Category Archives: replays

Recycle 5: from January 20, 2004 — Values in NSW schools

This one is deep in my archives! In its original context it is very political too, being an angry response to Prime Minister John Howard’s unjustified attack on public education. You may see a leading non-government educator’s reply here.

I posted the “Values We Teach” document, since superseded but essentially the same. See Core Values on the NSW Department of Education site — unless they move it again! Terrible, that way, the NSW government. Always fiddling… However, here is the version I posted back in 2004.

Love of learning

NSW public schools aim to create young Australians who value learning and knowledge and who relish the effort and possess the confidence needed to resolve problems, or to master a skill, topic or subject; who can compose clear and precise prose and construct well-founded arguments; who have mastered the art of talking with others as a route to better understanding; who are deeply interested in finding common ground with other people, other ways of life and ways of thinking and believing; and who are interested in imaginative and new ideas, and in seeking out truth.

NSW public schools teach the value of:

  • scholarship, accurate and extensive knowledge, wide reading and understanding of traditional and new fields of study, including information technology
  • rational inquiry and logical, well-founded argument
  • clarity, confidence and coherence in thinking, writing and speaking
  • curiosity and imagination as the basis for pleasure in learning
  • communicating with others as a way of establishing agreement and arriving at truth.

    Aiming for high standards

    NSW public school students are encouraged to achieve their personal best and to aim for excellence in everything they do.

    They are encouraged to participate in sport and creative performances and to learn ways of winning and losing graciously.

    NSW public schools teach the value of:

  • aiming for the best in academic, creative and sporting achievement and in all public performances.

    Care and respect for ourselves and others

    In partnership with parents and carers, NSW public school students are taught how to respect and care for themselves and others, in order to achieve self-discipline and physical and mental well being. They learn respect and care for others through the codes and practice of good manners, the give and take of friendship, the routines of companionship and the management of friendly rivalry. They learn respect for expertise, legitimate authorities, and leadership through acceptance of responsibility. They are taught ways of recognising right from wrong.

    NSW public schools teach the value of:

  • recognising right over wrong
  • honesty and courtesy
  • health, fitness and well being
  • discipline, punctuality, reliability
  • experience, expertise and authority
  • friendship, companionship and friendly rivalry
  • self-discipline, independence and responsibility

    Care and respect for families and communities

    NSW public school students are encouraged to feel and demonstrate empathy and respect for those who are vulnerable and dependent. They learn to demonstrate the values of generosity and compassion and the principles of fairness. In turn they earn the right to expect to be treated by others with respect and fairness. As members of families and communities they learn how to treat others with consideration.

    NSW public schools teach the value of:

  • kindness and helpfulness towards those who are vulnerable, or who are less able than others
  • the rights of individuals and groups to a fair go
  • sharing and equity as principles of personal and social relationships
  • different histories, customs, cultures and outlooks within home and school communities and in the Australian community

    Respect for work

    NSW public school students learn the need to grasp opportunities, the rewards of effort, and the value of work. They learn to see how work is changing and how new forms of work encourage experiment and resilience. They learn with new and evolving technologies and are taught to welcome innovation. Public school students learn to work well together with different kinds of people.

    NSW public schools teach the value of:

  • paid, unpaid and voluntary work
  • opportunity, aspiration and enterprise
  • creativity, experiment and resilience
  • working together and in competition
  • skilled workmanship
  • productive habits and methods.

    Proud Australians and citizens of the world

    As young Australians, NSW public school students learn to understand and appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of their land.

    They learn about Australia’s creative arts, literature, and history, and the insights to be gained for the future good of Australia. They learn to appreciate the significance of Australia’s Indigenous people and of immigration to Australian identity.

    NSW public school students are taught to respect the rule of law and Australia’s democratic institutions and procedures. They are taught their own rights and responsibilities, and those of groups and governments under the code of law and systems of justice.

    NSW public schools teach the value of:

  • Australia’s democratic institutions and procedures
  • the rights and obligations of governments, individuals and groups under the rule of law
  • the contributions of Indigenous people to Australia, and their history and struggles as our country’s first custodians
  • the beauty and uniqueness of Australia’s landscapes and environments
  • the histories and cultures of all Australians
  • the role of migration in building Australia’s place in the world
  • the interdependence of human beings with each other and with the natural world

    Values for Australia’s future

    These values help each NSW public school student to take full advantage of new ideas and knowledge which characterise the social and economic environment emerging in Australia, and in the world community.

