What was I up to in March 2002/2007

These retro posts are meant to be at five year intervals, but alas because of the sad fate of Diary-X most of 2002 is missing. I have however found one entry on the Internet Archive which at least shows what is missing.

Ninglun’s Books and Ideas: new series

31 Mar 2002 – Not unexpected.
29 Mar 2002 – Minds to treasure, and other matters.
28 Mar 2002 – Dramatic story, predictable response
27 Mar 2002 – Am I a puritan?
25 Mar 2002 – On keeping an online diary
24 Mar 2002 – What a wonderful day!
23 Mar 2002 – It’s a funny world, isn’t it?
21 Mar 2002 – Not when I was at University
20 Mar 2002 – Finis: Justice Kirby story
20 Mar 2002 – Minefields: many will disagree.
19 Mar 2002 – Feedback
18 Mar 2002 – Hefferlump self-destructs!!!
18 Mar 2002 – Trying to keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, etc.
17 Mar 2002 – Patrick Cook does it better…
16 Mar 2002 – More on the Kirby story
15 Mar 2002 – Here we go again
14 Mar 2002 – News causes diary to reopen
12 Mar 2002 – WATCH THIS SPACE
11 Mar 2002 – This diary is closed–for the time being at least…
11 Mar 2002 – Strive for balance in your life
10 Mar 2002 – We were not amused: Matthew Shepard did NOT deserve it.
09 Mar 2002 – Am I a turnip?
08 Mar 2002 – Dilemmas and hopes
06 Mar 2002 – Two cases of debunking…
05 Mar 2002 – On suffering at university?
04 Mar 2002 – Some nice bits of dissent…
03 Mar 2002 – Mardi Gras, morality and the open society–oh, and James Joyce. Later thoughts prompted by P Akerman.
02 Mar 2002 – Mainly on S I Hayakawa
01 Mar 2002 – Great movie, good company, challenging thoughts.

Those are dead links.

Now to March 2007.

Great pic from The Poet in Victoria

30 MAR 2007

triathletes come ashore

On a more personal note

30 MAR

Yesterday morning I spent time with Lord Malcolm, going with him to physiotherapy at the hospice and witnessing how he has virtually no muscles on his legs, and seeing both the determination and the pain as he did some gentle exercises. We then had coffee in the hospice coffee shop, wheeled out to look at Green Park for a while, and then back so he could be sent for another x-ray — some problem with the feeding tube.

Before tuition in Chinatown I had a call from ex-student Ross (class of 1976). We met and had a really good if shortish chat. Here is what one of Ross’s classmates has been up to, having diverged somewhat from Law.

Post against stereotypes…

26 MAR

I am at the moment wading through the white-hot prose of Londonistan. It was good then to drop in on Madhab al-Irfy, Irfan Yusuf’s more Islamic blog: Prayers for Allison Sudrajat (14 March 2007). Allison was the AusAid worker killed in the recent plane crash in Indonesia.

Tomorrow at 1:30pm, after dhuhr prayer, Canberra’s small Muslim community will join friends and family of Allison Sudrajat for a traditional Muslim janaza (funeral) prayer service followed by burial…

Read the post and think “Muslim humanitarian” for a change…

Lord Malcolm’s trip to Victoria

25 MAR

I expect to hear from Sirdan later this morning how this quite amazing trip worked out yesterday. Sirdan was accompanying him. When I visited Lord Malcolm on Friday he was psyched up for it, albeit still in the Hospice and with a feeding tube down his nose…

Later

Just got that call. They made it and it went well except Lord M ran out of steam about 1 pm and needed medical help, which was on site at the Air Show. They got back to Sydney safely. I am having lunch with Sirdan later today. No doubt I will hear more then. Lord Malcolm himself (by phone) says he had a fantastic day. 🙂

And later

After lunch at the Porter House Irish pub Sirdan and I visited Lord M, but he was too exhausted. Happy though. He really was given royal treatment at the Air Show yesterday. Sirdan’s part in that venture can’t be praised too much. He and Lord M did something almost everyone thought was impossible.

