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Who are you calling an ideologue?

I get very cranky about the way something as important as the teaching of reading is framed by some in the media and out there (consequently?) by the public. It really ought not to be framed as a white hats versus black hats conflict. Anyone who sees everything in terms of left-wing conspiracy and thus sees literacy teachers as mindless idiots pushed around by “ideologues” really doesn’t deserve any respect at all. Certainly such right-wing ideologues don’t deserve to be listened to, but unfortunately they too often are. They cash in on our tendency to think someone has been conning us.

I have argued this case again and again for several decades, let alone on this blog, and am rather tired of it all. However, I enter the fray again prompted by this letter in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

As one who taught many a struggling child to read, I bridle at Miranda Devine’s denigratory labelling of Brian Cambourne as the "godfather" of whole language learning ("The crazy politics of learning to read", March 21-22).

Cambourne has produced a wealth of impressive evidence to substantiate his advocacy of holistic approaches to literacy. He is one of many dedicated literacy leaders who rightly emphasise the centrality of meaning in learning to read and that excessive emphasis on fragmented decoding achieves only limited results. Such reductionism can produce "readers" who are able to decode print, but who seldom go near a book.

Whole language advocates are not averse to teaching phonics; they teach embedded phonics as one strategy among many necessary to help children with reading problems. How many times must it be said that almost all schools teach phonics thoroughly?

MULTILIT, or Making Up Lost Time In Literacy, is a program aimed primarily at low progress readers. It is demanding in terms of time and resources and there are question marks about the persistence of some reading gains made. Like more holistic approaches, it also recognises the importance of reading interesting material to and with children, building up sight word competence, linking spelling and writing with the reading program and so on.

To characterise whole language advocates as those who think "children learn to read naturally just by being exposed to books" is insulting. It fails to recognise the wide acceptance of whole language emphases on skills being taught in context, literacy across the curriculum and quality literature at all levels of the reading experience.

Well-implemented whole language approaches, far from being discredited, are preferable to those that treat reading in isolation and splinter the complex process of becoming literate.

Ron Sinclair Bathurst

How about we look at what Brian Cambourne has actually said? Then we might consider what reading teachers actually do, which has been well characterised in that letter.

One articulate exponent of whole language has been Brian Cambourne who emphasises the crucial role in literacy development of what he called conditions of learning (Cambourne 1988) which may be summarised as follows:

Learners need:

a) immersion in appropriate texts.

b) appropriate demonstrations.

c) responsibility for making some decisions about when, how and what they read and write.

d) high expectations about themselves as potential readers and writers.

e) high expectations about their abilities to complete the reading and writing tasks they attempt.

f) freedom to approximate mature and/or ‘ideal’ forms of reading and writing.

g) time to engage in the acts of reading and writing.

h) opportunities to employ developing reading and writing skills and knowledge in meaningful and purposeful contexts.

i) responses and feedback from knowledgeable others which both support and inform their attempts at constructing meaning using written language.

j) plenty of opportunities, with respect to the written form of language, to reflect upon and make explicit what they are learning.

When Whitfield examined the practices of reading teachers K-12 in the Botany region of Sydney in 1993 he found this to be the dominant approach, aside from a minority who favoured such skills-centred, bottom-up approaches as the Macquarie Probes, for example. However, many teachers were taking up the genre pedagogy advocated by the various Metropolitan East Disadvantaged Schools projects on literacy and the then developing English K-6 syllabus document, the final version of which has recently been published. In very many cases the genre pedagogy was deployed in a whole language framework. Typical of this blend of approaches is this STLD (support teacher learning difficulties) teacher in an Infants School:

We work within a framework of a Whole Language Classroom, which reflects also a Naturalistic Approach, and by Naturalistic Approach we mean that the conditions which are operating when a child learns to talk can also be applied to the classroom. Within that Whole Language framework we also do the Genre Writing Approach based on Halliday’s Systemic Functional Model of language and learning. What we are actually talking about is that children have a purpose or a social goal and an audience in mind. So we work with all these frameworks, so I guess we’re a bit eclectic in the approaches and methodologies that we actually use. (Whitfield 1993:4.)

Yes, I am Whitfield (1993) and those with access to university libraries or the State Library of NSW may find that old work of mine: Whitfield, N. J. (1993), Best Practice in the Teaching of Reading, 1993 DSP Action Research Project, Metropolitan East Region, Botany Cluster, Erskineville, Disadvantaged Schools Program. You see, the nonsense was being promulgated way back then and it is just as silly and harmful now as it was then. The extract above comes from 03 — an essay from 1998: Literacy on Ninglun’s Specials. While that essay is aging it is still relevant and is supplemented by links to the latest resources in the area.

In that 1993 project I had access to Infants, Primary and Secondary reading classes in about a dozen schools from La Perouse to Mascot, from Maroubra to Eastlakes. Some of those schools were challenging places to work. I ended up admiring the dedication and intelligence of the teachers involved, and certainly found very little evidence of dumbos swept every which way by airhead lefties. Further, in the course of that project I did extensive reading on the subject going back to the 1890s, and also had the benefit of conversation in the past with my grandfather, a reading teacher from 1906 through the 1940s, and my aunt who had taken up the role in the 1940s through to the 1970s.

Perhaps you can see why I get cranky.

Further thoughts

Jim Belshaw addressed some issues suggested by this post in his Problems with words and measurements.

…Here I want to use an example from Neil. Not, I hasten to add, to attack Neil, but because he has actually brought out an example of what I see as sloppy thinking.

I suggest that you read first Who are you calling an ideologue?. This post deals with a debate in Australia about the teaching of English. Without going into the details, this debate links to Australia’s own unique culture wars, a clash of ideas enveloped in political venom on both sides.

If you look at Miranda Devine’s article, and assuming her reporting is in any way correct, then Brian Cambourne is engaged in an intellectual war. Miranda Devine’s response falls to the same class.

Neil, an experienced English teacher, is sympathetic to Brian Cambourne’s position, but also believes the whole debate misses the point – there is no single solution. Neil is right. I think that I can show quite simply and clearly that the debate is misdirected….

Jim then goes on to say some very sensible things about the standard complaints about literacy emanating from some academic and business circles – complaints I recall hearing for the past forty years and more. (I take that up in my 1998 essay.)

