Friday, December 28, 2012

Marxism and the Philosophy of Science by Helena Sheehan (introduction)

Marxism and the Philosophy of Science by Helena Sheehan

On page 10 (introduction) Helena outlines 5 different types of errors in interpreting the history of Marxism (I've rephrased it a bit since I found her words initially not clear)

1) unproblematic straight line correctness

2) it would have been an unproblematic straight line except for the Stalin "cult of the personality" problem

3) Certain heretical critics (eg. Lukacs) provide a reinterpretation of Marxism which is then accepted uncritically

4) Selected Marxist texts are given forced "readings" and then other interpretations are dismissed as "historicist". An Althusserian once said to the author, "There is no such thing as history; there are only books on shelves", which left her speechless.

5) The whole of Marxism is dismissed as the "illusion of the epoch" (reference to a book by HB Acton)

On page 12, in contrast, she outlines her approach to the history of Marxism:

1) It's essential to delve into the "difficult matters" and "the self inflicted tragedies of the communist movement" ... she disagrees totally with "the premises underlying the tradition of sacrificing truth to 'partisanship', in the name of which so many crimes against science and against humanity have been committed"

2) Even without Stalin the history of Marxism would not be an unproblematic straight line (obvious)

3) She disagrees with the tendency of those who draw a sharp line b/w "creative" Marxists - Marx, Lukacs, Korsch and Gramsci - on one side and "dogmatic" Marxists - Engels, Lenin, Stalin - on the other side. Good and bad philosophers can be found on both sides of this divide. She likes Gramsci and Caudwell.

4) She is an unrepentant historicist - we cannot separate human thought from the context of human thinking without thoroughly distorting what it is. She adds in a footnote that such interpretations are not in opposition to structural, logical or systematic explanations.

[ on page 16 she elaborates further on her historical perspective: "Most philosophers today are utterly oblivious to the fact that philosophy or science is historical, except in the most trivial and superficial sense. Even when they do look at the history of philosophy or science they do so in such a thoroughly ahistorical and noncontextual way, that anybody could virtually have said anything at any time. In philosophy, the ideas of Plato, Aristotle, Descarte, Hume, Kant, Hegel, Carnap and Quine are treated as discrete and interchangeable units, virtually independent of time and place ..."]

5) Rather than an "illusion of the epoch" she believes that however problematic Marxism remains (quoting Sartre) the unsurpassed philosophy of our time because of such features as its comprehensiveness, coherence and orientation towards science.

My thoughts: There may be more than 5 ways to misunderstand the history of marxism. I don't know enough to say whether her judgements about Gramsci and Caudwell as "the good guys" are correct or whether she is even looking in the right places to find answers. However, I do very much like her general framing of how to approach the history of marxism:
- the need to look into the dark places, to assess negatives as well as positives
- those who make errors may also have redeeming features; those who are mainly correct have probably also made important mistakes; we need to avoid the tendency of making black and white evaluations; nevertheless, categories such as correct and incorrect, friend and enemy are still valid categories in history and politics
- there is something about marxism (not yet identified here) that makes it worth pursuing as a key method of thinking to both understanding history and solving current world problems; to confuse errors, even very significant errors, with a fundamentally flawed philosophy would be an even bigger mistake

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Kevin Wheldall: very nearly all of our children can learn to read

The three-tier model will turn children into proficient readers
by Kevin Wheldall From: The Australian December 22, 2012 12:00AM

IF all children are to learn to read to a good level of proficiency in their first few years of schooling, we need a clear plan to ensure that no child falls through the net.

Such a plan must be both effective and cost-effective. It has become increasingly accepted in recent years that a three-tier, phased model of reading instruction, known as Response to Intervention (RtI), is the best means of achieving this.

The RtI model is predicated upon a first tier of exemplary initial instruction in reading for all students during their first year of schooling (kindergarten in NSW). This first tier of instruction should essentially comprise the best scientific evidence-based instruction.

To the layman this sounds obvious, but in many Australian schools a less effective implicit model of reading instruction has held sway for the past few decades. Much of this approach is highly desirable as a bedrock upon which to build, and it may even be enough for a minority of children, but most will need direct, explicit and systematic instruction in the five pillars of teaching reading: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

What is often lacking in initial reading instruction, in particular, is effective, specific instruction in what is known as synthetic phonics; how to relate letters to sounds and to blend letter sounds into words.

Even when afforded such exemplary instruction, there will always be some children who take longer than others to catch on. It is important to identify these low-progress readers as early as possible so that they do not fall too far behind their peers as their difficulties compound.

Children who do not learn to read in the first few years of schooling are typically destined to a school career of educational failure, because reading underpins almost all subsequent learning. A safe strategy is to target students who fall into the bottom 25 per cent of the population for remedial reading intervention, as soon as their difficulties become apparent. Students' progress should be checked regularly, in order to provide intervention for those who need it from the beginning of Year 1, at the very latest.

The RtI model recommends that struggling readers, the low-progress readers who comprise the bottom 25 per cent, should be offered more intensive Tier-2 intervention in small groups of three to four students. Again the instruction provided to these students should be based on what the scientific research evidence has shown to be most effective: essentially the same five big ideas of reading instruction but more intensive and more individualised.

In small groups, teachers are able to be more responsive to the idiosyncratic needs of the students with whom they are working. Small group instruction can be just as effective as one-to-one instruction for children without severe reading difficulties.

Even with a solid Tier-2 small-group reading program in place, there will still be a very small number of students who "fail to thrive", perhaps about 3-5 per cent of all Year 1 students. These are the students for whom we should reserve Tier 3 one-to-one intensive reading instruction, preferably with a specialist reading teacher with a sound background in special education. The same five big ideas are still critical.

What is different, of course, is the intensity of instruction. Having successfully taught the vast majority of Year 1 students the basics of learning to read by Tier 1 and, where necessary, Tier 2 small-group teaching, it is a far more manageable proposition to provide these few remaining students with the individual reading support that they will need, for as long as they need it.

With this three-tier model in place, predicated upon scientific evidence-based reading instruction, almost all, if not all, children will become proficient readers. Of course, the RtI model does not stop at the end of Year 1; it is important to monitor reading progress closely for all students, especially for the first three years of schooling. But by employing these procedures rigorously and teaching scientifically, it is not too much to expect very nearly all of our children to learn to read.

Kevin Wheldall is chairman of MultiLit Pty Ltd and director of the MultiLit Research Unit.

  • MultiLit = Making Up Lost Time In Literacy
  • MUSEC = Macquarie University Special Education Centre

Some selected follow up links from MultiLit and MUSEC sites:

Media Publicity in 2012: Links to various hard hitting media articles on the perverse failure of our institutions to implement needed reforms, for example:

Welcome to MUSEC: Special Education research opportunities
MUSEC Briefings: a community service to inform educators and other professionals about the evidence base for a variety of educational practices, some of which may be regarded as controversial
Research Publications: Links to books, academic journal articles, instructional materials, conference papers (copies of most available on request from MultiLit Pty Ltd)

Monday, December 24, 2012

some current reading by our politicians

Some of the reading our politicians claim to be doing over the holidays is interesting:

A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power

During the three years (1993-1996) Samantha Power spent covering the grisly events in Bosnia and Srebrenica, she became increasingly frustrated with how little the United States was willing to do to counteract the genocide occurring there. After much research, she discovered a pattern: "The United States had never in its history intervened to stop genocide and had in fact rarely even made a point of condemning it as it occurred," ... Debunking the notion that U.S. leaders were unaware of the horrors as they were occurring against Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Iraqi Kurds, Rwandan Tutsis, and Bosnians during the past century, Power discusses how much was known and when, and argues that much human suffering could have been alleviated through a greater effort by the U.S. She does not claim that the U.S. alone could have prevented such horrors, but does make a convincing case that even a modest effort would have had significant impact. Based on declassified information, private papers, and interviews with more than 300 American policymakers, Power makes it clear that a lack of political will was the most significant factor for this failure to intervene. Some courageous U.S. leaders did work to combat and call attention to ethnic cleansing as it occurred, but the vast majority of politicians and diplomats ignored the issue, as did the American public, leading Power to note that "no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on."

