Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Snippets

Well, my girls have indeed arrived back in Australia and very exciting it was too! Lots of travel stories and showings of new clothes and shoes. Then last night Dee and I went out to dinner with old friends of mine that I had not seen for thirty years since they moved to Hong Kong.

Both a reasonably fluent in Chinese - Cantonese as well as Mandarin - and lived in Hong Kong over that period from British colony to today's Hong Kong. It was a pleasant and interesting evening. Perhaps the biggest change in Australia that they have noticed since their return has been the rise of a fairly brash Australian nationalism,

This came up in a discussion on some of the Australia media commentary on the Vancouver Winter Olympics. These - the games - have been quite fun to watch, in part because I keep seeing shots of Vancouver that I recognise from last year. But some of the Australian reporting makes me cringe.

Monday sees the release of new draft national curriculum in various subject areas. So far we only have newspaper reports to go on.

 Neil's professional response based only on reporting was that the English curriculum looks pretty good, newspaper reports on the history curriculum made me very cautious, while the reports on the science curriculum really have Legal Eagle up in arms.

As it happened, a week back in Around New England's Universities February 2010 I did one of my periodic round-ups of university news. One of the stories that I picked up there was a story from the University of New England on science education. I wrote:   

"The University also reported the results of an unexpected finding in a new research report on science education commissioned by the National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR) at the University that involved around 590 teachers and 3,800 students throughout the country.

Despite the current serious decline in the proportion of senior high-school students taking science subjects, there has been no corresponding decline in students’ enjoyment of science, their appreciation of its importance to society, or their interest in science careers.

If I understand the results correctly, the crux of the problem lies not in lack of interest, but rather in a widening of school choices that has reduced the role of traditional science core subjects."

I found this interesting at the time, more so in light of LE's response.

Risk and risk taking was another topic at last night's dinner. Australia's changing attitude to risk was another thing my friends had noticed on their return. Again as it happened, this morning I read Ramana's post, The Wildest Thing That I Did In My Youth:

We were a bunch of wild Hyderabadi young men with plenty of hard earned money in our pockets with a passion was motor cycle racing.

I find it interesting just how many older Australians (me included) have a certain nostalgia for things they did in their youth that are now verboten. Some were, in fact, verboten then!  During the week another post that struck a chord with me was Le Loup's Primitive Camping, what I think it is and is not. This has given me at least the title - Playing with fire - for my next Armidale Express column. 

Stubborn Mule has launched a new discussion forum, Mule Stable demo video. I saw this earlier and have had a bit of a look. I will be interested in how it goes.  Staying with SM, Junk Charts #3 – US Business Lending is one of those regular posts SM does de-muling mispresented data. It is worth browsing even if you have no interest in economics or economic matters.

Going back to Hong Kong, hey I like wandering around!, I found Thomas's A look into China interesting. In Australia, the Federal Government's moves to censor the internet keep rumbling along, as does its desire to measure, monitor and record everything. A little while ago, Neil had an interesting post - Has school bullying increased?.

I discussed this issue a little in Where ignorance is bliss. There is no doubt that Facebook and SMS texting have become bullying tools. One point that I have tried to make is the way in which this type of thing hurts so much more because it reduces the bully free space available to bullied kids. I am not a supporter of internet censorship for a whole variety of reasons, but we do need to recognise that there is a genuine problem.

Like many people round the world, I have watched the unfolding events relating to the murder of Mahmud al-Mabhuh with morbid fascination, including the apparent misuse of Australian passports. Nothing like a local angle to add to people's interests. There are a number of strange aspects to the whole affair, including its scale and visibility.

Paul Barratt's Israel and the forged passports provides one local take on the issue. Paul also deals with a purely local Melbourne issue in Clearways: about as bad as it gets. Now here I cannot resist a little dig.

If my memory is correct, when Paul writes Prahran/Armidale, doesn't he mean Arm-a-dale? Arm-i-dale is in New England, Arm-a-dale in Melbourne or, for that, matter Perth. Now this is a bit of an in-dig. Both Paul and I come from Arm-i-dale - you can't get away from us, can you? - and both write about it a fair bit. So this is a case of Paul's past catching up with him.

Finally, two notes on future posts.

I have been meaning for a little while to do a full blog review on Winton Bate's Freedom and Flourishing. And, no, the Jim Winton refers to is not me, although we were together at university in Arm-i-dale (there you go, again!) all those years ago. Winton's is a serious blog with some interesting ideas, so I thought that I should look at them.

And my thanks to Jayne for her comment on Saturday Morning Musings - more problems in public administration. Here Jayne pointed me to a story that I had been meaning to say something on. There is another, more detailed, report that I still have to find.

You see, what I thought that I might do with this story if I can get sufficient information is to subject it to the type of forensic examination that I do from time to time. It actually says a fair bit about what is wrong with the way the Australian political system is currently working. But to really see this, you have to stand back a little and look at some first principles that underpin, or should underpin, the way the system works.     


The ABC blog, The Drum,  carried the following item that bears upon the story that Jayne pointed me to.

Two recent articles in The Age gave a rare insight into the workings of the public service. In one a former defence insider spoke out about a culture of 'excessive spin and unnecessary secrecy' and in the other, a former health department insider dished the dirt. The Federal Health Department issued a furious response which is towards the bottom of this blog.

I followed the links through, but don't have time to comment properly now (I am cooking a roast chook for lunch), so I am recording it so that I don't lose it.  These things really deserve a proper analysis because the issues are by no means clear cut.


Rummuser said...

Playing with fire must be worth waiting for! I hope that you did wilder things than I did!

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Ramana. I was a pretty mild child in some ways! Racing bikes sounds far more dangerous!