    In conjunction with an excellent general and vocational education, this code of values enables young Australians educated in NSW public schools to freely choose and enjoy their paths through adult life, to master the complexity and variety of the contemporary world, and to contribute as citizens to making Australia a better, more prosperous and happier place.

  • Perhaps the PM regards some of these as “excessive political correctness”? There are probably some values there the PM would have a problem with — but that is his problem, and ours in having a neanderthal for a Prime Minister. I can understand someone who hasn’t had an original or really broad-minded thought in the past forty years thinking that way, just as I can find it quite remarkable that a man whose prime value is how to hang onto power, stifle debate, and lie to the Australian people whenever it seems necessary to achieve his goals is suddenly the mouthpiece for “Australian values.” Am I being disrespectful? Bloody oath I am.

  • With a taste there of the original context, you will note. But this present blog is of course a rant-free zone. 😉

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    Posted by on November 14, 2007 in curriculum, inspiration, replays, teaching



    Recycle 4: from March 2006

    I have been rereading Wuthering Heights in the excellent revised Penguin Classics edition of 2003. What a pleasure it is! My rereading has been prompted by my little bit of private tuition, a girl doing the HSC Advanced English course. It so happens, as I told her much to her amazement, that I first read Wuthering Heights for my Leaving Certificate in 1959 where, though I am not knocking “Rockjaw” Smith our excellent English teacher, the interpretive skills required were minimal really: basically just the oversimplified schematic interpretation by Lord David Cecil in Early Victorian Novelists plus a smidgin of Arnold Kettle’s somewhat Marxist, and very boring, analysis, plus whatever crib one could lay one’s hands on. Much more is expected of my current HSC student, in fact I would say perhaps too much.

    Back in 1959 our ENTIRE course was: 1) Wuthering Heights; 2) Julius Caesar; 3) a handful of poems from a standard anthology; 4) a handful of essays from Bacon to Edwardian times, some of them splendid, many of them pointless; 5) Douglas Stewart’s The Fire on the Snow, a radio play about Scott of the Antarctic. Good too, that play, I still think.

    Contrast 2006: Coleridge; Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead; Wuthering Heights; Frontline. But that’s not all, as the Coleridge is matched with study of a range of set and student-selected texts; similarly Frontline is not the sole study there, but the student must also find other texts that explore truth and representation in some way or another.

    Dumbed down? Pull the other one! In fact I think my student has to work much harder than we did in 1959. I hope she ends up being as glad to have studied Wuthering Heights as I have been.**

    Note too that when comparing present and past courses, the best comparison is between the Advanced course and the older course, as retention rates become very significant. “The student retention rate has increased from around 35 per cent in the early 1980s to over 70 per cent today.” In 1959 it was probably below 30% — we were elite students doing an elite course with university — and there were only three of them in NSW — very much in mind. The nearest I could get to a retention rate for 1959 was a 1960 figure for all of Australia on this PDF file — 12% of 17-year-olds* were in school in Australia in 1960.

    * See comments. It is true that in 1959 NSW had five-year high schools. In my own cohort we ranged from 15 (Ted Oliver: brilliant!) to 19 when we sat for the leaving. I was 16; maybe half were 17. Now the HSC is usually done at 17-18, with most being 18.

    2 Responses to “Penguin Classics: Wuthering Heights”

    1. 1 Marcel Proust May 5th, 2006 at 11:48 pm

      Haloscan 16 March 2006

      That’s a good attempt to obtain a retention figure, but as NSW in those days only had 5 years of secondary education, the “standard” age for the final year must have been 16. Presumably the introduction of the Wyndham scheme (1967 was the first year of six-year secondary education) accounts for a large part of the jump in the percentage between 1966 and 1968 shown in your source.

    2. 2 Owner May 5th, 2006 at 11:50 pm

      Haloscan 16 March 2006

      I wish I had kept my copy of the Wyndham Report; I think it was all in there. I agree about the five-year high school; I was 16 myself when I did the Leaving. I seem to remember the retention rate was somewhere around 25%. Even at Sydney Boys High where it is now close to 100% (actually more like 110% due to add-ons in Year 11) we went from 206 in 1955 to 143 in that cohort’s final year of 1959.



    ** NOTE October 2007. She did end up loving Wuthering Heights and got a good result in the HSC.


    Recycle 3: from 13 July 2007

    This was a story worth telling. It still is.

