March 15th 2008

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Will the economy spoil Rudd's party?

THE ECONOMY: Higher interest rates the wrong way to cut inflation

EDITORIAL: Horse flu: Canberra makes the victims pay

PREDATORY PRICING: Defending small business and farmers

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Ten concerns about Rudd's first 100 days

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Warmer oceans? / Revenge of the nerds / The left assault on the student mind

ENVIRONMENT: Climate change: fallacies in the Garnaut report

REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Time for moratorium on abortion?

CHINA: Beijing's human rights record: why we must act

ASIA: Sri Lanka at the brink

RUSSIA: From Putin to Medvedev: a new Russia?

EASTERN EUROPE: Communist old guard still not defeated

Fuel price deception (letter)

The real 'stolen generation' (letter)

BOOKS: UNSTOPPABLE GLOBAL WARMING Every 1,500 Years, by S. Fred Singer and Dennis T. Avery

BOOKS: THEIR DARKEST HOUR: People Tested to the Extreme in WWII, by Laurence Rees

Books promotion page

Warmer oceans? / Revenge of the nerds / The left assault on the student mind

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, March 15, 2008
Warmer oceans?

Amid all the Sturm and Drang of the environment debate - which for many, especially younger people, means global-warming, just as World War II, for many people, means the Holocaust - I picked up an interesting item on SBS television's World News (February 18). It introduced a fresh and possibly significant item to our mass of hypotheses, which true believers and rent-seekers are trying, prematurely, to turn into a seamless system of... dogma.

An Australian-French-US scientific project, running for the last 15 years, has charted temperature and salinity changes in the Southern Ocean. It found that average temperatures have risen by about three-tenths of a degree Celsius. "The biggest contribution so far has been warming of the oceans through expansion", the project leader, Australian CSIRO oceanographer Dr Steve Rintoul, said. (Melting sea-ice or Antarctic ice-shelves jutting into the ocean do not add directly to sea-level rises, by the way).

There has been a rise of about two centimetres in seas of the southern polar region over an area around half the size of Australia. The sea-level rise was not uniform in the Southern Ocean, and its absorption of carbon dioxide changed with the seasons.

Finally - though probably there is no "finally" in this long-term comprehensive study (studies which are supported by satellite surveillance and measurement) - there may be a definitive comprehensive answer.

But the thing now intriguing these Australian, French and American observers, who are based in Hobart, is that the deepest recesses of the ocean are the warmest, and they are sending their heat upwards. In other words, there should be no rush to judgement as to the condition of the oceans, and many other things beside.

I am suggesting this because, during Kevin Rudd's first 100 days, Big Pictures are being brought out from Labor's Olde Curiosity Shoppe to push a bewildering variety of scenarios, behind all of which stand vested interests.


Revenge of the nerds

As we had expected, the men from the Stasi are starting to climb over the fence. Demands for the dismissal of those whose views offended them, or who enjoy some small influence, and much respect in the wider community, are being heard, once again.

Having been kicked out of the federal parliament 12 years ago for being noisy, foul-mouthed and forever leaving a mess, these tantrum-throwing rejects have been running around outside the house. They wouldn't leave, but continued haunting the old place, throwing themselves on the ground, blubbering, and calling for Revenge.

Their narcissistic wounds never healed, and they never said what Paul Keating said they should. They never went out and got a job. Late last year, someone left the gate open, so, like the weasels, they have captured Toad Hall.

The Man himself has just made a typical personal attack on the columnist for The Australian, Janet Albrechtsen, who is conservative-leaning, who writes well, who has given many readers much pleasure, and who has a large following. Judging by her bio-photographs, she is attractive.

Her only fault, that I could detect in this typically rambling, vehement, philippic of Keating's, is that she found merit in the government of John Howard and his works, and had been less than impressed by what Labor had done when previously in office, and then did when in Opposition.

Not an unusual position, I would think. But for her pains, Keating describes her as "simply a blackguard" (Letters, The Australian, February 29, 2008). He then makes a tortuous connection with Hitler writing in a 1929 edition of the Volkischer Beobachter, castigating "the cosmopolitan 10,000". He then links the Hitlerian performance with her and her conservative kind.

I hadn't realised that Captain Wacky was a reader of the Nazi daily Volkischer Beobachter - I would have tipped Der Sturmer, where there were lots of Big Pictures and cartoons, and denunciations of people and groups who should be removed from German society.

Which practical joker put this poor rustic ex-politician up to such pseudo-historical claptrap? And what has this to do with Janet Albrechtsen? Keating concludes, "Will someone at The Australian take this loony tune off its pages?... If not for the rest of us, perhaps for the paper's own sake, will someone summon the courage to give her the pink slip?" Like the voters did to him 12 years ago.

Then there was Melbourne ABC radio spook Jon Faine, and his interview with Melbourne's Herald Sun editor, Bruce Guthrie, on ideological cleansing (The Australian, February 8, 2008). He first suggested that the Herald Sun carries some "notorious" contributors - only to be corrected by Guthrie: "I'd say notable...".

But, the little fellow persists: what about "the columnists (on The Australian), "the sort of Christopher Pearson and Janet Albrechtsen, and Mark Steyn..."? Now that there has been a change of government, he says, shouldn't there be change in commentariat?

Now, could the totalitarians of left or right beat that one? Faine should stick to promoting Al Gore, who flies with Qantas.

