23 Desiderata

All The Right Moves

Oscar Wilde once said that the only real tragedy in life is getting what you want. I was living proof of that adage. Everything mapped out, in the prime of my life, I pretty much had it all so far: a gorgeous wife, two bright bouncing boys, a big inner suburban home fronted by a big verandah – the white picket fence and our third son would come when the time was ripe – and was getting regular gainful work. How about that! One way and another I had scored the trifecta. The pot. It doesn’t get better than this.

Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’d found thee.

My life was arranged, where I wanted it, the centrepiece falling into place. In the first years of the nineteen eighties I returned to NSW public high schools, back in harness as a relief school teacher, trekking to the outer western suburbs, staging posts for a bigger deal somewhere closer. So far so good.

It was only a matter of time before my pre-ordained moment arrived. I finally received the letter offering me the long-coveted permanent employment. My name was written all over it. Promising me professional ballast, this had to be the harbinger of the success I had been holding out hope for. Touch wood. Having slaked my unquenchable thirst for travel and my exceeding curiosity about the nature of things, jack of doing stop start this, that and the other, wound up like a spring, I jumped at this one-off chance, all-out rarin’ to go. To do my own professional thing.

Off to a fresh flying start, my slate clean, in from the cold, in top form and no end in sight, it was my turn to shine, scaling the professional heights. Having decided once and for all who I was, I planned for every possibility,  leaving nothing to chance.On my part, beyond reproach. No blotted copybook. No bumbling, fumbling or stumbling, no hitches, glitches or botches. From others, no stuff and nonsense as I cleared the decks.

Famous last words.

Having a good grounding in all areas of knowledge, this steady, self-possessed, up and coming man of many parts was roped into and had a stab at the all. They had me coming and going. From Arabic to Zoology – you name it. Moving from one way-station to another, I was shuffled around like a pack of cards. I was up for anything. I’d have taught anything if they’d asked me. If they’d ask me to jump, I’d have answered, ‘How high would you like this white man to jump?’ In fine form, I saw myself as something of a a hot shot, all round troubleshooter, one with a wide scope of versatility, bringing together all the protean fruits of my studies and experience, tying them together in a knot

Over a period of three and a half years this pedagogic Jack of all trades never repeated the same lessons. Nonetheless my students performed on a par with others and then some. They couldn’t have done otherwise if there’d been any high jinks, slapdash or slovenliness. I felt myself and my profession indivisible. A natural fit. Never more myself than in my worthwhile metier, I got stuck into it, riding high, on the up and up, leaping gladly from bed, knowing that before me stretched a day full of promise, in which I was doing what I loved. Aiming to form young people’s lives and views, lend wisdom and knowledge, equipping them for life outside in the big wide world, commanding dignity and respect, to become a name who will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Having found my own level, well suited to this blend of skills – instigating, facilitating and delegating. Everything else I had done had been, in a sense, practice for this. I was in my moment, a man on the come, enjoying the energy that children pass on to my heart’s content.

Nice work if you can get it. Work that carries its own reward.

No dark sarcasm in the classroom.

I had moments of absolute clarity, when silence drowned out the noise. Everything seeming so sharp, so well in the world, I could feel rather than think.

‘Never saw the sun shining so bright. Never saw things going so right.’

Surrounded by a metaphysical glow of significance, I perfectly sensed the very nature of the universe and my oneness with it.

My first appointment, no plum assignment, was to Bass Hill High, a western Sydney school, graffitied from top to bottom.

The bold statement about one girl student being a ‘mole’ greeted me when I arrived and reminded me when I left the last time. This raised a very big question. Was it a case of Art trumping Spelling – or was the latter just not held in high regard.

While exchanging pleasantries I got right down to business. While others chucked sickies I would never have considered taking a day off. Greeting others as they arrived, I was often last to leave the building.

Working late I was frequently asked by the cleaners ,’Don’t you have a home to go to?’

For most others the last three minutes of the school day sitting there was like a slow fuse burning. I could’ve been out the gate before the bell stopped ringing, but that wasn’t me.

I was called by some students ‘the Joker’ referring to my sense of humour which I took as a compliment. It’s also defined as an unexpected resource which I would like to think I was. Classified as a social science teacher, I taught economics and commerce. The head of department took exception to me having no background teaching geography. This was a moot point as far as I was concerned, this subject being hybrid. And not well understood as I gathered from one student in an English class I was assigned to.

