Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish — and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring talk he tells us how to get out of the educational “death valley” we now face, and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility.
Refreshing to hear this talk by Ken Robinson. My wife is a teacher and would endorse his views: how a “command and control” approach by the education hierarchy is crushing teachers, burying them in so much administrative work that their ability to teach suffers. And how a regimented approach does not recognize that children are individuals with different strengths and weaknesses and that education needs to be tailored to fit the individual …. not the other way round.
The Age has run a disturbing report on the collapse of TAFE enrollments, driven in part by the uncapping of university places and the bubble in dodgy private Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers:
…[Tafe] enrolments [are] down by up to 40 per cent at some providers, two years after [Victorian] Premier Daniel Andrews promised to “rebuild” TAFE…
Some TAFE buildings resemble ghost campuses, rather than thriving centres of learning…
According to the Education Union, 3300 teachers have left the Victorian TAFE system in the past five years.
…annual reports also reveal that in the past year alone, enrolments have plummeted: Sunraysia Institute had a 21 per cent drop, student numbers were down 12 per cent at GOTAFE, and Melbourne Polytechnic experienced a staggering 40 per cent drop in enrolments…
Bruce Mackenzie, who led the state government’s review into the training sector… says private training college scandals have unfairly tarnished TAFE’s reputation, while a decline in apprenticeships and the uncapping of university places has also driven students away.
“The second tier universities take anyone into their course whether they are suitable or not, which rips the heart out of TAFE institutes,” he says…
But that mess, according to the AEU, started when the Brumby government created an open market system in 2008, paving the way for an explosion in private providers and rorting.
“The contestable policy will always undermine the TAFE system,” says Mr Barclay…
The collapse in TAFE numbers is worrying on several levels.
Recent data released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) revealed that traineeship and apprenticeship commencements have fallen by more than 45% over the past four years:
Apprenticeship completions have also fallen heavily, down by 24.0% in the 12 months to March 2016.
Meanwhile, the Department of Employment’s most recent skills shortages report showed that “skills shortages”, while low overall, are far more widespread for technicians and tradespeople:
Because they are experiencing relatively few commencements and completions of apprenticeships:
By contrast, the economy is awash with university students, with nearly 730,000 enrolled in a bachelor degree:
Despite graduate employment outcomes falling to “historically low levels”:
Students numbers studying at private VET colleges also soared, guzzling-up public funds via VET FEE-HELP loans and diverting students away from public TAFEs.
As shown below, nearly three-quarters of VET students were enrolled in private colleges in 2015:
And these private colleges charged an average loan amount well above that of public TAFEs:
They also charged average tuition fees of $18,290 versus $7,642 for public TAFEs, as well as accumulated total VET FEE-HELP loans of $2,400 million in 2015, versus just $402 million for public TAFEs:
However, despite the huge imbalance between student numbers, fees charged, and funding, only 14,400 students managed to complete courses at private colleges in 2014, compared with 18,400 students at TAFE and other public providers.
Clearly, Australia’s higher education system is a complete mess. The implementation of demand-driven training systems across Australia has effectively led to an explosion of students studying at university – creating a glut of bachelor-qualified people – as well as students studying expensive diplomas at dodgy private providers. At the same time, a commensurate shortage in people with trade skills has developed, due in part to the decline in TAFE.
What has been delivered is a wasteful, rorted higher education system that has delivered a huge Budget blow-out, poor educational outcomes, and the wrong skills for the nation.
In an ideal world we’d be investing more in our universities, but our world is far from ideal. And so are our unis. They’re inefficient bureaucracies, with bloated administrations and over-paid vice chancellors….
It’s true our unis are obsessed by research, but any innovation this leads is almost accidental. The research the unis care about is papers published in prestigious foreign journals, which they see as the path to what they’re really striving for: a higher ranking on the various international league tables of universities….
The unsatisfactory state of our unis is partly the product of our federal politicians’ – Labor and Coalition – decades-long project to quietly and progressively privatise our universities via the backdoor.
Like so much misconceived micro-economic reform, this project hasn’t worked well. Put a decades-long squeeze on unis’ government funding and what happens? The unis intensify their obsess with research status-seeking and do it by exploiting their market power over students – while building ever larger bureaucracies.
There are some excellent teachers in universities, but they’re the exception. The unis pretend to value good teachers – and award tin medals to prove it – but, in truth, there are no promotions for being a good teacher.
