Archive for respect

Australia’s disgrace (in which others rant better than I)

Posted in Not good enough, rampant stupidity with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2010 by drawingdad

So I’m not really back, and not really having a rant. Not here, anyway.

I had a little rant in the comments section of my friend Naomi’s latest blog. She wrote a heartfelt and intelligent piece about the recent shipwreck tragedy that stole the lives of a boatful of asylum seekers. And I agreed with every word she wrote. The comments, as you will see, were mostly sympathetic for the loss of life. While acknowledging this, I went for the political side of it. My rant was short and only scratched the surface, but I needed to get at least some of it out. I didn’t even get started on the media side of it, which is just as well, given there’s another lengthy rant in that.

In my comment I also missed the opportunity to make a scholarly and relevant reference to George Orwell. I had planned to, but when I finished it wasn’t there.

Now go and read this. And the comments too, if you want to read my contribution. But first and foremost, read the article, think and feel, and share it.

A response to Christmas Island by Naomi Pritchard-Tiller

While you’re at it, read these other blogs and articles, which Naomi has been gathering links to and I have shamelessly stolen to share here. Naomi and all of the writers below articulate themselves far better than I could on this tragedy and the issues surrounding it:

Boat tragedy: How Australians became complicit in the horror of Christmas Island by Richard Flanagan, writing in the UK’s The Guardian.

10 things you need to understand about asylum seekers by Rick Morton, via Mia Freedman at Mama Mia.

How Labor wedged itself into a bad policy on boat people by Joe Hildebrand at The Punch, about the government’s lack of backbone.

Are your hands clean of blood, Andrew? by John Birmingham, writing in The Brisbane Times about the filthy hypocrasy of right-wing Herald-Sun & Daily Telegraph “journalist” Andrew Bolt. I referred to Bolt on Twitter as a motherfucker, and I firmly stand by that statement.

Here’s Bolt’s own article about it in the Herald-Sun, Blood on their hands. Yes, it’s the government’s fault, but it’s not all on Gillard’s shoulders, Andrew. Your hero John Howard doesn’t just have blood on his hands, it’s all over his suit. Blame him, too, for the appalling heartlessness this country has adopted.

There is bound to be more written about this, which I might post in updates here. Please read and THINK about it and TALK about it. We should be better than this.

Defending Tim and Kate (a special I’m-not-really-here post)

Posted in Bollocks, rampant stupidity with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2010 by drawingdad

So yet again, Christmas is approaching and, as they have for about 17 years now, the department store Myer is selling their annual The Spirit of Christmas CD with proceeds donated to The Salvation Army. This year’s CD features the song White Wine in the Sun, written and originally performed by Tim Minchin. This version is performed by the fantastic Kate Miller-Heidke.

The song has been denounced as “disrespectful” and “a sick joke” by family and Christian groups, and the Salvos themselves were “disappointed” by the song, according to a report in Melbourne’s Herald-Sun newspaper. This reaction was sparked by the song’s athiest-leaning lyrics, such as

I am hardly religious
I’d rather break bread with Dawkins than Desmond Tutu
To be honest

and

I don’t go for ancient wisdom
I dont believe just cos ideas are tenacious
It means they’re worthy

and

I’m freaked out by churches
Some of the hymns that they sing have nice chords
Though the lyrics are dodgy

And yes I have all of the usual objections
To the miseducation of children who, in tax-exempt institutions,
Are taught to externalise blame
And to feel ashamed and to judge things as plain right and wrong
But I quite like the songs

Needless to say, I think this criticism of the song is simply ridiculous. My response can be summed up in just four words:

Tim Minchin is awesome.

While this one line is response enough in the eyes of Minchin’s legion of fans, for the uninitiated, I’ll go into a bit more detail about why this song is undeserving of attack.

