Thought space

No comment from me. Just watch, read and think.

ABC Self-Censors Over Israel — Jake Lynch, Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney.

Here is an interesting sentence from the ABC’s Editorial Policy:

"By pushing the boundaries, the ABC stimulates and develops creative new content… which [may] challenge some community sensibilities but also contributes to the diversity of content in the media"…

They are indeed fine words: but there is a yawning gap between words and actions. After years of political interference and intimidation — intensified under Howard as public broadcasting was seen as an enemy in the culture wars — a survival instinct has been inculcated in ABC executives, one that exploits such provisions as a labyrinth of hidey-holes, a refuge from inconvenient calls to live up to their principles.

The latest dash for cover was prompted by a documentary, Hope in a Slingshot, by a young Australian film-maker, Inka Stafrace. It showcases grassroots peace initiatives, and the perspectives of human rights campaigners, in the Israel-Palestine conflict — including Palestinians, Israelis and internationals. There are some memorable sequences, especially when the camera follows activists as they defend Palestinian farmers against armed Jewish settlers from one of Israel’s illegal colonies in the occupied West Bank.

I know this because I have watched the film, on a DVD supplied by Inka herself. It has also been shown to small audiences in a few public screenings, but I believe it is worthy of wider attention. Others agree: the rights were acquired by a production company, Ronin Films, and offered to the ABC, who obviously liked it because they made a formal offer to buy it and screen it. But that offer was then abruptly withdrawn, following a personal intervention by the Head of Television, Kim Dalton…

Paul McGeough with the flotilla in GazaSydney Morning Herald.

BREAKING NEWS: Fairfax Journalist Paul McGeough and photographer Kate Geraghty were out of communication for some hours after the clash, sparking concern for their welfare.

"‘We are pleased to report that Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty, who are among the most experienced and well-trained Australian foreign correspondents, are safe, and being processed in an Israeli detention centre," Sydney Morning Herald Editor in Chief Peter Fray said.

"We remain hopeful that they will be allowed to do their job, and that they will have a terrific story to tell when they are released."

Mr Fray said his company had made representations to the Israeli and Australian governments seeking safe passage for the pair.

Unconfirmed media reports from Hamas’ Al Aqsa television said up to 20 passengers had been killed, of whom nine were Turkish nationals…

Update 2 June

There has been no lack of comment and discussion about the interdiction by Israel of the flotilla attempting to run the blockade to Gaza. There is a level at which it is not surprising (on either side) that blockade running could end in tears, which some commentators do seem to forget in the drama of it all. That said, I am not and long have not been a fan of the current Israeli government’s approach.

Neither apparently is Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

This morning (Monday, Memorial Day, May 31, 2010), I awoke to news reports that the Israeli Navy had boarded and fired on ten small ships, bearing civilians from many countries, in international waters approaching the coast of Gaza, carrying humanitarian supplies for Palestinians who have been suffering an Israeli blockade of many (not all) civilian goods. [Tuesday, June 1: Please be sure to read the Follow-up Letter that we sent out this morning. It is posted in the "Comments" section at the end of this letter, reached by clicking on the "Read more"note.]

Some of the civilians aboard had been killed.

The Flotilla refused demands they dock at an Israeli port, because their journey was in part humanitarian in the narrow sense, and in part demanded that the blockade be ended and the Palestinians treated as a People worthy of respect and direct relationship, not mere mendicants hungry for a handout. That respect is what the Israeli government refused — and has refused for years.

This killing of international civilians in ships on the high seas must become a lightning flash illuminating the deepest dangers of leaving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unresolved. As much a lightning flash of world danger arising in the Middle East as the Oil Disaster in the Gulf has become a lightning-flash illuminating the world-wide need to control the power and greed of Big Oil.

Only we can make this lightning flash in the Mediterranean into growing illumination and enlightenment, not just a passing glare.

So we must make it that…


Some news, but mainly about the month that was

The news

Hey, I’ve made it! My latest South Sydney Herald story is the lead on the front page of the June issue.

Shellharbour, once a fishing village where my father was born and he and my mother married, is now as mainstream suburban/battler Australia as you can get. Marie Peterson agrees and finds a lesson there about leadership. There are people in Villawood and on Christmas Island who once they have their security and medical clearances could be let out into the community.

Marie and her daughter Natalie Gould, a Newtown resident, have worked hard over the last seven or eight years helping people get their refugee claims processed. Marie has had a number of refugees stay with her in Shellharbour. Once the neighbours get to know them and their stories they become very supportive. Marie thinks most Australians would react similarly, given the chance…

More on that later.

The month that was

May saw Sirdan’s trip to South Africa to see family, and World Cup preparations and ends with M in Shanghai. I as usual am in Surry Hills.

It was also a month where an old friend, Graham Little, passed on. Graham and his partner Les were iconic as a couple whose love for each other over 28 years was as deeply genuine as any one might ever see.

Leslie Rolls, a classmate from almost sixty years ago, made contact in May, bringing back a lot of memories.

On the blog I note that recent stories dominate the top fifteen individually visited posts. It isn’t always so.

  1. Home page 1,027 views in May
  2. Neil agrees with Miranda Devine 180
  3. The Rainbow Warrior 106
  4. Monckton: this has to be a joke… 103
  5. Teachers unions should have kept their powder dry 96
  6. Ill met by moonlight… 82
  7. Do you have a favourite poem 76
  8. How young we were! 58
  9. Other people’s treasures 41
  10. SBY’s speech in the Australian parliamen 39
  11. Graham Little – Sad news 35
  12. More Cronulla High memories 35
  13. Ah, the good old days! 35
  14. Nostalgia and the globalising world – f 31
  15. Has school bullying increased? 31

May has been the biggest month so far for this blog.

