The Silly Season

 

Janina Trotman

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It's high summer and the usual combinations of bushfires, blowflies,too much Christmas fare and a house full of young people who have just finished school and think that seeing as TEE was such a strain that they need lots of leisure and LOUD music have once again reminded me that this is the silly season!

Writing a State Report under these circumstances is not an easy job! However it made me realise that there is much silliness abroad and not just in my head.What I am referring to is silliness in the sense of lack of judgement. In particular I am concerned about policy and policy making in education.How we are to make sane and workable educational policy is not a new question.The research on education policy and reform is vast but much of it remains at the margins of the Black Box in which the pot of policy is stirred and created.

Key policy 'heavies' often find the equivocal findings of research too 'messy' to legitimate and justify politically driven policy agendas. In addition, in this postmodern age we have to ackowledge that academic research, though sometimes revealing, is not the font of all wisdom. This means that we have to exercise our individual critical and reflective capacities when making judgements about policies.

Therin lies the rub! As a policy analyst I have been exhausted by proliferation of policy in the last decade. It is, in fact, akin to a 'policy plague'. Education systems and universities spin around in this onslaught. Just as the other plague of this part of the 20th century, AIDS, attacks the body's defences, so the policy plague may reduce our ability to make wise educational decisions.

Both the Education Department of Western Australia and Edith Cowan university have had massive shakeups in the last year and Edith Cowan's own is far from over. There will be more about these in a future edition of Education Australia.

I'm not arguing that these changes are undesirable. On the contrary, there is much to be positive about in the Curriculum Framework, for example. And Edith Cowan University's new Vice-Chancellor, Millicent Poole, is doing some highly needed 'spring cleaning'. However, what I am concerned about is the ability of people at a grassroots level - teachers, kids, parents, lecturers, tutors, and general staff - to respond to and engage with these changes in a critical but possibilitarian way; to take these changes and MAKE them meaningful to their lives and careers.

Here's to 'struggling for small decencies'.

Happy New Year.

Janina Trotman, Department of Education Policy and Administrative Studies, Edith Cowan University

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