You could call it the Pearson perplex. Otherwise sensible people, when dealing with the writings of the great Noel, seem to abandon all capacity for elementary critical thinking. In this month’s ALR, the otherwise acute thinker Inga Clendinnen (not ‘Glendinnen’ as ALR has it) loses her way in the midst of Pearson’s essay ‘Radical Hope’ – too intoxicated, as so many have become, on Pearson’s lofty philosophising, to examine the ideas more critically, and projecting her own precoccupations onto him.
Clendinnen praises the theory of ‘direct instruction education’ that Pearson champions, noting that her old-style rote learning was ‘direct instruction without the theory’. Well it wasn’t, but let that pass. She then goes on…
“I left school at the end of fifth grade with a scholarship to a “public” school…. along with a good vocabulary, a passion for parsing and a head full of poetry somehow communicated by our slow grey headmaster as he “supervised” the Friday sewing class.”
Obviously, it’s that headmaster freestyling it through the ‘sewing’ class, who started Clendinnen on a path to being a great historian and essayist. The trouble is that under the ‘direct instruction’ regime, the teacher wouldn’t have been allowed to do that. The whole ‘direct instruction’ process works by giving teachers a series of scripted lessons which they have to follow step-by-step. It’s the taylorisation of education, and there’s no room for the sort of initiative that Clendinnen’s headmaster showed.
Later, Clendinnen repeats the same unexamined stats being bandied around by the pro-Pearson crowd, chiefly the improvements in schooling in Aurakan – one of the test areas in Cape York which has received a mozza of cash, far beyond what is likely to be generalised to indigenous education in general. Chris Sarra, a more experienced educationist than Pearson (and praised by Pearson in his essay) has already pointed out that there are better, cheaper ways to improve school attendance than Pearson’s approach, and that the Cape York pilot projects don’t tell us much about anything.
But none of that really matters withe Pearson. His function is to give white people easy answers to indigenous problems, so that they can disengage from it. Noel’s sorted it out….it was all the Left’s fault….we can move onto something else. So even if someone like Clendinnen has an educational experience that is contrary to Pearson’s proposals, it can somehow be assimilated to his vision.
And on we go.