Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Abject Evil


Disturbing news today of an atrocity in Baghdad involving two women with Down Syndrome (ABC On-line) -

An Iraqi official said explosives strapped to two mentally handicapped women were triggered by remote control in coordinated blasts that killed at least 64 people.

"Both women were mentally impaired. They were wearing belts containing 15 kilograms of explosives," said Major General Qasim Ata, spokesman for the Baghdad security plan.”

It is difficult to fathom the level of depravity involved in this kind of abuse. The mindset of these terrorists is something beyond the pale, as far as I’m concerned. Having worked with kids with disabilities and their families for nearly forty years, I can’t begin to comprehend how any member of the species Homo Sapiens can conceive and carry out such an operation.

They also don’t read the Koran - “There is acknowledged right for the needy and the destitute” (51:19). For more on this see –

http://www.haworthpress.com/store/ArticleAbstract.asp?ID=5802

Abuse of people with disabilities is not unprecedented as a political statement of course (Aktion T4) in Nazi Germany is an example –

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-4_Euthanasia_Program

I’d hope that the horrific nature of this act would lose these psychopaths any residual support they may have in Iraq or elsewhere.

BIM


Yesterday I attended the BIM (Brisbane International Motor Show). This is an annual ritual that I must complete in order to maintain my petrol head status. It’s a bit like the Haj for a Muslim.

I had another excuse. Two of my offspring were in Brisbane sussing out bus routes to their college from their respective accommodations, and I needed a place to be in Brisbane whilst waiting to return them to Toowoomba. (Actually getting the keys to their respective accommodations is another story – reflecting very poorly on the Real Estate industry – but I’ll discuss that in a different post).

There was a different atmosphere (excuse the pun) inside the exhibition hall this year, which can only be put down to anxiety over global warming.

The vehicles claiming the most attention were those promoted with green credentials, hybrids, diesels etc. There was one Hummer which sat lonely and forlorn on the periphery – no one seemed interested.

I guess it shows the power of fear. I’m not coming into the argument of how real the threat is – I’m not qualified, and depend on the scientists, but note the effect it’s having on the average punter’s view of what’s good for him/her in the automotive scene.

Besides, these vehicles are technically fascinating. My experience with Hybrids is gleaned from a number of journeys out west – some of them very extensive – in a number of fleet Toyota Prius*. This is an impressive piece of engineering, and whilst not engaging to drive, very refined, roomy and comfortable.

The Citroen C4 Diesel is another technically fascinating set of wheels that returns about the same fuel consumption as the Prius.

The highlight for me was the 1953 Volkswagen Beetle in the Shannon’s display. It brought about an attack of nostalgia – reminding me of my first car (see left).


Given the VW's tendency towards terminal oversteer, and my driving skills at the time, I wonder how I survived.

*Does anyone know the plural of Prius?

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Curriculum


Patricia Karvelas (Political correspondent) writing in today’s Oz –

Kevin Rudd has handed a Melbourne academic the "for­midable challenge" of leading the creation of a new national schools curriculum.

The Prime Minister yesterday named Barry McGaw as head of the new National Curriculum Board, to be established by January 1 next year with a mission of forging a single national curriculum.

The Labor Government's nat­ional curriculum, which will be implemented in 2011, will init­ially cover English, mathematics, science and history from kinder­garten through to the end of high school.

It’s obvious that Karvelas is a Political rather than an Educational Correspondent, as she seems to have a less than clear understanding of the term “curriculum”.

I found this definition (among others) on Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curriculum

Curriculum means two things: (i) the range of courses from which students choose what subject matters to study, and (ii) a specific learning program. In the latter case, the curriculum collectively describes the teaching, learning, and assessment materials available for a given course of study.

The other definitions include the lived experience of the student, and this extra component is critical, but beyond the capacity of government to fashion, so the more limited concept works for this discussion. Using this definition, it’s clear that Curriculum is both what is learned (the range of courses from which students choose what subject matters to study) and how it is taught (a specific learning program).

Karvelas is talking only about the first component – what is learned. The notion that this should be uniform across the country is positive, for a range of obvious reasons, but if the new government is earnest about true educational reform, it’s only part of the story.

National pay and qualification benchmarks and national consistency in regards to teacher preparation are just as important. These factors influence the “how” of curriculum, and action on them must be included in any reform.

Mr Rudd warned that it would be difficult to put a national curriculum in place because the states were attached to their own systems and had resisted adopt­ing new approaches.

"In terms of the task ahead, it's formidable. This is an area of work which historically has been paved with good intentions, but with very little outcome," Mr Rudd said.

"Our intention is to make a difference, but it's going to be very hard and we recognise that. It's a three-year task — it'll be tough and intensive work. The nation hasn't done this before, so I'm being entirely up-front with you about how complex I think it's going to be."

With the national workforce increasingly mobile, the Prime Minister said, it was illogical that 80.000 children whose parents moved last year had to face a new curriculum at new schools this week.

He warned that the education system was not world-class be­cause of the different curriculums across the country.

"You could argue that we're small enough to do things as a whole," he said.

Professor McGaw said the states had never used the oppor­tunity of having different curriculums to drive improvements.

I couldn’t agree more – but by itself universal content is not going to change much for the better. Get it right while you’re at it, Kevin, and introduce reform that takes all these other factors into account. The chance may not come again.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Sorry


Doug Steley’s letter in today’s Courier Mail, nails this issue in its stark simplicity:


If I say, "I am sorry your mother died", I am acknowledging a person's pain and suffering, not admitting that I am guilty of the mother's murder.


Saying "sorry" is an acknow­ledgement of past wrongs - nothing more, nothing less. Are we as a nation sorry for what has happened in the past to indigen­ous people? Or are we not sorry for what happened to them?


I, for one, am sorry that they have suffered. I wish they had not suffered and we had found a better way for our two cultures to mix and assimilate. If we say sorry to Aborigines, we start to admit we understand the pain our civilisation has caused them — nothing more, nothing less.


Those who say they are not sorry are saying they agree with the history of rape, murder and discrimination; those who say they don't know why we should say sorry after years of debate and discussion are just ignorant.


I’ve never understood why this symbolic exercise terrifies some of our politicians. Let’s get it done ASAP. The reluctance to say the word reminds me of a year five lad I taught in South West Queensland years ago. No matter what the incident, minor or serious, he would never say “sorry”. Turned out that he was quite severely physically abused by his alcoholic dad.


Perhaps there’s something equally dark hidden in the background of some of our ex-notables. The mind boggles.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Fat Chance


The Executive Director of the Central Western Region (Queensland) is singing the praises of the newly-introduced keep fit programme in State Schools. (ABC Local Radio - 29th Jan).

Apparently it’s sufficient to get young Queenslanders raising a sweat. More power to her elbow, but I don’t rate its chances of success.

The need for such a programme is pretty obvious.

Check this link for some statistics -

http://www.child-obesity.info/child-health/alarming-statistics-about-child-obesity-in-australia.html

By the time the same young Queenslander has tucked in at the local Maccas or Hungry Jacks on the way to or from school, it’s all a bit futile.

If you think I’m exaggerating, watch any of these outlets at 8am or 3pm and watch the comings and goings. In Roma the Maccas outlet is directly across the road from a large primary school. The kids aren’t ordering the healthy stuff.

I‘m not advocating any restrictions – just making an observation. Good luck, Education
authorities.

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