Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Pre-school to prevent delinquency?
The rant below is typical of disassociated Leftist thought. Jacqueline Maley points to problems and just asserts that pre-school will fix them. Asking for evidence that your "cure" will in fact cure anything is chronically "forgotten" among Leftists. Evidence connecting the cure to the problem is absent.
She points to the problems that children reared in feral environments pose for both themselves and everyone else and then points out that if you get an infant very early, you may be able to train its brain into more positive behaviour channels. It's a reasonable conjecture.
So how do we implement this draconian intervention? The infant brain is at it most plastic when it is youngest. The plasticity is highest just after birth and declines steadily thereafter. To make Maley's idea work, you would have to take masses of infants away from their families from shortly after birth. Is that going to happen? The "stolen generations" furore guarantees that it will not.
So she does not even explore that option. She just states blandly and blindly that pre-school will achieve the desired result. But, for a start, pre-school is far to late to do much good and, secondly, any effect of a few hours in pre-school will be overwhelmed by the very different experience of the feral home for the remaining 18 hours (or more) of the day.
Maley quotes theories of U.S. educators that say there is a small advantage in pre-school but those theories fade into insignificance when we look at the actual experience with the American "Head Start" program -- now in existence for many decades. It aimed to give a quality pre-school experience to children from deprived homes. It produced some initially promising results, as new programs often do, but those advantages rapidly faded away, leaving a program that scholarly analysts see as an abject failure. The program is now kept going mainly as a means of offering a child-minding service in poor areas
Ms Maley hasn't got a clue. Like most Leftist writing hers has an initial plausibility until you know all the facts
There is one simple thing politicians could do right now that would save the budget millions, or even billions, of dollars over the next generation.
The evidence is clear that this near-magic initiative works to prevent poverty, illiteracy, social delinquency, welfare dependency, ill health, and even cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Politicians like to talk about there being no "silver bullet" solution to any given problem, but according to economists and doctors, and at least one Nobel prize winner who has devoted his life to this cause, this is as close to it as it gets.
All they have to do is better fund preschools.
After 20 years of solid research into child brain development, scientists now know (and I use the verb "know" in the entirely scientific, evidence-based, non-feelpinion sense) that the human brain in the infant-to-child period is exquisitely sensitive to its environment.
Whatever crappy destiny a child's genes have planned for him or her, it will usually only be triggered in a bad environment, where a child's basic physical needs are not met, or where his or her parents fail to provide a nurturing, stimulating and responsive backdrop.
Professor Frank Oberklaid, a feted paediatrician who is probably Australia's foremost expert in early intervention and childhood development, says none of this research is touchy-feely or vague.
It is "robust and non-contested" neuroscience.
We all know that children who are exposed to abuse or neglect often grow up to have psychological and behavioural problems.
But the research shows there are long-term physical and neurological consequences from what you and I might call a crappy childhood.
The effects from a bad environment are as real and long-lasting as a blow to the head, or a kick to the kidneys might be.
"In situations of extreme poverty, child abuse, substance abuse, or any situation where the child is exposed to unpredictability and a lack of responsiveness, stress levels go up in the brain," Oberklaid says.
"This produces cortisol, and cortisol levels affect the brain's functioning. You get the biologic embedding of environmental events, so after a generation or two you start to see changes in genetic material."
Here's the real kicker: increased stress in those early years resets the body's physiological regulatory system at a sub-optimal level, meaning these children, as they grow up, are more likely to develop disease like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
It also buggers their brain's frontal lobe development, which governs what is known as "executive function" – a trio of cognitive processes that are essential to functioning as a happy and productive adult: working memory, mental flexibility and self control.
Take a survey of your nearest prison population and you will find it full of men and women who have difficulty holding more than a few pieces of information in their minds at once, who are bad at switching between tasks and who have poor or zero impulse control.
Children are not born with these skills, and they are unlikely to develop them in dysfunctional home environments.
That's why compulsory, state-subsided preschool for at least one year, but ideally two, is something economists are switching on to.
The Nobel-winning American economist James Heckman has devoted much of his professional life to researching the economics of early childhood, and has shown that funding early childhood delivers a return on investment.
His analysis of one preschool program estimated a 7 to 10 per cent return on investment. Analysis of another early childhood program, the Chicago Child-Parent Centre, estimated $48,000 in benefits to the public per child from a half-day of public preschool. The estimated return on investment was $7 for every dollar invested.
These savings are based on the greater adult productivity of the kids involved, and reduced costs in remedial education, healthcare and criminal justice participation down the line.
The good news is we know exactly what we have to do in order to prevent a lot of these adverse outcomes.
Oberklaid spends his life advocating early intervention policy, and has advised state and federal ministers on the subject.
If he could make politicians do one single thing, it would be to fund one year of universal preschool education. Even better, fund two years of it.
Preschool helps develop the early building blocks of educational success – learning colours and numbers, understanding patterns, realising that printed words hold meaning. It socialises children. Any language, hearing or developmental problems a child may have are picked up early.
Unsustainable solar scheme being wound down in NSW
Less than a week before the lucrative NSW solar bonus scheme ends, there is still "mass confusion" among the 146,000 affected households, industry figures say.