First and foremost, White Wine in the Sun is the best evocation ever written of what a Christmas in Australia is really like. It’s sunshine and alcohol and food and above all, family. This song never fails to bring a lump to my throat and a sense of longing for that safe warm place, surrounded by family who are always there for you, even if you live far away, even if Christmas is the only time you get to see them. It’s beautiful song that manages to express these things while still making comment on the religious and commercial aspects of Christmas. Furthermore, it’s a truly Australian Christmas song that completely avoids the nauseating Australiana that pervades and ruins every other attempt at capturing an Aussie Christmas in song.

While Minchin, very clearly an athiest, takes a couple of shots at religion, he also attacks the overbloated commercialisation of Christmas:

And yes I have all of the usual objections to consumerism
The commercialisation of ancient religions
And the westernisation of a dead Palestinian
Press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer*

He’s even defending Jesus in that verse! Sort of.

The truth, although churches and religious groups would be loath to admit it, is that Christmas for most people is not a religious festival anymore. Jesus has nothing to do with it. How many families only go to church at Christmas and Easter out of some misplaced sense of duty? Christmas has become about Santa Claus and presents and a big family get-together. The paradoxical thing about Christmas in Australia is that our culture is still so heavily dominated by the Northern Hemisphere that we keep singing songs about Christmas in the snow, in the dead of Winter. Many idiots still decorate their homes with fake snow! It’s ridiculous.

Most of the other songs on this year’s Spirit of Christmas CD aren’t about the spiritual or religious side of Christmas either. Track 2, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, is a golden oldie on the same theme of family togetherness expressed in a benign and, frankly, bland manner. Tina Arena’s contribution is a cover of the George Michael hit Last Christmas, a song about heartbreak and unrequited love. Oh so Christmassy! Right in tune with the spirit of the fucking season, that is. Other songs on the compilation include Merry Christmas Baby, All I Want For Christmas Is You, I Wish Christmas Day Would Last All Year and Street Parade, a song about, what a surprise, a street parade! Not one fucking word about Christianity in any of them. So why aren’t these songs deemed inappropriate? They’re not about the meaning of Christmas. It’s okay, apparently, to have Christmas love songs or songs about the trappings of the event, but by god, you can’t have a song with a point of view about it all.

Minchin sagely pointed out on Twitter that the first Spirit of Christmas CD, back in 1993, had a version of John Lennon’s Imagine that no-one said a word about. Imagine features lyrics that some religious types might object to. I should know, I sat through a long and pompous sermon delivered by the priest of the Catholic church I grew up attending, denouncing Imagine for its unChristian overtones.

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No Hell below us
Above us only sky**

Never mind that the song was all about peace and brotherhood and acceptance, all very Christian values. It said something that denied doctrine, so it was Wrong. Shouldn’t the church be embracing a song about abolishing barriers, about equality between people, about love between all mankind, rather than reinforcing barriers? It was this sermon, above all others, that turned me away from the church for a long time.

I can’t believe that White Wine in the Sun has been characterised as “a sick joke” and that the Salvos hope that people will still buy the CD despite the presence of the song on it. Shouldn’t such organisations be willing to tolerate accept differences in beliefs? (Do not get me started on the religious use of the word tolerance instead of acceptance.) The “sick joke” quote is attributed to a Bill Muehlenberg of the Family Council of Victoria, an organisation that is all about (archaic) family values. The song is all about the close ties of family you fucking moron! It is the height of hypocrisy for such people to attack this song.

We should be far more offended by the truly appalling choice of winner’s single (Somewhere in the World) on The X Factor. No matter who wins, this cheesy, clichéd abomination will be inflicted upon us.

I actually don’t like white wine, but I’ll take a glass or three of red or a glass of the champagne that’s usually on offer too, and happily spend Christmas Day in the company of a warm family. (There’s also sadness there, for the family I’m not with, but that’s another story entirely.)

Do yourself a favour and check out the song on YouTube, as performed by Tim Minchin (link at beginning of post) or Kate Miller-Heidke.

*Please note that lyrics from White Wine in the Sun are written by Tim Minchin and appear here without any authorisation whatsoever. However, I’m really hoping he’d be okay with it.

