Archive for the 'General' Category
Sunday, November 17th, 2013
Museums, Gardens and their Future with Government
A short essay on departures of senior executives from New South Wales museums and botanic gardens in 2013 and what they say about government policies is added to the essays about effective museums. Earlier it had been posted on my blog, commenced in October 2013. The essay questions whether governments and boards appointed by governments to manage and oversight museums and similar enterprises actually show themselves capable of effectively fulfilling their obligations. In the study of effective museums the first distinction, the most important one, of effective organisations was that they are independent of, or at least maintain a distinct arms length from, government.
Governments are often obsessed with centralised control, which usually ends up achieving very little, and boards appointed by them seldom comprise persons with genuine understanding of the organisation and its principal aims. Newly appointed members are seldom properly briefed at the time of their appointment; the chair is often not appointed because they possess the most important characteristic of an effective chair, the ability to bring people together to envision a shared purpose and ensure meaningful participation of the members of the board, but because they are a friend of the Minister or have achieved prominence in business or some other field. The fact is that often people rise to positions of prominence for reasons related mainly to who they know and where they went to school. For all these reasons boards of cultural organisations very often fail to achieve effective governance and in particular may not even make appropriate appointments to the most important position, that of executive director.
If the truth of the assertions of the above paragraph seems doubtful, consider the fact that the vast majority of the people in the UK in the professions of the law and finance are from a few “public” schools. A review of the composition of boards of Australian cultural institutions would show that even if the members are scientists or artists they seldom have any experience of leadership or governance. However, their expertise would be valuable were the majority of the decisions made by the board related to considered judgements about the principal purposes and business of the organisation. Instead they often concern financial matters and issues of an administrative nature.
New Essays on Other Issues
In October 2013, a new blog site was commenced. It will contain articles on subjects other than museums, leadership, organisational development and similar subjects with which this site has been concerned for the last 11 years and education, essays on which have been posted in the last two years.
The first essays deal with climate change; other articles which appear on this main website have been cross posted on the blog site.
A full list of articles on the blog is posted on its own page.
Articles on other sites
Articles published on other online sites are listed on the Publications page of this website. They cover education, economics and climate change.
Thursday, November 7th, 2013
It would be easy to dismiss former Prime Minister John Howard’s address, to acolytes in London, presented at the invitation of climate sceptic and former UK Chancellor Lord Lawson. Over at New Matilda Ben Pobje has done that. So have others including Guy Rundle and Max Gillies in their 2002 production Your Dreaming: Poets, Pontificators and Expatriates and Jonathan Biggins and others at the Sydney Theatre Company satirise numerous politicians and others every year in their Revue.
Related articles: Australia’s Carbon Emissions Target: Intellectual Laziness At Work
Several of Howard’s statements are gratuitous, several are misrepresentations.
Howard’s principal statements must be identified for what they are. To suggest that the climate scientists’ statements are “sanctimonious” and that the term “denier” has some overtone of intimidation, as Howard does, is to misrepresent the meanings of words and the nature of the discourse.
Howard misrepresents the present state of scientific understanding by branding it as a mantra, as a set of views to be not denied. And he asserted, “In the past five years, the dynamic of the global warming debate has shifted away from exaggerated acceptance of the worst possible implications of what a majority of climate scientists tell us, towards a more balanced, and questioning approach.” Rubbish! Dangerous stupid rubbish!
This article is posted at my blog site.
Saturday, January 19th, 2013
Everyone, almost, agrees that teachers are the key element in the education of children in school. As the McKinsey reports on effective teaching, based on analyses of the OECD PISA’s reports, observed, the only way to improve student outcomes is to improve the quality of classroom teaching across an entire system. The best-performing systems around the world go to great lengths to ensure that all their teachers are well qualified and well prepared in the subjects they teach and have access to high-quality, ongoing professional learning opportunities.
Several essays explore effective teaching and summarise some of the most important research on effective teaching and highlight some case studies. In this first one I deal with a very important meta-analysis of education outcomes; a subsequent one will summarise a particularly interesting study of what goes on in the classroom.
What does the effective teacher do that makes the most difference and what other factors might be relevant? A few decades ago, the simplest received explanation was that teachers who were content experts were most likely to do the best job. Few now believe that because the evidence doesn’t support it. That doesn’t mean that content knowledge is unimportant, just that it isn’t enough. Knowledge of superior teaching instruction is vital and that is not simply a matter of more experience. Cooperation between teachers is also very important.
A number of essays explore the elements of effective teaching. In the first one, the research of Professor John Hattie is outlined.
Thursday, January 17th, 2013
The ideas developed about the education debate and the enumeration of the issues which I think are important, were summarised in an informal talk at the Ourimbah campus of the University of Newcastle in August 2012 arranged by the NSW Chapter of the Independent Scholars Association of Australia (ISAA).
Much of the problem arises from the focus on schools, which is where in fact students spend a relatively small amount of time, and ignores the time when greatest changes in brain architecture and cognition take place which is early childhood, and the principal influences which determine the quality of that development most of which relate to relative socioeconomic status. It is for these reasons that the principal indicator of student educational achievement is the socioeconomic status of the parents.
Continue to the Ourimbah talk.
Two essays which have appeared in recent months deserve special attention. One is by Carmen Lawrence, former Premier of Western Australia, Minister in the Australian Government and a member of the panel on Education reform chaired by David Gonski.
‘Mind the Gap: Why the rising inequality of our schools is dangerous’ by Carmen Lawrence appeared in The Monthly for July 2012
The other is by the distinguished American educational researcher Professor David Berliner; this essay really brings together some of the most important issues concerning the relationship between educational achievement and inequality in the United States, a topic on which Berliner has written over the last couple of decades. The essay is ‘Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America’s Youth’ and appears in Schools Matter for October 17 2012.
