On sales of Lazarus Rising Shona Martyn, Publishing Director, HarperCollins Publishers Australia writes: Re. "Lazarus arriving ... for free" (yesterday). Thanks for the interest in the sales of John Howard's Lazarus Rising.  As his publisher, I am keen to confirm  the accuracy of his impressive sales through bookstores which are quite separate from the sort of peripheral subscription drive offers that news organizations such as The Australian and indeed Crikey regularly arrange. On BookScan -- which measures across-the-counter-sales in Australian bookshops -- the hardback edition of Lazarus Rising registered 78,660 sales; the trade paperback edition a further 17,050 sales and the b-format edition has sold 2876 copies to date in Australia. HarperCollins has sold 2743 e-books of Lazarus Rising so far. So the combined BookScan and e-book sales total 101,342 copies. In addition, copies of the book have been sold in the US, UK and NZ and into special sales markets that do not register for BookScan. I would hate Crikey readers to fear that John Howard’s splendid sales success has been in any way "propped up" by giveaways. Absurd cultural customs Bennet Griffin writes: Re "The tedium of the World Cup" (yesterday). I'd like Sean Hosking to expand on why he believes Irish folk dancing to be absurd.  I was never that into it myself, but I have the idea that calling another nation’s cultural traditions absurd just makes you sound, well, ridiculous. Standardised testing is not a new thing for schools Geoff Coyne writes:  Re. "Want to improve teaching?  Ask a teacher" (yesterday). The article asks the question of why students lose their enthusiasm for learning and suggests that the reasons lie principally in poor calibre teacher selection and the current focus on testing.  But while presenting some evidence for poor calibre teacher selection, he offers no evidence other than anecdotal that (all?) students lose their enthusiasm for learning, nor that is caused in part by a focus on testing. One only has to go to Shakespeare to see that over 400 years ago students were not enthusiastic about going to school. As for regular testing being a reason for loss of student enthusiasm for learning, I can remember the education system as a student in Victoria in the 1950s and as a teacher in the 1960s, where the Proficiency (Year 9), Intermediate (Year 10), Leaving (Year 11), and Matriculation (Year 12) certificates were tests which students had to pass in order to progress to the next level.  For some students these might have been a cause for decrease in enthusiasm for learning, but my memory is that for most they were challenges to improve and to prove oneself.  And a principle reason for this was that each level of education led to an entree to the workforce.  Fifty years ago, the Intermediate certificate led to lower level clerical positions, the Leaving certificate led to careers in banking and nursing, while Matriculation led to higher level management or university entry.  Other states had similar pathways and gateways. While I have much sympathy for the challenges facing teachers today, especially in secondary education, my contention is that one of the reasons for whatever student loss of enthusiasm there is for learning is that even after twelve years of education, such pathways and gateways to the workforce no longer exist.  So students go through their secondary education with no clear idea of how to access whatever career they might have in mind.  Yes, teachers do face considerable challenges in motivating in their students a love of learning, but do take into account the loss of clear workplace outcomes to their learning.