The My ***7 Decade series – and another shot at 2007

I have enjoyed the gallop back decade by decade to 1947. The effect on my blog has been clear too:

Screenshot - 11_01_2017 , 8_48_36 AM

That’s this morning’s stats, and that peak on 4 January is the best day ever on this blog! The details for January thus far:

  1. My 1947: Shellharbour 173 views to 11 January 2016
  2. My 1977: Alexandra Road, Glebe 10
  3. 2016 – surreal year goes at last 8
  4. My 1997: Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills 6
  5. My 2007: retired and blogging 6

The Shellharbour post owes most of that to Shellharbour History in Photos on Facebook.

Yesterday’s 2007 post left out a dominant event. Who can forget it?

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And then there’s this issue, surfacing again now thanks to Mr Potato Head:

That idiotic citizenship “test”

16 AUG 2007

My impatience with this particular piece of gross idiocy has been made plain here often enough. So has my enjoyment of the magazine The Big Issue. Both came together yesterday as I read the new Big Issue (the annual short story number) where I spotted in the “Hearsay” column the following from writer, director, actor, teacher and former Young Australian of the Year Khoa Do.

“In the world I grew up in, a lot of people and their parents struggled to speak English,” he said. “Now they are successful in a whole range of fields. My parents are always learning and always trying. Asking whether people who don’t speak fluent English can contribute to Australia is like asking whether a blind or deaf person can contribute. Of course they can.”

I sourced that to an article by Jonathan Pearlman in the Moruya/Bateman’s Bay News. (Good to see regional papers running such stories, though it was in turn sourced to the Sydney Morning Herald.)

…The Immigration and Citizenship Minister, Kevin Andrews, under pressure over the Haneef affair, has announced that future tests for migrants will place greater emphasis on integration, including factors such as an ability to speak English and a willingness to learn the language.

The rules could potentially have precluded vast segments of the population from immigrating, including prominent Australians such as the boxer Kostya Tszyu, the businessman Frank Lowy, the scientist Professor Sir Gustav Nossal – and Mr Andrews’s assistant minister for immigration and citizenship, Teresa Gambaro.

Ms Gambaro, whose parents were born in Italy and could not speak English when they arrived in north Queensland in the 1950s, yesterday voiced support for the Government’s plan.

“My family came with a very positive attitude and they did integrate and learn English,” Ms Gambaro, the MP for Petrie in Brisbane, told the Herald. “But we are talking about a different era. We needed manual workers back then. The need to speak English is different now … But I don’t think the intention is to preclude somebody based on one factor.”

Mr Andrews yesterday lauded the new immigration procedures and declared he would not “be scared off by people who don’t stand up for Australians”. “Look, I think the Australian people are quite clear about this,” he told Radio 2GB’s Ray Hadley. “They want us to be tough and they want us to make sure that Australia’s protected and they know that there are people in the world who have a different view.”

Mr Andrews said the procedures, to start early next year, would examine people’s willingness to integrate and were not an “English test”.

“We bring people now from all countries and all sorts of countries in the world,” he said. “Many of those countries don’t necessarily share our values … We’ve got to balance up bringing people from overseas but with an ability to actually be able to properly settle and integrate into the Australian society. I think that’s what Australians want.”

The pole vaulter Tatiana Grigorieva, who arrived from Russia in 1997 and won a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics, said she would not have passed an immigration test if English skills had been a factor.

“I would have struggled with any sort of test,” she said. “I think it depends how far you take it and how difficult the test is. I would probably have tried to learn English before I came. I am very glad I came to Australia. I will try to make this place a little bit better than before I came.”

Sir Gustav, who fled Vienna with his parents in 1939 and was Australian of the Year in 2000 for his work in immunology, also said he would have been barred if ability to speak English had been a factor. “I agree that people should learn English as fast as possible if they desire to stay here,” he said. “My parents had very little English when they arrived but were strongly committed to adapting and to learning the language. I have no reverence for people who want to ghettoise themselves.”

