“No Excuses” – High expectations for ALL students

I just finished reading Noel Pearson’s “Radical Hope: education & equality in Australia”.  An interesting book that seriously challenges the way that we’re taught to teach (via University, Govt. policy etc) and doesn’t personally fit well with my personal philosophy/view of teaching.  I was open to considering his views and while reading his book I questioned a lot of the assumptions that I had regarding teaching but then he lost me with his negativity towards Paulo Freire.  I also found his views to be a one-way ONLY approach, specifically that Direct/Explicit Instruction WILL help ALL student learn, and I don’t understand why anyone would want to limit the education of students like this.  Surely there is enough research out there to show that people vary greatly and the way they learn varies greatly too.  My teaching areas are directed at High School, specifically senior schooling, so I can’t comment professionally on how to teach children to read but it seems crazy to say that ONLY phonics will help Indigenous children to learn to read.  I agree with Jane Caro’s response (included in the book) where she points out that encouraging both a whole-language approach and phonics is best.

The idea of “No Excuses” is at first glance really great and I believe that we should have high expectations for ALL students.  Educators, parents and the community should have high expectations of EVERY child.  The reality is that there are still a lot of negative stereotypes out there that continue to prescribe low expectations for Indigenous Australian children.  Through Pearson’s book and also via some current Uni subject material I have stumbled on Dr. Chris Sarra and from a Google search I found the Stronger Smarter Institute.  This is positive stuff and I look forward to taking some time to learn more about this.  I wonder why this has not been discussed during my 3 years at USQ, is it because it is partnered with QUT or just not something that is promoted during pre-service training?  Anyway, the idea of No Excuses to learn is important BUT it can not be the excuse for Australian citizens to disregard the major disadvantages that are experienced by Indigenous Australians.  Giving No Excuses could, and I argue has in some cases, led to “…encouraging a mean-spirited public to suppose that it need do nothing about poverty and its attendant ills – lack of decent housing, medical insurance, safe streets, financial security, adequate diet, and adequate time for a rich family life” (Noddings, 2006, p. 2).  I think this is something to be wary of and it all really depends on how you frame the “No Excuses” argument.

Noddings, N. (2006). Critical Lessons: what our schools should teach. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press

4 comments on ““No Excuses” – High expectations for ALL students

  1. Margaret says:

    I guess his opinion makes you think further and I wonder why he believes the way he does…maybe 1st hand experience?


    • elketeaches says:

      I’ll give you the book next to read. There’s a really interesting chapter at the beginning that talks about Obama’s “No excuses” and how that was understood. There is reasoning behind Pearson’s position; his personal experience, both when he was young & now, and & a study/tests by Engelmann in the 60’s. Part of his logic is that creativity and critical thinking are impossible without first a good basis of fundamental literacy & numeracy….I think you can have a child that thinks critically or is creative without being fully skilled in literacy & numeracy. Literacy & Numeracy is very important but I think primary school would be seriously boring if that’s all they focused on in the first 5+ years!


  2. Clanmother says:

    ” No excuses” has been a call to action in a variety of scenarios, many of them controversial. We are experiencing rapid changes in teaching methodology based on technology, diversity and shared knowledge and experience. I hesitate to canonize teaching practices when there is so much more waiting for us…


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