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19 November 2004. Thought for the Week: "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and Corporate power."
YET ANOTHER INQUIRY INTO THE EDUCATION SYSTEM
The on-going issue of too many students leaving school unable to competently read and write has surfaced once again. This time the Federal Coalition has launched a national inquiry into how children learn to read, The Australian 01/11/04. The debate, it is said, is focused on whether the phonics approach is the way to go or that the 'look-say' method is satisfactory, but needs some modifications.
How far back in the history of education in Australia will the inquiry go? More importantly, will the inquiry delve into the powerful forces who, 50 years or more ago, brought about such dramatic changes in the philosophy, policies and practices of education in this country?
Why was it that in the late 1800s
The 'New Education'
American scholar Russell Kirk made
an evaluation of the New Education in 1954
In 1976 a Federal Parliamentary enquiry was told that between 30-40% of children were leaving primary school with a reading age of less than ten! Monash University lecturer in special education, Stewart Sykes, stated that many children were entering secondary schools 'functionally illiterate'! (The Age 18th May, 1976 cited in The Subversion of Australian Education by J.M. Wallis)
In the 1970s former teacher Jean Wallis
When challenged by the critics, modern educators state '.... In the years up to the fifties, a large number of students did not go beyond primary school and therefore their reading disabilities were not detected at secondary school level...Recent surveys do suggest a need to attach greater importance to the fundamentals although it is not perfectly obvious that the standard of the typical child of today is in any way inferior to that of his counter-part years ago.' (from Victoria Hansard, 28.4.76 page 270)."
So, we're to have yet another inquiry into why 'Johnny Can't Read'!
THE LOST TOOLS OF LEARNING
World-famous writer and dramatist, Dorothy L. Sayers, entered the debate on education in 1947 by putting forward proposals for improvement, but she wasn't too optimistic: "It is in the highest degree improbable that the reforms I propose will ever be carried into effect. Neither the parents, nor the training colleges, nor the examination boards, nor the boards of governors, nor the ministers of education would countenance them for a moment."
The stock argument is only partly
The product of modern educational
Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side? Have you ever followed a discussion in the newspapers or elsewhere and noticed how frequently writers fail to define the terms they use? Or how often, if one man does define his terms, another will assume in his reply that he was using the terms in precisely the opposite sense to that in which he has already defined them?
Have you ever been faintly troubled by the amount of slipshod syntax going about? And if so, are you troubled because it is inelegant or because it may lead to dangerous misunderstanding? Do you ever find that young people, when they have left school, not only forget most of what they learnt (that is only to be expected) but forgot also, or betray that they have never really known, how to tackle a subject for themselves?
The Art of learning how to think
The Mediaeval Syllabus
Now the first thing we notice is that two at any rate of these "subjects" are not what we should call "subjects" at all: they are only methods of dealing with subjects. Grammar, indeed, is a "subject" in the sense that it does mean definitely learning a language - at that period it meant learning Latin. But language itself is simply the medium in which thought is expressed.
The intention - to teach the proper
tools of learning
At the end of his course, he was required to compose a thesis upon some theme set by his masters or chosen by himself, and afterwards to defend his thesis against the criticism of the faculty. By this time he would have learned - or woe betide him - not merely to write an essay on paper, but to speak audibly and intelligibly from a platform, and to use his wits quickly when heckled. There would be questions, cogent and shrewd, from those who had already run the gauntlet of the debate.
Bits and pieces of mediaeval tradition
School debating societies flourish; essays are written; the necessity for "self-expression" is stressed, and perhaps even overstressed. But these activities are cultivated more or less in detachment, as belonging to the special subjects in which they are pigeon-holed, rather than as forming one coherent scheme of mental training to which all "subjects" stand in a subordinate relation. "Grammar" belongs especially to the "subject" of foreign languages, and essay-writing to the "subject" called "English"; while dialectic has become almost entirely divorced from the rest of the curriculum, and is frequently practiced unsystematically and out of school-hours as a separate exercise, only very loosely related to the main business of learning.
