It is interesting that NAPLAN is in its entirety focused on teaching our youth how to cook fish and is unconcerned entirely with teaching our students how to use a fishing rod. That is to say that skills in literacy and numeracy need resources to be applied on, and with today's ICT where "fake news" and just plain information smog congest the web our students deserve to be taught "information literacy" (skills to define the information required and search the haystack to find the needle(s).
The most highly literate and numerate individuals will still be uninformed if they can't find the information they need to process.
Information literacy does feature in the Australian curriculum requiring that students be able to plan information searches, locate information and evaluate sources. Fortunately all schools in NSW and Queensland have a professional in information services supporting their classroom teachers with information literacy, that is to say, a teacher librarian. This is unfortunately not the case in the ACT. Fortunately, a lack of information literacy skills will have no effect whatsoever on NAPLAN results where the information is provided on a platter. Of course, not being information literate might be a hindrance to the future lives of students without the information skills involved.
Keith Mullumby, Calwell
Results, and results
I was once a humble humanities teacher.
All those years ago when NAPLAN began, I thought it would face a mathematical problem. NAPLAN claimed to make comparisons of "progress" by students and schools over time, with the purpose of improving all students' and schools' performance.
The inevitable result must be, I thought, that as everyone's performance improves, the higher scorers' rate of progress will appear to go down (as they reach their best possible performance) and the lower scorers' rate of progress will appear to go up (until they reach their best possible performance). At this point everybody's "progress" will be the same – that is, on the average. So then the total system will have reached its peak performance. Is it pure fantasy on my part to think that ACT students and schools are actually OK after all?
Frank McKone, Holt
I understand the Education Minister's concerns about the national security and foreign policy aspects of Australian research that is funded by the government-backed Australian Research Council ("'National interest test' on grants", November 11, p4). Mr Tehan's concerns may be particularly warranted if the research involves collaboration with researchers who prove to have links with the Chinese military.
However, it seems to me that Mr Tehan, despite having a degree in political science and master's degrees in international relations and in foreign affairs and trade, may not understand the long-term nature of many research projects. A research project may not in isolation appear to Mr Tehan to be in the national interest, but when combined with follow-up projects it may be significantly beneficial to the nation or to humanity as a whole.
Dr Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin
Ill-informed on judges
It is too easy to read Jenna Price's article, ("Our justice system needs and overhaul, for the sake of women out there everywhere", November 8, p20) shake my head at the ignorance and arrogance displayed, and move on. But in the spirit of the MeToo movement I feel compelled to respond.
Unless she was in court to hear the arguments and the judge's reasons for granting bail to Glenn Hartland, she is simply joining other shock jocks who raise public fear and concern by making ill informed criticism of court decisions. Of course she is entitled to make informed criticism of what a judge says. But this time it was against a background of conflating aberrant thinking and behaviour by some males with all judges.
Too often during my career I was appalled to read "reports" in the media of cases I had dealt with which bore little resemblance to what actually occurred, either because the reporter was present for only part of the proceedings, or relied on what others gleaned from them, or for whatever other reason.
I am a woman who was appointed a NSW magistrate in 1975 – I am white but I am not male and am I not of Anglo-Celtic background. I did not come from a privileged background and was educated in Canberra's wonderful public schools. Nevertheless I was generally treated with respect by the legal profession. I was not alone in not fitting the stereotype she writes about. These days many judges and magistrates come from diverse backgrounds and how they are accepted depends on their behaviour not on irrelevancies such as race or gender.
It is sad to see that someone of Jenna's stature has demeaned herself by writing such an ill-informed piece in which she trumpets the fact that she does not know what she is talking about and criticises so arrogantly.
Her assumptions about the background and values of judicial officers are breathtaking and offensive. I hope she lifts her game, and to use her words "reflects on the power" she wields as someone who has the privilege of having her views of the world regularly published.
Sue Schreiner, Red Hill
Canberra has a health system in crisis, an education system that is the most expensive in Australia and failing our young people. It has an unacceptable level of homelessness, and our once lovely bush capital is dirty and neglected.
