Andrew James Whalan

Poet Blogger Writer

Tag: Education

Write, Rewrite, Then Don’t Rewind : Writing Out Loud #4

I paid my money didn’t I? I should be able to take my choice then?  No, not when NYC Midnight have their flash fiction competition.

One thousand carefully chosen words,  a genre, a scene and an object chosen at random. Forty Eight hours to write it.

And on Saturday 15th July, the email arrived. Genre: Ghost Story, Scene: A Basement, Object: A Tattoo Machine.

I had to find out what a tattoo machine is, didn’t I?  That was the easy part.  A quick Google search and I found one.

I even listened to recordings of tattoo machines. Which reminded me of the dentist’s drill. That at least ended up in the story. But after listening to that, there was no way I was going to be inked in the name of research.

But me? A ghost story? My first reaction was:  I haven’t written any. I was wrong. I’ve written two. One fact. One fiction.  Still I researched my genre. And read some ghost stories, some great, some indifferent. And brought to mind my secret love of Edgar Allan Poe.

But a basement. I really don’t know what to do in a basement…Self doubt occurred early. But I persisted…

I scrabbled and scrambled for thoughts. Then came the flood of nefarious ghost-like events. I wrote them out. Then…

I revised what I had written. And threw it all away. Somewhere, somebody is looking at my lost notes and saying, “I wouldn’t write that either.”

Then the premise arrived. The idea was a ghost requesting permission…But I won’t add to that otherwise it would spoil the story.

And I wrote it. And I was pleased with it. But there was a problem…

The rewriting. The last time I wrote a short story (The Great Blow), I went on a re-writing frenzy. Eight or nine rewrites until I could take it no more.

This story (called Ghost Tattoo) was rewritten about four or five times.  I only realised it when I posted it on the competition forum. Some of the feedback was similar. And when I read the story, I realised they were right. A few more rewrites…Still when I receive the judge’s feedback, I will rewrite it. And post it. And learn my lesson. Otherwise I will have to take the test again!

 

 

 

 

Learning Disagreement Skills

Go on, click the angry icon. Share the negative post or tweet.

Slip in and quickly criticise. Tell the other how they got it completely wrong.

They lack intelligence. Common sense. Logic.

Sit back and easily insult the unlike you.

They can’t even think. They’re Inhuman.  We should wipe them out.

Yes it’s so easy to disagree and oppose.  And easiest to offer no solution.

I thinking this as I read each tweet storm. And think even more as I click through each Facebook outbreak outrage.

I realise it is so familiar. For it was exactly the same as my experience.

For at quite close range and for quite a long time, I heard the same words for the same reason.

For to disagree, even silently through to mildly evoked white-hot anger.

Sometimes in despair, I joined in and fully embraced the proferred down spiral.

Until somebody asked, “So how did that work for you Andrew?”

I’d shake my head silent. I said no, it didn’t, it didn’t at all, it made things far worse.

“So what are you going to about it Andrew?”

(How can you make it better?).

There was the beginning of an answer.

I was learning disagreement skills.

Not the “let’s agree to disagree” cliche. That only suspended hostilities for now. And led to a ever widening DMZ!

Be silent Andrew.  Don’t interrupt the the other. Listen to the person behind the words.

Sit stock still Andrew. Don’t move and distract the other. Don’t insult them for not thinking like you.

For no-one thinks like you. Which is a wonderful thing! For everyone and you too.

Ask the question that goes beyond the question. Wait for the answer that reveals another’s truth. Not to you. To them.

Listen and bide your time, then you’ll find that it’s  the time. For the quiet and thoughtful ones to be heard.

Who speak without the intent of crushing free speech. Who speak and listen to encourage freedom of listening.

To enable those who accept truth without question (as you once did) to find their own. And others find theirs.

Otherwise it gets too dark when we all agree not to look for the light.

 

 

Do It In A Dress : More Than Educating Girls

School Children When I walked into my gym I got a pleasant shock.

The receptionist was wearing a school uniform.

I started laughing. I knew why. Last time I saw someone in a school uniform, it was for the same  cause: Do it in a Dress.

