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The Daily Briefing 2/11/05

Your round-up from today's newspapers plus the best writing, analysis, critical thinking and humour from around the world.

In today's email:
1    Dina Exxat on the Arab Leaque's role in Iraq/Al-Ahram (2 links below)
2    Robert Skidelsky on the rise of China/NYRB (link below)
3    Wang Shuhai says China needs philosophers/China Daily
4    David Clark says Blair will replace Britain's nuclear weapons/Guardian (link below)
5    Laurie Oakes on the 30th anniversary of the dismissal/Bulletin
6    Paul Kahn on reconciling the erotic with the political/American S*xuality (4 links below)
7    Alister McGrath on atheists hoping for a new Enlightenment/Times (link below)
8    Caitlin Moran on this culturally empty decade/Times
9    Report on the Guardian's social, ethical, environmental audit/Guardian (2 links below)
10    IN THE PAPERS: National, Opinion, Business round-up

1 Leave Iraq, impeach Bush
The visit to Iraq last week by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa gave rise to hopes that the league could play a role in promoting national reconciliation. The report by Dina Ezzat for Al-Ahram (link below) shares the optimism, though it does hint at greater autonomy for the regions of Iraq than provided for even under the federalist constitution. "With the exception of the charismatic Shia leader Moqtada Al-Sadr, Moussa seems to have successfully convinced Iraq's factional leaders to come together for a national dialogue conducted under the umbrella of the Arab League. Representatives of many of Iraq's tribes and ethnic and religious groups, including Christians, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Sabaens and Yazdies, came at short notice to meet with Moussa for talks on the proposed national dialogue that is intended to be a precursor to a fully blown conference of reconciliation."

This editorial in The Daily Star (Beirut) supports Moussa's call for the removal of foreign troops from Iraq (or at least a timetable for it) while acknowledging that the end result could be ugly. "While the U.S. should not give up its goal of a united and stable Iraq, it is an appropriate time for the Americans to rethink their methods and strategies for achieving this objective. A timetable for withdrawal is one new strategy among many that ought to be considered. So is scaling down ineffective military operations and using U.S. troops to promote peace and provide badly needed security."

And while it remains on the fringes of US national debate, a cause taken up only by those on the left, the suggestion that George Bush should be impeached does come up from time to time. Elizabeth de la Vega makes the case in The Nation. "Third, we can no longer shrink from the prospect of impeachment. Impeachment would require, as John Bonifaz, constitutional attorney, author of Warrior-King: The Case for Impeaching George Bush and co-founder of AfterDowningStreet.org, has explained, that the House pass a "resolution of inquiry or impeachment calling on the Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation into whether grounds exist for the House to exercise its constitutional power to impeach George W. Bush." If the committee found such grounds, it would draft articles of impeachment and submit them to the full House for a vote. If those articles passed, the President would be tried by the Senate."

2 China, the rise and rise
In the first of what is to be a two-part series, Robert Skidelsky, Professor of Political Economy at Warwick University, reviews two books ("Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East" by Clyde Prestowitz; and "China Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World" by Ted C. Fishman) as he explores by now familiar questions following on from China's economic rise - will it pose a military threat to the West, and can it remain a one-party state? (Without, it must be said, any adding anything startlingly new.) "Prestowitz's and Fishman's books are about the impact of China on the economy of the West. But what about the West's impact on China? To what extent are Chinese society and politics being transformed by China's integration into the global economy, and what might this tell us about the future of the relationship between West and East? These topics will be discussed in a second article."

And the Financial Times reports that China is preparing to privatise its rail network.  "Private and foreign investors have in recent decades played only a marginal role in the development of China's rail network, which is still operated along Communist planned economy lines. Transport bottlenecks have become a serious economic problem and officials are increasingly aware of the challenge of raising funds to build a planned new 25,000km of line over the next 15 years."

3 The need for philosophers
Wang Shuhai (no, hadn't heard of him before either) is concerned about falling enrollments in philosophy courses and calls for them to lose government support in China. "The argument that a nation does not need many philosophers or philosophy majors just as it does not need many mathematicians and theoretical physics scientists is questionable. In fact, a country needs large numbers of mathematicians and theoretical physics scientists - and even more outstanding philosophers. This is where the driving force of a nation's creative thinking lies and where the basis for the continuation of the Chinese Civilization will be found."
4 Why Tony loves the bomb
The debate about whether or not Britain should replace its Trident nuclear force has been bubbling along for months now, and former Labour government adviser David Clark thinks that is just the way the Blair government wants it. Clark says the government is hoping that "those looking for answers about how and when a decision is going to be taken will give up out of sheer exasperation" when in fact there is little doubt what it will do. "Like Iraq, the decision will have been taken in principle long before it is announced in public; and like Iraq, it will be taken for the worst of all reasons - as an act of political positioning. Real security considerations are a negligible factor in the development of Labour's nuclear-weapons policy, the burden of the past weighing too heavily for objectivity to intrude."