    Sometimes it is good to back off from the argumentative and political and focus on stories that simply affirm goodness and humanity. There is one such story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Blazing a trail for half a century by Anna Patty, Education Editor.

    EVELYN WEBB won a scholarship to became the first Aboriginal teacher in Australia in 1953, but was never given the opportunity to learn her own language.

    “It’s a sadness, actually, and a disadvantage that we were never taught the Aboriginal language,” she said. “When I went to school, we were taught social studies and you learnt about other countries – but you didn’t learn about the indigenous people in Australia. It would have been really interesting to have Aboriginal language in the schools.”

    Last night, the NSW Department of Education awarded Mrs Webb a special award for her service to teaching, following her retirement two weeks ago at the age of 73.

    She began her teaching career aged 19 at Cabbage Tree Island School, south of Ballina, after the Aboriginal Protection Board awarded her a teaching scholarship to the University of Sydney. It was there that she witnessed Aboriginal students plucked from school as part of the Stolen Generation and families punished for shopping in a supermarket after breaking a curfew.

    Asked for her view about the Federal Government’s plan to reduce welfare payments to families whose children played truant, she declined to comment.

    “I won’t get into politics. I’ve got my personal opinion but it’s not going into print. Truancy is a problem across the board. It’s not a race issue.”

    The acting Premier, John Watkins, paid tribute to Mrs Webb, who paved the way for 440 Aboriginal teachers now working in NSW. “She paved the way at a time when Aboriginal people were not recognised as citizens in the census nor had the right to vote,” he said.

    …Mrs Webb has taught at primary schools, preschools and TAFE colleges in Grafton, Sydney and remote areas of NSW.

    She took a break to make a full recovery from lymphatic cancer in 1997, before returning to teach Aboriginal Studies, literacy and numeracy at Grafton TAFE.

    The NSW Department of Education’s director of Aboriginal Education and Training, John Lester, said Mrs Webb had inspired him during the early years of his career. “She is extremely warm, very methodical and has a great gift for making students feel comfortable with the education process, regardless of their racial background,” he said.

    Did you know there were 440 Aboriginal teachers working in NSW? I didn’t, though I have met one or two over the years, particularly in 1993 when a research project I was doing took me to La Perouse Public School, among others in the Botany area.

    Mrs Webb doesn’t care to make explicit political points; there are plenty of implicit points in that story for anyone who cares to see them though.

    There are times one ought to be damn proud of public education in this state too, what it has done, and what it continues to do. Education privatisers, Quadrant readers, and the Howard government please take note.


    Recycle 2

    This one comes from August 18, 2005.

    When I mentioned a day or two back that the Dip Ed course and the first few years of teaching could be somewhat transformative I remembered a funny story from my couple of years as a lecturer in Sydney University’s Dip Ed. I won’t mention names, as the person concerned turned out to be a really good English teacher who has had a very good career.

    But back in 1978 “James” was in front of an English Class (Year 9 or 10) at Kogarah High School, rather heavily Lebanese. This really was new territory for a young guy who had so far inhabited the role of an English Honours student, and came from a solidly Anglo background. He was using sarcasm and/or irony as a control device, and there are times for that, but in this case I, sitting up the back in such a lesson, wrote the rather informal comment: “One day someone is going to call you a prick.” About five minutes later a student screamed out “You prick”, after which, fortunately, the bell went.

    The student teacher and I went to a pub in Kogarah and discussed the situation.

    As I said, he went on to do really well.

    Perhaps watching Summer Heights High made me think of that again.

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    Posted by on October 4, 2007 in reminiscences, replays, teaching


    My own grandfather was an inspiring teacher

    He certainly was to me when I was his class of one, whether it was explaining something about Nature in the garden, or inspiring me to read Dickens, or telling me of his own past, or telling me about just about any place I pointed to in the atlas…

    But let his daughter, my mother, explain:

    It was quite a challenging task to teach forty children in one room over six classes with ages ranging from 5 to 15. A deal of thought, of preparation, and great organising ability, were needed to keep each section actually engaged in quieter activities. Much has been said for and against the standard in these small schools, but I feel that given an earnest and sincere teacher the pupils gained much more than they lost, and the students of this particular school proved in the years to come that they could take their place in any field of commerce, profession, or industry, without apologising for their humbler beginnings. [NOTE: one such student was Sinclair Hill, famous for his Polo connection with the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles, among others. The story goes that his parents kept him at Braefield, rather then sending him to a private school for his early learning, because they so respected my grandfather as a teacher.]

