Fads in education- some examples

When Cuisenaire rods were introduced into our school, it was obvious to one and all that Year 1 children would more easily understand numerical relationships through the colour-coded spatial relationships shown to them. However, to our surprise, at a meeting of the P&C (Parents & Citizens Association), a teacher said that the children need not now learn their ‘times tables.’ Would they not need to remember numerical relationships by Year 3, we parents asked.

Then when hand-held calculators became available, at a high school P&C meeting, we were told that the students need not learn how to calculate by using paper and pencil or pen. How would they judge whether the answer supplied by the calculator was correct, we asked.

Then came an innovation supplied by the State education authority. It was to rename what had hitherto been known as ‘sets’ in maths. Soon, the same authority decided to improve the students’ understanding of grammar by re-defining words like adverbs and nouns, etc. Since the English people back in Britain had not seen any need to re-define their own grammar, what were our education experts seeking to do? These attempts at re-definition soon died a natural death.

Then arrived post-modern, post-structural deconstruction, which we did not understand, and which is presented in jargon phrases, and at such a high level of abstraction that one would need to tie an anvil to each phrase to bring it down to an operational level of meaning. This approach is clearly more suitable for an academic faculty of philosophy, which would offer great scope for the most subtle of semantic distinctions, than for schools preparing our youth to survive in the real world.

This approach replaces the author with the reader, who would interpret what was written in a variety of imaginative ways, as the written word apparently has no intrinsic meaning, even in context, and even after allowing for the meaning to reflect the time, place, history, and semantic culture depicted in the writing. Perhaps it would be now appropriate for deconstructionist readers to write their own scripts.

Speaking as a writer whose books had been favourably assessed by competent manuscript appraisers and editors, and which also received accolades for what I have to say, and how I have said it (eg. 4 of my non-fiction books have been recommended by the US Review of Books – the 5th is out of print – and my book of fiction was favourably reviewed by both the Review and a State President of the Federation of Australian Writers), let me say that we writers of non-fiction do not necessarily seek the truth, but state the truth where possible (as one must), when writing non-fiction; my book of fiction was written for fun, and should be read for fun.