Literacy, Euro-madness, Malcolm for PM


I do have a problem when it comes to stories about literacy.

It’s fifty years this year since I first stepped before a class as a teacher – very much an apprentice one in 1961! In all that time (and even before) I have been hearing how dreadful teachers are and that literacy is going to the dogs. Back in 1998 I gave formal voice to some of this as part of a TESOL course at UTS.

My first response when I saw in today’s Illawarra Mercury that yet another report was saying that all is stuffed in Oz literacy – 8 million Australians as thick as two short planks, apparently – was to moan about yet another rehash of a favourite media meme. But hang on. This report at least rejects “BLAME THE SCHOOLS” as a sufficient explanation for the alleged problems. See No More Excuses (pdf) from Australia’s Industry Skills Councils.

Some employers feel let down by the school  system:

This is system failure on a grand scale – industry should push back and say that they want students to come out of the education system with a certain level of LLN. 

A recent project    looking at the maths skills of commencing bricklaying apprentices within a regional TAFE showed that:

•   75% could not do basic arithmetic such as adding numbers with decimals or subtraction requiring ‘borrowings’
•  80% could not calculate the area of a rectangle, or the pay owed for working 4½ hours
•  20% could not interpret millimetre measurements from a centimetre/imperial calibrated tape measure .

While this is a strongly held view, the problem is of course far more complicated.

Firstly, one-sixth of the Australian workforce was actually educated overseas.  But more importantly, there is a difference between school literacy and numeracy and the skills required in the workplace.

Employers of apprentices frequently complain that:  Apprentices get high scores on the numeracy test, but they can’t do the maths in the workplace – can’t transfer to a new context.

In addition, the majority of employees left the school system 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years ago, and what was learnt at school is sometimes not sufficient to meet to workplace LLN requirements…

Mind you, as a lover of English language my heart sinks when I read things like this:

There is a belief held by some VET stakeholders that the traditional paper-based LLN demands of the workplace are decreasing as a result of new technologies – GPS navigators, barcode
scanners, speech recognition software, visual computer operating systems and video based communications . Employers are now focussed on the digital skills required by employees but few
recognise that this is also a form of literacy . Workplaces have two broad options for addressing LLN issues: build or bypass . The build solution involves building employees’ LLN skills to meet
the workplace LLN demands . The bypass solution involves modifying workplace processes to reduce the LLN demands . Often the most effective approach involves a combination of the two.

So soulless! So dead! The machine speaks.

How’s your LLN hanging? Or was that LNN? Or LNL? Or…?


Has infected us all. Our present confusion about multiculturalism for example – in Australia it works – is really all about Europe’s woes and what to do about Islam. Yes, the current push against multiculturalism is really all about Islam and Europe, and not about what has proven to be the key to a fair go for all here in Australia – not perfect, not without speed humps. but pretty damned good nonetheless. But I have bored myself rigid on this, let alone you! So if you really care to, go and read these posts. But read Greg Sheridan too in last weekend’s Oz.

Another aspect of Euro-madness is hyperbolic claims for European superiority. Niall Fergusson has a new series out in this field, I gather – and I will probably watch it given the chance as I do find him entertaining. However, do note this critique by Robert Skidelsky, a member of the British House of Lords, Professor Emeritus of Political Economy at Warwick University. Do read it, as I am not able to extract it here.

Malcolm for PM

Malcolm Turnbull that is! He makes much more sense than Julia on Assange.

…Those determined to deal abruptly with Assange might reflect that his success has spawned many imitators from mainstream media organisations like Al Jazeera, (whose publication of the leaked “Palestine Papers” added fuel to the revolts in the Arab world), and the New York Times to activist NGOs as well as former staff of Wikileaks.

The ability of the Internet to instantly publish vast amounts of material in a manner that is practically impossible to prevent makes it the perfect medium for somebody determined to disclose those things others want to keep secret.

And this is a key lesson for Governments to learn. Once information has left your secure system it can rarely be recovered because at the click of the finger, from a laptop or a smartphone or an Internet café it can be published to the world. The world of information has become a binary one – secret one second, universally available the next.

So what are we to make of Assange and his website? Well I trust I have made it clear that while I do not regard him as a criminal, nor do I regard him as a hero. The ineptitude of his detractors has given him greater kudos and importance than he deserved in precisely the same way Margaret Thatcher’s iron will made Spycatcher a global best seller. Better in this circumstances to roll with the punches, as Secretary Gates did.

There will be a medium term impact on the candour with which people talk to American officials. Frankly if I were an American citizen I would be less outraged with Assange than I would be with a Government that can allow such a gigantic breach of security…