I have had another look at Miranda Devine’s article after reading Jim’s post. I am sure much she says is correct, but it is also very selective. (By the way, the Redfern Multilit program is run by Ashfield Uniting Church’s Exodus Centre in premises owned by South Sydney Uniting Church of which I am a member. I am sure it is doing a lot of good, but then most intensive programs with small groups tend to.) “Brian Cambourne is engaged in an intellectual war. Miranda Devine’s response falls to the same class.”  True enough, but I think 1) Cambourne has been a bit silly in his emails and 2) reporting has distorted his purpose. What Cambourne is talking about in statements like "When you rely on evidence, it’s twisted … We rely on the cognitive science framing theory, to frame things the way you want the reader to understand them to be true." – which out of context does sound bizarre – is Sociology 101 rather than “a postmodern justification for obfuscation.”

For example, see Framing explained from Values Based Management, hardly a site of rampant pomo.

Framing (F) is focusing the attention of people within a field of meaning. Tversky and Kahneman should be seen as the founders of framing theory, although Fairhurst and Sarr actually coined the term.

Contrary to the central concept of of rational choice theory (people always strive to make the most rational choices possible), Framing theory suggests that how something is presented (the “frame”) influences the choices people make.

Frames are abstract notions that serve to organize or structure social meanings. Frames influence the perception of the news of the audience, this form of agenda-setting not only tells what to think about an issue (agenda-setting theory), but also how to think about that issue.

F is a quality of communication that leads others to accept one meaning over another. It is  the process by which a communication source defines and constructs a political issue or public controversy.

F is an important topic since it can have a big influence on what people think! Try the first example on the right to test if you can withstand framing…

Framing is not per se a bad thing and in fact is an unavoidable part of human communication. We find it in the media as events are presented within a field of meaning.  We find it in politics as politicians attempt to characterize events as one thing or another; we find it in religion, and we find it in negotiating when one side tries to move another towards a desired outcome. Finally it can also be used by leaders of organizations with profound effects on how organizational members understand and respond to the world in which they live. It is a skill that most successful leaders possess, yet one that is not often taught.

According to Fairhurst & Sarr (1996) F consists of three elements:

1. Language,

2. Thought, and

3. Forethought.

Language helps us to remember information and acts to transform the way in which we view situations. To use language, people must have thought and reflected on their own interpretive frameworks and those of others. Leaders can and should learn framing spontaneously in certain circumstances. Being able to do so has to do with having the forethought to predict framing opportunities. In other words, leaders must plan in order to be spontaneous.

Fairhurst and Sarr (1996) described the following Framing Techniques:

a) Metaphor: To give an idea or program a new meaning by comparing it to something else.

b) Stories (myths and legends): To frame a subject by anecdote in a vivid and memorable way.

c) Traditions (rites, rituals and ceremonies): To pattern and define an organization at regular time increments to confirm and reproduce organizational values.

d) Slogans, jargon and catchphrases: To frame a subject in a memorable and familiar fashion.

e) Artifacts: To illuminate corporate values through physical vestiges (sometimes in a way language cannot).

f) Contrast: To describe a subject in terms of what it is not.

g) Spin: to talk about a concept so as to give it a positive or negative connotation.

Miranda’s columns are usually classic examples of framing or filtering an issue through an ideology – hence the title of this entry.

The theory is known and used by many linguists worldwide, including this Indonesian blogger. In the world of linguistics the theory is often associated with George Lakoff.

Lakoff acknowledges that both academic and political cultures are slow to change. But he is optimistic, pointing to the way in which the growth of cognitive psychology has undermined the rational-actor model that long dominated economics. In his own field, Lakoff predicts that "brain-based linguistics" will soon become the new standard — indeed, eclipsing Chomsky.

And despite his setbacks, Lakoff is not giving up on politics. He is still confident that his ideas can make a difference to Democrats. When he wrote Thinking Points, his handbook for progressive activism, he sent the first copy to Barack Obama. "I don’t know if he read it," Lakoff says, as a wide grin flashes across his face, "but a number of people have observed that if you look through Thinking Points, it is the Obama campaign.

Since, unfortunately, the gurus at Macquarie University (or their enthusiastic supporters) seem to frame promotion of their product at $349.00 a kit as a negation of Cambourne’s reputation and life work he was drawing on framing theory to determine a counter-strike. Whoever persuades the people with the purse strings is likely to prosper of course, though Cambourne isn’t actually selling anything – except perhaps his reputation, that of his department, and the potential for research grants. Further, the conditions of learning – the concept he is most famous for – outlined above really apply whatever one may think of phonics, a point made in the letter with which I began.

And you will note, won’t you, how I have been deliberately framing that paragraph. It does work. Ask Barack Obama.

Miranda ends on a grand irrelevance, except it is part of her framing of the issue: “This has been as futile and damaging as the notion that we cannot prevent catastrophic bushfires unless we stop climate change. It is using the tragedy of illiterate children as the means to achieve an ideological end.”

 

The nitty gritty of English

I have one coachee in Year 12 doing Advanced English for the HSC who presents with a considerable problem. It isn’t lack of intelligence or insight, but rather a level of English that makes it hard for him to demonstrate what he knows effectively. He arrived in Australia from Hong Kong in May 2007. While he had some English language instruction in Hong Kong, he is very much a Cantonese native speaker.

Here is a small example.

In the movie Australian, Baz Luhrmann is dealing with the same sort of idea that an outsider Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidmen), is trying to fit in to a country that is completely new to her. The way she belongs to the new continent is by understanding the aboriginal’s thought and accept the way they live and try to fit in to them. With the introduction of the rough cow’s drover (Hugh Jackman) as an assistance of Sarah Ashley, the drover help her to save her remote cow station. In this case, Sarah not only fit in to the aboriginal society because of her acceptance and understanding, but also affect by the drover, she as an English noble is not really standing on their side, one of the reason is the drover doesn’t want to join the English noble group but there is another important reason base on identity that is when a person belongs to a group they will understanding their thought and support them, which is in this case, the aboriginal kid is being accepted by her as her children in the white man society. Her we can see the connection between the experience of Peter Skrzynecki in “Migrant Hostel” and in Australian, both of them experience a lack of belonging to a place because of the lack of understanding to the place. However, in Australia, Sarah Ashley has successfully understand and accept the Aboriginal culture then finally she is truly belong to the continent which is different to all the white people who live in the continent, they just physically belong to that place but not spiritually belong to this place. The sense of belonging is shown in the final scene of the movie, that Sarah Ashley release and let the Aboriginal kid goes back to his grandpa his root this is a acceptance to a culture, which is a way to belong to a new culture.

