Paul Merton in China: Shanghai

Last episode of this excellent series on ABC tonight.

Shanghai is very different from the city M left in 1989! (He has been back since.)


For those who’ve come across the seas

We don’t often sing the second stanza of the Australian national anthem:

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.

Seemingly contradicting that are various expressions such as that of Pauline Hanson in her famous 1996 maiden speech.

I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995 40% of all migrants coming into this country were of asian origin.They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate. Of course I will be called racist but if I can invite who I want into my home, then I should have the right to have a say in who comes into my country. A truly multicultural country can never be strong or united.

John Howard could be thought of as Mr Sir Echo in 2001:

SARAH CLARKE: It was a familiar message spelt out by the PM throughout the campaign.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.

SARAH CLARKE: A message repeated.

JOHN HOWARD (OCTOBER 29): What I am asserting is the right of this country to decide who comes here.

SARAH CLARKE: And if you missed that, there was a television advertisement.

JOHN HOWARD (ADVERTISMENT): We will decide who comes to this country.

SARAH CLARKE: But today, in an election post-mortem, Liberal Party mastermind Lynton Crosby, insisted the issue of border protection was not exploited as a campaign tool and was not responsible for securing the Government a third term.

Pull the other one, Lynton!

The 2010 Australian of the Year features in that video.

Funny thing though, now I come to think about it, is how empty, if powerful, all this rhetoric really is. Of course we have moved on from our national beginnings when Britain decided who came here. Now we have national sovereignty — though what this actually means especially in a globalised world is very much up for discussion.

So while we can never really say who has a go at coming here — how can we? — we certainly decide who stays here. That’s so obvious it is a truism and should excite no-one, except maybe
someone who simply doesn’t believe in national sovereignty.

What is variable is the degree to which our policies are ethical or admirable. We have had a problem with this from the dodgy days of the infamous “dictation test” to the present. Dickensian legalism has been the choice time and again:

As for our one nation, there’s no way an ultra-nationalist definition of “nation” suits what this country actually is: the people who in fact have citizenship and live within our borders. From 1788 we have never been a place where “the geographic boundaries of an ethnic population and a political state largely coincide.”

Highlights of January 2010

Neil’s Second Decade

Most visited individual posts in the past month

  1. It’s no wonder we have infrastructure ch 65
  2. About 47
  3. How is the Internet changing the way you 37
  4. Nostalgia and the globalising world – f 35
  5. Frothing at the mouth over the Aussie fl 31
  6. A very personal Australia Day 26 January 24
  7. …not every day you wake up to dis 23
  8. Erasmus Darwin “Visit of Hope to S 23
  9. One in the crowd yesterday 23
  10. Nothing much to add to last year’s 21
  11. Reflections, mostly about a chequered te 20
  12. Ghosts and other tales of Kiama and dist 20
  13. The danger of jumping to conclusions? 20
  14. My past walked by me… 19
  15. Duelling Lords 17
  16. An Indian student in Australia refocuses 17
  17. Mother Ninglun’s Almanack for the 2010s: 17
  18. So how’s your course at Yale going 16
  19. Education: wrong path, Ms Gillard? 16
  20. Gave My School a run 15

Neil’s Sydney Photo Blog



Most visited individual posts in the past month

  1. 2010 31
  2. Wollongong Mall 30
  3. Prince William in Redfern: double post 24
  4. Volcanic eruption in Australia ‘3000 yea 20
  5. Shellharbour 1 — progress (?) 19
  6. Mardi Gras Fair Day 4 – Mad Hatter 19
  7. The changes, the changes! 18
  8. People at Redfern Tuesday 19 January: 1 18
  9. 10 best nature shots from 2008: 9 17
  10. 109F expected today 16

Reflections, mostly about a chequered teaching career: Part Five + Salinger

No mistaking the voice.

"Hey Ackley," I said, in sort of a whisper so Stradlater couldn’t hear me through the shower curtains.

Ackley didn’t hear me, though.

"Hey, Ackley!"

He still didn’t hear me. He slept like a rock.

"Hey, Ackley!"

He heard that, all right.

"What the hell’s the matter with you?" he said. "I was asleep, for Chrissake."

"Listen. What’s the routine of joining a monastery?" I asked him. I was sort of toying with the idea of joining one. "Do you have to be a Catholic and all?"

"Certainly you have to be a Catholic. You bastard, did you wake me up just to ask me a dumb ques-"

"Aah, go back to sleep. I’m not going to join one anyway. The kind of luck I have, I’d probably join one with all the wrong kind of monks in it. All stupid bastards. Or just bastards."

