I was at my e-publishing course tonight (What do you want to know about e-publishing? ) and time is limited.
In tonight's short post, I want to pick up just one important point from my last post. There I wrote:
Winton's Can democracies adapt? actually deals with a pretty fundamental problem. If you can't make mistakes, how can you advance? And how can you do things if everything has to be evaluated first in terms of risk?
In extending the argument, I want to make two points:
- Experimentation is important in testing new things in a controlled way.
- Experimentation has become more difficult, at least in the public sector.
If you look at the history of education in Australia, you will find that innovations that had long term impact often came from particular individuals who had ideas and who, by happenstance, found themselves in a position to test their ideas. You will also find constant find constant borrowings between jurisdictions as experiments that seem to have worked in one jurisdiction were tested in another.
If you look at the history of education in Australia over the last twenty years, the period since the Dawkins reforms, you will find the opposite. The Dawkins reforms themselves were truly revolutionary, although their implementation was not. Since then, we find an emphasis on:
- National standardisation that has greatly reduced the capacity of individual jurisdictions to experiment.
- Command and control management systems including an emphasis on particular types of measurement that have greatly reduced freedom to experiment. People can do new things, but only if they fit within the existing rules.
- A rise in administrative overheads associated with compliance that increase costs and reduces resources available to actually do new things.
- The use of officially mandated pilots - controlled experiments - to test, but which must occur within narrowing bounds and whose primary purpose is actually to justify and refine previously made decisions.
Am I unfair? Maybe, but I would like to see a counter argument.