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Showing posts from May, 2017

School is much more than marks

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It came as a surprise earlier this year to see a full-page advertisement by a Canberra private girls high school boasting about the academic success of its high achievers.

Each student was shown with her Australian tertiary admission rank score and the name of the university she was accepted into.

(Private schools don't have the field to themselves. A number of public schools have better results, and at least one parades them on its website.)

I know schools have always been competitive, and I know ATAR scores mean something, but in a month in which thousands of Australian students sat their national literacy and numeracy tests, it's worth asking whether more tests and a greater emphasis on test results actually harms us.

An Australian National University lecturer told me recently about a number of first-year students who were so worried about attaining high marks they were paralysed and unable to start assignments. "This is the time of their lives when everything should b…

Booty from an "illegal" war?

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In a glass case in the modern conflicts and Middle East galleries at the Australian War Memorial hangs a gold-plated assault rifle, an AK47 issued by Saddam Hussein to one of his personal guards.

It was "discovered" among a cache of gold-plated weapons (the explanatory plaque says) by the United States 101st Airborne Division in Kirkuk, and given to an Australian major-general visiting US headquarters in Northern Iraq.

Patrick O'Hara says it's "war booty". He is a former volunteer guide and before that a long-time education officer at the memorial who has resigned in disgust. "Charles Bean designed the memorial to allow people to try to understand what Australian soldiers went through during war. It was designed to show the ugly reality of war. It wasn't meant to be political, gloating or a trophy cabinet," he tells me.

O'Hara loves and respects the War Memorial "and all that it is meant to represent" but he sees the display of t…