were complete tosh too.

The Western Australian Labor government had a good go at completely trashing its school curriculum and was on the cusp of introducing Outcome Based Education before someone – a change of government – saw the light.

Madam Russia – aka Joan Kirner – also had a good crack at degrading her state’s Higher School Certificate from what had been a pre-eminent qualification to one that was a complete joke and invited cheating on a large scale.

Certainly, the South Australian Certificate of Education was traditionally somewhere in the middle, but began to deteriorate in terms of the quality and integrity of the underlying curriculum some years ago.

Both my children studied Year 12 Chemistry, but only the younger one had Social Chemistry as part of the SA syllabus – and, wait for it, it counted for 20 per cent of the total marks.

Social chemistry?, you ask.  At first, I thought it might have something to do with online dating but no – the real theme was along these lines.

Select operating  factory that undertakes a chemical process, describe the underlying chemistry, conclude that the factory acts irresponsibly by polluting the local environment and recommend its immediate closure – by government fiat.  Viola – top marks.  Note there was no alternative acceptable answer.

I recall my daughter used the Penrice Soda Ash factory located in Port Adelaide as her case study.  The staff there could not have been more helpful, sent out material, answered questions, etc.  Little did they realise that the education system was playing them for complete suckers.  It made me feel very uncomfortable.

Another consequence of this shift (and other similar ones) was that the curriculum increasingly favoured girls over boys.  The girls ate up this social chemistry guff, handing in neat, detailed and well-written reports on their chosen factory.  No doubt, the boys regarded the exercise as a complete waste of time.

When it came to Year 12 merit certificates (20/20), there were twice as many awarded to girls as boys.  Now that can’t be right.

The SACE has deteriorated even further sincethe dumped education minister (she lost her seat), Jane Lomax Smith, reviewed it and  watered down the Years 11 and 12 curriculum and requirements even further.  English is not compulsory and Year 12 students only do three subjects plus some ridiculous project (you can just imagine).

The one plus of state-based curriculum is that the power of competitive federalism meant that the very, very bad are eventually driven out.  Now we are stuck with one very bad one – at least for a while.

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25 Responses to Social Chemistry

  1. Tintarella di Luna

    Thanks for this Judith.

    I think much of the general public forgets the states are responsible for education. Indeed when Verity Firth was Minsiter for Education in the lamentable, corrupt, criminal enterprise that was the NSW government for 16 years, it came as a complete gobsmacking (and did she have a motor-mouth) surprise to her that the NSW government paid for 80% of the education costs — fancy that. Notwithstanding the fact that Verity (not) Firth has a law degree obviously she must have done the women studies component rather than the constitutional law component.

    We had state Labor governments for most of the time that the steady, professional and competent Howard government for 12 years so the complete debacle being wrought on the education system (and everything else as well, vis a vis law ‘n’ order and appointed choristers to the state benches) went unnoticed until the greatest debacle of all, affectionately know as the “TLS” years brought the incompetent Labor states into sharp focus.

  2. Notafan

    That ought to get universities to contemplate alternate means of determining who should get places.
    One of the problems is that people who used to be able to leave at end of fifth form and go into a bank or base grade public service positions no longer have that option, other than call centres those jobs have all gone. So they stay. I only know of one child who has failed modern VCE and that was for insufficient attendance.

  3. Geriatric Mayfly

    And who could forget Kirner’s imposition of Australian Studies into the curriculum. One hundred minutes a week…compulsory… with a Marxist union cheering from the sidelines. No course outlines, no available texts, and only Leftists showing any enthusiasm to teach it. I was nearly dragooned into it, but when I said it would be an excellent opportunity for me to teach a bit of Australian history, I was told, “You can’t do THAT.” I immediately lost interest.

  4. jack

    i have been told by a politics/law uni student that facts and figures are just things that men use to make women feel belittled.this declaration has gained her high distinctions,even though she can not spell,punctuate,or use standard english in a clear and comprehensible fashion. what you say,and how you say it isn’t important,as long as you feel with all your heart the core life values of the university activist that awards grades. the quota system means that she expects to walk into a government job,saving the refugees,by raising their awareness of their human rights.this is the career path that the left has lured so many of our children into. imagine how they will hate abbott,if the gravy train is not there for them.

  5. don coyote

    Mother Russia, I believe

  6. blogstrop

    State-based education is in the hands of the same sorts of people who have warped the media towards the green/left, and the cumulative effect of the vertical integration of these “long march” infiltrations is disastrous – it ultimately distorts the democratic vote to such a degree that we may soon get a result like the USA in 2008 and 2012. That’s a real worry.

