Tag Archives: Education

I wonder if it’s possible to talk about gender differences without being mansplained in comments?

Cross posted

Which may account for what Prof. Barres calls the main difference he has noticed since changing sex. “People who do not know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect,” he says. “I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man.”

Read the whole thing: He, Once a She, Offers Own View On Science Spat

H/T: Ophelia Benson, at Butterflies and Wheels

A photo essay on the Iliad

Troy, built of blocks


Greece, built with Lego, with a solitary figure


Troy, trashed. No people.

Troy redux


Public schools in secular Australia have religious education, or scripture, classes. NB: That would be Christian scripture. Children of godless atheists, children of Jewish people, children of Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus get to kick their heels doing nothing, or may get a supervised class elsewhere, if they’re lucky. So the St James Ethics Centre has developed a set of secular ethics lessons which could be offered as a viable alternative to scripture classes for children who parents do not want them to attend classes in Christian scripture. The classes will be trialled in New South Wales this year, but predictably, some Christians think the sky will fall. Apparently, you can’t teach ethics without referring to Christianity. Mindy has written about that nonsensical claim at Hoyden about Town: Values are not exclusively Christian.

But some Christians can’t help meddling. The Anglican Archbishop of New South Wales has inserted himself into the trial, even though he refused to meet with representatives from the St James Ethics Centre. Apparently even just teaching secular ethics in schools will put scripture classes in grave danger of being canceled, and that amounts to being mean to Christians.

”Be warned: if the government allows this course to continue after the trial, it will jeopardise religious education in public schools,” Dr Jensen wrote in the Anglican newspaper Southern Cross. ”Without such a religious component, public schools will cease to be inclusive of all children.”

So it’s okay to run scripture classes that exclude atheists, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other non-Christian faiths, but it’s not okay to offer an alternative alongside Christian scripture, because that would exclude Christians.

Can anyone explain that thinking to me?

Draft national curriculum communication fail

Julia Gillard has launched a draft national curriculum today.

Whatever the content of the curriculum, the website where you can actually get to see it is a communication FAIL. Unsurprisingly, it’s been very hard to access it today, but you would think that some additional grunt would have been hired, temporarily, to cope with first day demand. If you are so lucky as to be able to get to the site, you are greeted with a video, and a request that you watch the video before accessing the rest of the site. That video is nearly 15 minutes long. Life is too short… There’s a very revealing line in the transcript: “Once you’re on the site…”

Once you read the transcript, it becomes clear that the video is mostly faffy fluff, with very little information that couldn’t have been conveyed quickly and easily through clear navigation panels, and a bit of text. My time is quite important to me, and I’m not interested in spending it watching some talking heads telling me how to find my way around a website.

Some of the site is accessible at a click, but to get to the guts of the curriculum, rather than the aspirational goals and overviews and big picture ideas, you have to register. That’s not register to comment, but register to just take a look. That’s quite a barrier to understanding what is going on, and a barrier to participation.

Registration to comment? I’m fine with that, especially when this is a serious effort by the federal government to get serious feedback on a serious matter. But I’ve no doubt that many people won’t even want to take a look if they have to register. Or is the government deliberately trying to reduce the number of people who get involved?

But what about the parents?

As part of its coalition agreement with the National party, ACT was promised a working party on school choice. Their basic idea is that the top 5% and the bottom 20% of students should be identified, and then those students and their parents can choose to go to different schools for different classes, depending on their needs. So a child might go to one school (“provider” in the report’s language) for one class, and another school for another class, and back to their base school for the rest of their education, taking the relevant portions of funding with them wherever they go. You can download the whole report if you like (Step Change: Success the only Option, Report of the Inter-Party Working Group for School Choice – PDF 2.3MB) but I wouldn’t bother. It seems to be a very thin piece of research, channeling ACT market ideology. Even so, the two ACT MPs on the committee don’t think it goes far enough: they’re releasing their own minority report.

You will no doubt already be thinking that this is vouchers in disguise, but frankly, I’d rather have vouchers than this ill-thought-through nonsense. Over at Red Alert, Kelvin Davis has been doing an excellent job taking the report apart. In his most recent post, he takes on the logistics question. That is, how on earth are we going to get 25% of the school children in New Zealand on the move each day, to get to their specialist classes. ACT et al have suggested buses, but I bet you that just won’t happen. Instead, as usual with New Zealand public schools, there won’t be enough money to fund the activities and extra education properly, so any parents who want to help their children to take advantage of the extra education on offer will end up running a taxi service themselves. And what that will mean is more cars on the roads, more parents juggling work and childcare and education commitments, more organisation just to keep your family arrangements ticking over.