We had a great transport system until the Barr/Rattenbury and union-driven government decided to put in the light rail and reduce the number of bus services. The reduction in bus services has hit the most vulnerable in our community. The cost of the light rail has meant huge increases in our rates and other essentials and it is apparent that there has been no increase in funding for other important and essential services such as housing for our homeless.
It was no surprise therefore to read that Megan Fitzharris stated ("Stealthy arrival of light rail tram means testing imminent", November 16, p2) the focus for the government for the next few months would be planning for the launch of the light rail on Northbourne Avenue. Then we have Bec Cody, who is very concerned that our street and suburb names may offend some people. Their priorities reflect their lack of an understanding of the social justice issues affecting the community they are supposed to represent.
I fear that unless the Liberal party steps up and articulates its policies and starts to challenge the direction of the current government, we will continue to watch the destruction of Canberra and pay more and more through taxes imposed on us by a government that has no understanding of the real issues facing Canberra.
Mary Robbie, Aranda
Back off, Indonesia
Countries have differences of opinion all the time ("Trade route from embassy stance", November 15, p1). So, I find it deeply disappointing that Indonesia has threatened to delay signing a free trade agreement with us if we even consider moving our embassy to a part of Jerusalem that is sovereign Israeli territory and where Israel's Parliament and Supreme Court are located.
It's even more galling given Scott Morrison's announcement in October explicitly said he "expected" east Jerusalem would be the capital of a future Palestinian state. But mostly, I am unhappy that a foreign country purports to dictate Australian foreign policy. Why does Indonesia think it has any right to determine Australia's policy towards a third nation? How would Jakarta like it if we told them we would refuse to sign trade deals with them until they ended their policy of refusing to recognise Israel?
Athol Morris, Forde
Brexit problem solved
There's an easy way for Brexit to be relieved of the hard border problem ("Ministers quit May government as Brexit deal threatens to fall apart", November 16, p14). All the UK Parliament has to do is a UDS, a Unilateral Declaration of Separation (the reverse of the Northern Rhodesia UDI).
The Brexiteers need to pass a Northern Ireland Act 2018 to repeal the Northern Ireland Act 1998; just one sentence: "It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland in its entirety no longer remains part of the United Kingdom". Problem solved — the Irish Sea becomes the hard border.
Kenneth Griffiths, O'Connor
Where does it stop?
Vince Patulny (Letters, November 16) joins Bec Cody in advocating a name change for Haig Park because General Haig commanded the Allied forces while so many troops died in World War I. But why stop there? Should we also eradicate everything with the names Fisher and Curtin attached to them too? After all, prime minister Andrew Fisher took us into that dreadful World War I which killed 62,000 Australians and led to the rise of Hitler. Then prime minister John Curtin reigned while another 27,000 were killed in World War II. Should we not blame our commanding politicians for war casualties and not their subordinate generals? But if we must blame British generals should we also blame Australian generals? Do Generals Birdwood, Bridges, Chauvel, Monash and even Blamey get off scot free?
Without hindsight, all leaders do their best in the circumstances with the tools they are given, even military generals like Haig, so please, leave his name on a little park in Canberra.
Peter Murray, Red Hill
We can do better
Adrian Jackson (Letters, November 17) opposes Labor's plan to hold a plebiscite on the republic on the grounds that "most republics ... are hopeless basket cases". This misleading nonsense is usually trotted out by Australian monarchists as a scare tactic. The world's most economically powerful nations include democratic republics eg France, Germany, the US, Singapore, Switzerland, and South Korea, to name a few. Hardly basket cases.
The potential basket case in that league is a monarchy, the post-Brexit UK, whose essentially ceremonial royal family is powerless to prevent the nation's continuing decline. Of course there are republics, and monarchies, that are dysfunctional, for reasons usually unrelated to the form of government. Neither form guarantees freedom and prosperity, but republics are at least egalitarian in theory. In our so-called egalitarian society no Australian can perform the highest role in our constitution, that of sovereign, who appoints the governor-general. That is still reserved for members of a non-resident foreign family. Ludicrous and insulting. Not even other monarchies would tolerate that.
