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Watching Struggle Street May 15, 2015

Posted by Editor21C in Community Engagement, Education Policy and Politics, Social Justice and Equity through Education.
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 from Susanne Gannon

Watching Struggle Street has been an uncomfortable experience. As it was meant to be, and as it should be. It provides stark representations of poverty, drug addiction, physical and mental ill-health, family breakdown and the difficulties faced by particular individuals and families in the heart of our largest city. It’s been easy to become caught up in the vortex of emotions that began swirling around the program before we had seen any more of it than the promo. It has been difficult to decide when and how to write about it, and there has been much intelligent discussion about it during the last two weeks from people who live in Mt Druitt as well as outside commentators.

Even after the double screening of episodes two and three, which SBS promised would resolve widespread concerns about the first episode, there seems to be no consensus across social and mainstream media, except perhaps about the voiceover (which like many others I found both grating and patronizing). People who have criticized the show have been accused of lacking empathy and compassion, while people who are overwhelmed by emotion and horror have been positioned as middleclass voyeurs from the ‘eastern’ edges of the great urban sprawl. What does seem to be consistent is that many residents of Mount Druitt, in particular those individuals and organizations that were portrayed in the series, do feel profoundly misrepresented and reduced for the purposes of ‘drama’.

One of the problems with postcode poverty is the stigmatization of one particular area as the container of all these issues. As many people have noted, drug abuse, poverty and ill-health are widespread in contemporary Australia. And there are, without doubt, geographic pockets of endemic poverty and community vulnerability (or wide swathes if we turn to regional and rural Australia). However Struggle Street (Series 1, postcode 2770) does not tell us that. The problems begin for me from its opening sequence where the camera hovers over the tourist icons of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge (Voiceover: “Sparkling Sydney Harbour, gateway to a sun-bronzed Aussie lifestyle”), then zooms at rapid speed through tunnels and down highways (Sound effects: car engine, screaming rubber of tires on bitumen, brakes), and comes to a screeching stop at the sign “Mt Druitt: 45 Kms west of Sydney”.

The scene then cuts in rapid succession through the exterior of a graffiti covered fibro house, a disheveled interior (Off-screen dialogue young woman: ‘It’s just been trashed’), a tattooed torso, an arrest in the mall, and a mid-shot of man holding up a small bag of drugs (dialogue: ‘This is the shit is going to get us smashed”), a verandah with two men, one of them angry shouting and pointing his finger off screen (dialogue: “If anyone gives any of my kids any fucking drugs I’m going to tear them to fucking pieces, I don’t give a fuck if he’s a bikie, I don’t give a fuck if he’s God”), cut to a worried-looking teenage girl listening to the shouting, cut to man in the street leaning on a red car, holding a stubby of beer, wearing a “Drink Sensibly’ T-shirt. We are reeling already at the horrors of Mount Druitt and that is only the first 35 seconds of three hours of program extracted from the hundreds of thousands of hours of footage gathered over the six months that some residents of Mount Druitt were stalked by cameras. We find out the names and some of the stories of these people as the program unfolds but the relentless pace does not let up. Just to use this opening as an example, there is no way of entering the documentary without being separated from Mount Druitt and the people we see there. They are irrevocably ‘other’ to we viewers, who are from the first second of the filming positioned – by the commentary, the images and the editing – as tourists in the western suburbs.

Mount Druitt of course has long been the go-to place for media stereotyping of the western suburbs, which the film-makers would have known if they had any history in this country. But this seems to be an English import made by KEO Films ‘Australia’. The formula was honed in their UK series Skint: a postcode, poverty, key characters who are multiply disadvantaged and colourful visually and in their language, which is translated with subtitles, even when they are speaking English (see Skint Season 3, Episode 3 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeZmaEidAJk l) Some of the scripting seems remarkably similar, though oddly, in comparison to Struggle Street, the narrator of Skint Series 3 uses ‘we’ occasionally in the script as he talks about the unemployed, homeless and criminal residents of Merthyr Tydfil, the Welsh former coalmining town that is the focus of Series 3. What seems to be avoided in Struggle Street is any reference to social policy and the responsibilities of governments and the wider society to our fellow citizens. There is no consideration or possibility of social policy as a factor that might be mobilized to address endemic poverty. A couple of small-scale community organizations are depicted but these too are portrayed as shambolic and ineffective (and as QANDA revealed, they are already at risk of losing their funding).