The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Carro

The Passage of Power follows Lyndon Johnson through both the most frustrating and the most triumphant periods of his career — 1958 to 1964. It is a time that would see him trade the extraordinary power he had created for himself as Senate Majority Leader for what became the wretched powerlessness of a Vice President in an administration that disdained and distrusted him. Yet it was, as well, the time in which the presidency, the goal he had always pursued, would be thrust upon him in the moment it took an assassin’s bullet to reach its mark. For the first time, we see the Kennedy assassination through Lyndon Johnson’s eyes. We watch Johnson step into the presidency, inheriting a staff fiercely loyal to his slain predecessor; a Congress determined to retain its power over the executive branch; and a nation in shock and mourning. We see how within weeks — grasping the reins of the presidency with supreme mastery — he propels through Congress essential legislation that at the time of Kennedy’s death seemed hopelessly logjammed and seizes on a dormant Kennedy program to create the revolutionary War on Poverty. Caro makes clear how the political genius with which Johnson had ruled the Senate now enabled him to make the presidency wholly his own. This was without doubt Johnson’s finest hour, before his aspirations and accomplishments were overshadowed and eroded by the trap of Vietnam

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln's political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates. These men, all accomplished, nationally known, and presidential, originally disdained Lincoln for his backwoods upbringing and lack of experience, and were shocked and humiliated at losing to this relatively obscure Illinois lawyer. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration--Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general--he ultimately gained their admiration and respect as well. How he soothed egos, turned rivals into allies, and dealt with many challenges to his leadership, all for the sake of the greater good, is largely what Goodwin's fine book is about. Had he not possessed the wisdom and confidence to select and work with the best people, she argues, he could not have led the nation through one of its darkest periods.

The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail but Some Don't by Nate Silver

People love statistics. Statistics, however, do not always love them back. The Signal and the Noise, Nate Silver's brilliant and elegant tour of the modern science-slash-art of forecasting, shows what happens when Big Data meets human nature. Baseball, weather forecasting, earthquake prediction, economics, and polling: In all of these areas, Silver finds predictions gone bad thanks to biases, vested interests, and overconfidence. But he also shows where sophisticated forecasters have gotten it right (and occasionally been ignored to boot). In today's metrics-saturated world, Silver's book is a timely and readable reminder that statistics are only as good as the people who wield them

The above are a few of the non fiction titles extracted from an article by Troy Bramston in today's Australian: Summer Reading Speaks Volumes

Of the above the one I'd be most likely to buy would be Joe Hockey's choice, The Signal and the Noise

Sunday, December 23, 2012

why have our governments ignored expert advice on reading for a decade?

An Open Letter to all Federal and State Ministers of Education

In a recent article in the Australian (“Bell tolls for classroom reform”, 12/12/12), Geoff Masters, Chief Executive of the Australian Council for Educational Research is reported as being extremely disappointed (as any Australian would be) at seeing Australia ranked 27th in the PIRLS international survey of children’s reading abilities, and quotes him as urging that we should be looking at such questions as “How well are we teaching reading? How well are we preparing teachers to teach reading?”

These are not new questions.

In March 2004, The Australian published an open letter addressed to Dr Brendan Nelson, then Minister for Education, Science and Training, signed by 26 senior people in the fields of psychology, education, speech pathology, audiology, and linguistics, expressing concerns with literacy levels in Australian children and especially concerns with the way in which reading was typically being taught in Australian schools. The letter asked the Minister to commission a review of the approaches to reading instruction adopted in Australian schools.

The Minister did so, instituting towards the end of 2004 a National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy in Australia and particularly asking the Committee conducting this inquiry to report on the current state of teacher education and the extent to which it prepares teachers adequately for reading instruction. This Committee submitted its report in December 2005. This Report and associated summaries of it has since been removed from the Federal Government’s web site, but the material can still be read at the website of the Australian Council for Educational Research: see Teaching Reading: Report and Recommendations

The Report made 20 recommendations. Several of these focussed on improving the preparation of student teachers for being able to teach children how to read, since the Committee had found clear evidence that this was currently inadequate. The Report was favourably received by the Minister, and also by various national bodies concerned with children’s reading difficulties, such as Learning Difficulties Australia. But none of the Report’s 20 recommendations was ever acted upon. (In January 2006 Dr Nelson assumed a new portfolio, so there was a new Minister for Education from that date; she did respond to the Report, but not by acting on any of its recommendations.)

In June 2009 the Hon Bill Shorten, then Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, set up a Dyslexia Working Party to write a report for him proposing a national agenda for action to assist people with dyslexia (difficulties in reading). This report was submitted to him on January 10 2010. It can be obtained from Helping people with dyslexia: a national action agenda

The report made 19 recommendations for actions to deal with dyslexia in the Australian population. One of these was that in all teacher-training courses teachers should be made fully familiar with the research on how children learn to read, why some children find it so difficult, and how such difficulties can best be treated.

In September 2012 the Dyslexia Working Party received a Federal Government response to its report, over the signatures of the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers. This response indicated that the Government proposed to take no action on any of the Working Party’s 19 recommendations.

So Federal Governments have known about this problem for nearly a decade, and have received advice from two independent committees of investigation about how to deal with the problem. This advice has been ignored.

And so the results from PIRLS showing that so many Australian children are now very poor readers, though certainly disappointing, are not surprising to anyone who examines what happens in schools, and compares it to what research has clearly shown to be effective in promoting successful reading development. The 2005 National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (NITL) pointed to, and urged us to follow, the direction towards evidence-based practice taken recently in both Great Britain and the USA following national reports compiled by eminent experts in reading development. However, little productive change has eventuated at the policy level, much less at the classroom level. Indeed if the recommendations of the NITL were adopted, wholesale retraining of teachers would be necessary to provide them with the understanding of literacy not presented to them in their own teacher training.

We have significant problems in education from the beginning stages, in that we do not teach reading well. We do not use approaches known to be effective in initial reading instruction. As a nation, we do not routinely screen students entering school for underdeveloped pre-reading skills critical for facilitating learning to read, nor do we monitor student progress in learning to read in a manner that allows for successful early intervention with students failing to progress. We do not redress our early system failure during the middle primary years. In the secondary years, we have a significant group of disillusioned students who have lost contact with the curriculum because of these earlier issues. We tend to focus attention and resources upon compensatory educational options instead of emphasising the resolution of our earlier mistakes. The sequence of initial failure-shame-frustration-disengagement-dropout is predictable and ongoing. Currently, it is being addressed piecemeal, as if they were separate problems.

We need a vast shake-up at all levels of teacher training. By turning our gaze to educational practices supported by empirical research we can make optimum use of our resources to complete the task with effectiveness and efficiency.

We, as a group of concerned reading scientists, clinicians and educators, urge your immediate attention to what has become a national disgrace.

Dr Caroline Bowen, Macquarie University and University of KwaZulu-Natal
Associate Professor Lesley Bretherton, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne
Associate Professor Mark Carter, Macquarie University Special Education Centre
Professor Anne Castles, Dept. of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University
Alison Clarke, Speech Pathologist, Melbourne
Emeritus Professor Max Coltheart, AM, Dept. of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University
Associate Professor Elizabeth Conlon, School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University
Professor Linda Cupples, Dept. of Linguistics, Macquarie University
Dr Molly de Lemos, Psychologist, Melbourne
Dr Janet Fletcher, School of Psychology, University of Western Australia
Dr Lorraine Hammond, School of Education, Edith Cowan University
Dr Kerry Hempenstall, Discipline of Psychology, RMIT
Associate Professor Virginia Holmes, Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne
Dr Coral Kemp, Macquarie University Special Education Centre
Dr Saskia Kohnen, Dept. of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University
Dr Suze Leitão, School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Curtin University
Dr Wayne Levick, Learning Disorders Clinic, John Hunter Children’s Hospital, Newcastle
Dr Alison Madelaine, Macquarie University Special Education Centre
Associate Professor Frances Martin, School of Psychology, University of Newcastle
Dr Rebecca Mathews, The Australian Psychological Society
Dr Meredith McKague, Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne
Yvonne Meyer, Committee Member, National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy
Mandy Nayton, Educational and Developmental Psychologist and President AUSPELD
Dr Roslyn Neilson, Speech Pathologist, Language, Speech & Literacy Services
Associate Professor Kristen Pammer, Research School of Psychology, The Australian National University
Professor Chris Pratt, Australian College of Applied Psychology
Professor Margot Prior, AO, Dept. of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne
Dr Meree Reynolds, Macquarie University Special Education Centre
Dr Tanya Serry, Dept. of Human Communication Sciences, La Trobe University
Dr Karen Smith-Lock, ARC Centre of Excellence for Cognition and its Disorders, Macquarie University
David Stokes, The Australian Psychological Society
Dr Hua-Chen Wang, Dept. of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University
Emeritus Professor Kevin Wheldall, AM, Macquarie University Special Education Centre
Dr Robyn Wheldall, Macquarie University Special Education Centre
Associate Professor Cori Williams, School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Curtin University
Dr Craig Wright, Psychologist, Understanding Minds and Griffith University
- source

Bess Price: an amazing woman

Who's that talking to Bess?
ON Monday, two US consulate officials flew from Melbourne to Alice Springs to see Warlpiri woman and newly elected Northern Territory MP Bess Nungarrayi Price.

