Back in November 2005!

Wow, some things I have practically forgotten! Here are some bits from Floating Life, my blog at the time.

MEMORY !: Endoscopy

28 Nov 2005

I recovered from an anaesthetic just over two hours ago, so I trust today’s posts make sense. I do feel OK, and Lord Malcolm delivered me from Bondi to the Juice and Java Lounge in Surry Hills where I ate my first meal since last night’s excellent steak.

By the way, yesterday’s yum cha again: Sirdan did turn up, but not where we did! So some time in the near future we will make use of Ben’s gift.

The endoscopy went OK: one or two matters — a small hiatus hernia, not surprising, and some gastritis, which may be the result of Friday night’s poisonous chili sauce. He took a biopsy or two as well, but nothing promises to be too evil. 🙂

MEMORY 2: Yesterday

22 Nov 2005

Yesterday I was meant to meet early in the morning with The Poet [RJS, former Principal of SBHS] to talk him through how to use the site I set up for him but the probably final illness of his mother-in-law prevented this happening. He is off to the USA shortly to visit his son as well, then moving to Victoria.

Later we were to have coffee with Phil Day*; I went to that. W, the ex-deputy, was there too. Phil’s farewell dinner is Friday week. He will be having another bout of chemotherapy earlier that week, but insists he will be at the dinner. As I said, positive.

*See also these posts from February 2007: Celebration of an amazing man and There were four eulogies yesterday…

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Memory 3: English Teacher moments

19 Nov 2005

English Teacher moments

The link above takes you back to August, when I mentioned Scott Poynting, an ex-student from Wollongong who is now at the University of Western Sydney. Imagine how pleased I was to receive this email the other day.

I had heard from a 1972 classmate about your blog site, but only came across it googling to see whether anyone was mentioning our books (the sort of thing one does when there’s marking to be done). Thank you for the nice things you said about them.

Teaching is far too thankless a pursuit (in comparison to its value). With your extensive networks now, however, you must hear from more ex-students than most. This one wants to thank you for reading aloud to us from ‘The Sound and the Fury’ in 1972, and the love of literature to which that contributed. I went on (after a false start – a floating life, if you like) to study English at UNSW, and studied this novel in first year. I later read all the Faulkner I could get my hands on. Later still, I studied American Literature at Macquarie. Another false start, but a floating I don’t regret.

Thank you, also, for reading to us in 1972 from ‘The Outcasts of Foolgarah’. I later went on to read all the Frank Hardy novels I could get my hands on (and most were better than ‘Outcasts’, though the politics attracted me). By that time I was teaching mathematics – another false start. I read a bit of ‘Outcasts’ to my students last year, in a subject on ‘Social Inequalities’, during a week in which we contrast Woollahra and Bankstown.

Yes, you taught me English. Thank you.

Then after coaching today Ben returned a few books and gave me enough free yum chas to sustain an army; I will be sharing with M, but there is enough in the pot to cover one of the Sunday lunches with Sirdan and Lord Malcolm as well! I also had an email from another coachee, Erwin, who is reading “Paradise Lost”. Indeed, indeed.

MEMORY 4: Deadly Identities – Amin Maalouf

09 Nov 2005 — and just as relevant in November 2017!

This extraordinarily wise book, On Identity (London, Harvill, 2000), is more relevant today than ever.

Sometimes, when I have finished explaining in detail why I fully claim all of my elements, someone comes up to me and whispers in a friendly way: “You were right to say all this, but deep inside of yourself, what do you really feel you are?”

This question made me smile for a long time. Today, it no longer does. It reveals to me a dangerous and common attitude men have. When I am asked who I am “deep inside of myself,” it means there is, deep inside each one of us, one “belonging” that matters, our profound truth, in a way, our “essence” that is determined once and for all at our birth and never changes. As for the rest, all of the rest — the path of a free man, the beliefs he acquires, his preferences, his own sensitivity, his affinities, his life — all these things do not count. And when we push our contemporaries to state their identity, which we do very often these days, we are asking them to search deep inside of themselves for this so-called fundamental belonging, that is often religious, nationalistic, racial or ethnic and to boast it, even to a point of provocation.

