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Jean Walker

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Everything posted by Jean Walker

  1. Debate on what to teach in History

    Mmm...well my own union, of which you know I am president, did try, but our PM, faithful follower of Bush and Blair, currently has the upper monetary hand! I recently attended a national conference on public education in Sydney at which John Ralston Saul, the Canadian philosopher, was the keynote speaker. He was marvellous - mainly warning of the fragile nature of democracy and the role public education plays in a democratic society. The other keynote speaker was one of our better exports to the UK, Geoffrey Robinson, a highly esteemed high court jugde, writer and coilcidentally married to the writer Kathy Lette which is why he lives in England. He was asked to talk on what history he thought should be taught to Australian students and his response really boiled down to a history of democracy starting, he said, with the English Civil War and the development of parliamentary democracy and then picking up a similar theme with the settlement of Australia and up to the present with emphasis on the UN, world conflicts etc. Too much to repeat here but I actually thought he made very good sense.
  2. Debate on what to teach in History

    Very true! Another amusing aspect - our federal govt requires every school to display an "Australian Values" poster as part of the funding complinace. It's a lovely large coloured poster which has as its background the famous photo of Simpson and his donkey, supposedly an icon of Australian history and heroism. Just a few points - Simpson wasn't his real name, he hailed from South Shields (coincidentally my partner's home town) and as a merchant seaman jumped ship in Sydney just before the war. He was just one out of thousands of men who were conscripted and showed bravery under fire. Brave, but not more so than many others who are forgotten.
  3. Debate on what to teach in History

    Here in Australia history is the latest hot topic as our federal govt makes more and more interference with what is taught in our state systems. They provide only a small part of the overall funding but have in the last three years, tied it very tightly to mandated requirements including the "return to teaching Australian history in narrative style" rather than what they claim is the current predominant progressive methods of investigation and child centred learning. There is lots about it in out newspapers if you want to know more. It raises questions such as whose narrative of Australians at Gallipoli - were we heroes orr did we cut and run!
  4. Hidden (Caché)

    Yes, I've seen it and agree with you - it was the sort of film you go home thinking about and wake up thinking about. And you're right - my partner and I had very different views of it due to our different life experiences.
  5. New curriculum scrapped

    Our new Minister for Education has just announced the scrapping of the controversial Outcomes Based system which was introduced here five years ago and has cost $A80m. We are to return to traditional subjects with syllabuses based on the National Statements of Learning recently written by our federal govt. Another extremely expensive educational failure. It caused me to do a bit of browsing on educational change and I found this which I think is extremely interesting and very relevant. http://mypage.bluewin.ch/delpinp/ARLE/arti...e%20practice%22
  6. New curriculum scrapped

    Here, it is the Minister who has the biggest say but what he/she does can be heavily influenced by the top educational bureaucrats who read the research journals and then make recommendations to the Minister and what he/she decides to do is very much reliant on how well or badly informed they are themselves or whether they are their own person or not, or rely heavily on their advisers which most of them do. When you say politicians make the decisions in England, they still must get their ideas from somewhere and it's my bet that they come from the latest university research via curriculum journals through Ministerial advisers and so to the Minister. It's all very Yes. Minister stuff whichever country you live in. Here, also, the teachers union is very strong and as in the recent scrapping of the new curriculum, the Minister was influenced by the survey we did which showed overwhelmingly that teachers were opposed to it. We were ready to publish that fact and as there had already been community/parent criticism he had the common sense to take notice and take action even if it was also to retain his vote. I think the article is asking what sort of research do these advisers and educrats rely on for reaching their decisions on what to recommend to politicians and the answer is that it is mostly untried, untested and based on emotional responses rather than tested, empirical evidence as medicine etc now is.
  7. New curriculum scrapped

    Just wondered if anyone had read the article above and had any thoughts on it?
  8. School Uniform rip off

    Here in Tasmania I guess we have gone somewhere between UK and US in that most state schools (not private ones which still demand a school specific and costly uniform) now just require a washable tracksuit type top and/or same coloured collared T-shirt in the school's colour worn with grey or black jeans for both boys and girls. Some schools still have the summer dress for girls but these are also a pretty standard check affair in the choice of a few standard colours and some schools have a printed school badge on the tops. This way all the clothes are stocked by supermarkets or department stores and kids only need to change the top if they change schools. It seems to work reasonably well as it saves kids competing with each other for the fashion stakes and stops well-off kids flouting their affluence but allows them to wear something that's relatively similar to their normal casual wear.
  9. Australian History