  7. .

    i have been told by a politics/law uni student that facts and figures are just things that men use to make women feel belittled

    She won’t be a barrister. She won’t be competent enough to be a solicitor.

    I expect she will be a low level APS, unless she really drinks the kool aid in a highly politicised department.

    Her stupidity is so immense I am really holding back not launching into spittle flecked invective.

  8. Dave Wane

    Another thing worth noting is the effect that all this leftist propaganda being promoted at schools, and absorbed by gullible students, can have on apparently equally easily brainwashed parents – and others in the community. It seems many otherwise fair-minded folk have changed their more rational views, based on what they believe to be facts – simply because of the clever rhetoric of a student trained by the leftist propagandists. Sadly the socialist disease is very much on the increase amongst large sections of our population. And our various state (and federal) education curriculums and of course the protection-racket mentality of the majority of teachers is the root cause.

  9. srr

    Using State schools to gather State Industry crushing data, yep, happened in Victoria to.

    Land owners weren’t too keen to tell the government water gods, where all their bores were, so the government water gods waited for them to forget they asked, then had the schools set the kids some homework.

    Every child had to collect a sample of all sources of water – tap, dams, creeks, bores – to have tested for “water health”.

    They were so excited, these little country primary school kids, helping real scientists, do real science, for The Government, like real important grown ups. They even got the ‘official’ results for all the water they collected.

    My kids were sad and worried when they gave us those Official Government Science letters, telling us that our water so so unhealthy that we must not use it for human consumption, watering livestock, or even watering our vegetable gardens!

    Idiot Government Scientists, should have checked first. We did all that with our water, raising outstandingly healthy, literally champion, kids, critters and vegetables.

    We still haven’t told them where our bore is, but if they hang around they’ll see where lots more could be.
    We’re in mineral spring country, and the stuff bubbles up through the lush grass, all over the place.

  10. Pete of Freo

    “The Western Australian Labor government had a good go at completely trashing its school curriculum and was on the cusp of introducing Outcome Based Education before someone – a change of government – saw the light.”
    Careful Judith, this is incorrect; OBE (the Outcomes and Standards Framework was its title, but it came to be called the Curriculum Framework) was introduced by the Richard Court Coalition Government, with Colin Barnett (the current Premier) as Education Minister. Of course, the Usual Suspects had control of it and produced the tomes of unimplementable drivel that it was, and it took the Barnett Government several years to announce that the Curriculum Framework was no longer mandated. There was, of course, nothing to replace it, so WA teachers were in limbo until it was announced that it was to be replaced from years P-10 in all Learning Areas with the National Curriculum.
    A shameful and tragic joke is that this rubbish was sold to a south Pacific nation as “world’s best practice” , and “experts were sent to help them implement it, while these same “experts” were unable to explain it to WA teachers.
    OBE can’t be blamed for the catastrophic decline in literacy and numeracy, this was already well underway prior to the implementation of the Curriculum Framework, the “Framework” was the coup de grâce; it removed all content from the curriculum.
    Couple all of this to the fact that WA teachers in government schools have had no accountability structure in place since the late 1970s, and the fact that, since the advent of the co-payment for University courses, very few teaching undergraduates are failed, and you have the prefect storm of poorly trained individuals with little content knowledge entering a system in which there is no defined content and very little accountability.

  11. AP

    I think my workplace has been targetted by a similar scam.

  12. Mayan

    There has been a parallel trend, in both schools and universities, to reduce the weighting of exams or to eliminate them. When I started university, exams counted for between 70 and 90 percent of one’s marks. This meant that collusion and plagiarism were of little importance and cheating in an exam room is harder than on an assignment. Better yet, it meant one could make mistakes in tutorials, play with different approaches and not suffer for it.

    The shift to assessment by assignment negates those advantages and the increasing role of group work has paralleled the decrease in quality. Group projects are not representative of the real world and subject able students to the whims of a dubious colleagues. I suspect that they are popular because they reduce the number of papers to be marked.

    The ruination of education is almost complete: medical students at Adelaide university receive only ungraded pass/fail and a masters in engineering course there now has subjects in which the sole assessment is a group presentation, with only the Powerpoint slides as a written component. Naturally, the course is marketed to foreign students. Were I blessed with children, I would do what I could to see that they did at least graduate education overseas.

