Parents must be vigilant over what kids are being taught
by Stephen Mulholland - Another Voice
(Business Times, 23 July 2000)

Little popular attention is paid in this country to the subject of Outcomes
Based Education (OBE), the subject of a recent spat between the writer and
the Minister of Education. Perhaps it is a topic which people find boring,
in which case I apologise.

Or perhaps I shouldn't. Education is the rockbed of society. It has, for
example, been identified as the single most important issue in the 2000 US
presidential elections. Maybe this is because the US has, for practical
purposes, no unemployment, almost no inflation, falling crime rates and the
world's strongest currency. On the other hand, Americans have always taken
a close interest in how their kids are educated. Elections to school boards in
American communities have traditionally been keenly contested. Parents are
jealous of the reputations of their neighbourhood schools.

In this context it is interesting to consider the most widely available (on
the Internet) definition of OBE, supplied by the publication Education Week:
"(OBE is) ... an education theory that guides curriculum by setting goals
for students to accomplish. Outcomes-based education focuses more on
these goals, or outcomes, than on 'inputs', or subject units. This theory has
drawn intense criticism from parent groups who fear that, by focusing on
outcomes, schools are inflicting values on to students."

In order for students to progress in this system they must provide the
"right" answers to questions which often demand of them that they express an
opinion. If their opinion is wrong, they do not progress but are asked the
question over and over until they provide the right, or "politically correct", answer. This is also known as brainwashing. One of my children ran into something like this at university. Students were asked to write an essay either criticising or praising an aspect of the policies of  Winston Churchill. She, alone in the class, chose to praise him. She put in a great deal of work
and was pleased with her effort. However, she received a very poor grade.
She took this up with the lecturer who agreed that she had done a good job
but said that he could never give a high grade to work which praised Churchill.

Mad as this sounds, it actually happened. Parents in SA today should take
particular care over how and what their kids are being taught. Minister
Kader Asmal has emphatically stated that OBE remains the basis of our
system. As long as that is the case, parents must be more vigilant than ever
if they wish to have a lasting influence on the knowledge their kids are
acquiring and the value systems and beliefs being imposed on them.

Being the richest man in history who started with nothing but an education
does not make Bill Gates an authority on the subject. But it is reasonable
to assume that as both a father and a highly competent entrepreneur his
views are worth consideration. He recently addressed a high school
graduation day in the US, and these are some of the points he made:

Life is not fair; get used to it.
The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to
accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not.
In some schools they have abolished grades and they'll give you as many
times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest
resemblance to anything in the real world.
Very few employers are interested in helping you to find yourself.
Do that on your own time.
If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your
mistakes. Learn from them.
Flipping burgers isn't beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a
different word for burger flipping; they called it opportunity.
Simple, homespun stuff, I suppose.
But I know who my money would be on in a debate between Gates and Asmal.