Saturday, January 17, 2009

Who'd be a teacher in today's nervous educational system?

This report documents the familiar modern practice of allowing one whiner to dictate to everyone else. Policy should be changed only when there is an extensive demand for it, not just a demand from one individual

WANTED: A mature adult, with tertiary qualifications, good values, ability to work long hours to educate tomorrow's leaders in everything from maths to English to good manners. Need to be able to be criticised, abused and possibly even assaulted.

Who would apply to be a teacher in 2009? As the school doors closed last year, the debate centred around whether red pens should be used in classrooms and whether building a replica of Noah's Ark amounted to Christian indoctrination. But as those teachers preparing to go back into the classroom this month will tell you, that's only the beginning. Each day, someone will question the decisions they make. They accept that. But more and more often, the questions become complaints, which are taking up more and more of a teacher's time. And it's the consequence of that that we should be worried about.

Teachers are rethinking their career choices; many with years of experience are choosing to leave and none of the debate is focusing on where that leaves our education system -- or the children at its centre. The following is a list of real examples you will not have heard about; they are complaints given to organisers of the Queensland Teachers Union.

* A primary school teacher had a complaint lodged by a parent because she had given the kids a worksheet headed "Spelling demons". The parent's objection centred around "the association with the supernatural" and thought the children would be frightened.

* A primary school in a regional area in Queensland withdrew yoga classes that had been offered to students as part of their fitness program. The reason hehind the forced withdrawal? A parental complaint about yoga's association with "foreign religions" .

* Another primary school removed Harry Potter posters after a parent complained that the posters "introduced children to witchcraft".

* Similarly, a parent of a high school student complained about Macbeth being studied in English classes because it "promoted witchcraft".

* The parents of a high school student complained about the "grave health risk to their child" who was asked to pick up papers from the school grounds as a consequence of persistent disruptive behaviour.

* Melbourne Cup Day was difficult last year -- as it is every year - because of the litany of complaints it brings. For example, the last race prompted complaints from parents because students were not allowed to discuss "the big race". The teachers were accused of being un-Australian. But the same day - and race -- brought complaints from parents of children who were allowed to discuss it, because it allegedly promotes gambling.

* In cases wbere Santa was allowed to be part of recent classroom celebrations, these complaints were logged. 1. Santa promotes a fantasy figure and should be banned. 2. Teachers were promoting an unhealthy overweight role model to children and should be brought into line 3. The presence of Santa in the classroom promoted "greed". You'd think that would make a teacher's plan for the next Christmas easy: Ban Santa and stop the complaints. But no. An equal number of complaints are received each December when Santa is not part of celebrations. Parents have complained that (a) it is political correctness "gone mad"; and (b) that teachers are denying children exposure to a well-loved traditional and cultural figure.

Even the sun-safe "no hat, no play" rule - which has been in place in Queensland state schools for years - brings regular complaints from parents who claim their children have been "discriminated against" if they are not allowed on to the oval because they have no hat. The issue of homework, too, is fraught with problems. Some parents argue that children should do all their work during school hours. But those on the other side say not giving enough homework means teachers are not fully providing for their education and how can all education be achieved from 8.30am to 3pm five days a week?

Add to that the appalling pay given to our teachers, and you wonder whether we are setting our education system up to fail. Of course, parents should have a say in the education of their children. But surely once you investigate the options, and select a school for your children, barring real evidence that your child is being damaged, shouldn't we leave the education to those trained to do it?

The spectre of daily complaints and even legal threats must have an effect on those at the front of the classroom. Why would you go the extra yard, think outside the square, or add to the curriculum if the risk is a barrage of complaints and the threat of legal action? It's our children who risk missing out here.

