A long overdue rant

Long overdue in the sense that anything here is long overdue as I hadn’t blogged for a long long time.

Long overdue in the sense that Australia’s anti-intellectualism and suspicion of those with a university education has long gotten up my nose and it’s about time that I said my piece about it. (No guarantees that this is my piece in its entirety, I reserve my right to rant further on this topic).

Ok, some background, some context is probably necessary before I put my rant pants on.

The Labor government has been very education focused since coming to power in 2007.  In 2008 when Julia Gillard was federal Minister for Education she oversaw the signing of the Melbourne Declaration (which is the official document outlining Australia’s national goals for education). By fortuitous happenstance the education ministers of all the states (with the exception of Western Australia) were members of the Labor party and a close look at the Melbourne Declaration and Labor education policy suggests that the Melbourne Declaration enshrines many of Labor’s education policies into this national  agreement (the national curriculum, increased federal control over education, accountability and transparency, equity, etc). Since the signing of the Melbourne Declaration the federal Labor government has increased its control of the education sector. We are closer to having a national curriculum than ever before, we have a federal quality framework for the early childhood sector, the new government bodies AITSL [Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership] (AITSL is currently developing a federal set of teaching professional standards) and ACARA [Australian Curriculum, Assessment, and Reporting Authority] (ACARA oversees the NAPLAN testing and the MySchool website) mean that education is being overseen and regulated by federal as well as the existing state regulatory bodies. As can been see from this brief overview, since coming to power in 2007 the Labor government has been busy (whether this incursion into education is positive or not is a debate for another day).

Image of the Melbourne Declaration document

Although there has been a lot of progress since 2007, things have gotten more difficult since Julia Gillard became Prime Minister in 2010. Not only is her government a minority government, but various states now have Liberal led governments thus the cohesion that existed when the Melbourne Declaration was signed no longer holds.

Not very long ago the federal government commissioned a review of education funding in Australia – the Gonski review. School funding is one of those contentious topics where everyone is an expert and everyone has an agenda. So the Gonski review was commissioned and it returned with a conclusion that in order to fix some of the problems of the unnecessarily complex and opaque conditions surrounding school funding, and to ensure that all schools are adequately funded on a needs basis, it is going to cost an extra $5 billion – this is probably higher than it needs to be as Gillard stated that no schools would be worse off as a result of any changes arising from the Gonski review. Anyway with agreement from the states the Gonski Review recommendations  might be put in place – but it isn’t going to happen with the states in slash and burn money saving mode.

And this all brings me to the subject of my rant. A post by Liberal Minister Alan Tudge on ABC’s The Drum on the failure of the government to implement the recommendations of the Gonski Review has managed to push my buttons. Tudge argues that the Gillard government needs to concentrate on teacher quality in order to improve Australia’s educational outcomes. He states:

After two years of work, it will back to the drawing board for Gillard, but she now has the opportunity to do what she should have done at the outset: tweak the current funding model and then focus attention on what really matters – quality teaching.

Our teacher training courses are frequently poor, focusing too much on the philosophy of education and not enough on the basics of how to teach well.

Well, I have a couple of things to say to this. You know what I love. I love how everyone is an expert when it comes to teachers and teacher education. And yes let’s hold teachers responsible for the state of education, no better yet, lets blame teacher educators for the state of education in Australia.

Firstly, the Gillard government is looking at teacher quality – what does he think that AITSL is all about?

Secondly, what does he think that that teacher training courses actually involve? I can tell you, it’s certainly not four years of nothing but philosophy of education. (Can you imagine it? ED101 – Intro to educational philosophy I, ED102 – Intro to educational philosophy II, ED201 – Educational philosophy I, ED202 – Educational philosophy II, ED301 – Studies in Educational philosophy I, ED302 – Studies in Educational Philosophy II, ED401 – Advanced studies in Educational Philosophy I, ED402 – Advanced Studies in Educational Philosophy II!!). I can assure you that while educational philosophy is a part of an education degree, it is a small part. Education students study educational foundations (history, sociology, psychology  and yes, a smattering of philosophy with a focus on ethics – I ask you who wants teachers without any background knowledge in ethics?); curriculum and subject content courses, pedagogy and methodology, behaviour management, special education and Aboriginal education as well as professional studies courses (incorporating practicums and an internship). What, pray tell, should be left out? So perhaps before Liberal Ministers bag out teacher education they should actually take a minute to find out what contemporary teacher training involves.

