Categories: education

20 Feb 2013, Comments (0)

Down Under Feminist Carnival #57

Author: Helen

Down Under Feminists Carnival
Can’t blog – Have a family wedding coming up and I’m playing.
This month’s DUFC is curated by Scarlett Heartt. Thanks to Ms Heartt for an interesting carnival, and thanks to the link!

The March edition of the Down Under Feminists Carnival will be hosted by Johanna, Madeleine, and Laura at wom*news (from UQ). If you can’t access the blogcarnival Submissions form, send URLs and details of nominated posts to uqwnews [at] gmail [dot] com.

That is certainly a wonderful speech – I think that’s the kind of thing people mean when they say “speaking truth to power” – and I certainly hope you found it. It’s not the “Melbourne Grammar speech”, but the “Scotch College speech”. Since it seems to be so much in demand, here’s a new link, republished by Maloney with an accompanying gloss. I’ve added it to the Resources page too. I’m glad it’s popular, since it’s more pertinent than ever.

There’s another link to this article and many others here, too.

Or for a more snerk-inducing take, here’s First Dog on the Moon.

If you’re interested in the fight for public education, please read the Gonski report and “like” this page.

Today it was reported that police are searching near Cann River for the body of a teenage girl who was abducted in 1992. One of the “persons of interest” in that case is Craig Minogue, one of the nasties responsible for the Russell St Bombing.

Months before the bombing, one of the key planners, Craig Minogue, warned that if anyone spoke to the police he would kill them and their families, pointedly telling Hetzel’s de facto wife, Julie: ”It would be a shame if anything happened to your sweet little Prue, wouldn’t it?”
The girl was eight at the time.
Police say Minogue made a similar threat on at least one other occasion.

In 1988 Minogue was sentenced to life with a minimum of 27 years for the murder of Angela Taylor [the policewoman killed in the bomb attack]. And…

OK, are you sitting down? You’d better swallow that coffee before you read any further:

…he is now completing his PhD in applied ethics and moral philosophy inside prison.

I’m sorry about your keyboard, but I did warn you.

Now I don’t mean to come all Heraldsuntele on your arse, complaining about people furthering their education in prison and implying that they should be picking oakum for most of the time they aren’t being flogged on triangles, but there is a point at which an occupation and the person engaged in it appear to be, let’s say, an unlikely fit.

I’m fascinated to know what his thesis topic might be. “Abduction: a Comparison of Satisfaction levels from Ransom Collection versus Just Killing ’em”? “Persuasion: the Efficacy of large Explosions in protesting the Failure of the Justice system”. “Shame: What the F**’s that?”

Perhaps some people need to complete a PhD in ethics and moral philosophy before they’re able to make basic ethical decisions of the kind most of us master in kindergarten. Not killing people, for instance.

And recent online discussions suggest that some people might think the completion of a PhD is punishment enough.

Some parents around here are up in arms about the sudden axing of the Steiner education stream which has been maintained at Footscray Primary school for the last few years.

Footscray Steiner parents, I am sorry to hear that this was done so suddenly, and – according to newspaper reports – in such a cackhanded way. The program should have been phased out gracefully over another year, allowing parents to plan and children to transition more easily.

On the other hand, the situation should never have arisen because a Steiner stream should never have been allowed into a State primary school in the first place.

Public education was supposed to be free, secular and compulsory. The “secular” part is under siege, as it is, from Liberal government initiatives to put chaplains in schools and to force them to accept religious education classes, often by dubious practitioners. Steiner education is based on a kind of quasi-religious “spirituality” (I’d say “the random thoughts of an early Twentieth Century German crank”, but let’s go with that), and as such it drives the non-secular wedge in a little further. What’s the argument against having a Scientology stream if we allow this in our schools?

A Steiner parent at Footscray Primary was able to have a complaint about the Steiner annexe closure published in the Opinion page of the AGE, no less, by a prominent grandparent. This was published soon before the National Day of Action for public education, but the article made no mention of this. Come November 15, it would have been wonderful to see famous grandparents protesting about the ongoing defunding of public education in the AGE editorial, but there were none. Public education really needs defending in Victoria; it’s an inestimably valuable public good which we take for granted and fail to properly appreciate.

Educate your child at a Steiner school if you must, but keep religion and “spirituality” out of our Government school system, please.

4 May 2011, Comments (6)

What The…?

Author: Helen

In the Victorian State budget brought down today, the Baillieu government was keen to tell us that we were in for austerity in education spending – they’re aiming for over $300 million in cuts in the next 4 years “in a bid to reign in costs” (sic) (dear oh dear, it’s having an effect already). And they reneged on the election promise to improve public school teachers’ pay. But despite this solemn need for belt-tightening, somehow they still managed to keep their promise to give $240 million over that time to private and Catholic schools.