In Struggle Street, as in Skint, it’s all up to you and the decisions that you make as an individual and a family about your life. Wrong decisions lead to bad outcomes, and all we see in Struggle Street are wrong decisions, or decisions that seem to be doomed or that come too late. There isn’t any sense of the multiple supports and resources and the careful case management and participatory approaches that might make a difference in addressing youth mental ill-health, methamphetamine and heroin addiction and many other issues that pile up in Struggle Street.

There is some empathy here and there, in the story arc and in individual scenes, and we know that the characters want their lives to turn around but there is little indication of how this might be achieved. Their own attempts to do things differently are most often portrayed as failures. In the final episode, even the weather conspires to ruin the community event that one character has been working on, and the birthday party surprise is ruined when one of the guests comes around during the preparations. We do see lots of love but this is wrapped in a condescending package that mocks rather than respects the people who gave their stories and their time to the KEO camera people and interviewers.

The ethics of representation and informed consent (versus the blanket ‘waivers’) in this program, or in the ‘realist documentary’ form that SBS claimed for Struggle Street, are worthy of much greater attention. The promo material for Struggle Street claims that it is ‘fly on the wall observational documentary’, that it ‘gives a voice to those doing it tough’ and that it is ‘raw, honest and unfiltered’. By now it is clear to all involved that, like all television, no matter what the pitch from KEO films was at the beginning, it is a carefully constructed and artfully edited text with the intention of sensationalizing disadvantage.

Arguably, the most vulnerable in the community have been made more vulnerable through their engagement with Struggle Street. Even if it isn’t conventional, as SBS’s content manager claimed, it’s worth considering how the program might have been different if there had been a more participatory approach. Why not have community meetings or consultations through the process of film making and editing? Why not provide opportunities for deepening the conversations around poverty and ill-health and how these are experienced by people, why not give them a voice in richer ways than we have seen? Wouldn’t it have been interesting if there had been some media training made available to young people from this area of high unemployment, for example internships might have been embedded into the large Screen Australia grant that funded the project (as scholarships are in large ARC research grants)?

Where is the additional programming from SBS that nuances the arguments – like the post-program panel of participants and advocates from Go back to where you came from? What about talking to the school principals, vocational and alternative education providers about the opportunities that are being made available and the further investment in human capital and potential that is still required? Where are the politicians, beyond the mayor who is such an obvious champion of the beleaguered people in his electorate?

And it is beholden on SBS I think, when they get over their excitement about their high ratings, to go back and speak to the people of Mount Druitt again about the inadvertent impacts of the program on the people who were its subjects and to ask what they can do for the community that, in some ways, it has savaged. It might look at its own ethical guidelines, the agreements it makes as it outsources its programming, and most importantly, the promises it makes to its participants in its programming.

In this instance, the ‘Six million stories and counting’ that used to be SBS’s slogan seems to be reduced to one overarching story, the same old story that has been told again and again and again of this part of the city. For some of the other stories of Mount Druitt and of living on Struggle Street, I recommend starting at the following links:

ABC QANDA May 11 http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s4212658.htm

ABC Life Matters May 7 http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/struggle-street-poverty-porn/6450174

Mt Druitt – St Mary’s Standard May 13 http://newslocal.newspaperdir

ect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx

Add your own links in the comment boxes below.

Associate Professor Susanne Gannon is Equity Program leader in the Centre for Educational Research at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, which will host a conference in late October 2015 on ‘Resisting Educational Inequality: Reframing policy and practice in schools serving vulnerable communities’. Her 2009 paper ‘Rewriting the road to nowhere’ on media representations of Mount Druitt can be accessed here:

https://www.academia.edu/191401/Rewriting_the_Road_to_nowhere_Place_pedagogies_in_western_Sydney

She is also a Board member of Westwords: The Western Sydney Young People’s Literature Development Project which aims to celebrate the diverse stories of young people and communities in western Sydney http://westwords.com.au

Learning off by Heart May 5, 2015

Posted by Editor21C in Primary Education, Secondary Education, Social Ecology.
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from Carol Birrell

One subject I teach through the School of Education at UWS is Learning and Creativity, a Social Ecology unit undertaken by many pre-service teachers (about 250 each semester). It introduces students to engaged learning through creative pedagogies and instills how to be a creative teacher in all aspects of the curriculum. I happened to be taking an absent, sick tutor’s class just a week or so before a major creative piece of work was due. A young man with shining eyes stayed behind to ask me whether or not he was on track with his assignment.