‘Name the four seasons,’ I asked.

The answer: ‘Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar.’

Could you name the states of Australia?’
‘I thought they’ve already got names.’
I asked his class: '’Where do dates grow?'’ 
 One boy raised his hand: ’Oh I know! They grow on calendars!'
‘What is a plateau?’
‘It’s the highest form of flattery.’

When I told his class twenty Brazilian rainforests had been lost that year, he asked, ‘How many’s a Brazilian?’ I wasn’t at all surprised. The same student thought irony came from elephants. He thought Sinai was the plural of ‘sinus’.

‘Let me tell you a little about myself.’ I said introducing myself to my English class. ‘It’s a reflexive pronoun that means ‘me’.’

‘You don’t walks evenly,’replied one boy,noticing my limp from an accident.

I got him to conjugate the verb ‘walk’ in the present tense. He answered very slowly: ”I… walk… You… you… walk…”

I proddeded him: ’Quicker than this, Antonio!” to which he answered: ‘’Well, I run, you run, he runs.’

‘Do you understand the pattern now?’

‘I dig,you dig,she digs,we dig.you dig,they dig.’

‘This pattern might not sound beautiful but linguistically it’s  very deep.’

I encouraged him to use a thesaurus to expand his vocabulary.I also encouraged his classmate Molly to use the dictionary to find information about words.Just as Molly found difficulty using the dictionary,so too did Antonio with the thesaurus:

‘I tried unsuccessfully to find a synonym for ‘useless’.The result was futile.’

Then it clicked with him. ‘A thesaurus is great, he exclaimed, ‘ there’s no other word for it.’

When someone nicked it,it became clear how essential it had become to Antonio .He complained to the class, ‘Whoever stole my thesaurus, he made my day bad. I hope bad things happen to him. He’s a bad person.He’s as  um….as thoughtless less…..as…..um…..’

Molly said,’I can see how distraught you are.’

Antonio responded, ‘You don’t even know the meaning of the word.’

 ‘Maybe not.But I know what it’s like.’

 I was called on to answer some of the puzzling questions about our language.

‘Why is abbreviation such a long word?

‘Why is there a ‘d’ in fridge but not in refrigerator?’

‘Why are there five syllables in the word ‘monosyllabic’?’

‘Why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?’

‘Why do ‘fat chance’ and ‘slim chance’ mean the same thing?

‘And if ‘I’ comes before ‘E’ except after ‘C?’, how come Einstein got it wrong twice in his name?’

I worked to convey ideas through film taking advantage of the exciting possibilities of the video medium and the ready availability of cassettes. ‘Norma Rae’ the drama about a factory worker who becomes involved in the labour union activities at the textile factory where she works proved an excellent vehicle for bringing the topic of trade unions to life. The most common employment areas in the mainstream i.e. American films these children watched, are law enforcement, crime, medicine, the law, prostitution and bartending. Most, having no curiosity about people who drag themselves up every day to work like Trojans, are hardly ever about factory work. Showing ‘Norma Rae’, which does, didn’t come easily.The planning and paperwork involved were prohibitive.I had to apply several weeks in advance to get clearance and counter the argument it was just entertainment.

Mother Nature and her Bag of Tricks.

I happily accepted English classes and those in personal development which covered the ‘birds and bees’

The quality of sex education in schools was a postcode lottery. Some youngsters were growing up not being taught even the most basic information about their bodies, while others had no understanding about rape and sexual consent. I found out from one senior student the extent of his school sex education had been a video about the sperm travelling to meet the egg.It was very mechanical and explained with diagrams.The focus was on the cold,hard science behind it all without any mention of emotions or feelings.

.In the absence of a comprehensive sex education, these youngsters were relying on myths from the playground and increasingly on pornographic magazines to fill the gaps. I suspected the head of department was warier than most concerning this area, even though most of the taboos on this are lost on even small children.

Children start to ask questions about the body very early on, so the trick is to answer in a way that’s relevant to the child’s age and maturity.No more evasive,confusing answers like babies coming from storks and gooseberry bushes.

For high school children their concerns are about the physical changes that come with puberty,the big question being, ‘Am I normal?’

One popular perennial is  ‘Can a girl get pregnant from kissing?’

