Monthly Archives: May 2007

New Australian movie suits “Physical Journeys”

I haven’t seen it yet, but I have read about it in the current Monthly Magazine (article not online). It would seem though that Romulus, My Father would be worth considering as a supplementary text for HSC students doing the Journeys Area Study, particularly with the poems of Peter Skrzynecki, but not only with that selection. School users please note YouTube is probably blocked; try again at home.

On YouTube you will also find a whole series of Director’s Diaries about the movie. This is Day 4:

There is a Romulus My Father website. You may also read Raymond Gaita’s book. See Robert Manne’s review.

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Posted by on May 27, 2007 in Australian, diversity, English studies, HSC, Media/Film studies, multiculturalism, student help, works/authors


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Sorry Day and forty years of citizenship…

Adrian Phoon, among others, has remembered the significance for Australians of the past week. Two anniversaries coincide: the 1967 Referendum by which Aboriginal people would be included in the national census, which meant they would have the same citizen rights as other Australians. That was also the first year I voted. Naturally I voted “yes” along with over 90% of Australians. The second anniversary, of which Adrian speaks, is the ten years since the “Stolen Children” Report was published. That report has been attacked, but I think it stands up and remains the site of much unfinished business.

I have a whole page on related matters on my other blog.


See on my personal site National Reconciliation Week 27 May – 3 June 2007.

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Posted by on May 26, 2007 in Australian


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A central Aussie icon

It is always interesting explaining Anzac Day to overseas students or visitors: You mean you celebrate a defeat?? I can recall a Chinese friend being mightily impressed by the first Anzac Day parade he saw as being unlike anything in China, though there are parades and national days enough there.

I tried to capture something of this on my personal site in April: Late Anzac Day thoughts, where you may also see some of my own connections to Anzac Day.

In that entry I refer to a recent television program, Andrew Denton’s Gallipoli: Brothers In Arms. This is well worth visiting.

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Posted by on May 21, 2007 in Australian, multiculturalism



Error correction in ESL

Something different today, a video. Now if all you see is a big space below, wait until you are home and try again! Many schools and agencies block YouTube.

7.41 minutes long. Posted on YouTube by MadridTeacher. There are more personal and ESL videos there.


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Train station or railway station?

This post appeared yesterday on my personal blog. I thought it would interest people here too.


I am reading a very recent English crime fiction novel at the moment and did a double take when I saw the words train station. I am sure Sherlock Holmes would have been most displeased. Point is, when did we stop saying railway station?

Naturally I am not the first to ask. Christopher Howse deals with it in his London Telegraph blog.

“I’m sitting in the railway station,” sang Paul Simon, inspired, some say by Widnes. Others say he was waiting at the now disused Ditton station, on the Cheshire-Lancashire border…

Railroad station used to be common in Britain, as anyone who has read Trollope knows. It is never used now in British English, but train station is definitely becoming the preferred form over railway station.

One of his commenters gets huffy about it all:

The trend of hearing ‘train station’ more than ‘railway station’ in recent years is another example of the lazy use of language being perpetuated to an even worse degree now by texting ‘shorthand’. ‘Railway station’ is more traditionally correct (i.e a station on the railway system); ‘train station’ is a lazy modern alternative, probably deriving, as the blogger suggests, from ‘bus station (i.e. where you catch buses/trains). The use of ‘invite’ as a noun (it is a verb!) instead of ‘invitation’ is another example of lazy modern language appalling to us who love our language…

That of course is utter nonsense; I can’t see laziness having anything to do with it. I am always amazed at how many people run to moral judgement over such things. I must say, however, that the trend of hearing landed in my ear with a thud. Why is that, I wonder?

Back to the issue at hand. I can only recall train station in the past decade here in Australia. Of course most often we just say station, which probably indicates how dreadfully lazy we Aussies must be! Certainly we never said depot, but then neither do Americans these days, apparently. See World Wide Words.

Until recently, as I said, the almost total separation of terms between British and American English would have applied also to train station. But it appears that the term is relatively new even in the USA, where railroad station was once the norm. But train station is old enough there for us to be sure of the direction in which it has travelled, and vigorous enough to oust the older term. Perhaps its introduction followed the logic of one of my younger staff. When I pointed out some years ago that she used train station, she replied that of course that was the right term: she caught a bus at a bus station, and so she would expect to board a train at a train station. Obvious really. Why didn’t we all think of that before?

I’m sticking to railway station. Sutherland never had a train station, not while I was living there anyway.