Thirdly, although I am not against improving teacher quality and teacher education (although I believe neither are in the perilous state indicated by Tudge) improving these areas alone will not solve the problems of our education system. The current focus on teacher quality puts the responsibly for educational outcomes on individual teachers and on the institutes responsible for teacher accreditation and registration. It ignores that education is embedded in complex structures and that student outcomes are influenced by, not just teacher quality, but also their SES background and the SES background of the schools of which they attend, parental and community attitudes to education, the curriculum, resources available to them and a host of other factors. Teachers themselves do not work in isolation and quality teaching is enabled when teachers work together in schools. The emphasis on teacher quality and the current solutions proposed to improve teacher quality  – bonus pay, teacher accreditation, professional standards – are each based on the presupposition that teacher work and teacher success is an individual endeavour and ignores the reality that teachers work as part of system – they work with colleagues, the school leaders, parents and the community, and within education systems; complete with bureaucracies, rules, syllabus documents and expectations over which they have no control. In other words, due to the complexities of the education system and the varied communities within which schools are embedded, improving individual teacher performance will not necessarily lead to better educational outcomes. Teacher quality is not the panacea for education’s problems. And discourses which look to simplistic solutions to solve education’s woes only serve to obfuscate the many factors influencing educational outcomes. The inequities that plague our otherwise good education system took several generations to evolve to this point, a renewed emphasis on teacher training is not going to suddenly make these problems disappear.

*deep breath* I think I’ll leave it there for now, but I do have more to say on this topic.

Disclosure: I have a PhD in educational philosophy, work as a teacher educator.

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Foolishness? or Misogyny?

Perhaps both in equal measure – foolish misogyny from a misogynistic fool.  Yes, Steve Fielding I am taking about you. Do you seriously believe that

“Drug addicts and welfare cheats can go out there and get themselves pregnant and then after 20 weeks have an abortion and still pocket the Government’s cash,” he said.

Family First Senator Steve Fielding has been condemned by other senators for suggesting women might have an abortion after 20 weeks to try to claim paid parental leave.

I have to wonder if you are serious – do you really believe that women are cunning and calculating enough to get pregnant, then have a late-term abortion, then claim that it was a stillbirth and then OMG! shamelessly take the government’s money. Kinda a lot to go through for the minimum wage for 18 weeks, I mean, the supposed diabolical pregnancy would last longer than the cash flow.

But perhaps you are serious, after your religion has inculcated you with the belief that women are responsible for the entry of evil into the world, and I suppose that if that’s the basis of your twisted logic, I can see how you might seriously think that masses of evil women could rort the system in such a manner. Seriously, though, when Barnaby Joyce is telling you that what you are doing is contemptuous [perhaps he meant contemptible?] then perhaps you really should take a long hard look at yourself.

I wholeheartedly agree with News with Nipples who awarded you the Tony Abbott Budgie Smuggler award for Excellence in the Field of Misogyny. So take your award and go listen to the angels.

The Down Under Feminists Carnival is here!

And I do mean literally here! Because this month I am pleased to be your host for the 21st Edition.

So let me pour you a cuppa (how do you take it?) and let’s enjoy this over high tea, shall we?

Well that’s January been and gone. What has happened in the last month?

It seems to have been a quiet month on the blogging front, what with the summer heat and rain and holidays and back to school and the myriad of other things going on this time of year, but there is still plenty to enjoy in terms of feminist writing.