Do It In A Dress is a fund raising campaign for the One Girl charity  to ensure that girls are educated in Africa.

So why is a man writing about educating girls?

Because it’s personal.

I’ve seen first hand the power of educating girls. If only from a first world point of view.

Sixty years ago, my maternal grandfather died too early. He left a large family. Consequently,he left his wife (my maternal grandmother) some major challenges.

Not the least of which was financial.

Which created an educational problemEducation. Should she encourage all the family members to get the best education? Just the boys? Or the girls as well?

The choice she made has reverberated and resonated down three generations (and counting).

She encouraged both her sons and daughters to get the best education. And against all odds, all the children did way better than their circumstances would ever let them.

One of those daughters became a teacher and mother to me.

Whether she was teaching or not, in school or out of school, my mother lived the importance of having a great education. She knew that an education gives you choices.

Which is why I’m choose to be educated. And still am being educated.

Hopefully I’ve encouraged my children in the same way. They’re educating themselves too. And realising the wider choices they have.

Now taking this story back into the third world, educating girls obviously creates an immensity of choices for girls.

And all of their children and their children’s children.

 

Earn or Learn : The Government’s Misunderstood Purpose of Education

There has been much upset and anger at the Government instigated changes to education:

  • University fee increases.
  • University debt interest increase.
  • University HECS proportion increase.
  • Commercialisation of universities.

The proponents chant earn or learn, competition will work its magic, fees will be less and new university places will be created.

The opponents are derided as leaners, bludgers, selfish thugs and bullies.

Now that the name-calling has begun, there can be no argument.

But…

That’s not the real argument.

That’s not the real debate.

Separately the above changes are disquieting.

Together the above changes show the Federal Government and its associated interest groups don’t understand the real purpose of education.

Earn or Learn : The Misunderstood Purpose of Education

We’re being told through the post-Budget earn and learn mantra that the purpose of education is to get a job. Easily said from a comfortable corporate armchair. Especially given the assumption that there’s enough educational capacity for those who want to learn and there are enough jobs for those who have learnt. Neither are true: in general, there are more unemployed than can be educated and there are less jobs for those who have the correct education.

The purpose of education is not to just get a job. If that was the case education would be purely pedagogical, utilising knowledge and skills for a specific predetermined purpose. Andragogy or adult learning as we know it would not exist. How then could anyone explain how adults and children too of their own accord become self-taught experts in subjects that may or may not be part of the school curriculum without regard to the possibility of being employed.

The purpose of education is not to just get a job. If that was the case then anyone who finishes a qualification and then gets a job has all the knowledge and skills required. They have the qualification, they don’t need to learn any further. But from personal experience and existing research, much education (up to 70%) occurs on the job. Which means the employee is still learning despite attaining the right qualification.

The purpose of education is not to just get a job. If that was the case then the Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Arabs, just to name a few or during the Renaissance or the start of the adult educational movement, would not have learnt and then recorded much more knowledge and skills than was required to fulfil just a job. And here is a clue.

The purpose of education is not to just get a job. If that was the case then there would be no opponents to third-world girls and women being educated. After all better schooled girls and women would make better mothers and wives. And in the opposition to women being educated whether in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, etc lies the clue.

Beyond a Job: The Real Purpose Of Education

The purpose of education is not to just get a job.

  • The purpose of education is to learn new knowledge and skills and create new opportunities for yourself that you never thought existed. Ask any self-taught expert.
  • The purpose of education is to learn and educate others. Wherever and whenever with whoever. Whether it’s in the workplace or home or community. And learn from others. Anyone who has ever taught anyone anything knows implicitly that every learner is a teacher and every teacher a learner. Ask any adult educator, they’re still learning.
  • The purpose of education is to create new ideas and concepts to create opportunities for others that no-one though existed. Wherever and whenever with whoever. Ask any artist or entrepreneur.
  • But the real purpose of education is to change yourself. And others. And the world.