I seem to have struck a chord with the train station versus railway station entry. Thanks for the comments, Thomas and David, and anyone else who joins in. Perhaps I should have a language fetish section…

I also found a new (to me) reference site while pursuing this bit of trivia: The Visual Dictionary. It appears to have been written in French and the English on the front page reflects that very clearly. Once inside, however, you will find a really great site. Or you can opt to read it in French!

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Posted by on May 17, 2007 in English language, student help, writing


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Interesting cultural policy take on Virginia Tech

I wrote a very long post after the Virginia Tech shootings, reflecting on a range of cultural issues that are also relevant to Australia. While being in favour of gun control, I did not pursue that aspect much.

Korean-American Christian Hyepin Im has since posted on the God’s Politics site. She argues that Asian Americans have been starved of government support because they are seen as “model immigrants”.

There is no denying Seung-Hui Cho was one sick individual whose wild rampage was senseless and tragic. At the same time, I can’t help but mourn and wonder whether or not this tragedy could have been averted if Seung-Hui had early intervention. For too long, Asian American communities have been ignored or left out of policy, program, and funding decisions under the justification of being “model minorities.” Only recently, studies are acknowledging that monolingual Asians and their families are under-served in this country. Such short-sighted decisions are costing many innocent lives, and taking a huge toll on the community and the country. For example, juvenile delinquency for Asian Americans has increased while it has decreased for other groups in the last 20 years. Asian Americans suffer from high suicide, depression, and domestic violence rates.

A very informative post, and possibly relevant here in Sydney.

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Posted by on May 13, 2007 in diversity, equity/welfare, multiculturalism


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Death of Professor Marie Clay

Who? New Zealander Marie Clay developed the Reading Recovery Program which is a feature of infants schools in NSW. When some years ago I did a research project in the poorer suburbs of S-E Sydney I saw this program in action and was very impressed by it, and by the skill and dedication of its trained practitioners. While Marie Clay always insisted it should be used only at a certain age, I think its principles can apply at any age. It does have its detractors, though very often one suspects they are not immune to ideological agendas of their own, or are advocates of some rival approach competing for implementation and therefore often government dollars.

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald carries the following obituary.

Dame Marie Clay championed the idea that children who struggle to learn to read and write can be helped with early intervention. Her Reading Recovery program has been used with striking success in many schools in the English-speaking world.

Before the 1980s it was common educational practice to ignore early reading difficulties in the hope that children would “grow out of” their problems, with the result that many youngsters fell further behind, some condemned to a life of illiteracy.

The concept of Reading Recovery arose from Clay’s close observation of what really happens when a teacher and child work together to make the child a reader and a writer. She concluded that however puzzling and illogical a child’s responses might be, they arise out of some sort of internal logic, which every child develops to make sense of the world and language.

That logic may be shaped by confusion, misunderstanding or partial knowledge. If a teacher could somehow understand the child’s thought processes and if the teaching could start from the child’s “cognitive system”, then it might be possible to help him or her to find more effective ways of thinking about reading and writing.

An essential component of Reading Recovery is the training of teachers to observe, analyse and interpret the moment-to-moment behaviour of their pupils when struggling to read and write, and to design individual programs to help them. The key, Clay taught, was flexibility.

Reading Recovery success rates have been impressive, with eight out of 10 of the lowest-attaining six-year-olds lifted to levels of literacy appropriate to their age within months.

Marie Clay, who has died at 81, was born in Wellington, New Zealand, and qualified as a primary school teacher in 1945. She earned a master’s degree at the University of New Zealand in 1948 and went as a Fulbright scholar to study for a doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota.

Returning to New Zealand, Clay taught primary school children at Wanganui. In 1955 she moved to Auckland with the Department of Education’s new psychological service. In 1960 she joined the University of Auckland to help create a new diploma of educational psychology. She remained at the university for 25 years, becoming New Zealand’s first female professor in 1975.

In 1976 she began work on what became known as the Reading Recovery program, based on the development of observational tools for the assessment of a child’s progress, research that was brought together in An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement (1993). Reading Recovery has been used in schools across the English-speaking world and adapted for Spanish and French languages.

Clay received many awards and accolades, and in 2003 was voted the most influential person in the field of literacy over the past three decades at a survey of the National Reading Conference of America. She was appointed DBE in 1992. In 2002 the Institute of Education in London marked its centenary by awarding Clay an honorary doctorate in literature, presented by the Princess Royal.


Literacy discussed.

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Posted by on May 7, 2007 in for teachers, literacy, pedagogy


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