His plan, as he explained to me, was to demonstrate to the class the impact of an intense learning experience he had gone through just a year or so earlier. It was learning the Koran off by heart. He told me it took him 3 years to memorise all the words of this ancient text, which also demanded knowing the meaning of every word written. Scholars had come to Sydney to conduct this teaching and it was every day for three years that he studied so intently. He showed me the Koran itself, in its exquisite detailed calligraphy, and demonstrated the process of his learning right from the beginning. He had learnt a page a day, line by line, then progressing to paragraph by paragraph. Within a very short time, he was able to put together and repeat a grouping of 3 paragraphs and so on, up to a whole page, then several pages. Each day began a series of new pages, but first with a testing of the previous day’s learning.

I was astounded by this singular feat of learning off by heart, since I can hardly recall the names of my current students in class, let alone the poems and songs of my childhood!

It made me think about the ‘noble art’ of rote learning and its fall from favour as a teaching strategy. When I was in primary school, the times tables in Maths were an absolute fixture of everyday lessons and the whole class would chant it out together like a mantra being exhorted by a pulsing fervent crowd. Alas, no real fervour here in class, just the terror of being caught out in not knowing the answer to 6×8! I must say, it had some sort of appeal to me then, even in its hollow recitation. There was definitely a rhythm to the sing-songy learning which most of us seemed to enjoy once we had it mastered. Of course, there were some who never managed to master it, despite the threats…!

Then I think back to my crazy High School French teacher, who fired herself into every class with a barrage of language. We would sit mute as the French words flowed from her into a fertile field of unknowing. She loved us to repeat out loud, after her, all our vocab for the day. Yes, vocab for the day, at least 10 words that she would duly test us on the very next lesson. This may not seem so unusual, to call upon rote learning in the acquisition of a new language, but somehow I think it had more to do with learning off by heart as her particular ‘je ne sais crois’! Did we learn via this method? We surely did, but was it again, more through fear, or the power of rote?

Perhaps I imbued some of these now archaic techniques in my own pedagogical practices unknowingly. A particularly difficult 9F Geography class (no, ‘F’ was not the teacher’s surname but the lowest level of streamed classes), convinced of their ineptitude for anything scholarly, and backed up by most teaching staff, had me confounded when I tried to get them to study the geography of Japan. Of course, first up, you have to know the names of the islands of Japan. Impossible! No matter what I tried, no recall. Blank wall! I finally, in sheer desperation, resorted to something familiar. Get a chant and a rhythm going:

‘Hon-shu Shik-ok-ku Ky-u-shu Hok-kai-do! ‘
‘Hon-shu…
Shikoku…
Kyushu…
Hokkaido!’

And off we went stomping around the class, around and around with these words becoming familiars amidst much hilarity and stupidity. But they got it! And it stayed with them. Fixed in embodied learning that rarely disappears. Maybe hidden, but there to be plucked at some future time.

So I think it is time to take a long hard look at some of these Western educational outdated methods and reconsider if we have thrown the baby out with the bath water. Is there no place for honing our memory through ongoing recitation? And what about poetry known and recited out loud? Children’s nursery rhymes that form a strong basis of literacy?

The lost art of learning off by heart… Now why was it called that? What has the heart to do with this process of memorizing?

The young man with shining eyes told me why he wanted to do this feat of memorising. The desire had been with him as a young kid, when first shown the Koran. He just knew he wanted to do it, for his love of God. As strong then as it was twenty or more years later when he finally achieved his dream. Now, he was learning through his heart. And with his heart.

I do know that in an embryo, when the organs are early developing, the heart and the ear lie close together, before the ear finally migrates to the top of the body, which becomes the head. So for some time, the intimacy between head and heart creates a template of relationship that may be remembered each time the word is spoken aloud to the heart.