Whoever claims a more complex identity becomes marginalized. A young man born in France of Algerian parents is obviously part of two cultures and should be able to assume both. I said both to be clear, but the components of his personality are numerous. The language, the beliefs, the lifestyle, the relation with the family, the artistic and culinary taste, the influences — French, European, Occidental — blend in him with other influences — Arabic, Berber, African, Muslim. This could be an enriching and fertile experience if the young man feels free to live it fully, if he is encouraged to take upon himself his diversity; on the other side, his route can be traumatic if each time he claims he is French, some look at him as a traitor or a renegade, and also if each time he emphasizes his links with Algeria, its history, its culture, he feels a lack of understanding, mistrust or hostility…

…people who belong to different components of society that are violently opposing one another today; people at the border in a way, crossed by lines of ethnic, religious or other fractures. Because of this situation, that I do not dare call “privileged,” these people have a special role to play: building bonds, resolving misunderstandings, reasoning with some, moderating others, smoothing and mending conflicts. Their inherent vocation is to be links, bridges, mediators between different communities and different cultures. This is why their dilemma is full of significance. If these people cannot live their multiple belongings, if they constantly have to choose between one side or the other, if they are ordered to get back to their tribe, we have the right to be worried about the basic way the world functions.

“Have to choose,” “ordered to get back,” I was saying. By whom? Not only by fanatics and xenophobes of all sides, but by you and me, each one of us. Precisely, because these habits of thinking are deeply rooted in all of us, because of this narrow, exclusive, bigoted, simplified conception that reduces the whole identity to a single belonging declared with rage.

I feel like screaming aloud: This is how you “manufacture” slaughterers! I admit it is an abrupt affirmation but I will be explaining it in this book.

The tragedy of fools — and he is a fool — like Abdul Nacer Benbrika and the fools who regard such a person as anything other than a deranged bigot, is this total inability, it would appear, to live with “multiple belongings.” But let us not feel too superior: as Maalouf says, “…these habits of thinking are deeply rooted in all of us, because of this narrow, exclusive, bigoted, simplified conception that reduces the whole identity to a single belonging declared with rage.” The Sydney Daily Telegraph does just this too in its own way, sacrificing our own guarantee of some sort of just system in the process: these people have been arrested and charged, and that is the end of the story for the time being. We really should not comment on what they may or may not have been up to until it is tested in the proper forum, which is not the Daily Telegraph, talk-back radio, or this or any other blog.

At the same time, any of us belonging to one of the three major religions that believe, or once believed, that God has been in the habit of leaving infallible bits of writing lying around for fallible humans to screw up on, think again. Realise how dangerous this ahistorical, uncritical delusion about pure texts actually has been and still is.

NOTE: Now you can read chunks of Amin Maalouf — enough to get his drift — on Google Books: In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong.

 

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More reading SBHS

From the previous post you could — correctly — get the idea that SBHS in 2017 is a pretty progressive place. I spoke of the school being “transformed” in recent years. And it has been, not least because of the vision and leadership skills of the Principal, Dr Jaggar. He’s had his share of challenges too. Early on in his being in the job I was involved in one of them.

What strikes me though, having thoroughly read the 2016 Record and browsed back as far as 2010, is how tradition has been preserved, indeed augmented, while embracing change.

Let’s go back sixty years: and yes, I was there. See my post 1957 or MCMLVII.

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Edgar Bembrick was the legendary Latin teacher of us mob in 3B. I was 14. He, I suspected, personally knew Julius Caesar, in fact probably taught him. In fact it appears he was born in 1890. In 2007 I wrote, referring to 1959:

Edgar Bembrick, my Latin teacher in my last year in high school — his last year too as he died before that year was over — was in some ways as boring a person as you could hope to meet, and with a face remarkably like a prune. However, there was a twinkle in the eye and an awesome reputation in his subject area: “Don’t use that crib, son; I wrote it.” He would also come into the lesson without a text book and tell us what page to turn to and would then proceed to his exposition without recourse to anything other than his memory. He once claimed to be able to complete any line of Latin or Greek verse we could throw at him. We never caught him out.