Who is going to defend the public system? Not the Federal government.

Oh, we got $24m for maths and science specialists in Primary – that’s less than half the amount the Vic government spent this year running the frigging Grand Prix.

The rest of this post was cancelled due to excessive swearing.

OK. I know some of you readers work for the Labor government or are Party members and are people I like and respect. So, this may cause pain to a few of you, and I apologise for that in advance. If you’re a “labor insider”, you might like to stop reading now. Alternatively, you might gain some pointers as to why you’re losing so many votes to the Greens.

I’ve never been a swinging voter. From the time I was old enough to vote I was a rusted-on Labor voter. Rusted on. Here are just a few of the reasons I won’t be voting for them in the next State election and why I haven’t been able to do so for some time.

Because they won’t commit to a properly funded and resourced public education system and instead, they tinker around the edges instead of fixing the structural problems that our public system faces. This seems to be because they aren’t in their own system’s corner. Instead, they allocate an extra 40% of funding to private and Church schools – a huge slap in the face to the parents who are sending their kids to public schools. And while developers and real estate agents and “consultants” buy new BMWs, they treat our teachers like shit.

Because they have set city against country people by building a pipeline from the already overstressed Murray Darling Basin to Melbourne, which many city people don’t want and which is an environmental disaster from start to finish. Because they are building a huge white elephant in the form of a desalination plant which will be run at least in part on fossil fuels such as coal and gas. Because when the rains came recently, instead of keeping water restrictions, they eased them and then published a photo of John Brumby happily washing a car. Way to make country people hate us.

Because they have signed a memorandum of agreement allowing their police force to pass confidential details of protesters to the consortium building the desalination plant.

Because their “planning” minister, Justin Madden, gives a tick to any project which the consortiums and developers want, over the objections to any informed protest, destroying priceless environmental and architectural treasures as he goes. They plan for sham consultations and then add insult to injury by trying to paper over this by starting a “department of respect”, headed by…? Justin Madden!

Because they are so much in bed with the Roads lobby that they can’t see beyond the construction for roads, roads and more roads, especially freeways. Oh, god are they in love with freeways. As well as the social and environmental damage caused by poorly planned developments there’s the opportunity cost of all the money that isn’t spent on public transport.

Because, speaking of public transport, they spent $775-850 million on the MYKI project, which still isn’t working properly. Rolling stock and infrastructure, meanwhile, is run down and neglected and many Melbourne suburbs limp along with only unreliable and infrequent buses. Those of us lucky enough to live near public transport are still packed in like sardines and subject to train cancellations and random system malfunctions. Meanwhile, our taxes are pissed up against a wall with nearly $50 million spent on a car race.

Because all these bloated projects are carried out through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) which represent an orgy of profit for developers and unions with sufficient muscle to extract a fair share of that profit. Because they accept donations from the people who profit. Because this is a symptom of how your “party of the workers” has adopted neoliberal, corporatist, managerialist values. As the title of the linked article says, they’ve become a Labor party in name only. Because these are steps down the disastrous road of privatising our most basic needs, like tap water.

Because they encourage urban sprawl, ignoring boundaries set out by wiser governments and destroying the Green Wedges, urban boundaries and city parklands that made Melbourne livable.

Because they broke their 2006 election promise to protect the last remaining significant stands of old-growth forest in Victoria, gazetting acres of low-value vegetation for “protection” while continuing to chainsaw Victoria’s old-growth forest, like the cool temperate forest of Brown Mountain. They mouth platitudes about “sustainable” forestry while leaving areas a smoking ruin which a Supreme Court judge, Jack Forrest (heh) compared to the battlefield of the Somme.

Clearfelling at Brown Mountain

Because although they got rid of Stephen Newnham, they have kept their dirt unit under the new guy, Nick Reece, doing stupid stuff like this. “Super Attack”? How old are their staffers, twelve?

Because “don’t criticise Labor because the Liberals might get in, and they’re worse,” doesn’t really inspire me, and that’s pretty much the best their supporters can come up with.

Now I’ve run out of time, but not out of reasons.

See you at the polling booth tomorrow.

