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Showing posts from December, 2015

Christmas & New Year offer time to reflect on peace and violence around us

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This time of year brings to mind a stenciled piece of graffiti. It shows a child with his face scrunched up, crying over a pile of wrapped gifts. "I wanted you present, not these!"

This is a time when we would like to slow down to be more present. And it's a time when we are invited to think about peace.

In 2015 violence seemed to be everywhere, much of it arbitrary and horrendous. We were disturbed by it, continuous news magnified it in our minds.

Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff has often repeated that "we are living in the most dangerous of times". But folk like Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker say the idea that things are getting worse is one of the great misconceptions of our time.

"Accounts of daily life in medieval and early modern Europe reveal a society soaked in blood and gore," he says reflecting on his best-selling book The Better Angels of Our Nature. "For entertainment, one could nail…

Control orders on 14-year-olds an ethical dilemma

As the so-called war on terror escalates in the wake of the bombings in France, Attorney-General George Brandis wants to give police the power to place control orders on suspects as young as 14.

Control orders allow active monitoring, 1984-style.

Can they prevent acts of violence? The evidence suggests they can. As well as enabling the collection of evidence, control orders disrupt plans.

But the proposed law, part of a suite of anti-terror measures being investigated by a parliamentary committee, creates an ethical dilemma – especially at a time when the values of the West are under threat. In Western society it isn't normally a crime to think something. How can it be right to severely limit the freedom of someone as young as 14, just because they *might* later commit a crime?

It'll inevitably mean profiling. Islam doesn't have a monopoly on violence, but that's where the police will look. They don't have the resources to look everywhere.

Control orders a…

Responding to the needs of students with complex needs

A 10-year-old boy with autism would likely not have been held in a cage, albeit briefly, had his teachers felt the ACT Education and Training Directorate had been there to help them.

Submissions to the expert panel review released last month show ACT teachers felt overwhelmed by the growing numbers of students with disabilities and learning difficulties, and didn't know where to turn.

The 280-page report praises "an excellent school system" but points to woefully small numbers of school psychologists, to gaps in supports for students with challenging behaviours, to inadequate training and professional development for teachers, and to inadequate infrastructure; especially withdrawal and calming spaces for children.

So even though there was public outrage about the purpose-built blue cage the 10-year old boy was held in, the expert panel recommends the development of spaces with the same aim. Except they would be sensitive to the needs of the child. They must uphold a stud…