The shining man cannot rest on his laurels once the deed has been accomplished, the total memorization of the Koran. He must one day a month go through that huge chunk of the Koran in total, to test his memory, to say it out loud, going over and over it for the rest of his life.

This, surely, is learning off by heart! Not all learning systems threw rote learning out, for good reason.

I am off to brush up on some poems, long ago learnt and forgotten. How hard can that be? And then after that, I’ll tackle the names of all my students…!!

 

Dr Carol Birrell is a Lecturer and social ecologist in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She has written several other contributions on this blog site.

The formulation of possible selves through music and singing April 21, 2015

Posted by Editor21C in Early Childhood Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
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from Sarah Powell

There is a range of research now surrounding the connections between music and the brain and the effect of music on learning. For example, in Australia the work of Anita Collins focuses on what happens in the brain when a person plays a musical instrument. From the UK Sounds of Intent is a project that investigated musical development in children with learning difficulties and subsequently produced resources to support educators.

The work of Kate Stevens, Peter Keller and Barbara Tillman from UWS, and Gary McPherson from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne, demonstrates the significant research being undertaken in the area of music and neuroscience. In addition, the recent contribution to this blog from Associate Professor Sue Roffey highlights the reduced emphasis on creativity, critical thinking skills and well being in the new curriculum. Research demonstrates that music (and other arts) has a definite impact on the brain, on learning, on memory, on well being and in the case of my research, identity.

I came from a different perspective in my doctoral research. Rather than using numbers to justify the impact of music and singing, I asked individuals to share their personal stories and because of other research themes (masculinity, success) I focused on males who sang in choirs. So I set out with a different agenda to that of the neuroscience underpinning the research identified above and despite my different angle, it became abundantly clear that music and singing has a profound effect on the identity of an individual.

With this is mind I considered the role of identity from the perspective of possible selves (Markus & Nurius, 1986). Possible selves are the formulations or descriptions of a future self or selves. They represent desired, expected, or feared future selves, and sometimes a combination of these. The theory argues that a person’s present or current self is not simply defined by their past, but by their perceptions of the future as well.

Possible selves have been described as what a person wants to become, what they expect to become, or what they want to avoid or fear becoming (Cross & Markus, 1994; Freer, 2009, 2010; Markus & Nurius, 1986; Sica, 2009). The past is remembered as positive or negative experiences and whilst these experiences shape the future they do not determine or restrict it. Whilst past experiences cannot be revisited in a physical sense, the associations that are retained as memories remain potent and regulate a person’s desire to pursue or avoid a perceived end point. Strahan and Wilson (2006) suggest that it is not simply the memory of an event or circumstance that has influence. Rather, it is “how the past was recalled” (p.4).

Amongst other things, participants in my research were asked about their past experience of music, particularly during their school years. All were currently involved in music in various capacities and planned to continue in this way or develop their involvement further, and they all described positive school experiences. They identified music and singing as a normal part of their life at home. They had parents and grandparents who enjoyed singing, playing musical instruments or listening to music.

Participants reported enjoying classroom music at school and having numerous opportunities to be in the band or the choir, and many received instrumental tuition at school. Interestingly many participants attributed their present path to their past and their subsequent aspirations for the future. The sense of music and singing being part of the individual was strong:

Singing is quite an intimate thing. You’re revealing a lot about who you are in a sense (Secondary School Choir, Year 12 student).

This attitude was coupled with a very strong enjoyment of singing, communicated by all participants in some way:

I love singing, it’s my favourite thing to do, anywhere any time (Junior School Choir, Year 5 student).

Without question, the ability to produce some beautiful sounds in performance is rewarding, emotionally satisfying (Community Choir, male aged 50+).

The research demonstrated that the identity of these participants was built on family background and traditions, grounding them in something bigger than themselves but still intimately connected. It contributed to self-confidence and healthy self-perception in the here-and-now and it provided an outlet for personal expression and spirituality. It provided purpose and direction for the future, offering choices and opportunities for career and pleasure. It also gave them meaningful spaces to work collaboratively and creatively and to develop deep friendships.

