Like all seven-year-olds, my eldest daughter Mia is full of surprises. One evening when she was four, I found her on the couch apparently whispering to the pages of an open book my mother had brought over. I got close enough to realise that she was reading it.
This was the girl so afraid of the alphabet only a year before that she would put her hands over her ears and run from the room when Sesame Street announced its letter of the day. How would she ever learn to read, my wife and I pondered. It turned out that Mia taught herself. It was a lesson in turn for us – not least for me to remind my mum not to leave her trashy airport novels lying around.
Our world was knocked sideways forever the day Mia, when two, was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. We were in denial, probably out of pure shock. Because we knew no better, we thought an autistic child was one who never said a word, was in nappies until adolescence and was completely locked in their own world and unable to engage with the outside one. There are certainly people whose lives are like that, but that was not Mia.
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It’s an injustice for the ages! A student of an elite Sydney private school who achieved a rank of 99.95 out of 100 in her uni admissions score has lost her appeal to higher authorities that she could’ve done better in her exams if she’d been given more special provisions.
The student was claiming the Board of Studies had unlawfully discriminated against her in exams because they only provided her with rest breaks to help her recover from her hyper joint mobility of the wrist. She says she could’ve done that little bit better if she had a computer or some extra time, Fairfax reports.
There’s a lot to say about this. First, everyone’s wrists hurt during exams. Plenty of people who developed inflamed hyper-essayitis of the hand from scribbling analyses of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead had steam bursting out of their ears when they heard about the situation.
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So SBS plans to “rest” letters and numbers, which is TV speak for unceremoniously killing it and buying a cheaper British version. No. This cannot be happening. Say it ain’t so, SBS.
There are the things in life which deserve a rest, like a nice rump steak, or Black Caviar, or a football team the week before it plays Greater Western Sydney.
Letters and Numbers needs nothing of the sort. What it needs is a big fat contract guaranteeing its existence for years, so the nerds and dorks of Australia can come together each night at 6pm and revel – unashamed and unclothed – in their glorious dorkdom and nerddom.
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Far from being useless precursors to a life of burger flipping, Arts degrees actually provide students with a range of important life skills. From skulling beers to rolling joints, from discussing both Noam Chomsky and Nim Chimpsky to being able to read several layers of meaning into Dr Seuss.
During an Arts degree you may develop highly sophisticated techniques to pass subjects while attending minimal lectures; you may hone your hacky sack skills. By the time you graduate (10 years later) you may have mastered cunning linguistics or the discourse of ethnocentrism.
Of course, you might actually learn something. Like a language or how to help someone with a mental health disorder or how to better understand politics or people. That most basic Arts course, Philosophy 101, teaches logic and logical fallacies – skills sorely lacking in the general population.
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The launch of the MySchool website has resulted in some of the most contentious debate about education in our country in a long time. It seems everyone has an opinion, with teachers, parents and policymakers all putting forward their perspectives on what is arguably the government’s first major step in identifying the discrepancies in the quality of education provided between schools.
Putting aside the pros and cons of this method of measurement of a school’s success, the one thing there is no argument about is the site’s success in igniting discussion at every level of society about education in Australia.
We have known for many years that too many students are leaving school without the skills needed to participate in the 21st century (characterised as the knowledge era). This is in part because, as Sir Ken Robinson, a leading education advisor from the UK, observed in his visit to Australia last year, our current education systems are stuck in the industrial era and are in many cases inhibiting rather than nurturing the talents students need to succeed.
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Yesterday was personally one of the toughest days I have had since I was elected to the Senate. It ended with me confronting a demon which I have lived with for 48 years.
That demon is that I have a specific learning disability, which means I’m not always the best public speaker or speller.
This is something which I don’t like talking about as it cuts pretty deep. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me; rather I more want people to understand who I am and how you can still be successful even if you have problems articulating yourself.
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