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February 2019

BULLYING OF TEACHERS OUT OF CONTROL

By | Australian Newsletter

Teachers must be given better training to manage classroom discipline, Education Minister Dan Tehan has said, amid concerns graduates are increasingly unable to control disruptive and abusive students.  Mr Tehan said he had been shocked by the level of abuse experienced by teaching professionals since he took over as minister and called for a sharper focus on making teachers “classroom-ready” by the end of their university degrees.  Mr Tehan said he had spoken extensively to teachers and there was a strong desire to see respect restored to classrooms and broader school environments.

He said he was “staggered” after a recent meeting with principals: “When I asked them if they have ever been verbally or physically abused doing their job, nearly every single one put their hand up.”  Research from the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment reveals that Australian classrooms are among the most disruptive in the world, ranking 63rd out of 68 countries.  The report, analysed what went on in science classrooms and used data from a survey of more than 14,000 students from 760 schools, revealing 40% said there was high levels of noise and disorder in class, that students didn’t listen to the teacher, and “they found it difficult to learn”.

Reports suggest that behaviour management programs can boost academic progress by at least 3 months.  Mr Tehan said training for graduates in the area of classroom management remained an issue where work needed to be done.  “The key thing is when you finish your teaching degree you have the qualities and capabilities to be able to teach,” Mr Tehan said.  “Graduates are not getting enough practical experience and knowledge of how they should operate in the classroom.  We must make sure that teachers have a clear objective for their lesson, have got the appropriate classroom management skills and are able to get the required classroom discipline.”

Reform of the initial teacher education (ITE) sector has been under way for many years.  It was sparked by the 2014 report of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG), which showed a high degree of variability in the quality of courses on offer, including “significant pockets of very poor practice”.  New standards for the accreditation of ITE courses were rolled out in 2015 to align course content with the professional standards for good teaching practice.  The Education Council agreed to more reforms to ensure all courses met the standards regardless of their jurisdiction, including the rollout of teaching performance assessments (TPAs) for graduates.

The tests have been met with some push-back from parts of the sector.  A recent TEMAG forum heard that there was a lack of agreement from the universities as to the value of TPAs.  While Mr Tehan acknowledged there had been some resistance, he said he had confidence in the reform process.  But critics have claimed the ITE course standards are too vague and that the process of accreditation lacks rigour.  La Trobe University’s Pamela Snow said: “They are not at all specific and it’s very easy for a program to look like they are meeting the accreditation requirements.  It shouldn’t be open to individual universities being free to interpret the standards as they see fit.”

Education expert Stephen Dinham, of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, agreed more work was needed to strengthen ITE courses.  “The key is having a proper accreditation process because at the moment it’s very low-level and paper-based,” Professor Dinham said.  “No course has been knocked back for accreditation.  Some might have taken a little while but they all get there.”  The federal Education Department said that as of October, all ITE programs met the strengthened accreditation standards.  There are 48 initial teacher education providers offering 349 programs and graduating about 18,000 potential teachers every year.

Australian Council of Deans of Education president Tania Asp­land said professional experience for teaching students and teachers was the “unfinished business” of the TEMAG reforms.  She cautioned against any bid for a “magic solution” to the issue of classroom management.  “The focus should be more on learning than discipline, you can’t separate the two,” Professor Aspland said.  “If you can get students engaged in learning and they love learning, then discipline problems tend to be minimised.”  Teacher and author Greg Ashman welcomed Mr Tehan’s comments, given that classroom management was an issue that left many teachers worried.

While the course standards require graduate teachers to be able to identify ways to boost student engagement as well as manage challenging behaviour, Mr Ashman said much of what was taught was not useful, leaving many teachers struggling. “This idea that if you provide an engaging lesson that kids will be engaged and behave, it’s complete nonsense,” he said. Mr Tehan said teachers also wanted the curriculum decluttered so they could concentrate on teaching the basics well.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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TEACHERS PUSH FOR SAME-SEX READING IN SCHOOL

By | Australian Newsletter

A group of English teachers is pushing for secondary students to study more books featuring same-sex attracted characters and queer relationships to better reflect sexual diversity in the wake of changes to marriage laws.  The campaign comes after researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) claimed just two out of 21 English texts recommended by the national curriculum authority, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, contain protagonists, characters, experiences or relationships outside of the heterosexual norm.