Here is the work in progress; I have left a section untouched* because I need to discuss it further with the student. Anything in square brackets is to be deleted.

In the movie Australia Baz Luhrmann is dealing with the same sort of idea: that an outsider, Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), is trying to fit into a country that is completely new to her. The way she belongs to the new continent is by understanding [the] Aboriginal[’s] thought and accept the way they live and try to fit in with them. [With the introduction of] The rough cattle drover (Hugh Jackman) assists Sarah Ashley, [the drover] helping her to save her remote cattle station. *In this case, Sarah not only fits in to the Aboriginal society because of her acceptance and understanding, but also is affected by the drover. she as an English noble is not really standing on their side, one of the reason is the drover doesn’t want to join the English noble group but there is another important reason base on identity that is when a person belongs to a group they will understanding their thought and support them, which is in this case, the aboriginal kid is being accepted by her as her children in the white man society.*

“Cow” is feminine, “bull” is masculine; “cattle” is the generic or collective noun.

Here we can see the connection between the experience of Peter Skrzynecki in “Migrant Hostel” and Sarah Ashley in Australia. Both of them experience a lack of belonging to a place because of a lack of understanding of the place. However, in Australia, Sarah Ashley has successfully understood and accepted the Aboriginal culture so that finally she is truly able to belong to the continent, which is different from most of the white people who live in the continent, who just physically belong to this place but do not spiritually belong to this place. The sense of belonging is shown in the final scene of the movie when Sarah Ashley [release and] lets the Aboriginal boy go back to his grandfather and his roots. This is an acceptance of a culture, which is a way to belong to a new culture.

In the previous paragraph I have replaced a few examples of colloquial language with more neutral or formal language.

He is, by the way, improving quite rapidly, but still has a long way to go and not much time to get there.

 

Compass last night: Bridge Over the Wadi

logohand Given so much we see and read out of Israel/Palestine, it was good that Compass screened the documentary Bridge Over the Wadi last night. One reviewer writes:

… Although Hand in Hand is bi-lateral, this film isn’t. It’s Israeli. This will immediately scream ‘bias’ to some audiences. But hold on a minute – and I say that sincerely as I am the most sceptical of audiences on such matters. As an Israeli film, I still feel it bends over backwards to illustrate both sides. Often quite emotionally. And the sincerity of all concerned can be painfully moving to behold.

Views expressed are mostly of the children. Children educated in each other’s languages. Each other’s religious beliefs. Respecting their own culture, but partaking fully – yes, fully – in the opposite culture.

"I’m a total atheist," says one parent. "But I’m Jewish." She is not making some subtle academic point about the separation of Jewish culture and religion. As a parent who’s sent her child to Bridge over the Wadi school, she is already a ‘tolerant’ member of her community, and is consequently looked at askance by many of her neighbours. Yet her tolerance soon begins to waver. She exclaims that Arab parents must think she is "a sucker" for letting her Jewish kids say "Allah is great". We then hear from her the familiar, archetypal, emotional (if disingenuous) homilies about Exodus and about the Holocaust. She removes her child from school.

An Arab boy goes to lunch at his Jewish classmate’s home. The boys just want to relax. Grandma, however well meaningly, interrogates him over his ‘views’ on terrorists. He squirms. This is a five-year-old child being made to feel guilty. But it is normal and reasonable from the grandma’s perspective, with her look of fear and concern…

Bridge Over The Wadi packs a tremendous emotional punch. It doesn’t offer complete answers. It does show a significant attempt to move forward in reciprocal understanding rather than mutual narrow-mindedness. My main criticism is that it still seems a little smug. It fails to give any noticeable credit to the Initiatives on which the documentary is based. It simplifies facts. For instance, considering the vast lengths Hand In Hand go to for accuracy, it seems disrespectful that filmmakers round out the numbers of pupils – applications ‘doubled’ in the second year – they actually increased very significantly. Or, suffering the little children perhaps, should they have omitted to mention that Christianity is also taught alongside Islam and Judaism?

But Bridge Over The Wadi is an impressive piece. One I recommend. It succeeds in presenting issues in a captivating way, without assuming detailed prior knowledge of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

One of the extraordinary things about five-year-olds anywhere is their sense of discovery about the world. Their unaffected and unconscious grasp of what is before their eyes. When they put their cross-border friendships before age-old enmity, the reasoning out of their mouths puts the complex negotiations of adults to shame.

That really says it all, and I agree wholeheartedly.

See also my Vodpod on the right down the page.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2009 in best viewing 2009, current affairs, education, humanity, inspiration, interfaith, Israel, Middle East, multiculturalism, peace, pluralism, religion, TV

 

Recession solving teacher shortage?

Ironic, isn’t it?

See When going gets tough, get teaching in today’s Australian.

IF Australia slides into recession, Connie and Peter Watson will be among the last to feel it.

As teachers in the public school system for decades, the couple not only love their profession, they know it provides a safe haven from what Kevin Rudd described this week as the financial "cyclone" about to hit our shores.

And they are not alone.

As the world descends into financial crisis, increasing numbers of school-leavers and early victims of the job crunch in other industries are cramming into education courses to seek a new, safer career.

This is no more apparent than in the former boom state of Western Australia, where anecdotal evidence suggests a significant rise in the number of applicants to teaching courses since the global slump in demand for resources brought the mining super-cycle to an abrupt halt.

"As a teacher, you not only ride out bad times, you don’t even notice them," Ms Watson told The Weekend Australian.

"You trade off a higher wage in the short term but you have solid employment and a predictable income."

The teacher of 40 years, who is now principal of Fitzroy North Primary School in Melbourne’s inner north, said she had recently hired several mature-aged graduate teachers who had come from the private sector.

"They have decided they would really like to teach and the security of teaching appeals to them after the ups and downs of the private sector," she said. "I am sure one of the strong appeals is the security of the job and the fact that people will always be needed." …

How to lift quality education outcomes? Test less…

I have mentioned this before, because it runs counter to conservative opinion – in which I include the various Labor governments in Australia! It also runs counter to most bureaucratic thinking in the Western world, wedded as that is to models derived from the corporate world and obsessed with measuring everything, even things which probably can’t be validly measured.

I mention it again because my English/ESL blog has recently had several visits from Reflections on TESOL,  a blog run by a Muslim English teacher at a university in the UK. That in itself is culturally interesting.

A recent post there is To test or not to test or teach?

…I recently came across an article about education in Finland as well as a podcast on the BBC. It was fascinating stuff!

