There aren’t any Eskimos either

Do I need to do much on Maori culture; there aren’t any Maori in my class?

There aren’t any Eskimos either.

Should the setting out of projects be given a lot of attention in social studies?

Only if you predict a worldwide shortage of sign writers and graphic designers.

Yes – but, children get great satisfaction from having neat and well set out projects.

The values of the school system are already skewed enough toward girly-swats.

Should projects be central to what children do in social studies?

You’ll never make it in teaching – projects are now called inquiry learning.

Should inquiry learning be central to what children do in social studies?

Congratulations for getting your career back on track.

No – the emphasis should be on challenging children’s attitudes, not rearranging other people’s ideas.

I have looked up inquiry learning in the social studies document, it says: ‘Through social inquiry, students ask questions, gather information, and examine the background to important societal ideas and events; explore and analyse values and perspectives relating to these ideas and events; and develop understandings about issues and the ways that people (themselves and others) make decisions and participate in social action.’

What does that mean in practice?

Cutting and pasting from the internet.

But the statement doesn’t mention the internet.

It’s all coded – the key point is that the purpose of any document now produced is stated as being to prepare children for the 21st century. Any use of the term ‘21st century’ is a coded reference to the centrality of computers in learning and the ‘new knowledge.’ (Discussed below.)

If the purpose of the document is to prepare children for the 21st century, does that mean there won’t be another document for a very long time?

There won’t be another curriculum document for a very long time because teachers get antsy and want to have their two-cents worth, their involvement is no way to prepare children for the 21st century, but there will be a stream of other documents issuing from the ministry, review office, and EDUCANZ to do that preparation. These entities will comprise the handpicked by the minister and by that status alone guarantee independence of voice and transcendence of wisdom.

I notice that the present social studies document says the children should examine the ‘background to important societal ideas and events’, what if, by mistake, they examine the ‘foreground’?

Every word in this concise and pellucid statement has been carefully weighed by the best social studies brains in the country, so any variation, by definition, would be disastrous.

What does ‘participate in social action’ mean?

Social studies experts in this country have a phenomenal sense of history. Clearly they feel the Reformation was a mistake requiring correction. As a result, here we have a return to outward signs of goodness being sufficient for entry to social studies heaven.

Yes – but what does it mean in practice?

Putting plastic containers in the recycling bin or, after studying Anne Frank, keeping your bedroom tidy.

Shouldn’t social studies be about learning skills to find information when they need it?

Yes – they should keep their head free of the interaction of knowledge and experience pending the truth being delivered on screen.

I have read about there being a ‘new knowledge’. What is it?

It is an epiphany that occurs to all those who answer the calling to be computer consultants for schools, or give advice to schools about preparing children for the 21st century.

Is there any such thing as the truth? Isn’t all knowledge subjective?

Yes, there is such a thing as the truth, but it is ‘truth’ in inverted commas, so the answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. But yes, all knowledge is subjective, none is absolute, but some, because of the process for its production, is better than other. And some is so much better as to deserve the label of ‘truth’ though it always remains up for challenge. The ‘new knowledge’ people (especially computer obsessives) because of their new technology have got ahead of themselves. What they are really doing is trying to replace existing truths with their puny skill-centred ones. For them, knowledge is so transient as to be of only passing value. Shakespeare’s outdated revelations about human behaviour, for instance, consigned to the dustbin of history.

Yes – but what is the ‘new knowledge’?

It’s about how to cut and paste information from the internet, especially if it is done in concert with other people on computers.

But isn’t that pretty ordinary?

Yes – but apparently you need to be there.

I’ve been told to prepare children for the 21st century I need to be a facilitator. What does being a facilitator mean?

That forms part of the epiphany referred to above. On the surface it is explained as you not being a source of all knowledge, and the children not being empty bottles for you to pour unprocessed information into. This apparently was how you taught before – so shame on you. What it really means is that you should facilitate the children towards computers and from there generally keep out of their way.

What else do I need to know about 21st century education?

Well, first of all education it is no longer 21st education it is a 21st century ecosystem that organises interactions between a local community of organisms and its environment.

Wow! I hadn’t realised – where is the best place to see all this?

In MLEs, now called ILEs?

What are they?

They are very large places where children walk around with GPSs built into their computers trying to find out where they are supposed to be next.

And what do they do when they get there?

Well – if they do – cut and paste.

I’ve been asked to attend a strategic meeting on co-constructing in social studies. What does that mean?

Cutting and pasting from the internet, especially if it is done in concert with other people on computers.

Why do you keep saying that inquiry learning boils down to cutting and pasting?

Because of a massive error predominating in education leadership.

What is that massive error?

A grievous misunderstanding of the relationship between knowledge and skills. There is a belief that skills can be exercised without existing knowledge; that creative thinking can occur without existing knowledge being there to interact, over time, in the consciousness; that knowledge has little permanence; and, that it is beyond our ethical ability to decide on which knowledge is important for our children and society.

If this is such a massive error, grievous misunderstanding, why hasn’t it been seen for what it is?

Big errors, like big lies, are always the most difficult to expose. However, there is an irony: secondary schools are mainly protected from this error by its often declared bugbear – examinations. The exam system means that technology has not replaced pedagogy as it has in many primary schools, and the pursuit of knowledge still predominates (though, as we know, at varying levels of quality).

In the launching of the curriculum, references were made to facts and knowledge; can you clarify what was meant?

Facts are what children learn before a new curriculum or document; knowledge is what children learn after it.

Should social studies mainly be about such topics as caring for the environment and world peace?

Yes – because some of the girls might end up in beauty pageants.

I think children should learn about supermarkets and things.

I agree. Now that intolerance and prejudice have been defeated, it’s time to move on to the big ones.

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5 Responses to There aren’t any Eskimos either

  1. stephen dadelus says:

    You enjoyed that Kelvin!

  2. Kelvin says:

    Yep! Being crass and iconoclastic – that’s me.

  3. Stephen says:

    Ah yes the internet, creativity and inquiry……
    The running of the internet now consumes 10% of the world’s electricity.
    Incredibly 65% of the electricity generated by the US is through the burning of coal.
    Man has been burning coal since the caveman era.

    Are we solving the right problems?

  4. stephen dadelus says:

    more like eristic I’d suggest!

    • Kelvin says:

      However, can’t argue with that.

      Re coal and caveman era a lot of people would expect me to know – believing I came from around that time.

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