Their analysis, published in English in Australia, the journal of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, was seized upon by the group to urge teachers to “challenge heterosexism” and “give voice to a wider range of perspectives on love”.  An accompanying editorial, which is read by the group’s 4500 members, said the passing of same-sex marriage legislation was a “watershed moment in Australian history”.  Highlighting the result of the 2017 plebiscite, “English teachers surely need to respond to this endorsement of same-sex marriage on the part of an overwhelming majority of the population.”

In their paper, titled Queering Senior English, QUT’s Kelli McGraw and Lisa van Leent call on creators of authorised text lists to “address the persistence of heteronormativity in Australian schools by listing texts that represent diverse sexual identities and issues of sexual difference and diversity”.  They argue that texts that include queer representation provide an avenue for students to see themselves reflected in literature, yet the sample list distributed by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) “grossly represents that under-represented queer life”.

Analysing the 13 recommended fiction texts and eight nonfiction texts, the authors point out that queer readings of The Great Gatsby have highlighted the “homosexual leanings of Nick” as well as challenges to constructions of gender.  Twelfth Night, which sees Viola disguise herself as a man and take the name Cesario, could also be interpreted as challenging notions of gender construction.

According to Dr McGraw and Dr van Leent’s analysis, the text list “does show how curriculum choices can marginalise or silence diverse experiences”.  “By queering the senior ­English sample text list in the Australian curriculum, at the very least, LGBTIQ+ youth will see aspects of their lives reflected at school,” they write.  Centre for Independent Research Studies senior research fellow Jennifer Buckingham said selecting books for English students should be based on literary merit rather than “fulfilling an arbitrary quota of LGBQIT characters”.  “It’s fine to recognise and discuss diverse sexualities and to encourage teachers to use sensitive and inclusive language, and teenagers in today’s classrooms would demand it, but it’s a different matter to seek to rebalance history somehow by over-focusing on it,” she said.

ACARA declined to comment but it is understood it has no plans for changes to the curriculum.  Dr McGraw said several states, including NSW, Victoria and Queensland, had their own lists of recommended senior English texts, but they did not appear to be any more inclusive.  Dr McGraw said she did not believe that literary merit was dictated by the content of the text.  “It is dictated by the quality,” she said. “There’s plenty of trashy books about diverse sexuality you can find.”  Damien Riggs, associate professor in social work at Flinders University welcomed the push.  “Children who are gender or sexually diverse get to see themselves reflected,” he said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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PUNTERS, GOVERNMENT, POLITICAL PARTIES AND SUPERMARKETS ALL ADDICTED TO POKIES

By | Australian Newsletter

Victorians lost a record $2.726 billion to poker machines in 2018 according to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation report tabled this month.  The Australian Christian Lobby’s state director Dan Flynn said, “These staggering losses, from more than 27,000 machines, demonstrate that nothing is being done to tackle the harm that gambling causes families and community”.  “The concentration of these machines in lower socio-economic areas exploits disadvantaged families,” Mr Flynn said.  Disturbingly, analysis   reveals that food company Woolworths owned four of the top 10 yielding venues taking losses of $185 million from Victorians last year.

“The damage caused by poker machines could be drastically reduced if poker machines were limited to $1 bets or adjusted to incorporate mandatory pre-commitment of losses.  The ACL is willing to work alongside the Andrews government to develop legislative reforms to the gambling sector for the wellbeing of all Victorians.” commented Mr Flynn.  “However, the Victorian government will need to break its substantial dependence on the taxation revenue from gambling.  Some years ago, this was estimated at 13% of all tax revenue.” Mr Flynn said.

