Friday, June 21, 2013

A moronic conversation about school "engagement"

The article below is from an academic Leftist  blog called the Conversation.  The blog is in a way aptly named as it is little more than a self-congratulatory conversation among  Leftists living in a little Leftist bubble

Both the original academic journal article ("The longitudinal association of childhood school engagement with adult educational and occupational achievement: findings from an Australian national study") and the discussion of it below ignore the elephant in the room:  IQ.

Smarter kids enjoy school more so are relatively more "engaged".  How do you think dummies feel at school?   And it is an IQ advantage which gives kids various advantages in later life.  All the stuff below is just waffle.  "Engagement" may have some separate benefit beyond IQ but the work below is incapable of telling us if it has.

Amusingly, the original authors controlled for: "age, sex, markers of socio-economic status in childhood, personality and school-level variables (i.e., number of students, single sex versus co-education; government, private or independent)" but left out IQ.  In the weird mental world of the Left, if you can't change it, it does not exist.  They were well aware of the problem of confounding but IQ was just too "incorrect" to mention, apparently

Children’s interest and engagement in school influences their prospects of educational and occupational success 20 years later, over and above their academic attainment and socioeconomic background, researchers have found.

The more children felt connected to their school community and felt engaged, rather than bored, the greater their likelihood of achieving a higher educational qualification and going on to a professional or managerial career.

The study from researchers at Menzies Research Institute Tasmania is published in the British Educational Research Journal.

The researchers used data from the Childhood Determinants of Adult Health study, which collected health-related data from school children aged nine to 13 years, and again 20 years later when they were young adults.

The research team created a “school engagement index” using questionnaire items on school enjoyment and boredom, including items such as motivation to learn, sense of belonging, participation in school or extra-mural activities and enjoyment of physical activity.

They found that each unit of school engagement was independently associated with a 10% higher chance of achieving a post-compulsory school education at some point during the next 20 years, including as a mature age student.

And those who were engaged at school were more likely to go on to a professional, semi-professional or managerial career.

Lead author Joan Abbott-Chapman, University Associate at the Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, said the study was an important confirmation for teachers and educators that what happens in school has life-long consequences.

“If students can be engaged by curriculum, through the mode of delivery, through a rich variety of learning experiences and through the way teachers relate with students, then this is going to pave the way for achievement in adulthood,” she said.

Parents also have an enormous influence over their child’s educational participation, Dr Abbott-Chapman said, but they could take heart that even students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds could be encouraged to achieve success.

“If parents are able to co-operate with schools and teachers to help to promote student engagement, then this is likely to provide a springboard, if you like, for future achievement in school and in employment right through to adulthood,” she said.
Improving engagement

Senior Lecturer at Flinders University Dr Susan Krieg said the study reinforced the importance of school curricula to promote active, rather than passive learning styles that engage both the mind and body, and involve humour, music and movement.

“It is important to recognise that the patterns of engagement begin very early, much earlier than formal schooling,” Dr Krieg added.

Professor of Global Health at the University of Melbourne Rob Moodie agrees.

“The notion that a school should be about sports, music, drama – not only numeracy and literacy – is really important. They enjoy it, they enjoy being there.”

Professor Moodie said the link between educational and occupational outcomes also extended to better health outcomes and well-being later in life.
Levelling the playing field at school

Dr Fiona Mensah, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, said children who become marginalised at school often have very negative outcomes.

“Disengagement is strongly predictive of school dropout, delinquency and problem substance use in adolescence and early adulthood – emphasising how critical it is that children remain engaged during schooling as they transition to adulthood,” she said.

The next step for this type of research, according to Louise Newman, Professor of Psychiatry at Monash University, is to look at whether a school environment can function as a protective environment for children who are at risk of disengagement.

“So that would look at things like children with family difficulties or children with attachment problems, or children from low socioeconomic areas, or children where a family might not promote or value education.”

“Can the school – and to what extent – provide an environment for those children so they can still develop those sorts of positive attitudes?”



Conservative control of the Senate likely

TONY Abbott stands to gain control of the Senate on September 14, relegating Labor to its worst election result since 1901, according to a new state-by-state polling analysis.

New fears have spread through senior Labor ranks that the number two Labor Senate positions in a number of states could now be at risk with Labor's primary vote at or below 30 per cent in most states. And the union movement is becoming increasingly worried that unless Labor can maintain some influence in the Senate with the Greens, it will be powerless to stop the Coalition trying to crush the union movement.

An analysis of the latest polls, showing a primary vote of 29 per cent, suggests Labor could end up with only 25 to 26 Senate positions out of 76.

With the primary vote in the Senate traditionally three to five points lower for Labor than what it receives in the lower house, Labor stands to elect potentially just a single Senator from Western Australia and Queensland and just two in most other states.

With the Greens likely to end up with 10 to 11, Labor would not be able to exert any influence in the Senate.

