I was born in a factory, far away from the milky teat… but my school was okay

They’ve unleashed MySchool upon the world and, like the data hoarding freak that I am, I immediately set about working out what all the funny little numbers were, what they meant, and — most importantly — whether or not the kids who went to my schools after me were any good at answering questions on the NAPLAN test correctly.

It turns out they aren’t.

A quick search of the internet will bring up all kinds of not-at-all-hysterical criticisms of the website.  I’m going to do something slightly different and compare it to another story that rampaged across the blogonerds this week:

The Australian Government Hates Small Breasts

According to the intellectually reputable and very balanced website SomebodyThinkoftheChildren, the Australian Sex Party said that the Australian Classification Board said that pr0n depicting small-breasted women is now banned.  Hark! Lest you think that this was merely Chinese Whispers, SomebodyThinkoftheChildren have even used their super-sleuthing skills to discover that — and hold on to your hats, peoples! — the ACB dares to use ‘a person’s overall appearance is used by the Board to determine whether someone appears to look under the age of 18‘.  I’m not entirely sure how else a person determines whether a person appears to be under 18 except by judging their appearance.  That’s usually what the word ‘appears’ means — they have an appearance.

Nevertheless, get out your pitchforks!  This is an outrage!

Ignore the fact that the entire story was made up by the Australian Sex Party.  No, wait.  Don’t forget that fact.  The reason why this took off over the internet is that it:

a) Confirmed people’s prejudices; and

b) Was time-consuming to disprove.

The prejudice confirmed was ‘Government is anti-fun and absurd’.

A similar thing happened with the MySchool website.  There were two prejudices this time around for two different kinds of people.  The first was ‘The government doesn’t care about teachers’.  The other was ‘The public has a Right To Know’.  Due to the lack of benchmarking and the relative scoring against other schools, the vast majority of schools end up slightly in the green, slightly in the red, or white.  It doesn’t actually provide any information at all because the overall results of the NAPLAN tests were not divulged.

So you don’t need to put in that much effort to assert that ‘MySchool proves the government doesn’t care about teachers/MySchool is providing the information which the public has a Right To Know’ because nobody will question the claims.

It’s rather cynically brilliant in a way.  If you want to whip a large number of people into a frenzy over absolutely nothing, just make sure your claim obeys those two rules then create a press release.

Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based PhD student, writer, and policy wonk who writes about law, conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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