Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Study of High School mathematics declining

This could be fixed by giving double weight to STEM courses.  Pretending that they are no more valuable than literature courses is fantasy

In the warm-up before ABC’s Q&A a couple of weeks ago, panel members were asked which subject they liked least at school. Almost all nominated maths or chemistry. Few people would be surprised at this. Maths gets a bad rap, and many school students drop it like a scorching spud as soon as they get the chance.

Media reported this week that the proportion of students taking higher level maths for the NSW Higher School Certificate has declined over the past 10 years, continuing a long-term trend across Australia. This is despite the greater academic prestige that tends to be attached to what is now called STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) — as pointed out by NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes in a speech that attracted heated debate.

The drop in students’ maths skills is not just an academic problem. A report released by Engineers Australia says the drop in participation in STEM subjects at a level sufficient to allow studying engineering at university is affecting Australia’s capacity to produce qualified engineers, and resulting in an over-reliance on skilled migration, which carries some risks. Permanent and temporary migration accounts for almost two thirds of new engineers, who are crucial in numerous areas of the economy, both present and future.

Engineers Australia recommends that students be ‘encouraged’ to study advanced and intermediate maths and science to Year 12. Unfortunately, encouragement is not enough; the seeds of participation in high cognitive demand courses are sown early in school.

The typical response to this sort of recommendation is to make maths and science more appealing by using ‘hands-on’, inquiry approaches to teaching; but this is misguided. Study after study has shown that explicit instruction is more effective, and is more likely to give children a sense of self-efficacy (these days called ‘growth mind set’) and confidence in their abilities. Once children have achieved mastery through methodical and sequential teaching, inquiry can be useful — but not before.

Preoccupation with inquiry learning as the solution to all our educational problems is associated with the cliché that traditional, teacher-directed approaches are an out-dated “industrial model” of education that is unsuited to the modern world.

The irony of this is not lost on cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham who put it this way: “Apparently schools are bad because 100 years ago evil corporations duped them into prepping workers for factories. And the solution is to emphasize cooperative, creative work, because that’s what present-day, non-evil corporations say is needed for jobs of the future. Got it.”


Palace answers claim by Paul Keating that Prince Charles wants Australia to become republic

Tony Abbott has hit back at former prime minister Paul Keating’s assertion that Prince Charles is in favour of Australia becoming a republic.

On the eve of the visit by the Prince of Wales, Mr Keating said Charles believes Australia should sever its ties with the monarchy of Great Britain and become a republic, charting its own independent course as a nation.

“I have no doubt he believes Australia should be free of the British monarchy and that it should make its own way in the world,” Mr Keating said.

“Why would he or any one of his family want to visit Australia pretending to be, or representing its aspirations as, its head of state?”

“But none of that is to diminish the commitment and sense of duty that Prince Charles displays towards Great Britain and, as constitutional arrangements stand, towards Australia.

“He is a great friend of Australia — there is no doubt about that.”

In a tweet, Mr Abbott, a staunch monarchist, accused Mr Keating of “verballing” the prince on the issue.

The Prince of Wales and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will visit Australia from April 4 to April 10, and attend the opening of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Mr Keating’s comments put the republican issue squarely on the agenda in the context of the visit by Prince Charles. The former prime minister believes Australia cannot claim to be a “great” nation while it borrows the monarch of Great Britain.

An official statement from @ClarenceHouse has been provided to me in response to this story today:

“Her Majesty The Queen and The Prince of Wales have always made it clear that they believe the future of the Monarchy in Australia is a matter for the Australian people to decide.”

Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz said Mr Keating’s comments were “just the latest example” of the former prime minister “projecting his own views on others.

Senator Abetz said Mr Keating had taken credit for designing the failed republic model which was rejected by the Australian people at the 1999 referendum.

“Mr Keating’s musings clearly have no basis in fact and are just a sad feature of the latest republican push,” Senator Abetz said.

“Along with wanting to change the flag, Mr Keating regularly finds new ways to try and push for a republic despite the Australian people rejecting his own model.

“Australia’s system of government has withstood the test of time and provided for a gold standard of democracy that is the envy of the world. To change that would undermine our democracy and be very risky.

“I have no doubt that Australians do and will continue to see the value in maintaining our Constitution as is over the self-serving and egotistical arguments for a republic put forward by Mr Keating and his backers.”

As prime minister, Mr Keating canvassed Australia’s constitutional future with Prince Charles who made it clear the royal family made no claims on Australia and would respect any decision by the Australian people to become a republic.

In comments made to The Sunday Times in Britain, and provided to The Australian, Mr Keating praised Prince Charles as an “enlightened”person who is too often poorly treated by the British media.