I must say that, having earlier worked with the ABC for perhaps 20 years, quite apart from witnessing the virtual disappearance there of all balance, decorum and professionalism, from what was once a first-class public service, I can never remember the open canvassing, on air, of the desirability of dismissing fellow writers, publicists, etc., who disagreed with the line of the broadcaster and his friends.

This chatter was either a sustained act of stupidity, or else revealing a belief that the revolution had arrived, and the purges can start now. Just what is going on in the offices and pubs and cafeterias of this now odious conspiracy against free speech and the public interest... only God knows.


The left assault on the student mind

One of the few interesting things in The Weekend Australian Magazine (February 23-24, 2008) was an article by Richard Guilliatt, entitled "Why kids hate Australian history", on a book by Anna Clark, the 29-year-old granddaughter of the late Professor Manning Clark.

The book, History's Children, is derived from a study conceived at Monash University, which resulted in Ms Clark visiting 34 schools spread across each of the states and territories, interviewing 182 students, 43 teachers, and 20 curriculum officials, on Australian history. How well was it being taught? What did students think of it? And the palatability or otherwise of Aboriginal history and studies.

Despite the great variations, geographic, economic, and ethnic, students responded in very similar ways. Australian history is disliked heartily, and indigenous studies most heartily of all. Students got the Stolen Generation from Year 6, while Philip Noyce's film Rabbit-Proof Fence, like the Emperor Nasi Goreng and the Great Wall of China, keeps turning up.

And Clark experienced a "fierce" reaction on the part of some students which shocked her. They were turned off by the common emphasis on dispossession, racism, and massacre. As one Melbourne private schoolgirl said, "When it's drilled into us that we killed everything in this county, it's like not fun."

Nor is it. But the aversion of students to Australian history, and a more recent fabrication, Australian studies, goes back a long way.

Tony Staley and I used to set the Victorian syllabus exam papers. I acted as chief examiner, and hence had a privileged view of how Social Studies/renamed-Politics was faring. This was in the late '60s and early '70s. And it was faring very well, numbers going from 2,000 to 8,000.

I then withdrew, believing that the teachers should run it. I may have been right in the short run, but in the longer term, I'm afraid not. History subjects started to move in, and the whole ethical and intellectual situation began to change.

The lobbies pushing Australian history in the universities and in the schools pursued complemetary objectives. To not simply compete with other history subjects, but to get them run-down so as to squeeze them out. This happened over time, but it meant more and more students chose not to do history at all.

So, the left-history cabal had a subject called Australian Studies, which was made compulsory (which was the only way to get students to study it.) Sometimes Australian history was made compulsory. The negative reaction to this cultural imperialism from parents, students and other disciplines, forced the dropping of the compulsory requirement. So, very quickly, student numbers in Australian history or studies collapsed. Boring subjects - boring teaching. So the students were escaping from the brainwashers.

What to do? The solution of the left was to put their stale propaganda and their history of lost causes into other subjects, which were renamed and redefined so as to make them unrecognisable. For example, English, which is compulsory, is now heavily infected with the ideological detritus of the kind which earlier killed off history and politics, and drove students away from history, be it in schools, or, wherever possible, in tertiary institutions.

As to English, there is no doubt that masses of our secondary students would flee English, were it not compulsory. No doubt many of these would be the "lazy" ones, but many of them are just intelligent or merely sensible students, who are finding these rustic versions of infantile communism in the midst of their subjects, boring and offensive, with too many teachers preposterously dogmatic, while themselves just having emerged from of the Ark.

And it is not that the earlier years of English teaching have taught older students, or many of them, to read, or write, to construct an essay, or even a complex sentence, or to know the difference between a noun and a verb. This is the continuing legacy of our Lord of the Flies education system, starting from the '60s.

As Ms Clark writes, "I was quite shocked by how articulate the students were about how they wanted to learn." (So it has come to this. We are shocked to find students who are articulate, and who want to learn!)

"They actually had some quite sophisticated and thought-out ideas about how they could feel more engaged by it."

They complained about rote textbook learning, followed by overhead projections. And the striking thing, Ms Clark found, was a desire for heroes and heroism, not rich sportsmen, but patriots as exemplified by the spirit of ANZAC. This is the Australian history that the students want, she found.

But the sad thing is that the other tripe is the best that many teachers can now do. They could not teach to a proper syllabus, for example, to the level taught in the 1970s.

I understand that this inability now extends to the teaching of maths and science. The teachers themselves are badly educated, and possibly doomed to stay that way. Which is why the chalkies, through their unions, fiercely resist all change, as they do objective outside assessments of their performances.

A whole new teacher rehabilitation program, like remedial English courses, would have to be introduced for our teachers. But would the vanity of these lords of creation accept this? Of course not. But many have to be replaced, if new syllabi, involving a return to earlier successful teaching organisation and philosophy, were to stand a chance.

After all, if industrial workers can be decommissioned, as they have been and still are, with barely a sigh from our common-rooms or our happy hours, so can obsolescent teachers.

And it is not that they have been performing any favours for the workers or their children. They will demonstrate - i.e., take a day off - for more money, or Sorry Day, or some grossly political shenanigans suggested by the Socialist Workers... but that is where their radicalism stops.

Ms Clark has put the cat among the pigeons. Her grandfather would be proud.

- Max Teichmann

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