So J D Salinger has gone. I rather like a comment by Matthew da Silva on Facebook.

@Meredith – Isn’t it weird … I read Catcher as an adolescent and other books in my twenties … So that’s almost 30 years ago … But I still hold fond memories of the guy … Shows how ‘faithful’ fiction can make us, I guess … The narratives of youth remain when everything else drops away … We are enamoured of our younger selves.

I missed out as I didn’t read Catcher in the Rye in my adolescence, but it still resonated when I was in my twenties, and amazingly still shocked back then.

In Wollongong sometime between 1975 and 1980 I was delegated by my Head of English who passed on to me a task he had been given by the Regional Director: to defend before the Illawarra branch of the Parents and Citizens the choice of “nasty” literature – like Catcher in the Rye – for HSC Study.  Fred Nile had been banging on about it at the time. My honour was a dubious one, the end of a chain of passing the buck.

So I went armed with a host of Biblical and classical references, rather like this 2005 post.

OK, let’s really get into those good books and get rid of this 21st century crap, eh! For laughs, we should start with Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale, for the fart jokes and the hilarious red-hot poker up the bum scene. Always goes well, that does. And the General Prologue before that, of course:

For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wonder is a lewed man to ruste;
And shame it is, if a prest take keep,
A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.

The principal complainant was at the meeting. Turns out it wasn’t a moral issue with him; rather he objected to the slang and bad grammar because they would corrupt his child’s English.

“So,” I asked, “You want your child to read Shakespeare?”

“Of course.”

“Aren’t you worried your child will start speaking in blank verse and Elizabethan English?”

He got the point. It turned out to be a rather pleasant evening.

Back to Catcher in the Rye.

Have you seen the shrinklit version?

Angst angst angst swear curse swear crazy crazy angst swear curse, society sucks, and I’m a stupid jerk.

Unfair, of course.

Cleveland Street Intensive English High School – misleading information on My School?

This is the clearest example I have found so far of one of the weaknesses of the My School site. According to the information on that link, a naive reader would conclude it must be one of the worst schools in Australia. It has 0% Indigenous students and only 301 enrolled, but can only scrape up “Selected school’s average is substantially below  [statistically similar]  schools’ average” in ALL areas of literacy, though substantially above the average of all Australian schools in Mathematics. On the other hand the opening description of the school does attend to its special nature.

Listed as “statistically similar” are a whole host of schools**. Now whatever “statistically similar” might mean, there is no way any of the listed schools is “similar” to Cleveland Street.

welcome2 c5

This is a very special school here in Surry Hills and it is excellent in what it does.

Cleveland Street Intensive English High School’s mandate is to:

  • provide intensive English language tuition to secondary-aged, newly arrived permanent, refugee, long-term temporary resident and international students;
  • develop innovative new arrival English language, orientation, settlement, welfare and transition programs;
  • provide English as a second language (ESL), key learning areas (KLA), outcomes-based, transition to high school programs. ESL is taught through the content areas of the English, Mathematics, Science, Human Society and Its Environment (HSIE), Creative Arts (including Visual Arts, Music), Technology and Applied Studies (TAS) (including Information Communications Technology, Food Technology) and Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) KLAs;
  • develop and deliver online program support to new arrival ESL secondary students and teachers in rural and isolated schools;
  • create and implement community programs for parents;
  • develop program links with tertiary educational providers;
  • develop program links with the Sydney Secondary College.

Cleveland Street Intensive English High School (CSIEHS) is a new type of school within the NSW Department of Education and Training’s system of secondary schools and was created within the revitalization of inner city schools strategy, June 2001.

Our students

Students attending the school can come from as many as 100 different countries, bringing with them a great diversity of languages, customs and beliefs. Our students are all newly-arrived, non-English speaking background students of high school age. They spend approximately three to twelve months at the school. When they are ready to leave our school most students transfer to other government high schools in order to complete their studies in the school certificate or higher school certificate. Some students will choose to begin other courses of study at other institutions, such as Technical and Further Education (TAFE), and some may go directly to work.

The My School stats read badly until you recall that some of these students don’t speak English at all when they arrive in Year 7. The wonder in fact is that the NAPLAN results are so good!

Newspaper league tables ignore the special nature of this school – and no doubt of many others.

Taking them as a guide to Cleveland Street would be very silly indeed. My advice to parents trying to derive useful information from My School, or far worse from the context-free newspaper lists, is to dig deeper, and go to the school. 

That all the schools below score better than Cleveland Street means absolutely nothing, given the facts of Cleveland Street’s clientele and mission.

