Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The dilemma I faced when my daughter won a private school scholarship

Elana Benjamin

The mother below was probably right in deciding to send her daughter to a State School.  And I say that not because I went to one myself but because of something she does not mention:  It all depends on the school.  Not to put too fine a point on it, a State School in a poor area would probably be disastrous for the daughter of a professional family.  She would be greatly limited by it. But, reading between the lines, Mrs Benjamin is most unlikely to live in a poor area.  And State Schools in a middle class area can be quite good. 

I sent my son to a fairly orderly State school for the second half of his primary years and it certainly didn't hold him back. Can I embarrass myself by once again telling my favourite story from that time?  There was once a schoolwide literacy and numeracy test conducted in his state school.  One would think that the highest scorer on the literacy test would be some kid in 7th grade. But it was not. It was a pesky little 5th grader.  That 5th grader was my son.  So as long as the school is reasonably orderly, ability will out.  I think that Mrs Benjamin's daughter might have an equivalent experience.

So why are schools in poor areas disadvantageous?  Sensitive souls should stop reading at this point because I am going to say something that, according to the Left, make me a white supremacist if not an outright Nazi. They can see a small moustache growing on my upper lip. I am going to mention IQ.

A school in a poor area will be bad in many ways because of the kids there.  As Charles Murray showed long ago, a low IQ is hereditary and has many unpleasant correlates, with poverty prominent among them.  So kids enrolled into a school located in a poor area will mostly be dumb, have less self-restraint  and will be more poorly behaved generally.  They will make life hell for their teachers and give the teachers little time for teaching.

It doesn't have to be that way. I grew up in Innisfail, a small Australian country town and I attended Innisfail State Rural School for my primary schooling.  And I have fond memories of that school and of some of the teachers there.  There was none of the dysfunction that would be expected of that school these days. The school no longer exists so I can safely say that.

So why was Innisfail State Rural School perfectly OK?  Because they had effective discipline back then.  If a kid stepped out of line he got sent to the headmaster for caning.  He would come back much abashed and no longer disruptive.  So lessons could proceed according to plan.  But it's no longer like that. Under Leftist influence, most forms of discipline are now forbidden as "child abuse".  The discipline tools available are few.  So a disruptive dummy kid will just act out and not be effectively restrained, thus derailing any education while that happens.

But Australia is relatively lucky in one way:  We rarely have a substantial African-origin population in a school.  In both Britain and the USA, by contrast, schools in a poor area will very often be quite black. And black students are notoriously disruptive.  As a result, British and American white mothers go to enormous lengths to keep their kids out of such schools.  There is substantial voluntary racial self-segregation so that helps.

But the lesson remains:  A "good" school is good primarily because of the kids who go there and a bad school is bad because of the kids who go there.  One hopes that the school Mrs Benjamin has chosen for her daughter has a student body who tend be like her own family.  She should check. That is what matters

My 11-year-old daughter has been awarded an academic scholarship to a private school. It's only a modest discount, but the scholarship means she'll bypass the snaking waiting list – provided my husband and I can fund the 20 grand a year shortfall. Should we commit to the abyss of private school fees, or choose free education instead at a partially selective state school?

I always assumed my children would go to private school, like I did. Not because my family is wealthy – but because I'd imbibed one of the mantras of my childhood home: Education is the best thing you can give your children, and its implied corollary: The best education is private.

Both my parents gave up their dreams of tertiary study in order to earn much-needed income for their families. Immigrants to Australia in the 1960s, Mum and Dad were textbook in that they worked hard to give my brother and me all the opportunities they'd been denied. They never pushed, but as a sensitive first-born, I absorbed my parents' unspoken hopes and aspirations: I would become a member of a profession and earn a good income, so I'd never have to struggle like they did.

At my academically oriented private school, the importance of education was reinforced. I learnt the lessons of Jewish history, a history filled with centuries of persecution and violent anti-Semitism. The message was clear: you may have to leave your birthplace, your home, your loved ones, but you can never be stripped of your education.

Against this backdrop, it took years for me to make peace with the fact that my two children attend our local public primary school.

They'll go to private for high school, I consoled myself. Yet here we are, our eldest now in year 6, and my husband and I will struggle to afford private school, even with that scholarship our daughter's been offered.

"Many families take a second mortgage to pay school fees," a friend cheerily suggests when I share my dilemma. But we're already drowning in debt, with my husband's salary bequeathed to a long line of greedy beneficiaries (first NAB, followed by Coles).