The French teacher was truly ancient, speaking a strange kind of French he apparently honed among the poppy fields of Picardy. He was quite awful, actually, so I will pass over his name.

Now English with Mr Harrison was a delight.

In 1958 I and some classmates — one Lionel Laurie among them I recall — went to Sydney University to participate in a Latin Reading Competition. My effort was no great shakes, but it was the first time I ever visited that magic quadrangle.  I was to return: Random Friday memory 18 – Latin at Sydney 1960.

Now speaking as I was of tradition. Look at this from The Record 2016. And look at the names.

On Friday June 3, Years Ten and Eleven participated in the Latin Reading Competition, held annually at Sydney University and organised by the Classical Association of New South Wales. Entrants had to recite a passage from the works of Virgil and Ovid. Students were judged by leading academics in Classics.

This year, Sydney Boys High achieved excellent results. Two students, Roy Wu of Year Ten and Sanishka Balasooriya of Year Eleven, have been selected for the final of this prestigious competition. In addition, Edward Heaney’s presentation impressed the judges and has been awarded a Highly Commended. Edward was presented with his Certificate on the night of the final in the Law Building, University of Sydney, on 1 August. Year Ten Latin presented a choral piece on the night, as normally happens when a Year Ten student reaches the final.

After their recitations, the students visited the Nicholson Museum, which currently has an exhibition on Pompeii, and then attended a lecture on the Greek and Roman Oracle, a prophetess who presented “the future” (albeit ambiguously) to those who sought her guidance.

Mrs D Matsos, Latin

But here is something 2016 offered which 1957 could not!

March 28 was a day filled with triumph. As a student who has participated in the National Chinese Eisteddfod (poetry recital) every year since 2013, I can say without a doubt that this year was the most exhilarating and competitive of them all. From the lunchtime rehearsals to the last minute alterations, every single High contestant was able to demonstrate the focus and hard-working ethic, which provided Sydney High with outstanding results.

The National Chinese Eisteddfod comprises of an individual and a group based competition. In terms of the results from the individual category, I would like to congratulate Vitaly Kovalevskiy (Year 7) who came third in the eight to twelve years age group for non-native speakers, Yeong Meng Li (Year 8) who came second in the ten to twelve years age group for Cantonese speakers, Royce Xiao who came third in the thirteen to fifteen years age group and Justin Liu who came second in the thirteen to fifteen years age group for Mandarin speakers…

Took this when I revisited the school in 2012:

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In which I am made to feel very old…

So the Same Sex Marriage Survey is in its last fortnight, with as of yesterday 75% of eligible responses received. The feeling is that YES has won, but you never know…

I was chuffed to see iconic Aussie songman John Williamson (“Hey True Blue!”) on Channel Nine this morning saying absolutely sensible things as he talked about his latest release. See ‘My whole life has been about loving Australia’.

But it’s not all looking back: It’s All About Love is a jaunty call for marriage equality, sung as a duet with the out-and-proud country siren Beccy Cole. It’s not a new thing for Williamson, who has toured extensively with the unashamedly gay fiddle player Pixie Jenkins since the early 80s, but it’s refreshing to hear a country song dedicated to a time “…when it’s not important what sex you are, or what sex you have”, as Williamson explains. “Or what colour you are, or where you’re from. Wouldn’t that be nice?”

On Monday #QandA dedicated itself to the marriage survey. They had the wonderful Magda  Szubanski, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, the excellent Father Frank Brennan, and NO campaigner Karina Okotel, a vice president of both the Federal and Victorian divisions of the Liberal Party, a champion Chicken Littler.  Now as the show neared its end came this question:

This question is for Karina. In your speech at the National Press Club last month, you cited a case in the UK where an orthodox Jewish school was threatened with closure because it didn’t teach kids about tolerance and respect. I was teased at school for being “faggy”. They said I was a little too expressive with my hands. I spoke with a bit of a lisp, I liked fashion magazines. I got teased much, much more for looking gay than being Asian. Can’t you see that by not raising awareness in class about gay people in society perpetuates the feeling of isolation that children have, like I did, in coming to terms with their sexuality?…

KARINA OKOTEL
That material is taught to children as young as 11 or 12, from Year 7.