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/hindsight/stories/2006/1684407.htm A debate is currently raging here in Australia about the teaching of Australian history - see this link
  10. Death of Steve Irwin

    The other issue is the one about fame. As a reader pointed out today, our local paper yesterday had dozens of accounts about people dying in tragic circumstances both locally and elsewhere which are glossed over as of little importance and yet we had 4 pages yesterday and three pages today about Irwin. Our values have become very skewed.
  11. Death of Steve Irwin

    No one wishes anything like this to happen to anyone but he was a serious risk taker and so it shouldn't really come as a huge surprise. There was a very contraversial photo of him in the papers here where he was shown goading a crocodile while holding his two month old son in the other arm. Coincidentally, his wife and children were here in Tasmania, bushwalking, when it happened.
  12. Gough Whitlam

    Sorry, I don't have anything useful to add to this topic except that I once sat behind Gough and his wife, Margaret (who is a truly amazing character in her own right) in the Sydney opera house and couldn't see anything for my very expensive tickets because they are both well over six feet tall.
  13. City Academies and Government Corruption

    Have you heard of Prof Brian Caldwell over there? He's an Australian first famous for the self-managing school, now running round Oz selling PD and his latest book after being in the UK, telling us that we should bulldoze all our state schools and rebuild them with public/private partnerships.
  14. City Academies and Government Corruption

    And so, of course, our federal govt is recommending them here. Do we ever learn from anything? NO
  15. Holidays for Teachers

    Thanks. I'll definitely keep that in mind. We're heading your way next year and will be staying with the friends in Spain who have also just bought a cottage in Romania which they are taking us to see. May not have time for France this trip but hopefully another time.
  16. Holidays for Teachers

    It looks wonderful and I can't think of anything I'd rather do right at the moment than spend some time there. Unfortunately, I cannot get away from cold, wet Tasmania right now. We have very good friends who used to have a house in that area, in a village called Marseillon, and I spent one of the most memorable months of my life there. He was a village school headmaster in Edgerton in Kent. They now live permanently in Spain and have part of their large villa for rent. Here's the ebsite for anyone interested http://www.casarurale.com/html/accommodation.html Their house is the first one - Finca verde We've stayed with them there twice. It's up in the hills about an hour and a half from Valencia.
  17. Fish Oil for Pupils

    As I said earlier, for many years here children were given iodine tablets as a safeguard against goiter. It caused none of the issues you've raised. I'm old enough to remember being issued with concentrated orange juice and cod liver oil after the war as a safeguard against poor nutrition. I guess in both cases the govt could have "educated" parents instead but I doubt it would have had the same effect. I think I probably have them to thank for my very strong bones and good teeth even in late middle age and in neither case was there ever any issues about brands or makes or commercial companies that I recall. I think it's just a bit sad that we've reached a point where we have to always think in terms of possible commercial competition and individual "freedoms".
  18. Fish Oil for Pupils

    On the advice of my very good GP I have been taking fish oil capsules for several years and I do believe they have made a difference to my overall well-being. She recommended them for a variety of benefits including cholesterol, high blood pressure, stress and joint protection. A friend who has been a geriatric nurse for many years tells me that they have given them to all their residents for several years now. Here in Tasmania we have a natural shortage of iodine and for many years all school children were given iodine tablets, until it started to be put compulsorily into bread and salt. I can't see much difference when it seems logical that human brains developed over centuries of a diet which included lots of omega 3 from oily fish and that many people nowadays have a shortage of it in their diet and that may well be one cause of the apparent increase in behaviour disorders. No different from school milk to supplement the missing calcium etc and no different really from "breakfast programs". I think it's worth a try - a more sensible trial than many that are conducted in our society. If it works, jolly good and think of all the money and stress saved as a result, if it doesn't, certainly no harm done.
  19. Teaching and Learning Policy

    Tis the same the whole world over! Our new Minister has just announced a 6 months taskforce into "improving" (ie changing) our newish reporting system. What did it take to get it? Two years of telling our DoE they were rubbish. Two years of writing to papers, dozens of useless meetings, political lobbying, parent lobbying, surveys etc etc. Because it was the previous Minister's "baby", nothing was done. Now, with a new Minister keen to make his mark, suddenly it's all possible and surprise, surprise, we were apparently right all along. The money involved would have paid for several extra teachers.
  20. Mayday

