Quite a variety in my May 2011 posts

Five years ago, and quite a few posts there that I really haven’t seen for that long…

Going back to Katoomba 60 years ago–Charlie Chaplin’s “Limelight”

Posted on May 17, 2011 by Neil

In 1952 after my sister died Dad took mum and I to Katoomba where we all stayed at a guest house which, at the time, served nothing but minced steak in various guises – or so I announced very loudly at one meal time much to everyone’s amusement: “We’ve had minced steak in every conceivable form…!” I was nine years old at the time.

I am sure this is the guest house. No doubt the menu has improved.







Among other things I recall about that holiday is going to the movies in Katoomba and seeing Limelight. Last night I saw it again, thanks to one of the $2 DVDs I bought at the weekend. Yes, people say it is over-sentimental. This critic adds “verbose” – but I was actually rather taken with how witty and wise some of the dialogue was.  Loved it, even if I wondered how much I had taken in at the age of nine. I do remember loving the music and being intrigued by the ballet sequences – something I had never seen before…

The other thing is I don’t recall who I went with. It’s even possible I was by myself – in fact I think I may have been. Going to the movies at age nine without adults was far from unusual in the early 1950s.


Art by Susan Kistler USA – linked

In Australia we were allowed to see Limelight. In the USA despite its being one of the New York Times top ten in 1952 it was pulled from exhibition. Chaplin was persona non grata for a considerable time…

“NAPLAN risks ‘repeating US mistakes’”–The Australian

Posted on May 3, 2011 by Neil

Oh yes, yes, yes! I have been quiet of late – after all I am no longer in the game, leaving that to such as Mr Rabbit and Thomas. But I can’t say I am unhappy about what Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond said in Sydney yesterday.

ONE of the world’s leading education advisers says Australia is at a crossroads: it can follow the example of the school systems in the highest-achieving nations or it can repeat mistakes made in the US.

Stanford University education professor and some-time adviser to President Barack Obama, Linda Darling-Hammond, yesterday warned against following the path of the US, where student results in multiple-choice literacy and numeracy tests are used to reward and sanction schools.

Professor Darling-Hammond said Australia’s national literacy and numeracy tests, NAPLAN, were not “intellectually ambitious” but “bubble”and provided only limited information about students’ capabilities.

“Tests that make you think and display knowledge in ways which are more rigorous are much better preparation for college and life and careers,” she said. “There are good reasons to have assessments and get information about how people are learning, but you have to worry that the assessments are high quality and really measure what you want to know.

“Making sure kids get the basics, which include the capacity to read real books, to write about their learning, to engage in problem-solving, does mean you have to go beyond multiple-choice testing. It’s a fiction that they capture all you need to know, even at the level of the basics.”…

Even better read what she has to say about Finland.

It is exhausting even to recount the struggles for equitable funding in American schools, much less to be engaged in the struggles, year after year, or – much more debilitating – to be a parent or student who is subject day by day, week by week to the aggressive neglect often fostered in dysfunctional, under-resourced schools.

One wonders what we might accomplish as a nation if we could finally set aside what appears to be our de facto commitment to inequality, so profoundly at odds with our rhetoric of equity, and put the millions of dollars spent continually arguing and litigating into building a high-quality education system for all children. To imagine how that might be done, one can look at nations that started with very little and purposefully built highly productive and equitable systems, sometimes almost from scratch, in the space of only two to three decades.

In this article, I briefly describe how one nation – Finland – built a strong educational system nearly from the ground up. Finland was not succeeding educationally in the 1970s, when the U.S. was the unquestioned education leader in the world. Yet it created a productive teaching and learning system by expanding access while investing purposefully in ambitious educational goals using strategic approaches to build teaching capacity.

I use the term “teaching and learning system” advisedly to describe a set of elements that, when well designed and connected, reliably support all students in their learning. These elements ensure that students routinely encounter well-prepared teachers who are working in concert around a thoughtful, high-quality curriculum, supported by appropriate materials and assessments – and that these elements of the system help students, teachers, leaders, and the system as a whole continue to learn and improve.

While Finland continues to experience problems and challenges, it has created a much more consistently high-quality education system for all of its students than has the United States. And while no system from afar can be transported wholesale into another context, there is much to learn from the experiences of those who have addressed problems we encounter. A sage person once noted that while it is useful to learn from one’s own mistakes and experiences, it is even wiser to learn from those of others. This story is offered with that goal in mind…

Then look at what I have said here in the past, starting with:

Memo to Julie Gillard and Kevin Rudd

Having pumped up an ‘education revolution’ be very careful about visiting sales reps…


You will be very tempted by anyone claiming to have invented an Education Thermometer which, when stuck up the patient’s fundament, will magically tell you just what’s wrong and how to fix it. The more amazing numbers on that thermometer and the more it flashes and whirs the more politicians, bureaucrats and parents believe in its powers…

It’s never so simple…

Yes, we have been roaring down blind alleys…

Yesterday–great but also frustrating

Posted on May 9, 2011 by Neil

I set the tone for some of yesterday by just missing the train I meant to catch to Sydney. Being Wollongong on Sunday that meant an hour wait for the next one. You see I had walked to the station at the crack of dawn, more or less. Sunday buses in the Gong don’t wake up until 8 am. But I may as well have caught the bus, as it happened.

So I waited for the train. with at least some things to see.



I had planned to go to M’s place in East Redfern to water his plants – he’s in the USA at the moment, then to South Sydney Uniting Church, then Surry Hills Library to drop off books, then the Trinity Bar to meet Sirdan and P, and then home.

OK, so now it had to be South Sydney UC first, if late – 10.30 – then to the Library and then the Trinity Bar. That all worked out.

Then to M’s – but that’s when things started getting very frustrating.

I couldn’t get in. The magic key wouldn’t operate the elevator. OK for outer door, f*cked after that…


By then it was around 14.25. A series of just missed buses, trains and connections resulted in my getting back inside the Bates Motel at —


Yes, 6.30pm!

The last half hour was waiting for the barely existent Wollongong Sunday bus service.