Using the very example of this blog, doesn't the "everybody blogging" (or everybody wikiing) principle inevitably result in what I'm tempted to call "learning labyrinths" in which focus can only be provided by individual participants or learners? What I mean is that there's little hope for community focus, which in turn means that even tentative conclusions about what is discovered, learned, validated, etc. is either the result of a peremptory use of authority (wherever it may be situated) or the vaguely perceived subjective impression of which way the wind is blowing for the majority.
I think that there is an issue here in that any discussion requires some form of moderation to pull issues together and represent them to participants. This holds from the Delphi method through to the standard meeting. And someone has to find the time to do this.
I am always interested in the question of who uses the on-line environment, how and why. Here I noticed a post from Brent Schenkler reporting data that in the US two thirds of on-line gamers are female.
In a post on his Lightbulb blog, Noric Dilanchian reviews a new book by Thomas Barlow that attempts to debunk some of the myths about Australia's failure to innovate and commercialise. The book sounds interesting, although it also sounds from the review that it it lacks a certain degree of rigour. While new, Lightbulb already has some very good content for those interested in commercialisation and innovation.
In my last post I mentioned that David Maister had put up an interesting post on creating better educational institutions. I hesitated about commenting partly because of time but also and more importantly because of our (on this blog) previous discussion on the differences between the Australian and US systems. I have now posted a comment trying to outline a simple analytical structure that might provide a framework for at least analysing the problem.
This links to another question, the current Australian curriculum discussion. Here Neil had an interesting post reporting on Minister Bishop's views on English teaching that set me thinking.
I find myself in a funny position here. Tracking back in time, I certainly objected to the way in which sets of cultural nostrums that I personally objected to had been imposed on the school system. I also thought that the new curricula were too crowded and lacked rigour. So I began the culture wars of which approaches to english and history form part very much on what we might call the Howard side.
But the way in which the debate has evolved makes me very uncomfortable because it has set up an internal personal conflict across a range of my beliefs. Let me take a few examples:
- I support a Federal system of government in part because it allows for difference and experimentation. So I become very uncomfortable indeed at the attempt to impose a uniformity just because uniformity, a so-called national standard, is perceived of itself to be a good thing. This has to be argued.
- There is too little focus in the debate on the purpose of education. In the words of a title of a book given to me by my old head at school - he was always trying to get boys to think more widely - "Knowledge for What?". A debate on course content (should the English course include analysis of visual media, comparisons between different types of media?) is valid but needs to be related to purpose. For example, do we in fact need two courses?
- There is too much focus in the debate on values and a degree of confusion about just what this means. Just as I objected to the imposition of political correctness by the thought police of the soft-headed left, I object equally strongly to to the same action by the equally soft headed right. Values are inextricably entwined with education (what we teach, how we teach it does raise value questions), but we need to disentangle the various elements to have a sensible discussion.
I haven't written on some of this directly because of a lack of clarity in my own thinking, although it does affect the the way I have been discussing other things.
I see little point on this blog in simply expressing an opinion in opposition to another opinion. Mind you, this can be fun. But to the degree that I want to make a broader contribution, I see part of my role as I have defined it as deconstructing arguments so that their elements can be discussed. I also like to set things into context. So I will let the debate run, nibbling at the edges until I feel that I do understand the issues.