“I’m the engineer, you’re only the pilot?”
It is so good to have the Australian teacher, Yasodai Selvakumaran, recognised among the top ten in the world as a teacher in this Global World Teacher Prize. Her focus on the humanities is vital in a nation where the 2015 Australian National Curriculum review reinforced a divide between STEM and HASS. I hope that, at Rooty Hill High School NSW, with its inclusive multi-cultural philosophy, no such divide is allowed to permeate the attitudes of staff and students.
The human consequences of such an intellectual separation – and deliberate disconnection – have unhappily been made clear if the mention, on the ABC Radio National’s Saturday Extra story of March 23rd 2019, about the Boeing 737 Max 8 is true. Did Boeing engineers feel they knew everything about this plane? Did they feel those who flew this plane were only pilots? Did they feel they were lesser beings when pilots have the lives of so many in their care? Could that possibly be true? If there is evidence that such a contemptuous attitude towards pilots existed/exists at Boeing, what then? Could such an attitude have had a role in the tragic results in these two plane crashes? Listen to the interview.
Yasodai has a role in professional development and it looks like it is going to grow. I hope her insistence on the significance of the humanities means that there is a STEAM approach in her school. Sciences, Technology, Engineering, THE ARTS including the humanities, and Mathematics. That unnecessary 2015 curriculum review, required by the Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, ensured these cultures – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Indian, Chinese [put together as Asian] – were left on the Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences [HASS] side of the ‘cultural divide’. So, officially, these cultures’ contributions to science, technology, engineering and maths [STEM] have no place in the divisive way Australia’s curriculum content is now set up. The result, in effect, has been the sidelining, even in universities, of the humanities just when teachers in Australia had begun to make the interdisciplinary STEAM engagements across what has been called the ‘two cultures’ divide. I congratulate her. The recognition of Yasodai as one of the top 10 teachers in the world should send a message to all Australian educators who want to perpetuate the STEM/HASS divide that denigrates humanity.