Kostya Tszyu, a Russian-born boxing champion who came here when he was 22, said immigrants should be encouraged to learn English but should not be barred based solely on language. “It took time to learn English. Sometimes now I even think in English. My parents came here in their 50s. It took them a bit longer and now they have no problem chatting to their neighbours. Now we live in the best country in the world.”

They want us to be tough and they want us to make sure that Australia’s protected and they know that there are people in the world who have a different view… Trouble is the Citizenship Test would achieve none of these aims. Any terrorist or mad bastard of any kind would have no trouble going through these particular hoops if he/she really wanted to, but in the meantime a far greater number of innocent bystanders would be disadvantaged by the fact, despite Kevin Andrews’ denial, that this is an English test, being in English. This stupid populism Ray Hadley may well have bought, along with many of his listeners, but I don’t. You don’t have to be a genius to realise how pointless the whole exercise is.

See also “Mum can be proud that she Singers well” by Khoa Do (4 August 2007).

…For the first decade of Mum’s life in Australia, that’s all she really knew. To put her children through school, to clothe and feed them, she worked in sewing factories – for many hours a day, sometimes seven days a week. It’s hard to learn English if you’re overlocking, stitching, cutting, labelling, hemming. Even if you have a set of learning tapes, as we had.

Throughout her life she has been trying to learn English with the Adult Migrant English Service. But she has had limited success. I remember the first time she went to learn English – she came back that afternoon and asked me to explain the meaning of an adverb. An adverb! Far out, how do you explain to your dear mother, who lived through the Vietnam War, fled the country by boat, raised three children on her own, spent a million hours of her life hunched over a Singer, what an adverb is? Especially when you were too busy talking about whether Spiderman would beat Superman, during the lesson on adverbs in year seven. Poor Mum, I failed in teaching her what an adverb was, and soon after she gave up on learning English.

… I think that for some people, learning English in the first few years of arriving in Australia is really tough. And as I begin thinking about the many people I know, I start to wonder whether their parents would have passed a test in English to become a citizen. Let’s see, there’s my doctor, Dr Tuan. No chance. His father and mother were from the countryside. I think about my friend, now a social worker. No chance. One of my close friends is a high school English teacher, the best in her school – and no, her parents wouldn’t have passed either. As I think about it, a lot of people I know have parents who would have struggled with a test in English. Ultimately, they would’ve failed in becoming Australian citizens and their children wouldn’t be here now.

You’re probably wondering what has happened to my mum and her English. Several years ago my wonderful brother got married, and he had two children. His wife is Suzie; she’s gorgeous and she’s Anglo-Australian. Their two boys, Luc and Xavier, mainly speak English at home. Mum wants to be able to speak to her grandchildren, so yes, she’s studying English again, in her 50s. Once again I find myself helping her out with her comprehension tests and grammar…

That our supposedly intelligent leaders (with some noble back-bench exceptions) have enthused over Anderson’s (originally Robb’s, for which read Howard’s) heap of steaming ordure is just typical, isn’t it? I think it shows just how far backwards we have come under the reign of the Great Grey Garden Gnome of Kirribilli House.

“Trust us! We are EXPERIENCED!”

Sure are… 😦

Government careers down path of superficial idiocy on citizenship test

27 AUG 2007

NOTE: Updated. I now give the resource book a qualified . Remarks below offer some qualifications, while others, especially about the TEST, still hold.

The singularly unimpressive Kevin Andrews was told how stupid this is over and over again. Go there and download whichever you choose; naturally I recommend (PDF) ATESOL’s contribution on behalf of ESL teachers — I can hardly improve on it. But The Garden Gnome wanted it and Andrews delivered and so the country is stuck with an English test that masquerades as something to do with benchmarks for attaining a successful Australian citizenship.