In Finland, for most of a student’s life, there are no exams, and everyone passes. There are no failures. Finland’s philosophy on education is education for education’s sake it seems. Everyone must have the opportunity to be educated.

Teaching is the most popular profession. Hard to believe! Respect? For teachers? Is this the paradise we are all looking for? What’s more, for every teaching vacancy there are ten applicants.

In a UN survey, Finland came top.

Why are we not reading up on Finish educational techniques? They’re obviously doing something right.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2009 in Australia, education, English studies, ESL, exams and assessment

 

Irony (noun) – the Murdoch press thundering about purity in English Studies (see also “hypocrisy”)

Funnily enough I was talking about such things last Saturday at my Glebe breakfast – and we didn’t have latte or chardonnay, nor were we weaving baskets. I was asked what I thought of the current (“new”) HSC course. The questioner, a writer and academic, had also been singing the praises of Flaubert’s sentences, savouring them in French as well as in English translation. How much more a literary tragic can you be? (And I say that with respect.) He went on to say he was rather impressed with the “new” HSC English, watered down as it is in terms of theory, because he was finding students much more open to thought and better prepared than they used to be. Depends who you ask, doesn’t it?

The worst thing you can do in my opinion to English studies is to pickle it in brine or turn it into a nostalgia museum.

So I find the discussions going on between the National Curriculum people and the Australian Association for the Teaching of English appropriate, well-informed, and intelligent. They are in that respect opposite to today’s editorial in The Australian which I find plain dumb and very badly informed.

Like most Australians, we thought the point of English classes at school was to teach children to read and write properly and to understand literature. Alas, we stand corrected. As Justine Ferrari reports today, the organisation representing Australia’s English teachers’ association, in responding to the national English curriculum, recommends that "meaning making in and through language, across a range of forms, media and expressions, should be the core organiser of the curriculum."

Quite. Read it again – it gets muddier every time.

In our view, and undoubtedly that of most parents and students, the national curriculum did a good job defining literature clearly as "plays, novels and poems … cinema, television and multimedia … poetry, picture books, multimodal texts, short stories and drama, and a variety of nonfiction forms such as biography."

The English Teachers Association of NSW, alas, sneered at the definitions as "nebulous". Instead, they suggested "the term culturally valued texts as a definition of literature."

Culturally valued by whom? Teenagers at the lower end of the class who prefer Big Brother to Oscar Wilde? Or, more likely, progressive teachers who find it easier to play films than take students through the themes and characters of Pride and Prejudice?

The NSW teachers want the national curriculum to be about "other models of English such as personal growth, cultural studies and critical literacy as that is how teachers understand and have operated within the subject". The best English teachers are happy to focus on their subject, but those who want to be social engineers and cultural warriors dominate these teachers’ associations, which are becoming irrelevant.

Teaching grammar, which promises to be a vital improvement in the national curriculum, was dismissed by the NSW teachers as having "no influence on either the accuracy or quality of written language development for 5 to 16-year-olds". As grammar has not been taught widely to Australian students in a generation, that claim is dubious in the extreme.

The papers also push hard for assessment that is "inclusive of the full range of students" and for teachers to be given wide scope to select materials to be studied in the interests of "equity".

However worthy the teachers believe this approach to be, it is precisely students from disadvantaged and non-English-speaking homes who have most to lose from such a defeatist system. Many disadvantaged students, and some from affluent homes, do not have access to good books and are not encouraged to read by parents.

English teachers who truly value their professionalism would encourage a rigorous curriculum, taught with expertise, that provides all students with the best possible written and verbal communication skills and an appreciation of literature. This is the best way to set disadvantaged students up for life.

The Rudd Government must ignore the push to impose the worst of current state-based systems on to the national curriculum.

Where can one start? Perhaps by pointing out that the words singled out for praise in paragraph three in fact paraphrase (and mean much the same as) the words roundly condemned in paragraph one. Nor do I find anything arcane in "meaning making in and through language, across a range of forms, media and expressions, should be the core organiser of the curriculum."

But then I wrote twenty-six years ago:

I am concerned here with theory at a fairly low level of generality; or, putting it another way, I am in search of models and procedures which might make my practice more effective, more critical, or more broadly based… In all of this I am making the following assumptions about English teaching:

1. Language creates and orders meanings, personal and social, outward and inward. Language is the primary means of creating, expressing and interpreting the self, in the context of society and history. Language is also a means of ordering and interpreting reality. While there are many difficult theoretical questions raised by the idea that language constructs the self and reality, we cannot give up the idea that in doing so language is more than merely self-reflexive.

2. Central to English teaching is the learner as meaning-maker, a participant in the network of meanings that constitute our culture.

3. In using and studying language or other means of meaning-making in a variety of contexts and realizations, the learner grows more competent, more aware, and less helpless.

Glossing that eleven years ago I said:

My own position (and that of many I suspect) has been an evolving one. Rather than earlier approaches being absolutely displaced by later ones, I have tended to keep what works from many perspectives. So when I embraced aspects of the process or whole language approaches, it was because these opened up the range of things students could do; but I continued to look at sentence grammar, paragraphing, spelling and so on. Teaching of grammar and style was enhanced by reading in the areas of stylistics and language variation in the later 1970s and 1980s, and these were in turn strengthened by the genre pedagogy of the early 1990s. An abiding concern of most English teachers has been critical reading; the meaning and scope of that has been enriched by insights from Freebody and Luke, Kress and Hasan, to name a few.

I am all in favour of teaching the classics, keeping in mind that the idea there were “classics” in English is surprisingly recent. There were no English departments in universities anywhere until the late 19th century, and very few until well into the 20th century. I am also in favour of enabling students to negotiate all the forms and media we/they confront in the real world. I think that is called “literacy”. It has also been called (by Hemingway) “crap detection.”  Very handy when reading the Murdoch press.

And that will do for now. Just as the Oz is simply regurgitating today, so I have responded to their past eructations. Check the appropriate tags and categories in the side bar. Here is just one example: Here we go again 2 (December 2007).

I get so tired of their threadbare bitching.

Read the AATE submission for yourself: national-english-curriculum-framing-paper-aate-response.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2009 in Australia, education, English studies, literacy

 

Fifty years on – guess what, nothing is for ever!