If we're to send our girl to private school, there's only one sane option: for me to increase my work hours and cash in on the benefits of the law degree I studied so hard for. The degree that was supposed to be my ticket to a good job and a solid income – except that's not quite how it turned out.

I aced the HSC, only to suffer through years of dreary law lectures at university, then advance to a career of well-paid but uninspiring jobs in corporate insurance. Now that I've finally escaped my creativity-starved cubicle, I'm not keen to resume my meaningless climb up the corporate ladder.

And yet I could still command a salary package that would pay the school fees, if I really had to. You can never be stripped of your education.

My husband – concerned I'll end up resenting the school-fee burden – isn't pushing me to resuscitate my career. My strong-willed daughter is unusually easygoing about the decision. "I have friends at both schools so I don't really mind," she says.

My parents, however, weigh in. "Thousands of children go to public school and they turn out fine," says my mother. "Why do you want to put yourselves under so much financial pressure?" adds my father, seemingly oblivious to the irony of his question, given he and Mum did the same for me.

The guilt and expectations are mine alone. As much as I don't subscribe to the "get your kid ahead" hype (I'm in the no-coaching, anti-homework camp), I'm quietly terrified that my daughter's potential will be wasted at the public school. That even in the selective stream, she'll be lost in the crowd. And yet I know that a return to corporate insurance will crush me.

Over many sleepless nights, I wrestle with the bullies in the classroom of my mind. The ones who taunt me, calling me hurtful names: "Selfish. Indulgent. Princess". And the meanest of all – the one who leaves me winded, gasping for air every time: "Lousy mother."

When I finally catch my breath, I confess to my tormentors that although I want the best for my daughter, I have my own dreams too. I cannot sacrifice everything for my precious girl, just so she can retrace my steps on the path from high ATAR, to university, to six-figure-salary but dissatisfied.

I explain that I want to be a positive role-model for my girl, and an unhappy parent is a terrible strain on a family. I point out that not even the privilege of private school will protect my beloved from ordinary outcomes, undesirable peers, disappointment or struggle.

And finally, the bullies back off. So it's decided. My daughter is going to the public school behind our home. She couldn't be more pleased. "I'll be able to sleep in and walk to school in one minute," she gloats.

It's taken me a little longer, but now I'm content. More than my fancy private-school education, it's my family that shaped me. With high school now 25 years in the past, I can no longer remember the mathematical formulae or Shakespearean quotes I once knew so perfectly. The lessons from my childhood home, however, have proved impossible to forget.


What I want you to know about my 'gifted' son

There is an extent below to which Wendy Wisner blames her problems with her son on his being "gifted" so I think I should note that his problems are unlikely to be from that cause. He sounds more like being somewhere on the autism spectrum. Autistics often have eerie abilities in limited areas, particularly in mathematics.

All the studies show that high IQ people are usually better off in all sorts of ways, from being better looking, for having more stable marriages to living longer. 

But since stories tend to be more persuasive than statistics, let me mention my own son.  He did well in various educational tasks, including getting a first class honours degree in mathematics, and took to computer programming like a duck to water. He is now a well-paid IT professional. So was he a difficult kid?  Far from it.  He was a placid baby, and a relaxed and unproblematical child. He does have one addiction -- to flavoured milk, which he battles manfully.  And he has a pretty lady of admirable character in his life.  High IQ people are the ones who come closest to "having it all"

I don't like the term "gifted." It seems too exclusive a term, and doesn't encompass the breadth of talents that children can have. My son isn't especially gifted in sports, visual art, dance or public speaking. He's gifted in all things academic. He's brainy. And his giftedness doesn't always feel like something to brag about. In fact, some of my real parenting struggles are related to the way his brain is wired.

But I feel so alone, like I can't share this with other parents.

From birth, my son had an intensity about him that made him different from most kids. When he was happy, he was ecstatic, but when he was upset, he was prone to epic tantrums. Even as a young toddler, he argued with a voracity that was biting, complex and unrelenting.

I think it's normal to lack self-confidence as a new parent. But almost a decade into parenting my gifted son, I still often feel completely and utterly lost. I wonder: Is he normal? Is it really supposed to be this difficult? Does he need more intellectual stimulation? Does he need less?

And I wonder about me, his mother. How on earth will I muster enough patience every day to deal with his willfulness, his outspoken personality and unrelenting energy? How can I create appropriate boundaries without squashing his unique abilities? How can I help create a life for him that nurtures his innate gifts but also gives him the ability to function normally and be happy?

