classroom teachers
(Image: Unsplash/Element5 Digital)

On teaching soft skills

Rachel Sadler writes: It’s great to see people recognise that teachers need to focus on the “soft skills”.

Once again, I read an article that says all the right things and makes fantastic suggestions for the future of education. Once again, it fails to note that teachers are constrained by the system.

Ask any of us — we would love to shake up the classroom but we are all stuck. The HSC system from Year 11 to Year 12 (in my state of New South Wales anyway) is so closely linked and geared towards a high stakes test at the end that we have no room to budge.

We are terrified to try anything new as our students all want to get their ideal ATAR and the only way to do that is to stick to very traditional teaching and assessment methods.

The education world has known for decades what should happen. It is the Education Department and leaders of both state and the national governments that need to help us out and create a final assessment system that supports new educational theory.

Talk all you want about what education should look like but teachers won’t change until the HSC and ATAR does.

Thanks for your time and for always talking about education in such a well-informed manner.

Judith O’Byrne writes: I’ve been hearing for some time now attacks-of-the-vapours re future required skills. So what? I finished secondary school in 1976 and my first of four university degrees in 1980.

In that time there was no mention of personal computers. Yet with the eventual advent of these machines we didn’t all fall in a heap with helpless cries of “we didn’t learn this at school or uni!” No, we simply taught ourselves or each other, or did courses.

Get over yourself and grow up, Australia.

On Sweden and COVID

Alun Stevens writes: Another snide and deliberately misleading article by a secretive travel agent masquerading as an epidemiologist.

At least the people Adam Schwab derides know something about the subject. Accusing a medical professional of not being an epidemiologist and then launching into a series of pseudo-epidemiological arguments does take some cheek.

He starts with the ad hominem and then moves on to the selective quoting of statistics.

First, deaths are only part of the problem. Long-term damage to health is another and will probably cause even greater long-term suffering than the deaths.

Second, virtually every country has much lower mortality rates in their second wave. This is not a result of Sweden’s approach. It is a simple fact that medical professionals are actually quite good at what they do and have learnt a lot about treatment in the meantime. Sweden’s performance is nothing special. Its performance with overwhelmed hospitals and ICUs is also nothing special.

Third, its economy is at least as badly affected as the others and it is still showing higher mortality and morbidity because of its soaring infection rate.

Yes. The proper comparisons are the nearby Scandinavian countries — same population genetics; same attitudes, values and lifestyle factors; same climate; very similar economies. Nothing Sweden has done has made it better off. It just has more dead and damaged per capita.

The best argument that it has failed, however, is that it is saying so. I don’t need Schwab’s self-serving and confused opinion.

For the record, I also am not an epidemiologist. I am an actuary who has studied mortality and morbidity throughout my career — including the impact of potentially catastrophic events like pandemics and other natural disasters. I have studied the cause, progress and resolution of the recent pandemics like AIDS, SARS and swine and bird flu.

I have also studied the 1918 flu and a number of epidemics in the 19th century. I built my first epidemic/pandemic model in 1972 and have followed the progress of these models ever since. I have even been known to read about these things in professional journals.

I try to avoid unqualified wannabe try-hards running self-serving advocacy programs. I think I might be looking at one here.

On the Port Arthur movie:

Christine Simons writes: I cannot see any good reason to make this film. The massacre is still too recent; there are people still around who were close to it and no doubt still traumatised. Already enough has been said.

It appears to be like many tragedies: quite mundane, dysfunctional people mixed up with another dysfunctional person who had access to lethal guns. Why does that need a film, and all that money spent, to vicariously entertain people? What will it achieve?

Fran Ross writes: I agree with Guy Rundle. Even the current discussion about planning for this film must have caused immeasurable pain to victims. No value can be served by triggering debate around factors involved in the killings through “entertainment”.

I’m shocked that such fine actors as Judy Davis and Anthony LaPaglia are willing to participate. For the sake of the victims and their families, and for common decency, I would like to see the plug pulled on the film’s development.

Rob Price writes: While I agree with Guy Rundle’s assessment of the motives behind the movie Nitram and the pain it will probably cause to the victims of Martin Bryant, I wonder if he has ever watched a movie about Charles Manson or Ted Bundy? If so, what is the difference?