4shs There’s not much wrong with sport over all at my old school (class of 1959) and former work-place, as a glance at the current High Notes shows. But guess what: sport isn’t everything, and I know the English Department was rather chuffed when SBHS outperformed Sydney Grammar in English in the HSC last year… And there are other achievements, as the photo on the right from the school’s website suggests.

Nonetheless, a large minority – and you may take large several ways – did in the past secure the school a reputation in Rugby which was highly prized, even if never a majority activity. The cultural cachet it attracted is for anthropologists to explain, but while many dedicated staff and friends of the school, and many gutsy if increasingly outclassed students, have done their best to maintain that particular tradition, the writing has been on the wall for at least a decade – though it should be pointed out the game does continue, even if somewhat diminished.

So we read today in the Sydney Morning Herald: Worst XV: Sydney Boys drop the ball after 100 years of rugby – except that curiously I had to go through the Melbourne Age to pick up the story online.

SYDNEY Boys High School’s chocolate and blue rugby jersey will be no more when the Greater Public Schools First XV competition kicks off this year.

Citing safety, the school has pulled its teams out of top-level competition for the first time in 103 years. Instead it will combine its teams with those of Sydney Grammar, competing in the Second XV and B-grade fixtures. Grammar will continue to play in First XV and A-grade fixtures.

For three years, Sydney Boys High has had disappointing rugby results, because of mismatches in size and ability with those of opponents. The Greater Public Schools rugby convener Mark Ticehurst confirmed that the one-sided results had added to the risk of injury to Sydney Boys High players.

In 2007 the school lost all seven of its matches, conceding 633 points and scoring only eight points. Last year it contested only one game, which it lost to St Joseph’s 112-0, before forfeiting its remaining six games. Mr Ticehurst said: "It was the safety issue that saw Sydney High withdrawing. It’s an opportunity to develop their rugby, and although they will still be in a very tough competition, the pressure is off them to perform at the First XV level."

Sydney Boys High is the only public school in the GPS and selects its students on an academic basis. It has traditionally been competitive in rugby, but its students have recently shifted to sports such as soccer.

Last year the school had only 32 players registered in its senior rugby ranks, compared with 79 who signed up for soccer…

Seems the GPS has made the necessary adjustments too, and they’d better watch out in football (the real one) and basketball, among much else… Not to mention Debating of course.

My own contribution to Rugby fifty plus years back was one term as a linesman at age 12, which did score me “took an interest in Rugby” on my school reference. Not much interest, I have to say… I wasn’t in the large minority.

Update 26 February

The Sydney High School Old Boys Union published a correction yesterday, which I have just caught up with. See High Rugby Update.

…As the School announced last year, High and Grammar will share rugby fixtures this year, with Grammar competing in First XV and A-team fixtures and High in Third XV and B-team fixtures.

The High v Grammar first grade match will take place as usual in the last round of the 2009 competition and it is possible that High may play some other GPS First XV teams in other rounds of the competition.

These changes have been temporarily introduced as part of our planned process of building the participation rates, skills, strength and success of rugby at High, from the junior school up.

All other sports at High will be unaffected by this temporary arrangement and there is no impact upon High’s status as a GPS school.

There has been a resurgence of rugby in High’s junior years. In 2008 we fielded four 13s teams for the first time in at least 10 years. Last year’s 16As defeated Newington to record High’s first win in an A v A match for many years.

We are planning to field 16 rugby teams this year compared with 13 teams last season. A coordinated, three-sessions-a-week coaching program for all junior rugby teams commenced last year and we now have about 15 old boys regularly coaching our teams…

There was truth in the Herald story, but it wasn’t really news, and the emphasis was skewed by the angle the journalist took. So “SYDNEY Boys High School’s chocolate and blue rugby jersey will be no more…” is more than a bit hyperbolic.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, education, generational change, memory, personal, Salt Mine, sport

 

For many kids Civics is arid, deadly dull and is thus hard to teach

That, I suspect, is part of the problem behind the story in today’s AustralianStudents do badly in study of civics. I really don’t think results would have been much better fifty years ago when I was fifteen.

STUDENTS’ knowledge of Australia’s system of government is lower than expected, with only one in three Year 10 students knowing what the Constitution is.

The national assessment of civics and citizenship in Years 6 and 10 found about 54 per cent of primary students and 41 per cent of high school students met the proficiency standards for their year. But about one in five Year 10 students failed to meet the Year 6 standard.

"This was especially the case in relation to information about the constitutional structure of Australian democracy," the report says. "Lacking such fundamental information will restrict the capacity of students to make sense of many other aspects of Australian democratic forms and processes, and they may, therefore, be disadvantaged in their capacity to engage in meaningful ways in many other levels of civic action or discourse."

At Year 6, students are expected to recognise the division of governmental responsibilities in a federation, identify a link between a change in Australia’s identity and a change in the national anthem, recognise the benefit of different political parties and the federal budget.

By Year 10, students are expected to recognise key functions and features of parliament, analyse the common good as a motivation for becoming a whistleblower, explain the importance of a secret ballot, and recognise how the independence of the judiciary is protected. On the Constitution, Year 10 students were asked "what is the Australian Constitution?" and given four possible answers: the rules about how the major Australian political parties are run; the policies of the Australian federal government; the framework for the ways Australia is governed; all the laws that Australian citizens must obey…

Look at the last paragraph there! Did I know all that fifty years ago? Answer: NO! What do we expect then? Why, aside from pious hopes, should we expect 100% of kids to have mastered all that arcane matter?

On the other hand, kids today do have advantages. In the web world there are some marvellous sources of information. Even the Book of Answers from the last government’s ill-conceived citizenship tests is not a bad resource on these and other matters. But then there are sites such as Australian Politics and Oz Politics. Certainly it isn’t hard to find out these days; in my day it was less easy.

There is a big role here too in well organised excursions to parliaments and courts, as many schools do. The information people there are often brilliant, and the whole thing becomes more concrete. On the other hand bureaucratic responses to child safety issues have made organising any excursion a logistic nightmare, so I suspect there has probably been some reduction in such activities. A shame. Mock courts and parliaments are another approach that can bring these matters to life.

Coincidentally, yesterday I found myself with a 15-16 year old from China, a recent arrival whose English is developing, trying to help him with a Legal Studies task on the rule of law – and a whole host of other key terms all crowded into one or two of his school lessons. A challenge. We did our best.