Students are seen as a necessary evil, needed because the public thinks teaching their kids is the main reason for continuing to feed academics….
Universities are gaming the system, maximizing fee revenue by focusing on international rankings while lowering entrance requirements for students.
There is too much emphasis on a ‘prestigious’ university education and not enough on its practical application. Many students would benefit more from studying at technical institutes (many now rebranded as technical or polytechnic universities), technical colleges, TAFE or technikons which offer a balance between practical experience and theoretical studies. This includes not only engineering but architecture, nursing, finance, IT, education, and many other disciplines.
As a psychologist researching misinformation, I focus on reducing its influence. Essentially, my goal is to put myself out of a job.
Recent developments indicate that I haven’t been doing a very good job of it. Misinformation, fake news and “alternative facts” are more prominent than ever. The Oxford Dictionary named “post-truth” as the 2016 word of the year. Science and scientific evidence have been under assault.
Fortunately, science does have a means to protect itself, and it comes from a branch of psychological research known as inoculation theory. This borrows from the logic of vaccines: A little bit of something bad helps you resist a full-blown case. In my newly published research, I’ve tried exposing people to a weak form of misinformation in order to inoculate them against the real thing – with promising results.
Two ways misinformation damages
Misinformation is being generated and disseminated at prolific rates. A recent study comparing arguments against climate science versus policy arguments against action on climate found that science denial is on the relative increase. And recent research indicates these types of effort have an impact on people’s perceptions and science literacy.
A recent study led by psychology researcher Sander van der Linden found that misinformation about climate change has a significant impact on public perceptions about climate change.
The misinformation they used in their experiment was the most shared climate article in 2016. It’s a petition, known as the Global Warming Petition Project, featuring 31,000 people with a bachelor of science or higher, who signed a statement saying humans aren’t disrupting climate. This single article lowered readers’ perception of scientific consensus. The extent that people accept there’s a scientific consensus about climate change is what researchers refer to as a “gateway belief,” influencing attitudes about climate change such as support for climate action.
At the same time that van der Linden was conducting his experiment in the U.S., I was on the other side of the planet in Australia conducting my own research into the impact of misinformation. By coincidence, I used the same myth, taking verbatim text from the Global Warming Petition Project. After showing the misinformation, I asked people to estimate the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming, in order to measure any effect.
I found similar results, with misinformation reducing people’s perception of the scientific consensus. Moreover, the misinformation affected some more than others. The more politically conservative a person was, the greater the influence of the misinformation.
This gels with other research finding that people interpret messages, whether they be information or misinformation, according to their preexisting beliefs. When we see something we like, we’re more likely to think that it’s true and strengthen our beliefs accordingly. Conversely, when we encounter information that conflicts with our beliefs, we’re more likely to discredit the source.
However, there is more to this story. Beyond misinforming people, misinformation has a more insidious and dangerous influence. In the van der Linden study, when people were presented with both the facts and misinformation about climate change, there was no net change in belief. The two conflicting pieces of information canceled each other out.
Fact and “alternative fact” are like matter and antimatter. When they collide, there’s a burst of heat followed by nothing. This reveals the subtle way that misinformation does damage. It doesn’t just misinform. It stops people believing in facts. Or as Garry Kasporov eloquently puts it, misinformation “annihilates truth.”
Science’s answer to science denial
The assault on science is formidable and, as this research indicates, can be all too effective. Fittingly, science holds the answer to science denial.
Inoculation theory takes the concept of vaccination, where we are exposed to a weak form of a virus in order to build immunity to the real virus, and applies it to knowledge. Half a century of research has found that when we are exposed to a “weak form of misinformation,” this helps us build resistance so that we are not influenced by actual misinformation.
Inoculating text requires two elements. First, it includes an explicit warning about the danger of being misled by misinformation. Second, you need to provide counterarguments explaining the flaws in that misinformation.
In van der Linden’s inoculation, he pointed out that many of the signatories were fake (for instance, a Spice Girl was falsely listed as a signatory), that 31,000 represents a tiny fraction (less than 0.3 percent) of all U.S. science graduates since 1970 and that less than 1 percent of the signatories had expertise in climate science.