For a while they talked Northern Territory politics, not that unusual a topic given Ms Price has long dealt with US officials and met US President Barack Obama in Darwin last year. The conversation soon took a surprising turn when they said they wanted to nominate her to become the first Australian woman to receive the US International Women's Courage Award.

Ms Price, a firebrand campaigner for change in Aboriginal communities, was floored. Here were two US State Department officials saying to a Warlpiri woman born and raised in a humpy, "We think you are an amazing woman".
- Woman of courage: US lines up Bess Price for award

the tall man (movie)

The 2011 movie about the death of Cameron Doomadgee in police custody on Palm Island was shown on the new NITV channel recently. I haven't read the (award winning) book.

I was persuaded by the movie that Chris Hurley killed Doomadgee and that a cover up was orchestrated and the whole of Queensland Police force voted loudly to support that cover up.

The picture is of Cameron's sister, Elizabeth, who is one of several outspoken and articulate family members featured in the film.

An interesting aspect was that Chris Hurley had worked for many years in a variety of indigenous communities and clearly had done good things in those communities. The only explanation I could think of was that over many years the pressure of working with dysfunction grew on him and eventually he snapped.

The issue of aboriginal community dysfunction, through alcohol abuse, is also covered in the movie. Doomadgee was drunk when he initially swore at Hurley. The indigenous witness, Roy Bramwell, was drunk and his testimony was unreliable.

Cameron’s lawyer Andrew Boe spoke of entering another world unlike any other he had encountered once he arrived on Palm Island and encountered the conditions in which indigenous people lived. In that sense it is a story of double corruption. The other corruption was the failure to deal with the conditions where it became "normal" for aboriginal people to be drunk in the middle of the day.

Good review: Doco raises troubling questions about Palm Island death-in-custody

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Marcia Langton Boyer lectures

Marcia Langton is presenting the Boyer lectures this year.

She raises the issue of the new indigenous (small) middle class, which was unthinkable in the past. The mining industry has been one catalyst of these changes, gradually abandoning their initially racist attitudes, etc.

She says by 2040, 50% of the population in the north of Australia will be indigenous while the percentage in the south will remain at 2 to 3%. (58% of remote aboriginals are under the age of 25).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Direct Instruction success at Coen

On the weekend, The Australian published a discouraging article titled "Noel Pearson's Cape schools lose funding", which informed us that:
A senior federal government source said Direct Instruction had been championed and imported into the Cape school with the "very clear and strong assumption that results will be automatically improved".

"This has shown to be wrong and raises questions about the deployment of that method in these schools," the source said.
Noel Pearson hasn't wasted any time in replying today with "Spin doctors turn Cape success story into failure"

He points out that Direct Instruction has achieved outstanding results in Coen:
Buried in Saturday's story of alleged Cape York failure was this reference to NAPLAN results: "The only school to show dramatic improvement in the past five years is at Coen, a school of only about 50 students, where 100 per cent of students met the minimum standard in 10 out of the 15 areas."

In our alternative universe this is the Olympic equivalent of winning a qualifying place in a heat. Not time to play the Australian anthem yet, but jeez, all the kids meeting the minimum standard across 10 of 15 categories in Years 3, 5 and 7 is surely something approaching a heroic feat.

No other Queensland indigenous school comes near Coen's results (and frankly, nor do many mainstream schools). Schools in Cherbourg, Palm Island, Kowanyama, Weipa, Bamaga and Yarrabah all failed to achieve 100 per cent in any category. Only Mapoon (in one out of 15 categories) and Bloomfield (in two out of 15 categories) achieved 100 per cent national minimum standards.

Frankly, I do not know any indigenous school in the country whose NAPLAN results are comparable to Coen's. Coen will no doubt ebb and flow, but in the next few years it will reach or be within 90 per cent of national minimum standards across all 15 categories.

I know the issues associated with NAPLAN testing and reporting but the spin doctoring by opponents of the Cape York Academy that has turned such exciting progress into a miserable story of failure is an injustice to the kids and parents and teachers. Depressingly, those shopping the academy's NAPLAN results to media outlets include a former senior bureaucrat in indigenous education.

In our alternative universe, if you were minister for education, genuine about indigenous education solutions, you would be interested in Coen and see past the spin and keep this thought in mind: from little things, big thing grow. Then you would find the time go and see for yourself.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

the betrayal of Papunya by Russell Skelton

The betrayal was the major lapse in oversight that occurred at Papunya - and a host of other communities - like a ghastly genetic flaw. Until the emergency intervention, self management, as Elliot McAdam has so pertinently noted, came down to leaving a bag of money at the front gate with the disclaimer attached: your community, your problem; you fix it
King Brown Country: The Betrayal of Papunya
Sit down money (welfare) plus drugs plus the kinship system together is a recipe for disaster. This has been well documented by other authors: Noel Pearson: Up From the Mission, Peter Sutton: The Politics of Suffering

Russell Skelton's book does present a compelling case for the failure of the so called "self determination" policies initiated by Gough Whitlam.

If any young or old idealist was thinking of going remote to work in indigenous communities to "make a difference" then, after reading this book, they would think again. There is no point going there to make a difference if all the cards are stacked in such a way that you won't make a difference. If it's too hard to make a difference then most will decide not to take the first step. That is why a clear analysis of the problems developed into a comprehensive plan is important.

That is why Noel Pearson is so important. He has thought through all the issues comprehensively and has gone a long way to putting in place a range of policies which do have a fighting chance of making a difference.

Some reviewers regard this book as unbalanced. See this review by Dr Lawrence Bamblett. Yet no one is seriously challenging the amazing information within it. It's a matter of interpretation. Should we try to remain positive or optimistic rather than face some awful facts? Or the real question is: How do we remain positive and optimistic once we become aware of these awful facts? This is why you should read this book.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

how many of your teachers made you think?

Critical thinking critical to teaching by Damon Young

This article examines teaching from a philosophical perspective. Read the whole thing.

A teacher: "I don't want to think"
Gilbert Ryle, in The Concept of Mind, distinguished between 'knowing that' and 'knowing how'. The first is factual or abstract knowledge. The second is a skilled disposition. For example, one can know that Hume was an empiricist and sceptic, simply by reading a sentence in a first-year textbook. This is very different to knowing how to think empirically and sceptically.

And to develop this disposition, it is not enough to memorise rules about fallacies and syllogisms. "We learn how by practice, schooled indeed by criticism and example," writes Ryle, "but often quite unaided by any lessons in the theory." One must actually read, think, formulate arguments, listen, reply, and so on. It is an achievement developed within a very specific community, and requires as much collaboration as conflict.

A secondary teacher who does not "want to think" will not provide these conditions. Students might know that Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49BC, that mitochondrial DNA is maternal, and that Socrates spoke negatively of the life without examination. But they will not know how to think about these; how to do historiography, biology or philosophy.

And because the teacher is not an exemplar - perhaps the most powerful way to communicate intellectual virtues - the students might never recognise that they missed out. They might graduate without having witnessed critical thinking in teachers or one another. And then the onus is on TAFE, university or the workplace to provide the conditions - sadly, not always a certainty.
At one stage in my life I thought that by promoting philosophical thinking amongst teachers then the quality might improve. Eventually I realised that if government allows input into the profession from those with rather low TER scores, some of whom chose teaching because other "more attractive" career doors in business, engineering law and medicine have closed, then the prospect of philosophy turning things around became incredibly low.

