Enter Glynne Sutcliffe. She grew up in Melbourne, obtained an honours degree in history and and a masters in South Asian languages and civilisation, taught at both secondary and tertiary level and now runs an early learning centre in Adelaide.
She has written an article proposing an education revolution. Her proposals are, in fact, revolutionary as they contradict basic tenets of the modern education system.
She writes, for instance, that "teachers who care most about content mastery are likely to be considerably better than teachers who have been required to prioritise generalist classroom management skills".
She criticises, too, the "child-centred" approach to education, as ultimately alienating and confusing for most students. She writes of this approach:
But under progressivist pedagogies teachers aren’t supposed to teach - they are specifically told that they should abandon completely the role of “sage on a stage”, and instead be a “guide on the side” - the much over-hyped “facilitator”.
She also stands firm against the whole technocratic approach to such issues by highlighting the importance of teacher personality (she uses the term "flamboyance") in motivating and capturing the interest of students.
But most impressive, in my view, is her explanation of what has gone wrong. She believes that teachers need to assert a positive authority in the classroom:
it raises the whole issue of authority, a much vexed question in modern western society. Let me say clearly, it is my view that any teacher must have authority to be in any way capable of teaching anybody anything. Students rarely develop an enthusiasm for independent study (the sine qua non of the portfolio/project/assignment system) unless an obviously well-informed teacher has a cultivated mind that both provokes emulation and generates teasing questions that get under a student’s intellectual skin.
... authority is best sourced in respected knowledge and experience, as well as the power to achieve identified and substantive goals ...
What is the stumbling block to accepting such positive authority wielded by teachers?
Here we have to go back for another look at the assumptions of progressivism, and the post-Enlightenment certainties that human beings reach their fullest potential as self-actualised “independent individuals” living out their days in an egalitarian universe of similar others.
The last quote really gets to the heart of the modernist project. I find it encouraging that Glynne Sutcliffe has identified the underlying problem of liberal modernism so clearly.