David de Carvalho's false dichotomies
Are we all just motivated by tribalism?
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are sister newspapers and every year, they each organise a ‘Schools Summit’ — one in Sydney and one in Melbourne. For the last couple of years, I have been invited to speak at the Melbourne summit, but not this year. I am not at all bitter about this. Not in any way. It’s absolutely fine as far as I am concerned. Fine. Absolutely. There are some great acts to see instead of me (as well as some to avoid). So that really is fine. Honestly. If you are going then enjoy yourself. There’s no need to mention it again. IT IS FINE.
Last week was the Sydney Schools Summit and David de Carvalho, the head of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) spoke. He expanded on a theme he has been rehearsing for some time. You can read the transcript here.
I have met de Carvalho and I like him, although this has not stopped me criticising the recent review of the Australian Curriculum or calling for improvements to NAPLAN assessments. I have heard him talk passionately about how the Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan influenced his curriculum thinking and despite disagreeing with him from time to time, I would never question motives.
However, I am beginning to wonder whether de Carvalho is questioning mine — or at least the motives of those with similar views to me.
In his speech to the Sydney Morning Herald Schools Summit, de Carvalho states:
“The sheer complexity of the educational enterprise makes it very tempting to over-simplify issues as a means of reducing the cognitive and emotional burden of engaging with them, or more subtly, as a means of finding comfort in membership of a tribe that gives one a strong sense of professional identity.
…In curriculum, we have the “knowledge” tribe lining up against the “skills” tribe. But you can’t develop one without the other…
…And in pedagogy, you have the direct instruction tribe lining up against the inquiry-based learning tribe”
That seems like it’s about me. I guess I am in the ‘direct instruction tribe’. I am also in favour of a knowledge-rich curriculum and have grave doubts about the teachability of supposedly generic skills, such as those outlined in the Australian curriculum, although I think the way de Carvalho characterises that argument makes it seems as if people in my ‘tribe’ deny the existence of any skills at all. I certainly do not.