In turn this becomes part of a good argument for scripted lessons, since most teachers as well as not having the time also don't have the inclination or ability to research a subject domain thoroughly and then develop their own high quality curriculum.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

alison anderson: "the combination of noble intentions and utter ignorance"

More from Northern Territory Indigenous Advancement Minister Alison Anderson

"I look at the men of Yirrkala and ask why they will not drive the 20km to Nhulunbuy to earn excellent money in the mine and the processing plant there."

"It is the kind of question the rest of Australia has been asking for years, as it tries to connect the dots, tries to understand why a long-running mining boom can exist literally next door to a culture of entitlement and welfare dependency."

She criticised those who expected the government to "do everything for them", saying the world was looking on and "wondering if we are children". Ms Anderson said that in her travels to remote communities she would be arguing "with adults who refuse to grow up".

"In the rest of Australia, people pick up the rubbish in their yards. They fix their own blocked toilets," Ms Anderson said.

"When they turn on their TVs and see remote communities covered in litter, and able-bodied men complaining about lack of maintenance of the houses they live in, they wonder why. They wonder why indigenous people in these communities won't do these things themselves."
In Australia, 3 per cent of the population are indigenous. In the NT that rises to 30 per cent. It does not just rise; it explodes and creates a whole new society, one this nation is still coming to terms with. The state with the next highest proportion of indigenous people is Tasmania, with just 4.7 per cent.

We are different. What does it mean to be indigenous here? Many things, of course, but some of the raw averages are interesting. It means we are young. For every non-indigenous child in the Territory there are 4.5 non-indigenous adults aged 20 to 59. To put that another way, more than four adults to look after each child.

However, for an indigenous child there are only 1.5 indigenous adults. In other words, there are far fewer adults to care for our children, to protect and inspire them, to feed and look out for them. Where are the missing adults? There is no way to put this gently: they are dead.

This is like the reverse of the old story of the Pied Piper, where the children were taken away. Here it is the adults who have gone, in places such as Lajamanu where 29 per cent of people are younger than nine years old. Something has spirited away many of the parents, the uncles and the aunties.
We are also remote. In all Australia 24 per cent of indigenous people live in remote or very remote areas. In the Territory that proportion is 81 per cent.

When I speak of remoteness, I mean not just remote from Darwin or Alice Springs but remote from each other. There are 527 homelands and outstations funded by my department. In many ways, this is a wonderful thing, and this government is committed to homelands and outstations. However, the extent of our remoteness is unusual, not just at the national level but internationally.

In service delivery, remoteness makes everything harder. Take transport, with road cuts during the wet season and expensive public transport. A return trip from Katherine to Lajamanu costs $320 and runs just twice a week. There will never be enough money to change this, not here or anywhere else in the world.

That is something we ignore, but we ignore it at our peril. Again and again. I see programs that do not factor in the true cost of remoteness, the travelling time needed to reach communities and the cost of planes to access them during the wet.
Ms Anderson also attacked the commonwealth's reliance on "bright and shiny and run like clockwork" NGOs that "fill in all the paperwork perfectly".

"They're good at lobbying and writing submissions. I don't mock that but I do suggest they're not so good at providing services, because they don't understand the communities ," she said. "Like so many non-indigenous advisers over the years . . . they're cursed by the combination of noble intentions and utter ignorance."
My people must grow up: Alison Anderson
My dream: a real future of our own making

alcohol and aboriginal communities revisited

It's confusing when elected indigenous parliamentarians in the Northern Territory call for a relaxation of alcohol controls while at the same time claiming they understand the issues because many of their close family have died through alcohol abuse. In this case I think Russell Skelton and Noel Pearson have thought it through more clearly. The top down alcohol restrictions should stay in place.

Indigenous MPs call for choice on grog by Amos Aikman
Traditional Tiwi man and the conservative Country Liberal Party member for Arafura, Francis Xavier Maralampuwi, said he was "saddened and embarrassed" by seeing Tiwi people drunk on the streets of Darwin.

"Tiwi people are telling me they should be able to drink full-strength beer in their own community, controlled by their own people," Mr Maralampuwi said.

"Tiwi people are sick and tired of being told what to do by Labor, and Tiwi people are telling me that Labor is treating them like second-rate citizens.

"If you talk about closing the gap, does that mean that whites can drink heavy and blacks cannot?" ...

High-profile aboriginal woman and the CLP's new member for Stuart, Bess Price, said Aboriginal people understood first-hand the problems alcohol could bring, and that existing measures had not worked.

"We are here today and we still have not done anything about the drinkers out there - and these drinkers are our families," Ms Price said.

"We bury people. My four brothers died in a town camp because they drank every day, day in, day out."

She said Aboriginal people had been "bashing our heads against the wall", talking to government experts who thought they knew better.

"They have been there for one day, and they think they know us and they can walk away with just one answer from a person might be visiting that community that day. That is what makes people think they have the answer," Ms Price said.

"No, you do not, because any Aboriginal person you pull up, wherever, will give you whatever answer you want to hear, so you can away, feeling you have been consulted." ...

Ms Anderson predicted that, given the choice, "about 99.9 per cent" of communities would say no to more grog.

"But on this side of the House, we are giving that choice to people," Ms Anderson said.
Junking of NT booze policies spells disaster by Russell Skelton
TRIUMPHALISM is the enemy of good government, especially a newly elected one driven by an irrational compulsion to replace all the policy furniture - even when it is new.

Take the Country Liberals government of Terry Mills. Within weeks of him assuming power in the Northern Territory, hubris appears to have got the better of the Chief Minister and his team, most of whom have never seen the inside of a cabinet room. Considered change is to be welcomed when it leads to significant improvements in public policy. When driven by impetuosity the results can be chaotic, ill-considered and potentially disastrous. Such is the decision to junk the banned drinkers register targeting 2300 problem drunks.

A related decision, framed in disingenuous human rights speak, to hold a plebiscite in Aboriginal communities to reconsider grog bans already voted for also makes little sense. Not surprisingly, both policies have come under intense criticism and in the case of lifting grog bans outright rejection.

The Mills government has been a shambles with ministers sending mixed policy signals over bilingual education, pursuing individual agendas and vendettas. Most revealing is the failure to come up with a coherent and credible policy on the most pressing public health issue: excessive drinking.
Blown by fickle winds of Aboriginal policy by Noel Pearson
How can we close the gap on indigenous disadvantage if successive governments just chop and change policies arbitrarily, without proper reference to evidence and history? Given that closing the gap is a generational challenge, we must maintain a commitment to the right social and development policies for a number of decades. The right policies must survive changes of government and, by this definition, must transcend the ideological whims of political parties...

Getting policies right is like hammering an anvil. Reform policy is the convergence of the right analysis, the right strategy and the right implementation. It is a constant work in progress, where the insights and gains are hard won.

During the recent months of debate over alcohol policies I have heard politicians talking how alcohol management plans have driven people out of communities into urban areas. But then I recall the controversy 20 years ago when the mayor of Cairns organised a bus to take itinerants back to their home communities in Cape York, 10 years before alcohol restrictions. Yes, there is an itinerants' problem but reopening the problems back in the communities is not the solution. I hear politicians talking about how alcohol restrictions have resulted in a breakout in the use of cannabis. But the cannabis epidemics in remote communities were well established for more than two decades, long preceding alcohol restrictions.

But this is what happens if you let folklore and anti-intellectual rejection of proper policy analysis drive policy
related: alcohol in aboriginal communities

Friday, November 02, 2012

Zig Engelmann recommends

I wrote to Zig Engelmann earlier this year after my observations of Direct Instruction at Djarragun College.

The Direct Instruction teacher manuals are fairly expensive (details here if you click through) and I was hoping that Zig would put some free samples on line so that the true extent of the scripting in DI would be readily available to anyone interested in checking it out. I had learnt at Djarragun that the teacher's instructions manuals (the script) played an absolutely central role in the whole process.