Like many gifted children, my son reached milestones at a different rate than his peers. He began reading when he was 3. At 4, he was multiplying and doing long division. We didn't push these things on him. He begged for more knowledge, more information.

When he was in pre-K, he took the New York City Gifted and Talented Exam to see if he was eligible to attend one of our city's coveted gifted programs - and also because we were curious to see how he would score. He not only tested as "gifted" but received the highest possible score on the exam.

And yet, at the same time that he excelled in his young academic pursuits, he was slow to meet other milestones (toilet training, independent sleep and certain fine motor skills). This is what experts call "asynchronous development," and while my son certainly has accomplished all his toddler milestones by now, he still lags behind in some developmental areas where his peers seem to excel.

It should probably be noted that gifted children share many of the same characteristics as children diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, including an absorbing interest in a particular topic, and an uncanny ability to hyperfocus.

While many children are diagnosed with both - often called "twice exceptional" - this is not the case with my son. He does not exhibit the socialising difficulties that are the hallmark of Asperger's. He is very social, makes friends easily and doesn't have trouble expressing his feelings.

We decided early on in his education that we wanted him to have as normal a childhood as possible. Even though he gained admission to some of the city's top gifted programs, when we found out how competitive the programs were, and how much extra work the kids are given at such young ages, we decided not to send him to any of them. Instead, we enrolled him in our small neighbourhood school.

This plan has worked out well for the past few years. His teachers give him extra challenges when he finishes the regular class work, and he has plenty of time to pursue his own brainy interests outside of school. He certainly spends a fair share of his free time playing video games, but he also has also learned how to code and create video games himself.

I can't predict what his life will be like. I certainly want him to be successful, but I also know that he has an intensity that can make life difficult sometimes. As his mum, I worry. I worry that he will start to find school annoying or stressful. I worry that his seriousness and impetuousness will make him seem aloof or unfriendly. I worry that his profound drive for perfection will leave him feeling frustrated and disappointed.

And yet, I know I have little control over any of this, and that all I can do is love him unconditionally, guide him to make good decisions and then trust that things will work out the way they are supposed to in the end.

I want my son to know that wherever life takes him, I will always admire him deeply. I'm his biggest fan. And I'm thrilled to watch him grow up to see where his dazzling mind takes him.


Defiant tribunal welcomes fake jetset refugees

People-smugglers are out of business in Australia. Boats laden with asylum-seekers have stopped ­arriving. Yet Australia’s immigration system is under challenge from within.

Polls late last year point to large numbers of Australians wanting an end to Muslim migration, anywhere from a third to half those surveyed depending on the poll. The irony is that mislabelled “progressives” — Labor, the Greens, refugee activists, immigration lawyers, judges and other decision-makers doling out their own deluded, short-term version of compassion — are responsible for undermining support for ­migration to this country.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal is made up of judges, lawyers and others with “expert” knowledge. Some of these AAT members are front and centre in the emasculation of support for Australia’s immigration system. Not even the AAT’s judicial-inspired prolix prose can hide the fact the tribunal has agreed that many asylum-seekers have deliberately lied on visa applications. In simple language, that makes them fake refugees. Yet, over and over again, the AAT has decided to reinstate a visa that has been cancelled by the Immigration Min­ister’s delegate.

Consider these recent cases (specific details cannot be revealed for legal reasons).

The first has already been reported. Asylum-seeker “A” arrived by boat in 2011 and was granted a protection visa the following year claiming it was not safe for him to return to Iran. Once granted a visa, A returned to Iran three times, including to marry under Islamic law. The AAT decided that, even though A kept returning to the country in relation to which he claimed fear of persecution, he was entitled to a protection visa.

The second case, not reported until now, causes more than a raised eyebrow of disbelief. Asylum-seeker “B” claimed to be a stateless Faili Kurd, not an Iranian citizen, in fear for his life in Iran. B travelled to Indonesia by plane on what he claimed to be a false Iranian passport. B’s lie came to light when, after he received a protection visa, he applied for a new Iranian passport in Australia and travelled home for a visit. B admitted to the AAT that he told lies on his visa application. He admitted he was an Iranian citizen and that he had a valid Iranian passport, which he destroyed on the advice of people-smugglers in Indonesia.

Despite the lies, B claimed his wife’s conversion to Christianity gave rise to a non-refoulement ­ob­ligation not to return him to Iran. B’s wife claimed a long interest in the Christian faith. The AAT said her religious conversion was not genuine: her conversion to Christianity happened only after the couple were notified that their protection visas were being cancelled for false information. The AAT concluded B had provided incorrect information and had failed to comply with the ­Mig­ration Act. Then the AAT decided, because the couple had children while in Australia, it was in the children’s best interests for the AAT to reinstate B’s protection visa.

