Monday, July 09, 2018

Monday Forum - mainstreaming and the fallacy of universal standards

Today's Forum sets up two linked assertions for discussion.

The first is that mainstreaming makes no automatic sense. The second is is that universal, state or national, standards make no automatic sense.

Mainstreaming refers to a process by which tailored programs delivered by special purpose organisations targeted to particular groups are absorbed into universal or mainstream services delivered to the population as a whole. Universal standards refer to the way in which the application of common standards to  particular government areas, state or nation, has become automatically seen as making good sense.

I think both views are wrong. What do you think?.  


Anonymous said...

Something smells wrong about this post.


Jim Belshaw said...

Why so, kvd? I deliberately left argument out. The post was triggered by some radio programs I listened too.

Anonymous said...

Read the 3rd sentence of your post - carefully :)


2 tanners said...

@kvd - I got it immediately :)

@Jim, one of the reasons universal standards make no sense is that the conditions to which the standards apply vary wildly from place to place. What if farmers and city householders faced the same standards with regard to water use, eg quantity per day allowable? One of the reasons mainstreaming makes no sense is that there is a tendency to turn a narrow guideline into a broad based rule with very perverse results.

It seems obvious to me that both in mainstreaming and universality there is no necessary desirability for uniformity and that this must be part of the discussion, not a prior assumption. I'm not saying there are no cases for either, just that these need to be made out.

NB. If everyone stops commenting right now, I can have finished by agreeing with both Jim and kvd :)

Anonymous said...

Well, we can't have that tanners; your agreement, and no further comment, makes no automatic scents.


Evan said...

Mainstreaming seems to usually mean, not bothering any more with those the program was set up for.

Universal standards can make sense where the situation is universally the same e.g. we dont want buildings collapsing anywhere, and gravity and the effect of earthquakes and so on, is the same everywhere (so you can come up with a universal set of standards applied locally eg depending on how likely an earthquake is).

Anonymous said...

"Mainstreaming" in the sense referring to kids with disabilities being incorporated into 'normal' (with apologies) classes makes a lot of sense - in some circumstances, so a dogmatic "it doesn't work" is just silly. See also military officers put through public unis to provide a more rounded candidate, with extended skillsets.

"universal, state or national, standards" also make a lot of sense, given appropriate qualification: driving on the 'right' side of the road seems sensible; a national rail gauge, economically; politeness, hopefully - for instance/s.

What doesn't make sense is stating colourful absolutes in a world of greys. It carries the scent of dogmatism :)


2 tanners said...

Jim's comment was that these things are not necessarily good in and of themselves, rather than there being no examples where they are good.

They can be good, for sure: A universal standard punishing murder, or broader cultural education mainstreamed into the syllabus are fine.

But it's not appropropriate for everything - a universal standard for earthquake-proof buildings that applies in a non-earthquake zone as well, or mainstreaming school sporting curricula so that disabled kids can take part at the cost of highly able kids never developing their skills.

Jim Belshaw said...

Took me a while kvd, but I finally spotted the error! Or should I say the scent?

I think that we are in agreement on this one.

The story that triggered the post came out of the Aboriginal policy space. The first story was on the placement of Aboriginal children in care. Queensland had Aboriginal run programs that placed children, successfully it seemed,with Aboriginal families. That was replaced by a universal state wide program centered on child safety that actually had the opposite effect so far as Aboriginal kids were concerned.

This reminded me of mainstreaming, the way in which Aboriginal specific programs tailored to community needs, were replaced by universal, centrally delivered programs. My focus at the time was on housing, an area where mainstreaming didn't work very well.

As I listened to the discussion I was reminded of Aboriginal education where the Commonwealth wanted to apply a modified, dumbed down educational policy, to Aboriginal schools. NSW which had had such a policy refused point blank.

That was the background, but I phrased it more generally because both mainstreaming and national standards are deeply embedded in current thinking. And I don't know how to break that mindset!

Anonymous said...

tanners, limited as I am in my comprehension of bureaucratese, I ran Jim's post through my patented FaffandPadding Removal Machine, which produced the following:

"two linked assertions for discussion.

1. mainstreaming makes no automatic sense
2. universal, state or national, standards make no automatic sense.

I think both views are wrong."

This leads me to conclude Jim would argue in favour of both mainstreaming and standardisation?

Perhaps it's the word "automatic"; attempt rephrase with the word "arbitrary" as follows:

1. arbitrary mainstreaming makes no sense
2. arbitrary universal, state or national, standards make no sense.

- and Jim thinks "both views are wrong".

Which is the precise opposite of your assertion "Jim's comment was that these things are not necessarily good in and of themselves"

Colour me confused - or does my patented Machine require further tinkering?


2 tanners said...

Uh, with respect kvd, I think the Machine needs work. It has a certain absolutism about it. I think Jim's point is that universal mainstreaming and universal universal standards (sorry about that) have not been shown to have intrinsic value. There are cases where they are good, and cases where they are bad, but the current policy-makers see a standardised result as being necessarily the best result because it is standardised, not because anyone has shown that the lack of standards in the area are a problem.

Maybe you or the Machine are seeing something I don't.

Anonymous said...

tanners, you, and I, and the local postie, agree with the intent of Jim's post.

My only comment is directed to the actual text of the post. If you cut out the adjectives and background explanations, and concentrate on just one of the "two assertions" you get:

"I disagree with the view that standards make no sense"

The problem is the double negative. Rephrased: Jim thinks standards make sense.

- and don't we all, except....

That's all I'm sayin'