Voted, melted, and saw wildlife in Surry Hills

24 MAR

So here I am back from tutoring in Chinatown and voting in Riley Street. And is it ever hot! Daylight saving ends tonight, yet at 2pm it was near enough to 35C here in Surry Hills. (That’s 90+ for those who use F still.) On the way to tutoring I saw the biggest flock of cockatoos — right near Central Station — that I can ever recall seeing in Sydney. There must have been a hundred of them. They seemed to fill the space between Central and the buildings on the corner of Elizabeth and Foveaux. Strayed in from points west because of drought?

cockatoos.jpg

I took that from Charlie Moores’ Bird Blog, on a page well worth looking at showing Sydney’s Botanical Gardens.

That was quite an Aboriginal moment too, as somewhere in Central someone was playing the didgeridoo giving the whole scene a rather magic quality — well giving that to me at least.

And then I voted. Yes, not Labor. Yes, not Liberal…. In neither House.

Another voice against torture

16 MAR

(a) We renounce the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by any branch of our government (or any other government)—even in the current circumstance of a war between the United States and various radical terrorist groups.

(b) We call for the extension of basic human rights and procedural protections to all persons held in United States custody now or in the future, wherever and by whomever they are held.

(c) We call for every agency of the United States government to join with the United States military and to state publicly its commitment to the terms of the Geneva Conventions related to the treatment of prisoners, especially Common Article 3.

(d) We call for the legislative or judicial reversal of those executive and legislative provisions that violate the moral and legal standards articulated in this declaration.

Now who do you think that was? Amnesty? Human Rights Watch? The ACLU?

No: think Evangelicals for Human Rights. See Jim Wallis Thursday, March 15, 2007.

When I was a twenty-something conservative in transition…

11 MAR

… at Dapto High School south of Wollongong, a colleague in the English Department was Dale Spender, who once told me that if I didn’t have shit for brains I might know what she was talking about. Trouble is, she was probably right at the time. Dale went on to a career much more spectacular than mine. To give Dale her due, she knew far more back then than most of us did about how to deal effectively with some of the less able (as in “IQ too low to assess”) and more disadvantaged students we had, and I did learn much from her.

I see she has entered the current silly education debate: Now the class scapegoat is the teacher.

No one has a good word to say about teachers. Not so long ago they were well-informed and well-respected members of the community whose advice was sought after and highly valued.

Today, if you are to believe the Government’s condemnations and the media coverage, teachers have had a spectacular fall from grace.

Press stories over the past decade accuse teachers of everything from illiteracy and incompetence to outright ill will. A few regular media commentators charge classroom teachers with left-wing tendencies, lowering standards, and with throwing out the worthwhile curriculum in favour of “dumbing down”.

Yet no hard evidence of the harmful behaviour of teachers is provided. Rather teachers are being made the scapegoats for the disruptive changes that are under way in society – and in education. For education consultants [it] is so much easier to blame the teachers than it is to look more intelligently and constructively at the problems and pressures of the 21st-century classroom; and at the failure of the nation to properly fund the information-education revolution.

Teachers have been caught up in the turmoil of educational change, but they have not been supported with the resources to make the massive leap from traditional education to computer-based classrooms.

Teachers can teach only what they are taught. Now that they have to learn the art of teaching with the new technologies, they need information, facilities, and a great deal of encouragement. Without such support, it is the teachers who have the genuine grievances: they could put at the top of their list the counterproductive smear tactics used against them by Commonwealth educational advisers and ministers…

Each year teachers are asked to do more: more national testing, more meaningful reporting on students, more social welfare tasks and more new technology courses. And each year teachers are blamed for more school failures, more lapses of discipline, and more of society’s ills. Teaching is the most demanding job ever devised yet the teachers’ side of the story is rarely heard; they can’t “tell someone who cares”. The profession is so badgered and abused, the wonder of it is that there are not more of its members walking out the door.

The bad press that teachers get is not the only source of low morale. Teachers know that there can be no art of teaching with technology when the technology does not work. Spare a thought for the masses of overworked, dedicated teachers who stretch themselves to prepare exciting internet-based lessons only to enter the class of 30 eager, energised students, and find that the computers have crashed, and the network is down. Such disasters can be an everyday occurrence. And although this is definitely not the teachers’ fault, they who must deal with the dire consequences when their anticipated mind-expanding learning experience turns into a nightmare.