    And my teachers' union members did their little bit here in Tasmania, We had an "Orange May Day" in schools where teachers wore orange, had orange coloured morning teas, orange coloured raffles etc. Why? Because at the moment all over Australia we are fighting a YourRights@Work campaign against the worst industrial legislation that's ever been seen in this country and in the long term to oust the present federal govt and get the laws rescinded. Orange and black are the casmpaign colours, hence the orange May Day. The IR laws are unbeleivably draconian and will. as they did in New Zealand over a decade ago, have the opposite effect of that claimed. For more info you can go to http://www.yourrightsatwork.com.au/campaigns Up the workers!
  21. Jokes

    (A colleague at work assures me that his mate who is an airline mechanic has told him similar stories!!) It takes a college degree to fly a plane but only a high school diploma to fix one: a reassurance for those of us who fly routinely in their jobs. After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a "gripe sheet,"which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas' pilots (marked with a (P); and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers. By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never had an accident. ---------------------------------------------------- P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement. S: Almost replaced left inside main tire. P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough. S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft. P: Something loose in cockpit. S: Something tightened in cockpit. P: Dead bugs on windshield. S: Live bugs on back-order. P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent. S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground. P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear. S: Evidence removed. P: DME volume unbelievably loud. S: DME volume set to more believable level. P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick. S: That's what they're for. P: IFF inoperative. S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode. P: Suspected crack in windshield. S: Suspect you're right. P: Number 3 engine missing. S: Engine found on right wing after brief search. P: Aircraft handles funny. (I love this one!) S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious. P: Target radar hums. S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics. P: Mouse in cockpit. S: Cat installed. P: Noise coming from under instrument panel, sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer. S: Took hammer away from midget ~~~~~~~~~
  22. Ofsted Visits

    I love it. But Orwell wasn't far wrong was he!
  23. Bulletin of the Opposition!

    http://www.aeutas.org.au/ It's interesting but not surprising, that bullying is equally an issue here. I just made a speech to our State Union Council which is at the above link. This caused great media reaction and I ended up on the front page of our local papers. Now there is much angst and soul searching about who bullies who and why. But in our case I believe the top of our DoE has been allowed to become what is already being referred to as a "command and control" culture and that like the military, that culture is passed down the line and becomes the acceptable style of behaviour. Getting rid of it and replacing the culture is now the big item we face. With a new Minister for Education, it's a good opportunity to try. http://www.themercury.news.com.au/common/s...255E921,00.html Here's the link to the above story.
  24. Aussie TV - Monday Morning

    Sorry, I'll be at work, with no TV available!! I could ask my 91 year old Dad if he liked it as he usually watches daytime TV!!
  25. Outing Bullying

    I am feeling rather battered and bruised at the moment. Over the last decade a culture has been allowed to pervade our DoE of what someone describes as "command and control" which has ultimately flowed down from head office bureaucrats to principals and on to teachers. I think it came as a response to establishing our new and very radical curriculum and assessment and reporting which was not greeted with open arms by a substantial amount of teachers. It therefore had to be driven home almost by brute force if the momentum was to be maintained. This need for control and command eminated from the Minister's office and went down the line. My union tried very hard to convince her that this was going on but it was constantly denied. At our recent election she polled very badly, was only just returned to her seat and was demoted to a less important portfolio. With a new Minister coming in, I belived it was the right moment to start again and knowing that nothing would really happen by just raising the subject and asking for an inquiry, I made a speech to our Union Council last week which made the point that bullying had occurred. The speech was unanimously endorsed by Council with a request that it be made public. Of course, as I knew it would, the media jumped on it and it became very public. I am now in a position where I have scores of members telling me that for the first time they feel as if their union cares about them, while at the same time I am receiving angry letters and resignations from those members who are in curriculum offices who believe that I have "abandoned" them and "tarred everyone with the same brush". I guess it was inevitable but I am feeling sad that these members are saying that I am uncaring and unfeeling, when I actually did it because I think I care too much. I could easily have ignored it all and led an easy life. Anyone else had such an experience?
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