‘The lost art of discipline’ By Kevin Donnelly
This paper investigates the messages about education to be found in the media article ‘The lost art of discipline’ by Kevin Donnelly. The article concentrates on how to overcome student disadvantage by suggesting the resolution can be found in a rigorous discipline based approach. Donnelly argues, “the students suffering in terms of result”, the low retention rate of teachers as well as the declining rank of the Australian education system on the world stage is due to the lack of discipline in school and family environments (2014, para.9).
Donnelly’s ideological understanding of the failing system is due to the loss of discipline and values. In Donnelly’s (2014) view, schools and families are identified as being the source of dissatisfaction and “the real problem” with the education system (para. 2). He believes the main issue for disadvantage students is disruptive classrooms. Thus, regardless of socio-economic background, school funding or marketization of schools, Donnelly specifies that “badly behaved students and poorly managed classroom” as the main determinant for failing student outcomes (2014, para. 7).
The articles preferred discourse is summarized in the headline, ‘The lost art of discipline’ (Donnelly, 2014). Here discipline is defined as being lost and with the inclusion of ‘art’ insinuating it is something of high value and skill. Thus, this line of questioning is preferred throughout the article as the author’s preoccupation with correlating badly behaved students with academic results is reinforced with research statistics and statements.
His claim that ‘the problem with badly behaved students and disruptive classrooms across Australian schools is not new’ (Donnelly, 2013) is supported through the use of OECD statements and other studies. The results are used to provide substance to his argument, as it compares Australia to international high-achieving schools such as Finland, South Korea, Singapore, Japan and China. The inclusion of OECD statements positions it as an authoritative voice that speaks for education therefore provides an air of objectivity to Donnelly’s criticism. In the initial part of the article, the author uses concrete statistics that unfavorably rank Australia in order to emphasise his point. This is evident in the following extract:
“Australian classrooms were ranked 34th out of 65 countries in a recent OECD survey that asked 15 year old students to describe the levels of noise and disorder, the time it takes them to start working, whether they are able to work uninterrupted and whether they listen to the teacher” (Donnelly, 2013, para. 3).
This statement works to exaggerate school factors, which is established further with the inclusion of additional research. Again, the next study compares Australia to other countries however Donnelly has favored statements instead of statistics to establish his discourse. The statement uses vague and sensationalist language, which fails to clarify the exact predictions of the research. In addition, he attempts to show he didn’t come to this conclusion himself, however ultimately he did, as he paraphrased the remaining part of the statement in his own words. The is witnessed in the following statement:
“A 1997 study carried out by the Australian Council for Educational Research, involving 45 countries concluded ‘Australian ranks among the top handful of countries’ in terms of badly behaved students and poorly managed classrooms” (Donnelly, 2014, para. 7).
Together, these two studies construct a discourse on Australian schools and parents, which establishes them as opposition groups to the Australian education system. Initially the discourse represents teachers as a victim, due to the issue being presented as the core contention why teachers were leaving the profession. Whereas, the latter position undermines teachers’ professional practice and questions their