I found that explaining the misinformation technique completely neutralized the misinformation’s influence, without even mentioning the misinformation specifically. For instance, after I explained how fake experts have been utilized in past misinformation campaigns, participants weren’t swayed when confronted by the fake experts of the Petition Project. Moreover, the misinformation was neutralized across the political spectrum. Whether you’re conservative or liberal, no one wants to be deceived by misleading techniques.
Putting inoculation into practice
Inoculation is a powerful and versatile form of science communication that can be used in a number of ways. My approach has been to mesh together the findings of inoculation with the cognitive psychology of debunking, developing the Fact-Myth-Fallacy framework.
This strategy involves explaining the facts, followed by introducing a myth related to those facts. At this point, people are presented with two conflicting pieces of information. You reconcile the conflict by explaining the technique that the myth uses to distort the fact.
We used this approach on a large scale in a free online course about climate misinformation, Making Sense of Climate Science Denial. Each lecture adopted the Fact-Myth-Fallacy structure. We started by explaining a single climate fact, then introduced a related myth, followed by an explanation of the fallacy employed by the myth. This way, while explaining the key facts of climate change, we also inoculated students against 50 of the most common climate myths.
For example, we know we are causing global warming because we observe many patterns in climate change unique to greenhouse warming. In other words, human fingerprints are observed all over our climate. However, one myth argues that climate has changed naturally in the past before humans; therefore, what’s happening now must be natural also. This myth commits the fallacy of jumping to conclusions (or non sequitur), where the premise does not lead to the conclusion. It’s like finding a dead body with a knife poking out of its back and arguing that people have died of natural causes in the past, so this death must have been of natural causes also.
What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.
Plenty of robots can fly — but none can fly like a real bird. That is, until Markus Fischer and his team at Festo built SmartBird, a large, lightweight robot, modeled on a seagull, that flies by flapping its wings.
From Carol Graham and Julia Ruiz at Brookings Institution:
…Numerous studies have found recurrent patterns between happiness and life satisfaction (while the terms are often used inter-changeably, the latter is a better-specified question) and important experiences such as employment, marital status, and/or earnings. These, in turn, lead to differences in investment profiles, productivity, voting incentives, and attitudes toward health (Graham, Eggers, and Sukhtankar, 2004; DeNeve and Oswald, 2012; De Neve et al., 2013).
Among these relationships, the one between age and happiness—often referred to as “the U-curve”—is particularly striking due to its consistency across individuals, countries, and cultures (Blanchflower and Oswald, 2007; Steptoe, Deaton and Stone, 2015; Graham and Pettinato, 2002). Happiness declines with age for about two decades from early adulthood up until roughly the middle-age years, and then turns upward and increases with age. Although the exact shape differs across countries, the bottom of the curve (or, the nadir of happiness) ranges from 40 to 60 plus years old. Blanchflower and Oswald (2016) find that some markers of ill-being, such as reported mental health and the use of anti-depressants, meanwhile, display inverse patterns, and turn down (as opposed to up) at roughly the same age range in the U.S. and Britain.
Further research is needed to confirm that the bottom of the U-curve coincides with teenage children 😉
During Tuesday’s SolarCity earnings call, Elon Musk hopped in to let the world know what the company he co-founded plans to do next: create solar roofs. Not solar panels–entire roofs.
….”The point of all this was, and remains, accelerating the advent of sustainable energy,” Musk wrote in his recent Tesla “Master Plan Part Deux” blog post, “so that we can imagine far into the future and life is still good.”
Now, that plan is beginning to crystallize a bit more. Should Tesla close its $2.6 billion deal to buy SolarCity, it will bring Musk’s vision a little closer to reality–especially the part that entails creating cars that get their energy from solar-powered batteries.
A home that powers itself and perhaps the cars parked in its garage–and in the process, helps the world lessen its dependency on fossil fuels in a very big way–might not be that far off. And it might not look that bad, either.
The CLARA private consortium claims a high speed rail network between Sydney and Melbourne could be paid for at no cost to the government through a technique known as value capture. What is still not clear is whether there will be enough value created by the project to capture in order to pay for the project.
Value capture is well established techniques used by governments to offset some of the costs of new transport infrastructure, for instance the taxes paid on apartments built near a new train station help to offset the cost of the transport investment. The taxes paid by warehouses or factories built near new freeways are another good example of value capture.
CLARA’s proposal is that the high speed rail can be paid for by purchasing land cheaply in regional New South Wales and Victoria then developing a string of new towns alongside the High Speed Railway. The sale of land would fund the High Speed Railway’s construction and the new residents would provide patronage for the railway.