The New Year has been seen in:

And we’ve been wished a Happy New Year! by Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty. And there has been some farewells too, leading Queen Emily to question The legacies of trans-exclusive feminism at her post at Hoyden About Town.

There has been some great discussion about things relating to the domestic sphere – the home, house and family concerns.

Tansy Rayner Roberts has been Writing While The House is Messy at tansyrr.com.

Parenting is a perennial topic, and January saw discussion of the added complexities when the parenting is being done by a step-parent. Stepmum Of The Year wonders Rights? What rights should step parents have? and Stef at A Touch of the Crazy is inquiring Does stepparenting = step-mothering?

Meanwhile, Sophie at 2 B Sophora paints a poignant picture of One woman and her guard.

As usual with feisty feminist writers there has been some great posts relating to Race, Rights and Identity

A shiny new coin muses on taxes and toilets. Tigtog, at Hoyden About Town, looks at Complacency, Indifference and Intent (or lack thereof) in terms of the discussion around the attacks on Indian students. Chally makes it clear that Disability is not your analogy at Zero at the Bone, and she examines The Privileges and Pains of Passing. Stephiepenguin examines her racial identity and muses and it looks like… posted at 天高皇企鹅远.  In examining identity and insults girliejones wonders Do some insults hurt less?

January 23 was Blogging for Choice Day  – this year with the theme of ‘Trust Women’

Deborah – In a strange land,  asks that we  Trust women, and Tigtog was also Blogging for Choice,  at   Hoyden About Town.

In addition to trust, respect was also a bit of a reoccurring theme this month.

Chally reminds us of The importance of women’s friendships at Zero at the Bone.  Deborah In a strange land sends a Note to Mike Rann: the title is “Ms”. Pharaoh Katt asks that we respect children and their bodies and not  Name and Shame them at Something More Than Sides.

The disrespectful and denigrating of image of the older woman as the ‘cougar’ seems to be an increasing presence in popular culture and thankfully this is being critiqued.  Fuck Politeness writes of Karaoke and cougars. Julie at The Hand Mirror suggests that there has been Vileness, and a bit of irony, from Air NZ and she gives us More on Air NZ’s cougar rubbish. The Luddite Journo asks why Those damn cougars just won’t lie back and think of England ?

Posts pertaining to politics and activism.

Deborah at In a strange land gives us A fabulous resource for feminists, womanists, disabilism activists, equality activists. January’s been an interesting month politically and Rachel Hills at Musings of an Inappropriate Woman has Sex advice for my future children… inspired by Tony Abbott. At the frogblog,  Catherine Delahunty asks Will Cathy Taewa get answers from Paula and Nick?

Posts pertaining to Body image and Sexuality

The bad news, according to The Dawn Chorus, is that Female Ejaculation Doesn’t Exist.   Also, did you know that Jennifer Hawkins does ‘real beauty’ wrong – In case you hadn’t realised blue milk examines the fallout from ‘that’ magazine cover.

Posts pertaining to fashion and rape culture – unfortunately paired together because all you need to know about rape culture has been encapsulated on some men’s T-shirt

(trigger warnings for the links to the posts in this section)

Chally, writing at Feministe looks at the offending and offense shirts in Today in selling misogyny and LudditeJourno has learnt that from said fashion items that It’s not rape if you yell surprise. If that’s what being sold and worn does the existence of such Virtual realities: Sydney University’s “pro-rape” Facebook group surprise anyone? It doesn’t surprise Chloe  at Feministing.

The dismissal from court of a particular gang rape case has led to Emma Hart at Public Address fantasising about chocolate mousse aerosol cans so that we can get All Together Now.

The rules of consent still apply in a group sex situation. Which is why it also doesn’t help when, at the other end of the spectrum, people say that women can’t consent to group sex, or will only do so under social pressure, or maybe only think they do because they’re buying into a male viewpoint. Both viewpoints assume that group sex is always one woman and a group of men. Both remove the emphasis from whether the woman said yes or no – because how can I have the ability to say no unless I also have a meaningful ability to say yes?

