Transparency and Equity at MySchool.

Posted Wednesday January 27, 2010 by Lisa Gunders in |

Just over ten years ago now, in the face of the Howard Government’s favouring of private education, I wrote a paper for a little in-house journal which discussed the problems inherent in league tables and their effects on educational, and thus social, equity. Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Now under a Labor Government, the same fights are being fought, this time, though, in the name of accountability rather than choice.

As you are probably aware, the government has today launched its MySchool website amid much controversy: it gives data that can enable the ranking of schools due to its publication of, among other things, national NAPLAN test results.

If you want to know why the publication of these results is so problematic, take a look at this paper by Professor Alan Reid, presented to the 2009 Australian Curriculum Studies Association National Biennial Conference in Canberra in October.

100 Best Blogs?

Posted Tuesday November 10, 2009 by John Gunders in |

Thanks for the nod, OnlineCourses, I hope we can live up to the endorsement.

100 Best Blogs for the Literati

If you feel that you’re destined to be an intellectual long after you graduate from college, you’re going to have to work a little harder to keep up with high brow culture and scholarly debates on your own. These 100 blogs will help you jump in on the discussions influencing the art, literature, political and culture worlds, even without the support of your professors and fellow classmates.

“High brow culture”? That reminds me: I better get to work on the next Eurovision post…

The Cultures of Authenticity

Posted Thursday August 27, 2009 by John Gunders in |

Done. Just up to the examiners now.

This thesis examines the way in which the concept of authenticity is mobilised throughout popular cultural productions as a politically informed way of constructing value and meaning. It posits authenticity as a cultural category, the composition of which shifts according to the discursive and cultural contexts within which it operates, but whose significance lies in its capacity to signify the genuine, the real, and the fundamental. The thesis further proposes that three discourses are predominant in their participation in the construction and significance of authenticity: community, the natural, and creativity.


Service Learning, Schools, and Society.

Posted Monday May 18, 2009 by Lisa Gunders in |

Warning: this post is going to be a bit of a ‘when I was a nipper’ rant, so if you don’t like it either tune out now or go and put on your VHS of “The Three Yorkshiremen”.

Tossing a grenade in the culture wars: The Australian at it again.

Posted Tuesday March 3, 2009 by Lisa Gunders in |

Ok, I don’t often go for a full spit on the blog, but this has really got my goat. On the front page of the Weekend Australian on 28 March, Justine Ferrari had an article titled ‘Teachers Bid to Downgrade Literature’ purporting to report the response of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English to the National Curriculum Board’s National English Curriculum: Framing Paper. (The response can be found here) Now I actually had cause to read both the Framing Paper and the Response the other day.

Gen Y and Technology

Posted Thursday September 11, 2008 by John Gunders in |

The popular belief that people in their 20s and 30s are tech-savvy, early-adopters who are always online gets another workout by a marketing executive:

Phone and email are no longer enough, he [Darren Leffler, a Sydney-based product marketing manager with Nortel] told a TUANZ audience last week. Rather than seeing themselves as the centre of a marketing and support realm, and the contact centre as the interface to a ring of customers and prospects, companies need to become fully participating members of the online communities, “because that’s where Generation Y are”.

Link courtesy of Computerworld

This view just doesn’t gel with my observations, and those of people I know: certainly, there are young people like those generalisations above, just as there are luddites of every age. But for the generalisations to be correct, a majority of young people should be like this, and that’s not what I’m seeing. [more]

Innovation and the Humanities

Posted Thursday September 4, 2008 by John Gunders in |

Yesterday Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, presented at the National Press Club on the topic of innovation and the humanities. You can read the full speech here, and while I am not of the habit of putting too much trust in the words of politicians, this seems refreshingly honest, and I am told by someone who has had close dealings with this minister that the expressed views are firmly and personally held. The speech concludes:

As I said at the beginning, the humanities, arts and social sciences are critical to solving our most pressing real-world problems. These are problems so complex that our only hope of sorting them out is through a multidisciplinary effort… [more]

Stealing money from cancer research

Posted Sunday February 3, 2008 by John Gunders in |

Back in 2003 Miranda Devine accused me of stealing funds from cancer research. No, really.

It was one of those periodic, and predictable, attacks on those she saw as left-wing academics, mounted by the then-powerful demagogs on the right. My sin—along with several others—was to have had a bio on the M/C contributors page when Devine went looking for a soft target to illustrate her vacuous point, and the fact that my APA (Australian Postgraduate Award) was funded, and someone else’s wasn’t. She finishes the rant with the point:

But all research is not of equal value. There are presumably PhD students in Australia finding the cure for cancer or solving Fermat’s second last theorem or investigating the worth of superannuation, as Zaffar Subedar is doing. Maybe there should be an inverse proportionality formula applied. The more “fun” a topic, the less chance of funding.

Now this report was characterised by all the sloppy research that the divine Miranda is renowned for: she reveals no knowledge of the ranking procedures for APAs, or an understanding of the way higher education funding works. She even confuses the roles of the ARC and the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council). But not to worry: we are used to this sort of thing from Devine and her ilk, and this, of course, is really old news.

But in the News Ltd press this weekend comes the report of New Zealand scientists producing a no-tear onion. Now, assuming funding works the same way in New Zealand as it does in Australia, the source of funding for bio-technology is the same as that for cancer research. I’m not going to indulge in the sorts of simplistic arguments that say that any research must be at the expense of another, or to try and rank the relative value of different type of research.

I’m merely wondering, where’s Miranda now? Hello! Hello, Miranda, you still out there?

A Different Perspective on CSAA – The Hidden Curriculum

Posted Friday December 14, 2007 by Lisa Gunders in |

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the CSAA conference in Adelaide, particularly so as there were so many senior academics there. I know that time spent at conferences such as CSAA is a big commitment for them, with relatively little payoff, but for those of us who are just starting out they have much to teach. I’m not talking about the content of their keynotes and papers, but about things that are perhaps more important – we can read their work in journals.

The Literary Canon and the Uses of Postmodernism

Posted Friday August 10, 2007 by John Gunders in |

As promised, I return to Julie Bishop’s speech at the Australian Literature Roundtable dinner.

The speech as a whole is firmly based in the government’s rhetorical attacks on the academic left known as the “culture wars”. Usually based around a moral panic about the teaching of “postmodernism” in schools, the tactic parodies legitimate concerns about curriculum design and content, and forces opponents to either support what are some pretty dodgy practices, or to agree with people you wouldn’t want to be caught talking to. I’ve blogged about this theme before

Bishop returns to that time-dishonoured tactic of taking an extreme example (out of context, of course) and then holding it up as exemplary: in this case concerning the study of literature and the apparent relativism of postmodernism (for once she doesn’t use the “p” word, but we all know who she’s talking about)…