Not only is neuroscience proving that music impacts the brain and learning in positive ways, but people are revealing that music and singing is an integral part of how they define themselves. It has significant ramifications for the formation of identity as well as personal well being and must be part of a child’s education. I will conclude by mentioning the work of Sir Richard Gill who continues to advocate the necessity of providing quality music education to every child, arguing that the impact of arts education is broader than simply teaching music:

The very things that promote literacy and numeracy are the arts, beginning with serious arts education in the early years. If we want a creative nation, an imaginative nation, a thinking nation and a nation of individuals, then we must increase the time for arts education, especially music education. If we want a nation of non-imaginative robots who can do tests, then we are well on the way to achieving that condition (Richard Gill’s Blog, 2011).

References:

Cross, S. E. & Markus, H. R. (1994). Self-schemas, possible selves, and competent performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86(3), 423-438. DOI: 10.1037/0022-0663.86.3.423

Freer, P. K. (2009). ‘I’ll sing with my buddies’ – Fostering the possible selves of male choral singers. International Journal of Music Education, 27(4), 341-355. DOI: 10.1177/0255761409345918

Freer, P. K. (2010). Two decades of research on possible selves and the ‘missing males’ problem in choral music. International Journal of Music Education, 28(1), 17-30. DOI: 10.1177/0255761409351341

Markus, H. & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41(9), 954-969. DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.41.9.954

Sica, L. S. (2009). Adolescents in different contexts: The exploration of identity through possible selves. Cognition, Brain, Behavior: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 13(3), 221-252.

Strahan, E. J. & Wilson, E. (2006). Temporal comparisons, identity, and motivation: The relation between past, present, and possible future selves. In C. Dunkel & J. Kerpelman, Possible selves: Theory, research and application (pp.1-15). New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

 

Sarah Powell is Education Content Manager at Musica Viva Australia. She is also a sessional academic in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, and a UWS doctoral candidate whose thesis is currently under examination.

Should Australian schools look to Finland? April 7, 2015

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Education Policy and Politics, Social Justice and Equity through Education, Teacher, Adult and Higher Education.
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From Benjamin Jones

In 1988 Prime Minister Bob Hawke opened the National Science and Technology Centre (now called Questacon) as part of the Bicentennial celebrations. Expecting a positive media story for the government, he was instead confronted by 200 protesters angry at budget cuts to science and education. Hawke conceded that the government needed to do more to ensure Australia becomes a ‘clever country’.

The ‘clever country’ has been embraced by subsequent leaders and in some ways, Australia has achieved this goal or at least is heading in the right direction. The proportion of Australians aged 25-64 years who hold a non-school qualification has increased from 46 percent in 1990 to 59 percent in 2006. Those with a bachelor degree or higher more than doubled from 10 to 24 percent over the same period.

Australia’s educational advancements have not been equitable with the primary winners being the non-Indigenous residents of major cities. While 56.9 percent of Australians in major cities hold a non-school qualification, this drops to 45 in outer regional areas and just 35.6 in very remote areas. This more than halves for Indigenous Australians at 14.5 percent. Even in major cities, the inequality is substantial with 37.8 percent of Indigenous Australians holding a non-school qualification compared to 57.1 percent of non-Indigenous people.

Like Australia, Finland also had an average performing education system in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Over a decade-long period, Finland transformed itself and since 2001 is has consistently ranked in the very top tier in all PISA assessments. According to an OECD report, Finland is now a ‘major international leader in education’. The crucial difference between Finland and Australia, however, is that the Finnish system has ‘remarkable consistency across schools’ and there is little variation between students from low and high socio-economic areas.

Educational theorist Pasi Sahlberg’s new work, Finnish Lessons, offers some insights into how Finland turned their education system around and how other nations might do the same. Firstly, Finland looked abroad for the best ideas and was flexible enough to adapt where better methods in other countries were producing better outcomes. Dovetailing this idea, however, is that Finland appropriated foreign ideas into a local setting. Good ideas were adapted and made Finnish.

The second key point is that Finland has a culture that respects teachers. Unlike Australia where some university chancellors want to do away with minimum requirements altogether, Finnish teachers must be high academic achievers and hold a Master’s degree. In return, teachers are well paid and resourced. In a recent TEDx talk, Sahlberg argues that Finland trusts the teaching profession and this trust is the foundational strength of the system. One of the ‘germs’ that is destroying modern schooling is the idea that schools and teachers must be regularly held accountable through standardised testing and inspections. He says the Finnish view is that, ‘accountability is something left when responsibility is taken away’. Teacher autonomy has been crucial in Finland’s success.

