Monthly Archives: October 2008

Literacy s—teracy – I get so frustrated…

…but aside from my little bit of tutoring, it’s not my problem any more. What is frustrating is that during forty years (round figure) of teaching, mainly English at secondary level, I read statements like the following just about every year, beginning at least in 1965!

Nevertheless, you don’t need to be a behavioural scientist to know that literacy standards have declined. The problem is self-evident in the generation of twenty and thirty-somethings, with whom most of us work and play, who struggle to write anything more than a simple sentence and to read and comprehend anything more complicated than sports or gossip magazines.

That 2008 variant of this boring anecdotal meme is from David Long on ABC Unleashed today. You may note that in my essay on literacy (1998) I allude to the same allegation, as I could have in 1988, 1978 and so on…   Go and read the essay as I am tired of arguing. I should add, I suppose, that I am not complacent on the subject, that anyone I taught in that forty years left me knowing what a subject and verb are and how sentences are constructed, how paragraphs are constructed, and so on. Nothing in any English syllabus in that forty years forbade imparting that knowledge, though how it was explained and how it was tested have varied. I know this is the case in NSW not just because I was there, but because I also know the person who framed the 1972 “New English” Syllabus, and during the 70s I knew just about everyone at the top of the NSW English Teachers Association, being on the State Council myself in the late 70s. I also knew Leonie Kramer, Rob Eagleson, Bob Walshe, and (less well) Michael Halliday… People who have been around English teaching for long enough will know who they are. Not that this proves anything, except that a healthy discussion has been going on among English teachers for decades and I have been part of it, and teachers have been in all that time, as was my grandfather from 1906, totally committed to fostering reading, writing and thinking among our students, not all of whom are willing participants in the process, which is and always has been one of our challenges — that and the great variety of abilities and circumstances one must deal with. Teachers are constantly seeking ways to meet these challenges, partly as a matter of survival as well as to better serve (or “better to serve” if you follow that fetish) the community. I still regard as possibly my greatest success as a teacher getting a 14-year-old (in 1970) to be able at last to write his own name despite his having an IQ too low to assess. 

In more recent years English Studies has added to what we were taught and (maybe) learned. We think rather more than I did in the 1959 Leaving Certificate about how, where and why texts are uttered/written or (as we say these days) composed, and we pay more attention to the variety of texts, linguistics having shown us a lot more about that than we knew fifty years ago. That is a plus, and very important.

Why are people so irredeemably illiterate (or anecdotal, or dogmatic) when it comes to talking about literacy? Why too don’t a few more people point to the place where language learning begins, and where its development is most fostered: the home?


I had to come back and fix a subject-verb agreement problem in this post! At least I could spot it and knew what to do about it, though it was one of those cases where most readers, probably including Mr Long, would not have noticed if I had left it uncorrected! But I am a bit of a pedant… My coachees of 2008, even the one in Year 8, also know about subject-verb agreement, even if getting it right can be a bit harder when, as is that Year 8 student’s  case, one’s first language is Chinese. (Chinese languages survive without marking subject-verb agreement grammatically.)

Oh go and read English/ESL if you are interested in such things. I’m out of here!


There is another possible subject-verb agreement problem in this post, but I am not going to correct it, as arguably it is notionally correct. Can you find it?

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Posted by on October 31, 2008 in curriculum, education, English language, English studies, linguistics and language, literacy


Old and hot in Surry Hills

Well, old the photographer must be: “What are you doing out, Pop,” the Koori woman asked me… And hot? Well, can’t you tell?

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Just minding my own business on a Pension Day, and going to the bank, which is right near that bus stop. The bike guy had been visiting the teller machine too.

Let’s just check that bus stop…

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Seems OK.

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Posted by on October 31, 2008 in Australia, diversions, local, Surry Hills


Last night on ABC1 — “The Intervention” and “Menzies and Churchill at War”

These were both well worth seeing.