Here is an extract from Zig's reply. Although he didn't agree to my idea of publishing a sample on line he did point me towards 2 articles and a video that explain the principles of Direct Instruction in some detail. These are good links for those who want to understand the theory and practice of DI:
It’s true that teachers and administrators don’t understand the details of the program and the basis for much of what we do in designing programs. Zigsite has several works that go into detail, provide examples of the wrong way and right way, and explain the process that we follow in developing programs. The most detailed work is Rubric for Identifying Authentic Direct Instruction Programs. A shorter paper focuses on the key notion of presenting examples that lead to one and only one generalization: “The Curriculum Is the Cause of Failure.”

I wouldn’t recommend the book Theory of Instruction by Carnine and me, because the reader probably would have serious problems following it. However, one of the addresses on hits the high points of theory as it relates to constructing sets of examples that lead to one and only one possible interpretation. The video is: Theory of Direct Instruction.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Alison Anderson's vision

Alison Anderson, Minister for Indigenous Advancement
Address in Reply to the Northern Territory Assembly.
Darwin 23 October 2012

I speak on this great occasion as we mark the opening of the new parliament with the majority shaped, for the first time in Australian history, by the votes of the electors in Aboriginal communities across the bush. This is a day we will always remember. I give thanks to my constituents and electorate of Namatjira and to the voters of Arafura, Arnhem, Daly and Stuart who together chose to change the course of government in the Territory and to write a new chapter in the story of the north. I acknowledge them all in tender affection and with the deepest respect. I give my thanks to all the Territorians and pledge to work for the good of the whole Territory.

I see people, not categories, divisions, or races. I see people and the potential for us all to work together to bring clarity and progress into the world we share. Our task as politicians is to represent the whole community, and that I pledge to do. This is a moment of hope, a hinge in time. It is a long delayed day of promise for all Territorians and for all Australians. The nation is watching us today and it will be watching in the months to come as we chart the course ahead. We will bring resolve and advancement to the bush and knit the different worlds of our Territory more closely together. We are in this together. We are one Territory and, at the outset of this parliament which will be much more stable than its fractured predecessor, I believe we should dedicate ourselves to debate, to policy making, to discussion, to the highest values we can summon.

With that, I turn to a brief account of the landscape I see and what must be rethought and done anew in the years ahead. There is a weight on the shoulders of all of us today. It is the weight of the failure of most of those who have sat in these seats before us. They failed to educate most of the Indigenous people of the Northern Territory; failed to make them healthy or create jobs for them. It is a failure shared by both parties here and in Canberra, and shared by people outside of politics. It is a failure of Australia. I include in that all Indigenous people who have not taken up the opportunities which were offered to them. It will be hard for some of my friends, for members of my family, to hear that but it has to be said. There are a few heroes in this story.

I mention these things not out of despair but to remind all of us there is no point in being in this place unless we have something new to contribute. Much of what has been done before has failed and it is our job, the one for which we were elected, to do things differently. The first step is to think differently. Behind most failed actions are failed ideas. Often it started life as a noble idea and become corrupted along the way.

This is what happened in the way Australia have treated Aboriginal people. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a great moral awakening when white Australia realised what it had done to us and began to make amends.

That move to acknowledge our sufferings and our disposition was a noble one. The laws to return land to us and encourage independent development were fine achievements that grew out of the best intentions. Yet all this produced the twin corruptions of welfarism and the belief Aboriginal people ought to live forever in a cultural Stone Age. It did not happen quickly; those corruptions crept up on us over time and became entrenched. They have proved almost impossible to change. Now we have the sicknesses and abuse, the ganja and the crowded gaols, the empty schools and suicides. How did all this happen? For the usual reason: because we continued to judge our ideas by their noble intentions instead of by their results. We did this for many years after those results proved the ideas had failed. They also became entrenched because government passed laws and set up agencies and funded them to create jobs. Those jobs were filled by people who build careers based on ideas that separate development was the way forward for Indigenous people.

As the American writer Upton Sinclair wrote: ‘It is difficult to get someone to understand something when their salary depends on not understanding it’. That is true everywhere and it is true in the Northern Territory. The idea that separate development was the answer provided hope for many and jobs for an increasingly powerful few. However, it has failed. I suggest the past 40 years of Aboriginal policy has been a sort of experiment; an experiment with human lives costing billions of dollars. Walk through Alice Springs after dark or visit Papunya and speak with my relatives, the people are sick in their bodies and in their souls. They are uneducated, orphaned and widowed. They are in gaol and in cemeteries. It was a great experiment, perhaps even a necessary one, but it has failed.

I said earlier, we have not been elected to this House to despair. We have been put here to face the facts of the past failure and propose solutions and try to put those solutions into practice. We do this humbly aware of how many good people have failed in the past. However, we do it with determination. We know there is no alternative. We know there is no time to be lost.

I am a desert woman from Central Australia who is a grandmother, an artist. I have the richness of traditional Aboriginal life in my bones and in my imagination. I am closely linked by blood to the joys and suffering of many people in Indigenous communities in this nation’s centre and its desert. I attend their baptisms and I go to their funerals. These are the people of my heart, the ones for whom I speak today.

I have been a leader for a long time and, in all that time, I have been learning - always learning. I have held positions at the local council level and I have been an ATSIC commissioner. I have been in parliament for seven years and served as a minister before, always learning. I am proud of what I have learnt and what I have done. However, I am fully aware how much remains undone. This is why I stand here today and give you my honest view of our situation. It is complicated, of course. Everywhere you look there is something that is broken and needs to be fixed. I have learnt what we need to focus on.

There are two goals I will strive for. I will be doing everything I can to deliver these things - real education and real jobs. I am not the education minister and I am not the employment minister, I am the Minister for Indigenous Advancement. Those are the two areas, in particular, where I will be throwing my weight behind the efforts of my colleagues. Let me tell you why.

Too much of the public discussion about Indigenous people has assumed, whatever the problem, government is the answer. It has been assumed that any problem can be solved with the right policies and the right amount of money. I would have no issue with that if it was correct but the history of the past 40 years, including the Intervention, shows it is wrong. I believe it failed because it came over time to treat Indigenous people as passive and, by treating us as passive, it helped make us passive. It also treated us as different and encouraged us to live in a parallel world that was supposed to be a dreaming but became a nightmare. The time has come to reject those beliefs and say that Indigenous people need to engage with other Australians. In particular, we need jobs and, for jobs, we need education. I mean real education and real jobs. Any policies that interfere with these two goals need to be thrown into the scrap heap.

Of course, we will need government to help achieve this but it needs to be help designed to liberate us, to make us independent human beings and this is possible. Governments can do bad things - we have seen enough of that in the Territory - but can also be a force for good. We Indigenous people need to be more like other Australians. I do not mean we should abandon our beliefs or our language but, like dozens of other cultures in Australia, we must learn to combine our own identities with participation in the broader society that will not weaken us. It will make us stronger in who we are. To preserve the old ways, we must embrace the new ones. There are plenty of jobs in the Territory, in the communities and in government, in tourism and national parks, and mining. My dream is simple: to see Indigenous people filling more of those jobs in the future because of the quality of our education and because we make ourselves the best people for those jobs. Having a job is not mainly about money. It is about getting up in the morning and looking after yourself. It is about staying in the same place for five days a week. It is about wanting your children to be educated so that they can get a job one day. It is about pride and respect but we cannot put the cart before the horse. Many people who have been to Indigenous schools in the past generation are so poorly educated they have never had a real job. In employment terms, they are the lost generation. Our schools stole their futures from them. All we can do now is fix the problem for the next generation. It is a huge challenge but I believe we can do it.

The problem is this: we have been treating education politically but a good school is not political. What is taught and how it is taught should not be determined by the local community. A good education is like good policing or good health care. It is something most people in Australia recognise when they see it. It is the same in Geelong or Townsville, and people are happy for the government to determine its shape whether in public or private schools. Like good health, good education is the same everywhere and we do not need to debate it. The people of Perth and Brisbane do not want to run their local school or tell the teachers what the curriculum should be. They just want to send their kids out the door in the morning and know they are going to learn to read and write and count, to use computers, and find out about the world. That is real education and many of the schools in the Territory are not providing it; in fact, our Indigenous schools are a continuing disappointment.

