Editorial Volume 2 Issue 1

In our first issue of Breaking Out, we signalled the general purpose of this publication: subverting the idea of education as a market value and exploring how education can contribute to empowering​ those who this market system has disenfranchised. In this issue we hope to continue this conversation.

As with our first issue, and we hope with all subsequent ones, the articles published here are written by a mix of teachers, academics, students and parents, and are about both critique and hope. A number of the authors share their experiences of and challenges in educational settings in a climate of ever-increasing alienation, work intensification, bureaucratisation and disempowerment. But while contemporary education policy continues to use 'evidence' and 'data' to turn teaching and learning into a compliance activity, for both teacher and student, the contributions in this issue show how we need to reconnect understanding with creativity, and find ways to resist and reject such an agenda.

We begin this issue with Dave Miller-Stinchcombe’s compelling case for rethinking (or remembering!) the deep connections between maths, science, technology and artistic and creative pursuit, in so doing, rejecting the atomised curriculum which typifies contemporary schooling. Continuing the thinking around maths education, Elena Prieto shares her attempts to conceptualise the teaching and learning of maths as an emancipatory activity, and invites other teachers to join her. These two articles make a significant contribution to thinking about how we might take learning beyond the ticking of outcome boxes and fragmented skill acquisition.

As was the case in our first issue, we are again pleased to publish a number of contributions from early-career and pre-service teachers. Early-career teacher and unionist Tim Blackman highlights four key (personal and professional) challenges for teachers with a commitment to quality public education in the current climate. He shares some of his own frustrations and poses some possible courses for action including a call for greater solidarity among teachers. We think these stories are important to tell, and should open the door to more shared storytelling as part of a process of re-politicising and organising teachers who refuse to abandon their principles of socially just teaching and learning.

Spoken-word artist, creative arts practitioner and new teacher Ebony Moncrief shares the transcript of an evocative spoken word piece reflecting on how the Freirean notion of dialogue informed her understanding of emancipatory teaching. Part critique, part self-reflection, part call to action, the piece, brimming with hope, has been performed several times around Melbourne. Current Master’s student and activist Lyndall Judd draws on the powerful history of literacy campaigns in East Timor, as a critical element of that nation’s struggle for economic and political self-determination, to consider the potential of critical literacy approaches and her role as a teacher.

As the current industrial negotiations in Victoria demonstrate, governments increasingly consider education from the point of view of their market return, and are unwilling to invest in a way that would truly prioritise teaching and learning. While teachers fight for working conditions that would enable them to genuinely meet the needs of their students, parents are faced with the ever-increasing cost of so-called ‘public’ education. Lea Campbell describes this hidden cost-shifting process and the devastating impact it continues to have on equity. Lea’s article leads us to consider the importance of reinventing the home-school partnership along grassroots lines rather than the tokenistic and bureaucratic ‘partnership’ that governments astutely make use of to pit parents against teachers and vice-versa. Another contribution from an anonymous parent in A firsthand account of a school campaigner’s experience with plays from the ‘dark arts playbookreinforces this, providing a telling example of the disempowerment parents face in trying to impact educational reform.

Study tours and student exchange experiences have long been offered in education, particularly in the Higher Education sector. In Decolonizing ‘volontourism’ in Mexico, Mayela Reyes Puente critiques the mainstream model which tends to be on offer and instead considers what meaningful intercultural exchange might look like for both students and the communities they connect with.

Finally, direct from the USA, where public education and human rights are facing immediate threats on a range of fronts in the Trump era, Kenneth Saltman explains the horrifying reality of Betsy Devos’ appointment as Education Secretary. We are all too familiar with the privatisation and corporatisation of education that has occurred over the past few decades, but the gruesome detail Kenneth provides reveals the new ways in which private interest is being given free-reign in the US public education system, or what is left of it. Not a hopeful piece in and of itself, and yet the immediate, constant, large and angry demonstrations and actions that have taken place since Trump won the election in the US have been nothing short of inspiring and give the rest of us a great example of resistance that is desperately needed here and elsewhere. And so the conversation and the struggle continue.

About the Author(s): 

Jo is a former secondary music and drama teacher now working in teacher education at Victoria University. She is a co-founder of the Popular Education Network Australia.

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