Of course, someone has once again blamed Feminism for the rise of raunch culture, but the news with nipples has been writing about Feminism and dolls in order to set them straight.

Posts pertaining to the Media and Movies

Rachel Hills presents Sex & The City and the great (feminist?) quest for love at her blog Musings of an Inappropriate Woman.

Lauredhel gives us Arsevertising*: Will You Be Ready For Your First Time? posted at Hoyden About Town. And she also examines That Homebirth Study in South Australia that was blatantly misrepresented in the media, also at Hoyden About Town.

Tansy Rayner Roberts  at tansyrr.com gives us a review of The Princess and the Frog.

Miscellaneous Musings

Kiwi back in Sydney! gives us a lovely walk through the Melbourne: CERES Garden. Jo Tamar at Wallaby has been Talking about mansplaining…. While meganwegan at Craft is the New Black reflects on Honesty, Anarkaytie gives us a Follow-up to academic feminism to be found at Anarkaytie’s Weblog.

Writing and Sci Fi

girlie jones not only looks at  the latest in female presence in SF ToCs but she asks do You know what’s fun to read in the debate on gender disparity in SF? .

And to see the carnival off, Whileawaying invites us to a Book Launch!

Well, its been lovely hosting you. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the tea and the writing.

Next month the carnival will be at Fuck Politeness‘ place. And don’t forget to submit (see here) – your own posts and those of other down under feminists that you’ve enjoyed reading this February.

Australia Day: Thank goodness that’s over for another year

Upon observing a spike in stats here on Australia Day, I note with some pleasure that my un-Australian musings from last year are being revisited. (My thoughts haven’t changed, create a new holiday, not on ‘Invasion Day’ and put it somewhere like July or August – a time of year when we could all do with a day off). This year I was again troubled by the thought that this year’s public holiday would be marred by the violence that soured last year’s events. (The signs were not good, not only the ‘cheap, cheap’ stores, but also Target and Big W, were stocking up on patriotic wear for the whole family and then there was the sudden appearance of a large Australian flag in my neighbour’s front window).  But things don’t seem to have been that bad this year. A quick (and I do emphasise quick, share in comments any stories that I’ve missed) peruse of the interwebs has not turned up the ‘Boozy Australia Day brawl deplorable’ type headlines of last year, but rather, I did find various commentators critiquing the seemingly ubiquitous ‘patriotic’ bad behaviour that emerges this time of year. See, for examples, Marieke Hardy on ABC’s the Drum, John Birmingham in the Brisbane Times, Shakira Hussein at the Stump, and tigtog at Hoyden About Town. Our Kev chooses not to indulge in rhetoric about keeping out the so-called undeserving to mark the holiday, he pontificates on other topics, (I wish the leader for the Opposition would show the same restraint).

(Prime example of patriotic bumper sticker)

Here we celebrated in a very low-key fashion, with a quiet BBQ with some friends that we have been meaning to catch up with since before Christmas. Unlike the rest of the street – the party only ended when our neighbour’s brawling united everyone in their desire to get them to calm down. After the police had been and gone and taken home a couple of young girls who didn’t feel safe in the street we could all get some sleep. This morning as I cleaned up the beer bottles from the front gutter I couldn’t help but wonder why a day putatively about celebrating the great things about  Australia so often brings out the worst in us.

Activism: Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009

Currently there is a senate inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009

From Australian Marriage Equality:

The Bill seeks to amend the federal Marriage Act so that same-sex partners are able to marry in Australia, and to recognise same-sex marriages legally entered into overseas.

The inquiry will be conducted by the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. No date has yet been set for a close of submissions, so we suggest you make your submission as soon as possible. The inquiry is due to report by 26 November 2009.

In 2004, an inquiry into the Howard Government’s ban on same-sex marriage received more submissions than any other Senate inquiry in history; 13,000 against same-sex marriage and 3000 in favour. Please join us in ensuring that the balance of submissions to the 2009 inquiry more accurately reflects majority community support for equality.

