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The Problem with Education

03.11.2014

serc.carleton.eduApparently, the Australian Curriculum – a decade in the making, written by a panel of independent experts, peer-reviewed by dozens of educators – needs an overhaul. It’s left-leaning. Not Judeo-Christian enough. The content is too heavily biased towards Indigenous perspectives and too focused on engagement with Asia. There’s too much science and not enough economics.

In other words, schools should be modelled more on banks and less on think-tanks.

Perhaps it’s not the content of the Australian Curriculum that needs an overhaul. Perhaps we need to entirely rethink education’s place in our society.

Imagine, for a moment, that we had an education department that was independent of the government.

An independent education department with the autonomy to design and implement a curriculum that is free of political bias and personal agenda.

An independent education department with annual federal funding that is then distributed equitably to schools according to individual student needs.

An independent education department accountable not to a government that aims to shape the national curriculum in its own image, but rather to the young people for whom our education system exists.

Imagine what we could achieve if we had a depoliticised, independent education department that was run by educators for educators.

The problem with education today is that there is no problem. There never has been. The problem lies outside education: in the reporting authorities that constrain it; in the administrative structures that imprison it; in the state and federal governments that impose on it; in the national assessments that divide it.

Education is not a problem to be fixed, nor is it a business to be managed. Inequitable distribution of funds is the product of a worldview in which every useful component of our society must rest on an economic common denominator. Creativity, compassion and innovation cannot be easily measured, which is why industries such as the arts, science and teaching are seen to contribute less to our economy than commerce, business or mining.

It has been said that “teachers are children among men, and men among children”. Sentiments like this are often spoken with derision by those who believe themselves to be the more equal animals in our society. But what these people fail to realise is that the more they push us down, the more we rise up. This is what we as educators are trained to do, and what we inspire in others to achieve: to see opportunity in failure, and learn through taking risks and making mistakes.

We encourage our students to become more than what they are, and we cannot do this without first rising to the challenge ourselves.

It’s not just our job; for many of us, it’s in our nature. It’s in our nature to listen, encourage and inspire. It’s in our nature to create spaces where optimism, equality, curiosity and compassion are valued. It’s in our nature to question everything; to seek answers; to find possibilities; to deconstruct, analyse, and recreate the world over and over again, each time discovering something new and fascinating.

We understand how we learn; therefore, we can teach. We’re not afraid to imagine; therefore, we can inspire. We know how to rise up; therefore, we also know how to incite.

As is the case with all problematic businesses, the fault lies not in education, but within its management and board of directors. Only when we disentangle education from politics and economics will we begin to find meaningful solutions.

Ancient Australia Unearthed: using archaeology to teach Australia’s ancient history

19.08.2014

Delve into Australia’s ancient past with this accessible and beautifully illustrated history book. Learn about one of the world’s greatest stories of isolation, resilience and survival.

Drawing on archaeology to map 50,000 years of Australia’s ancient past, Ancient Australia Unearthed traces the evidence etched into the skin of this country to reveal the rich and complex history of this unique island continent.

Read an extract.

Listen to an interview with the author, hosted by Jane Raffan on Eastside FM.

Order a copy through Amazon.

Learn more about Ancient Australia Unearthed – visit the website.

Got a burning archaeology question? Ask the archaeologist.

 

book poster (email)

Ancient Australia Unearthed book launch

26.05.2014

It’s book launch season! Ancient Australia Unearthed has two book launches planned – this week and next. The Bowral event is full. However, if you would like to attend the Melbourne launch for Ancient Australia Unearthed, you’re most welcome! You will need to RSVP to reserve your spot.

5 June at 6pm

The Little Bookroom

759 Nicholson Street, Carlton North

RSVP to reserve your spot!

Ancient Australia Unearthed - Melbourne book launch

On self-publishing a non-fiction title

20.03.2014

For the past 10 months, I’ve been steadily writing and preparing a history book for publication. Not only have I had to use just about every writer’s trick I know, I’ve also drawn extensively on my expertise in teaching and archaeology to produce Ancient Australia Unearthed.

My book will be sent to the printers at the start of April. That’s two weeks away. By the end of April, 3000 copies will arrive on my distributors’ doorsteps, with a couple of hundred set aside for my own promotional use. By mid-May, the book will be available online as a hard copy and ebook, and by July it will start to appear in bookstores.

