On censorship, or challenging a one sided conversation.

Is something going wrong with rural and remote education in Australia? (Or is it all about perception?). This post was published on the Australian Association for Research in Education blog site ‘EduResearch Matters’ on 10/4/2017.  It is essentially a revision of my earlier post.

What I find interesting is that it was well received on social media, and received much positive comment and agreement and nothing by the way of real critique (as far as I saw). But, it emerged from my previous posts here expressly because the conversation would not publish it.  In discussions with the education editor there it was suggested I hadn’t explained key issues, explained why there was a problem etc. Really, the suggested tweaks indicate that the editor wanted me to say why the review was needed and what it aimed to achieve – i.e they really thought it was a good idea and needed. In fact, in the penultimate email it was noted that ‘but really, rural areas are disadvantaged aren’t they’ – the editor didn’t get the argument and couldn’t see past the pre-existing view that the rural is backward.  Thats when I knew it was over.

I should say i’ve had this problem with the conversation twice before – and the previous education editor. One article was similar in that it wanted to question the existing logic of education, and ended up being published in online opinion.  I kind of get that as it was an opinion type piece, but I feel based on enough evidence to justify publication. Thus, an imagine to challenge dominant views was lacking.  The second rejection was rather more disturbing.  It was based on some data from my dissertation regarding curriculum hierarchies, around the time of HSC results being released. It was over a year ago, but I’ve presented this a few times in Australia and overseas, had the dissertation examined, and the related paper now under review. Notwithstanding the current ‘under-review’ status, the work has always been well received.  However, at the time the then education editor basically said ‘no you are wrong, all subjects are equal and ATAR is about ensuring all are equal’.  Even the UAC’s own report disagrees! I even sent my data to prove it, as a data based article was proposed. I also referred them to all of Teese’s awesome work on the same topic! I’m still bemused by how an editor can say the data is wrong! challenging orthodoxies isn’t easy I guess.

Returning to this recent post. I had a thought and contacted a journalist for a newspaper who seems to have a really good ear for rural issues.  This journalist was interested and encouraging, to the point of reflecting on their own experience with their children.  They thought there might be an article in it… that was great validation – so I’m not mad. Others outside the establishment with an ear for the rural get it! there is hope…

Shortly afterwards I received an email reminding us about the AARE media blog that apparently gets tens of thousands of visits a month.  I sent my blog post to the editor, a former well known education journalist who has moved into retirement of sorts. They got it, saw the potential and issues and worked with me to turn it into the post on the EduResearch Matters site.  Then the response has been great.  Makes me wonder if part of the problem is dealing with ‘new’ journalism/journalist, as compared to more experienced ‘traditional’ journalists who get what it’s all about.

At least there is hope…