Sunday, 28 February 2010

FAILED? Well the Bulletin did at least

The Bulletin was at it again on Saturday – beating-up a nonsense bit of writing into a front-page murder and mayhem story.

FAILED” (their choice of all caps, but very bad form I’d say if I were their teacher) screamed the front page header followed by “Educating against era of violence” (missing an “an” – again, very bad form and lost marks) splashed across pages six and seven, just below “What’s up with North Queensland schools” (online version here).

It actually took a full 24 hours before I could summon the courage (or is that, was bored enough) to read Alexis Gillham’s “Special Report”.

Personally, I get a bit sick of everybody assuming they’re an expert on education (or hospitals, or homelessness, or blackfellas for that matter) and I was dreading reading what, I’d assumed from the editor’s headlines, was going to be yet another uninformed attack on our education system and/or the kids who use it.

Reading the story, I soon discovered that it was in fact another muddled headed diatribe of the type I’ve come to expect of The Bulletin.

The only ‘evidence’ of our schools facing an “era of violence” as the headline suggested was a quote from a “school bullying prevention and management consultant” (you immediately worry when you read ‘consultant’) who claimed in the opening paragraph that “Townsville school students will soon be wielding guns and machetes, creating a violent backdrop for ‘innocent’ classmates to spend an major chunk of their day” (my guess this was a bit of sub-editing ‘licence’ rather than an actual quote as the Bully implied).

Well, that and the hard statistic that the town has had two school lockdowns this year – exactly the same annual average as for the last unknown number of years as we later learn from the Northern Vice President of the Qld Council of Parents and Citizens Associations. Not necessarily an alarming increase, perhaps just the year’s average achieved early - only time will tell.

The story goes on to use suspensions and expulsions from school as a proxy indicator of increasing violence in schools and to argue that this region is worse than others. A few facts might help:
  • Suspensions and expulsions from school can happen for any number of reasons with violence being only one of them.
  • All of the data used in the report (and here) is from 2008. That is, it tells us nothing of what is happening in our schools in 2010
  • For every 100 students in the region there are there are about 15.4 suspensions a year – that’s not 15.4 bad kids, just 15.4 suspensions. For example, all kids who are expelled usually go through a number (at least three) suspensions – so for every 100 students there might be in reality 3-5 “problem kids”. As a matter of interest, I wonder what the ratio is on Flinders St East, at Lavarack Barracks or in the Tax Office? – not much different I’d wager!
  • North Queensland’s suspension rate is high but not the highest in the State – Wide Bay-Burnet is the highest.
  • North Queensland expulsion rates are also high, but far from the highest. Ours is 1.6 per 1,000 students, while the Far North’s is 2.6 and the South Coast’s is 2.9
  • The article quotes (twice) a figure of 21 expulsions over three years. Best I can tell, this is actually a count of ‘cancellations’ in the 2008 year. A ‘cancellation’ occurs because “a post compulsory age student if the student displays persistent refusal to participate in the program of instruction” (EQ web site) – expulsions are a totally different thing (are generally behaviour rather than attendance related) and the count was actually 47 in ‘08
Bottom line to all of this (apart from there being no evidence presented by the Bully that our kids are to blame for an “era of violence” – because surely that is their headline’s intention) is that suspension and expulsion rates are far more likely to be a reflection of a schools management practices (and the socio-demographics of their student population) than anything else as both actions are totally at the discretion of the Principal.

Finally, at least 1/3 of the article compares suspension and expulsion rates in the public sector with those in the private sector without any reference to differences in the socio-economic demographics of the student populations in the two sectors or, of course, the funding per student differentials. Either Alexis Gillham is a product of the private school sector or just plain intellectually lazy or both (they tell me it happens)

For me however, the last word comes from a mate of one of my children attending (a State) high school. She was the victim of fairly violent attack on the school bus from another girl who had already been suspended (and who had been led to believe the girl she was attacking was the cause of her suspension). The ‘bully’ was immediately expelled – for which I was glad when I first heard of this.

But interestingly, a couple of months later, the “bully” saw the “victim” at Stocklands Mall, stopped her, apologised, took her for a coffee and explained that the expulsion was the best thing that happened to her as it enabled her to get a clean start at a new school with new friends and get away from a group of girls who were using her to get at other girls.

I also learnt that that group of girls have since been left largely powerless as they have no one to get to do their bullying for them and (is often the case) are too gutless to do it themselves (a bit like The Bulletin one might say).

All-in-all, I thought that story the best advertisement for the value of suspensions and expulsions as a behaviour management tool within schools.

And lastly, if I were a Grade-10 English or SOSE teacher I would have FAILED both Alexis Gillham and the Bully’s headline writer for an incoherent, factually wrong and dreadfully argued article.


Jack said...

dude do you have no life?

i laughed my arse off reading this!

at least journalists put their name to their work unlike cowards like you.

and in the third dot point you said `there are' twice

hahahaha you fool!

Island View said...

Cool - love it when I get a response from the Bully!!.

Point taken about the typo Jack but it's a pity that you didn't respond to the substance of my argument or the facts I quoted in the post

Jack said...

sorry what was your name again?


Island View said...

Thanks Jack,

I take your lack of comment on the substance of my post as tacit agreement with the points I make and with the errors in The Bulletin’s article that I drew attention to.

PS I see that you like to keep your anonymity too and wonder if you can understand the irony of your attacks ??

Anonymous said...

too bad the "victim" didn't bash the crap out of the "bully" at stocklands mall. after all according to your logic island view she would have learnt a valuable lesson in bashing someone. being a product of the public school sector i guess you have no intellect. and if you havn't noticed bloggers tend to remain anonymous whereas the authors of blogs, like journalists, use their name. except for the cowardly ones like youself.

Island View said...

But anonymous - you like to remain anonymous too!

I choose to blog anonymously because I'm run a small business in a small city where power and privilege is concentrated in the hand of the few who don’t like criticism and could severely affect my business.

And your reason for choosing anonymity is ……?

By the way, your public school comment was very intellegent

Anonymous said...

you are shooting the messenger. are you telling me it's the journos fault there is more violence from lower socio economic groups? why don't you blame the lefties who banned corporal punishment and removed all fear of cops, parents and teachers from the kids. you're just jealous that you didn't study and work hard enough in you're life to have power and privelage. poor baby. want some french cries.