    In this building the younger children were taught to read, to write, to spell, to add, subtract, multiply, and all that is learned in any Kindergarten or Infants section of a modern school. To the older children in the upper classes the concept had to be more attractive and more challenging; their interest had to be aroused.

    The worlds of History, Geography, and our spoken language, English, were wells of untapped splendour waiting to be opened. To these bush children it was a fascinating exerience to learn, and they were avid for knowledge. A lover of poetry himself, my father instilled in his pupils enough of the splendour of the written word to make them long to find more for themselves, which is so very necessary. He introduced them to Shakespeare, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Byron, Burns, the Brownings, Coleridge, Longfellow, Scott, Stevenson, Dickens… As for Australian poetry, it seemed to find an echo in the very hearts of the bush children, as Lawson, Kendall, Paterson, Adam Lindsay Gordon, Dorothea Mackellar, George Essex Evans, Bernard O’Dowd, and anyone else who had found a place in the Treasury of Australian Verse, wrote of things and places the children knew. Such was our heritage, to store in our minds for all times.

    Not a bad role model.



    I wrote this one in November 2005, but it somehow fits as both a sequel and a contrast to the previous post. 😉

    English Teacher moments

    The link above takes you back to August, when I mentioned Scott Poynting, an ex-student from Wollongong who is now at the University of Western Sydney. Imagine how pleased I was to receive this email the other day.

    I had heard from a 1972 classmate about your blog site, but only came across it googling to see whether anyone was mentioning our books (the sort of thing one does when there’s marking to be done). Thank you for the nice things you said about them.

    Teaching is far too thankless a pursuit (in comparison to its value). With your extensive networks now, however, you must hear from more ex-students than most. This one wants to thank you for reading aloud to us from ‘The Sound and the Fury’ in 1972, and the love of literature to which that contributed. I went on (after a false start – a floating life, if you like) to study English at UNSW, and studied this novel in first year. I later read all the Faulkner I could get my hands on. Later still, I studied American Literature at Macquarie. Another false start, but a floating I don’t regret.

    Thank you, also, for reading to us in 1972 from ‘The Outcasts of Foolgarah’. I later went on to read all the Frank Hardy novels I could get my hands on (and most were better than ‘Outcasts’, though the politics attracted me). By that time I was teaching mathematics – another false start. I read a bit of ‘Outcasts’ to my students last year, in a subject on ‘Social Inequalities’, during a week in which we contrast Woollahra and Bankstown.

    Yes, you taught me English. Thank you.

    Then after coaching today Ben returned a few books and gave me enough free yum chas to sustain an army; I will be sharing with M, but there is enough in the pot to cover one of the Sunday lunches with Sirdan and Lord Malcolm as well! I also had an email from another coachee, Erwin, who is reading “Paradise Lost”. Indeed, indeed.

    Another ex-student from some time ago, I note from his site that he has been working his butt off, has just started, finding teaching having its highs and lows as it does. I really can relate to what he says about it.

    I recommended D H Lawrence “Afternoon in School — The Last Lesson” as therapy. I know I often read it with recognition, and I suspect “Marcel Proust” and “Aluminium” may know it too. In fact I seem to recall in certain moods actually teaching the poem deliberately last period Friday to certain English classes:

    When will the bell ring, and end this weariness?
    How long have they tugged the leash, and strained apart
    My pack of unruly hounds: I cannot start
    Them again on a quarry of knowledge they hate to hunt,
    I can haul them and urge them no more.
    No more can I endure to bear the brunt
    Of the books that lie out on the desks: a full three score
    Of several insults of blotted pages and scrawl
    Of slovenly work that they have offered me.
    I am sick, and tired more than any thrall
    Upon the woodstacks working weariedly.

    And shall I take
    The last dear fuel and heap it on my soul
    Till I rouse my will like a fire to consume
    Their dross of indifference, and burn the scroll
    Of their insults in punishment? – I will not!
    I will not waste myself to embers for them,
    Not all for them shall the fires of my life be hot,
    For myself a heap of ashes of weariness, till sleep
    Shall have raked the embers clear: I will keep
    Some of my strength for myself, for if I should sell
    It all for them, I should hate them –
    – I will sit and wait for the bell.

    In these last days before retirement I make a point, seeing the timetable is mine to devise, of just not doing anything last period, if I can avoid it — and I usually can.

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    Posted by on September 28, 2007 in reminiscences, replays, teaching