The introduction to Berliner’s essay says,
“The real education experts, academics who study and research education, teach at universities and colleges and are teachers themselves, produce volumes of peer reviewed articles, write books and give lectures to share their findings, ideas and solutions to improve education. The problem is those who control the purse strings in state education departments, government and at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, are held hostage by corporate interests who have hijacked our children’s pedagogy. With the new Common Core Standards adopted in more than 46 states, testing every kid, in every subject, and mining the data will only exacerbate the dysfunction and lead to the inevitable revolt we are already seeing across the country. Most parents, students and teachers living through this economic depression see scarce resources further dried up and spent on more testing and more data. Austerity in the poorest and neediest schools districts has exposed the harsh reality of three decades of failed education policy that ignores inequality and poverty.”
It is appropriate to mention another event. That is because of the influence of the media: yet again Australian media failed to take advantage of the visit to Australia by distinguished researchers, as it did a couple of years ago when the University of Melbourne hosted a major conference on Curriculum.
The website of the American Association for Educational Research, perhaps the leading education research organisation in the world, featured the following report.
“The World Education Research Association (WERA) held its annual Focal Meeting in conjunction with the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) and the Asia-Pacific Education Research Association (APERA) in Sydney, Australia. AERA leaders, including President William Tierney; Past Presidents Arnetha Ball, David Berliner, Eva Baker, and Carol Lee; and Executive Director Felice Levine, were participants at the AARE/APERA/WERA conference, held on December 2–6 at the University of Sydney.
“The AARE/APERA/WERA international conference included more than 1,200 paper presentations and symposia, with keynote addresses by AERA Past Presidents Berliner and Ball. In addition, there were twelve outstanding symposia designated as “invited symposia,” including an AERA guest symposium at which President Tierney spoke passionately about academic freedom. There were also two WERA invited symposia; one of them, entitled “Culture, Poverty, and Opportunity to Learn: International Cases of the Complexities of Addressing Race, Ethnicity, and Class in Education,” featured AERA Past President Lee as one of three presenters.”
The above info is from AERA Highlights 10 January 2013. Further information is at http://aare-apera2012.com.au/files/AARE-APERA-2012-handbook.pdf and numerous other sites.
So far as I can determine no Australian media featured any mention of this conference or any interview with the distinguished delegates. So much for media reporting of education, media which is often quite prepared to seize on the latest international tests to criticise Australian education without paying any attention to the dynamics or principal reasons for achievement, quite apart from misrepresenting the performance of Australian students by selective and inappropriate use of statistics, as Professor Alan Reid pointed out in ‘A dumbed down debate, but those tests still hold some lessons’ (Sydney Morning Herald, December 19, 2012).
Saturday, December 22nd, 2012
In early December ABC RN’s fabulous program “All in the Mind”, now presented by Lynne Malcolm, broadcast an interview with James Doty, Professor of Neurosurgery, Founder and Director of the Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University.
The program was entitled ‘The Science of Compassion’.
It is one of the most outstanding programs I have heard in the last 10 years! It has relevance to leadership and human affairs generally. It undermines, as much as any statement I know, the basis of affairs at this time, grounded in neoclassical (or market) economics advocated by the likes of von Hayek and adopted with relish by the more powerful so forming the philosophy fundamental to such major issues as education and health.
I have extracted below a few sentences from the transcript of the program.
The last paragraph of this transcript summarises the astonishing inequality in the United States at this time as depicted by The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better by Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett (Allen Lane, London, 2009) and as elaborated for the United States by Timothy Noah in The Great Divergence (Bloomsberry Press, New York, 2012). Noah demonstrates that the vast majority of the factors contributing to the ‘Great Divergence’ have been driven by the super rich, not least through their influence on the US Congress and successive administrations.
James Doty emerged from a disadvantaged background in the United States to become a neurosurgeon, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist—only to let his fortune go and dedicate his professional life to the scientific study of compassion and altruism.
Here is the transcript.
Compassion is being at the same level, looking them in the eye and saying we’re the same and that defines your humanity—that is true compassion…
… I think compassion in business or compassionate leadership can have a profound effect on an organisation in terms of how employees respond to stress, create environments to decrease their stress. The fact of the matter is we all have to work, pretty much, but nobody wants to work in an environment that they don’t feel connected to. But it takes enlightened leadership to create an environment where you’re passionate about being there.
When you remove a person’s dignity, when you give them the sense that they have no value, well what do you expect? They’ll engage in negative behaviours, because if you’re nothing you feel your nothing, and in fact you’re in so much pain you want to get rid of the pain, and so you turn to drugs, you turn to alcohol, if you’re not having a living wage, if every day you wake up it’s one of despair, geez, I’m shocked that people commit suicide, I’m shocked that they do these horrible acts against society. This is easily explainable. Look, in the United States per population and compared to other industrialised countries, we have an epidemic of people in jail. The vast majority of people who are in jail are not because they’re bad people. Most of the people in jail are there because they have not been given love and kindness in their lives. It’s because the simple act of caring for another has not been available to them because of the way we have created our society in the United States.
You know, you look at Nordic countries, other societies that are more socialised, they create a safety net for their community where people are looked at as, you know, we’re all in this community together, where we have a responsibility to the most vulnerable. Those are the most successful societies. You know, this ridiculous concept in America of this rugged individualism and this Ayn Rand attitude, it is pathalogic, it will create despair, it will ruin lives, as it has done.
And as we get more disparity between the rich and the poor, you will see the further fragmentation of society. It is only until we reach out and embrace every human being as an important part of our society that our country is going to survive—and I think our world is going to survive.