I believe  children at that stage of development are ready enough to more fully understand their emergent sexuality.

Current guidelines recommend that all primary schools should cover the changes that happen in puberty.

The classes were very rewarding with the senior students.  A forest of raised hands, these soon- to- be plumbers, beauticians, mechanics, typists,checkout cashiers, machinists,gofers, burger flippers, garbos (garbage collectors),truckies and tradies of all kinds,including brickies, sparkies (electricians), dunny divers (plumbers) and chippies (carpenters) crying ‘Me, Sir, me!’ Not that they needed to be told much about  the mechanics.

It was the only subject in which they believed they should be given homework. ‘Wasn’t it you, Sir, who told us, ‘Experience is the best teacher.’

‘Sex is a part of nature. I go along with nature.’ read the quote from Marilyn Monroe I chalked up on the blackboard at the beginning of one lesson. ‘Now you readers of Cosmopolitan and students of Playboy magazines, who wrote that?’ I asked.

‘You did, Sir!’ they replied as one.

‘Man is a creation of nature, a natural being who pursues pleasure and avoids pain.’

‘If sex is such a natural thing, how come there are so many books on how to do it?’ was one individual reply.

‘Why do we have to watch teachers telling us all about it and demonstrating how?’

‘The Meaning of Life’ had just been released with John Cleese doing just that.

My approach to these classes included at its heart a focus on consent, an understanding of what it is to be in a healthy relationship, gender roles, different sexualities and gender identity and to help people develop life skills such as communication and decision-making. The core issues I handled covered the fundamental experience of being young, of being in love, of being dumped.

After the predictable giggling and tittering, my students realised that sexuality is as much about the emotions surrounding it as the anatomy, physiology and mechanics. As much about relationships and the consequences of actions, prudent or otherwise. As early experiences in relationships often dictate later experiences, I believed it was critical to get this right from the outset. I wanted to overcome the problem of making sex ed realistic yet engaging, to help clear up misunderstandings, to help demolish the uninformed view that I was inculcated with at my parochial school. That sex was something ‘dirty’ and only to be talked about by boys through smutty, sexist jokes.

When I started having raging hard-ons,I wondered if it was normal and was happening to others.You couldn’t talk to anybody easily about it.What I needed was for someone to assure me it would have been abnormal if it wasn’t happening.

One boy in my class,Harry, took me into his confidence about his first  experiences of having wet dreams , ‘I wondered what was going on. I had  dreams where gorgeous girls and I rub up against each other.

Then I felt this tremendous buildup coming.And suddenly, there were these explosions like a dam breaking.And suddenly, everything rushed and flowed out to sea.’

‘Time and tide tarry for no man,Harry.These are clear signs of your accelerating maturation.Just don’t get carried away.’

What’s going on,Sir?’

In a normal male the testicles are constantly manufacturing male hormones.They are also manufacturing and storing sperm cells.It just stands to reason that if they do this long enough there’s going to be an overflow problem.It happened to Clancy.It happens to all normal boys.To take care of this nature gives us a safety valve.Once in a while the stored semen lets go.You have a nocturnal emission.It can also happen in the daytime.’

‘Ev’ry morning,ev’ry evening ain’t we got fun.

In the winter,in the summer,don’t we have fun.’

‘They can still get a little messy,Harry, but they’re perfectly normal. In fact they’re a sign of good health.’

Being free to talk about such matters, a kind of alchemy kicked in between those in my classes. We arrived at something close to extra-sensory perception where we could feel in our bones what we were going to say next. Some kids always had their hand up, even before they knew what my next question would be.

One said to me ‘Is it possible to mistake schizophrenia for telepathy, I hear you ask.’

‘I’ll see you and raise you,’ I replied, ‘How many of you here are psychic? Raise my hand!’

Holding one’s own.

Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex.
Karl Marx.


The following discussion covers the kind of contributions swirling around the classroom.

‘Sir,’ said one boy, ‘I think Mother Nature played a joke on us with puberty. For us boys, it’s like turning into the Incredible Hulk – but very, very slowly. So, you’re just noticing members of the sex: ‘Girls girls, Ooh, ooh’. Naturally you want to look your best, and Mother Nature says ‘No! You will look the worst you’ve ever looked in your life!’ Why is this?’