**Ditto for John Lennon, may he rest in peace, for the lines from Imagine.

(For those of you who read my previous post – Yes, I know I said I wouldn’t be around for a while, and I’m not here really. I just couldn’t let this one pass by without ranting about it. I’ll be back in a little while. Still sorting my shit out.)

A shift in priorities

Posted in Life stuff, Not good enough with tags , , , , , , on November 6, 2010 by drawingdad

So, it’s been nearly two weeks since my last rant. When starting this blog I had intended to post new entries perhaps twice a week, because, let’s face it, there is so much to rant about. But I’m not going to. Not for a while. Those rants about how only 20% of people consider changing banks despite being routinely screwed by theirs yet will turn against their government before its first term is even over which is so backward it’s ridiculous, or telemarketers, or the overuse of the word “journey” in reality TV contest shows, or Oprah, or those annoying bloody Windows 7 ads, or my inability to stay awake if I sit still for more than two minutes, or Facebook, or fugly room makeovers in lifestyle TV shows that are supposed to champion good taste, or house-and-land package housing estates, or 3D TV and Apple’s hyperactive updating of brand-new products that encourage us to buy buy buy lest we be left behind in the entertainment dark ages, or brain-fucked parents and grandparents who thoughtlessly abandon their child and grandchildren for a romanticised retirement abroad, will all have to wait. Or perhaps never be written at all. I’ll find other things to rant about, I doubt it not, when I return.

I know this is just a fledgling blog, and posting infrequently then disappearing for a while after only five entries is not a good way to start building a readership. And I really would like to build a readership. Eventually, I hope, I’ll do so.

In previous entries, I have been preaching that we should Demand Better. While I completely stand behind those comments, it would be hypocritical for me to do so without demanding better myself. Demanding better of myself.

I have responsibilities. I have three people in my life who need me to be a responsible adult. Who need me to get myself sorted out to be a better partner and a better father. I need to make some changes, important changes, changes that challenge some deeply ingrained behaviours. I need to work towards the life I want to have with these three most precious of people. I need to get my arse into gear and chase the career I want. At the age of 35, it’s  long overdue.

To do all of this, I need to focus. I need to pitch all of my energy into getting myself and my life sorted out.

To focus, I need less distraction. And as much as I enjoy blogging, at the moment, it’s a distraction. I’ve been spending precious thinking time composing blog rants in my head, along with other diversions, instead of thinking about the things that matter most. Instead of meeting my responsibilities. I have more important things to do right now.

The problems I’m facing are what has kept my other blog, Sketching Life, dormant since April. So now The Odd Rant joins it on hiatus, for the time being. I may be back occasionally, when I have something to rant about that I must get off my chest lest I explode.

I’ll be spending less time online in general. I’ll be tweeting, mostly from my mobile phone (username @shirleyschmidto if you’re interested) and if I know you, I might write to you on Facebook from time to time.

I’ll be back, in time. And ranting like nobody’s business. (I don’t really understand what this means, but I’m sure you get the idea.)

Thanks for visiting and I hope to see you here again. In the meantime, keep demanding better. You deserve it.

Why cant sum teacher’s spelling right?

Posted in Education, Not good enough with tags , , , , , , , on October 24, 2010 by drawingdad

So, a couple of days ago I dropped my kids off at school. I went upstairs into the open-plan grade 5/6 area to talk to my daughter’s teacher. Projected onto one of the walls there was a page of text, presumably for the teacher to work through with the students that morning. It was entitled “What are Hero’s?” I stopped in my tracks to stare.

Hero’s.

Not heroes.

This was not, thankfully, the work of my daughter’s teacher. Nevertheless, I did find this grammatical and spelling boo-boo quite alarming.

This person is supposed to be teaching our children. How is a teacher going to teach our children properly if they don’t know how to do something this utterly basic themselves? Misuse of apostrophes is rife in our increasingly, it seems, illiterate society.

Just to be clear:

An apostrophe is used in a contraction in place of missing letters (ie. do not = don’t) or when signifying ownership (ie. Michael’s blog…).  Not when making a word plural!