The Book of Knowledge (in English of course) does not appear to be available online yet*, so I have had to rely on the version presented today in the Sydney Morning Herald: I pledge allegiance to ? the Don. Nothing in there, it would appear, about the Eight Hour Movement or the Harvester Judgement, whose centenary occurs this year, but that is hardly surprising. Meanwhile not one person who represents any kind of threat to the Australian way of life will be deterred by this fatuous yet discriminatory exercise. But the government will seem to be doing something significant, and that is all that matters perhaps.

The Herald does provide these sample questions:

1. In what year did Federation take place?
2. Which day of the year is Australia Day?
3. Who was the first Prime Minister of Australia?
4. What is the first line of Australia’s national anthem?
5. What is the floral emblem of Australia?
6. What is the population of Australia?
7. In what city is the Parliament House of the Commonwealth Parliament located?
8. Who is the Queen’s representative in Australia?
9. How are Members of Parliament chosen?
10. Who do Members of Parliament represent?
11. After a federal election, who forms the new government?
12. What are the colours on the Australian flag?
13. Who is the head of the Australian Government?
14. What are the three levels of government in Australia?
15. In what year did the European settlement of Australia start?
16. Serving on a jury if required is a responsibility of Australian citizenship: true or false?
17. In Australia, everyone is free to practice the religion of their choice, or practice no religion: true of false?
18. To be elected to the Commonwealth Parliament you must be an Australian citizen: true or false?
19. As an Australian citizen, I have the right to register my baby born overseas as an Australian citizen: true or false?
20. Australian citizens aged 18 years or over are required to enrol on the electoral register: true or false?

You don’t need answers, do you?

There will be a nice little earner in Citizenship Tuition though. Perhaps I should set aside part of English/ESL

logo.gifM would have failed, I suspect, had he been confronted with this when he became a citizen. His citizenship, and his right to it, is nonetheless beyond question in my book. Such knowledge (where relevant) has come his way since through simply being an Australian citizen and an intelligent and curious participant in Australian life. Let’s face it: there are some items even in those 20 Questions that simply don’t matter, mixed up with other items that clearly do matter.Trivial Pursuit, essentially, as I have said before! Clicking the logo on the right could take you to the Australian government’s new citizenship test kit then…

Surely the real issue is what contribution people can make to Australia, not what superficial book-learning they may have about Australia.

I have added a new tag, you may notice. While tagging past entries I notice the citizenship test idea was first raised by Andrew Robb (Howard glove puppet?) in April 2006, when I described it as “one of those simplistic nostrums that occur to people over a few beers or while ringing talk-back radio”; later, in December 2006 the PM had embraced the idea — unsurprising really — as “designed to remove divisions in Australian society.” How that works is anyone’s guess; it may in fact have the opposite effect. I went on in December 2006: “Is this scheme going to address community issues in any significant way? No, it won’t. It is a facile scheme, in my view; but that is of course just my view.” Nothing since has led to a change of heart.

* A DRAFT Citizenship Test Resource Book is [was?] now available here. The Harvester Judgement is mentioned. I don’t have too much of a problem with the resource book, from a first reading. I think ALL Australians should have one. I suggest there is material in there that many fourth or fifth generation Australians would be unsure about. I still object to an arbitrary TEST based on this as being of much value. I also suggest the Resource Book should be made available — like the Road Rules — in a variety of community languages, as happens, for example, at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission site. There was a time not so long ago when it would simply have been assumed this would happen in order that the information therein reached, and was understood by, as many people as possible. A CD version for the visually impaired would be nice too, and a DVD/CD-ROM — why not if Spicks and Specks can do it? — or interactive web version, even better if also in a range of community languages…

It IS an English Test!

When you get to the “how to do the test” section at the end of the booklet you discover that it really is an English test. It even tells you how to learn enough English to pass, using AMEP to do so. Naturally, this advice is in English… No sense of irony, these people.