We tend to speak words of encouragement about the state of things and not confront the facts head on. In doing so, we patronise young Indigenous school students. We fail to tell their parents how poor the results really are. We fail to hold those parents responsible in a rigorous fashion for their part in schooling their children. We mask and soften the truth. At times, it seems as if we still operate a double standard of expectations. For remote communities, we are prepared to ask for, and accept, second best.

I want to draw, for a few moments, on the research done by Helen Hughes and her son, Mark, published by the Centre for Independent Studies. Professor Hughes’ family escaped the Nazis and came to Australia where she became an economist and worked for the World Bank and the United Nations for many years.

For the past five years, she has been researching Indigenous education and doing some work in East Arnhem Land and recently Mark and she wrote a paper about what the latest NAPLAN results were for year three pupils. They showed that the pass rates for Indigenous pupils in the Northern Territory are 47% for numeracy and 32% for reading. That means over half our eight year olds cannot do sums and two thirds cannot read. No other state or territory comes close to that level of failure. If we do not change that, we will never improve the lives of Indigenous people in the Territory.

So what is the problem? Is it that our kids are Indigenous? Obviously it is not. Most Indigenous kids in Australia live in towns and cities and do just fine in education. Is it because our kids speak a second language at home? No, it is not. Australia is full of kids who speak another language at home, but do well at school. Is it because there is not enough money? Unlikely. Indigenous kids here get 40% more spent on their education than other children. So what about remoteness? Are small remote schools the problem? Not really, according to Helen Hughes. She points out that while Indigenous pupils in remote areas have a reading pass rate of 25%, for non Indigenous pupils, it is 93%.

So what is the problem? Helen Hughes says, and I agree, that the problem is the quality of the schools, particularly the curriculum and the teaching methods. If we taught our kids the same way kids are taught in Newcastle and Fremantle, their results would skyrocket. The Hughes are not the only people to recognise this. Three years ago on Cape York, Noel Pearson and some colleagues did the report called the ‘Most Important Reform’ that came to the same conclusion. We need to fix our schools. A real education is a basic human right and it has been denied to Indigenous people of the Northern Territory for too long. The beauty of focusing on education is, it is one of the few things governments can actually do. At least if it has the will, there is a way. With the right curricula and policies and funding, we can get properly functioning schools with proper teachers. If you get the schools right other things will gradually fall into place.

Take truancy, which is the curse of good education in the Northern Territory. At the moment we try to fix it with carrots and sticks, by trying to force parents to send their kids to school or by bribing the kids to come, but the Hughes’ research shows that once schools start to provide a real education, the pupils will come anyway. Not all of them, but most of them. Most people are not idiots, they want the best for themselves and their children.

Let me describe how a remote community of the future might look. At its heart would be a proper school, just like a small version of school in Darwin or Sydney. There would be at least one full-time teacher with a university degree and five years experience. We would attract those teachers by paying them well and providing decent housing and community support. There would be a community committee to support the school. Not by telling it what to do, but by helping it run like other schools in Australia. The committee would help the teacher settle in, help care for the school grounds, help feed the kids and take them to the clinic if they were sick. Help make sure they come to school in the mornings.

In other parts of Australia, the parents do those things. It is a sad fact; many Indigenous parents are like children themselves, which is something we have to face up to. For a while we are going to rely a lot on the grannies of the community to make our schools work. We need to ask the grannies who have already done so much, to do some more. To help us make our schools normal.

I hope that one day, parents will start feeling ashamed of the situation, start looking after their kids a lot better, but that day is a long way off. We have to be realistic. I am hoping, if we start to turn our communities into places that welcome education, young teachers from other parts of Australia will want to come here for a few years. Look at the old missionaries and the American Peace Corps. Look at all Australians today who volunteer in third world countries. There have always been people prepared to lend a hand.

The Northern Territory is Australia’s own third world. It is the nation’s internal colony. We have to ask other Australians to help us change that; we cannot do it alone.

One of the things we have to do to make schools normal is introduce normal curriculum just as they have in Melbourne, London, or New York. I am not suggesting we abandon our traditional culture or language, but teaching them should not be done in schools. It should be done after school and on weekends and during the holidays. That is when most of the other cultures in Australia teach their children traditional ways. The job of the teachers in our schools will be to teach what is taught in normal schools around Australia. You can buy the curriculum off the shelf from any state you like. That is the only way our children will grow up to be able to compete for jobs and work alongside people educated in other places. Another thing we have to do to make schools normal is to stop holding events that take kids away - no more sports events that go on for days. Some people say these events are traditional, but I have my doubts about that. Some have traditional roots, but they have grown because of the welfare world, because people have had so much empty time to fill. We need to educate parents to see that a new approach to education will involve some hard choices. There will no more excuses for children missing school. There is something government and local councils can help with. There should be no more support for any type of event that takes children away from home during school term.

Let us imagine we can improve education; we can make it real. That will take many years even if the changes I am describing come in. It will be many years before the first group of kids to receive a real education leave school. However, let us imagine that happens. Where will they go? I see them going for interviews for jobs now automatically filled by non-Indigenous people who often come to the Territory from other places. I see Indigenous people starting to fill those jobs because they are well educated and, sometimes, because of their local knowledge. They understand this place and its people better than the other applicants for the position. That happens in many places; locals have an advantage. It should happen here. I am talking about real jobs, not blackfella ones.

My sister-in-law has been a teaching assistant for 25 years and, although she is a good worker, it is a dead end. She can never use that experience to move up or on. We need to phase out all the jobs we created for Aboriginal people: the teaching assistants and the special positions for Aboriginal police and healthcare workers, and all the rest. They imply that Aboriginal people cannot do normal jobs. We need to replace them with real jobs that require real education; jobs that are not dead ends but that could lead on to other jobs, including jobs in other places if that is what some people want.

In that way, education can set us free. It can make us independent for the first time of all the non-Indigenous advisors who have tried to control our lives. At the moment we are being advised into the grave by people better educated than us. This needs to change. We need education to set us free - free of dependence, unemployment, welfare and victimhood. Education has set billions of human beings free; it can do the same for us. Once we are independent we will have choices. Most 25-year-olds in Sydney can work anywhere in the world. They have the education and the work experience. I want our 25-year-olds to have the same choices.

Of course, many young people will want to stay in their communities, but even to do that requires education, if they are to take advantage of the job opportunities that exist. There are opportunities, both existing ones and jobs we can create, to grow food, make bread, and fix cars. For people who can read and write and use computers to keep learning there are plenty of job opportunities in the communities.

It always surprises me how hard it is to get fresh food in remote places. There has to be a potential to change that. We have the land and the sun, and we have the example of the old missions where food was grown successfully. I see hundreds of new jobs across the Territory in that one area. Again, we will need help. Again, I suggest we ask other Australians to assist us. Not bureaucrats or soldiers, but gardeners, bakers and mechanics to stay with us for six months and share their knowledge. However, that is a vision for the future. First we need to make our communities places outsiders would want to live in.

I know there is much to be done; however, I believe the rest of Australia cares about what happens here and is just waiting for us to take the first step. It has more to offer us than a view of Indigenous people defined by their victimhood - more than welfarism or the intervention. We need to convince it that the Territory is not a museum and is not a nightmare. Above all, we need to show our fellow Australians we want to be normal. We want the right to be just like them and keep our identity, but to live fully in the 21 st century.

Today I have been describing a dream, but it is not a romantic dream. I hope it is not an impossible one. It is a dream based on looking at the past and being honest about what has gone wrong. It is a dream that does not aspire to the creation of some Utopia of a sort that has never been seen on the face of the earth before. My dream is we should get real and, for the first time since Europeans came to this land Indigenous people should be thought of and treated just like everyone else. To someone in Melbourne, Shanghai or New York, that might sound like a very modest dream; however, as all of us here today know, it is actually a big one to suggest that Indigenous people in the Northern Territory should live normal lives with real education and real jobs. That is the most radical dream of all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

the Territory's new Indigenous politicians made impassioned maiden speeches on the first day of the new parliament

Anderson calls for schools to be made equal

Indigenous Advancement Minister Alison Anderson says Aboriginal languages should not be taught at remote Northern Territory schools.

She says Indigenous schools should have the same learning requirements as those in capital cities.

Ms Anderson has told told the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly that Indigenous languages should be taught by parents during holidays and on weekends.