I decided, having checked the Oz Politics site, to take their test again. Now last time – I think around four years ago? – I scored thus:

I was curious to see if I had shifted. Well, here is the answer:

neilpol

I have changed a little, slightly less “left” on traditional values and slightly more “left” on economic issues.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, education, personal, Political, politics

 

Nice, but hot

Over on the photoblog I mention it was 39C today – not what the news says, but that’s what it was out of the wind and in the sun on M’s balcony at noon. I was doing a brief house-sit, for reasons I won’t bother with here… But you can see one of his plants.

06feb 022

It was at least cool inside, and it did keep me away from the computer most of the day. 😉 (Today’s other posts went up via automatic pilot just after midnight last night.) Called at The Mine too.

06feb 002

No. Not too close… Photographing school boys is a no-no.

nephew Speaking of no longer school boys, English/ESL scored a visit via my grand-nephew’s (right) MySpace blog. He’d written last year (and I hadn’t seen this before):

With a new school year set to start today, I just thought that I should spread a little bit of cheer in the form of information. Yay!

HSC is a bitch, as we all know, and English is a subject everyone does, and it is a pain in the ass right across all levels. I, however have found a website that takes a little bit of the strain off the extensive English workload.

http://neilwhitfield.wordpress.com/

This website, hosted by former English HT of Sydney Boys HS (along with several other High Schools and Universities) and my Great Uncle…was one of the best resources I had when I was studying HSC English Advanced. But not only does this website cover English Advanced curricula, but ranges from ESL, English Standard, and even to Extension, and includes tips as to how to write proper essays, and guidlines on how to stick to answering the question.

I rate this website to anyone studying the HSC this year as it saved me a few times last year.

So Check it out!

Bookmark it!

Maybe it will save your HSC too…

Go Figure

No, I’m not linking him, but I was also pleased to read (and he is a Shire boy) a really impassioned statement on racism.

…I understand racism still exists. It is appalling that in today Australia, that barriers still exist. I for one am NOT a racist. However, I am an Australian. My heritage is that of English, Scottish, Mauritian, Aboriginal and a bunch of others. I have cousins of Malaysian descent. I was born in Australia and live my life as an Australian. I do not mingle in the business of others, and I certainly do not take offense nor exhibit prejudice to the heritage that of my own nor other around me.

I do, however, take offense to others who label me as a racist, BECAUSE I am what is ignorantly labelled as White Australian. It is an ugly term to be thrown around. My love for who I am and where I live and those who have lived before me does not make me a racist, nor does it make others like me racist. It is, in fact, those who use that term to label others who are the racist ones.

This needs to stop. We need to live together under the one flag. That is what the Australian Flag represents. It represents unity. It represents mutual respect…

Nothing to do with me, I assure you, all his own unaided thoughts. (I don’t see him all that often, though we just had a quick MSN chat in response to the English/ESL link, which I thanked him for.)

I was chuffed though.

Must correct my g-nephew: I was never H(ead) T(eacher) — just a dogsbody crew member, and of course ESL head, in the sense there was only ever one of us!

 

What a pity I am retired…

That was my first thought when I saw Teachers in laptop of luxury.

Every NSW public high school teacher will get a wireless mini-laptop computer just like their senior students.

The $44 million expansion of the school computers program means teachers will have access to the same equipment and software as students in years 9 to 12. It also provides an extra 20,000 computers for primary schools, ensuring more junior students have access to the latest learning technology…

Ms Firth said $16million of state funding and $28 million of federal money would be spent buying laptops for the state’s 25,000 public high school teachers and providing an extra 20,000 new computers to primary schools.

Some netbook manufacturer/seller will be rejoicing, assuming the NSW government pays on time of course – which hasn’t always been the case. But then I thought: why should 25,000 teachers get a netbook? Think about it. Surely they could buy one, if they don’t have one already? Perhaps the items will be packaged with certain wireless configurations and filters, and certain program suites, to match the student computers. Maybe that’s it. Students get to keep their computers, I believe; they would be pretty useless after three years or so anyway.

And then, what about Google? I put a tart note on one of my Google Reader selections the other day when the Reader was malfunctioning, as it does from time to time, to the effect that there is a Rule of Google: this product will work – most of the time… But this morning’s story is a corker! Tangled web as Google goes ga-ga.

YOUR local phone exchange is down and your landline and mobile are not working. You need to make an urgent business call but you have no way of communicating with the outside world. What do you do?

A similar scenario hit the internet yesterday when Google, the dominant search engine, suffered a malfunction and marked all websites as dangerous, blocking them from use.

Millions of users were unable to access the sites they were looking for, and instead received the warning: "This site may harm your computer".

While the problem lasted only about 40 minutes, experts estimate millions of dollars were lost from online transactions dependent on the company’s search functions. Users reported failures on other Google applications such as Gmail, which has 1.3 million accounts with the (NSW) Department of Education…

Must see if there has been any effect on this humble site’s visits… Hmm, there is a gap between 1 and 2 in the morning our time…

And while on the Internet, I am sorry to see that BlogExplosion seems to have exploded at last. It had been like the “Marie Celeste” for some time now, with the last faithful volunteers having jumped ship and the forums choked with spam messages. But it was a useful site, and quite a few of my blogroll people came to me via BlogExplosion – Worldman and Benjamin Solah to name just two. See also BlogExplosion is gone?, Is BlogExplosion Down, Closed, Out of Business or what? and LiveUniverse Unavailable– BlogExplosion.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2009 in computers, education, NSW politics, web stuff, www

 

This post has no title

Just a bit of a Saturday miscellany really.

on reading

I stumbled upon this via Stumble Upon:

Reading_Test

on Prince Harry and his vocabulary

Indigo Jo, a British Muslim, is one of the bloggers I trawl from in my Blog Picks: “In which an unemployed graduate has an excuse to use his politics degree. Religious, tech and media issues (and anything I fancy).”  I was struck by how much more sensible he was on the Prince Harry story than most people I’d read: Prince Harry and his little friend.

On Sunday, the News of the World (also known as the News of the Screws, a tabloid "scandal sheet" owned by Rupert Murdoch known for printing kiss-and-tell stories) put on its front page a story about Prince Harry, the second son of Prince Charles (and Diana) who is currently an army officer, who shot a private video of his Sandhurst comrades waiting for a plane to Cyprus, and calling a Pakistani fellow cadet "our little Paki friend, Ahmed". They also accused him of somehow insulting the Queen by giving what sounds like a perfectly normal goodbye to his Grandpa, also known as Prince Phillip (by the way: the NOTW’s weekday sister paper, the Sun, is known for supporting a republic, and responded to the Queen’s coronation by telling her she had had her fun and should abdicate the next day). Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation has called him a thug who had been trying to portray himself as being like his caring and respected parents.