** Statistically similar schools
(listed alphabetically)

Year 3 Year 5 Year 7 Year 9
Cleveland Street Intensive English High School, Surry Hills NSW 2010     477 479
Alphington Grammar School, Alphington VIC 3078 562 599
Amaroo School, Amaroo ACT 2914 549 581
Ballarat & Clarendon College, Ballarat VIC 3350 600 636
Beacon Primary School, Beacon WA 6472 499
Beaumaris Primary School, Ocean Reef WA 6027 548
Bowenville State School, Bowenville QLD 4404 555
Box Hill High School, Box Hill VIC 3128 594 628

Continue reading

Post 100: Data Privacy Day is January 28, 2010!

Typically. I saw this noted on Twitter the next day — but that’s what comes of being on the “correct” side of the International Date Line here in Australia. I rather enjoy the irony in the light of the ongoing subject here.

Actually this is a further post about My School. Jim Belshaw has been up early and beaten me to it with an excellent post on Media reactions to the My School web site.

I also did ask Mr R what he thought. Since he is an ex-blogger who now inhabits Facebook that’s where I had to go. The exchange went like this:

Neil James Whitfield Have you explored My School site yet? Just blogged on it. Where you are and where you were make for interesting comparison. What do you think of NAPLAN and all that?
Today at 7:09pm · Comment · Like · See Wall-to-Wall

Mr R It’s a curious thing. SHHS is not compared to other selective schools, but schools with similar student demographics. So we come out looking pretty good, as we should. I think the whole thing’s been beat up; I can’t accept that this is a big deal. The info was available already, albeit scattered. NAPLAN is an imperfect tool, but they all are. It sucks the fun out of English, though, I will say.
10 hours ago

Neil James Whitfield My thoughts pretty much. Did you look at The Gong Perf Arts HS? (Where in fact I was but then it was the SHHS of course. If you know what I mean.)
10 hours ago ·

The Sydney Morning Herald has published various ranked lists. The trouble with these, even granting what Jim Belshaw says about their uses, is that they can’t include the comparisons with statistically similar schools. Such rankings are a very rough guide to educational quality of achievement. The possibility of people reading far too much into such information and making choices based on that is unfortunately very strong, in my opinion, so whether the Herald has been as noble as it presents itself in publishing such somewhat bastardised versions of the NAPLAN lists really should be questioned.

I am grateful to Jim for drawing attention to Stubborn Mule, a blog I hadn’t noted before. I am now going to update my recent climate change post as a result.

  • Note: The Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony has posted a strong critique.

    “OK, now my heart is thoroughly broken and trampled on. I’ve become the voter who cannot love. The infamous My School database/website has been released today (and very buggy it is, too), and what do we see as the very first headline on the dead-tree Herald Sun? OUR SCHOOLS SHAME. The banner on the online version? HOW DID YOUR SCHOOL RATE? So predictable. Don’t ask me how the Boy’s school rates (The Girl has just left the public system with an excellent VCE score and as yet no crack habit – the Boy starts year 7 on Monday. Serial only children, I haz them.) The website hasn’t worked successfully for me yet. And yes, I am aware of most internet traditions and able to work most simple interfaces, so I don’t think it’s me.”

  • I have uploaded the Cobbold article BOTCIB refers to as her link did not deliver a readable copy for me.

    Gave My School a run

    I am also giving it a run right now, but it’s just going round and round and getting nowhere. Earlier in the day I tried a number of schools I know — SBHS being one obviously and there I have the advantage of knowing literacy figures going back a decade.

    It isn’t as bad as I feared; it even has some use. However, the uses really are quite limited and the chances of abuse seem strong. After all, what do all these figures mean? In Year Seven especially it may be argued, especially with a school like Sydney High which can draw on dozens of feeder schools from the Eastern Suburbs to Liverpool and from North Sydney to Sutherland, that the NAPLAN results from a test given in the first half of the year tell us about those dozens of feeder schools rather than about SBHS. The Year 9 figures need to be compared with Year 7 the year before last to see if maybe the school has made a difference — this will be possible later this year, but isn’t yet.

    It’s been well-known that Sydney Girls High tends to do better in HSC English than Sydney Boys High, but the boys school tends to do better at Maths. The figures on My Schools suggest that these differences reflect what the schools begin with in Year 7.

    Certainly the figures across the board are revealing some interesting regional variations, and indicate areas where extra support does need to be given.

    They don’t really tell parents much about the quality of education in any school. Sometimes they may tell you as much about the area or the parents as they do anything else.

    Compare Jim Belshaw’s response.