The photo blog has been more modest in May. The most popular individual photo has been this one:


Update 1 June

The month’s totals were:

  • this blog — 2,735 views, average 88 per day – best this year
  • Neil’s Sydney Photo Blog – 944 views, 30 per day
  • Floating Life 4/06 to 11/07 — 3,299 views, 106 per day – best this year
  • Floating Life to 12/09 — 2,285 – 74 per day
  • Ninglun’s Specials — 1,423 – 46 per day
  • English/ESL — 10,231 – 330 – best this year. Best ever here was 14,876 in August 2009.

Now follow the script…

The idea of scripted lessons would be repugnant to most teachers. Can you imagine a trained professional relying on a “script” published by someone getting megabucks from the package, a script that may well have been created in another country — probably the USA — by people who have never seen the faces in front of you in your class?

Looked at like that it’s pure 1984.

**** SHUDDERS ****

But today we have the Blessed Miranda singing the praises of scripted lessons! This, folks, is the cure for the ills, both real and imagined, of our education system!

But why then have teachers? I’m sure technology could deliver the scripted lessons simultaneously all over Australia. All you would need would be monitors walking up and down the aisles with cattle prods to keep the clients on task — or maybe electric shocks could be fed back from the program itself via a mouse. No need to ask pesky questions, just get on with it…

Now this isn’t exactly what Miranda has in mind. She has again appropriated Noel Pearson’s work in Cape York to push a particular view of education, but it is not about education in the larger sense, but rather about the teaching of reading.

It’s a dreary old debate. The answer my grandfather had in 1910 is just as valid today, and that is that successful reading teaching — and grandfather eminently was — has to do with flexibility and mix of methods tailored where possible to individual needs; it is partly about learning the building blocks, but it is also about enjoyment and comprehension.

One reason the Cape York experience works is that the people are dedicated to their method and students receive a lot of individual attention. On the other hand, when in his Quarterly Essay a while back Pearson enthused about the SRA Reading Laboratory, an earlier ancestor of the programs so loved by him and Miranda, I smiled. I used it at Cronulla High in the 1960s. It was great for last period Friday, because it kept the kids quiet and one’s own efforts were minimal. All you had to do was supervise the taking of the colour coded reading cards.

One student really impressed — it was a class of Year 9 thickies — by working swiftly to the highest level, purple, if I remember correctly, with considerable success. I decided to speak to him about this. “Oh, I don’t read the stories,” he said with candour. “I just answer the multiple choice questions.”

Ever since I’ve had my doubts.

SRA is a promotion overdrive, as this teacher notes.

They work for some kids and not others. They bore all kids senseless. Here we have a group of kids that don’t like reading or math anyway, and we are going to feed them dry, boring stories.

I prefer a literature based program like Success For All, which is research based and had highly entertaining leveled readers. When my whole school used the program, we had amazing results and we were in a ghetto school. One of my boys went from reading at Gr1 to G5 by the end of the year.

Interestingly, when you look at research that is neutral, there are no significant gains using SRA. Almost all of the research that shows wonderful outcomes is somehow related to McGraw Hill, which publishes the program.

People should use the teaching program that fits their personality and skill level. SRA is good for new teachers or teachers who need a scripted approach. I am playful and wildly imaginative and that kind of teaching does not work for me. I want my kids to see how wonderful reading can be and SRA does not get the job done.

However, if you wish to follow up, here’s a couple of suggestions:

  • Revisiting Silent Reading: New Directions for Teachers and Researchers (International Reading Association Institute #6, Chicago 2010): Part One.
  • (Texas)
  • Neither is totally unfriendly to the methods Miranda admires.

    As for Noel Pearson: brilliant, as indeed he often is, in today’s Oz: Promise of Mabo not yet realised.

    From my archives…

    Entry 123: Saturday’s big ticks.

    Fine, except this is the title of a Diary-X entry of mine for 29 May 2004!

    Copy I managed to save to my own computer. Diary-X is long gone.

    …My next big tick is to the committee who awarded this year’s NSW Premier’s Literary Award to Brian Castro’s Shanghai Dancing, which you may recall me praising highly in April as “a most remarkable novel, an amazing labyrinth of a novel. Possibly the best Australian novel I have read in years.” Just shows what good taste I have. 😉

    Finally, for now, a big tick to Supreme Court Justice Peter Hidden for showing common sense and compassion in the case of Izhar ul-Haque, despite the temptations that our paranoid age must have presented.

    Entry 123_ Saturday’s big ticks

    And then I found the guest book link still works!

    Monday, August 2nd 2004 – 09:59:22 AM
    Entry 185 – great entry 🙂
    Tuesday, July 6th 2004 – 10:07:07 PM

    I could not wish for a greater honour, Mister Rabbit 🙂
    Tuesday, July 6th 2004 – 03:17:04 PM

    Mr. Rabbit
    Greetings from a fellow Latham supporter. 🙂 For an old bugger you have so
    much energy. We have decided to make you an honorary rabbit. Cheers, Mr.

    new lines from a floating life guest book

    Fashion victim

    Surry Hills has many a trendy boutique, as you may know. For me the trendiest of all, the one that most suits my taste and wallet, is VINNIES!

    I discovered they were having a 50% off sale at the moment so I emerged with four items of timely winter clothing.






    Total price: $17!