The Coalition, in a worst-case scenario, would end up with 38, giving it 50 per cent of the Senate, and needing only one of several expected Conservative Independents to control both houses. "The Senate is the real story of this election," one senior ALP figure said. "This is where the future of the Labor party hinges."

The dire prediction for the Senate is being cited by senior Labor and union figures as another reason to support leadership change, with polls suggesting Kevin Rudd would lift Labor's primary vote and not simply save lower house seats but quarantine Labor from annihilation in the Senate.The analysis also suggests that Labor could end up with as few as 30 seats in the 150 seats House of Representatives - a result without precedent since 1901 when Labor commanded 14 seats out of 75 in the first Federal Parliament.

With a leadership showdown expected next week, Labor sources claimed last night Bill Shorten was telling colleagues he "needed more time". "We just hope he isn't deliberately trying to delay the inevitable."But Ms Gillard yesterday received public backing from key union figures, following claims Mr Shorten had been in discussions with them to push for her to stand down.

Australian Workers Union boss Paul Howes yesterday denied rumours that the union movement was softening in support for Ms Gillard.
Julia Gillard  Despite publicly calling for MPs to topple Mr Rudd three years ago, Mr Howes yesterday said his union would not direct MPs how to vote if a ballot was brought on next week.


Abbott is a centrist, not an extremist

Nicolle Flint

At the start of this parliamentary sitting week former prime minister Kevin Rudd said: "I will do everything I physically can to stop Mr Abbott becoming the next prime minister of Australia because he's the single most extreme right-wing political leader that the Liberal Party [has] ever thrown up in [its] history."

Never mind that the primary role of the federal government - or an aspiring prime minister - should be to run the country.

Never mind Abbott's support for multiculturalism and constitutional recognition for Aboriginal people, or his refusal to embrace climate scepticism and his proposal to implement an interventionist economic policy (direct action) to address climate change.

Add to this Abbott's paid parental leave scheme, a preference for increased federal government control over the states and his belief that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare," and it is clear that Abbott is no "extreme right-wing political leader".

It is also clear that far from damaging the Opposition Leader's bid for prime minister, Rudd is cementing it. Kevin from Queensland does not appear to be helping the Gillard Labor government with his energetic tour through Labor electorates, so much as hindering it - although perhaps not nearly as much as the Prime Minister is hindering herself. And while Rudd refuses to challenge for the Labor leadership, and the Prime Minister refuses to step down, the chaos will continue and the Coalition will be delivered government.

If Rudd and Prime Minister Julia Gillard wish to continue to fight this election playing the man not the ball, by tackling the person not the policy, then let's assess Abbott on this basis. Let's ask ourselves what sort of person we want to govern our nation?

We should elect a prime minister who has outlined the principles upon which their beliefs and policies are founded, who has the courage of their convictions, but even more impressively, and indeed importantly, the strength to temper such convictions following considered reflection. Abbott's book and manifesto Battlelines provides evidence to this effect.

We should elect a prime minister who is a role model for fitness and community service. To date Abbott's annual pollie pedal, which he co-founded in 1998, has raised $2.5 million for various charities, while simultaneously raising the profile of these charities and their causes. Abbott is an active supporter of and fund-raiser for the Manly Women's Shelter and a founding member of Pink Lads, part of the McGrath Foundation, which raises money to fund breast cancer care nurses. Undoubtedly he contributes to many more charities and philanthropic causes that don't get anywhere near as much media attention as they deserve.

We should also want a prime minister who demonstrates depth of compassion and sensitivity. I challenge any reader not to be moved by a recent article by Abbott dedicated to his friend and mentor, the late Christopher Pearson, or the first chapter of Battlelines that records his anguish at the uninvited media attention his friends and family suffer by association. Charges of sexism and misogyny appear truly farcical when measured against the care and respect expressed in these opening pages for his wife Margie, former girlfriend Kathy and her biological son Daniel, whom Abbott and Kathy long believed to be their biological son.

And if we want a prime minister who will challenge us to think, then Australians should elect an Abbott-led government. As Abbott states in Battlelines: "What mattered to me, then and now, was the impact of ideas on events and the critical importance of a written argument in shaping people's ideas." One can disagree with some of his ideas or policies or beliefs, and still consider Abbott to be a serious and sound thinker worthy of election to the office of prime minister. The challenge, of course, for those who disagree with his policies or beliefs, is not to complain from the sidelines, but to respond in kind and engage in the battle of ideas. This is of fundamental importance to a robust democracy and democratic process.

Australia has not had a federal Labor leader whose core philosophies and vision for Australia have been so clearly - and thoughtfully - articulated since Mark Latham. Our national debate is poorer for it. And this is why, along with other obvious policy-based reasons, it's time for the failed Rudd and Gillard experiment to end. It's time for Labor to find a leader who might inspire or provoke debate about the sort of country we want to live in, and who has the courage to articulate their vision through written argument, one who can foster a more robust battle of ideas. We should, therefore, await Chris Bowen's forthcoming book with great anticipation.