In The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientist, Joseph Cirincione from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace takes a long look at the "roads not taken" along the failure to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. At each turn, he says, the nuclear expansionists have prevailed, and that bold action is now required to ensure this does not continue.  "A policy that seeks to limit nuclear weapons to U.S. allies offers only superficial security. Alliances and the governments that form them are ephemeral. Iran used to be a friend; the United States sold Tehran its first nuclear reactor. Iraq used to be a friend, armed by U.S. aid. Pakistan is a friend now, but a change in government could put nuclear weapons directly in the hands of Islamic extremists. Even "responsible" nuclear states cannot always prevent the illicit transfer or theft of nuclear technology. The best way to limit proliferation is to limit the number of nuclear states, weapons, and materials."

5 The dismissal, 30 years on
No time to read it closely, but time enough to notice that The Bulletin has played it smart for a magazine with weeky deadlines and made sure it wasn't the last outlet to remember the 30th anniversary of the dismissal of the Whitlam government. The Laurie Oakes' article linked to below is but one of many (you'll find the rest here). "What strikes me now is how little difference that Remembrance Day and the events that led up to it made to the nation's politics in the long term. We thought the dismissal would shake the system to its foundations. At the very least, the Senate's wings would have to be clipped, otherwise any government without a Senate majority would always be under threat. In fact, no change has been made, and it's rare these days to hear anyone even argue the case for depriving the Senate of its power to block or reject money bills."
6 Politics, reason and desire
Paul W. Kahn, Professor of Law and the Humanities at Yale Law School, says (link below) that from within the undeniable realities of politics and the family, the erotic is a madness that "promises only death" - but that it is a madness, a form of personal freedom (among other things) that humans can not live without. And this, he says, is a lesson most modern political thinkers cannot learn. "In the modern age, the erotic provides us with the ecstatic moment shorn of religion. It stands in the antipolitical tradition of the sacred. The sacred too can displace ordinary forms of language. In another age and another culture, the moment of spiritual rapture and complete identification with the oneness of the universe-Freud's oceanic feeling-was a counterpoint to the political. The erotic takes up this imagery of rebirth, but the new birth is wholly within the boundaries of the physical body. We should not be surprised that as the possibilities of religious transcendence diminish, the pornographic moment becomes the locus of an antistatist vision of freedom."

In The Washington Post, a fabulous essay by Lonnae O'Neal Parker on race, politics and s*x. Parker, who has a book on the subject out soon, offers a deeply personal account of her own journey as she looks at one of "the most politicized terrains on the planet" - the bodies of black women. "Aunt Ellen liked to point out that smart in the head usually means dumb down there. There was book sense, and there was bedroom sense, she maintained, and black women needed to have a generous helping of both. It can be tempting, in hindsight, to label those conversations as excessive -- to say grown people had no business talking to a young girl about such women things. But I don't think poorly of those working-class black women in my family who made bawdy references to sex. They faced a reality I cannot know. A reality circumscribed by race and gender and class, without the dimmest prospect of developing their range of talents to their full potential. Those women danced in the arena in which they found themselves, always searching for new moves, new ways to navigate and define themselves, instead of letting other folks (men, the larger white society) do it for them."

The Guardian reports that Islamic feminists from around the world this weekend launched what they hope will become a global movement to liberate Muslim women - a "gender jihad".

The clash between the state and the erotic, which Kahn explores, is evidenced by this report in The Times:  "The "moral laxity" of women during the Second World War was perceived to be so degenerate that it strained relations between Britain and America." (Ah yes, always those immoral women.)

Onward Christian soldiers! The NYTimes reports: "An evangelical radio ministry has developed a book kit meant to help soldiers protect their s*xual purity, and is raising money to send 6,000 kits to chaplains who have requested them. The kits reportedly are a by-product of increasing presence of Army haplains from evangelical Christian traditions with a culture of proselytizing." (Soldiers and s*xual purity, a concept you don't hear much about.)

