Saturday, February 28, 2009

Neo-Marxist English teachers trying to downgrade literature in national curriculum

The old nonsense about the back of the cornflakes packet being just as important as Shakespeare. Literature introduces kids to diversity in thinking and we can't have that, apparently. And they are still resisting phonics! Too bad if lots of kids never learn to read, apparently.

In their own education, English teachers have had "Theory" drummed into them and they have still not unlearned that -- even though the chief protagonists of "Theory" have now abandoned it.

English teachers are seeking to downgrade the importance of literature in the national curriculum to allow the study of an expanded range of texts covering visual and multimodal forms "as essential works in their own right". The professional association purporting to represent the view of the nation's English teachers also calls for the national curriculum to recognise a whole-language method for teaching reading rather than exclusively emphasising phonics and the letter-sound relationships as the initial step.

In its submission to the National Curriculum Board's framing paper on the English curriculum, the Australian Association for the Teaching of English declares studying literature is "inherently a political action" in creating the type of people society values. The submission disputes the National Curriculum Board's definition of school English as the three elements of language, literature and literacy. "Meaning-making in, and through, language, across a range of forms, media and expressions, should be the core organiser of the curriculum," it says. "There is a need to state (that) English is the study of language, its central focus being the different processes through which meaning is made and received through different textual expressions - literary and otherwise."

It calls for the end of traditional literature as a discrete element, and for other types of English texts - which would include advertising, TV shows, signage, text messages and websites - to be viewed as essential rather than "add ons" to accompany the understanding of literary texts. "The place and role of non-literary texts in a national English curriculum needs to be rethought in terms that do not see the value of such texts as being predominantly in their potential to enhance the study of literature," it says. "The expansion of the range of texts used in English ... will necessarily mean a significant reconfiguration of the subject, including a relative reduction in the number of literary works, as the term is traditionally conceived, studied."

The AATE challenges the curriculum's view that studying literature is "a form of arts-related and arts-enriched learning experience" related to aesthetic value, saying it is only "true to a point". Rather, studying literature is "inherently a political action in that it is also about 'nation' building through the dissemination of a 'national' culture". "Studying literature also has historically had an ethical function, contributing to the shaping of a certain sort of person that societies have found desirable," it says. "It is difficult to imagine, for example, that the enduring value of works such as Animal Farm and To Kill a Mockingbird, both widely taught in schools, rests on their aesthetic qualities."

The English framing document for the national curriculum released in October is unequivocal in mandating the explicit teaching of the basic structures ofthe English language from grammar, spelling and punctuation to phonics in the first years of school. "Explicit teaching of decoding, spelling and other aspects of the basic codes of written English will be an important and routine aspect," the curriculum says.

But the AATE submission says the emphasis on phonics "comes at the expense of the focus on a balanced reading program", which is the term now applied to whole language methods of teaching reading. It calls for explicit reference to be made to "all three cueing systems" used to make sense of the written word. Under the Three Cueing Systems model for teaching reading, the sounding of letters is the least important skill, with children first asked to use semantics, and guess the word based on the context including using pictures and then use the sentence syntax to work out the meaning.

Then children use the syntax or where the word sits in the sentence to try to work out the meaning. The third and least important cue under this model is sounding out the letters. In a separate submission, the English Teachers Association of NSW argues the national curriculum threatens to "deprofessionalise" English teachers for limiting its aims to developing literacy skills and knowledge about literature.

The ETA argues for the definition of school English to be expanded to include cultural studies, critical literacy (a sociological model analysing gender, race and class in literature to expose inherent prejudices and agendas) and personal growth of students.


Another glimpse of the nasty bureaucrats behind the trouble-prone Queensland Ambulance service

All they care about is power -- their own. So reasonable actions by ambulance officers that ran contrary to stupid bureaucratic directions get the officers punished. There has been nothing but trouble since the State government took the service over a few years ago. Bureaucracy always has the same deadening and stultifying effect

Two paramedics have been stood down from duty after refusing to risk transporting a sick baby to hospital because their ambulance had no child restraint. The Gold Coast case has sparked uproar in paramedic ranks, with claims of heavy-handed management by Queensland Ambulance Service bosses and "a culture of fear and intimidation".

Sources said the paramedics were called to a Tallebudgera Valley address on Thursday morning by the parents of a sick 10-month-old baby. They assessed the baby's condition as stable and the case non-urgent, and asked the communications centre to send a baby capsule so the baby could be transported safely to hospital. But sources said the paramedics were directed to take the baby to hospital anyway, which would have required the mother and child to be strapped to a stretcher together.

Instead, the mother opted to take the baby to hospital in her own car, which had a capsule. When the ambulance officers returned to the station, sources said they were told they had been stood down immediately for "disobeying a direction". "They were told to pack their things and leave and not return until further notice," a source said. "It was abysmal treatment and part of a culture of fear and intimidation in the QAS." The officers were reinstated four hours later after they contacted their union.

"It's an unbelievable way to treat caring and professional officers," said Prebs Sathiaseelan, the president of the Emergency Medical Services Professionals Association. "These paramedics were punished for acting in the patient's best interests. "There was absolutely no need to risk the baby's life by transporting it to hospital without a capsule. "The officers were given no explanation as to why they had been stood down. "They were made to feel guilty and inferior." One paramedic said the QAS was so short-staffed the decision not to send a baby capsule was likely due to manpower shortages.

A QAS spokeswoman said the two paramedics were stood down about 9am on Thursday for "disobeying a direction". She said the suspension was lifted four hours later after it was investigated. "QAS management have advised that no further disciplinary action will be taken," she said.

The spokeswoman said strapping a young child and parent in an ambulance stretcher was "standard practice" and capsules were suitable only for children aged up to six months.


"Stimulus" not working in Australia either

The sacking of 1850 workers by Pacific Brands this week showed why the Rudd Government risks turning a disaster into a catastrophe. Just one month ago, Treasurer Wayne Swan dismissed concerns that his first big stimulus package - its $10.4 billion free money giveaway in December - had not worked by claiming we were at least buying a lot more undies (and, boy, do we need them now). "The evidence from Woolworths ... showed that there was a very significant impact on spending on the basics of life, such as school shoes, such as socks and jocks, such as polo shirts and so on."

But it turns out that if we were spending our free money on socks and jocks, rather than booze and pokies, they weren't sock and jocks made here. Pacific Brands, maker of said jocks, said competition from imports - not to mention its inefficient, overgeared operation - had forced it to close its clothing manufacturing in Australia.

The Government still claims that without its stimulus package last year - and now its $42 billion sequel - this crunch would be even worse. But really? When the evidence so far suggests the Government's rescue packages aren't working as advertised? After all, last year Prime Minister Kevin Rudd claimed his $10.4 billion package would "help to create up to 75,000 additional jobs" this year. Then he said another $15.1 billion package of state and federal spending would "create 133,000 jobs". And days later he said $4.7 billion for "nation-building" would "create up to 32,000 Australian jobs". BUT where are all those jobs now - and where, indeed, those billions? In fact, the Australian Industry Group says some 42,000 jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector alone over the past six to nine months.

It's no wonder that estimates of how long this economic downturn will last are suddenly gloomier. Reserve Bank director Roger Corbett this week warned "the situation is a lot more serious than it was at the end of last year, and I think it will be well into 2010 before we see any significant recovery". All this - and 4000 job losses yesterday at Lend Lease and Telstra - suggest two things.

1. It is mad for the Government to spend all our savings now, when we'll need them for a fight that will last years.

2. We have time, after all, to spend these billions on productive investments in rail, airports, Internet, ports and tax cuts, rather than on this red-cordial rush of pink batts, public housing, cash handouts and halls.

But this is not the only sign that a panicked and meddle-prone Government is spending too much on too little. Again, look at Pacific Brands. The Government has for the past two years tried to prop up the company with $10 million a year -- grants now gone with the jobs. DESPITE learning again that picking winners is how governments lose fortunes, here's what Industry Minister Kim Carr did when he heard Pacific Brands might sack workers. The Socialist Left boss rang the chairman to offer yet more GOODIES: "I specifically asked was there anything further we could do to get the company to change its mind and the answer they have given me is no."

Fancy offering so much help that even a capitalist gurgles, "enough". But think of all the other bosses saying "more!" Think of the $149 million Rudd gave Holden last year to make an allegedly "green car" - $100,000 a year for three years for every worker, including part-timers. Or think of the $35 million Rudd gave to Toyota, which said it didn't ask for it, and didn't know how to spend it.

Voters may still cheer Rudd for this kind of Doing Something, not yet realising how little that money does to save jobs, and how much we'll pay once it's gone. But the reckoning will come.


Senate may save Australia from destructive Warmist laws

Can the Senate save Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong from their global warming folly? It can, and it might, if it rejects the Government's attempts to prematurely lock Australia into a flawed carbon trading scheme. There is a growing unease in government and Opposition ranks that the Government's plan to push through its climate change legislation by the end of June is too hasty, as more and more questions are raised about its emissions trading scheme. Not least, there is the important question of its timing.