The call contradicts a commitment by Education Minister Robyn Lambley that a Country Liberals government would fund bilingual education in remote schools.

Ms Anderson says Indigenous children should be taught in the same way as students in Sydney if they are to compete for the same jobs.

"I am not suggesting we abandon our traditional culture or language but teaching them should not be done in schools, it should be done after school and on weekends, and during the holidays," she said.

"That is when other cultures in Australia teach their children traditional ways."

Ms Anderson says local schools must form the centres of remote Aboriginal communities.

"Let me describe how a remote community of the future might look," she said.

"At its heart would be a proper school, just like a small version of a school in Darwin or Sydney.

"There would be at least one full-time teacher, with a university degree and five years experience.

"We would attract those teachers by paying them well.

"We need education to set us free, free of dependence, unemployment, free of welfare and victimhood.

"Education has set billions of human beings free.

"It can do the same for us.

"My dream is that we should get real and, for the first time since Europeans came to this land, Indigenous people should be thought of and treated just like everyone else."

Meanwhile, the Territory's new Indigenous politicians made impassioned maiden speeches on the first day of the new parliament.

The Member for Arnhem, Larissa Lee, raised an issue few previous conservative politicians have backed.

"The Australian government never fulfilled the request for a treaty that was called for by our leaders," she said.

"We must never forget what they fought for."

The Member for Arafura, Francis Xavier, lamented the state of indigenous education.

"Many young Aboriginal people cannot read and write," he said.

"Why is this allowed?"

The Member for Stuart, Bess Price, defended free debate of Indigenous policy.

"I am tired of the racist notion that we Aboriginal people can't speak for ourselves and, when we do, should all speak the same like a bunch of brainless robots.

She said Indigenous people should be able to disagree without trading accusations of racism.

Ms Price also said English language skills are vital for Indigenous people in a modern world.

"We should keep our languages and those parts of our cultures that still work for us, but that should not stop us from making sure that our children get the best possible education," she said.

"They must learn English, as I have, they must learn to use mathematics and all the other knowledge that the rest of the World uses to understand the World and to prosper."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pielke snr summary of climate issues

I'm copying his summary here without the extensive links. Here is the original.

1) There has been global warming over the last several decades. The ocean is the component of the climate system that is best suited for quantifying climate system heat change. The warming has been less than predicted by the multi-decadal global model predictions.

2) The use of a global annual average surface temperature is an inadequate metric to quantify global warming and cooling. The documentation of the poor siting quality over land is one reason it is such a poor metric.

3) The involvement of citizen scientists to document the siting quality is a very significant achievement

4) The human addition to CO2 into the atmosphere is a first-order climate forcing. It is the largest annual-global averaged positive human radiative forcing

5) However, global warming is not equivalent to climate change. Significant, societally important climate change, due to both natural- and human- climate forcings, could occur even without global warming or cooling.

I propose these definitions be adopted in our statement

“Global Warming” is an increase in the global annual average heat content measured in Joules.

“Climate Change” is any multi-decadal or longer alteration in one or more physical, chemical and/or biological components of the climate system.

6) The correct summary statement on climate, in my view, is that
Natural causes of climate variations and changes are important. In addition, the human influences are significant and involve a diverse range of first-order climate forcings, including, but not limited to, the human input of carbon dioxide (CO2). Most, if not all, of these human influences on regional and global climate will continue to be of concern during the coming decades.

In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, these other first-order human climate forcings that are important to understanding the future behavior of Earth’s climate are spatially heterogeneous and include the effect of aerosols on clouds and associated precipitation, the influence of aerosol deposition (e.g., black carbon (soot), and reactive nitrogen), and the role of changes in land use/land cover. Among their effects is their role in altering atmospheric and ocean circulation features away from what they would be in the natural climate system. As with CO2, the lengths of time that they affect the climate are estimated to be on multidecadal time scales and longer.
7) Natural variations and longer term change have been significantly underestimated. Also, climate prediction is an initial-value problem

8) Attempts to significantly influence impacts from regional and local-scale climate based on controlling CO2 emissions alone is an inadequate policy for this purpose. With respect to CO2 [and for all other human climate forcings], the emphasis should be on supporting technological developments to mitigate these threats

9) Policymakers should look for win-win policies in order to improve the environment. The costs and benefits of the regulation of the emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere need to be evaluated together with all other possible environmental regulations. The goal should be to seek politically and technologically practical ways to reduce the vulnerability of the environment and society to the entire spectrum of human-caused and natural risks including those from climate.

10) Global and regional climate models have not demonstrated skill at predicting multi-decadal changes in climate statistics on regional and local climate in hindcast studies

11) What we recommend in our Pielke et al (2012) paper in terms of an approach to mitigation and adaptation is, as written in its abstract,
“We discuss the adoption of a bottom-up, resource-based vulnerability approach in evaluating the effect of climate and other environmental and societal threats to societally critical resources. This vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to local and regional water, food, energy, human health, and ecosystem function resources from extreme events including climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risks can be compared with other risks in order to adopt optimal preferred mitigation/adaptation strategies.

This is a more inclusive way of assessing risks, including from climate variability and climate change than using the outcome vulnerability approach adopted by the IPCC. A contextual vulnerability assessment, using the bottom-up, resource-based framework is a more inclusive approach for policymakers to adopt effective mitigation and adaptation methodologies to deal with the complexity of the spectrum of social and environmental extreme events that will occur in the coming decades, as the range of threats are assessed, beyond just the focus on CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases as emphasized in the IPCC assessments.”
And finally:
When I return, I look forward to assessing further the above issues, and also invite readers on my weblog to submit guest posts to appear after I am back, which refute any of the above conclusions.

Friday, October 05, 2012

alcohol in aboriginal communities

UPDATE (10th October): Noel Pearson (see full article at the bottom):
The cultural dimension of Aboriginal people and alcohol - and by this I mean the way alcohol distorts the kinship system and vice versa - means it isn't as simple as envisioning the guy on the porch having a beer after a hard day's work. I have yet to see kinship and grog become friends anywhere in indigenous Australia.
In view of the problems of dangerous homebrew and sly grog the Queensland Aboriginal Affairs Minister Glen Elmes has decided to review and possibly relax alcohol management plans.

Where do people stand for and against lifting alcohol bans in aboriginal communities?

The Mayor of Hopevale, Greg McLean is FOR
Hopevale Mayor Greg McLean insists that a majority of the 850 residents favour easing the restrictions that allow drinkers a single carton of mid-strength beer or one 750ml bottle of table wine at a time, while banning spirits and fortified wine
- Noel Pearson's hometown of Hopevale divided over grog bans
The Mayor of Aurukun, Derek Walpo, is AGAINST
... local hospital admissions for assault-related injury fell dramatically from 22 per 1000 persons in 2002-03, when its plan was established, to 7.4 persons in 2010-11. School attendance has increased from 37.9 per cent in 2008 to 70.9 per cent this year
- Too early to relax alcohol bans
Mal Brough, is cautiously FOR
"I think we need to recognise that nothing ever stands still in society and the alcohol management plan saw a reduction in violence and abuse," he said.

"We need to work with communities about normalising now. What I would caution against is that any changes made need to be monitored and they shouldn't be afraid of instigating immediate change and withdrawal of alcohol if it isn't working.
- Mal Brough backs end to remote alcohol ban
Jenny Macklin is AGAINST
any changes would need to be based on "robust evidence" and must not be made at the expense of "vulnerable women and children".
- Too early to relax alcohol bans
Noel Pearson is AGAINST, he hasn't changed his 2007 opinion:
"Ask the terrified kid huddling in the corner when there's a binge drinking party going on down the hall. Ask them if they want a bit of paternalism. Ask them if they want a bit of intervention because these people who continue to bleat on without looking at the facts, without facing up to the terrible things that are going on in our remote communities, these people are prescribing no intervention, they are prescribing a perpetual hell for our children."
- Too early to relax alcohol bans
Warren Mundine is AGAINST
"We know the history, the domestic violence, the rape, the murder, all caused by alcohol,"

"Has he (Mr Newman) ever been into these communities? There are no jobs, there's no work. As soon as someone gets beaten up because of alcohol, there is blood on his hands."
- Mal Brough backs end to remote alcohol ban
UPDATE (10th October)

Marcia Langton is AGAINST
"I just think this is unacceptable

"I know that everybody who has ever done any research in the field, and I'm working with several of the best, will tell Australians that this is wrong.