“No meaningful reforms have been delivered by the Labor or Liberal parties because they continue to receive large donations from the gaming industry.  The major parties must stop receiving these political donations as it clearly shows a vested interest in maintaining the gambling industry.  Breaking gambling addiction is hard; for punters, governments and political parties.  For the sake of the damaged lives and their families, compassion must conquer profits.” Mr Flynn said.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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AGENDA ACTIVISM TAKES OVER UNIVERSITY AUSTRALIAN HISTORY CLASSES

By | Australian Newsletter

Agenda-driven activism has subverted the teaching of Australian history at the nation’s universities, with gender, race and class politics dominating two-thirds of subjects on offer.  Australian history is no longer taught as a study of past events, according to a report by the Institute of Public Affairs.  It argues students are more likely to be exposed to disconnected themes, or “microhistories”, presented through the lens of identity politics, than key concepts explaining Australia’s development as a modern nation.  An audit of the 147 Australian history subjects offered across 35 universities showed 102 were preoccupied with identity politics. Of those, 13 subjects were solely focused on gender and sexuality, race or class.

ANU’s Sexuality in Australian History examined “how an understanding of sexual diversity in the past can illuminate current debates in Australian society”.  Monash University’s History of Sexuality 1800 to the Present had topics that included “the construction of masculinity and femininity, courtship and marriage, heterosexuality and homosexuality”.  In comparison, four subjects featured democracy as a major theme, three covered industrialisation, and capitalism was the focus of just one subject.  Prime ministers appear to be largely overlooked, but Queensland senator Pauline Hanson is mentioned in the descriptions for three subjects.

The report’s author, Bella d’Abrera, said the audit highlighted that students were not being taught basic concepts explaining the origins of Australian society, including its successes as a modern nation.  She said historians had instead “recast themselves as political activists” and students were being “politicised in the classroom” as a result of the courses that were available to them.  “Historians occupy a special position because they have a unique ability to shape our society and to shape the future, but they should not attempt to rewrite the past,” Dr d’Abrera said.

“By reframing Australia’s past using the lens of identity politics, they are warping history to fit their own agenda.”  The report highlights how indigenous history has been framed around common themes of resistance, colonisation and the frontier wars.  Twenty-nine of the 57 indigenous history subjects offered focused on indigenous-settler relations “in terms of violence and conflict rather than co-existence and co-operation”.  Dr d’Abrera said many Australian history subjects were better suited to the disciplines of politics, sociology or anthropology.

She said there was a dearth of subjects that discussed Australia’s economic and political development since 1788 and only one subject looked into the cultural conditions in Britain that led to the development of our liberal democracy.  No subject mentioned “the fact the Australian nation had benefited enormously from the Western legacy”, Dr d’Abrera said.  She said this shed new light on the opposition that the Ramsay Centre has come up against in its bid to establish degrees in Western civilisation at several Australian universities.

After rejection by ANU and a push-back from academics at the University of Sydney, the Ramsay Centre recently signed up the University of Wollongong as a partner for a course and scholarship program planned to launch in 2020.

Bachelor of Arts student Oscar Green took the University of Queensland’s The Australian Experience during his first year of study expecting to be introduced to issues around Australian history and culture.  Instead he was disappointed by a “disproportionate focus” on race and gender and “revisionist approach” to studying the past.  A Victorian university student says her education is being “suffocated” by identity politics, revealing that she was instructed to use the adjective “enslaved” instead of the noun “slave” and was marked down for referencing a quote featuring a racial slur in a historical essay.

Theodora Pantelich recently completed her first year of a bachelor of arts degree in history and Russian at the University of Melbourne, and was surprised by the influence of identity politics in her course.  “When I began to study history at university, I was surprised that it was being taught through the lens of identity politics,” she said.  “Rather than teaching students factual information, lecturers seem more concerned with approaching their analysis of history from Marxist perspectives.  “The obvious problem with this approach was that this leads to a total abandonment of objectivity, with historical facts being viewed merely as constructs rather than self-evident truths.

Source: Compiled by APN from various reports

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PREVENTING ELECTION VOTE FRAUD – PRAYER NEEDED

By | Australian Newsletter

Let us pray that Vote Frauds do not interfere with future federal & state elections.  The means to fix Vote Frauds became available with the publication on 5 December 2018 of the Parliamentary committee report on the subject.  There are two recommendations that are of particular interest in addressing the problem of vote fraud.  Recommendation 12 requires Voter ID, and would require amendment to the Commonwealth Electoral Act, which will be difficult in the short time available, with less than 10 sitting days before the expected May federal election.