Forging and learning to handle the
'tools' of learning
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR CONSTITUTION?by Phillip D Butler
It has been announced Premier Bracks is going to amend Victoria's Constitution - and he has the numbers in both Houses to do so! What does he want to do? He wants to give "indigenous Australians constitutional recognition", according to the Sunday Herald Sun (7/11/04).
What does that mean and what will it mean for future legislation?
Whether you belong to a cricket club, football club, lawn bowls club - even a 'tiddly winks' club - there are rules of association, a 'constitution', and, in most cases a dissatisfied member can call an Extraordinary General Meeting. The Constitution usually allows for this.
Not so for Victoria's Constitution. Most Victorians have forgotten that it was the Liberal/Country Party - under Bolte - who used their massive majority in both Houses - to change the whole concept of the Victorian Constitution. "We have a mandate"!
A constitution should belong to the members, it should belong to the people - and if it is going to be amended, the "club members", the people, should have the final say.
THE ENGLISH REJECT REGIONAL PARLIAMENTS
Peter Wilson, The Weekend Australian's European correspondent, (6-7- November 2004) reports the north English have soundly trounced the Blair Labour Party's moves to merge their county and district councils. Of course it was only meant for their benefit, and the merger was meant to make room for the new level of regional government. But thankfully, voters in the far north of England have torpedoed the proposal for regional English parliaments that were seen by many (so the correspondent would have us believe ed) as a step towards an Australian-style federal system of government.
In the first referendum on such a proposal, the northeast region on the Scottish border overwhelmingly rejected the idea, making the creation of English assemblies unlikely, at least for many years. While the Blair Government has already given Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland their own parliaments and devolved government powers (?) to these bodies, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott failed abysmally in his campaign for a new regional level of government in England, the largest component of the United Kingdom.
The northeast, around Newcastle and Durham,
was chosen for the referendum because it has a strong regional
identity and was considered the most likely to support a local
assembly representing about 2.6 million people, which is about
half the population of Victoria but still larger than the
three smallest Australian states. But voters rejected the
proposal out of hand, with a NO vote of 72 per cent.
Local policy directions?
And there you have it, it would seem seventy two per cent of the people rejected the fine-sounding proposal that they would have the right to policy direction. The policy really being: you will have the right to be 'consulted' but we are going to do what we have planned to do anyhow!
CREATION OPPOSES EVOLUTION? NO! CREATION AND EVOLUTION
For many, there seemed to be arguments
'for' and 'against' on both sides of the genuinely scientific
debate of creation versus evolution. These folk would have
found Graeme M. Clark's 'Letter to the Editor' in the Weekend
Australian 6-7/3/04 of interest ("I am not a creationist").
Graeme Clark would be known for his development of the 'bionic
ear'-- now known as the cochlear ear implant.
At the time Mr. Clark wrote
In any case, the essence of the scientific
process is an open mind, without which I could never have
pursued the development of a bionic ear, as it was generally
considered by scientists as impossible.
I have a broader concern with Colin Kline's letter in that he appears to be saying that any judging panel should automatically exclude a "creationist" from receiving an award, no matter how solid his/her scientific achievements are in practice. This could be seen as prejudice."
DELUSIONS OF EMPIRE
by Justin Raimondo Antiwar.com 20/10/04
Anyone who believes that governments create reality is living in a fantasy world, and is surely no conservative, neo- or otherwise, either politically or temperamentally.
A voracious appetite for power
Conceit, as I have pointed out before, has been the defining characteristic of the imperialistic personality, but the sort of hubris exhibited above -- "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality" -- goes beyond anything the world has yet seen. The maddest of Roman emperors took care to propitiate the gods, even as they accorded themselves divine status. But none dared venture their own creation myth. This is not just a new kind of American, as Professor Ryn would have it, but a new species of madmen.
The epistemology of modern-day imperialism gives us a glimpse into minds afflicted with a novel form of mental illness, one made possible not only by the concentration of centralized power in the American metropolis, but also by advanced technology and the evolution of the military arts. The savage thug who believes he can control reality by the use of his club -- Ayn Rand called this archetype "Atilla," after the infamous Hun -- has been supplanted by the Gucci-suited technocrat who believes he can create reality by simply pushing a button or issuing an order.