The second of three documentaries dealing with Australian Prime Ministers, Menzies And Churchill At War did make me reassess Menzies as a war-time Prime Minister. That he was in England for quite a while early in World War II I knew, and that Churchill was not always Australia’s best friend I also knew, but the details, reinforced by Menzies’ own home movies, were quite fascinating.

The other documentary The Intervention dealt with matters that Australians differ about. I was ambivalent about it all at the time, and still am. However, last night’s documentary did confirm a number of things, the first being what an enormous gap there is between what is said and done by politicians and bureaucrats in Canberra and state capitals – and this is still true – and what actually is happening on the ground. Even greater perhaps is the gap between much of the media representation of all this, and what most of us far from key events understand, and the real experiences of those who are in situations we barely comprehend. There was much in this documentary that rang very true. Sure, the gist is that the Northern Territory Intervention last year was for the most part misguided, or worse, while conceding there have been some benefits.  It surely was badly thought out, and poisoned by a number of factors: it was an election year; Howard and company had badly messed up over their attitude to Reconciliation and the Apology, locked in as they were to that totally spurious dichotomy between the symbolic and the practical; Mal Brough and those close to him were hopeless diplomats and conciliators.

At the same time, we met some thoroughly admirable Australians in last night’s documentary, many of them probably hitherto unknown to most of us, and we were encouraged to think concretely in human terms about the whole situation, and that is a very big plus.

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Posted by on October 31, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, human rights, humanity, Indigenous Australians, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, TV


October 2008 on Floating Life and English/ESL – and what’s new

What’s new on Ninglun’s Specials, English/ESL and Photobucket

Overview of October 2008

Floating Life sites and English/ESL have both exceeded 12,000 visits each in October, according to Sitemeter. Floating Life sites have achieved a second-best ever – 14,579 visits in September, but English/ESL has broken its former best by about 3,000!

The final Sitemeter counts were: Floating Life sites – 12,585 visits and 15,538 page views; English/ESL – 12,075 visits and 15,236 page views – best ever by over 3,000 visits.

WordPress counts at c. 9.00 am our time on 1 November – that is, with about two hours to run WP time.

  • Floating Life: 8,733 page views (best ever last month at 11,781)
  • Ninglun’s Specials: 2,440 views, the best since July 2008 which had 2,698. When the blog was “Oz Politics” the best ever was November 2007 at 5,209, which was of course the month of the election. Further details about Ninglun’s Specials are in a separate post.
  • Floating Life Apr 06~Nov 07: 4,238 views. The best ever there was November 2007 with 8,998.
  • English/ESL: This is the big one last month! 14,371 views. Best ever!

What was hot

The top individually viewed posts for the month, with the exception of Ninglun’s Specials, appear below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 31, 2008 in blogging, milestones, miscellaneous stats, site news, site stats


Ninglun’s Specials in October 2008

There are, as at 31 October 2008, over 1,000 pictures and other media on Ninglun’s Specials, 119.8 MB out of an available FREE 3 GB. So there’s scope for more for some time to come!

In October over 300 images were added in 110 posts, the most ever on this blog. 6 October saw the most visitors for the month – 148. That day was a big set on the Chinese Garden with 10 posts in one day!

Last week of October

A few thumbs showing highlights of the last week. The thumbs are not hyperlinked. There were 16 posts, 10 on Surry Hills, 4 on Redfern, 1 on Chinatown, and 1 announcement re the Photobucket albums.

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Stats for October 2008

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I don’t have a memory these days, but…

… I do have a blog. So as this month comes to a close consider:

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Posted by on October 31, 2008 in blogging, personal, reminiscences, reminiscing, replays


Buddha in East Redfern

I spotted this high up on a South Dowling Street balcony. It was almost beyond the Casio’s range. I had to rest the camera on something solid, and then do a bit of work afterwards on the image.

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Original photo by Neil 27 Oct 2008

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Posted by on October 30, 2008 in local, personal