Meanwhile, if Australians want a prime minister with conviction, vision, a dedication to community and compassion, and who leads by example, then we should elect an Abbott government. Tony Abbott is the thinking person's prime minister, and to my mind, regardless of what certain women might try to argue, Tony Abbott is the thinking woman's prime minister.


Homosexual marriage bill fails in the Senate

A bill to recognise the marriages of gay and lesbian Australians who wed overseas has failed to pass the Senate, despite Liberal senator Sue Boyce making good on her promise to defy her party on the issue.

The bill, sponsored by the Greens, was defeated 45 votes to 28, with Senator Boyce crossing the floor in support.

Labor senators who voted against the bill included David Feeney, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Ursula Stephens.

Senator Boyce had told Fairfax Media before the debate and vote on Thursday that she was prepared to "cross the floor" to back two bills – the international marriage bill and another that bans discrimination against gay and transgender residents of Commonwealth-funded aged care homes.

The Greens' bill to recognise in Australia same-sex marriages performed overseas was voted on in the Senate on Thursday. The aged care bill will be voted on at a later date.
Liberal Senator Sue Boyce crosses the floor passing Coalition and ALP Senators to vote with the Greens and some government Senators. The division was lost.

"It's an important step towards marriage equality," Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who put forward the bill, told Fairfax Media on Thursday morning.

"We have thousands of couples now living in Australia who've gone overseas and gotten married . . . and they arrive back home at Sydney International Airport and all of a sudden they have to check their marriage at the customs gate."

Thursday's bill would have changed a section of the Marriage Act that states that "certain unions are not marriages".

The Act says that foreign weddings between "a man and another man" and "a woman and another woman . . . must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia".

During the debate, Labor Senator Louise Pratt, who has a transgender partner, told the Senate the current law imposed "unnecessary hurt and hardship on couples" by rejecting their marriages when they arrived home after marrying overseas.

"As an LGBTI Australian myself and as a member of this place I am not going to stop fighting until our equal rights are achieved," Senator Pratt said.

Senator Hanson-Young told the Senate in the debate that thousands of Australians were "sitting in hope today that their friends, their family, their loved ones and their work colleagues will finally be able to have the relationship with the person they love recognised as equal".

"I urge all members today, regardless of what your leaders have told you, to think with your hearts, open your minds and vote the way you know is right. Do not let anyone say you do not have the right to speak up for what your constituents want, for what you know in your heart is the right thing to do just because your leader has told you to stay put," she said.

But Liberal senator George Brandis responded by saying there was something "chillingly unpleasant about hearing [Greens] Senator Hanson-Young giving one of her emotional speeches and claim, as she does, that her point of view is the only morally legitimate point of view".

"How dare you," Senator Brandis said. "How dare you be so puffed up with moral vanity? Because, Senator Hanson-Young, there are millions and millions of Australians who vigorously dissent fro your view, who have a commitment to the definition of marriage has always been understood."

The Labor Party lets MPs vote according to their conscience on same-sex marriage, but Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has refused to allow a free vote within the Coalition despite members including Kelly O'Dwyer, Malcolm Turnbull, Wyatt Roy, Simon Birmingham and Senator Boyce all supporting marriage equality.

Senator Boyce told Fairfax Media before the debate that she had spoken with Mr Abbott about her opposition to the party platform.

"It's an awful feeling, it's not something you want to do," she said. "There is a lot of camaraderie, we are good colleagues. It's an awful feeling but I just think it's important enough that we get this piece of legislation through."

Senator Boyce said Mr Abbott pointed out to her that within the Liberal Party one was entitled to a free vote on any topic.

"A conscience vote means people can move around as they like," she said. "But also none of us have signed a piece of paper like Labor and the Greens have saying we'll always do what the party tells us to."

There is an understanding within the Coalition that shadow ministers must vote according to the party's position or else sacrifice their cabinet position.

Mr Abbott said he had not "counselled" Senator Boyce over her plans to cross the floor.

"I appreciate Sue's position and we're not a Stalinist party," he told reporters in Queanbeyan.

"Obviously we have a clear position that we don't support gay marriage as a party, but people on our side of the political fence have always had the right if they feel strongly enough about something to make their own decision."

Support for marriage equality is growing, not just in the Parliament, but significantly within the Australian public and some MPs, including former prime minister Kevin Rudd and Labor MP Bernie Ripoll have changed their minds on the issue and now support marriage equality.

Senator Hanson-Young said the "ludicrous thing" about the issue of marriage equality in this Parliament is that "you have Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott effectively standing in the way of these reforms happening".

The senator believed there was more support for the legislation in the Senate than in the House of Representatives and she hoped support had grown further since the issue was debated last year.

"I hope that we can get a few more people across the line than we did last time," she said.


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