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I spent some time at QUT studying law. It was an interesting experience. I knew when one of the lecturers made the claim that the Blackstone contained the “rule of thumb” – a provision in law that men could beat their wives with a rod provided it was no thicker than a thumb – that theory was more important at QUT than reality. Blackstone of course says nothing of the sort, if anything highlighting the greater protection women have under English law.

So when I first read about this story almost two years ago, I was not surprised.

Two students entered a resource room. Several computers were free and they began to use one. They were confronted by a staff member who demanded to know if they were indigenous. They said they were not and she told them they would have to leave because that room was reserved for the use of indigenous students. They left without fuss, but later asked on Facebook how anyone expected segregation and racism to be overcome by a policy of segregating people and resources on the basis of race. Their posts were polite and intelligent.

The staff member concerned, Cindy Prior, made a complaint that their comments constituted racial vilification. She has been so traumatised she has been unable to work for the last two years.

Just to repeat. A staff member throws two students out of a resource room because they are the wrong race, and when they ask questions about this, they are accused of racial vilification. This is 18C. It is worth noting that the only reason this particular case has come to public attention is the the students have persisted in asking their questions, and in denying that they acted with any racial animosity. The vast majority of cases are “settled” in a Kafkaesque and labyrinthine system without any possibility of public scrutiny.

Now read on, from The Australian:

Two students accused the Human Rights Commission yesterday of “recklessly” breaching their human rights in a row stemming from a $250,000 damages claim brought by a worker who barred white students from a room at the Queensland University of Technology.

Jackson Powell and Calum Thwaites, who lodged separate complaints with the commission, are seeking a formal apology and compensation for their costs in defending racial hatred claims.


QUT student Calum Thwaites prepares to defend himself against claims of racial vilification.

They say the commission has treated them with “flagrant indifference” because they are “white Anglo-Saxon heterosexual citizens who maintain a male gender identity”, have no criminal rec­ord, no outspoken political opinions and no record of participation in trade unions or religious sects.

Their lawyer, Tony Morris QC, said the commission’s conduct in managing the case had been “illogical, irrational and ­patently bizarre”, leading to gross unfairness to Mr Powell, Mr Thwaites and other students.

The students say their rights were infringed because the commission failed for at least 14 months to notify them they were being accused of racial vilification under section 18c.

The delay meant that while QUT, its staff and its lawyers had 14 months to prepare a defence to the claims by QUT staffer Cindy Prior, Mr Thwaites was told of the serious complaint days before he was told to go to a conciliation conference ordered and run by the commission. He had no funds and little time to get legal advice or achieve a resolution before the case escalated to the Federal ­Circuit Court.

The racial vilification case was lodged in the commission in late May 2014 by Ms Prior, who ­alleges she was severely traumatised by Facebook posts from students responding to her action in preventing the men using QUT’s Oodgeroo Unit in May 2013.

The unit has been described as a “culturally safe space” for indigenous students, but there was no sign suggesting it was off-limits to white students who wanted to access computers that were not in use.

Ms Prior has been unable to work for 2½ years and wants $250,000 from QUT and the students.

Because some mean nasty horrible people use it to write stuff we disagree with…

The struggle is real, my friends. We’ve already looked at the horror being inflicted upon special snowflakes around the country these days as #TheChalkening sends college students scurrying for their safe space. Who knows what sort of lasting damage could ensue if young adults turn a corner on their morning walk only to see a name or campaign slogan emblazoned on the sidewalk where they are walking, enshrined there for all time? (Or at least until the next rainfall.) Not everyone is taking this threat lying down, however. At DePaul University in Chicago, students will soon be able to perambulate around the quad without fear of such lasting mental scar tissue because the university has banned chalking the sidewalks after someone was tasteless enough to write the name of Donald J. Trump on the pavement. (Daily Caller and Campus Reform)

DePaul University will no longer allow students to chalk political messages on the sidewalks of its campus because of the “offensive, hurtful, and divisive” nature of pro-Trump chalking found on campus last week.

“While these chalk messages are part of national agendas in a heated political battle, they appeared on campus at a time of significant racial tension in our country and on college campuses. DePaul is no exception,” Depaul’s vice president for student affairs Eugene Zdziarski wrote in a campus-wide email obtained by Campus Reform…

Campus Reform reached out to DePaul to ask why university officials chose to respond to this particular chalking instance despite claims that chalking “regularly” occurs on campus. No response was received in time for publication.

The entire idea of “chalking” as a form of expression has apparently been a tradition at DePaul for quite some time, just as it is on sidewalks around the nation. It may seem silly and even trashy (when attempted by those with less artistic flair) but if you’re going to allow the temporary defacement of the public thoroughfare in what is an essentially harmless exercise of the First Amendment it obviously has to apply to everyone. The alternative is to have it apply to nobody and that’s the course which the university has chosen.

And what led to it? You don’t even need to click on the link to determine that it was a Trump slogan. There was apparently no prohibition against competing Hillary vs. Bernie art or support for the minimum wage, Black Lives Matter or anything else. But if any of the College Republicans dare to try their hand at it, all bets are off. Thanks, Special Snowflakes! You continue to make the world a safer and stupider place.

Well perhaps they do, but they didn’t turn up to say so.


The Million Student March has four demands, which as many as a dozen people sat down to demand:

Tuition-free public college
Cancellation of all student debt
$15/hour minimum wage for campus workers
Divestment from private prisons

Which means they want other people to pay for their education, people who borrowed money from taxpayers to get an education not to have to pay it back, more unemployment in college communities, and umm, what on earth have prisons got to do with it? I don’t know, let’s just chuck that in there and see what happens…

Also, the patience of university administrations and students who want to study with those who want to block hallways and offices demanding free stuff is definitely running out.

I’d say that was a hopeful sign.

The Building Respectful Relationships material being trialed in Australian schools seems to be designed to do exactly the opposite.

Relationship Ads

“Students as young as 12 will study sexualised personal ads and write their own advertisements seeking the “perfect partner’’ as part of a new school curriculum supposed to combat family violence.

Teachers are told: “If using your own (dating site or paper) you need to ensure that they reflect a diverse range of ages and sexualities,’’ it says. “Make sure that you look at these (online dating) sites before the students, as you need to ensure they are age-appropriate.

“You will need to explain some abbreviations or get the students to work out what they mean.’’

The guide says the activity is “designed to get students to think about the characteristics of an intimate relationship and how the expectations of this relationship can differ from other types of ­relationships.”

This is way past being a slippery slope.. We are into the full-on nosedive now.

I guess that’s what happens when you treat half your students like delicate little wallflowers, and the other half like criminals.

Mizzou will be closing the Respect and Excellence halls (ironic names, given the circumstances) in order to utilize dorm space “in the most efficient manner” to keep costs down.

In March, the university announced that it saw a sharp drop in admissions for the coming school year, and will have 1,500 fewer students. This will lead to a $32 million budget shortfall for the school, prompting the need to close the dorms in order to save money.

“Dear university community,” wrote interim chancellor Hank Foley in an email to the school back in March. “I am writing to you today to confirm that we project a very significant budget shortfall due to an unexpected sharp decline in first-year enrollments and student retention this coming fall. I wish I had better news.”

The school announced a 5 percent cut “to all annual recurring general revenue budgets” and an “across-the-board hiring freeze for all units on campus.” The dorm closures are only the latest cost-cutting measures.

University students in Massachusetts who were upset by an image of a Confederate flag sticker on another student’s laptop were offered counseling services at Framingham State University.

The offer came after the university’s “chief diversity and inclusion officer,” Sean Huddleston, described the display of the small Confederate flag sticker as a “bias incident.”

Observing that students on campus in general may have suffered a traumatic reaction from seeing an image of the Confederate flag, Huddleston continued, “We recognize that bias incidents are upsetting for the entire campus community, but especially for the target(s) and witness(es) of these incidents.”

A traumatic reaction. Oh dear.

I guess the “Don’t like the Confederate flag? Don’t stick one on your laptop.” argument doesn’t work here…

But it’s easier to whine than work…


A great book. You’ll know everything about everything when you get to the end. Buy it!

Why would anyone have a problem with taking candy from babies?

The little blighters shouldn’t have candy in the first place.

It is sometimes hard to believe that the AEU, the Australian Education Union, has any commitment to improving educational outcomes at all.

There can be no doubt about their commitment to making life easier for teachers. The constant refrain is “more pay, smaller classes.” Australia has amongst the smallest average class sizes and best paid teachers anywhere in the world. This has not resulted in any improvement in standards of literacy or numeracy. Cultural literacy; an understanding of Western values, history, music, literature and art, has declined precipitously.

The entirely predictable recommendations of the Review of Funding for Schooling (the Gonski panel) were more money and smaller class sizes. But once class sizes get below about thirty-five, further decreases make little difference to student learning. Simply hurling money at education will not help, unless spending is based on real-world research into what works.

Responses from the Labor Party and the AEU to questions from the opposition about the Gonski recommendations were just as predictable as the recommendations themselves.

“I’m not sure that Christopher Pyne’s plan to sack teachers and increase class sizes is the answer to the challenge we face in education,” acting School Education Minister Chris Evans told ABC News Online.

Except that Christopher Pyne said nothing about sacking teachers and increasing class sizes. He said that research and experience in other countries shows that simply focussing on class size does not help students.

The chairman of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), Professor Barry McGaw, agrees the focus on class sizes has been misplaced.

“We have wasted a lot of money in Australian education by reducing class size,” Professor McGaw told ABC NewsRadio.

“It’s a very expensive thing to do and the range in which we’ve reduced it has almost no impact on student learning.”

The AEU has a website called I Give a Gonski. Presumably ‘giving a Gonski’ is meant to indicate concern about education.

Anyone who really does ‘give a gonski’ about education should vehemently oppose these ‘more of the same’ recommendations, and insist on educational policies and spending which will actually improve learning.

A (slightly edited) letter by Carrie Geshus in the May 1st issue of reason magazine:

Extreme paternalism, over-protectiveness, giving in to a loved one’s every desire are simply shortcuts and not expressions of real love. It is much easier to give little Johnny a trophy after he loses a baseball tournament than it is to watch him sulk and cry for an afternoon. But allowing him to learn that many of life’s endeavours naturally come with failure will impart a lesson that strengthens him for a lifetime, while the sorrows of specific failures are long forgotten. Falsely bolstering self-esteem with endless coddling does nothing but create individuals who stare across the threshold of adulthood, terrified and without a clue how to stand on their own. I would hardly call that love.

Children need the chance to learn that failure is not the end of the world, that failure does not mean that they are a failure, that failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. Current parenting and educational practices which ensure that no one ever fails, while comfortable for parents and teachers, set children up for such abject misery in the long run that they amount to child abuse.

One of a few interesting posts over the last week from Dr Tim Ball:

Support and even reward of failure by the current US administration is the culmination of a pattern begun several years ago under the guise of progress. It generally began in the school system when students were not allowed to fail, and worse, were pushed unprepared to a higher level. By the time the student realized they were totally unprepared they were no longer in the education system. It is an ultimately destructive approach …

I watched more and more students come into university simply unprepared. A measure of the problems was the proliferation of remedial skills courses and probationary courses required before assigning regular student status in colleges and universities. Employers increasingly complained about poor skills among graduating students. Approximately 10 emails a month from students doing classroom projects provide me with a crude measure of poor language skills.

Not allowing failure became a prevailing philosophy in our schools several years ago. It’s assumed this will promote individual personality and freedom when the actual result is enslavement of the individual. It ignores the fact you learn self-discipline by initially being disciplined. As you demonstrate a personal responsibility you are given more self-discipline. It is naïve and dangerous to assume children will develop self-discipline on their own. It is dangerous for the child and for society. …

(Recently I had a) .. debate with a liberal education professor about the need for school leaving exams. It occurred in front of High School students and teachers. He opposed them with the usual arguments; teachers simply taught to the exams; they created stress for the students; they create a two-tiered society of successes and failures. In response I said; at least the teachers were teaching to some standard; yes, the tests were stressful but life is stressful and preparing students for life is fundamental; the results created a two-tiered society because the testing was usually geared to college entrance rather than a broad determination of abilities; the system usually ignored how the measures were helpful to students as a measure of their abilities with other students beyond their school.

I was jeered and booed most of the time until, to a mighty cheer, a student said he opposed testing of any kind. I suggested the student better hope the pilot of the next commercial flight he took had achieved some level of performance in his flying tests.

At many public schools in Australia, there is a ‘no child will fail’ philosophy. This does not mean that students are given whatever help they need to reach required objective standards. It means results are manipulated until it looks like students have succeeded. It also means that teachers who do want to teach and mark to standards are marginalised and even abused.

One school staff member related an incident where he had said he could not pass certain students because they had simply not done the required work, or not done it to the required standard. The response from another staff member was shouting and waving a finger in his face. It wasn’t fair, she shouted. His harsh attitude would adversly affect the students’ self-esteem.

This kind of ‘no one is allowed to fail’ mentality is one of the reasons industry IT qualifications are valued much more highly than school or college diplomas.

To get an industry qualification you have to prove you have the knowledge and skills. There are objective standards. You have to meet them. If you don’t, you don’t get the qualification. Consequently, if you have a COMPTIA or Citrix or Microsoft certification, people will have confidence you can do the work, and you will get a job.

The same is true, or I hope it is, for airline pilots and brain surgeons. But in almost every endeavour, some real knowledge and skills are necessary. That is reality. We are setting students up for real and lasting failure if we do not prepare them for it.

I have a 700 word piece about the proposed National Curriculum on Quadrant Online.

I agree with Kevin Donnelly of the Educational Standards Institute that the National Curriculum is a fluffy and disconnected mess.

I suggest that this may in fact be a good thing, because it may encourage more parents and students to consider independent schools.

However, I note that even independent schools are required to implement the Curriculum as a condition of continued Commonwealth funding.

At first, this appears to be (and probably is) an attempt to limit the autonomy of independent schools, and the range of choices available to parents.

In some states, South Australia, for example, independent schools are already required to teach the State curriculum.

Yet independent schools in South Australia do offer real choice in teaching syles and content, because funding agreements cannot prevent them from teaching more than the approved curriculum requires.

Despite efforts to make them conform, independent schools around Australia will do the same.

Dallas Primary School in Broadmeadow, Victoria, went from well below national standards in the 2008 NAPLAN test to well above in 2010. How?

Former education department bureaucrat John Nelson said the Dallas results were ”gobsmacking”. Despite a large migrant population and low socio-economic status, year 3 students were reading, spelling and understanding grammar and punctuation at significantly higher levels than the national average for year 5 students. In grammar and punctuation, the school’s year 3 students outstripped its year 5 students, by a score of 596 to 522.

The students’ improvement from year 3 in 2008 to year 5 in 2010 was enormous, putting year 5 students at near year 8 levels.


In the 2010 test last May, only 74 per cent of Dallas Primary students sat the test; 20 per cent were ”withdrawn” and 7 per cent ”absent”. The national average attendance was 96 per cent.

Leading to suggestions that children who were struggling may have been told to stay home, or not allowed to take the test.

Other Victorian principals are suspicious. Doug Conway, principal of the western suburban Kings Park Primary School, believes the ”lowest-performing kids were told to stay at home”.

”If you did that at my school, the low SES, high non-English-speaking background children, we’d get a colossal spike,” he said. ”I think the pressure on schools has led some schools to have lower participation rates than they should have.”

The school says this is not so. But they have refused to talk about what methods they used to achieve such a massive jump in academic performance.

Mr Nelson, who quit his Education Department job because he thought a departmental investigation into Dallas was ”a whitewash”, asked: ”What did they do that took a kid in Broadmeadows from the bottom 10th or 20th percentile and put them in the top percentile? Whatever they did needs to be copied by everybody, so why hasn’t it? Why didn’t they celebrate their methods?”


Dallas Primary, if you did get it right, if you did achieve this miracle, please share your methods so children in other schools can benefit too.