7 Athiest dreaming
TDB gave a fair amount of time last year to the debate Alister McGrath generated when he famously renounced atheism ("The Twilight of Atheism") McGrath reports that the World Congress of the International Academy of Humanism took place on the week-end, but he held out little chance for its hopes of a new Enlightenment. "The Enlightenment is over, the world has changed, and atheism must change as well. But that is not the answer they are looking for in upstate New York. Instead, they want the Enlightenment all over again ... Atheism has, quite simply, lost much of its moral and intellectual cutting edge in recent decades. And unless it sorts itself out, it is not going to regain it."

And  you think God doesn't have a (sick) sense of humour? Pastor Kyle Lake was recently electrocuted during a baptism in Texas. "A church worker says Lake was electrocuted when he grabbed a microphone while partially submerged for the baptism."

8 Noughties, a cultural desert
And you thought the '80s were bad. Apparently the Social Issues Research Centre has just announced that this is the most rubbish decade, culturally, that it has ever researched - no defining music of the decade, fashion has contributed little more than the bare midriff, and that the rest of the first five years of the 21st century can by summed up by little more than "reality TV and iPods". Caitlin Moran notes hopefully there are still five years left, before wondering if it is such a bad thing. "Similarly, claims that there has been no Noughties "look" are bizarre. Consider a stocky blonde with grill-pan highlights and a muffin-top, holding a fake Louis Vuitton bag. There's your Noughties in a nutshell. In the gamer areas of Soho, even men can be seen sporting it. Most importantly, however, I think we have to ask: would it be so terrible if a big, overriding cultural movement never did actually materialise?"
9 Social, ethical, environmental audit
Apart from having a Readers' Editor (the equivalent of the Public Editor at the NYTimes), and a grown-up approach to corrections, both of which Australian newspapers would do well to adopt, The Guardian has begun conducting a social, ethical and environemental audit of its operations. The results can be found at the link below, and its response to environmental issues is here. (Although it is a bit hard to believe that all of the reader feedback was so laudatory.)
10 IN THE PAPERS: National, Opinion, Business round-up

The Australian draws (uncritically) on ASIO's annual report for its lead that the organisation has publicly warned for the first time of the existence of a home-grown terror threat - Australian-born Islamic extremists (is anyone else thinking "reds under the beds" and WMDs?). The paper also reports that the former executive at the centre of the Iraqi kickbacks scandal claims people at all levels of AWB knew about payments to a Jordanian trucking firm since revealed as sham transactions to funnel millions of dollars in bribes to Saddam Hussein; that the Howard Government will more than double its budget spending on authorities that regulate Australia's industrial relations laws - despite claiming that reforms to be introduced today will cut red tape for employers and employees; and that plans for a national scheme to care for people with catastrophic injuries have been abandoned after governments baulked at the cost.

The Herald reports that new projects and industries will be quarantined from industrial action for five years, instead of the previously proposed one, under late changes expected in the Government's new workplace legislation. It also reports that the NSW Government was told that reversing the traffic plans for the Cross City Tunnel could trigger damages "so great" that it might be better to buy out the contract; that Bilal Daye and Fatme Iali, the victims of a botched ASIO raid, have received a large financial settlement from the organisation (that'd be the same organisation that is now the font of all wisdom on anti-terrorism laws); that trouble in simmering in Byron Bay; and that ABC Radio is so taken with the American radio consultant Valerie Geller that for the past five years it has spent 6 per cent of its annual training budget on her coaching sessions (from experience, a questionable use of resources).

The Age leads on the mess Labor has itself in over the proposed anti-terrorism laws, reporting that Kim Beazley has declared John Howard's industrial relations legislation a greater threat to civil liberties than the controversial bill (in which case, give thanks for Greg Combet). It also reports that Singapore's envoy to Australia has accepted "with both hands" a parliamentary petition urging Singapore's Government to spare the life of Nguyen Tuong Van; that the Australian embassy in Washington will investigate claims that terror suspect David Hicks was anally raped and subjected to lengthy beatings by Americans on a US Navy vessel (it will ask those nice Americans who are sure nothing bad happened?); that plans to abolish compulsory student unionism could take effect in mid-2006 under a renewed push to implement the change as quickly as possible; and that Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield has launched an attack on Veterans Affairs Minister De-Anne Kelly, criticising her view that Barnaby Joyce's vote against the Government on competition policy was "validated" by local support.

There are, of course, lots of words written about Makybe Diva this morning, including a report that Bono phoned Lee Freedman after the race. Beyond that, you are on your own - to care any less about horses running around in circles, TDB would have to be in a coma.