In the year to April, the AAT overturned 4389 — or 39 per cent — of visa decisions made by the minister’s delegate. Cold numbers tell only part of the story. Consider this case, which has a certain familiar flavour: asylum-seeker “C” claimed in his protection visa application that he was stateless, was not an Iranian citizen, that he had travelled to Indonesia on a false passport and that a people-smuggler had taken that passport.

C arrived in Australia by boat with no identity documents. Except that C later applied for and received an Iranian passport, which he used to enter and leave Iran once he had a protection visa. The AAT found the inaccurate information C provided undermined the integrity of Australia’s migration program — yet, once again, the AAT reinstated C’s protection visa.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is right to shake his head at these decisions. Consider another case. Asylum-seeker D claimed to be a stateless Faili Kurd, not an Iranian citizen, used a false passport to travel to Indonesia and claimed he feared for his safety if returned to Iran. Once D received a protection visa, D obtained a valid Iranian passport, suggesting Iranian citizenship, and travelled to Iran for a visit. The AAT found that D had lied on the visa application, that a protection visa would not have been granted if accurate information had been provided. Yet, the AAT reinstated D’s visa, overturning the cancellation.

Notice the pattern of lies from asylum-seekers? Notice the pattern of decisions from the AAT? It’s a bit rich for the AAT to say asylum-seekers providing false information in visa applications undermine the integrity of Australia’s migration program, only to then reinstate liars’ visas.

The combination of fake refugees and misguided AAT members is a double whammy that undermines the integrity of our migration system.

It’s boringly predictable for the Law Council to slap down the Immigration Minister for being critical of some AAT decisions. No judge, lawyer or other person with apparent special expertise on the AAT is above criticism in a democracy. Outgoing AAT president Duncan Kerr says AAT members are simply applying the law. But which law? Explicit provisions in the Migration Act about providing inaccurate information in a visa application are given short shrift. The unfortunate ­directive to asylum-seekers emerging from AAT decisions is fake it ’til you make it.

The shy members of the AAT can expect increased curiosity about their decisions. Last week in Senate estimates, Immigration Department boss Mike Pezzullo released dynamite information: 335 visa holders are being considered for cancellation. He also set out the scale of previous rorts: since 2014, 278 protection visas have been cancelled. Two-thirds of the cancellations arose from evidence of people travelling back to countries in relation to which persecution was claimed. Another third related to people providing incorrect or false information.

Bleeding-heart faux compassionistas, be they in Labor, the Greens or on the AAT, should try to better understand our history. As a migrant nation, Australia has shown strong support for high rates of immigration and a generous humanitarian intake of refugees per capita.

Support for immigration from Australians is most stable and secure when the Australian government, not repugnant people-smugglers piling people into unsafe boats, determines our ­migration policy.

Profiling Dutton in Fairfax Media newspapers last weekend, Jane Cadzow wrote that “he can sometimes sound like an anti-immigration minister”. Except that it’s not anti-immigration to point out that Australia faces unprecedented security threats from terrorists, extremists and criminals who seek to exploit migration pathways to citizenship for their own ends.

It’s not anti-IMMIGRATION to deport criminals. It’s not anti-immigrant to point out that some asylum-seekers are quick to complete welfare forms but rather slow making visa applications. And it’s not anti-immigration to shake your head at decisions by the AAT that undermine the integrity of our migration system.


Peter Dutton seeks stronger powers over citizenship decisions

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton would be given stronger powers to override independent judicial decisions on citizenship applications under new laws to be introduced to Parliament in the next fortnight.

Mr Dutton said the Administrative Appeals Tribunal currently has the ability to make decisions against Australia's national interest by ignoring his department's advice and overturning government deportation orders.

The government will introduce new citizenship laws this week and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says they'll focus on English language competency and more thorough background checks.
The Greens have labelled the move a power grab by Mr Dutton and said the "draconian measure" aimed to undermine multicultural Australia.

But the Immigration Minister argued the changes would merely address an "anomaly" and allow him to deny citizenship to people with a criminal record.

"The important point here is that this aligns the current treatment of a visa cancellation and a reinstatement by the AAT. At the moment, that doesn't exist under the citizenship law," he said on Monday.

He said people could still appeal the decision at the Federal Court and High Court.