‘Yes Sir,’ added another. ‘and why is it when you are starting to say goodbye to your boyhood and looking forward to your adultery, you look like this. Your voice is going deeper and your hair is growing in all sorts of places.’

‘Like on your palm.’

‘And werewolves like you can’t stop wanting to pull your pud around midnight.’

‘We’re gonna stimulate some action,’ sang one of Eric Clapton’s aficionados.

‘We’re gonna get some satisfaction.
We’re gonna find out what it is all about.
After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang down.’
‘Or let it all pop up. Like when you boys see those girlie Playboy magazines.’

‘Those publications increase circulation-mine. My floppy disk turns into a hard drive.’

‘I keep them at arm’s length,’ said Jack, a short-sighted boy with thick glasses.

‘That’s because it’s the only way you can keep them in focus.’

I could see where this was going. That which everybody does and nobody talks about in polite society.

Which didn’t include members of the regiments of the universities of Sydney and New South Wales. These future pillars of the establishment sang about its pleasures to the tune of ‘Funiculi, Funicula’ around the campfire during our military training.

Yes, few talked about it openly in such numbers at least not until the advent of the video cassette culture and ‘Father’ Greg Sheridan.

Little did I know that in the coming months this rabid defender of public morality would bring to national public attention a matter of great concern to him:a school textbook in use which on the topic of masturbation says: ‘Masturbating is usually a very private thing, although some boys and girls get a kick out of doing it in a group. If that’s how you enjoy it there’s nothing wrong with sharing sex in that way.’

How any book condoning such crude and lewd perversion would get through the front door of any school, past the front office bin and into a classroom is beyond me. But that wouldn’t be the point as far as ‘Father’ Greg’s motives were. His misleading accounts could only be seen as the latest volley in a decades-long barrage of misinformation, smears and propaganda designed to frighten the public away from supporting sex education in schools, despite extensive evidence that the more full, frank and informative sex and relationships education we provide, the better the outcomes in terms of young people’s sexual health and safety. To mislead people about the nature and the benefits of sex and relationships education is cruel and ignorant at the best of times. To do so in such a way that it undermines efforts to protect children is downright obscene.

His simple and dishonest motive for bringing it up would be to associate all liberal minded teachers with promotion of such nonsense. His grotesque attempt to squeeze the genie back into the bottle involved taking an isolated incident and raising it to the level of a general trend. It would be part of a disturbing narrative in which he would strip out the broader context and the specificity of actions like this and weave them into his preset narrative of good and evil.

How would he have classed the good Catholic prepsters from the Jesuit-run, all-boys Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Maryland who were practising such improper group behaviour as Father Greg was fulminating against it?’

This would all come out a generation later from fellow conservative writer Mark Judge, classmate of Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Say no more.

And if that didn’t muddy the waters  enough his close friend Tony Abbott would joke about wet dreams in the Parliament.

In the meantime ‘Father’ Greg in his part of the crusade against the right of teachers to belong to a professional association would soon pull it off. He continued to practise on his upcoming piece, storing up a toxic spray which he’d soon dump on the teaching profession.

As for me back at Bass, having committed myself to allowing a frank and open discussion, I aimed at lifting the tone of the conversation and to keep a sense of decorum.By talking calmly in a reassuring, non-judgemental way,I got to understand their concerns. In delivering my sermon on the mount, I wanted to church it up, shy away from anything that shocks,and cop out if needs be to avoid unnecessary controversy. I wasn’t out to glorify this oldest of pastimes. Rather I tried to work my way around it.

‘It’s the talk of the town,’ said one girl. ‘Ever since in Grease‘ Travolta was told by one of the chicks to ‘flog his log.’ Elvis Costello sings about ‘pumping it up’ and he’s not on about his bicycle tyre. ‘The Who’ mentioned ‘Pictures of Lily’ helping them sleep at night.’

‘Monty Python had a quiz contestant who mentioned it as being his hobby, along with golf.’

There’s not much golf played around here.’

‘Even Chuck Berry and John Lennon have talked about it openly.’

‘John did ever so briefly,’ I explained, ‘then was convinced it was more diplomatic to talk about ‘mastication’. It’s on the official lyric sheet Chewing our food thoroughly and swallowing it gently helps towards living a peaceful life. So, eat somewhat less but eat it more. Would you be hearty beyond fourscore.