TONY JONES
Our questioner is shaking his head, so I’d just like to get back to him.

ANHTAI ANHTUAN
I think you’re taking the Safe Schools program, there are fringes of that program which were inappropriate, definitely, but at the heart of that program, was about teaching about tolerance and respect. That there are people that aren’t heterosexual but they’re normal people, but yet we lose sight of that and that’s the problem here. I think by saying No, you’re saying Yes to being treated differently for something I can’t change.

See my posts on the much maligned Safe Schools program, especially Show some backbone, PM.

Now I am such a Marxist, eh! Why only a couple of days ago on this blog I was commending Robert Service’s Comrades: A World History of Communism (2007) to my readers! A Marxist I really am not, but I do embrace diversity as a core aspect of the human condition and commend any society or program that does the same. Hence on Twitter I wrote yesterday: “I totally support #safeschools.” I also retweeted: “RT @JoshThomas87: .@TurnbullMalcolm You’re turning out to be a real shit bloke.” Among others.

First, a really really good idea is to read the actual stuff that Safe Schools offers.

And I remember Anhtai from my teaching days at SBHS. Proud to see him handle himself so well on #QandA, but at the same time it really makes me feel old. The world now belongs to these boys I knew as teens — to me such a short time ago!

And then earlier on Monday who should pop up on The Drum but another one: Jack Manning Bancroft. What an impressive human being he is!

Finally, there is much heat at the moment concerning the internet activist outfit GetUp! I really suspect that GetUp’s cardinal sin is that it is effective. See my post on the Class of 1995.

There is much of interest to me in today’s Sun-Herald, not least a wonderful cartoon by Cathy Wilcox – not yet online. Going back a bit I was drawn to the article The class of 1995: HSC high achievers 20 years on, having taught the Class of 1995 at Sydney Boys High. One member, Jeremy Heimans, features in the article.

Having received a TER of 99.95, he studied Arts Law and then Honours in government at the University of Sydney. After studying at Harvard he has spent the past 10 years working as a political activist and entrepreneur. In 2005 he founded Get-up in Australia. Today he is chief executive and co-founder of the New York-based company Purpose.com. In 2014, he delivered one of the year’s top TED talks, which attracted more than a million views, and today he is working on a book on the topic of “new power”.

Heimans describes himself as “an activist from the age of 12”.

“I had this funny childhood where at age 12 I sounded like a 40-year-old,” Heimans jokes. “In many ways I’m doing a lot of the work I did as a kid, but with better tools.

“I had to try on a bunch of different suits for size – I tried on a lot of different roles in my teens and mid-20s.”

“I benefited from a great public school education and I’m very grateful for that,” said Heimans, who remembers his final school years as a period of robust debates, challenging ideas and honing his debating skills.

Finally but irrelevantly I am posting for posterity this  oh-so-evocative image of Donald Trump. I gather he hates it. I think I can understand that! It is just TOO revealing!

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Today: the 50th NSW Higher School Certificate!

And I taught the first one! See If the jacarandas are out, the HSC must be coming… and HSC 50 years on.

Sheep Husbandry was not on offer at Cronulla High School where I as a newly minted English teacher fronted what would be the first 3rd Level (i.e. bottom) English Year 11 class in 1966. So strictly speaking this year it is 49 years since that first HSC, which was sat in 1967.

I did return to Cronulla back in 2011. See these posts: How young we were! (and do read the comment thread!) and Here I am at the Cronulla High 50th!

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Revisiting Cronulla High in 2011

See also 2017 HSC written exam timetable and HSC begins for 70,000 NSW students. There were 18,000 in 1967.