The scheme, which was launched in 2011 to encourage the uptake of renewable energy, handed homeowners 60¢ or 20¢ "feed-in" tariffs per kilowatt hour, for the solar energy they put back into the grid.
But from December 31 those homeowners are set to face "bill shock", when their tariff rates drop to around 6¢, which is less than the amount they will be charged for accessing electricity from the grid.
The biggest change for all affected consumers has been the need to switch from a gross meter to a net meter, a process that has been beset by lengthy delays.
Michael Furey, the NSW chairman of the non-profit Australian Solar Council, said: "From the customer side there is mass confusion, and also a huge amount of frustration, because customers have been told to get information from their energy retailers and that has been either difficult to access or confusing."
From January 1, households that already have a net meter can use the electricity they generate to power appliances in the home at the time, while any excess energy is exported to the grid, earning the homeowner an unsubsidised feed-in tariff of around 6¢.
According to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, changing from a gross to a net meter could leave NSW customers between $234 and $461 better off each year.
Mr Furey estimates that an average-sized two-kilowatt system that has not been switched to net metering will cost a homeowner around $1.20 a day, from January 1.
An EnergyAustralia spokesperson said that it understood customers were confused about delays, but it expected to have all net meters installed by the middle of 2017.
"We do not think our performance to date has been good enough ... To make sure not a single EnergyAustralia customer is disadvantaged, we're crediting $40 each month to our NSW solar customers who ... haven't yet had their meter installed."
The feed-in tariffs offered by the major providers from January 1 are 10¢ from Origin, 6.1¢ from AGL and EnergyAustralia and up to 12¢ from smaller market players such as Enova Energy.
The Macassar tyranny
Macassar is a small seaport in Indonesia. So what has that got to do with Warmism? Nothing at all. But its namesake does.
I refer to Rowland's Macassar Oil, a product first marketed by a London barber in 1783. It was marketed as a way for men to keep their hair in order and in good health. It soon had imitators and it became a fashion for men to put oil or grease in their hair. And that fashion lasted into recent times. I remember going into Woolworths in the 1950s and buying "Californian Poppy" grease for my hair.
Greasing your hair had become virtually universal. A man who did not grease his hair was regarded as untidy.
The fashion died fairly decisively in Australia in 1972, when a new Leftist Prime Minister gained power -- the haughty Gough Whitlam. Shortly after his accession, he went on TV to announce that he was abandoning hair grease. Up until that time, he had always greased his hair -- like most of his unionist supporters. The internet has a short memory so does not record the occasion but what Whitlam said ran roughly as follows:
"I have always used a pomade to dress my hair. But fashionable people tell me I am behind the times in doing so. A modern man does not put anything in his hair. I have therefore decided that it is time to cease being a gluggy and become a fluffy".
There was at the time some debate over whether rice should be served gluggy or fluffy.
Even unionists ceased greasing their hair after that. If they were lucky, their wives now blow-dried their hair -- perhaps with a little help from the lady's hair spray.
So what is the lesson from all that? It shows that a totally useless belief and custom persisted among us for nearly 200 years until it was laughed to death. Will the equally foolish doctrine of global warming stay among us for 200 years? It could.
Senator Rod Culleton declared bankrupt by Federal Court
Besieged senator Rod Culleton has been declared bankrupt in a Federal Court hearing in Perth, jeopardising his position in the Senate.
The decision is the result of legal action brought against Senator Culleton by a creditor, former Wesfarmers director Peter Lester, seeking $280,000.
The constitution prohibits federal parliamentarians from being bankrupt. The judge has granted a 21-day stay on the order.
Senator Culleton recently quit One Nation after weeks of public tension over policy differences and the party's support for an unrelated legal action against him - concerning his eligibility to run at the July election - in the High Court.
If he is thrown out of the Senate as a result of Friday's bankruptcy decision, his former party will be empowered to select his replacement.
The courtroom reportedly became dramatic following Judge Michael Barker's ruling, with Senator Culleton yelling at the judge: "You've just executed me".
Outside the court, he said the stay on the bankruptcy order meant he "was in a legal rip" that he would swim out of by seeking to overturn it in the Supreme Court.
He also claimed the court proceedings were not fair because two people - against whom his wife Ioanna allegedly has violence restraining orders - were present in the courtroom at one point before they were removed by police.
"I'll fight to the end," he said.
The separate High Court decision Senator Culleton is awaiting concerns the larceny charge hanging over his head at the time of the election.
If he is declared ineligible by that jurisdiction, an automatic recount would most likely award his spot to the person who was second on One Nation's Senate ticket: his brother-in-law, Peter Georgiou.
Senator Culleton's former leader, Senator Pauline Hanson said she feels sorry for him "but this was the right ruling".
"I hope he now acts honourably & steps down with dignity," she tweeted.
Senator Hanson has sought to avoid Mr Georgiou emerging as the replacement, suggesting earlier this week that he might not be able to take the job.
"I'm also hearing that his brother may be a guarantor for him in that bankruptcy. So if that be the case, his brother-in-law may not be eligible to stand. So if that be the case, then the seat comes back to the party," she said.
Senator Culleton's chief of staff, Margaret Menzel, rejected this claim.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here