The Age: Andrew Lynch warns that proposed legislative changes could allow for the use of evidence obtained by torture in Australian courts; Peter Saunders (Centre for Independent Studies) uses "Cinderella Man" to argue for a loans and savings approach to reduce welfare dependency and increase self-reliance; Michelle Grattan looks at how Kim Beazley, still recovering from Tampa-shock, has handled the anti-terrorism debate, and thinks it could have been a lot worse (that's what's so scary about the Labor leader Michelle - it does get worse); and Jaya Prakash (Singapore journalism academic) says there is no evidence  that the mandatory death penalty is a deterrent to drug smuggling.

The Australian: Emma Tom says the time to be scared is when we are not allowed to have a robust debate about laws that would take away civil rights based on a fear of terrorism; Janet Albrechtsen scrutinises the anti-terrorism laws at length and decides that on balance, they should not be enacted (actually no, Janet didn't do that at all. Instead she comes up with a childish notion called "the Fairfax index" and uses it to decide the bills must be good, before giving us - one more bloody time - her line against a bill of rights); and Ian Campbell responds to Tony Blair's column (TDB Monday) on climate change and says that the challenge of climate change has to be met, not by the Kyoto protocol, but by technological development.

The SMH: Patrick Keyzer (associate professor of constitutional law) thinks a High Court challenge to the proposed anti-terrorism laws would fail, based on a ruling on Queensland legislation, and argues for a constitutional bill of rights to protect the civil right of liberty; Peter Martin who says punters (normally get it right) are betting on a flu pandemic by early next year, and goes on to describe its likely impacts; Alan Ramsey reproduces a mine owners' letter from 1893 to describe his feelings about the proposed industrial relations changes; Jenny Allum (SCEGGS) explains why Brendan Nelson's proposed ranking system for students has no educational benefit; and Alex Malik looks at the legal and price hazards that come with iPods and music downloads.


The Herald lead has Qantas trying to reassure staff that it has no plans to undermine the power of the 15 trade unions with which it deals despite being an outspoken supporter of the Federal Government's industrial relations changes. The paper also reports that in a bid to become the world's largest goldminer Barrick Gold of Toronto has made an unsolicited $US9.2 billion ($12.29 billion) offer for another Canadian miner, Placer Dome of Vancouver; and that ASIC reckons auditors can and ought to do better on the matter of conflicts of interest.

The Australian's leads says Kiwi entrepreneur Graeme Hart has won over recalcitrant directors of New Zealand timber company Carter Holt Harvey, who yesterday backed his $3.1 billion takeover offer just seven weeks after formally recommending shareholders reject it. It also reports that Tim Gitzel, head of French nuclear and uranium giant Areva's mining business unit, believes a nuclear renaissance is coming; and that shares of the Australian Gas Light Co (AGL) rose despite analyst's concerns that the nation's oldest and largest energy group overpaid for Southern Hydro before demerging its distribution assets from generation and retail.

Alan Kohler considers what is infrastructure and what is not these days as he looks at AGL's acquisition; and Bryan Frith is back on his favourite topic - Lion Nathan's bid for Coopers which he thinks is about to get interesting.

The Age leads on a Tim Colebatch interview with Mexico's Finance Minister Angel Gurria, who wants to be the next OECD secretary-general. It also reports that Dubai-based airline Emirates has asked the Federal Government for the right to double flights in and out of Australia from 42 to 84 as part of a plan to continue the airline's aggressive growth; and that Australia's exports have grown more slowly since 1996 than almost all other countries among the world's 50 biggest exporters, World Trade Organisation figures reveal.


The Daily Telegraph: Makybe Diva became a racing immortal yesterday, becoming the only horse to win three Melbourne Cups, before stunning the nation with her retirement; Singapore's most senior official in Australia has accepted "with both hands" a petition from 400 parliamentarians, pleading clemency for Nguyen Tuong Van.

The Herald-Sun: Makybe Diva has been crowned the best racehorse in history after reigning supreme in an amazing Melbourne Cup yesterday; Australia's top marginal tax rate should be cut by at least 5c. The reduction should be accompanied by indexing income brackets to wages to make the tax system more efficient, economic consultants argue.

The Courier-Mail: Budding tradespeople will have to wait up to two years to start their apprenticeship studies because Queensland TAFE colleges cannot cope with the influx of students; Premier Peter Beattie wasted public money by taking the Government jet to Victoria to see the Melbourne Cup, the State Opposition has alleged.