Ask yourself, do you believe that the worst global recession since the Depression, with job losses accelerating, is the time for Australia to introduce a carbon trading scheme that will squeeze growth, jobs and investment? Business certainly doesn't.

The Prime Minister and his Climate Change Minister do. The Government's white paper on its carbon pollution reduction scheme (better known as an emissions trading scheme) was released on December 15, as the world's advanced economies and many others were experiencing the sharpest quarterly contraction in economic growth in decades. It acknowledges the seriousness of the financial and economic crisis but declares this does not mean we can ignore the threat climate change poses to our long-term economic prosperity: "On the contrary, this current crisis makes it more important we secure the long-term prosperity that comes from rebuilding the low pollution economy of the future."

If you swallow this, you presumably also believe the planet faces imminent catastrophe as a result of global warming. The reality is that delaying action for a year or two isn't going to make much difference. Nothing Australia does can have much impact on the stock or flow of global greenhouse gasses, and if the time is used to improve policy we will actually be better off.

The timing issue is raised in an important report prepared in January for a Senate committee by the former head of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Brian Fisher, now at Concept Economics. Fisher reviewed Treasury modelling of the economic impact of reducing carbon emissions. "The global financial crisis and its flow-on to the real economy has altered dramatically the context in which Australia will be introducing an emissions trading scheme and taking, in all likelihood, unconditional action to reduce emissions, Fisher says. "By contrast, the Treasury modelling exercise and much of the ... scheme design has assumed, often explicitly, a continuation of strong global and domestic growth, both in the implementation phase of the ETS and in the longer term."

Fisher notes that an ETS imposes a new cost on Australian producers and consumers, and says a critical concern is the impact of this additional cost of production on Australian firms when company balance sheets have deteriorated dramatically, investment plans have been shelved and workers dismissed. In many countries, including Australia, the global financial crisis has reinforced the primacy of economic growth and jobs in national policy debates.

Steven Chu, President Barack Obama's new Secretary of Energy, told The New York Times earlier this month that reaching agreement on emissions trading legislation would be difficult in the present recession because any scheme to regulate greenhouse gas emissions would probably cause energy prices to rise and drive manufacturing jobs to countries where energy was cheaper. Obama officials concede that Congress is unlikely to pass such legislation in time for the international climate change conference in Copenhagen in December to try to agree on a new global treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

The problem is that Rudd and Wong have locked themselves in, even if Rudd the pragmatist would privately like to back off his timetable for introducing an ETS scheme, given the economic crisis. Here is where the Senate comes in. Negotiations are still going on, but one way or another a Senate committee will consider the Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme legislation and it will also be able to consider alternatives.

The opportunity has arisen because of the farce over the Government's announcement that the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics would hold an inquiry into "the choice of emissions trading as the central policy to reduce Australia's carbon pollution". Whatever Rudd's intention, this was a major miscalculation on several grounds. The terms of reference clearly suggested the need to consider alternatives to the Government's emissions trading scheme and were widely seen as the Government rethinking its commitment to this scheme. This opened a Pandora's box that the Government has been unable to close by withdrawing the inquiry reference on the risible grounds that Malcolm Turnbull was playing politics with it. What a shock.

The Government is most unlikely to meet its deadline of passing its legislation by June 30 and there is a better than even money chance that the Senate will reject the legislation. The Government will find itself facing an unholy alliance of the Greens, the Nationals and the Liberals, all opposed to the CPRS, if for different reasons.

The Greens' Christine Milne has already declared that having no scheme would be better than being locked into the CPRS, the Nationals will also vote against, and so, if Turnbull has any political nous, will the Liberals. The Government, while no doubt secretly relieved at being rescued from a trap of its own making, will then be able to blame Turnbull for climate change vandalism and threatening the survival of the planet. But while this is a risk, Turnbull has a powerful political card to play. He can legitimately accuse the Government of putting its obsession with introducing an emissions trading scheme by July 2010 ahead of Australian jobs and businesses.

With Australian unemployment rising to 7 per cent on the Government's own forecasts and quite possibly heading higher in an election year, with the impact of world recession, and the Government itself saying the No1 economic issue is jobs, Rudd is likely to be quite vulnerable. More so because he and Wong have conned Australians into believing that they can make a personal contribution to saving the planet under the Government's scheme, when they can't at all. All they are doing is making life easier for carbon-emitting businesses.

A Senate rejection of the ETS in present economic circumstances is in the national interest and it would offer the opportunity to allow an independent body - the Productivity Commission - to look at the Government's scheme without ideological blinkers on.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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might manage to claim $500 through the Klingon Language Institute.