Sunday, December 02, 2018

What is a true education?

Jennifer Buckingham

A university student reflecting on her education recently published a disparaging critique. She condemned an “antiquated” model of education for rewarding her for learning maths and science instead of things she considers more important, such as “how to do a tax return, change a tyre, pay off a car, buy a house, nail a job interview, do CPR, start a self-managed super fund.”

As teacher and blogger Michael Salter pointed out, why shouldn’t this list of life skills include “caring for an infant? Caring for an aged parent? Sterilising formula bottles? Filling in a Centrelink form? Clearing leaves from gutters? Unclogging drains? Cooking a family meal? Or a thousand other things?”

The idea that our highly educated teachers should be spending precious class time on things that could easily be learned on a weekend from a relative or friend, or indeed by watching a Youtube video, is both nihilistic and utilitarian — two things a true education is not.

It would be easy to dismiss these sentiments as typically youthful lack of appreciation for the privilege of an academic education, but they are also endorsed by people of influence in education policy.

Schools and expert teachers exist to give children knowledge and skills that they are unable or unlikely to learn otherwise. While it might be true that many students will not make use of the maths they learned beyond Year 8, there is no way of knowing in advance which students will, and which won’t. Therefore, the most equitable thing is to provide all students with a strong maths education, so no student is denied the opportunity to study maths at higher levels for lack of a solid foundation in the earlier years.

Unfortunately, students — and their supporters — who think maths education is irrelevant might just get what they wish for. A report released this week by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute shows a looming critical shortage of qualified maths teachers:  only one in four students currently have a qualified maths teacher in every year between Year 7 and 10, and this likely to deteriorate without immediate action.

Why does this matter? As Chief Scientist Alan Finkel told the International STEM in Education conference last week, maths is “fundamental to science, to commerce, to economics, to medicine, to engineering, to geography, to architecture, to IT… maximising your choices is not the same as maximising your ATAR.”

A good school education is about maximising choices for students in their life beyond school, not delivering a narrowly functional set of life skills.


Having a degree increases average earning by 26 per cent for women - but only 6 per cent for men, study claims

Women have a much higher salary return from a degree at the age of 29 than men, and almost always benefit in cash terms from attending university, the study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed.

Researchers found that a degree increases average earnings by 26 per cent for women, but only 6 per cent for men. In addition, in contrast to men, women see a salary premium for every subject – even ones which produce low earnings.

Women studying creative arts earn 9 per cent more than those who have no degree, while those studying social care earn 14 per cent more.

Experts say the trend can be explained by the vastly different paths men and women take if they do not go to university.

For women, not going to university often means having children earlier and therefore they are more likely to be working part-time or not at all by the age of 29.

There is also the issue of women choosing poorly paid non-graduate paths, such as beauty or childcare.

In contrast, men who do not go to university are more likely to choose male-dominated lucrative trades such as plumbing or construction.

Those with some years’ experience can earn £40,000 or more – much higher than many graduates.

The calculations for salary premiums took into account additional factors, such as the different levels of affluence and ability of people attending university.

The study also found the gender pay gap between men and women who have been to university is narrower than that of men and women who have not.

Examining the raw earnings only, the average salary at age 29 for a university-educated man is £36,000 while for a university-educated female it is £30,000 – a difference of £6,000.

For non-university-educated men it is £30,000, and for women it is £21,000 – a difference of £9,000.


Fun police strike again... Push to remove monkey bars from playgrounds after concerns they are 'too dangerous for children'

A set of monkey bars was once the staple of school playgrounds and parks across Australia.

But the humble play apparatus is now under threat from child healthcare experts who claim the equipment is one of the leading causes of injuries in young children.

One report from Monash University's Victorian Surveillance Unit claims there has been a 41 per cent increase in the number of monkey bar injuries leading to emergency room presentations.

Dr Lisa Sharwood, who worked on the report, told The Age there were 14,167 monkey bar-related injuries over the last 10 years - 81 per cent of which happened to kids between the ages of five and nine.Most of the subsequent hospital admissions were a result of upper limb and ankle injuries, she said.

A 2015 audit of child fractures at a Melbourne hospital also found more than half of the injuries were caused by children attempting to skip a rung on the monkey bars. 

There have been efforts in recent years to improve monkey bar safety, with an Australian Standards Committee limiting their height to 2.2 metres in 2014. The surface beneath the bars has also been made softer, with bark mulch now needing to be at least 40 centimetres thick.

But the chairperson of that committee, Professor David Eager from the University of Technology Sydney, believes the equipment should still be phased out in favour of space nets and spider webs.

