Stewart Riddle, who trains future teachers how to teach literacy at the University of Southern Queensland, is peddling the idea that Aboriginal children should not be expected to learn how to read and write – at least not in English.
To put this wild claim in context, here is a quick summary of the facts and events leading up to it.
What’s really scary is that Dr Riddle is a supposed authority on literacy (he is a lecturer in literacies education and part of the management committee for the English Teachers’ Association of Qld), and that he is guiding the beliefs of future teachers.
And this guy is teaching future teachers this kind of nonsense. If you want to understand why indigenous people fill the juvenile and adult detention facilities in this country, look at their education. If you want to understand why their education is a disaster zone, look to people like Riddle.
Sadly, Dr Riddle’s view is part of a deeply entrenched problem in the way that teachers are trained. A lot of the theory that they are indoctrinated in is not backed by hard evidence.
When I went to university to study teaching (many years ago) we were indoctrinated in a theory known as whole language. If you did not parrot the party line and go along with lecturers’ latest pet theory, you had no chance of becoming a teacher. Now, John Hattie’s review of research3 has proved that whole language is one of the worst ideas in history (yet, it still sways the thinking of some teachers).
This is just one example. Universities peddle a lot of unproven educational theories and fads. It is little wonder that research also showed that teacher training has virtually no impact on how well kids do at school (see 6 Misleading Myths In Education).
It is time that those preparing our future teachers gave up their personal philosophies and looked at what the evidence actually says. They could start by reading John Hattie’s book Visible Learning: A Synthesis of 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement.
- see NAPLAN 2013 results [↩]
- See for example: Sorlie, P. D., Backlund, E., & Keller, J. B. (1995). US Mortality by economic, demographic, and social characteristics: The national longitudinal mortality study. American Journal of Public Health, 85, 949-956; Helliwell, J. F. (2002). How’s life? Combining individual and national variables to explain subjective well-being. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research; Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2000). Well-being over time in Britain and the USA. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research; Miech, R. A., Caspi, A., Moffit, T. E., Entner Wright, B. R., & Silva, P. A. (1999). Low Socioeconomic Status and Mental Disorders: A Longitudinal Study of Selection and Causation during Young Adulthood. American Journal of Sociology, 104(4), 1096-1131 [↩]
- Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Routledge. [↩]