One final lesson for Australia is that the Finns do not have a two-tier system. Rather than a large disparity between wealthy private schools and an under-funded public sector, there is a strong cultural commitment to a large public system with high quality education offered to all. Australia, like the United States and many other nations has allowed education to become market-driven. Tertiary education in particular, is seen as a revenue-generating industry rather than a vital public asset. In Finland there is an inspiring, publicly supported, central vision of what good education should look like. This vision is linked to a commitment to social justice and equity for all regardless of wealth, gender or ability. As Sahlberg stressed to John Hattie when interviewed for The Conversation, ‘it’s an inclusive principle’.

In December 2011, the Gonski Review was released. The was the most comprehensive investigation into school funding for 40 years and it highlighted the gross inequalities in the Australian education system. The heart of the review was needs-based funding. In addition to a base level, schools would receive extra funding depending on size, location and students’ needs (factoring in social inequality). While the Gillard government negotiated six year funding deals with NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT and introduced a needs-based system, the incoming Abbott government has only guaranteed four years of funding. It has also rejected the needs-based system as too ‘complex’ prompting a strong reply from the eponymous author, David Gonski. The campaign continues.

There is much Australia can learn from Finland if it wants to also be a world leader in education. It is imperative, however, that we move beyond the empty slogans of ‘clever country’ and ‘education revolution’ and put in place systems that will allow all Australians to have access to high quality education. The challenge is also to change the culture of negativity and present a world class education system as a vital national goal. This is not only a matter of social justice, it also makes economic sense for a small but wealthy nation. The Brookings Institute has researched the vast economic advantages of education. If Australia is to maintain its prosperity into the future, we should look to the Finnish example and ensure our education system is not only high quality but fair.

 

Dr Benjamin T. Jones is an adjunct research fellow in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, and a sessional tutor in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney. He is also a graduate teacher from UWS’s Master of Teaching (Secondary) program.

 

Deschooling Senior Secondary: Young Adults learning-earning and the New Spirit of Capitalism March 24, 2015

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Education Policy and Politics, Educational Leadership, Secondary Education, Social Justice and Equity through Education.
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from Michael Singh and Bobby Harreveld

 

Classroom-centric schooling need not interfere with learning-earning in senior secondary

Deschooling L’earning (Sing & Harreveld, 2014) has been written for twenty-first century senior secondary teachers interested in the lives of young adult’s life/work trajectories. Unlike orthodox school-centric teacher educators there are those teachers whose ‘calling’ or vocation is to broker young adults’ learning and earning – or l’earning – through networked l’earning webs. Research during the course of the last decade has documented changes that extend and deepen the integration of young adults’ education, training, work, in the face of separatism agenda for education and production. There are now senior secondary teachers who invest considerable time in brokering new forms of partnership-driven l’earning for young adults to make real world contributions to adult life as part of accredited curricula. The findings from this research means for teachers’ professional learning, posing challenges for teacher education to further the education of teachers employed as network leaders.

Young adults’ disenchantment with disengaging classroom-centric schooling

Young adults’ disenchantment with disengaging classroom-centric schooling is evident in their disaffection and alienation from education. The research literature questions disengaging senior secondary schooling for its the separation of education from production, especially as many disenchanted young adults find its failure to contribute to a life worth living. Young adults’ critiques of classroom-centric schooling have seen the generation flexible l’earning services and work-integrated l’earning along with the reconfiguration of national qualifications frameworks. However, young adults’ confront continuing sources of insecurity, due in part to government policy adversity impacting the deschooling of their l’earning. Further, the international competition for high skilled, well-paid jobs adds to politically regressive policies of selection/exclusion that are adversely affecting young adults’ life/work/ security.

Brokering capital friendly l’earning webs

The changing spirit of capital accumulation has given rise to the brokering capital friendly l’earning webs for young adults. These capital friendly l’earning webs, which involve the brokering of their l’earning through outsourcing and subcontracting, are meant to contribute to the capability development of young adults. Teachers are now working as l’earning brokers. These l’earning brokers are integral to the flexible l’earning required for forming and maintaining capital friendly l’earning webs. Despite counter-moves that would seperate schooling from production, Illich’s (1973) critique which is directed at deschooling society now seems compatible, even if it is in a wayward fashion, with the new spirit of capitalism via the brokering of capital friendly l’earning webs.

