Poor standards in commentary

I’m really disappointed in the commentary on the Victorian [Australia] governments release of the “On Track” survey showing the paths that 2003 Year 12 students have taken this year. Not surprisingly the survey has found that a greater proportion of students from private schools go on to university than students from state schools. In fact nearly twice as many students from private schools followed this path than their counterparts in state schools. I am deeply saddened that this has been the headline datum reported from the survey. Even worse, the figure has been reported as showing that state schools are failing.
For an example of this commentary see We need to lift the standard of state schools Green’s article is only half bad. He makes some good points along the way. But the last line is a shocker.

Fuzzy thinking is just fuzzy thinking

Kevin Donnelly demonstrates just how fuzzy is his own thinking in Fuzzy thinking leads to failure in The Age Education Supplement today.
His opening few paras aren’t too bad. He’s spot on when he quotes Ken Rowe’s research that the main determinant of success at school is the quality of the classroom interaction. But then, instead of following Rowe’s lead and discussing what good classroom interaction might look like, he branches off into the quality of schools – which is exactly what Rowe is saying is NOT as important.
In his final para he launches an attack on “whole language and fuzzy maths” as fads with no evidence whatsoever to back up the claim that these ‘fads’ will lead to school failure.
I personally believe that the whole language approach is good pedagogy for a large majority of students. It may well be the best pedaggogy we have for allmost all students. This is a vexed issue with seemingly just as many people arguing that the traditional ‘phonics’ approach is better and certainly better for students with reading difficulties.
If I read Rowe correctly, what he is really is the distinction is not as important as the actual quality of teaching. (See Quality Teaching Matters Most.)
It takes me back to a Mathematics Conference I attended many years ago when Doug Clarke read an article from Mathematics Teacher entitlted “Cypher in the Snow”. It was a moving story about repeated failure by to identify a students progessive disengagement first from school, the society and finally life. There wasn’t a dry eye in the lecture theatre when he finished. The writer finished by telling us the promise she made to herself after the incident to walk up and down every aisle and look every student in the eye and ask herself “am I doing as much for this person as I possibly can?”
That, in my mind is good teaching. Teachers need support and professional development to continually develop better skills at doing as much for each child and young person as they can. But we must value the love that’s necessary for that to happen.
Terms like accountability, under-performing schools, and fads get in the way of us remembering what is really importat in schools.

School is the worst years of your life

Michael Carr-Gregg has a thoughtful piece — Making
Schools more Boy–Friendly
— in The
Age
this morning. I value Carr-Gregg’s ten suggestions. I note that most
of them apply equally to girls. Perhaps he could have titled it “Making schools
more student–friendly.”

Back in the mid 80s, while I was studying a post graduate course in education,
I did some research into the Quality of School Life at a girls’ school. I asked
students a number of open ended questions to which I received a broad range
of responses. Here’s a sample:

  • At school you should always feel that the teachers are there to benefit you,
    not the other way around.
  • At school you always have plenty of chance to get homework, get yelled at,
    get detension (sic) and feel like your in prison.
  • First and foremost school should help you to face up to the things that really
    happen in life.
  • You should be able to feel that you are a special individual with certain
    rights and you should be able to express what you feel about certain subjects
    without feeling imbarred (sic) or foolish as some teachers make you out to be.
  • At school you do feel that school is the worst years of your life, you are
    utterly stupid, your mother doesn’t love you.
  • At school you do feel that sometimes you could commit suicide because you
    hate it so much.
  • At school you do feel that not matter how hard you try, you’re always not
    good enough.
  • At school you do feel your time is being wasted, totally bored and that you
    would rather be doing something else somewhere else.
  • Above all else school does help you to – school doesn’t really help me to
    do anything really
  • You should be able to feel teachers are your friends
  • You should be able to feel you are wanted
  • First and foremost, school should help you to learn about the real world,
    not what they teach you in advanced maths classes.

OPUS International Conference

International Perspectives from Group Relations, Psychoanalysis and Systems Theory

For Detailed Information, go to: the Opus Conference website.
Friday 19 and Saturday 20 November 2004
Keynote Speakers: Gordon Lawrence who will be speaking from an
organisational perspective; and Fakhry Davids who will be speaking about
Institutional Racism.
In addition there will be 28 Parallel papers to select from. These include
presenters from Germany, USA, Australia, Israel, Holland, Norway and Ireland.
Please feel free and encouraged to copy this message on to whoever you feel
may be interested, thank you.
Lionel Stapley. Director OPUS
(via Orgdyne)

The Beautiful American

For some time now I have been thinking about a notion I like to call “The Beautiful
American”. I came back to it when I came across this article:

The
Empire of Fear: The American Political Psyche and the Culture of Paranoia

from the online journal of Psycho-Social Studies. (via Orgdyne)

A quote to give you the flavour:

“The point about all this is that this very idealisation of America
by Americans, its self-identification with virtue, contributes enormously both
to its innocence and to its arrogance. There is often a real generosity of spirit
and a friendly naivete which strikes the non-American (at least the English
ones) when encountering an American citizen. One thinks of the countless jokes
about the American as an `innocent abroad

Continue reading

Birnbaum talks to James Wood

We were really quite taken by Robert Birnbaum’s recent interview with Michael Lewis.
Birnbaum continues his series on authors with this piece where he talks to James Wood…

about his professional dilemmas, what makes for appealing style in fiction, and which stings more, getting panned as a critic or as a novelist.

From The Morning News.