The Advertiser: Arms shot into the air clutching beer-soaked tickets, champagne corks popped and an almighty roar erupted across Port Lincoln yesterday as home-town heroine Makybe Diva galloped into the history books; A random $5 punt on the Melbourne Cup on the spur of the moment has made an Evanston Park woman more than $37,000 richer.

The West Australian: Health boss Neale Fong yesterday had an abrupt change of heart in the row over whether Princess Margaret Hospital is in crisis, refusing to repeat his claims that a top doctor had misled the public by warning the hospital was in a dire state; Yet another builder, Broad Construction, has taken the extraordinary step of suing individual organisers of the construction union for damages relating to a lost day's work after the official allegedly encouraged workers to walk off the job.

The Mercury: Tasmanians celebrated the Melbourne Cup in style yesterday -- flashing huge hats and big bucks; Police are remaining tight-lipped about a baffling shooting at Bridgewater.


Makybe Diva saved the best until last - now this incredible mare, this national hero, can retire at the summit, not just of racing but of sport; Brett Lee seems to have spent most of his career battling to live up to the expectations he first created - now he wants to use line and length to meet them; Australia are poised to make four backline changes, including Matt Giteau returning in the No.10 jersey and Mat Rogers moving to the wing, for the first Test of their European tour against France in Marseilles on Saturday.

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re: The Daily Briefing 2/11/05

I agree with Brendan Nelson's proposed ranking system for students.

What I don’t understand is why the school reports cannot show the teacher’s written statement and the percentile band in the child’s school and year so that the parents know where their children sit in their school and year and they understand how they are travelling. So long as the grading and ranking is fair and just then there is no reason why it shouldn’t be provided to parents.

School reports should be used for the purpose of providing parents with the schools view/perspective in relation to the child and it should be used by the parent to see whether the parent’s observations match the teacher's and school's. Parents are teachers too - the child’s first teacher - and they know more about their children and deserve more respect than they are afforded in the current system.

Sure in Selective Schools bottom 25% would probably be top 25% in a comprehensive high school, but parents and children are not stupid and they are well aware of this. The Department treats parents and children as though we are all idiots.

The most important thing that parents can do in order to understand exactly how their children are traveling and the quality of the environment and education that they are in, is to ask a lot of questions and compare their children’s tests marks (including all external tests) and percentage marks with friends and family so as to ensure that there is consistency and in order to keep the Department honest.

There is this secrecy in Education that is doing more harm than good, we need to open up and start communicating.

Children and parents should not see their children’s marks as a measure of their worth - it's just an indication of how they are coping with the school work and that is more heavily influenced by the environment the child is in and the quality of the teacher than by anything else.

That’s why the system is worried about this type of ranking as patterns might emerge and parents might start opening their eyes and asking questions.

re: The Daily Briefing 2/11/05

Vivien Alvares Solon wanted to be home in Australia on her birthday - 29 October. Where is she?

re: The Daily Briefing 2/11/05

On the Iraq reconstruction scandals, it looks like only Fairfax papers are bothering.

fraud seen in Iraq contracts

WASHINGTON: US officials and members of Iraq's provisional government bungled the management of $US24 million ($NZ34.56 million) in reconstruction grants in early 2004, and some cases may have involved fraud, according to a report released yesterday. The US Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart Bowen, said his office had referred several cases of potential fraud in reconstruction grants for the South-Central region for further investigation. Those investigations were still ongoing, according to Bowen's report – the latest in a series of detailed audits of over $US30 billion in US funds for Iraq reconstruction. ...

Plans for rebuilding Iraq slammed as inadequate at the Financial Review (subscription required).

Plans for rebuilding postwar Iraq were "insufficient in both scope and implementation", lacking "systematic" co-ordination between the State Department, White House and Pentagon, the special inspector-general for Iraq said. When planning began in mid-2002, Pentagon officials "were either unaware or chose to ignore" State Department assessments, and drew up a plan on their own, which wasn't finished until late January 2003, less than two months before the war began, US Inspector-General Stuart Bowen said. "The lack of co-operation" in identifying qualified personnel well before the invasion "significantly hampered the early management of Iraq reconstruction", Mr Bowen wrote in his quarterly accounting to Congress of the reconstruction effort. Mr Bowen's assessment marks the first time a sitting inspector-general - in this case a former White House deputy assistant to President George Bush - has formally criticised the prewar planning process. ...

re: The Daily Briefing 2/11/05

James, I've made the comment in TDB a number of times that Howard gets off the hook over Iraq (compared with Bush and Blair) for two reasons - an ineffective and unworldly local media with a narrow focus; and because everyone knows he was just Bush's lackey who personally wouldn't know a WMD if one was fired up his fundamental orifice. He was taken for a ride, and happily went along for the ride.