Anyone can make a submission, not just those in a same-sex relationship. It is also very important for our politicians to hear from family, friends, work colleagues and other supporters of our community.

Australian Marriage Equality have a niffy form set up so that you can send in a submission, and it is found here. I urge you to get political and support this important bill.  I wrote and sent in my submission before I had a poke around the the site which offers some great suggestions for what to submit. I had the following to say (my own words not bolded):

Dear Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee,

This is my submission to your inquiry into marriage equality. I fully endorse the submission made by Australian Marriage Equality in favour of the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009.

As our parliamentary representatives you are entrusted by us to act on the will of the people.  In light of polling which shows that a majority of Australians are pro marriage for same-sex couples I feel that it is wrong to withhold the privilege of marriage from any section of the community.  Particularly as the government now recognises and taxes as a couple same-sex partnerships, it seems to me to be churlish and bigoted to deny same-sex couples the status that is accorded wedded heterosexual unions.

Historically marriage was extremely patriarchal and based on an economic agreement between a groom and the bride’s father, the bride being exchanged between them like chattel.  Long gone are the days when women were considered to be the property of men.  Marriage used to have little to do with love and was undertaken for pragmatic reasons such as economic survival.  Marriage in (post)modernity is considered to be a union based on love, and the ideology supporting marriage has evolved from those unenlightened times when women were only valued for their reproductive capacities.  With the development of contraceptives, and changes in our socio-economic system, the production of progeny is no longer a defining characteristic of marriage.

Previously only men were given legal rights within marriage  – he represented the family, her rights were subsumed by his under the process of coverture.  Feminist agitation has removed most traces of coverture from marriage and men and women are now equal within marriage.  Both parties to the marriage have the right to vote and to represent the family economically.  Thus, the patriarchal family model, with the male who headed the household and represented it economically and legally, no longer exists.  There is now no longer any reason why the parties to marriage now have to be of a different gender.

As a married heterosexual women I do not believe that my relationship should be accorded status and privilege that is denied to other loving relationships on the basis of long gone past held beliefs and rejected ideology.

Today’s Post: Feminism + Activism

The thirteenth Down Under Feminist Carnival is up and is this month being hosted by Demezla of SAHM Feminist.  Demezla moved house while organising this month’s carnival, so, wow!  I am impressed at that level of commitment and the effort involved.  So go read what feminists down under have been blogging about during the month of May  (and let me tell you, it wasn’t all rugby and rape).

One of the focuses of last month was a call to activism by Lauredhel of Hoyden About Town.  Lauredhel wishes to bring to everyone’s attention the detrimental changes that are being proposed for access parking, under a scheme to “harmonise” the rules nationally, rather than the state by state system that functions currently.

The proposed new regulations would create huge problems for many people with disabilities. Lauredhel has the details here,  and an open letter to disability organisations that you can sign-up to. She’s also got a post about what really pisses her off about abuse of access parking, and it’s not what you might think.  Details about the current state and territory criteria can be found here.   Lauredhel articulates why this is a feminist issue.

Beppie has created a form letter to be copied and sent far and wide so that the proposed changes can be averted.  This letter can be modified as you wish, to suit your own circumstances and to include any additional ideas that you might have:

[Date]

Dear [Name OR Sir/Madam],

I am writing to express my concern regarding the scheme proposed in the discussion paper, “Harmonisation of Disability Parking Permit Schemes in Australia*”. The proposed scheme excludes a large proportion of people with disabilities who are adversely affected by regular parking. It does not make sufficient provisions for individuals who require a walking stick, or who use shopping trolleys or prams as alternative assistive devices. It also excludes individuals with disabilities who, although they are able to walk short distances without assistance, are negatively impacted by the requirement that they use distant or inaccessible parking. Consequently, it significantly reduces the number of Australians with disabilities eligible for a Disability Parking Permit, including many of those for whom access to accessible parking is a necessity for living everyday life.