 

 

 

The Gonski Masterstroke (Still Confusing Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott)

A month ago, I wrote a post on Gonski and here’s an update: 

Gonski infographic

But that is merely focussing on tactics instead of strategy. The reforms and their introduction are a strategic masterstroke for the following reasons:

  1. They are a clear and understandable reform to educational funding. The Gonski reforms mean that schools will be funded per student with extra to overcome disadvantage. Prior to Gonski, educational funding arrangements in Australia were incomprehensible.
  2. These reforms have been generally well received. There were protests regarding university funding changes (cutbacks or spending deferrals) made to finance these reforms. There have been some voices of dissent stating Gonski favours the haves over the have nots. But no educational counter revolution has occurred! The streets aren’t full of parents, teachers and students saying No to Gonski!
  3. Even in the ALP, where public versus private school funding has been a issue for decades, Gonski has laid the issue to rest. Because of Gonski, there will be no more hit lists as per Mark Latham in the 2004 Federal Election campaign.
  4. Most critically, the reforms have outflanked the LNP premiers, Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne presenting them with an issue that they cannot circumvent.

The LNP Premiers’ Dilemma:

  • If the LNP Premiers sign up to Gonski they’re seen as supporting the Gillard ALP Government. Worse, they are prevented by the Gonski conditions from making cuts to education spending (already occurring in NSW, Victoria and Queensland). O’Farrell has stated that he is in favour of Gonski on its own merits.
  • If the LNP Premiers don’t sign up to Gonski, it automatically (and has now) becomes a Federal and State election issue. Anyone who votes for the Gonski reforms is automatically registering a protest vote against the burgeoning State education spending cuts and the current educational funding model.

Tony Abbott’s and Christopher Pyne’s Dilemma:

  • If they agree with Gonski they’re seen as supporting the Gillard ALP Government. Even if Abbott had agreed in principle with the Gonski reforms and said they were too expensive, he would still be seen as supporting the centrepiece of the Gillard ALP Government re-election platform.
  • If they disagree with Gonski and support the current educational funding model, the current squabbling will worsen as education spending cuts (State and possibly Federal) bite.
  • Unfortunately, the position Pyne and Abbott have chosen is to criticise Gonski and state that the present system is better and that topping it up will make it even so. Their response is confusing and unclear.

So why is the title of this article not misleading?

  • In time, at least the ALP State Premiers will sign up to the Gonski reforms.
  • Gonski is now an election issue because of Abbott’s and the LNP State Premiers’ (except NSW’s O’Farrell) refusal to engage.
  • Consequently, the IGiveAGonski grassroots campaign will continue up until September 14th and beyond if there is a change of Government.
  • Abbott, Pyne and the LNP Premiers alternative to Gonski is the existing incomprehensible funding model and spending cuts which is no policy at all.

This issue is not going away. And it hasn’t!

A Learning Conversation

It was a long bus trip from the city to the suburbs. It was made worse by the conversation I couldn’t avoid.

Conversation

Conversation (Photo credit: CharlieCE)

 

The two girls sitting in front of me were going through a laundry list of possessions. Each one seemed to be trying to out do the other. It reminded me of Clarisse in Fahrenheit 451 saying that people only talked about things.

 

Even if they had moved to talking about others I would have been annoyed with that too! In Fahrenheit 451 people also talk about other people!

 

My bad mood that day aside, I thought later about that conversation when I was studying how adults learn. We first learn about things then other people and then ourselves. And we talk about things and other people and ourselves.

 

My point is we don’t learn from talking. Insight comes from listening to things, others, yourself and that world beyond. That put me in a better mood!

 

A Learning Conversation

It was a long bus trip from the city to the suburbs. It was made worse by the conversation I couldn’t avoid.

Conversation

Conversation (Photo credit: CharlieCE)

 

The two girls sitting in front of me were going through a laundry list of possessions. Each one seemed to be trying to out do the other. It reminded me of Clarisse in Fahrenheit 451 saying that people only talked about things.

 

Even if they had moved to talking about others I would have been annoyed with that too! In Fahrenheit 451 people also talk about other people!

 

My bad mood that day aside, I thought later about that conversation when I was studying how adults learn. We first learn about things then other people and then ourselves. And we talk about things and other people and ourselves.

 

My point is we don’t learn from talking. Insight comes from listening to things, others, yourself and that world beyond. That put me in a better mood!

 

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