“Mother Theresa, Adolf Hitler or Mohandas Ghandi – who do you most resemble as a teacher?” I was asked this question in an interview for a school leadership position. I got the job, so I guess they must have liked my answer. If I was to ask an educator such a question today, I would ask who their students would say they most resemble: Sir Ken Robinson, Professor Brian Cox or Rupert Murdoch?
Imagine having Sir Ken as your school’s Curriculum Coordinator, driven by his stated objective “to transform the culture of education and organizations with a richer conception of human creativity and intelligence”? What would it be like being a student in his English or Drama class? How would a school, a subject, a student be transformed under the guidance of an educator whose mantra is “creativity is as important as literacy“?
Professor Brian Cox doesn’t present physics theories; he uses them to discuss profound questions. Many years ago, my Year 12 Physics teacher would scratch out e=mc2 on the blackboard, tell us to copy it into our exercise books and then have us use it to complete calculation after calculation until we lost the will to live! If only my teacher had been more like Cox who asks Why does e=mc2 and why should we care? He makes you feel connected, as a human being, with Physics and Mathematics. In the preface of his book by that title, he says:
Our aim in this book is to describe Einstein’s theory of space and time in the simplest way we can while at the same time revealing its profound beauty. Ultimately, this will allow us to arrive at his famous equation using mathematics no more complicated than Pythagoras’ theorem. And don’t worry if you can’t remember Pythagoras, because we will describe that as well. Equally important, we want every reader who finishes this little book to see how modern physicists think about nature and build theories that become profoundly useful and ultimately change our lives … we will discover that when things whiz about at high speeds, common-sense notions regarding space and time are dashed and replaced by something entirely new, unexpected and elegant.
While Rupert Murdoch is a businessman, he is in the business of keeping the public informed, so that makes him an educator of sorts. The Australian Press Council’s Charter for a Free Press in Australia is based upon five principles. Two of these could be written for teachers:
- Principle 4 “It is in the public interest for the press to make available to the people a wide diversity of views and opinions.”
- Principle 5 “It is the responsibility of the press to protect the people’s right to know and to contest encroachments upon that right by governments, groups or individuals.”
These Principles sounds good to me. How do they sound to Murdoch? Imagine having Murdoch as your school’s Curriculum Coordinator? What would be his mantra? What “profound beauty” would he reveal if he was your teacher? Would he stimulate you to learn to think for yourself? His some examples of his method:
August 2013: Murdoch press urge the Australian public to “kick out” Labor.
September 2013: Murdoch press tell the Australian public who should get their vote.
January 2015: Murdoch press portray Abbott as a “political fool”.
Under the pressure of curriculum targets, timelines and even looming performance reviews, it can be easy to slip into Murdoch mode. What then would this mean for your students? What would being in your class feel like for them?
How do you think your students would answer this question? – “Is your teacher a Sir Ken Robinson, a Brian Cox or a Rupert Murdoch?”