Archives: January 2010

Even in those heady piñata-bashing weeks of November 2007, I don’t think any of us were expecting the Rudd/Gillard government to be some kind of paragon of progressivism. By then, I was already low expectations R Us. Simply not being Howard, Abbott, Nelson and Bishop were the key to gaining my vote. It turns out that even this was asking a bit too much.

Murphy's law states that if you post a scornful article bagging someone else's web site, there will be a great big dog's balls of a HTML error just below the byline.

Murphy's law states that if you post a scornful article bagging someone else's web site, there will be a great big dog's balls of a HTML error just below the byline.

At first, I was a fan of Julia Gillard, a funny, combatative ranga who could reduce the baying saurians in the Liberal seats to a humiliated near-silence (assuming they’re capable of understanding and feeling humiliation, that is). She’s fun to listen to in question time, but she broke my heart with the part she played in the 2004 election. OK, so she shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near environmental policy, but surely she’d come good on the social justice issues…?

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.

Back to Gillard, who on assuming the Deputy PMship announced that she would bring on an Education Revolution. Well, since “revolution” can mean doing a complete 360 and ending up facing the same way as when you started, then OK, technically correct, Julia.

Trevor Cobbold in his article, The Free market and the Social divide in Education (PDF), points out that the My School website is a continuation of the commodification of education which features the establishment of “quasi-markets” in schools.

The publication of the results of each school is seen as a central component of quasi-markets because it is supposed to inform parent choice…
The Rudd government has maintained and extended the focus on markets and competition in education… It has not reversed any of the key measures of the Howard government.
…It is paradoxical that a government which calls itself progressive is implementing the policies of its erstwhile conservative predecessor.

Progressive? They’re starting to make the previous government look more progressive:

…(A)s far as education policy is concerned, the Rudd Government has given John Howard and David Kemp another term in office…(The PM) says that schools that fail to improve will be subject to “tough action”, including firing principals and senior staff and closing schools. This is something that Kemp could only dream of.

And a Labor government that can actually introduce policies that aren’t the previous government’s leftovers plus spin from a personable pollie – that’s something that I can only dream of.

Robert Merkel at LP has more on the nuts and bolts behind the My School website.

24 Jan 2010, Comments (20)


Author: Helen

First post for Cast Iron Balcony 2010, and the first since I took a break from it. I missed it.

Towards the end of last year, it was just getting a bit too hard. In some ways, CIB was becoming the victim of its success. I’d had requests for interviews from journos and invitations to post on prominent group blogs (haven’t been doing anything there, either.) Most people would be ecstatically happy, but because I’m a neurotic over-thinker, my response was to begin to obsess over the quality of every post and my lack of a PhD in every subject I blogged about. One of the group blogs I’m a part of is mainly composed of academics and other professionals, which made me think… well… What right do I really have about to write about stuff, anyway? And what right do I have to occupy a position as a “feminist blogger” in the Ozblogosphere without ever having taken a tertiary course in gender studies?

Of course, the answer to that that Miranda Devine, Catherine Deveny, Andrew Bolt, the De Britos and hundreds of other bloviators don’t have the slightest hesitation about hitting their keyboards about any topic whatsoever, and they get paid for it, too. So I should revive this blog and keep on doing what I started it for: writing about whatever’s interesting or angsting me at any given moment.

I think that as the readership of CIB increased my sense of responsibility increased to the point where every post on something I care about became a 10,000 word essay which had to be researched for three weeks before I wrote a word. I just made it into very hard work. Plenty of political blogs are an intelligent articulation of how the writer reacts to events or other writings, rather than a pseudo-academic or pseudo-journalistic exercise.

In other words, I needed to get over myself a bit.

Also, 2009 was a hell of a year. How was yours? I had one kid finishing grade six and starting high school, and another one doing VCE and wanting to start Uni straight away, no gap year. So we had the quadruple-whammy of: Grade 6 end-of-year stuff; Supporting VCE student through exams (like being the person in a little van who putters along after the endurance cyclist or long distance runner who is near the finish line) plus VCE end-of-year stuff, including a major formal Graduation party; Choosing, applying for, and doing orientation things for younger kid’s high school; Choosing, applying for, and doing Open Day things for eldest kid’s University.

As well, we had VCE Graduation night, Schoolies week (shudder), and various other bits and pieces to do with schools. Girlchild passed VCE with elan and has been accepted into Arts at Melbourne university.

Life has also changed a little since my Dad had a fall and broke his femur in September. He’s 89, so he’s doing bloody well considering, but he gave us a scare and spent time in Rehab (No, no, no!) and now has a wheelie walker and a community worker who comes to give him a shower. He still has reading, writing and cricket, but he’s lost bushwalking and overseas travel forever, I think. I’m going to check out disabled-friendly bush tracks for the cooler weather, but harder stuff will be out.

My mum, who’s 88, has had the boundaries of her life shrunk radically overnight. As she can’t leave Dad for very long, she’s had to give up a lot of her activities (Labor party membership, Quaker vigils; you can see where I get it from, can’t you?)

Then, also, we went to New Zealand for the summer holidays, so it’s only now that I’ve got the time to show my blog some love. I’ve had help from this talented web wrangler, who you might recognise.

Image notes: Last summer I posted a photo of our garden taken from the balcony, which is actually a deck and not a balcony at all. The apricot tree behind the perching dove is gone. A few days after I took the photo, there was a terrible heatwave which cooked every leaf on the tree. I waited to see whether it would regenerate after winter, but it was definitely dead; it was a sad job pruning it back, then back again, and finding only dead wood.

In case this becomes like a sad metaphor for this blog, I plan to plant a couple of trees and many, many (drought tolerant) plants this coming autumn as well as watering and nurturing the blog.