11 Oct 2010, Comments (10)


Author: Helen

I have a sinking feeling about this press release printed in our school newsletter:

“Drink Think” a play performed by a group of young women will be held at The Substation, Newport on Thursday October 14th at 7.00pm. This FREE, not for profit event has been organised by students from Victoria University’s Sport and Recreation course as part of their Event Management class.
The play focuses on the dangers of teenage binge drinking and is an educational yet entertaining play that is followed up with question time after it. On the night there will also be a special A-list guest speaker and free meals and beverages for everyone who attends.
We strongly encourage our Year 9, 10 and 11 students to attend this performance and welcome all parents and teachers along as well. It has been recommended however, that children of a young age do not attend as there is strong language in the play.

Well, how could that possibly end up as “”Hey, “Girls”, think before you drink because you’re the one responsible for not being raped!” Yes, happy to be proved wrong.

We’ve all been talking quite a lot about victim-blaming and slut-shaming failure in the way we talk to our girls and boys about sex and safety. Just look at the comments thread on any article on the topic of s8xual assault and r8pe in bloke culture: if a woman is dressed counter to current standards of virginal modesty or present in a vulnerable situation after hours, they assume men have the right of access to her. The same people, on another thread somewhere, will be condemning immigrant societies for their medieval attitudes to womens’ dress and freedom of movement (you know, because of our superior Western Civ and all, in which women are completely equal). Excuse me while my head meets the desk.

I’m sure the subject of drinking and driving will be addressed as well, which is good, as long as the young ones listen.

I’m just wondering whether, as a study of binge drinking, this play is going to reflect the new call for male responsibility (and refusal to treat men/boys as animals who can’t control their primal urges), or whether it’ll be just more of the same exhortations to women not to get themselves raped.

Anyway, if any Melbourne femmobloggers and allies are reading this and are not too busy on Thursday night, I encourage you to get along to the Substation in Newport (if you like cool architecture, and Melbourne’s old substations are Victorian classics, that’s another reason to go), and participate in the Question time. I have a feeling that if it’s another “ThinkUknow”, this bunfight might be needing a feminist voice.

You never know – my low expectations might be totally unfounded. I’ll report back!
Update: OK… Debrief!

It was a student play. “Drink Think” was the name of the group. The play itself was called “West Side: My Story”. There were six or seven young women acting and only one man, who was played as a dead-set sweetie. It passed the Bechdel test. It did not slutshame. Because the only male role was kind-of modelling ideal behaviour, well, there’s that, but they bypassed the toxic dynamic we’ve been talking about by not addressing it at all. In a way, perhaps, that allowed them to present binge drinking as something that damages everyone (car accidents, death, losing sight of important life goals), and get the male actor to demonstrate being a good human being rather than the predator. I’m not sure how many hardcore entitled douchebags it would really convert, but they’re taking it around the secondary schools and apparently it’s shutting year 10s up stone cold on their lunchtimes, and that’s got to mean something.

It was supported by the Victorian Womens’ trust, which does some wonderful things. I didn’t offer any questions at question time because the slut-shaming and “personal responsibility! For girls only!” stuff really wasn’t apparent, and to introduce a big new (sub)topic didn’t seem appropriate.

Kudos to the Victoria University students who put the event on and gave us free sandwiches, choccies and coffee!

What an excellent coincidence that this post should spring up in the Femmostroppo Reader just as I had this one nearly ready to go: OH HAI Naomi Mc, have I got an example for you! In the same week that, in Melbourne alone, two men set a woman and a girl on fire (the second man also raped the girl) there was a report in the ABC News opining that again, society is going down the tubes because of feminism. With a big, scary, hot pink feminist symbol! Brrr.

A senior lecturer in psychology at Charles Darwin University, Dr Peter Forster, says there is no truth to the argument that testosterone levels make men more aggressive.
He says social factors such as the rise of feminism in the last few decades could be behind the rise in violence amongst women.

I’m happy to give him points for biology not being destiny – a refreshing change from most antifeminists I’ve read – but what actual evidence does he have that the “rise of feminism” has kicked off a rise in violence among women? Has he demonstrated that there is a rise in female violence?
Has he told us what the increase(s) are and from what bases they’ve increased? No. Has he teased out increases in actual violence from increases in arrests and charges? Nope. Has he looked at whether violence overall is rising or static, and if so, is male violence rising as well (See also previous point)? No.

Has he mentioned that if you look at historical sources of milieux such as Victorian London and accounts of colonial Australia, the idea of women as gentle and delicate creatures who never threw a punch was somewhat class-based? No.

I went off in search of more information, because I thought that if the ABC had seen fit to publish an article about Dr Forster pronouncing on women and violence, it must be that Dr Forster and/or his department had come up with some ground breaking research, perhaps resulting in a report or peer-reviewed paper which we could read.