Networking policy for deschooling l’earning

Government policy changes in young adults’ l’earning, and thus the work of teachers, are displacing classroom-centric schooling with the ethos of deschooling l’earning. This points to the importance of teacher education providing innovative opportunities and choices for the capability development of teachers. Structured by government legislation, participation in l’earning is now compulsory for young adults. This has given rise to the possibilities for interactional policies that maximise young adults’ participation and enhance their continuous transitions through cycles education, employment/unemployment and training. However, the international convergence in government testing regimes is doing little to counter the changes in international competition for high skilled and relatively well-paid labour. Given that international standardisation in government policy agendas around OECD tests works against the divergence that is necessary for innovation, changes in the mode and content of tests are now warranted.

Networking l’earning webs is not so radical

Teachers are attending to the organisational learning and changes required to move beyond classroom-centric schooling in order to deal with young adults’ project-driven networked l’earning. Deschooled leaders are creating divergent forms of networked l’earning webs for young adults. They interrogate government policies, legislation and national qualifications frameworks as part of their work to grasp the opportunities and choices they have for deschooling of young adults’ l’earning. These deschooled networked leaders have established their reputations for adaptability, flexibility, mobility, availability and, perhaps ironically loyalty to capitalist enterprises in which they have minimal control. To serve the common good, their networked l’earning webs are expected to advance young adults’ capabilities to enhance their security through a precarious life/work trajectory that is characterised by project-driven employment/unemployment.

Deschooling network leadership

The deschooling of schooled leadership can be examined in relation to three character types, namely bureaucratic system-thinking leadership, tradition-bound leadership and charismatic leadership. Increasingly, principals and teachers work through and across a multidimensional mosaic of these that can be described as deschooled network leadership.

Deschooling, democracy and government accountability

Subjecting the powers governing young adults’ l’earning to electoral accountability through monitory democracy is an important focus of deschooled network leadership. Democracy – demos the people, kratos power – means that ‘the people’ subject power – across all forms of institutionalised power at all levels of organisational management – to accountability. Increasingly, monitory democracy provides an important vehicle for holding those in power to account to the people. The instrumental values expressed in government policies provide one focus for having governments account for the sources of young adults’ life/work insecurities. Governments may make good policies, but deschooled network leaders can contribute to making better interactional education-employment/unemployment-training policies.

Tests of government accountability for deschooling l’earning

New tests of intersectionality of governments’ policy actions for deschooling young adults’ l’earning are required. Such tests of government policies might focus on their value for building young adults’ commitment to capital accumulation, for assuring their security through capital accumulation, and for determining whether new forms of capital accumulation serve the common good. These are tests which provide one vehicle for holding governments accountable for deschooling the l’earning opportunities and choices of young adults. The disability care and insurance industry, which relies on unpaid as much as paid labour, provides an important focus on monitory democracy so as to hold elected government representatives accountable for policies – or the lack therefore – in this field. A transformative intersectional policy agenda for young adults’ l’earning could link the government sponsored disability insurance industry with innovation in the assistive technology industry providing new directions for their education, employment and training, including in advanced research and development.

Implications for deschooling l’earning

Classroom-centric schooling research and policies offer a limited understanding of the complex l’earning partnerships and networking that is now a defining feature of young adults’ precarious life/work trajectories. A multi-stranded coalition of partnerships among intersecting fields of education-employment-training interests can test government policies and practices for their capacity to build young adults’ commitment to new modes of capital accumulation, to realise the security they claim to assure, and their capacity to serve the common good. Deschooling through networking l’earning provides possibilities for robust responses to, and expressions of renewed struggles regarding, young adults’ capital accumulation in the twenty-first century.
deschooling learning

Note well – All references can be found in:  Singh, M. & Harreveld, B. (2014). Deschooling L’earning: Young Adults and the New Spirit of Capitalism. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Michael Singh is Professor of Education in the School of Education and Centre for Educational Research at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, where he leads the Research Oriented School Engaged Teacher-Researcher Education Program.

Bobby Harreveld is Professor in Professional and Vocational Education and Deputy Dean at Central Queensland University, Australia.

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