Finally:

Hollow desperation: John Howard on education — TV review bonus

14 MAY 2007

That’s my first impression of Howard’s attempt just tonight to undo Kevin Rudd’s progress on the schools front. I only have the news report to go on at this stage. I will follow it up later. Still following Kevin (the D-word one)down the yellow brick road, it appears.

“Perhaps in speaking about this issue, I’ll again be accused by my opponents of being captive to old ideas,” he said.

“Perhaps a well-ordered classroom where teachers have authority is an old idea, but more importantly, it’s a good idea.”

Mr Howard says the number of students who are under performing is still too high.

He says Australia needs to aim higher than minimum international benchmarks.

“The year three, five and seven literacy and numeracy testing implemented at the Australian Government’s request show that about 10 per cent of students are not meeting basic benchmarks in basic literacy and numeracy,” he said.

“Worryingly, performance actually declines at higher levels of schooling.”

Pure Kevin D. And yes, a well-ordered classroom is a good idea. John should take a year working in one of our more interesting schools and see what his politics actually does in the real world, with or without the principal having the right to hire and fire. Let’s see how good he would be at spotting and actually dealing with bullying in a school of maybe 1200 kids. Let’s see if he could come up with some brilliant scheme better than what is already in place. Let’s see if he knew what to do with the “stupid children.” (I might add I had little idea for the first five years or so of teaching.) Let’s watch him effect the miracle of making more than 50% of the children come out above average. Or Julie Bishop ditto.

Bloody wastes of space both of them…

“Soulless etc. Economic service etc.” Julie is explaining now on Lateline why Labor is wrong. What is “quality” Julie? Do you even know? Does it include actual critical thinking? Or is it just, as I suspect, a buzz word. “Labor is just about numbers.” This is such hypocrisy when the bloody government has been all about numbers and economics for the past ten bloody years! Except when they’ve been hijacking education (or trying to) in the interests of the most conservative “values”… Their values. And complaining about “ridiculous” Education Union submissions that point out that some really important aspects of education may not be measurable in standardised tests — a truism really: love of poetry is hard to measure, just for starters…

“Choice!” “Basic skills!” All the tired old mantras… God I am sick of this mob. And why are they complaining about Labor being bean counters when they want to standardise test the system to death?

But then I have just been watching The Bastard Boys. Some interesting values education could come out of the study of that, don’t you think? Michael Duffy has, predictable as tomorrow’s sunrise, shown where he stands on that, you may have noted. Since Corrigan is not unambiguously the hero and the trade unionists are shown as human, it must have been “biassed.” “Bias” is bad, if it is on the non-Howard side. On the other hand, hagiography is good, if it is on the Howard side. I thought the series remarkable. Corrigan did not appear as Satan after all. It did show that the unions had to change. It did show that the status quo before these events encompassed quite unreasonable conditions and perks on the waterfront. It also showed, of course, that there may well have been — indeed almost certainly was — a conspiracy here at the highest levels. It reminded us again of Peter Reith, God save us! It reminded us of how far this government has been willing to go on its ideological mission. If you want facts and documents about those 1998 events, go to The 1998 Waterfront Dispute on the Australian Politics site.

The irony of what Julie is saying (back to Lateline) is that all the things the government claims they OWN are actually just as attainable, so far as they ought to be attained, under Rudd’s policies, but without killing public education in the process…

Julie is spouting cliches upon cliches… Much of it is motherhood stuff. Of course bullying is bad, and of course schools are addressing it. But the Australian government doesn’t actually run a single school itself, so they can monster and blame whoever they like really… Especially if the monstering and blaming elicit the kind of fear and distrust which the Libs so love as they continue their ideological mission.

That was a rave and rant post, but that doesn’t make it wrong…

Next day

I have written again, as you probably have seen, in the light of what John Howard actually said, focusing especially on bullying in schools. Also, on Bastard Boys I am pleased (and surprised a little) to see Jim Belshaw is in broad agreement with my assessment of the program.

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