Showing posts from February, 2016

This Lent, why not give up speed, live in the present

Australian painter Jeffrey Smart created semi-urban landscapes where huge windowless buildings sat in harsh light. They were props surrounded by small, often puzzled and isolated figures.

The landscape taking shape between Majura and Fyshwick has echoes of a Smart. There's something surreal about towering retail temples ribboned by hills dotted with sheep.

Bold fluorescent signs point to giant warehouses circled by grey car parks, like moats hugging corrugated exteriors. People move in and out of vehicles in an orderly fashion, dwarfed by the primary-coloured Ikea, Costco and Masters hardware store.

Ikea promises a kind of rebirth. Its thick catalogue soothes with new endless possibilities for clean and sunlit interiors. The rooms of our lives can be realigned. Just swipe your card.

So mesmerised are we that we imagine waking up the next morning blonde and living with less clutter, comforted inside one of the world's best welfare states, a Scandinavian country built around equ…

For education's sake, we should question NAPLAN

Parents be warned. As school resumes, there's escalating concern that NAPLAN, the annual assessment for students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9, is producing awful consequences.

In a new book sarcastically titled How to Pass a Test, long-time teacher Lynne Edwards begs readers not to pick up the so-called "education kits" now on sale in news agencies and post offices.

She says it's bad enough that NAPLAN and the preparation for it soaks up time that should be spent teaching but it's worse if parents further harass their children at home.

NAPLAN testing is supposed to improve the quality of education by producing data that can be used to redirect resources to areas of need.

But too often it is redirected to well-resourced parents, leaving poorly performing schools even worse off. (We know that the real issue is not the differences between schools but differences within schools as students at the same school struggle to all rise together with the tide.)

The results should…