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Kinma's approach: anything but basic

group2 2011 0102 project-antThe government this week announced ‘Back to Basics’ curriculum. It supports findings by the Catholic Education system and Queensland University researchers who feel that our children lack morals and a grounding in their 3 Rs- Riting, Reading, Rithmetic. Their answer is to stop ‘tokenistic’ thematic based learning which fuse big-ideas such as indigenoushistory, sustainable existence and social justice and reinstate a ‘basic’ program where the children learn phonics, number and ‘basic’ Christian/ Judeo value systems (based on reward and punishment).

Kinma’s goals for learning are not basic. They have never been basic in the 42 years of its existence. The goals are as rich and varied, as complex and challenging as the children who help to design them. It is my hope that we will never reduce them to ‘basic’.

Kinma’s processes of learning are similarly not basic. They have grown richly in the 42 years but continue to hold true to 17 core principles and our own 3Rs; relationship, respect and responsibility. These principles (if you are unfamiliar with them, come ask) reflect the beliefs and values of our community. It is these that we look to as a Staff and Board when considering the strategies and processes to use in learning with your children. And know, there is strong (unbasic) literacy, numeracy and morals in the mix.

  • Core principles and Kinma’s 3Rs as guide
  • Reflecting rich goals
  • Using varied and growing strategies, including the NSW Board of Studies curriculum and syllabus documents

Please think as you read fear-based headlines which pop up predictably and regularly. I ask you to consider that there may be political, economic and personal power agendas at play; hidden goals to which we, the mass population, are not privy. When countries plan for war, they lock down into fear-based governance. We see this all around us at present. So it is unsurprising to see Monday’s front page headlines hyping the fear with the usual ‘what our children can’t do’, ‘what our teachers are failing at’, what we need to suddenly change to fix the fear we ‘all’ obviously feel.

A call to ‘back to basics’ schooling (the ‘all pervasive’ value of known comfortable safety) is heeded every time a government wishes to install something about which the mass population may be wary. The government creates the fear, then tells us that it provides a solution for the fear. Hence it supposedly builds the population’s trust in their ability to solve the fear. What if there is no fear in the first place?

I heed caution and calm and suggest we carefully consider the drivers behind this push. The situation we are told is problematic. So all we need do is go back to how it was when we were young and all will be rosy again. Recall the past and surely you will remember that there were no wars (?), no economic challenge (?), no changing social values (?), no climate change BUT there was compulsory ‘basic’ education.

Ask yourselves as you read these fear sparks whether there is truth in the assumptions on which they are based. Ask whether the causes proffered (rich curriculum, joyful learning) have any connection whatsoever with the supposedly obvious effect suggested (poor literacy, weak morals). Ask whether there may be other causes which are not being proferred nor cited, which are being hidden. Ask whether the response (basic non-fun curriculum, reward and punishment, obedience style drill and test) is as obvious as suggested. Consider whether it could actually be a nonsequitur (does not follow). Could the what, how and why being joined as so obviously connected, actually have no connection.

Caution I suggest. Caution in inaccurately matching cause with effect and resulting response. It is this style of critical thinking that we teach your children; to deconstruct the ‘obvious’, to challenge ‘the mainstream basic’, to reconstruct using rationality, their own experience and rich creative possibility.

From Sir Ken to creative think tanks, from MIT’s Business School to groundbreaking neurological research, there is consensus that in order to solve the growing multi-armed challenges we face, it is not fear mongering that we require. Rather, thinking outside the box; minds which are capable of bringing together a vast array of variables in ways which yesterday were not perceivable. Such thinking is not going to come from a ‘basic’ syllabus, rewarding and punishing according to an obedience based model. Choice making, creative visioning and a growing skill set is unlikely to germinate in a nourishing bed of textbook busy questions, drill and competition.

Look before you at what you see in your child’s classroom. Visit if you don’t know. Join in a rich challenging decidedly unbasic journey.

- Juli G, Educational Co-Ordinator