Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Transparency in Education

Ray Johnston of Tannum Sands writes in today's Australian -

Taking poor performing schools to task and removing poor performing teachers and principals sounds like common sense. But let's unpack this. In schools where student performance is poor, surely the reason why this is happening deserves careful scrutiny. If the reason is that teachers are lazy, uncaring or plain incompetent, by all means take action.

However, I believe that most Australians understand well that there are myriad reasons why some young people struggle at school. Some come from homes that don't value education, have dysfunctional parents, were never read to when young, and so on.

In other words, an assumption that poor results come from poor teaching is silly. That such over-simplifications are still being made by politicians (who want to make complex problems seem simple) is unbelievable.

That such grab-bag, quick-fix proposals come from both sides of politics now leaves me, as an experienced high school principal, speechless.

If the same principle were applied to our political leaders, any member of parliament representing an electorate with poor out­comes (for example, high crime rates, high youth unemployment, long hospital waiting lists) would be removed from office.

Want to make a real difference to educa­tional outcomes? Try these two solutions: stop funding education on a 19th-century model of x students per teacher and fund schools on need; fix the staffing shortage in our schools, which is about to turn into a nationwide crisis. This will take money, not words.

I share his frustration. The problem is far more complicated than a 20 second grab can handle, so we're stuck with spin and glib populism. The fact that politicians from both Labor and Coalition are singing the same jingle is simply sad. I'm glad I've retired, and my kids are all (almost) through the system. The only "transparency" evident in this is the political motivation.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Moving On

For the first time in over thirty years, I don’t own a French car. My first encounter with les voitures Francais was in Vietnam in 1970. After seeing how well they stood up to the primitive conditions there at the time, I was hooked. It’s taken thirty-eight years to get the virus out of my system.

The departure of my 1984 Peugeot 505 and 1969 404, both on the same weekend, is almost too much to bear.

But in the interests of moving on – the separation was necessary.

The departure of the 404 was the biggest wrench. The “Olden-days car” – as my kids christened it when they were little, had been in the family as long as two of my four offspring. I had built it from two wrecks, (both from Townsville), and taken it out to Mount Isa where it was a reliable and comfortable second car for quite a few years.

It often took my boys (then of primary school age) and me on some epic explorations of remote places like Lake Julius, usually the haunt of the 4WD fraternity.

I used to take delight in driving it into these places, generally considered inaccessible to conventional cars in those days, and surprising the owners of expensive (and flash) 4wds. I’d always tell them that it cost me $400 (true) and then ask how much they had paid for the Land Cruiser/Discovery/Pajero. Great fun.

The big wheels, torque-tube rear axle, and enormous suspension amplitude made the 404 a very capable vehicle off-road. The worst that happened was leaving the bulk of the exhaust system behind on rocky outcrops. The boys enjoyed this, because of the much better noise that was produced as a consequence.

The 505 provided first car status for one of my sons, and he delivered pizzas in it for a time as his first paying job. The cost of the wear and tear on the car just about balanced out his salary. You can guess who was paying for the car.

I came to realise that my dream of fully restoring both was never going to happen. Besides, we needed the garage space for the MX5.
Both have gone to good homes – both collectors with an aspiration to fully restore them.

I hope they get further than I did.

My total list of French cars is –

1968 Peugeot 404

1969 Peugeot 404

1970 Renault R12

1970 Renault R16TS

!976 Renault R12

!977 Renault R12 Automatique

1984 Peugeot 505 Wagon

1984 Peugeot 505 STI

1989 Peugeot 505 Wagon

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