And here’s another similar kind of word. ‘Maturation’. Keep it in mind when you broach discussion of such a matter. John was enjoying a joyful personal relationship with his loved one. The original word he used meant something of no importance except to the practitioner.’

‘You might say it’s an engagement in which no one can be hurt,’

‘except the innocent bystander,’ pointed out another.

‘Or onlooker,’

‘Yeh, especially when the knob seen inside the car is not that on the gearstick.’

‘One of my friends who studies keyboard says he plays the five knuckle shuffle by candlelight.’

‘It must be awkward on his birthdays.’

‘He says he cries when he does it, be it out of guilt or passion, performing solo on his organ.’

‘He’s a real tearjerker.’

‘It can happen everywhere. Some do that hand jive all over town’

‘The guy in the bathroom with a tool in his hand is not necessarily a plumber.’

‘And the guy gripping his joystick is not necessarily playing video games.’

‘I was in my older brother’s bedroom once and asked, ‘Is this where you have all the sex?’

‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘But not with another person.’

‘I came in once without knocking and caught him at it.’

‘Did he carry on or freeze?’

‘He had that ‘kangaroo caught in the headlights look.’

‘It happened in a massage parlour. The patron found out the business was self service.’

‘And it can happen to all kinds of people,’ I pointed out.

‘It happens to basketball players,’ said one such small forward, ‘first they dribble then they shoot.’

On the blackboard I wrote this ode to the dick, this famous limerick:

‘Said a potentate gross and despotic,
“My tastes are more rich than exotic.
I’ve always adored Making love in a Ford
Because I am auto-erotic.’


Sir,’ said Jack, ‘Could you write bigger?’

‘It’s your eyesight that’s bad, Jack,’ said one girl, ‘and we know what that’s caused by.’

‘Last night Jack almost had a threesome,’ added Tony, ‘but there were a couple of no shows. He only needed two more people!’

‘Or three more if he wanted foreplay.’

’You don’t sound like a guy who’s even done a onesome,’ said one girl to Tony.’

‘He has. That’s why they call him handsome. He does it to someone he loves most. You know what Narcissus here took to Lover’s Lane.’

‘What’s that?’

‘A hand mirror.’

‘You know what they say? Having sex is like playing poker. If you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand,’ said Mick.

‘I’m sure it’d be more fun with another person.’

‘Or you can use devices such as electric vibrators’, someone pointed out, ‘if you use one in water, you can come and go at the same time.’

‘You sound like an authority in this art?’

‘I’m not an expert, but I hold my own.’

‘I’ve decided to stop it, since then I’ve not really felt myself.’

‘‘I was told at Sunday school it’s lustful and that I should be abstinent. I was told I’ll go blind if I practise self abuse,’ replied Jack.

‘I’m over here, Jack,’ replied Mick, waving and directing Jack’s gaze.

Jack, you mean to say, ‘Don’t pet the sweaty things’.

‘I say ‘Don’t sweat the petty things. They go against the laws of God’.

‘If it’s not in, then it’s not a sin.’

At which point the class broke into the Python song:

‘Every sperm is sacred,
Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted,
God gets quite irate.


Let the heathen spill theirs,
On the dusty ground,
God shall make them pay for,
Each sperm that can’t be found.’


‘How does God know, Jack?’

’Our Minister assured me God sees everything. He taught me these things were not petty. They were very important. He told me, ‘Don’t justify the sin. Just defy the sin’.

‘It’s easy for him to say. For you that’s a tough call’.

‘What can I do? What can I try?’

‘It’s called life, Jack. Go on, be a devil, try it sometime.’

‘In the song from ‘Hair’, they say it can be fun. And you don’t have to dress up for it.’

‘They say in Sunday school that sex is not the answer,’ said Jack.

‘That’s true. Sex is the question. ‘Yes’ is the answer.

‘I would feel guilty about it,’ said Jack,gasping and giggling.‘With my eyesight I would probably muff it.’

‘Calm down,Jack. Get a grip on yourself.’

‘I read that half the population sing in the shower and the other half practise onanism,’ someone asked Jack.’

‘Do you know what they sing?’

‘Of course not’.

‘I didn’t think you did. I rest my case.’