The above story by Madonna King appeared in the Brisbane "Courier Mail" of Saturday 17, January, 2009

Another reduction of medical services in a socialized medical system

In both Britain and Australia, "caring" Leftist governments have a mania for closing down hospitals and shrinking the number of beds available. The pretext is that they want to combine several hospitals into one to provide bigger, better and brighter services. It is utter crap, of course. It is about cost-cutting and nothing else. Standards decline rather than rise. We see the latest iteration of this "compassionate" Leftist policy in Queensland, where the government wants to replace two childrens' hospitals with one new one. Result? Everyone is going to be shortchanged. Even the size of consulting rooms has been reduced to the point where they are too small to fit a wheelchair in. And this is a hospital?

One of Queensland's leading doctors sent a disturbing email to nearly 100 colleagues that was leaked to me last week. Dr Brent Masters, a specialist in respiratory medicine at the Royal Children's Hospital asked if anyone was happy with the planned move to the new Queensland Children's Hospital. The planning process was "truly getting out of hand", he wrote. "I recommend you all read the book On Bullshit: you can buy it at the Medical School bookshop for about $15," he said. "It points out that basing decisions on bullshit are (sic) fraught with dire consequences - indeed worse than basing decisions on lies . . .

"The complete lack of intellectual honesty has let pediatrics down badly in this state . . . "I again point out that this hospital should not be about secondary level pediatrics (the bullshit factor) but about tertiary pediatrics: You can not have a world class hospital based on secondary-level pediatrics." Then he gave an ominous warning about underfunded hospitals. "You can cross the road 100 times with your eyes closed and you will get away with it 90 times," he said.

Despite some positive announcements on the new hospital this week, Dr Masters, like many other specialists, remains sceptical. He has to be. He leads a team treating 350 young cystic fibrosis patients. "People come from all over the world to train with them," said a doctor. They are that good." He is backed up by Dr Ann Chang, a leading researcher and devout Catholic who is a world authority on respiratory disease. This week Chang is in Darwin and soon she heads to New York and Miami to present papers to international medical forums.

For Dr Masters it is a demanding clinical load. CF is an unforgiving genetic disease characterised by frequent lung infections. It is incurable. Even lung transplants have only a 50 per cent success rate. Masters and Chang fear the new hospital simply doesn't have enough space to treat existing cases, let alone the 125 new cases who will come onstream in the next five years. And hospital planners neither seem to understand nor care about necessary research. This is a common complaint among specialists, from pathology to neurology.

Gastroenterologists fear they have been sidelined by planners who "stole" some of their space for respiratory medicine. "Gastroenterology is seriously compromised at QCH, with the complete disintegration of our diagnostic unit," said Dr Looi Ee last week.

Doctors practising nuclear medicine and medical imaging fear they, too, have been short-changed, with not enough MRI scanners.

Professor Jenny Batch told colleagues she needed rooms for diabetics and growth hormone therapy and a permanent patient-family education centre. "I share the concerns that there will not be adequate rooms," she said in another email leaked to me.

Space shortages also worried Dr Jane Peake, a pediatric immunologist who deals in allergies, eczema and auto-immune deficiencies. She feared there would not even be enough space to store research papers. She thought she was looking at a "poorly designed rabbit warren" with "small and grossly inadequate consulting rooms".

Dr Kate Sinclair agrees. She says proposed, open-plan office space will be unsuitable. Privacy will be endangered and deeply personal conversations with patients will be difficult.

Several doctors also questioned plans to cut queues at the new hospital by running clinical sessions in a day starting at 7am and finishing at 8pm.

Dr Lynne McKinlay, the director of pediatric rehabilitation at the Royal, noted the apparent lack of large consulting rooms. She said rooms would be "unsuitable" for children who arrived with both parents, siblings and a stroller, "let alone children who come with wheelchairs and walkers".

The proposed research centre remains unfunded and clinicians in allied health, genetics and dentistry believe their patients, too, will suffer in the shift to South Brisbane.


