Monday, July 15, 2013

"Genes" a reason poor kids struggle at school, says Australian government report

Rather amazing to see the unspeakable spoken, albeit with a lot of hedging

RICH kids do better at school and poor children struggle due to genetic "inherited abilities", the Federal Government's top policy research agency says.

In a controversial new report released today, the Productivity Commission cites "parents' cognitive abilities and inherited genes" as one of five main reasons why kids from low-income families lag behind those from wealthy homes.

Genes are listed before access to books and computers, parental attention and aspirations, and even schools.

In a section entitled "inherited abilities", the 246-page staff working paper states that "one explanation for differences in educational attainment between children of low and high socio-economic backgrounds is parents' cognitive abilities and inherited genes".

Citing a British study, it suggests that "inherited cognitive abilities" explain one-fifth of the gap in test scores between children from the richest and poorest families, once environmental factors are taken into account.

"Genetic explanations for children's success at school is a controversial and complex area because of interactions between genes and the environment," the report says.

"Evidence is now emerging that the same genetic endowment can result in different outcomes depending on the environment".

The Productivity Commission notes that Australia has one of the highest rates of joblessness among families in the developed world, with nearly one in five families unemployed.

It cites two research studies showing that unemployed parents have "poorer parenting skills", with their children 13.4 per cent more likely to lie or fight, and 7.6 per cent more likely to be bullied.

The Productivity Commission also links learning success to "character traits such as perseverance, motivation and self-esteem".

The report on "Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia", made public today, says poor children are "behind the eight-ball" when they start school and the gap widens as they grow older.

Poorer children may have less access to books, computers or study space than kids from well-off families, it says.

And parents' aspirations and attitudes to education "vary strongly with socio-economic position".

Better educated parents tend to spend more time reading to children and helping with homework, the report says.

"Evidence on why some disadvantaged children 'buck the trend' to succeed in later life suggests that the level of parental interest and parents' behaviour are important," it says.

"Attending school with higher-achieving or more advantaged peers seemed to be associated with a higher probability of bucking the trend.

"While inherited genes influence their development, the quality of family environments, and the availability of appropriate experiences at various stages of development, are crucial for building capabilities."

The Productivity Commission cites the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) international PISA tests of 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science.

"Results from the PISA show that economically advantaged parents are more likely to have read to their children regularly, sung songs, talked about what they had done during the day, and read signs aloud to their children," the report says.


Kevin Rudd to announce scrapping of carbon tax

KEVIN Rudd will announce plans to scrap the carbon tax within days as he clears the decks for an election.

The decision could slash electricity bills by up to $150 a year for families spending $2000 annually, assuming a floating price for carbon emissions as low as $6 per tonne.

Federal cabinet has agreed to fast-track the planned introduction of an emissions trading scheme to July 1, 2014.

In an attempt to neutralise Tony Abbott's anti-carbon tax crusade, the Prime Minister will announce the plan to "ease cost of living pressures for families".

Australia had previously planned to move from the current fixed-price carbon tax on the biggest polluters - much of which is passed on to consumers through higher utility prices - to an emissions trading scheme, where the price is determined by the market, by July 2015.

The planned shift from a fixed to a floating price threatens to blow a massive hole in the federal budget, costing billions of dollars a year.

The government will claim the shift is "revenue neutral", with tough spending cuts to offset reduced revenue.

The budget "razor gang" - Mr Rudd's expenditure review committee - has worked this week to find budget savings.

The fixed price, presently $24.15 per tonne, will be replaced with a floating price of between $6 and $10 per tonne.

Abbott 'sorry' for ousted Gillard

"Economic modelling will show this will ease cost of living pressures for families and create jobs," a government source said. "This is about transitioning the economy from a post mining boom world to a more competitive agenda."

Mr Rudd famously declared climate change "the greatest moral and economic challenge of our time" before scrapping plans to introduce emissions trading in 2010 after he was spooked by Tony Abbott's "great big new tax" campaign.


Tony Abbott says Labor's switch to an emissions trading scheme is a 'con job'

TONY Abbott has attacked Labor's carbon tax policy switch to an emissions trading scheme as a "con job", saying the government cannot be trusted on the issue.