The nets break children's falls and Dr Eager said injury rates have fallen as a result.

He told The Age: 'Monkey bars were OK when I was a kid 60 years ago, but they're not an appropriate form of play equipment in 2018. 'Most councils and schools have been pulling them out and replacing them with spatial nets but not as quickly as we'd like.' 


Victorian workers’ paradise hellish for those outside the loop

News from the frontline in the deep south: contrary to popular opinion, Victorians are not all ­socialists. Nor are we generally more left-wing than other people around Australia, and this is not why Labor recently was re-elected with a thumping majority.

Generally speaking, Melbourne people are fairly polite, with genteel manners. At social events, for instance, the value of one’s home or how much money one has is not discussed as openly as it may be in, say, Sydney. Politics is another topic generally considered impolite to raise with people one doesn’t know very well, along with religion. Instead, people prefer to discuss sport, business, the weather, where to partake of good food and wine, the latest or coming cultural events, and so on.

Perhaps it is these social norms that keep our multi-ethnic and multi-faith state humming along in blissful harmony, which it does most of the time. It is self-evident that Melbourne people embrace people from other countries; perhaps through our collective interest in good food, wine and culture, we view newcomers as value-adders, until proved otherwise.

For a long time now, Victorians have worn gibes from people in other states about the African gangs and how we are all too scared to go out of the house because of them. When the Liberals piggybacked on this theme and made crime the core thrust of their campaign, the population reacted with the pent-up annoyance that has been building for quite a while.

The past Liberal government was regarded as hopeless, and in its first term the Labor government set a hectic pace for infrastructure delivery. This Labor government has been seen as all about roads and trains, services, and future planning for a rapidly growing state.

The electorate doesn’t see too much of the Premier, Daniel Andrews. When required, he is wheeled out to make a short and sharp statement, then he disappears. The government seems to understand that voters prefer their politicians to shut up and get on with the job.

Doing what you say you are going to do, promptly, without fuss or fanfare, is a winning formula in politics. A distracted and busy population doesn’t have time for closer scrutiny.

It is a shame that closer scrutiny hasn’t been applied because if Labor does what it says it is going to do this time, Victoria is in for some significant change.

The Labor Platform 2018 (available online) lays it all out: we are going to become a workers’ paradise because “Labor is based on the principle of workers organising to overcome inequality and exploitation”. A statutory body will be created to “identify and highlight poor employment ­practices” and provide industrial relations advice (only to employees though). It will “take appropriate action to demand improvement” and will “criminalise wage theft”, which is “rife across many industries”.

The platform contains a vow to “encourage trade union membership across both the public sector and the broader economy”. Employers will receive “education” to “understand their obligations” on “workplace rights” and people’s “access to support and equality”. A “workers on boards” policy will be investigated for Victorian government boards ­because “Labor understands that the perspective of workers is ­invaluable when boards are making decisions, particularly on matters of strategy, governance and risk management”.

Andrews said recently that our “biggest law and order issue” is family violence, and Labor has rolled out a model family violence leave clause for inclusion in all public sector enterprise agreements. This clause “mandates 20 days paid family violence leave” for all public sector workers and in the future local governments also will receive “support” to provide this leave to all local council staff.

In terms of business, Labor is going to encourage “social and co-operative enterprises” because they “offer a business model that is highly inclusive and an alternative basis for raising capital and risk”. These enter­prises are formed by “workers and their unions” and the government will determine ways to ­assist them.

It is a breach of the Fair Work Act to take an adverse or harmful action towards any person, ­including a contractor, on any discriminatory grounds, including political affiliation. Nevertheless, Labor intends to “oppose government initiatives and ­appointments” that it thinks are “actively hostile to workers or ­unions”. In other words, any business or person who isn’t firmly in the union-Labor camp will find themselves black-banned.

Labor intends to “consider legal and industrial relations records of law firms and other ­organisations”, and “oppose engagement of those organisations found to have a history of anti-worker or anti-union activity”. This is disturbing and absurd. In every industrial relations matter, there is an applicant and respondent. Where the applicant may be represented by a union, the ­respondent is often represented by a consultant or a legal firm. For business, access to advice and representation is crucial, but Labor sees this as anti-union and ­intends to make financial sanctions, with commercial impact.

From now on then, businesses can expect their industrial representatives may alter their service provision. They may not want to be seen as anti-union, so instead of providing a robust and lawful defence, they may simply organise a dignified surrender.

This, then, is the ruthless ­reality underlying Labor’s feel-good utopian vision. Victoria is set to become a warm and fuzzy workers co-operative, but those not believed to be in the tent will be out in the cold.


 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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