The government has criticised the AAT for overturning some of its decisions, including on a case where Iranian refugees reportedly travelled back to their former country for a holiday.

On Monday, former prime minister Tony Abbott said the AAT lacked common sense and tribunal members "that make bizarre decisions shouldn't have their contracts renewed".

Greens immigration spokesman Nick McKim said Mr Dutton was trying to "make himself judge, jury and jailer" under "unfair" citizenship changes.

"Peter Dutton has repeatedly shown he cannot follow the current laws - now he wants to get rid of the right of the courts to correct his unlawful decision."

Fairfax Media has revealed that public feedback on changes to the citizenship test - also set to be introduced to Parliament in coming days - will not be made public, a departure from regular processes.

Mr Dutton and Mr McKim have framed the measures as a test for Labor.

The opposition has not yet indicated whether it will offer its support, but citizenship spokesman Tony Burke has promised the party will "deal responsibly with any sensible proposal".

Without the Greens, the government needs either Labor or 10 votes from the 12-strong Senate crossbench.


Must not say that Muslims get kid glove treatment

In an exchange on Australia's Left-leaning ABC TV, conservative commentator Gerard Henderson mentioned several instances of Violent Muslims being given parole and then going on to kill. He suggested that they would not normally have ben given parole but were given it out of political correctness. 

This was objectionable to other participants in the show and his suggestion was regarded as refuted when ONE example (Bayley/Meagher) of a non-Muslim killing while on parole was brought up.  Since Henderson was not arguing that ONLY Muslims were wrongly released, that was not in fact a conclusive reply. 

It may also be worth noting that the case of Adrian Ernest Bayley and Jill Meagher was in 2012, after which bail laws were tightened.  I have deleted a few rather frantic value judgments below

"Insiders" host Barrie Cassidy was discussing Australian parole restrictions with the show’s panel, following the revelation that Yacqub Khayre was on parole.

Khayre killed a man and took a woman hostage in the up-market Melbourne suburb of Brighton last week and Islamic State claimed he was one of the group’s soldiers.

Political commentator and author Gerard Henderson then launched into a tirade about why he was on parole and implied it was because of the killer’s religion.

“(Man) Monis, the terrorist in Sydney, why did he get bail? I think he got bail because he dressed as an Imam and pretended he was a persecuted Muslim and he got bail despite the fact he was on very serious charges,” Mr Henderson said.

“On charge of 40 sexual assaults. If his name had been Gerard Henderson he wouldn’t have got bail. This guy in Victoria (Khayre) much the same.

“The idea of parole as I understand from my legal studies is it encourages prisoners to behave. “(Khayre) as I understand it, committed crimes in prison, engaged in one or two arson attempts within prison. If his name had been Gerard Henderson he wouldn’t have got out on parole, he would’ve served a full term.

“Why did he get out? Because he presented as a Muslim, as an African, because he presented as a persecuted person.”

Fellow panellist and political journalist, Karen Middleton, said to Mr Henderson: “I think that’s going a bit far isn’t it?” and Cassidy asked Mr Henderson if he believed this was the attitude of parole boards across the country.

“I’m not generalising about parole boards across the country, I don’t know anything about parole boards across the country,” Mr Henderson said.

Mr Cassidy was perplexed and said “but you’re saying there’s a pro-Muslim bias in favour”.

Mr Henderson then referred back to Man Monis, who took customers and staff hostage inside Sydney’s Lindt Cafe.

“How do you explain Monis?” Mr Henderson said. “Everyone virtually in Australia concedes he shouldn’t have got bail. Everyone can see this guy in Melbourne (Khayre) shouldn’t have got parole, now why did they get them?”

Mr Cassidy then suggested it wasn’t just a case of Muslims getting parole in Australia who then went on to commit murder.

“The same happened with white Christians in this country, they were given bail when they shouldn’t have been given bail and they went out and committed murders so I don’t see how it’s ...” Mr Cassidy said.

He was interrupted by Mr Henderson who said “just a minute. If that were the case I’d condemn it but who were the white Christians in Australia who were given bail and went out and committed murders?”.

Referring to Melbourne ABC worker Ms Meagher, who was murdered by Bayley while he was on parole, Mr Cassidy said “there’s one very close to the ABC”.

“Who committed a murder?” Mr Henderson said.

Mr Cassidy replied, “no an ABC employee” before Ms Middleton interrupted “he’s talking about the Jill Meagher case”.

Viewers reacted to the awkward exchange on Twitter with one saying Mr Henderson had a “bigoted viewpoint”.


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

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