AAU coverBefore setting out, I read extensively on the topic of self-publication and found that a good 90% of the literature focused on fiction. Much of the advice is applicable to non-fiction: have your work thoroughly edited and proofread; employ a designer to create an eye-catching and professional cover; become social media savvy; know your audience; and prepare a stellar sales pitch or blurb that will capture readers’ interest.

However.

Self-publishing a non-fiction title is in many ways an entirely different arena, with its own unique set of hurdles. Here are a few things I’ve learnt about the process so far:

1. Design time = 2 x writing time

If you have images (and Ancient Australia Unearthed has hundreds), then design, layout and typesetting will take twice as long as it takes to write the text. It took me 2-3 months to write Ancient Australia Unearthed. The designer has had it since October last year, and once she finishes up in April, she will have spent close to 6 months with my book. Of course, if your non-fiction title only has a dozen images or so, then your design will take far less time.

2. Network, network, network

I chose to write about a specialised, niche topic in the history curriculum, and even though I have qualifications as an archaeologist, I was referencing work from some of the most prominent archaeology scholars in Australia. My facts had to be spot on.

I approached dozens of academics across the country (and even around the world) to let them know what I was doing, and to ask for assistance. Usually, this assistance was either in the way of fact-checking my work (only the segments that dealt with the person’s particular area of research – I never sent through the entire text), or requesting images to include in the book (again, sending through the relevant accompanying text). My success in networking hinged on how I presented myself, so with a positive, friendly manner, along with a well-rehearsed and succinct spiel about my background and my project, I quickly gained the support of almost everyone I contacted.

Among my list of contacts were several traditional owner groups, whose sites and archaeological remains I was discussing in my book. Gaining permissions from traditional owners was important to ensure that all published material was presented in an ethical and respectful manner. Traditional owners also needed to approve various images to ensure that nothing culturally-sensitive or sacred was published. Indigenous cultural stories (e.g. Dreaming stories) are protected under national copyright law, so I was not able to discuss these in my book without the correct permissions. Since Ancient Australia Unearthed is about archaeology, this was not really an issue.

3. Networking leads to endorsements

Any book will benefit from endorsements, whether that be from fans, fellow authors or booksellers.

A landmark project of global importance (Helmut & Marika Schmidhofer)

In the case of a non-fiction text, an endorsement from an expert in the field is absolute gold. An important aspect of the networking process is letting people know about your project and drumming up support, whether or not you ask for their help. In my case, I’ve connected with teachers, archaeologists, university lecturers and professors, education organisations, booksellers, historians, palaeontologists, local community groups, and members of the general public.

Ordering a second copy so both my children can have one! (David & Emma Robinson)

4. Writing is the easy part

The writing process was a breeze compared to the amount of work I’ve done since. Keeping on top of everything – book design, networks, funding, distributors, ebook arrangements, image and content contributors, merchandise – is a full time job. Whereas some aspects will drop off once the book goes to print, other areas, such as promotion and marketing, will step in to guzzle my time. I have already begun using whatever means available to get my project noticed: social media, website, newspapers, magazines, local and national radio networks, email, phone calling, postcards and letters, and word of mouth. This will only get busier in the months to come.

5. The tunnel does end (eventually)

I’m in the process of organising two book launches, one in Melbourne, where I live, and one in the Southern Highlands, where I grew up and from where much of my crowdfunding sponsorship originated. I’ve had lots of small celebrations along the way, but the book launches are the most important milestones, as they will mark the point where the book sets sail.

That’s been my journey so far. I’d love to hear from others. What experiences have you or people you know had with self-publishing?

An IN-HOUSE exhibition at Artroomers Artspace

15.01.2014

A gorgeous exhibition of double basses and their construction process. If you’re passing through Mittagong, drop in for a look.

An IN-HOUSE exhibition at Artroomers Artspace

basso-continuo-view-2

Reindeer aren’t aerodynamic

24.12.2013

Welcome to the Santa Does Not Exist series (rerun).

DISCLAIMER: Reading this series may cause permanent alteration to your Santa Claus belief.

Leading up to Christmas, I’ll outline several reasons why Santa does not exist, backed up with statistics and scientific facts.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not anti-Christmas. I love the parts that involve drinking and eating. And I usually enjoy the family stuff too. But Santa Claus? Nup. He doesn’t exist.

