Change The Conversation

Australian Coat of Arms (adopted 1912)

Australian Coat of Arms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here in Australia we are gearing up for a Federal election. As this happens the country will start a discussion and the character of that discussion will define the election.

Over the last thirty years the basis of that discussion has changed. The main topic of political discussion can be characterised as economic rather than social.

The perfect example is the major effort of the “Gonski reforms” which have been labelled as major reforms to education but they are almost entirely focussed on the financing and economics of schooling leaving the topic of what and how we teach our children entirely untouched.

If we wish to have a national conversation about education perhaps we might start with why we are graduating so many lawyers, economists and MBAs while we don’t have enough nurses, teachers and engineers. We might like to argue about why we are increasing TAFE fees while we don’t have enough skilled workers.

You can also look at the growing prominence of media reporting on the state of the economic market and economic news. The ABC station 702, for example, twice during the day has a report on the Australian Stock Exchange and major economic news as well as mentioning that major news during the hourly news.

Then we get to the political debate that talks so much about topics such as tax rates and government rebates such as the Family Tax Bonus, Baby and First Home Buyers Grant. When we were discussing the Carbon Tax much of the debate centred not on what was best for the country but who might be better off after the offsets were factored into family budgets.

If we do want to discuss the national economy perhaps we could talk about the restructure of our workforce. Do we want a nation where a huge rise in casual and contract labour that now has a rising number of Australian workers underemployed and unsure of their jobs?

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Ding, Dong

George Harrison. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

George Harrison. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Todays Daily Prompt was “Pause whatever you’re doing, and ask the person nearest you what they’re thinking about (call someone if you have to). Write a post based on it.”

Since I’m home alone at the moment and in Australia the hour is incredibly late I couldn’t quite perform the task. Instead I posted to Facebook, “Quickly, I need someone to post a comment telling me what they are thinking right now.”

One of my friends, by coincidence another writer who suffers from insomnia, almost immediately replied “I’m thinking I’d better post a comment telling you what I’m thinking right now.”

That’s a pretty good reply. When asked “What are you thinking?” quite a lot of people would immediately think about the question. If they are next to you on the couch the first thought might be “Why are they asking?” If it was me sitting on the couch next to a partner my first thought would probably be “Oh, oh, don’t get this wrong” but I’m often overly anxious.

Let’s get back to the task. My friend Matthew then told me that due to the fact that the hashtag #DingDong was trending on Twitter he was thinking of the George Harrison earworm of a song “Ding Dong”, particularly the lyric “Ring out the old, ring in the new; \ Ring out the false, ring in the true.”

Why was that hashtag trending? It’s a campaign to get people to buy “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” on iTunes to celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher. The campaign has been so successful that it has reached #1 on the UK iTunes list. The BBC has refused to play the entire song as part of their music chart show. Quite a fuss is now on as a result.

When you look at the lyrics of the George Harrison song that Matthew was thinking about they might actually be a much more polite way of celebrating Maggie’s passing. After all, even if you disagree vehemently with her politics and methods (as I do), referring to her as a witch is not only rude but brings her gender to the fore in quite a negative, sexist way. Inferring that she is “the old” and “the false” has to me more truth and fairness than “witch”.

Edumacation – Broken As Designed

Etchingham School 1946

(Photo credit: ttelyob)

So the State and Federal governments of Australia are going to find an extra $5 billion dollars a year to spend on school funding according to the recommendations of the ‘Review of Funding for Schooling Final Report December 2011’, generally referred to as the “Gonski Report” after it’s chairman, David Gonski.

What if they are going to spend it on the wrong things? What if the system itself is concentrating on the wrong outcomes? What if our education system is broken as designed?

First, let’s contemplate the purpose of our education system. What is it meant to do? If we want we can turn to our Government to answer that question, politicians can always be relied upon to give us a great “motherhood statement” on any large social question. In Australia we only have to go back to 2008 when there was a conference of government Education ministers in Melbourne that produced a nice motherhood statement as a report, the ‘Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians’.

The Melbourne Declaration says

  • Goal 1: Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence
  • Goal 2: All young Australians become:
    • Successful learners
    • Confident and creative individuals
    • Active and informed citizens

The most interesting thing about this statement is that it says nothing about vocational outcomes. The preamble however is a little more revealing, it says in part:

Skilled jobs now dominate jobs growth and people with university or vocational education and training qualifications fare much better in the employment market than early school leavers. To maximise their opportunities for healthy, productive and rewarding futures, Australia’s young people must be encouraged not only to complete secondary education, but also to proceed into further training or education.

It should be noted that jobs and vocation are nowhere else mentioned in the declaration.

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