However, like Mr Jackson I have difficulty with Labor's simplistic knee-jerk plebiscite approach. What Australia needs first is a thorough review of its constitution to address as a whole, not only the republic, but Indigenous Australians, section 44, and probably a raft of other outdated provisions that are legacies of our colonial past, unsuited to a modern, inclusive, Asian-Pacific democracy.
Jim Adamson, Flynn
Anne Prendergast (Letters, November 16) thinks that the recent terror attack in Melbourne is indicative of security in Australia being too lax and the judiciary not being tough enough on crime. Perhaps she hasn't noticed the steady rise of the surveillance state — both physical with the proliferation of facial recognition and number plate tracking technologies, and digital with the mandated tracking of our online lives — or the ridiculous provisions under which we may be detained for extended periods without judicial oversight on mere suspicion alone. Not only may we not know why we've come to the government's attention or, like esteemed lawyer and humanist Bernard Collaery, what brief of evidence has been amassed against us, but once released we aren't permitted to tell anyone about our ordeal lest we "disappear" again.
With political appointees rather than judges deciding how this power is exercised it's difficult to imagine it not being abused. Never mind that the Bourke Street miscreant was under no illusion the penalty for his intended actions would almost certainly be death. How many more freedoms would Ms Prendergast have us give up in the name of security, and why does she think this would dissuade a disturbed mind from acting on irrational impulses?
James Allan, Narrabundah
It appears the ACT government's preferred route for stage two of light rail via City Hill, Commonwealth Avenue, the Parliamentary Triangle and on to Kent Street, Deakin, will need to do so in pole/wire-less mode. This apparently exceeds the tram's electrical capacity and may require additional stops for charging. Good news week! Transport Canberra director-general Emma Thomas is quoted as saying "there's a slight sort of hill from my memory of that area". Are they planning this project from some vague recollection? I'm happy to drive or walk her over the proposed route.
In true Yes Minister tradition, could I suggest all/any passengers be forced to alight before the hilly section. Strangely, Woden to Civic buses seem to zip up that "hill" and don't even need to stop or refuel.
John Mungoven, Stirling
TO THE POINT
One can only hope that if the PM takes it upon himself (as he has indicated he may) to move our embassy in Israel by Christmas in line with the US and a couple of other tinpot countries it can be stopped by an incoming government come the election by May next year.
D.J. Fraser, Currumbin, Qld
WHO'S BUSINESS IS IT?
The PM appears to be back-pedalling on his decision to move the Australian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Of what business is it of Indonesia, what is essentially something that concerns Australia and Israel only?
Perhaps it's time to stop channelling bucket loads of aid to our northern neighbour.
Owen Reid, Dunlop
EMBASSY IN PERTH?
The federal Coalition government has delivered a huge GST windfall to Western Australia ("Fair deal for WA as GST plan sails through federal parliament", canberratimes.com.au, November 14), but if the Coalition really wants to lock up WA in next year's election it should consider moving our Israel embassy to Perth.
Gordon Soames, Curtin
NUTS TO WATER ISSUE
Barrie Smillie (Letters, November 16) misses an important point about water use by annual crops such as rice. They are not planted in years when there is insufficient water. On the other hand crops such as grapes, citrus, and nuts require water every year irrespective of availability.
Steve Thomas, Yarralumla
CAN'T COME SOON ENOUGH
Coombs shopping centre will open "soon" says the developer. The sooner the better. It is often very difficult to find a parking spot in the car parks either side of Cooleman Court, where the people of the new suburb of Coombs are also obliged to do their shopping.
What says Planning Minister Mick Gentleman?
John Milne, Chapman
I hope Wellington's mayor was tongue in cheek when he said on ABC radio he was looking forward to some Barr wisdom on public transport. Perhaps making vulnerable people walk further to transport or cutting popular services is not the best way to increase patronage. And ignoring all submissions to a farcical "consultation" is better left to Canberra alone.
Maria Greene, Curtin
The ACT government is being far too heavy handed in asking Ms Kneen to remove her ponies from the Dickson Street agistment in Holder. I have been a resident in the area for almost 30 years and our family and other neighbourhood children get so much pleasure from having the ponies in our neighbourhood. I am also very suspicious about the motives for this forced removal.
Ros Williams, Holder
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