    Apart from the practical benefits, it would be wonderful were Australia to embrace the development of ability and the pursuit of excellent as worthy goals in themselves.

  13. .

    Collusion is good.

    If you work with anyone else on something at work, do you get fired?

    I like a rigourous test, but you should get a few chances to pass – even make it 100% pass rate/competency or fully redeemable if you wish.

  14. Johno

    If governments fund the schools, governments get to decide what is taught. When governments decide what is taught, the government’s bureaucracy and their favourite ‘expert’ get to decide what is taught. The bureaucrats and the experts are of the Left, so the Left get to control what your kids are taught.

    The best thing Pyne can do to get the Left out of the way is to get government out of the way. Get rid of the restrictions on who can provide education and cut out government funding except for the genuinely needy. It’s the only long term solution.

  15. Tintarella di Luna

    … it would be wonderful were Australia to embrace the development of ability and the pursuit of excellent as worthy goals in themselves.

    Isn’t that what the Australian Institute of Sport is for? Scholarly excellence is frowned upon by the ALP/Greenfilth haute bourgeoisie as tres boganoeisie

  16. Mr Rusty

    I recall my daughter used the Penrice Soda Ash factory located in Port Adelaide as her case study. The staff there could not have been more helpful, sent out material, answered questions, etc. Little did they realise that the education system was playing them for complete suckers. It made me feel very uncomfortable.

    Well I hope you let Penrice Soda know how they were being used Judith. Then when State Labor went looking for corporate donations they could tell them where to go.

  17. Mayan

    Collusion is brilliant at work, but one would hope that universities and schools would have something to say about whether a person has something to contribute, rather than leaving the possibility of them merely being good at being a free rider, and therein lies the problem. When I did engineering, more than one lecturer assumed we would collude, and they were okay with that, because with 70% on the exam, the twits and slackers would get their comeuppance. In short, I’d like to know that my colleagues are people with whom it is worthwhile to collaborate.

    Having also lectured been a tutor, I am very sceptical about claims that group work serves any constructive purpose.

  18. Leigh Lowe

    Well I hope you let Penrice Soda know how they were being used Judith. Then when State Labor went looking for corporate donations they could tell them where to go.

    Too late Mr Rusty.
    It closed last year.
    The ABC reported it as a major environmental win that the factory was closing, with barely a mention of the jobs lost.
    If only they had waited 6 months and pleaded with Tony Abbott to save Aussie manufacturing jobs in Adelaide … the ABC reporting may have taken a different tack.

  19. Tintarella di Luna

    I am very sceptical about claims that group work serves any constructive purpose.

    but joint project school work would cut down on the marking though wouldn’t it?

  20. Mr Rusty

    Leigh Lowe
    #1151075, posted on January 14, 2014 at 10:00 pm
    Too late Mr Rusty.
    It closed last year.

    Didn’t know that Leigh. That would have affected the Amcor bottle making plant in Gawler quite badly I expect.

  21. Paul

    By the by, it was the odious Joan Kirner who introduced speed cameras to her Labor-bankrupted State after cynically waiting for a wet weekend to give the roll-out political cover. I believe it was a world-first, and much copied since.

  22. rickw

    “No doubt, the boys regarded the exercise as a complete waste of time.”

    My experience was that the boys were much less willing to do a good job of what they considered to be social engineering / BS, of which there was plenty.

  23. pseudonym

    Penrice Soda is worth study, but not for the reason your daughter thinks.

    It’s actually quite a good case study, from an investment perspective, which involves a number of phases in its recent corporate evolution. The themes are many and varied, starting with a debt laden private equity floatation, all the way to massive capital reconstruction several years later, with lots of thrills and spills along the way. It’s all very interesting.

  24. Jessie

    Looks like Flickr mob were doing a project on Penrice Soda Ash also Judith. Quite a cohort of environmentalists commenting.

  25. Andrew

    Senator Birmingham says it is ironic that the company will now import soda ash, boosting carbon emissions further.

    “The emissions that come from importing soda ash will still be produced. They’ll just be produced in a country that doesn’t have a carbon tax and then that product will be transported to Australia with additional emissions in that transportation.”

    Fuck me, and the ALPBC actually reported this fairly important observations. I wonder if when Blabbersac (Acting Senior Labor Figure) blabbered on about the WBCT reducing Australian emissions by 0.0000000000001% the ALPBC put this back to her?

    “So, Mrs Coutts-Trotter, how much CO2 did the offshore manufacturing and importation of goods formerly made here emit?”

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