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Bioshock Infinite, a steampunk visual feast and a whole lot of fun.

bioshock-infinite

On Thursday I had to get some last minute Easter supplies and having finished playing though GTA4 again I felt the need for something new to play so I bundled up a pile of old games and went into the local games shop where I traded in  and put my money down for Bioshock Infinite and I have been playing it on and off since I got home on Thursday.

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All that I can say is “wow” its a wonderful game with a bright and glorious visual style a fun game mechanic  and a narrative that is totally engaging even though it is rather surreal and sometimes confusing you get totally sucked into the game universe where you have no trouble suspending belief and accepting  a city that floats in the clouds, a girl who can tear open rifts in reality and that you  explore,  live and fight in a game world that is the epitome of swanky steam-punk  chic.

Its a big ten out of ten from me

Cheers Comrades

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Gillard and Labor suffer another education policy collapse

Usually it takes me a while to find a story to  write about but this morning it was right there as the lead news item in the Age (my first port of call in the morning) :

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Well who is surprised that Labor’s scheme is falling in a heap now? when this wild idea was first mooted I had my doubts and It is now clear that I was right to be cynical that Labor was incapable of both delivering on their promise and that promise being properly maintained. of course this will come as something of a body blow to Gillard’s very long campaign. However I just can’t help thinking that  at this rate of revelations and bad news  Labor will be out of puff entirely by about a week after next Tuesday. As the annoying demtel ads would ask “how low can they go?” frankly I can’t believe that any government could be so stupid/incompetent  to devise a program that leaves parents in the lurch and obliged to buy or lease the laptops that Labor was insisting would be “free” to every high-school student  way back in 2007.

As is often the case technology has moved on as well and now the device that would be more  useful to high-school students would be a tablet computer that has all of the heavy and cumbersome  text books available in the form of Ebooks  these devices have no moving parts to fail (and need for maintenance )  and a more intuitive user  interface  heck they are even cheaper than laptops…

So what are we as parents and voters to take from this very expensive policy failure? Probably that it is folly for a government to make ostentatious promises when it comes to technological devices used in education because you can bet that the hardware will cost more than expected do less than the geeks claim and become obsolete in  a political heart beat. For the Labor true believer it is just another reason to despair as there is no doubt that  the opposition will make much of this failure in the long campaign we face between now and September 14.

Cheers Comrades

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Aiming for excellence

Its an article of faith for many to say that more education for young people is always a good thing and in the workplace and the jobs market qualification for so many positions are ever increasing. in Fact I have mocked this trend for its conceits and emptiness on several occasions. So I find it quite refreshing to see a piece in today’s Age that points out the social folly of keeping the academically less gifted in education beyond the point where our society gets any benefit.

According to a 2000 survey conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research and the federal government, 35 per cent of state school students completed year 12 in 1984. By 1994 the number of students completing year 12 had risen to 74 per cent.

No doubt, encouraging children to stay at school is enormously beneficial for the individual and society, but it also leads to some students continuing with school when they probably would have been better off leaving earlier and doing something else.

The point that’s often missed by social commentators is that the ugly side of schoolies is largely due to the behaviour of students who performed poorly in year 12. It’s the kind of student who repeatedly neglects homework and refuses to attend after-school detentions because they work up to five nights a week.

I suspect these underperforming and disengaged students are behind the interstate schoolies shenanigans that we see on news bulletins.

It is these borderline ”toolies” who don’t have much to celebrate at the end of the school year other than perhaps a bare pass that the media tends to focus on.

Hard-working sensible students who prefer to celebrate the end of their secondary schooling in a less sensational manner receive no media attention. One of my year 12 students plans to catch up with her girlfriend for an all-night horror film fest at home. Another student said that she’d ”rather have a quiet time with some mates, just enjoying each other’s company, maybe go on a road trip”. She went on to explain that ”schoolies is no longer a celebration of finishing high school, but another excuse to get drunk and party all week”.

Schoolies has become an ugly affair partly because there are far more kids completing VCE these days – many of whom shouldn’t be there. For these kids, schoolies is nothing more than a dead-end rite of passage for a dead-end education.