When I first heard of this news, I started writing a piece defending Prince Harry, because the event happened three years ago, when he was still a cadet, and someone has decided to betray a trust and leak this video to the press for his own personal reasons – having fallen out with someone or fallen on hard times. Then I actually saw the video, and it turns out that the offending phrase – "there’s our little Paki friend, Ahmed" – was used pretty much behind his back, or at least, in such a way that Ahmed could not hear. Whether we should still consider him what we would consider someone we had just seen say that – a racist jerk – is open to question, but it certainly discounts the argument that this was just banter between colleagues.

In my experience – and several of my best friends are of Pakistani origin, as much of a cliché as that sounds – a lot of youth of Pakistani origin don’t find the word Paki in and of itself offensive, and many of them actually use it amongst themselves. It does not have the same heat that the "N word" carries, probably because the history is different. Pakistan itself is only just over 60 years old, Paki is only short for Pakistani, the word "pak" means pure, and however oppressive the British empire was at times, Asians are not descended from people who were slaves to British masters. However, the fact remains that people do remember its use as a racist term, a way in which it is commonly used, and telling its use as banter and its use as a racial derogatory term is pretty easy: if it’s used in conjunction with other insults, or if it’s used to mean any Asian rather than an actual Pakistani, it is an insult, and if it is used by a non-Pakistani, especially a white person, most people won’t appreciate it. During the discussion of it on the talk shows last night and this morning, the presenters (Dotun Adebayo and Vanessa Feltz) insisted that people did not use the word – I suspect that this is a station policy – and even suggested that the media should not be using the word openly, particularly in headlines.

I think that his comment was clearly inappropriate, but not heinous; he used it as a student on another student, not as an officer on soldier, or even an officer, under his command. That would have brought bullying into it, which has been a serious problem in the Armed Forces. I have heard it said that this sort of behaviour should be expected from Prince Phillip’s grandson, and the history of the Royal family is not full of people like the present Queen and Lady Diana – there have been quite a few controversial figures in its history as well. However, it is disappointing to hear someone who has a possibility of being the figurehead for this country talking that way, but in general, one should not expect exemplary behaviour when looking over the shoulders of a group of male friends, let alone Army mates.

nightmarish: makes one question human ingenuity

This one is far too long to reproduce: Robots at War: The New Battlefield by P W Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution and the author of Children at War (2005) and Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (2003). “This article is adapted from Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, reprinted by arrangement with The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. © 2009 by P. W. Singer.”

From this perspective, war becomes, as one security analyst put it, “a global spectator sport for those not involved in it.” More broadly, while video images engage the public in a whole new way, they can fool many viewers into thinking they now have a true sense of what is happening in the conflict. The ability to watch more but experience less has a paradoxical effect. It widens the gap between our perceptions and war’s realities. To make another sports parallel, it’s the difference between watching an NBA game on television, with the tiny figures on the screen, and knowing what it feels like to have a screaming Kevin Garnett knock you down and dunk over your head. Even worse, the video segments that civilians see don’t show the whole gamut of war, but are merely the bastardized ESPN SportsCenter version. The context, the strategy, the training, the tactics—they all just become slam dunks and smart ­bombs.

War porn tends to hide other hard realities of battle. Most viewers have an instinctive aversion to watching a clip in which the target might be someone they know or a fellow American; such clips are usually banned from U.S.-hosted websites. But many people are perfectly happy to watch video of a drone ending the life of some anonymous enemy, even if it is just to see if the machines fighting in Iraq are as “sick” as those in the Transformers movie, the motive one student gave me for why he downloaded the clips. To a public with so much less at risk, wars take on what analyst Christopher Coker called “the pleasure of a spectacle with the added thrill that it is real for someone, but not the spectator.”

There’s an account in that essay of “tiny but lethal robots the size of insects, which look like they are straight out of the wildest science fiction”. The mind more than boggles at what the Pentagon is researching.

four more from my blog roll

I was just updating the Google Reader and thought I would promote four entries here as well. There is such good stuff on my reader; I can say that because it’s no boast, though I guess I am congratulating myself for my good taste. 😉

  1. The pretty boy barber by Alex Au (Yawning Bread) is just so urbane, so intelligent. He’s been blogging since before there was blogging, and I have been a devoted reader since the year 2000!
  2. Creativity and play by Bob Leckridge (Heroes Not Zombies), the Scottish doctor. Read him to see what wisdom looks like, and the Scottish countryside.
  3. Symbolic Moment by Jon Taplin, a US writer on mostly economics issues. Today he makes wonderful use of the recent amazing bit of crash-landing in the Hudson River – and what a story that was, eh!
  4. Surry Couple by James O’Brien (who also lives in Surry Hills). James has a new template! This post is just beautiful – and local.

bonus pic: not everyone loves Clover Moore

I collected this in Prince Alfred Park yesterday. Clover Moore is Sydney’s Lord Mayor.

16jan

 

I’ve been writing an HSC English essay!

It’s been a while since I did. Now I am not sure how good it is. Those interested might like to visit The “Belonging” Essay. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy to do!

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2009 in education, English studies, personal

 

Breaking the silence on my English/ESL blog!

I just posted on English/ESL:

I am coming out of mothballs to draw your attention to something very significant from the USA. To quote an email which has just arrived:

Dear Educator:

As a valued edweek.org user, you are invited in for a sneak preview of Quality Counts 2009: Portrait of a Population. The official release date for this highly valued annual report is tomorrow, so you will be among the first to view it.  View it now:  www.edweek.org/go/qc09

In addition to giving you access to this annual report, the rest of edweek.org has been opened so that you will have access to everything premium subscribers can access from Jan. 7 through Jan. 19.

Quality Counts 2009 provides you with the nationwide report card on the continual push for K-12 school improvement you have come to rely on. In addition, the special focus of this year’s report is how English-language learners are putting schools to the test. Specifically, you’ll learn how:

· Immigration transforms communities challenged by changing demographic patterns, straining the capacity of school districts.

· English-learners pose a policy puzzle for states and school districts as they push to boost student achievement overall.

· The rights of ELLs and the case law and statutes to provide them quality education continue to evolve.

· And much more!

Do explore.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2009 in education, ESL, site news, USA

 

Yesterday’s crisis

Remember the “flight to private education” aided and abetted by John Howard and cheered on by the likes of Kevin Donnelly? Was that this century?