Apparently not. In fact, my usually effective google-fu hasn’t unearthed any publications or reports put out by Dr Forster on women, violence, or women-and-violence at all. So what’s he got?

…(P)eople were now looking at other contributing factors, particularly at social and cultural factors such as the effects of several decades of feminism which have largely removed the expectation that women would behave differently to men, and, more recently, the binge-drinking culture among young people, for the rapid rise in female violence.

“Studies have shown that at the age of 14, girls were just as likely as boys to be involved in fights, threats and stealing,” he said.

“This is supported by studies at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, where they have found similar rates of binge drinking by men and women, and women are also catching up in the use of illicit drugs, and these behaviours are linked with aggression.

“People” are looking at contributing factors. “Studies” have shown. I’ve seen undergraduate essays, let alone blogs, with more demonstrated evidence – and active verbs – than that. Well, there is a citation of sorts, the AIHW, which does exist, although would it kill him to point to the studies themselves? And there doesn’t appear to be anything to do with women and violence, but women and “behaviours (which) are linked with aggression.” Right! Men binge drink and set women on fire and king-hit other men on King street, while women binge drink and “get themselves” raped. See, equal!

The only actual piece of work done within the walls of Charles Darwin University that he seems to be able to point to is a study of road rage by his colleague Mary Morris.

“The research by Dr Morris has clearly shown that, in such aspects of road rage as aggressive gestures, sounding their horn at another driver and verbal abuse, there is no significant difference between male and female drivers. There used to be differences, but not any more,” Dr Forster said.

Road rage covers a continuum up to and including stabbing, shooting, thumping and running over people, so I don’t see that an increase in female horn-sounding and verbal abuse is very useful evidence of an epidemic of violent femmes. I haven’t been able to find Dr Morris’s study either, but I’ll take his word that it exists, so that’s one more on the topic than I’ve been able to find for Forster. It’s ironic that given that the subject is the evil power of feminism, he took her work and ran with it as “Expert Warns”.

Dr Forster hasn’t even begun to demonstrate any link between feminism and violence.

I have no idea why this should have been put out as a media release by CDU and why it should have been news, but unfortunately it’s one more brick in the wall of the bullshit “Feminism gone wrong” story that the media is hellbent on giving us, no matter how dodgy the source might be.

So what’s Ada Lovelace Day?

Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Whatever she does, whether she is a sysadmin or a tech entrepreneur, a programmer or a designer, developing software or hardware, a tech journalist or a tech consultant, we want to celebrate her achievements.

If you’re unfamiliar with Ada Lovelace, please check this out. OK, maybe I’ve chosen that because I love it so much, rather than its hundred percent historical accuracy. Wikipedia has an interesting page on her (and more about that some other time).

I work in the IT department of a nonprofit, as they call them in the US, in a sometimes uncomfortable limbo between the developers, who build the system, and the people who use it.

Most of what I know I learnt from my workmate. She had done a degree, or diploma, or something in IT after working in another place which went through a systems upgrade, and said she got the urge to, as she put it, “see what was behind it all”. And she certainly did. I think she’s probably forgotten more than I know by now. She taught me so much, but she believed in nutting things out for yourself, too, and would take me only so far down a certain path and would then leave me to work the rest out. When I see a discrepancy in some query result or process, and I’m tempted to write it off as some kind of meaningless one-off fail, I hear her saying “there’s always a reason”.

She could be hard work. This woman was full of ‘tude. And she had to be, working in a male-dominated department where she often had to go toe to toe with volatile and entitled developers. She used to bottle it up quite a bit, and sometimes it made her hard to live with. That’s the sort of thing which, in that setting, will attract the inevitable judgement of oh, women, so emotional. But holy Mary McKillop on my breakfast crumpet, you should see the men sometimes. The hissy fits they chuck. Women emotional and feeling, men unemotional and rational – a load of dingoes’ kidneys m’lud, I rest my case.

As a techie, she was ahead of everyone in the building who wasn’t actually conversant with a programming language, and in some respects she was even ahead of those people. What that woman couldn’t do with about twenty-five intricately linked database tables and a fearsomely complex reporting tool, isn’t worth knowing about. She built our website after a two-day training session in web design and HTML (and teaching herself about javascript). Thousands of people use her javascript pages to this day to do stuff online and make payments. She was awesome. And I, a thirtysomething jack-of-all-trades and refugee from the music industry, was always a little in awe of her.

And when I was working with her, although I never dared to ask, she was in her sixties, if she was a day.

Ah, the smashing of age and gender stereotypes: what a lovely sound.

Does anyone else have stories to tell for Ada Lovelace day about their favourite female techs?

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.