Kevin Donnelly once likened the findings of the Gonski schools funding review to a misplaced Fabian ideal of equality of outcomes.
Now the former teacher and critic of Labor’s education reforms is one of two people the Abbott government has appointed to conduct a review of the national schools curriculum.
The review’s other member, Ken Wiltshire, is a critic of the current curriculum, having previously lamented the “astounding devaluation” of the book in modern teaching.
Dr Donnelly, who taught for 18 years in both government and non-government schools, was critical of the Gonski review, saying it embraced a cultural-left, deficit view of education.
It justified compensating government schools and their communities at the expense of non-government school parents, he wrote in May 2012.
The arguments that “differences in wealth, income, power or possessions” should not be allowed to influence a student’s performance and that education must provide “equity of outcomes” echoed the misplaced Fabian ideal of equality of outcomes championed by Victoria’s one-time premier and education minister Joan Kirner.
Dr Donnelly’s criticism of the system’s command-and-control model echoes the views of federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, who appointed him to the curriculum review on Friday.
Australian schools were suffering from the fetish for defining educational success in terms of what can be quantified and measured, he said.
Last year Dr Donnelly said Labor’s Australian Education Bill, which established a framework for implementing the Gonski reforms, would undermine schools and weaken teacher effectiveness because of its complexity, opaqueness and raft of unintended, harmful consequences.
He also has expressed concerns about a “subjective” view of culture that neglects the Judeo-Christian values at the core of Australian institutions.
“Multiculturalism is based on the mistaken belief that all cultures are of equal worth and that it is unfair to discriminate and argue that some practices are wrong,” he wrote in 2012.
Prof Wiltshire, a professor of public administration at the University of Queensland business school, branded the curriculum a “failure” in January 2013 – prior to changes that were put in place last year.
He believes a school curriculum should be based on a set of values, a missing feature of the Labor model.
“Curriculum should also be knowledge-based, yet we are faced with an experiment that focuses on process or competencies.”
Prof Wiltshire headed a review of the Queensland school curriculum for the Goss Labor government and came across future prime minister Kevin Rudd, then the premier’s chief of staff.
“Rudd took no interest in the implementation and allowed many of the initiatives to be sabotaged,” he wrote in July 2013.
“Indeed, his own gargantuan Office of Cabinet tried to sink many of the recommendations from the beginning, based on personal biases and ideology.”
Prof Wiltshire said most of the education reforms Mr Rudd initiated as prime minister had ended in a shambles.