Daily Archives: June 2, 2008

Last night on ABC1 — Wild China: Tibet

I found this wonderful and fascinating. Here is a taste.

Here is the BBC site.

The Tibetan plateau covers a quarter of China – an area the size of Western Europe. This vast, windswept wilderness is one of the world’s most remote places, defined by the glacier-strewn Himalayas. It’s also home to some incredible wildlife such as the rare chiru, brown bears, wild yaks and the highest-living predators on Earth. There are more large creatures here than anywhere else in China.

Defined by over a thousand years of Buddhism, Tibet has a unique culture that has nurtured remarkable beliefs. The programme discovers why this landscape and ancient culture is the life support system for much of the planet.

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Maralyn Parker at Mascot Public School

The Daily Telegraph today gives the NSW state school system some much needed positive publicity. Mind you, Maralyn Parker often says sensible things.

Why more kids are now at public schools

The Daily Telegraph’s education writer MARALYN PARKER was principal-for-a-day at Mascot Public School. Here’s what she found in the classrooms…

Mascot is a thriving public school almost under the flight path near Sydney airport. It is a shining example of all that is great about NSW public schools and why enrolments in public schools across Sydney are increasing. There are now 228 public schools and 159 private schools in the area bounded by the Sydney CBD through to Port Hacking, including the eastern suburbs and Mascot. It is unique in that there are so many private schools concentrated in the area.

After decades of private school growth, Sydney families began turning back to public schools about four years ago. In 2004, 84,789 children were enrolled in Sydney’s public schools. In 2008, there are 87,908.  One of the many reasons for the turn, according to Sydney regional director Phil Lambert, is the myriad connections public schools have with their local communities.

Such a connection sparked what can only be called a magic public school moment, about half an hour into my Mascot principal-ship. Having already greeted and chatted to many parents, about the tenth who stopped us as Ms McKeown showed me around the school was Ruhal Ahmed. He is also general secretary of the Bangladesh Association of Australia.  The association uses the school premises on the weekend to hold classes for Arabic and Islamic studies. Mr Ahmed wanted to tell the principal that he could easily move the classes around to accommodate the Maori Christian Church services, which are also being held there on weekends. As the weather was getting colder, Mr Ahmed said, he was happy to share the warm inside rooms with the church.

I had an instant vision of Mascot primary Maori children singing their four-part harmony Christian hymns in a room next to Mascot primary Muslim children reciting the Koran in Arabic ; and everyone thinking that it was all just normal. Only in an Australian public school. No need for inter-faith days or cultural exchange days for children at this school. Most children enrolled in Mascot are actually from a Greek background.

Others are from Turkish, Islander, Bangladeshi and Aboriginal cultures…

I would love to tell you about each class I visited and each teacher I spoke to. I have to say I was stunned by the standards being reached by Mascot PS children. I tried to read a book, Reading Makes you Feel Good to some kinder children and they ended up reading it to me. I noticed among the stories written by Year 1 children one including the word laughable; spelt correctly.

Reluctantly I left my school for the day. Ms McKeown had told me, “I don’t go home any day thinking I have finished. There is always something more I wanted to do.”

By then I knew exactly what she meant.

That is what gets lost when politicians and talk-back hosts and academic critics with bees in their bonnets, axes to grind, or knickers in a twist get into the act. Remember this column. It could be replicated from many other state schools…

I saw Mascot, and around ten other schools in this area, for myself fifteen years ago when engaged in a research project on reading; it, and the others, mightily impressed me with what they were doing and the sheer dedication and intelligence they brought to their tasks. (I allude to that project in my essay on literacy.) It seems that what I saw then has been quietly going forward despite all the flak shot up by the pollies and commentators.

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Cyber condoms again

Back in December and January I wrote about what I call Cyber Condoms — programs that protect the computer or your privacy from the nasties out there. Six months down the track and I am still using Flock Browser, as you will see from today’s entries, but I must confess I use Firefox more often, Opera at times, and IE7 as little as possible.

Of the programs I mentioned in December and January, experience gives a big tick to:

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Posted by on June 2, 2008 in blogging, computers, web stuff


Yeah, right…

Just a few examples of quality thinking from this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald.

1. Board clears Henson images

In this instance the quality thinking is that of our PM and others who have joined the panic over the Henson pics.

Images declared “absolutely revolting” by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, at the height of the Bill Henson controversy have been cleared for general release.

Late last week the Classification Board swiftly assessed five Henson images taken from media websites and rated them all “G” or “very mild”. Some or all of the images are partly censored with black bars covering nipples and genitals. The assessment followed a complaint about images on media websites after NSW police closed his Sydney exhibition on May 23. The main complaint is said to involve a slide show of seized photographs on The Daily Telegraph’s website.

Last Thursday, the Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus, said images from media websites had been referred to the Classification Board. They were cleared the same day. An internet censorship expert Irene Graham told the Herald: “The fact that the Classification Board has become involved in this and then worked so quickly to reach its verdict is a sign of just how politically sensitive the Henson issue has become.”…

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