"This is causing severe endangerment to women and children in these communities.

"This is a cheap electoral trick for the big men in Aboriginal communities who want their cases and their slabs of beer, their cases of spirits.

"They want the unfettered right to drink, without regard for the victims."
- Northern push to lift grog controls draws fire
Sue Gordon, former Northern Territory intervention chairwoman, is AGAINST
"People are just not ready to have to face the onslaught of alcohol again"

"The effects that come out of it, the damage to women and children, to re-introduce alcohol is just disastrous. It's just ignoring the wishes of the people."

"My experience in the Territory is that only the louder voices are going to be heard and it's going to be the women and children and old people who suffer as a consequence"

"The extra part of it is that it's ok for the people who don't live in the community to say let people make their own decisions but if you live in a community and you don't have police you don't have a choice anymore, you don't get a decision, you are a victim.

"It's frightening actually because so much work has gone in, and it's not from outside people. It's Aboriginal people themselves.

"I've been up to Hopevale in the Cape and I've seen the difference there. The kids were healthy. They were happy. If alcohol is brought in it will take away the potential money that is going to buy food and all the other necessities of life for children and women in the communities.

"It's a disaster to bring it back now because there's been so many gains made."
- Return to grog 'a disaster for children'
Noel Pearson's 2001 article I believe is still very relevant to understanding this issue. I still remember clearly how it helped me overcome my liberal inclinations when I first read it years ago now.


1.1 The symptom theory is wrong

1.2 Addiction is a learnt behaviour that makes us powerless

1.3 Five factors involved in the outbreak of substance abuse epidemics

1.4 Grog and drug addiction is a psychosocial epidemic in our communities

1.5 Almost all of our other social and health problems are derivative of our grog and drug problem: we solve grog and drugs, we will solve everything else


2.1 Our people need to first properly understand the problem – the individual addiction, and the social problem

2.2 The fallacy of trying to “normalise” drinking when confronted with an epidemic

2.3 AA method as a starting point for a social as well as individual strategy

2.4 Development of a community grog and drug plan including an Aboriginal law and order strategy

2.5 Completely eradicate illicit drugs
UPDATE: Noel Pearson's piece from The Weekend Australian is excellent
Situation far from normal in communities
BY: NOEL PEARSON From: The Australian October 06, 2012

IF you hang around long enough in indigenous affairs not only will you think you are Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, recycling old policies every five years, you will experience a genuine repeat of history. One such episode is under way with the Newman government beginning a review of alcohol management plans in Queensland communities.

During the April election campaign Campbell Newman announced the Liberal National Party's policy, saying: "Why is it that an Aboriginal worker cannot come home to a home they own and have a beer on their front porch and watch the TV news with their family? Why shouldn't they have that opportunity, sooner rather than later?"

Though the then opposition leader had made the point at a doorstop interview that his vision was for the longer term, and there would be no rollback of AMPs in the immediate term, I must say I shivered with concern.

This week Queensland Minister Glen Elmes started the review process with the mayors of Aboriginal shire councils in Cairns. The outcry from indigenous leaders across the country was immediate. University of Melbourne professor Marcia Langton told this newspaper, "It would be tragic to lose the momentum built up over 20 years in Aboriginal communities to tackle problems, such as violence inflamed and exacerbated by grog abuse."

Langton should know; as a Queensland government official she worked with women of Aurukun 20 years ago when they sought to arrest a spiralling grog problem.

Former ALP national president Warren Mundine said, "I've been up to some of these communities. If you look at the difference since before alcohol was banned to now, it is enormous they want to bring the nightmare back. It's a disgrace. We are on the threshold of actually starting to get commercial activity in some of these towns; we are on the cusp of moving ahead. This would be a retrograde step and a disaster for these communities, quite frankly. You would have to have a hole in your head to even consider it."

Perhaps most significant was the response of community leaders. Aurukun Mayor Derek Walpo was one of several who refused to join those seeking to lift the restrictions. He told this newspaper: "We don't want to uplift our AMP. If we have more people working then eventually the AMP will fall away. We want to implement our law and order."

That there is now leadership by people such as Walpo is an important development. A decade ago there was none. While many supported restrictions, their voices were muted. It shows that ownership and responsibility for these problems has increased at the grassroots.

There is now grave danger this progress will be jeopardised. An episode of Queensland's parlous political history concerning black fellas may be about to be repeated.

When the Bjelke-Petersen government took over Aurukun and Mornington Island from the Uniting Church in 1978, they were transformed into shires under then local government minister Russ Hinze. Aurukun was dry, with male drinking of contraband limited, and hardly any women drank. The missionaries had bequeathed a socially and culturally vibrant community that was soon to be wrecked with the Queensland government takeover.

Hinze used the new shire council to push for a canteen. Without a rate base he saw canteens as a source of revenue for local government. It was a way of converting social security payments from the commonwealth to individuals into operational funds for the shire. Aboriginal livers across Queensland became funding laundries. However, Aurukun people strongly resisted the canteen. Numerous petitions and community meetings consistently voted against it. But the push finally succeeded and a canteen opened in 1985.

The ethnographer of the Wik peoples, Peter Sutton, laid out this miserable history in his book Politics of Suffering.

David McKnight, the ethnographer of Mornington Island, told of similar tragedy in his book From Hunting to Drinking.

Those proposing to unwind alcohol management should first be obliged to read these books. Sutton points out before 1985 there was only one suicide and one homicide at Aurukun. Following the establishment of the canteen scores of each of these tragedies started to happen.

Within five years of the canteen opening, David Marr's classic Four Corners report Six Pack Politics on the grog chaos gripping Aurukun aired in 1990. Langton featured with the women of Aurukun in Marr's report.

The legacy of these two decades of degradation will take more than a generation to subside. Too many young people were damaged in this period, and too many traumatic cycles started turning. The problems of imprisonment, neglect and abuse of children, juvenile crime and detention, removal of children into state care, the wreckage of health and the scars of violence will reverberate for a long time. Aurukun and other like communities are far from normalised but have made progress in recent years. Alcohol management has been key.

The editorial writers of this newspaper got the simple truth right: it is too early to relax alcohol bans. Harm levels are still off the charts compared with Queensland averages. The violence, the arrests, the convictions, the hospital injury presentations and the school absences are nowhere near normal. Compare Weipa north with Weipa south, Hope Vale with Cooktown, Yarrabah with Gordonvale. The gaps are gaping wide.

Former Howard government minister Mal Brough endorsed the relaxation of alcohol plans on the basis that the situation has been normalised, and provided that restrictions are reinstated if violence levels increase. As if the tap can be turned off and on at will. Brough's position has more to do with LNP solidarity than any wisdom he has gained. He is either not on top of the data, which shows the situation is far from normalised, or he has an uninformed view the gains can be improved by turning the tap back on.

My view is there are two drivers behind the strange thinking of too many conservative politicians on grog supply to black fellas.

First is the malignant motivation. There are those pushing the agenda of the liquor outlets who just don't care about the obvious misery. This is most pronounced in the Northern Territory but is not absent in Queensland.

Second is the benign but naive motivation, where people with no idea of indigenous culture and society think black fellas will suddenly adopt the mainstream culture of having a beer after a hard day's work. Yarrabah Mayor Errol Neal echoed Newman's vision but was honest about the problem when he told The Cairns Post, "We want to be able to have a beer, listen to music and go home to our family. But we accept alcohol is no good for our culture and, when a mayoral candidate ran on a platform of reopening the canteen and TAB, she got very few votes."

The cultural dimension of Aboriginal people and alcohol - and by this I mean the way alcohol distorts the kinship system and vice versa - means it isn't as simple as envisioning the guy on the porch having a beer after a hard day's work. I have yet to see kinship and grog become friends anywhere in indigenous Australia.

The tragedy of what the Newman government is doing with its first indigenous policy initiative is to focus on grog instead of the real priorities. Walpo had this week's best line: "We need to wake up and go to work. Not wake up and think about where we are going to get our next drink."

Noel Pearson is director of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership.