Who’s Teaching The Teachers?

Written by:
16 December 2023
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Originally Appeared In

No wonder woke has won

At the height of the student protests in Melbourne, sixteen-year-old schoolgirl Ivy Bertram appeared on The Project to discuss her decision to help organise the pro-Palestinian rally. As Miss Bertram, an expert on Gaza and geo-politics, delivered pearl after pearl of wisdom, Mr Ali and his fellow hosts nodded in deference at the insight being proffered by this modern-day oracle of Delphi. Unfortunately, this new breed of political commentator currently gracing our screens typifies everything that is wrong with the education system in this country.

There is no doubt that Miss Bertram is simply repeating what she has been told by her teachers at school. But who is teaching the teachers, and what are they being taught at university? The Institute of Public Affair’s latest report, Who Teaches the Teachers? An Audit of Teaching Degrees at Australian Universities, answers these questions and confirms what we have long suspected: our education faculties have been completely beguiled by the forces of wokery, woke activism is deeply and irrevocably embedded into teacher training and universities are churning out legions of woke activist teachers.

Instead of being taught how to master core academic curricula such as reading, writing, mathematics, history and science, the report reveals that teachers are being trained by their university lecturers to be experts in critical social justice, identity politics, critical race theory, radical gender theory, social and emotional learning, and sustainability. Of the 3,713 subjects taught across 37 universities that offer teaching degrees, 1,169 are classified as woke, or as critical social justice. In contrast, a meagre 371 are devoted to teaching phonics, mathematics and grammar. It’s a wonder that children are able to spell ‘Climate Justice’ on their protest banners.’

Critical social justice and the accompanying theories now entrenched in Australian universities were pioneered by Brazilian Marxist educator Paulo Freire (1921-1977) as a theory of teaching known as ‘critical pedagogy’. Built on Marxist foundations, this sought to turn children into politically conscious participants in a perpetual revolution. Tellingly, Freire’s other heroes were Friedrich Hegel, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

By the early 1990s, Freire’s ideas were added to by the social theorists in North American universities who introduced critical race theory and post-colonial theory into the mix. The influence of Freire and his disciples on the teaching landscape in Australia has been far-reaching and profound. He even came to this country in 1974, giving lectures on ‘authority and authoritarianism, conscientisation (critical awareness), violence, class struggle and illusions of neutrality’. Freire’s audience clearly tuned out while he was talking about illusions of neutrality.

As recently as 2021, the Brazilian Marxist was being lauded as ‘one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century’ by Australian academics at a conference held at the University of South Australia.

Critical social justice requires teachers to be agents of change, a message which is drummed into them throughout their four-year degrees. At Monash University, a student taking ‘Theorising Social Justice’ is told that the unit ‘aims to develop in you a strong grasp of the concept of “cognitive justice”, and the associated notions of “epistemic” and “epistemological” justice which will support you to engage with and give value to, the diversity of thought and different “ways of knowing” that can be applied to the pursuit of social justice in local, national, and international contexts, in educational settings and beyond’.

It also teaches them to approach Aboriginal education through the lens of critical race theory and post-colonial theory. At the University of Melbourne, Masters students ‘will engage in critical discussions and activities that enable them to reflect on the impacts of settler colonialism, racism and unexamined bias on First Nations educational sovereignties as well as build their understanding and awareness of Indigenous knowledges and strategies for working towards decolonisation’.

In extreme cases, such as ‘Rethinking Indigenous Education’ offered by Macquarie University, students are not only taught that all Western knowledge must be decolonised, but that they must also be proficient in ‘abolitionist, futurist and Indigenist thinking’. Those taking ‘Leadership in Indigenous Education’ at the University of Canberra are being taught to monitor the ‘attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of other educators around them’. There must be no wrong think in the classroom!

Sustainability is of course, inextricably linked to critical social justice, and maintains that a sustainable world cannot be achieved without a socially just world. Sustainability education is not confined to secondary education but commences at an early age. For example, students studying a Bachelor of Education Early Childhood and Primary at the University of New England are taught how to introduce children aged between two and five to sustainability in the sciences. At the University of Notre Dame, lecturers ensure that ‘a key aim is to empower pre-service teachers to integrate effective advocacy for sustainability in their professional teaching role’ while ‘strategies will be explored to enable young children to participate as active citizens and agentic leaders in protecting the environment for a sustainable future’. Meanwhile, Federation University is concerned with equipping students with ‘tools to embed environment and sustainability practices into primary and/or junior secondary education using interdisciplinary teaching and learning strategies’.

With teaching like this, it is no wonder that anxious young Australians are out in the streets protesting about the government’s supposed inaction on climate change. Almost since birth, they have been indoctrinated by their woke teachers with the narrative that the world is on the verge of a climate apocalypse. And it is of course hardly a coincidence that one in three Australian students can barely read or write, with an average of 33 per cent performing below expectations, while almost one in ten students is not achieving the expected learning outcomes for literacy and numeracy at their year level.

Under the federal government’s ‘back to basics’ plan, there will be a new accreditation regime for teaching degrees, and it will be mandatory for universities to instruct trainee teachers in evidence-based reading, writing, arithmetic, and classroom management practices. While this might be a step in the right direction, it will not address the fact that teachers are being schooled in ideologies which are not only incompatible with the notion of traditional education but also seek to tear it down. As long as woke courses dominate teaching degrees, I fear we will have to endure being lectured to by activist schoolchildren.

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