One might well ask how teachers’ critics and Co would stare down such high-maintenance students: it would take more than a pile of platitudes and a dose of Shakespeare…

Well, as for technology… I’m here, aren’t I? I suspect that Dale overstates her case a little in that article. It would have been more true ten years ago. It certainly was true of me ten years ago. Nonetheless, she has a better understanding of what is happening out there in the schools than many of her opposing commentators.

In her column today Miranda Devine praises the recently established Redfern Exodus centre which aims to provide intensive remedial reading to children in Years 3 to 6 who have fallen behind. It is a good project, housed at the moment by my very own church, South Sydney Uniting Church, but run by the Exodus Foundation of Ashfield Uniting Church. The methodology employed derives from the Macquarie University’s phonics-centred approach, and that is Miranda’s angle: the success of the MULTILIT programs underscores the tragedy of so many other young lives wasted – countless smart children who believe they are stupid because they haven’t been taught to read. I do not knock what is happening in Redfern, but do suggest Miranda (all praise to her though for supporting the venture) is unfair in her ideological stance. More “countless” than the numbers of students benefitting from this intervention are the numbers of students who do not need it because they have in fact been taught to read. No single factor explains the issues that led the minority being helped in this and similar programs to their present plight, though more adequate staffing and funding of remediation programs in schools both public and private would no doubt have helped. There are, even so, “countless” students who are assisted within the system and who therefore never need a Redfern program. For very many students the NSW government’s Reading Recovery program has been especially effective. I have seen it done, and spent a year some time back in a research project tracking its effects in a number of schools in a more disadvantaged part of the south-eastern suburbs. (See also Research in Reading Recovery.)

pic2.jpg

Reading Recovery session at Brookvale Public School Sydney.

One key to both the Redfern program and the Reading Recovery program is individualised intensive tuition. It is a fact too that provision for such individual help after Year 2 in the system is inadequately funded.

All ideology aside, I wish all such programs success.

Forgotten and surprising facts on 21st century religion

02 MAR

That same issue of Atlantic Monthly from which I drew the previous entry also took me to The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. There is a fascinating survey there called Spirit and Power: a 10 country survey of Pentecostals. Some definition: “By all accounts, pentecostalism and related charismatic movements represent one of the fastest-growing segments of global Christianity. According to the World Christian Database, at least a quarter of the world’s 2 billion Christians are thought to be members of these lively, highly personal faiths, which emphasize such spiritually renewing “gifts of the Holy Spirit” as speaking in tongues, divine healing and prophesying. Even more than other Christians, pentecostals and other renewalists believe that God, acting through the Holy Spirit, continues to play a direct, active role in everyday life.”

Go to the survey report for yourself, but I place below two of several interesting fact boxes.

numbers.gif scripture.gif

A nice dilemma here in the political correctness and cultural relativity department: how to assert principles of universal human rights without cultural imperialism or belittling the right to difference in other cultures and consequently being ignored. Take Nigeria for example:

A proposed Nigerian law banning same-sex marriages is a threat to democracy, says Human Rights Watch. Writing to the Nigerian Senate, they said the legislation, “contravenes the basic rights to freedom of expression, conscience, association, and assembly”. The rights group urges the Nigerian National Assembly to reject the bill.

If the proposed law is approved, anyone who speaks out or forms a group supporting gay and lesbian rights could be imprisoned.

The bill has divided both chambers of the Nigerian parliament as some MPs see legislation as a move to save Nigerian morals and cultural values. Others legislators who reject it say it say it is anti-freedom and portrays Nigeria’s democracy in bad light…

Naturally I side with Human Rights Watch on this one. You can see the problem though, can’t you? In our focus on the USA and Australia we often forget the rest of humanity, and we forget that Christian fundamentalism is even more alive and well in developing countries than it is in the USA or Australia. We also forget that there is a positive side to this in terms of lives turned around, services delivered, and self-esteem restored; we need to set that against the dark side, the questions of gay rights, AIDS prevention and so on. I see a dilemma. Do you?

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