Additionally:

The plural of any word ending in O has an E before the S. For example: heroes, potatoes, dominoes, banjoes, etc.

Why is this hard for so many people to understand?

The real problem here, as I see it, is that teachers are severely undervalued in Western society. Seems a rather big claim, no? But it’s true. Every day, we entrust teachers to educate our children. They teach our kids facts and figures and how to do things, but most importantly, they are supposed to be encouraging and teaching children how to think. Rote learning won’t get you too far, but knowing how to use your brain, processes for working things out and understanding the world, these are the tools that will get you through life. The better you are at it, the better stead you stand in to live a fulfilling life. We all agree, at least in principle, that education is vitally important.

But this agreement in principle doesn’t often translate into action. Teachers hold what should be one of the most respected positions in society, but they are underpaid, overworked, and are rarely provided with all of the resources they need to do their jobs well. Class sizes swell; schools, particularly state-funded ones, are always underfunded; teachers find their work hours bleeding out beyond school hours into their evenings and weekends. Governments at both state and federal level prattle on about the importance of education but don’t put enough resources into it. More often they are seeking ways to cut back.

Don’t they realise that the future of the state, the nation, the world is in the hands of today’s children? And if those children are not smart, the world is buggered?

From the highest levels, education and educators are not seen as very important. So not enough people want to become teachers. It doesn’t look all that appealing. This means that when it comes to teacher-training courses, lower demand means that tertiary entrance scores for the courses are lower. Which means that some dimmer bulbs get into the course. Which means that some really bloody stupid people are entrusted with teaching the new generation of fresh young minds.

Do you see the problem here?

I am in a position to pontificate about this because I studied alongside such people. In the early to mid Nineties, I completed a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) at one of Australia’s most highly-regarded universities. And believe me, I knew some complete and utter morons who were in that course. (No, I’m not looking at you, “Nana”.) Some of them were incapable of spelling their own name legibly. And these people are expected to bring out the best in our children?

A good teacher and especially a great teacher can inspire a child to go on to amazing things. A great teacher can change a student’s life, setting them on a path that takes them through the rest of their lives. Alternatively, a bad teacher can ruin a student’s experience, rob them of drive and confidence and change their lives in a detrimental way. Our kids deserve the best, don’t they?

My argument now branches out in two directions…

Firstly, it seems sensible for our teachers to know what they are doing. So they should be fully and comprehensively trained. My course was a four year one, and by the time I’d finished (after five years) I still didn’t feel all that confident in what I was doing. Maybe that was just me. These days, teaching courses seem to be shorter. You can get another unrelated degree and tack on an extra year to become a teacher. This seems inadequate to me. Would teachers who get qualified this way be prepared for the responsibility, and do it well? And if the most basic of things, like spelling, is not addressed in these courses (it certainly wasn’t in mine), then are we doing the right thing by our kids?

Then there’s the question of how well educated are the students who will become teachers in the future? Spelling is one area in which they are failing. The prevalence of TextSpeak has ruined the written word. Just look at any teenager’s profile on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. Incomprehensible! It’s bad enough that the words are lost – I do understand the abbreviations – but the syntax is buggered beyond all belief.

When I was interviewed for my last job, the recruiters had to specifically bring up the issue of the use of TextSpeak in business. As in “it has no place in any professional communication yet half the people here can’t help themselves; we hope you can do better, having a degree.” It quickly became apparent that a higher level of literacy was expected from me. By higher, I mean at about the level I was writing in Year 7. My team leader put it quite succinctly when he said “if you can write two sentences without making a spelling mistake, you’re doing better than most.”

All of this is avoidable! Let’s encourage better education. Let’s expect a better standard from students. Let’s give teachers the respect (and pay) they deserve and better equip them to do their jobs. Let’s take the pressure off them and let them get on with the teaching. Let’s make sure only the best and brightest are entrusted with that job. We owe it to the good teachers, and to the students, and to our future. Demand better!