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Posts Tagged ‘education’

I don’t imagine this is a terribly effective recruitment approach, and to view it in a positive light, church organisations might be able to provide funding and resources for an event that the public schools themselves could not. But the bottom line is that it further erodes the capacity for families to make decisions about their children’s religious and spiritual upbringing.

The whole notion of scripture classes in public schools strikes me as strange – particularly when, in at least one school I have dealt with, opting out of scripture meant that your child sat in the classroom while the Christian scripture took place but was expected to do something other than listen (we ended up transferring to the Baha’i class instead). Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to let the school system focus on secular education – including the teaching of ethics and development of decision-making capacity – and let the families make their own decisions about spiritual and religious values?

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Would a reporter consider starting a comment on any other Government portfolio – or any other Minister – this way?

JULIA Gillard is one of only two education ministers in the nation without children, and she is the only one speaking out for parents.

Perhaps Greg Sheridan should have done the same in his column today:

Joel Fitzgibbon has never flown a fighter jet, but he is standing by our Top Guns.

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This proposal to cut welfare payments for the parents of chronic truants seems like a symptom of one of the greatest dilemmas a Government can face – a problem that society universally agrees should be addressed but that is almost impossible to attack in a practical sense.

Richard Glover was talking about it on the TV this morning. He started by saying that “the kids have got to go to school”, pointing out the negative effects of chronic truancy for both the children and society. He then acknowledged that the proposal sounds harsh but the kids have to go to school and this is a way to give them a chance, which is what we pay the family money for. But as the discussion progressed, he acknowledged that some parents may be trying to do the right thing but can’t control their children’s school attendance, and so their welfare shouldn’t be cut. And then he said that you would hope it wouldn’t be used too often and that, instead, it’s a big stick that encourages people to do the right thing.

And this is exactly where we seem to end up with this type of punitive proposal – waving a big stick around in the air and hoping it scares the right people into doing the right thing. Because to actually bring the stick down on top of someone would not solve the problem. There are those who we can’t hit with the stick – the kids themselves. There are those who we don’t want to hit with the stick – the parents trying to do their best in a difficult situation, with kids who are resisting their best efforts to see to their education. And then there are those parents for whom being hit with the stick will have no impact – the neglectful, the abusive, and those who are too lost in their own crises to see to their children’s needs. But the Government agrees with society that something must be done, and so it stands there waving its stick around.

So what is the solution? I don’t imagine there is an easy one, but wasting time and resources on constructing a new stick seems like it will detract from finding a strategy that works. It certainly doesn’t strike me as the underpinnings of an education revolution.

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John Howard’s Australia

This written piece doesn’t capture the local spirit that was shown on tonight’s ABC News – I’d be very keen to know if the footage becomes available online.

One woman speaking at last night’s meeting said residents were concerned about traffic and they did not want people from Muslim backgrounds like in areas closer to Sydney.

“I believe in everyone having their own religion, whether they’re Catholic, Church of England or Muslims – they’re fine – but I’ve seen what’s happened at Bankstown,” she said.

On the TV coverage, some in the crowd spoke about the fact that “they have terrorists among them” and failure to assimilate. Does attending a Catholic school prevent one from assimilating?

My favourite lady said that if she was wearing a hijab right now, she could have an M16 hidden under it (NB: The judges will have to deduct Idiot Points because she actually knew the word “hijab”).

Pat Farmer might be genuinely concerned about the local area changing – Camden is a pretty place – but I’m afraid you can’t expect a region that is in the Sydney basin and close to a major expressway to stay undeveloped for much longer. And given that Camden is south-west of Sydney, it seems natural that second- and later-generation Islamic families are going to look to settle in areas such as Camden – close to where they grew up, but with more land and possibly more affordable housing.

I can understand that the politicians and organisers might have legitimate concerns that appropriate planning and approval processes are followed. But I have lived in and near areas just like this, and a establishing a private, religious school on a rural block in an area that is expected to see growing residential development is nothing out of the ordinary.

Camden Council can make its decision, and if need be the Land and Environment Court can review their decision. But it’s a sad reflection on where we stand as a society that a potentially legitimate protest gathering was supplemented and tainted by ignorance and intolerance.

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Apparently, 70% of the people who wrote the New South Wales HSC exam questions are former union officials:

Stan Rikhter, of South Sydney High School, said he was surprised to find himself writing about his views on the campaign against unions as part of the Industrial Technology exam.

He said the question, which asked students about “the impact of government legislation on employees”, was neutral, but hard to answer “because we are still kids”.

The federal Minister for Education, Julie Bishop, said it was “another example of Labor and the unions making clumsy attempts at indoctrinating students with left-wing ideologies”.

“It is absolutely inappropriate for a teacher to use the HSC to push personal political agendas,” she said. “Students face enough pressure with these important end-of-school examinations without having to deal with blatant political bias.”

The question in yesterday’s HSC exam asked students to:

Discuss, using examples, the impact of government legislation on employees.