By commanding black-winged jet fighters to blast his enemies out of existence, the modern Attila believes he is constructing a new reality, one where his whims, his prejudices, his prissy little orthodoxies have the force of natural law. In short, the neocons are just plain crazy, albeit in a historically unique fashion. This explains a lot. It explains the peculiar stubbornness that refuses to acknowledge error, even as Iraq implodes. It explains our rulers' utter indifference to being caught in so many lies -- the disappearing "weapons of mass destruction," the illusory "links" between Saddam and 9/11, the brazen "cherry-picking" of sexed-up intelligence, and the outright forgeries. They aren't lying - they're creating "new realities."
The militant craziness of this sort of mindset also explains the casual cruelty involved in implementing the neoconservatives' vision of empire. It explains Abu Ghraib, not as an aberration but as the new norm. It's okay to bomb cities filled with civilians, to lock up and torture anyone who gets in your way, all the while proclaiming that you come as a "liberator." You always hurt the one you love - if you're a sadist, that is.
The air of sneering superiority displayed
by Suskind's anonymous White House aide comes straight from
the top: we saw it in the debates, in the scowling visage
of King George the Lesser. In his formulaic assertions, his
indifference to logic, his inability to admit error, the president
was clearly and visibly ensconced in his own private reality.
This nearsighted hauteur, the new imperial style of our rulers,
is memorably dramatized in Suskind's account:
In this new conception of America's chief executive, Bush isn't the president, or even a monarch in the traditional sense, but the virtual embodiment of the American hyper-power: accountable to nothing and no one, either human or divine.
The cruelty of Abu Ghraib, the needless slaughter of the war and its aftermath of planned chaos, the campaign of deception that made it all possible -- none of this matters to our Promethean overlords, who, in "creating new realities" in the Middle East -- nay, the world! -- are beyond good and evil. These Actors of History are the creators of our destiny, while the rest of us are just along for the ride.
If ever a ruling class deserved its downfall,
it's this one. The great problem, however, is that they're
going to drag the rest of us down with them.
Those who want some respite from the madness of an ideologically-driven foreign policy are already embracing this concept of the "reality-based community." Because reality is precisely what this White House has been evading when it comes to the Iraqi misadventure, and the wider "war on terrorism" we are pretending to fight. This administration is making war on nation-states when the real enemy is a supranational movement that flourishes in the rubble of our conquests, and spreads over the bombed-out ruins like a poisonous weed. You want reality-based analysis? This war has benefited only two actors in the Middle East drama: bin Laden and Ariel Sharon. The extremists are empowered, instead of isolated, and the future is war, war, and more war, as far as the eye can see .
Our republic cannot and will not survive a regime of perpetual war: if our enemies didn't unite to exact revenge, inciting the global countryside against the American metropolis, the internal pressures and corruptions of empire would be our undoing in any event. One way or another, reality catches up with empires, which is why their bones litter the roadside, skulls grinning at the ironies of power reduced to dust."
SYDNEY CONSERVATIVE SPEAKERS' CLUBThe next meeting of the Sydney CSC will be held on Thursday evening 25th November, 2004. The last meeting for the year is an Open Night, where you are invited to have your say for five minutes. You are to advise the Chairman on arrival of your subject. Questions may be asked at the end of the session.
The venue is the Lithuanian Club, 16 East Terrace, Bankstown. Bring a friend for the first time and the entrance fee of $5.00 will be waived. Books will be on display for sale from the Heritage Book Service.
BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS"A Race Against Time: Racial heresies for the 21st Century," edited by George McDaniel. What does the future hold for the West? Must our Civilisation give way before the waves of Third World newcomers? It is increasingly clear that race and civilisation cannot be separated; that only the people who created a culture can sustain it. Price: $45.00 includes postage.
"Killing Hope: US Military &
CIA Interventions since WW II," by William Blum.
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