None of these things are difficult in themselves, but add them as yet another thing to already stretched households where the adults are working full or near full time, or to already stretched households where paid work is scarce so there’s just no spare money for running the car much, and you have a recipe for outrageous stress.

You know what would be really, really nice? It would be great to be able to drop the kids at the local school, and be confident that no matter which school they were at, they were going to get the best possible education, because the school was adequately resourced to teach kids of all abilities. No running about like headless chooks just to get the children to a school where the education they need is available, because it’s available right in their neighbourhood, where their lives are physically located.

Education is not just about kids and schools. It’s about kids and schools and parents and caregivers. Any education policy needs to think about all three of those things.

A crude analysis of Adelaide schools

I’ve put together a spreadsheet of NAPLAN results for Adelaide schools. NB: Not all Adelaide schools! ‘Though I like data and analyis, and I enjoy books filled with things that I already know, set out fair and square with no contradictions, spending that many hours on the My School website would just be very, very sad. I’ve concentrated on the schools in to the immediate north, east and south of the city centre. Please, let me know if there are schools that I’ve missed that you would like to see added to the analysis, and I will update my lists and the graphics below. And contact me if you would like me to send my spreadsheet to you, at my hotmail address, where I use dfr141 as my handle. Yes, the school my daughters go to is in the list, as is the secondary school we think they will attend.

The analysis is crude: I am no statistician. However I do know enough to exclude very small schools, such as the Sturt St Community School, because the very small year group sizes there mean that the data from the school is much more subject to variability.

The upshot of the analysis: the schools with the highest averages are private schools, but some public schools are level pegging with them, more or less, and many public schools are doing better than many private schools. If you have the money, and your child is a girl, then the Wilderness School looks very good indeed. Pembroke is also very good, but given the expense, it’s not clear why you would choose these schools over some of the very good state schools, such as Glenunga International, and Marryatville High School, which are performing at more-or-less the same level. The principal of one not-so-well performing private school has said that of course, they offer a rounded education, and they educate the whole person [link]. In what, I ask? Most of the state schools claim to do that too, and some of the money that parents don’t spend on high fees is often spent on “whole person” stuff, such as music lessons and drama lessons and sports clubs and the like. That’s our approach, over and above our commitment to public education (our attitudes to state education are perhaps skewed by coming from New Zealand, where only 5% of children go to private schools).

If you take a look at the website of one high profile private school, you will see that they boast of having educated 3 Nobel laureates, 41 Rhodes scholars, and 8 Premiers. So, to me, it looks as though what they are selling is privilege, the sort of privilege that helps you to know the right people (a very important thing in Adelaide, I’ve found), to establish the right connections, to be the right sort of chap. Lovely.

Given that the private schools don’t really do any better than public schools, with a couple of exceptions (that would be Wilderness and Pembroke), I have to conclude that what the private schools are selling is not education, but snobbery, the ability to say, “Oh yes, darling, my children are being educated at [fill in the private school of your choice here].” I feel deeply uncomfortable about these sorts of attitudes, and I’ve been uncomfortable about them ever since we moved here. So much for egalitarianism.

Okay…. rant over. My very very crude averaging of schools’ scores on the NAPLAN test follows. All the usual caveats apply! I’ve used Year 7 results to rank primary schools, and year 9 results to rank secondary schools (primary school goes from Reception to year 7, and secondary school from year 8 to year 12, in South Australia). I’ve simply averaged the results in each curriculum area – Reading, Writing, Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation, Numeracy – to get a score for the school. This means that I’ve given far more weight to literacy skills than to numeracy skills. I suppose I could have done something a little more complicated, like averaging the four literacy skills and then averaging that score with the numeracy score to get an overall result for each school… but that looks just as value-laden as a simple average. I’ve included each school’s ICSEA number; that’s a measure of socio-economic advantage. But again, caveats! Please, do contact me if you want the full spreadsheets: I’m very happy to share.

Primary schools

Secondary schools