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In an age when our governments are struggling to find adequate resources to properly fund education maybe the time has come to do a little judicious pruning and encourage those less academically gifted to leave school sooner rather than later because if they are not actually learning they make it more difficult for those that are to excel.

Cheers Comrades

My bold in quote

Reflections on a high-school speech night, or “A modern dodo race”

Ah well I’m glad that’s over, the long time sitting respectfully and  the dull propaganda  speeches delivered by those for whom public speaking does not come naturally. was about as exiting as watching paint dry.

The shallow acknowledgement of the “original owners” begun the proceedings. to be  expected I suppose, and the intention is clearly good, to mark the end of the academic year at a high school but do they have to spend so much time bowing and genuflecting to all and sundry? Heaven in a hand-basket why couldn’t  they have thanked the “honoured guests” just once instead of droning through the litany several times? The format of the show was dullness incarnate and even the able bodied were sitting in their chairs with a sort of stoic endurance.

Our endurance was tested further still by the fact that there seemed to be  a certain Wonderland quality to the desire to find as many reasons as possible to bestow prizes on as many students as possible. While I appreciate that this may be encouraging to those of lesser ability the mere fact that so many received “merit awards” surely devalues the citation of those students who have actually excelled at their studies, frankly if there was not the insistence that everyone should have a prize the evening would have been more enjoyable. But no, the doctrines of political correctness requires that all must have prizes and it is we poor suffering parents who end up with the prize of a sore arse and aching teeth.

There seemed to be a total lack of imagination in the choreography of the event, and I gather that is the tradition at speech nights in general and I just can’t help thinking that it does not have to be like this. Why on earth can’t the lesser prizes be awarded at a school assembly for the sake of brevity at the speech night? Then the awards for excellent academic achievement would be more meaningful, and they would not be lost in the sea of mediocrity  and we, the poor suffering parents, could look forward to this event with joy rather than dread.

In the Wonderland story Lewis Carroll was trying to point out the absurdity of everyone  getting a prize no matter where they come in the race. The point of that tale seems to be as relevant now as it was when Alice emerged from the sea of tears. Sadly it is a lesson that remains incomprehensible to the educators of today.

Cheers Comrades

Oh and in case you were wondering, my daughter received a medal for academic excellence.

“This is Australia, we speak ENGLISH here”

As a parent there is nothing more useful and informative than your child’s report card  because it lets you know where your offspring are succeeding and more importantly what part of their education needs further effort. As such I welcomed the introduction of NAPLAN testing because its nationally consistent methodology and its easy to comprehend reporting does a good job of telling parents where our children stand in relation to their fellows on the all important skills of literacy and numeracy I also like the fact that this is a test for which there can be no “cramming”. Which is why I found the piece in today’s Age rather strange:

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I can’t help but think that Kevin Pope is entirely divorced form the real world and far too hung up with the ideology  of multiculturalism which seeks to accommodate new arrivals from other cultures rather than help them become part of the greater Australian  society. Kevin clearly needs to realise the same simple truth that my late  father in law used to enunciate to his mother when she would speak to him in their native Dutch “This is Australia, we speak ENGLISH here”  because there is no escaping the fact that all new arrivals and for that matter all indigenous people for whom English is a second language, will not find a fruitful life unless they are competent  in English. Language competency is the core business of our schools and If Kevin Pope can’t deliver that or at least give delivering that his best shot then surely he has no business being in the teaching game at all.

Cheers Comrades

”So there is no question of injustice to public schools here. If anything, the injustice is the other way.”

I’ve been laid a bit low of late with the sadly not unusual back pain and of course it does tend to blacken one’s mood and it also tends to make me rather indifferent to some of the machinations of politics at present . The latest news poll shows that Labor have marginally improved their standing with the voters by a minuscule 2% to a 2PP  35% while some of my friends from the left see this as “The tide turning” I can’t help just feeling sorry for those poor desperate and deluded souls who think that Gillard can possibly get the voters to listen too her let alone decide to give her their votes again. Those same friends  from the left are getting very excited by this story getting a  run in the Fairfax press  and they seem to me to missing the point that Tony Abbot was making about the Government  funding per student definitely being in favour of the students in public schools. This is what he said:

Addressing a meeting of the Independent Schools Council of Australia yesterday, Mr Abbott stressed the Coalition’s opposition to the Gonski review’s recommendation to overhaul school funding.

”Overall, the 66 per cent of Australian school students who attend public schools get 79 per cent of government funding,” he said. ”The 34 per cent of Australians who attend independent schools get just 21 per cent of government funding.

”So there is no question of injustice to public schools here. If anything, the injustice is the other way.”

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Its the old story of a politician making a factual observation of the way the figures present themselves and then being pilloried because our pals from the left  are riven with class envy and they resent the fact that the parents who want to send their children to private schools see any of the cost of doing so supported by the state.  That is the crux of lefties resenting private schools, its envy pure and simple.
Personally I send my two to state schools and I am quite pleased with the results that  they are getting academically even though I have some reservations about some of the social sciences in the curriculum they can be addressed with parental input.
So does Abbott’s observation mean that he is committing a government led by him to slashing funding for the state  sector to address the suggested injustice? Not in a million years I reckon. Now every parent or former parent who cares about the education of young Australians would like to see our children getting the best possible education but we also have to be totally real here in our expectations. Not every child is capable of being “rocket scientists” and my guess is that many have no desire to strive for  the lofty heights of a tertiary education either. Frankly I think that we are getting to the point where we face diminishing returns when it comes to sending an ever increasing percentage of our young people to universities or other institutes of higher education because all that achieves is more prerequisites for lower skilled professions (an Idea I explored here)
So what of the Gonski report I hear you thinking?
Well I am waiting to see what sort of dogs breakfast Gillard makes of that  and just where they think the  money is going to come from before I pass judgement on it. Going  by Labor’s record on getting things like this right  I won’t hold my breath in the hope of a good out come well at least not until a change of government that is..
Cheers Comrades

 

Count me out on compulsory sport

As the Olympic Games draw to a close I am thankful to have managed to have been able to resits watching any of it on the TV. Of course watching any news report has been problematic but I have been able to let most of it go right past me which has preserved my sanity and saved me from the angst that  the sports obsessed must be feeling at the so called lacklustre results produced by the current crop of Olympic athletes.

The recriminations have already started and I find the attitude  John Coates truly disturbing:

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During my own time at school I loathed sport and I would skive of school every sports afternoon even though it meant a very long walk home. Now more than forty years later I am at best ambivalent about any sort of sport either as participant or as a spectator and I can’t believe that anyone would suggest that our young people should be forced to provide employment for the fascist slave masters who seek to vicariously find the “success” that they can no longer achieve on their own. Its just plain evil in my book and insulting to the spirit of our democracy.

Cheers Comrades

God bothering in our schools

As an unbeliever and a good parent I don’t think that my children are likely to need the services of a school chaplain but I don’t have any strong negative feelings about there being someone employed at state schools being there to help those children who want a bit of guidance.

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This is likely to be one of those rare occasions where the opposition will support the government with any necessary legislation to ensure that the chaplaincy can continue to be funded. Now like many parents I get my children coming home with some strange ideas form school but I’m big enough to understand that it in is the nature of any centralised education that our children will sometimes be taught things that are utter nonsense. I have my children opted out of the Religious Education classes and that seems to have been enough to raise two confirmed heathens but there is no escaping the influences of their believing peers. The response I give them is to point out that there are many ways to understand the world and believing in God is just one of them. Frankly I don’t get the sort of militant atheism that is frightened by people of faith that they want to exclude their children from any hint of religiosity in their education. The world is very full of religious belief and the sooner that our children understand this the better they will get on in life. In any event it is the example that we give our offspring in the way that we live our lives that has a far greater influence on the people that they will become than any number of contacts with the religious.

Those who are really concerned about the influence of religious belief in our schools should perhaps be looking at the way that our children are being indoctrinated with the tenets of a far more pernicious  misanthropic millenarian  cult, not by their school chaplains but by their science teachers, namely the belief in Anthropogenic Global Warming which sort of makes the ideas of loving each other and being caring and helpful far more preferable than developing the self loathing for humanity as is desired by the Profits of the Green religion.  Ah well what do we expect when the government is about to introduce a giant new tax on everything based entirely on its religious belief that affordable  energy is bad.

Cheers Comrades

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