Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Great video. 350! How we gonna do it?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Linguisticaly Barren

Last night 4 Corners (The ABC's real current affairs program) did a feature story on the threat to dismantle the bilingual education program in NT Schools.
Once again this is an issue of extreme importance and relevance to the future of several Australian cultures and languages that most Australians don't seem to be remotely aware of or even care very much about.
The 4 corners website has posted the whole story including additional interviews and a whole bunch of associated articles on the web page for this story that is well worth looking at.
"Going back to Lagamanu"

Although I am not an educator and as my friends and the education departments of Victoria and NT will attest... Barely Educated. I am interested in the concept of Bilingual Education and also in it's perceived failures.

From what I can tell after having to research it for a school report a few years ago and speaking to some people who'd hoped their kids could be taught the basics of language in their mother tongue; not to mention a couple of teachers whose skills are no longer relevant to the NT education department. There are some obvious failings in the System!

Yes it seems quite obvious that there are some extremely serious problems that can't be resolved and therefor the dominant culture has determined that total assimilation or annihilation is the only course of action! Someone's gotta take the blame for the fact that children in Aboriginal communities aren't achieving academically so it makes perfect sense that the Government and the Education department are choosing to hold Aboriginal Culture as the only culprit!

Is the bilingual approach really the failure? Or could the failures really lie in the lack of meaningful support from the education department? lack of real commitment and understanding from Government? What if appropriately trained teachers were available? If educators sent to communities had even an inkling of the culture they were about to enter prior to arriving? If senior administrators and principals worked in partnership with local communities? If the multitude of social problems faced by the communities were addressed successfully? If basic health and nutritional needs were adequate? If Australians didn't just want to relegate Aboriginal language and culture to the corner of some cute anthropological stage show for tourists!

I recall the discussion I had with my teacher back at TAFE when I discussed the program with her. I was surprised by her own hostility toward the bilingual program. What I sensed was a lack of appreciation for Aboriginal Language and the importance of culture. But most noticeable was her apparent resentment that the bilingual program required more funding than other schools. As a teacher I expect she had witnessed the whittling away of resources for education. Unfortunately rather than fighting the common enemy when times are tough, desperation seems to lead people to turn on their neigbour. Resentment and bitterness well up if there are perceived inequities and the State or education department are too big to fight so wham blame those who might receive more funding. Since teachers, according to my observations, are highly political animals, I'd say bilingual schools received more than their share of unsympathetic staff. There would have been opponenets on the payroll all the way back to it's inception.

I think I know why the Government finger is pointed at Bilingual Education. It is because bilingual education can be easily used as a smoke screen for quite great injustices before the eyes of the generally ignorant voting masses. The smoke screen would be something like this:
"They're not even speaking English! No wonder those kiddies aren't making the grade! Bilingual Education stands in the way of our benevolent education system and government from educating the poor little black kids. It hasn't succeeded in turning around the multitude of problems faced by people in remote communities and therefore must be responsible for them!"

Personally I think the Government is just trying to eliminate the program because it is a clear indication of their own failure! The real question should not be 'has bilingual education failed?' But rather "Why did out Government and Education department Fail the bilingual program by not fully supporting and engaging with Aboriginal communities in a mutually respectful way?"

Dear Mr Henderson. Please don't say hello to me again in the street, or at the local market. Don't attempt to shake my hand at the next Multicultural day or kiss my babies if I see you on election day. You've blown it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gleeners Paradise

Yes for just a few days of the year Darwin becomes a Gleaner's Paradise!
Due to the fact that we are in a Cyclone prone part of the world our local council has deemed it necessary for the sake of public safety to have a special garbage pickup day.
They encourage everyone to clean up their yards and throw all their unwanted junk onto the nature strip. Anything that could become a projectile in a Cyclone should be tossed out if it is not needed.

So for a couple of days at this time of the year you can wander down almost any street and find all kinds of useful things that other people no longer want! Old bikes appear on just about every pile! This year there were heaps of washing machines too and I noticed quite a few gas BBQs.

A lot of stuff is actually junk but in a country like Australia where we have access to tons of really cheep consumer items you can find all sorts of gear that really only needs a bit of TLC and it is perfectly useful! There is also a plethora of stuff that would appeal to artists or those who like to invent things.

I am currently trying to create an extendable aluminium frame for my Xtracycle. I found a few useful pieces but not enough to start putting anything together. Although I am a hoarder of bike parts (Which has saved me a fortune in new gear) I only bothered to collect a couple of pieces that suited my immediate needs. One of which was a complete bike that only needed a bit of dust wiped off and some air in the virtually new tires!

Living in this country I doubt I would ever need to buy anything new. I even managed to score a perfectly good door handle to replace the one in our bedroom that I had to brutally remove when it refused to be unlocked after an hour of twisting, banging, scratching and screaming!

I love fixing up old stuff! I love getting things I would never buy new just so I can check out how they feel or how they work! I guess I just love Gleaning!

If you dig gleaning check out The Gleaners and I by Agnes Varda. (I fell in love with her style)