Under current schemes, persons capable of walking only short distances without pain or other incapacitation can use disability parking spaces to access workplaces, educational institutions, healthcare services, shopping centres, and public facilities such as libraries and parks independently. Under the new proposal, these individuals will lose their independence, and be forced to rely on the assistance of others, contributing to their social and political isolation. People likely to be adversely affected include (but are not limited to) those who suffer from illnesses such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, those in the early stages of degenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, those with severe mental illnesses, and those who experience high levels of pain from past injuries etc.

In addition to having a profound negative impact on the independence of many Australians living with disability, this scheme also reinforces the harmful and narrow notion that disability must be visible—via the use of various medical mobility aids—before it is considered legitimate. If implemented, this scheme will particularly adversely affect those Australians who live with ‘invisible’ disabilities, who already suffer significant discrimination within the community.

This level of discrimination against people with disabilities is unacceptable in a nation dedicated to giving all of its citizens a “fair go”. People with disabilities are important contributors to the nation, and thus it is imperative that you expand the eligibility criteria for Disability Parking Permits before this scheme is implemented, for the sake of all Australians—but especially those who live with invisible disabilities.

Yours Sincerely,

[Name]

Emails can be sent to:
accessparking@fahcsia.gov.au

OR snail-mail to:
Australian Disability Parking Scheme submissions (East Wing)
FaHCSIA
PO Box 7576
Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610

Deadline for submissions is 5pm AEST Friday 31 July 2009.

I urge you to act on this issue.  Email or write to the above address and your state and federal members.  Click on the above links to gain a deeper understanding of an issue which I have only superficially addressed here.  Join the facebook group! If these proposed changes go ahead it is going to make life a lot more difficult for thousands of people, people for whom life can be a daily battle and who often have the least (physical/emotional) resources to fight this.

Acknowledgments to Lauredhel, Beppie and Demezla.

As we used to say back in highschool – “Duh Fred!”

We should have said sorry: Abbott

Opposition spokesman for Indigenous affairs, Tony Abbott, has admitted publicly for the first time that the Coalition made a mistake by refusing to apologise to Australia’s Indigenous population.

The former prime minister, John Howard, repeatedly defended his decision not to say sorry to Aboriginal people during his 11 years in power and criticised the Federal Government’s historic apology to the Stolen Generations last year.

Addressing a social services forum in Sydney, Mr Abbott was applauded when he publicly admitted the Coalition should have said sorry while in government.

“It was a mistake for us not to apologise to Aboriginal people,” he said as the crowd applauded.

“And I’m pleased when Kevin Rudd did decide to apologise that he was strongly supported by the Coalition.”

He was speaking as the Government officially adopted the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples at a ceremony in Parliament House, reversing the decision of the previous Government who voted against it in 2007.

What I’m not clear on is whether Abbott is implying that they should have done it as a vote winning political move, or they should have done it because its the moral thing to do.  For the rest of the article goes on to say that the Opposition are declaring the Government’s decision to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of  the Indigenous Peoples, a “grave error”.

What I am clear about is that  the ABC News comments thread is proving to be excellent blog fodder.  While a few commentators shared a reaction akin to mine, some, probably diehard JWH fans, were not happy.

Concerned Aussie: Already the socialist ALP party is dragging this once great country to the far-left, so much so that we have right-thinking politicians like Abbott succumbing to the do-gooder mentality.

Tony Porter: Dear Tony,
You and I were not in OZ when the stolen generation debacle happen so don’t apologize but make sure that any help given to the indigenous or part indigenous people at this time will not come back and bite our descendants on the bum.

regret: Whats wrong with you Tony Abbott? Why do you have to rehash the past? I admired John Howard for his stance on this issue, its a pity the rest of the govt. at the time didnt get behind Mr Howard and explain that he was right in his wording.

(Do I even live in the same country as ‘concerned aussie’?)  On the, most assuredly slim, basis of a comparison between the reaction to this story and the reaction to the story about a report the lifetime earnings gap between men and women, it seems that misogyny‘s more acceptable than racism, in terms of how people comment.