How things can change!

Patrician Brothers’ College, Fairfield: down 357
Saphire Coast Christian College, Bega: down 317
Emmaus Catholic College, Kemps Creek: down 291
SCEGGS Redlands, Cremorne: down 259
Australian International Academy, Condell Park: down 235
Terra Sancta College, Schofields: down 214
St Peter’s Catholic College, Tuggerah: down 209
St Patrick’s College, Campbelltown: down 191
Kindalin School, Penrith: down 181
St Gregorys Armenian School, Baulkham Hills: down 173
Norwest Christian School, Riverstone: down 164
Bethlehem College, Ashfield: down 159
St Joseph’s Catholic College, Gosford East: down 145
Mary Immaculate Primary: Quakers Hill: down 144
Redeemer Baptist School, Castle Hill: 142
St Bernard’s Primary, Batehaven: down 134
St Matthew’s Primary, Windsor: down 128
Blue Mountains Grammar School, Wentworth Falls: down 126
Tyndale Christian School, Blacktown: down 124
St Jerome’s Primary, Punchbowl: down 121
St Francis Xavier’s Primary, Lurnea: down 120
Our Lady of the Rosary Primary, St Marys: down 117
All Saints Catholic Primary, Liverpool: down 120
Holy Spirit Primary, St Clair: down 122
Holy Cross College, Ryde: down 116
Pymble Ladies College, Pymble: down 114
Red Bend Catholic College, Forbes: down 113
Masada College High School, St Ives: down 111
St Euphemia College, Bankstown: down 107
St Michael’s Primary, Nowra: down 104
De La Salle College, Ashfield: down 105
Carinya Christian School, Tamworth: down 102

See State schools swell amid private exodus in the Daily Telegraph. “In the past five years the student body at 439 private schools has shrunk.” Maralyn Parker comments: The beginning of the end for private schools. Well, perhaps the end for some.

…It would not surprise me to see some of the newer big business-type schools, with massive debt-based building programs and high expectations of unlikely future enrolments, go bankrupt in 2009.

If it can happen to Lehman Brothers it can happen to a NSW private school dependent on projected income from fees and anticipated government subsidies.

For years educators have been saying the unfettered expansion of private schools is unsustainable.

In 2009 we may all begin to understand why.

And I fear the public purse will be expected to do the bailing out as we have seen already with ABC Learning Centres.

Meanwhile the biggest cost to all school systems is teacher salaries. So without doubt teachers have already lost jobs in many of these schools and more will follow.

With reduced staff, schools then face the problems of providing a full curriculum. Some subjects may no longer be offered and some teachers will be asked to teach out of their subject field….

As Maralyn Parker also notes, the facts so far are from before the 2008-9 financial crisis.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2009 in Australia, Australia and Australian, education, generational change

 

Random

Just so you know what time of year this is, here is a pic I took a few minutes ago. People in the Northern Hemisphere, eat your hearts out!

dec18 003

And speaking of weather, or rather, climate, Miranda has been regurgitating again** with her accustomed objectivity and deep scientific training: “The tantrums from Australia’s screeching environmental banshees have barely abated since the Government revealed its plan to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions from between 5 and 15 per cent by 2020, an amount deemed too small by green groups.” Or: “The fact is temperatures have not risen in a decade, and have actually been falling in recent years, despite increasing carbon emissions. The tide has turned for the fundamentalist zealots of the climate change movement as more scientists declare their doubts that the science on climate change is ‘settled’, and opinion polls show the public growing ever more reluctant to make personal sacrifices to reduce carbon emissions…”

Shame about the other climate story in the same newspaper: Weather watch: a record year of extreme events.

AUSTRALIAN temperatures remained hotter than average this year, the World Meteorological Organisation reports, summing up the year as one marked by extreme weather events.

They included floods, severe and persistent droughts, snowstorms, heatwaves, cold waves and the shrinking of the Arctic sea ice to its second-lowest level on record.

The year is expected to rank as the 10th-warmest on record for the planet. Temperatures were about one-third of a degree above average despite the normally cooling impact of a La Nina event. Australia’s temperatures were 0.37 degrees above average, making this year the 15th-warmest on record for the nation since 1910, even with a strong La Nina bringing flooding rains to Queensland and NSW.

"Its warmer than most previous La Nina years," said Dr Andrew Watkins, a senior climatologist with Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology. "Generally with La Nina events we get cooler than normal temperatures over Australia."…

I don’t consider myself a “banshee” or a “fundamentalist zealot of the climate change movement”  — as I probably demonstrated in  Very quick assertions, not arguments, about the Rudd government’s climate package, but Miranda is just such an idiot on this topic, and persistent too. Yes, what we do in fact makes only a small difference, but to still believe there isn’t a problem is to be in a very select group, most of whom Miranda quotes – again. Visit the side bar and look for Climate sceptics… There you will find plenty of reasons for taking Miranda less than seriously.

Meantime, the HSC is out, and The Mine has done not too badly. 60 Band 6 in English is not bad at all, given The Mine’s clientele.

hsc10

The graphic links to the Herald story from which it is taken. Doesn’t one of those arrows point the wrong way??

I was also happy to see a coachee from a little while ago made it into the top 1% in ESL English.

Update

** On 22 December fellow right-wing columnist Paul Sheehan responded: Politics trumps policy on polluters.

Miranda Devine and her husband are coming over for Christmas drinks tonight. She’s good company, even if we do fundamentally disagree on the most important issue facing the country.

Last week she ripped into Kevin Rudd’s policy response to global warming, the Government’s multibillion-dollar plan to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. She quoted Professor Bob Carter describing the plan as "a non-solution to a non-problem". She weighed into the "screeching environmental banshees" who say the policy is not enough. She raised the grim fact that while Australia contributes 1.5 per cent of global greenhouse emissions, "China will almost double its emissions by 2030, from 18.3 per cent in 2005 to 33 per cent in 2030, [so] even if we reduced our emissions by 100 per cent, as the crazies want us to, our sacrifice would be meaningless".

Good point. Rudd’s grand plan is a grand illusion. It is so badly designed it would have been better if the Government had done nothing and let the US president-elect, Barack Obama, provide the leadership next year.

At this point, Devine and I diverge. Because I believe this policy is a non-solution to a big problem. Rudd’s strategy has been praised as political shrewdness, but it is political capitulation….

See also my post on 27 November: Miranda and Piers in duet after “Quadrant” dinner….