In Radical Hope, one of Australia’s most original and provocative thinkers turns his attention to the question of education. Noel Pearson begins with two fundamental questions: How to ensure the survival of a people, their culture and way of life? And can education transform the lives of the disadvantaged many, or will it at best raise up a fortunate few?
In an essay that is personal and philosophical, wide-ranging and politically engaged, Pearson discusses what makes a good teacher and recalls his own mentors and inspirations. He argues powerfully that underclass students, many of whom are Aboriginal, should receive a rigorous schooling that gives them the means to negotiate the wider world. He examines the long-term failure of educational policy in Australia, especially in the indigenous sector, and asks why it is always “Groundhog Day” when there are lessons to be learned from innovations now underway.
This is an essay filled with ideas and arguments and information – from a little-known educational revolutionary named Siegfried Englemann, to the No Excuses ethos and the Knowledge Is Power program, to Barack Obama’s efforts to balance individual responsibility and historical legacy. Pearson introduces new findings from research and practice, and takes on some of the most difficult and controversial issues. Throughout, he searches for the radical centre – the way forward that will raise up the many, preserve culture, and ensure no child is left behind.
Correspondence discussing Quarterly Essay 35, Radical Hope: