Taking on the spherists. Australian politics continued on its bizarre trajectory this week, with Senator George Brandis (that warrior for the un-oppressed) claiming that those who refuse to give the same credit to the feelpinions (and/or vested interests) of the climate deniers as they do to the peer-reviewed actual evidence of scientists are mediaeval in their outlook!
As a man with a veritable genius for leading with his chin, Brandis can hardly have been surprised when the wits of social media and the letters pages of our few surviving daily newspapers went to town arguing that those who believe the earth to be flat should therefore also be given the same respect as “sphericalists”, as one gleeful letter writer called them in the Fairfax press.
Perhaps it is this through-the-looking-glass nature of our political firmament that is part of the reason why ex-New South Wales premier Barry O’Farrell: a) jumped so quickly; and b) seemed so sanguine about his decision. Was it honour — as some claimed — or relief?
As my capacity to be amazed and horrified by the next announcement from our glorious leaders (of all stripes) is now feeling a bit like the elastic on a pair of over-used knickers, the stuff that has snagged in my brain this week is more social than political.
Victim blaming. The piece of writing that struck me as the single most important is a wonderful, brave and powerful plea from Tom Meagher, the widower of murder victim Jill Meagher. His point that violence against women is an integral part of a sexist society, perpetrated by normal men, not “monsters”, is strongly made.
Despite spending Easter in the wilds of the Barrington Tops with no access to TV, Twitter did alert me to a terrific interview on the same subject with the remarkable Fiona McCormack on 7.30 by Sarah Ferguson. If you, like me, missed it the first time round, watch it now with my compliments — to both women.
In honour of Easter (in a weird kind of way) I also can’t resist sharing this delightful snippet from Tim Minchin that I found on Facebook via my old Macquarie Uni mate Margaret Morgan. It’s a brilliantly pithy way of having a go at the sanctimony of British PM David Cameron and Christianity in a few well-chosen words …
If you feel Minchin is being a bit harsh on Cameron, consider Richard Garner’s article in The Independent about the devastating impact Cameron’s treasured “big society” is having on the most vulnerable.
Money in schools. Interestingly, a story also appeared this week on United States education expert Diane Ravitch’s blog alleging that Chile — which under Pinochet embraced school vouchers and extreme privatisation of education — has become so disillusioned with school “choice” as a way of improving outcomes for students that it intends to remove all public subsidies from private schools and colleges.
And, also according to Ravitch, Chile does not appear to be the only country that is reconsidering policies around market forces, privatisation and school choice after experimenting with them for a couple of decades and finding the only thing that grows is inequality. According to a story Ravitch shared on her blog late last year, Sweden is also having second thoughts about public funds and private schools.
It is hardly surprising that Ravitch would be so interested in countries changing direction on education. She herself was once a strong supporter of charter schools and George W. Bush’s discredited “no child left behind” policy on education. W. even appointed her as an adviser. Then, when Ravitch saw the results of these choice-based policies on real students in real schools, she completely changed her mind. She is now leading the charge for public education in the US.
And women and confidence. But I will leave you with two more interesting pieces that caught my eye this week. One by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman from The Atlantic about why women find it harder to get to the top than their male counterparts. And a feature on double Man Booker prize-winning author Hilary Mantel from the New Statesman that reveals the complex relationship society has with women and confidence. We blame women when they fail to be confident enough to ask for a promotion or leave an abusive husband, but we also vilify talented women who display their confidence in themselves too, well, confidently.