How do I know?

BECAUSE REINDEER AREN’T AERODYNAMIC

According to the latest biomechanical research, reindeer are land-dwelling animals, with four legs (hooves attached), a stumpy tail, two ears that can swivel, and for the males a pair of mega-antlers that resemble uprooted trees.

It is a proven fact that reindeer can pull a sled.

No scientific studies, however, have yet concluded that reindeer can fly. Magic is not a viable explanation, and even if it were, aerodynamics would still be a problem.

Drawing on the physics of flight as presented by Berkeley University, it is apparent that, even if reindeer had wings, they would experience immense difficulty even getting off the ground, let alone flying anywhere.

Some things to consider are drag, lift, thrust and weight.

1: A reindeer’s drag (that is, the force exerted on an object moving through fluid) is significantly higher than the average creature of flight; hence, reindeer would struggle to move through the air because their bulk would resist any kind of forward momentum.

2: Reindeer don’t have particularly good lift (another force exerted on an object moving through air), as they’re heavy and a little bit clunky. They might, with a great deal of wing-flapping, manage to get a few feet off the ground and hover precariously before crashing into the Arctic ice.

3: In order to fly, one needs thrust. According to scientists at Berkeley University, only natural fliers have thrust. Furthermore, “To fly at a steady speed in a completely horizontal direction, an animal must generate enough thrust to equal the drag forces on it.” Reindeer drag far outweighs reindeer thrust, thereby significantly hindering their forward momentum flight capabilities.

4: Reindeer are really heavy.

Since reindeer don’t have much thrust (being unnatural fliers), they’re left with a little bit of lift, a whole lot of drag, and a hefty load of body weight to deal with.

One explanation for reindeer flight could be that they’re distant cousins of this guy:

Or they might be using NASA-grade technology. (It has been suggested that Rudolph is using something similar to make his nose glow.)

In the unlikely event that the reindeer manage to get off the ground, their drag will greatly override their thrust. This means that as soon as they hit a strong air current, they’ll be blown backwards, spiral into a nosedive, and faceplank the snow.

This is why Santa does not exist – reindeer aren’t aerodynamic.

Christmas is hazardous

21.12.2013

Welcome to the Santa Does Not Exist series (rerun).

DISCLAIMER: Reading this series may cause permanent alteration to your Santa Claus belief.

Leading up to Christmas, I’ll outline several reasons why Santa does not exist, backed up with statistics and scientific facts.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not anti-Christmas. I love the parts that involve drinking and eating. And I usually enjoy the family stuff too. But Santa Claus? Nup. He doesn’t exist.

How do I know?

BECAUSE CHRISTMAS IS HAZARDOUS

 

Santa faces two significant risk factors at Christmas:

  • speed of travel
  • overeating/binge-drinking

 

Risk Factor 1: Speed of travel

Santa must travel at a speed of 15,939,750 km/h. That’s one house visit per 0.00276 seconds.

The velocity acquired after take-off would crush Santa and his reindeer in 4.6 seconds. Shortly after this, the sleigh would burn up like a meteorite entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

In the unlikely chance that Santa and his reindeer do survive take-off, they’d be travelling at 15,939,750 km/h. At this speed, the g-force would strip the reindeer of their antlers and fur, and Santa’s skin would drag 5km behind the sleigh.

If, by some miracle, Santa and the reindeer survived take off and the travel risks, then they would have to contend with…

 

Risk Factor 2: Overeating/binge-drinking

Santa and his reindeer consume extraordinary quantities of food and alcohol in the space of 32 hours. Drawing on research presented in Peter Smith’s How Much Would You Have To Eat To Rupture Your Stomach?, it is likely that Santa and the reindeer would experience one of the following ailments:

1. If they were on a starvation diet leading up to Christmas Eve, then rapid, excessive carb intake would lead to elevated insulin levels and heart failure.

2. If they ate so much that their stomachs couldn’t hold the food and drink, their stomachs would rupture and the contents would flood their bodies, thus releasing bacteria and causing fatal systemic failure.

3. If they accidentally swallowed some bicarbonate, their stomachs would literally explode.

Santa’s reindeer exploding

 

This is why Santa does not exist – Christmas is hazardous to his health.

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