Recommendation 25 requires the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) to electronically link polling booths to the central Electoral Roll so as to stop “Multiple Voting” at different polling booths in much the same way that Bank ATMs are linked to a central Bank account to stop you withdrawing the same cash at two or more different ATMs.  Implementing this requires the cooperation of the AEC in the short time available.  It can be done, if there is the political will and determination within the federal Government to make the AEC perform.  It was done in South Africa in a short time 20 years ago by a computer engineer now working in North Sydney.

As well as praying, you could lobby any coalition MPs or Senators that you know and urge them to urge the PM to adopt Recommendations 12 and 25.  Quite possibly many coalition MPs and Senators might be unaware of this report as it was released on the second last day of sitting last year.

Source: National Alliance of Christian Leaders

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QUEENSLAND COMMITTEE CONSIDER ASSISTED SUICIDE LEGISLATION

By | Australian Newsletter

The Australian Christian Lobby warns that the consequences of legalising Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in Queensland are far-reaching and still considerably unknown.  Recently it was reported that two doctors and a psychiatrist could face jail after a Belgium court ruled that in 2010, they diagnosed a 38-year old woman with autism so that she could be euthanised.  “This is the second case to make international headlines with Dutch authorities prosecuting a doctor for drugging an elderly patient’s coffee.  The doctor then asked family members to hold down the struggling woman while injecting the lethal drug,” commented ACL’s state director Wendy Francis.

“Cases like these show the dramatic change in attitude towards patients and care when euthanasia is legalised.  When death becomes a legal form of care the value for life is greatly diminished.  The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety serves as a reminder that there are grave issues with the treatment of elderly people already.  If physician-assisted suicide becomes a valid form of care, it will only serve to complicate an already flawed system” Francis said.  The Australian Christian Lobby will continue to urge the Queensland government to protect vulnerable people by considering additional funding for palliative care services and aged care facilities.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby 

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ONLY A UNITED NATION CAN MEET THE CHALLENGES OF A CHANGING WORLD

By | Feature Articles

As we approach another election and the debate heats up, many Australians despair of our future, with good reason.  Research shows that we are distressingly distrustful of one another, of our once-revered institutions, and of governments and politicians in particular.  Furthermore, we are polarised as perhaps never before as social activists, infused across our society, dominate much of today’s divisive public discourse.  The advent of social media has provided a rudimentary global public square, which Australians have taken to using with enthusiasm.  However, the level of abuse, emotion, hatred and splintering that it is producing has led economic historian Niall Ferguson to observe that it is so destabilising it may yet render our societies ungovernable.

Yet there is little narrative around the major and very threatening challenges confronting us.  Economic and geopolitical, these are largely external to our country, but the threats are real and blind to our tribalism.  They demand a recognition of our shared interests, and national unity, if our complacency in confronting them is not to destroy our cherished freedom, harmony and prosperity.  Only when we identify the serious need for a national response to the challenges will we be able to leave behind the attacks we seem to be conducting on one another.

The first challenge is the inevitable global economic downturn, next time Australia will not be immune.  The debt crisis that went within an ace of collapsing the global economy a decade ago has not been resolved.  It has been kicked down the road by vast new levels of public debt, running at unprecedented levels in the West.  We sailed through the past event because of extraordinarily sound public finances, care of the Coalition government, and because China, relatively unaffected at that time, continued buying many of its raw materials from us.

Although significant progress has been made by this government in winding back our annual deficits, we have a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 30 per cent in net terms, not comparable to the horrific debt problems of the US and Europe but fast approaching the point at which they lost control of their economies a decade ago.  Therefore, economic management is an absolute priority.  We want the strongest and most resilient economy we can manage, securing jobs and opportunities, and able to pay for the services and infrastructure that we expect.

Another challenge, and increasing the likelihood of economic trauma, is our move to a completely new global power setting.  We complacently believe the dominance of the West, and in particular its leadership, both economic and military, by the US, will secure our stability and safety.  For the first time we no longer can take for granted that the most powerful nation will necessarily be able to come to our aid, or maintain global order in the event of adventurism by one or more of the new troublesome power centres such as Russia, Iran or North Korea.  Nor can we take lightly the possibility of miscalculation between the reigning superpower and the rising superpower.