“But more than that, he is an enlightened and conviction-driven person, too often deprecated by that blighted institution we know as the British press,” Mr Keating said. “His commitment to naturalism, to heritage, to science, to innovation and perhaps most importantly, to beauty, speaks volumes of his intellect and integrity.”

“Prince Charles will always be welcome in Australia — as the crown prince or as monarch of Great Britain. But the pretence of representing this country and all that it stands for is something he and we could well do without.”

Mr Keating discussed Australia becoming a republic with Prince Charles when he visited Balmoral in Scotland, in September 1993, during his prime ministership. When Prince Charles visited Australia in January 1994, he said he welcomed debate about Australia becoming a republic.

“It is the sign of a mature and self-confident nation to debate those issues and to use the democratic processes to re-examine the way in which you want to face the future,” Prince Charles said. On those who want a republic, he added: “perhaps they are right”.

Mr Keating advocated a republic while prime minister (1991-96). He presented a model to parliament, and flagged a future referendum, in June 1995.

“The American revolutionary and second president, John Adams, made the point that, ‘there are no queen bees in the human hive’,” Mr Keating said. “While another president, Thomas Jefferson, remarked, ‘of its essence, a monarchy is a tyranny’. Both utterances possess that incalculable power of truth.”

“It is obvious that it is a spoof on all that Australians have created here for us to be borrowing the monarch of another country.”

“No great country ever borrows the monarch of another country. And Australia is otherwise entitled to be a great country. But it cannot be until it sheds the derivative notion that its roots lie somewhere else.”

The royal tour begins on Wednesday. Prince Charles and Camilla will represent Queen Elizabeth II at the Commonwealth Games and also visit other parts of Queensland before travelling to the Northern Territory.


Revealed: How Australia's worst dole bludgers don't have to look for a job because of drug and alcohol addiction - but their free ride is about to end

Drug and alcohol addiction has been, up until now, an excuse for those on welfare payments to avoid completing their mutual obligation requirements.

However, under new laws introduced by the Turnbull Government that is changing.

The Welfare Reform Bill which has passed through Parliament brings a number of changes which aim to crackdown on those who may be taking advantage of unemployment benefits.

The number of dole recipients being granted drug and alcohol addiction exemptions has grown to 3353 across the nation as reported by The Courier Mail.

Queensland has the largest number of recipients being granted exemptions at 1074, followed by 878 in Northern Territory, 734 in Western Australia, and only 338 in NSW.

From April 1 drug and alcohol dependency will no longer be a reason for those on the Newstart Allowance to be exempt from their mutual obligation requirements.

The criteria will be even stricter from July 1 as drug and alcohol dependency will not even be a reasonable excuse to avoid looking for work unless those involved are seeking treatment.

A demerit system will also be introduced from July 1 which will operate similar to the points system used with a Driver's Licence, which will also be backed up by a 'three strikes' policy.

Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan said that, 'This will end the current situation where, in more than 90 per cent of cases, job seekers who decline work or persistently miss requirements face no real consequences because penalties can too easily be waived.'


Do ice cream sales increase shark attacks?

Labor MP Andrew Leigh’s study on data around effective company tax rates and employment shows incomplete analysis that mistakes correlation for causation.

But a correlation does not mean it’s a cause. For example, as ice cream sales increase, there is a correlation in the increased rate of shark attacks. However, the rise in shark attacks is not caused by ice cream sales, but by the unstated factor of warm weather sending more people to the beach.

Mr Leigh’s paper says higher effective company tax rates are correlated with companies hiring more workers. But common sense suggests it is highly unlikely that higher company taxes cause companies to hire more workers.

Clearly other unstated factors are at play. A plausible one is that more profitable firms tend to have higher effective company tax rates, but if they are focused on growth will generally need more workers. Hencer, these firms are more likely to hire new staff for reasons that have nothing to do with company tax rates.

And this is the problem with incomplete analysis, you can tell very different stories by making a few leaps of logic.

To provide another illustration of how incomplete analysis can create varying conclusions let’s add the following economically defensible assumption to Mr Leigh’s analysis: the marginal deadweight cost of company tax is higher, the higher is the level of the tax.  That is, reducing a company’s tax rate from 30% to 29% is more beneficial to new investment than reducing a company’s tax rate from 20% to 19%.

So what can we conclude from our new story? Companies paying higher tax rates hire more workers.  Companies with higher tax rates get more benefit from a tax cut. Ergo sum, the company tax cut is actually more beneficial to employment than even the Liberal Party is currently claiming.


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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