This form of development was once common place with the suburban railways of London and the urban railways of Tokyo and Hong Kong being the most famous examples. However, this sort of value capture by private investors is much rarer today and unprecedented on this scale.
The first stage proposal involves a A$13 billion link from Melbourne to the Greater Shepparton region of Northern Victoria, the full link to Sydney with a branch to Canberra would cost many times this much. The CLARA consortium is claiming the exact figure as commercial in confidence, but a cost of around $200 billion has been suggested in the media.
CLARA haven’t released the full business case for the network but value of the project can be assessed by its benefits and whether or not the project will capture them.
High speed rail creates benefits for two types of travellers, longer distance commuters and intercity travellers. Previous proposals for high speed rail have floundered in Australia because the benefits to intercity travellers have just not been enough to justify the costs of developing and running it.
Australian cities are just too far apart for a high speed rail to be competitive on travel time and fares with aviation. Perhaps this will change over the 40 years that it will take to build the network but there is no evidence that this is happening at the moment.
Unlike previous plans, CLARA is emphasising the potential of the longer distance commuter market (e.g. Canberra or Goulburn to Sydney). There is a developing market for commuting by High Speed Rail in the UK amongst other countries.
There is no doubt that high speed rail would be faster over these sorts of distances than the alternatives (ordinary rail, coaches, private car) although it might be a challenge to schedule high speed intercity services alongside slower commuter services and building dedicated high speed rail lines into the Central Business Districts of Sydney and Melbourne will be very expensive. These travellers will gain benefits from a faster service and also from being able to purchase houses in more affordable regional areas.
Land prices are a capitalisation of the benefits that accrue to people who use that land. In the case of residential land, it reflects the benefits to be had in terms of access to schools, jobs, recreation facilities, etc.
Improved transport services reduce the time it takes to get to existing jobs and activities plus makes it possible to travel to additional jobs and activities within a reasonable time and, finally, encourages new jobs and activities to be created through the process of economies of scale and agglomeration.
Some of these benefits accrue to the travellers, others to the owners of the businesses who can hire from a bigger pool of potential employees and service a bigger pool of customers. Because of these benefits travellers and businesses bid up the price of land in places near the improved transport services thus sharing the benefits with the land owners (and with governments in the form of the taxes paid on income, property transactions and developments). It is this increase in land that CLARA hopes to tap into to fund the new high speed rail.
This project will only be successful if the new rail service generates enough benefits and this will only happen if people really will be prepared to pay higher fares for high speed rail or prefer lower fares on traditional train services from cities closer in (i.e. Wollongong). If not, will governments have to ban development in other cities to force people to move to CLARA’s townships in order to support the developers of the HSR?
Value capture is a rediscovered form of financing major projects that could prove an innovative source of funds but it does not remove the need for a project’s benefits to exceed its costs.
Having to continually tread on eggshells for fear of doing something that will ruin your life, family or career, even something that no-one could ever reasonably predict would be wrong, is a well-known form of intimidation and causes chronic psychological torment. We could use the jargon of Human Factors Engineering or behavioural psychology, but it’s obvious. We’ve heard of reverse discrimination, but political correctness is causing a sort of reverse intimidation and is damaging both individuals and society.
….. The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court famously warned that if you want to stop racial discrimination then you have to stop discriminating on the base of race. In other words, most 21st century Australians are well and truly over race. But if you continually discriminate on the basis of race with racial quotas, separate flags, separate clinics, separate scholarships, this will breed racial resentment…..
The same applies to all forms of discrimination, whether by race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
Congratulations to a good friend and great human being for his induction in the South African coaching hall of fame. Richard Turnbull (pictured above [left] with middle-distance runner Matthews Temane), with a background in exercise physiology, achieved outstanding success as an athletics coach in the 1980s and 1990s. He also served as fitness coach, helping the Springbok rugby team to prepare for the 1995 world cup.
Emigrating to Australia in the 1990s Richard settled in Orange, NSW, where he again ventured into rugby, coaching the local Emus to four straight Central West Rugby Union premierships.
In a golden era for middle- and long-distance running in South Africa, Richard coached some outstanding black athletes (like Willie Motolo and Matthews Temane) who ironically were prevented from competing in the Olympics because of apartheid.