But Treasurer Chris Bowen, who this morning confirmed the broad plans on Channel Ten's Meet The Press, said Labor had long believed in an emissions trading scheme - as did Mr Abbott.

As reported by News Limited newspapers and websites today, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will announce plans to scrap the carbon tax within days as he clears the decks for an election.

The decision could slash electricity bills by up to $150 a year for families spending $2000 annually, assuming a floating price for carbon emissions as low as $6 per tonne.

Federal cabinet has agreed to fast-track the planned introduction of an emissions trading scheme to July 1, 2014.

As the Greens labelled Mr Rudd a "fake" who acted "cowardly" on climate change after declaring it the "great moral challenge of our time", Mr Bowen today said the government would now hunt for savings to find the "several billion dollars" needed to fill the revenue hole from fast-tracking the switch.

He said the industry assistance package announced with the carbon tax would be "recalibrated" to match the changes.

But he dismissed suggestions he would be rolling out an austerity program to fund the policy change, saying the household assistance package was protected and any decisions would have cost of living at the "front of mind".

Mr Bowen said balancing the budget in 2015-16 required "sensible but tough decisions" and the government had moved to alter the policy to suit the changing economic conditions.

He confirmed the household savings could be as much as $150 annually for some households depending on how much power they use.

"Families will see a big benefit in what we are bringing forward," he said.

The Opposition Leader labelled the policy switch a "cob job", saying Labor cannot be trusted on the policy area.

"The re-election of the Labor government would mean that Australians will continue to pay the carbon tax," Mr Abbott said.

"Mr Rudd can change the name but whether it is fixed or floating, it is still a carbon tax.

"The announcement today that the Government will bring forward planned changes to the carbon tax by one year is just a Kevin Rudd con job - fixed or floating, it is still a carbon tax."

Mr Bowen said Mr Abbott wanted to tax Coles and Woolworths and other big companies to subsidise polluters, with the costs flowing through to shoppers.

"We are not going to be lectured by Mr Abbott on cost of living pressures when he is proposing a great big new tax," he said.

Greens Leader Christine Milne said Labor would not have done anything on climate change without the Greens.  "It is cowardly,'' she told ABC's Insiders program.

"If you believed that climate change was the greatest moral challenge or our time, and it is, we are living in a climate emergency, you would now not be moving to have the big polluters pay less.

"That is what Kevin Rudd is doing. It is all about politics and not policy.''


Understanding the mysterious Aussie slang of nanger, nerpie, festy, munted and yassler

YOU might be a nanger or you could be a nerpie. Just hope you're not festy.

New research has exposed the mysterious and unique youth lingo and slang that lurks in the bars, schools and offices of each state of our vast country, usually leaving the rest of the nation baffled.

So before you head across state lines make sure you've got your basics right.

The uncouth of eastern Melbourne are nangers.

In Queensland, festy is not something pleasant.

Want a sandwich in South Australia? Ask for a piece.

Not a fan of something in NSW, you probably think it's a bit hectic.

If you've been called a nerpie in Western Australia, that's a good thing. Munted is not.

Tasmania is home to our nation's yasslers (people who talk a lot).

And in the Northern Territory nuff makes you likeable but being nuffest makes you stupid.

Julia Robinson, editor at the Australian National Dictionary Centre, said the early geographic isolation of Australia's settlements helped develop some of our unique region-specific terms.

Although slang constantly changes and people are now far more connected, where you live is still important in developing your own lingo - and labelling others from different areas.

Westies, for example, come from Western Sydney or the west of Melbourne. Chiggas come from Chigwell in Tasmania. Bogan likely originated from the Bogan River district in NSW but has since become a national favourite.

"Bogan first appeared in the 1985 surfing magazine Tracks. It was then popularised nationally by Kylie Mole on The Comedy Company in the late 1980s," Ms Robinson said.

"Language constantly changes as we adapt to our needs. We also love to invent."

The Barry Crockers (shockers) of the past may have had their day however.

Each generation creates new slang words as a way to define themselves, and demographer Mark McCrindle, who was behind the latest research, has found the emerging generation are not keen on rhyming slang.

"Fair dinkum and true blue are still well regarded, but dinky di and even crikey are considered too ocker," Mr McCrindle said.

He predicted the future of slang will be largely globalised, dominated by social media and technical terms.


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