In particular, I like your question about Howard's pre-war speech. It would be an interesting exercise to pull it apart, line by line, and ask of the PM's office the exact basis for each statement or claim. (On what piece of knowledge or intelligence was that statement made, and where did it come from? Sadly in the end the exercise would probably amount to "What didn't the Prime Minister know, and when didn't he know it?")

It is extraordinary that 16 words from Bush's State of the Union address on Niger have been subjected to forensic examination and there has been no questioning of whole speeches by Howard.

Unfortunately I have another briefing to file for tomorrow, but if any budding citizen journalist out there wants to take up the cause, I'll happily play the role of supervising editor.

re: The Daily Briefing 2/11/05

That was a slip on my part Jolanda, I didn't mean to suggest I agreed with Jenny Allum (it's not something I've really thought about). I should have said that Ms Allum "explains why she thinks that ...", which is my usual style. Sorry about that.

re: The Daily Briefing 2/11/05

The investigation by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald in the USA is slowly unravelling the lies that preceded the attack on Iraq in March 2003. It is obvious from the Downing Street memos that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". The policy in question was the decision to attack Iraq and that was made prior to February 2001. One of the reasons for the "outing" of Valerie Plame Wilson was the fear that her investigations as part of an operational groupo investigating the dissemination of weapons of mass destruction was uncovering too much of the fabric of deceit the preceded the attack on Iraq. Her husband had the temerity to actually tell the truth about the Niger yellowcake. We now know for example that the case for war was being "stovepiped" through the Pentagon's Office of Special PLans to the White House Iraq Group who then fed the media a torrent of deceptions half truths and downright lies.
All of which is a backdrop to the so-called 'war on terror' that is the ostensible justification for the draconian attack on civil liberties contained in the government's draft legislation.

It is timely therefore to revisit John Howard's specch to Parliament on 4 February 2003 in which he repeated, often with an uncanny similarity of wording to the American line, the lies about weapons of mass destruction, uranium from Africa being sought by Saddam Hussein, production of chemical warfare agents etc etc.

We know that the American administration was lying to the Congress and to the American people at least from February 2001. Did George Bush lie to his good mate John Howard? Or was Howard part of the same cabal that mislead the people of several nations into an illegal war? And isn't it long past time that Howard was called to account for misleading Parliament in February 2003? He can't claim that he was acting on intelligence because we know the intelligence was distorted and misrepresented. Is the real reason for the indecent haste to pass legislation making it a crime to criticise the government's policies in this area a recognition that the deceit is finally being revealed?

re: The Daily Briefing 2/11/05

Thanks Wayne, this is a great service.

Just to add to your workload, I'd love to see some stories from the Independent (esp Fisk) and for a different perspective, al Jazeera. I used to try to keep up to date with those two sources but I don't have time any more!

re: The Daily Briefing 2/11/05

Wayne Sanderson. One of the problems with education is that people don’t tend to really think about it too much or too deeply. So much attention is taken up with the War and terrorism that the really important things like equity and fairness in education are often not thought about or considered.

Did you ever stop to consider how much of an advantage a student has who has a parent that is a teacher and has access to tests and details of the exact outcomes required at the different year and stage levels? Some students have first hand knowledge and information on what is going to be tested and can be taught what they need to know to do well in the tests, they don’t have to rely on the system.

Did you ever stop to think of how unfair it is that the system does not return basic skills tests to the students so that they know what they got wrong and what basic skills they have not attained? You cannot leave it up to the school or the teacher, they have 30 kids in the class and they, by their own admission, are overworked and struggle to cope with the curriculum and all that is expected of them. Have you ever wondered why they keep everything a secret?

To leave everything up to the teachers and schools when they are telling us that they cannot cope puts a certain group at a distinct disadvantage and I can assure you its not the teachers kids. Parents need to know exactly what is going on so as to ensure that their children can be competitive as this outcomes system of learning has turned what should be an learning adventure into a competition.

Those that are in an optimal learning environment and have access to the right information will excel. Those that don’t will have to rely on luck and they will, more often than not, struggle to compete and keep their head above water.

How can that possibly be fair!

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