A quick read of the HSC Industrial Technology syllabus [476kB PDF] shows that, in their industry study component, “students learn about” (p. 18):

Environmental and sociological factors
• …
• government legislation
• Environmental Impact Studies (EIS)

Personnel issues
• industrial relations
• entry-level training requirements
• retraining and multiskilling
• unions
• roles of industry personnel
• equity/EEO

Occupational health and safety
• government legislation

and, among other things, learn to (p. 18 again):

• discuss and justify the ramifications of
Environmental Impact Statements (EIS)
and sustainable development when
studying the overall industry
• identify government legislation and
policies that ensure the rights and
protection for employees
• discuss the importance of OH&S
factors in a successful business
• identify significant government
legislation and industry requirements
that ensure a safe working environment

Other components of the syllabus include coverage of local government codes and regulations.

So, apart from the trade unions and industrial relations, students could write about environmental protection laws, training and licensing requirements, EEO, OH&S, and council by-laws. And, even if they had chose industrial law, the question itself is value neutral (e.g., one could argue that WorkChoices gives employees greater freedom to negotiate personally tailored conditions).

Anyone would think Julie Bishop and Team Howard are sensitive to potential criticism of WorkChoices.

ELSEWHERE: Ken Lovell has the prescription for Julie: “go sit in a dark room for six weeks like a good team member and let the team leader talk about tax.”

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The counter-announcement

Labor’s tax plan is out. I didn’t get to see the press conference and will have a good look at the detail later, but a couple of quick impressions:

  • The amount is not so far behind the Coalition ($34b vs $31b), so those who aren’t tuned in to the nuance should not be immediately disappointed.
  • They are actually eliminating a tax rate entirely – which means it has a better claim to being legitimate tax reform than Team Howard’s policy.
  • These guys actually seem to take education seriously – a nice change.

This should prevent the polls from being the story du jour, although it also gives Howard a couple of days to study it before the debate.

Obviously, being the first big announcement of the campaign for Labor, this is going to be covered everywhere. For starters, discussion is underway at Larvatus Prodeo and Blogocracy.

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It’s pro-Howard editorials ahoy! at the GG this morning. From Janet Albrechtsen:

The Prime Minister is undaunted by a presidential campaign. Indeed, on the day the real election campaign began, Howard pinpointed Rudd’s weakness. As he said on Sunday when announcing the November 24 election, love him or loathe him, voters have always known where the PM stands on an issue and what he believes in. During the past decade he has earned himself a reputation as a conviction politician, tackling issues unfazed by the howls of opposition from some quarters. Witness his long-time involvement in the culture wars, his sponsorship of gun controls, the introduction of the GST, Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war, the intervention into indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. Each was pursued because of Howard’s conviction on these issues.

WTF?! The “never ever” GST? And the NT intervention, followed by the reconciliation pseudo-backflip? I’m surprised that she didn’t point out his commitment to climate change. And we’re supposed to like the fact that he has been an unwavering sycophant on Iraq? Apparently, having conviction is more important than being right and open to new ideas.

Then we have academics Sinclair Davidson and Alex Robson (the same authors who recently published a critique of the Australia@Work report in the GG) lauding the Coalition’s “tax reform”:

How should Labor respond to the tax challenge? That Peter Costello appears to have caught the Opposition off-guard reflects poorly on its own tax policy (or lack thereof). If Kevin Rudd really is the economic conservative he claims to be, he will embrace this tax plan and go even further to avoid any possible me-too criticism.

But this will be difficult. The Labor Party platform already includes a proposal to increase the superannuation guarantee by 66per cent (from 9 per cent to 15per cent). That this impost is to be jointly funded by employers, employees and taxpayers is little consolation. It is a tax increase, no matter how you look at it.

A tax increase intended to ensure that retirees have enough super to prevent a greater burden on the welfare system as our population ages? How daft – it sounds like Labor is showing “the vision thing”, which these authors say a government doesn’t need.

Finally, we have the editor-at-large. Larvatus Prodeo already has a spot-on commentary about this one – Kelly’s focus is entirely on how the Team Howard announcements have been received, or indeed is an attempt to shape the narrative of how it has been received. There is no consideration of the fact that these policies actually have societal implications. Here’s my (least) favourite example:

Claims that Howard should have spent the revenue on better services are ludicrous in political terms. Health and education are Labor issues, no matter how much funding Howard provides. Howard and Costello must play to their strength: the economy, tax and jobs. This is the only avenue to their election victory. If they cannot win the election on their strengths then, by definition, they cannot win the election.

So, Howard is entitled to neglect key social issues such as producing the healthiest and best-educated nation he possibly can, because they are “Labor issues”? Possum Comitatus used the Crosby-Textor data to illustrate the way that issues can “belong” to one party or the other, so I can appreciate the political reality of what Kelly is saying here, but that does not mean that the media should give the pollies a free ride on issues. The candidates will try to keep the message on the issues they want to talk about – the voters should be given an opportunity to hear about the good and bad aspects of their policies. Kelly, along with the rest of the GG’s editorial staff, is helping to sell the political message for Team Howard rather than helping to facilitate a substantive consideration of the issues.

UPDATE: Shanahan was up to his usual tricks today, this time spinning the Newspoll analysis of how the parties rate on key issues. Possum Comitatus has shown it for the load of crap that it is with a couple of quick regressions.

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