It is high time we found a deep sense of national unity and common purpose for the sake of peaceful harmony and co-operation as a people.  Although it has been hardly reported or analysed in Australia, the Americans have effectively signalled a new cold war with China.  Their trade war with China is under way but this is about a great deal more than the belief, both by Republicans and Democrats, that the Chinese are not trading fairly.

Vice-President Mike Pence has charged China with stealing US commercial secrets on an industrial scale, meddling in US politics, seeking influence in US institutions such as universities and engaging in debt-trap diplomacy with the Third World to gain global influence and displace America, particularly from the western Pacific.

We simply are not prepared to cope with these extraordinary new dynamics.

Every major country in the region, including Australia, does more trade with China than it does with the US, and that trade is critically important to global prosperity, including our own.  Yet, strategically, China is boldly flexing its muscle, including in the South China Sea, where it has built military bases in contested waters aimed at controlling the world’s most important sea lanes, and key western approaches to Taiwan, Japan and Korea.  It is plainly seeking to displace the US, with which we are so aligned, as our region’s major power.

This is not just a change in the “software” of international trade and relations in our area, it is a change in the “operating system”.  It poses enormous challenges, the likes of which we have not seen since the 1940s.  If we get this wrong, we will end up poorer, weaker, fragile and more vulnerable.  In the face of this, we need to have a sober, mature and foresighted debate about what is truly important to us, about what makes us different and sets us apart.  In any contest, you need to know what you mean to keep; what’s not negotiable.  But we’re not having that debate; instead, we’re pretending that everything will go on as usual.

This complacency is evident in the decade spent struggling to sign contracts for 12 submarines that we are told are such a vital deterrent.  At the earliest, the first may reach us by the middle of the 2030s, the last perhaps in the 2050s.  It was seen as a priority in 2009, making it all the more staggering that there has not been greater urgency recently, given the dramatic change in our strategic environment.  Perhaps an even more frightening reflection of our complacency is that we have not built the strategic fuel reserves that we committed to having in place under the terms of the International Energy Agency.

We have little liquid fuel self-sufficiency any more, and 40 to 45 ships are heading towards Australia at any given time carrying the vital fuel supplies that are absolutely critical to the functioning of our economy.  Many of those ships pass near the southern end of the South China Sea, where the potential for miscalculation, or worse, cannot be discounted, with an interruption to shipping leaving Australia almost crippled within a matter of days.  It is high time we found a deep sense of national unity and common purpose for the sake of peaceful harmony and co-operation as a people.

It also happens to be the case that these great issues before us must be, and can be, the clarion call for the redevelopment of a commitment to the common good, and the restoration of our trust in and regard for our freedoms, and the institutions that underpin them.  I believe thinking Australians would agree that these are the most pressing issues to address at the next federal election.

Source: John Anderson former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Leader of the Nationals from 1999 to 2005.  His Conversations series, made up of video discussions about pressing issues, with opinion leaders from Australia and abroad, can be found at www.johnanderson.net.au

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AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIAN LOBBY STATEMENT REGARDING PILL TESTING

By | Australian Newsletter

Recent drug-related deaths at festivals over the recent holiday period have renewed the push for pill testing in Australia.  The Australian Christian Lobby notes that drugs are inherently unsafe regardless of whether or not they have been tested.  For example, 15-year-old Anna Wood died from ecstasy not because it was tainted, but because of the idiosyncratic effects of any illicit drug.  Illicit drugs remain illegal and should be treated as such by governments and by the police.  Not enforcing the law sends a message, especially to young people, that drug-taking is both dangerous and foolish.

Testing a pill creates a permission structure for consumption of the pill, thereby giving implicit approval to dangerous and irresponsible behaviour which no careful parent would wish their child to partake in.  In any event, as with most ‘harm minimisation’ systems, it is unlikely that pill testing would have the benefits claimed by advocates.   Research conducted during the first pill testing trial in Australia at Canberra’s Groovin the Moo last year showed that only 18 percent of festival-goers would decide not to take a drug which returned an adverse test result.  State governments should continue to enforce the law and reject pill-testing proposals.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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