Boofheaded Queensland cops again

They sometimes block whole freeways in their zeal to catch drink drivers. I have seen it for myself. And I am not talking from sour grapes. I have NEVER had a drink-driving conviction

POLICE have defended an officer who forced motorists across three lanes of traffic during a peak-hour speed trap on a major Brisbane road. Motorists who contacted police headquarters and the media complained that the officer could have endangered his life and the lives of drivers. The Courier-Mail photographed the officer striding into the middle of southbound traffic at the southern end of the Story Bridge about 7pm on Thursday after receiving calls from outraged motorists.

The officer was conducting mobile speed patrols by stopping drivers on Main St, Kangaroo Point, and ordering them across three lanes to a grassy patch on the side of the road. Twenty-seven motorists were caught speeding at the site.

Motorist Jason Riley said he only narrowly avoided a crash because of the "ludicrous" set up. A motorist who had been caught speeding was trying to reverse back on to the main road when he came into Mr Riley's path. "He couldn't see me because of the terrible visibility," Mr Riley said. "I had to swerve to avoid the collision. It was ludicrous."

Gary Fites, of Queensland's peak motoring body RACQ, said drivers relied on police to exercise commonsense. "Something that puts drivers at risk is not acceptable," he said.

Police yesterday defended the speed trap as safe and worthwhile, claiming the site was not conducive to a speed camera "due to engineering issues". [What about safety issues??]


More about an ultimate hero

He says: "I was just doing my job"

Mark Donaldson has become the first Australian in almost 40 years to be awarded the nation's highest military honour, the Victoria Cross. The 29-year-old SAS Trooper was yesterday presented with the first VC for Australia, which replaced the Imperial award in 1991, for most conspicuous acts of gallantry during a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan.

Trooper Donaldson, who was recovering from wounds suffered in an earlier battle, deliberately exposed himself to withering machinegun and rocket-propelled grenade fire to draw fire away from his mates in the ambush on September 2 last year. Without thought for his safety, he then ran across 80m of exposed ground to rescue a badly wounded Afghan interpreter.

Trooper Donaldson, who has been in the army since 2002 and the Special Air Service Regiment for four years, said he never gave a moment's thought to the possibility that he might die. "I didn't really have time to think about it," Trooper Donaldson, from Newcastle in NSW, said. "I was too busy worrying about getting back to my mates ... and getting us all through it."

Ninety-six other Australians have been awarded the VC since the highest award for valour in the face of the enemy was introduced in 1865. In the drawing room of Government House yesterday the nation's political and military leaders saluted Trooper Donaldson. His survival without so much as a scratch stunned Australia's last recipient, Keith Payne, whose own VC was for action in Vietnam in May 1969. "In a party like his your chances of coming out alive are pretty negative," said Mr Payne, 75, who witnessed the investiture by Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

A group of SAS comrades from Donaldson's patrol, including three who were wounded during the terrible ambush, looked on as their mate got his medal. Ms Bryce told the young soldier, his wife Emma and two-year-old daughter Kaylee that the VC for Australia was reserved for the "incomparable and unsurpassed". "You have cradled life in your arms, and opened your heart to its meaning," Ms Bryce said. "You are the finest example and inspiration ... I salute you." Defence Chief Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said Trooper Donaldson had been inducted into a band of brothers so admired for their valour that just 10 remained alive.

Trooper Donaldson said he was overwhelmed by the award. "It's very humbling and really makes you sit back and take a look at yourself," he said. "I'm a soldier, I am trained to fight and that's what we do. It is instinct and it is natural. "You don't think about it at the time, you just do what you've got to do."

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Trooper Donaldson had joined the ranks of Australian heroes. "His feat under fire now becomes the stuff of Australian legend," Mr Rudd said.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said the heroic medal winner had been on the front line of the battle for freedom. "A battle we cannot lose, we will not lose because of brave men like you," he said.

Trooper Donaldson said the magnitude of his award had not yet sunk in. "I just want to get back to being Mark Donaldson," he said.

More here (Video of interview at the link)

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