‘He was too busy like Billy Idol dancing with himself ’

‘They told this wallflower at Sunday School ‘You can prick your finger, but don’t finger your pr—‘

‘Whoa there, Frank,’ I said. ‘Some might be thoroughly offended at that. We have to keep in mind the sensitivities of some.’

‘‘Those suffering from a repressive libido complex, probably the product of an unhappy childhood, coupled with acute insecurity in adolescence, which has resulted in an attenuation of the libido complex.’

‘I see you know some Freud,Frank.’

I don’t know about Freud but I do know my Monty Python.How can anyone consider that word or any other indecent?’

‘Some words are ‘two-way words’ that can be considered innocent or offensive, according to context. You have to consider your audience carefully. With people of a sensitive disposition you have to use words like ‘member’ or ‘manhood’ when referring to the male organ.’

How do you genitalmen know if a guy hasn’t had his man’s hood removed?’ asked a girl.

‘When referring to the to the genitals you have to use terms like ‘nether regions’.’

‘Isn’t that where the Dutch live?’

‘Or to the ‘private parts’.’

‘It seems like they’ve gone more public these days.’

’‘I wouldn’t believe everything you read about onani’ I cautioned the class with a wink, ‘47 percent of statistics are made up.’.

‘O nani, o nani – nani – blue-o nani – blue,’ sang the class, reworking the Demis Roussos tune.

‘Hey Jack, you’re not singing along. You must be playing with your ding dong.’

‘Watch him in the vestibule after the bell rings.’

Hey,Garry,are you a goer, eh? asked Frank. Know whatahmean, know whatahmean, nudge nudge, say no more?

‘I, uh, I beg your pardon?’ ‘Do you go,eh,Do you go?’ ‘I’m afraid I don’t follow you.’

 ‘Follow me. Follow me. That’s good, that’s good! A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind bat!’

‘You.ve been around.You’re a man of the world,Garry.’ ‘You could say that.I.ve been to Wagga Wagga and Woy Woy.’ ‘You’ve, uh…. You’ve ‘done it’….’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Well, I mean like,….you’ve done ‘you know what’….. I think so.’ ‘What’s it like?’

‘It’s all part of God’s scheme. If he had intended us not to practise, he would have made our arms shorter.’

‘Pity those poor T-Rexes.’

‘It’s all about evolution. To free his hands for it is what motivated man to walk upright’.

’’Can shrinking that throbbing gristle be overdone? Can you end up with Portnoy’s Complaint?’’

When it comes to sexual activity, be respectful to all involved,’ I advised, ‘Do to yourself what you would do to others.’

‘I don’t know if I can wait that long. If I don’t get total tit soon, I’ll cut my throat. Sex is all I think about.’

‘Then be careful you don’t cut your hand!’

This boy was working his way towards his goal. He had so many love bites people thought he might have leprosy.

‘They say ‘Sex without love is a meaningless experience.’ ‘For me as far as meaningless experiences go, it’s sweet as.’

‘It must be hard for you boys’, replied one of the girls, ‘always poking fun at yourselves,’ said another, ‘or engaging in hand to gland combat.’

‘And so democratic, holding elections all the time. But what about us going through “the change”. You know, the mood swings, our body not being what they used to be, hair growing in places it never did. And at the age of thirteen we start to develop breasts.’

‘You beat us there. It has been scientifically proven. Girls reach the age of puberty earlier than boys. Boys develop them around the age of forty.’

‘Earlier if they use steroids.’

‘Let’s face it. We’re all changing. We can all get pimples, some more than others. My mate has so many, we grab him when we’re bored and play ‘Connect the Dots’. One day he fell asleep in the library. When he woke up, a blind man was reading his puss. He could feel something was going to happen to my mate. On his way home he was pulled over on his bike by the police. They told him it was a spot check. He admitted to two pimples and a boil.’

The topic came to when and why people have sex – “when it feels good,” offered one boy; “to get it over and done with,” countered a girl – to the impact of alcohol and, peer and partner pressure.

‘Sex must always be something you choose to do,’ I told them, ‘like everything else, it’s going to be better when you feel safe.’

‘Sir,’ said another student, ‘I read in Cosmopolitan that men reach their sexual peak at eighteen and women at thirty-five. Do you have the feeling that Mother Nature is playing another of her practical jokes? So, when we blokes are feeling frisky, confident and ready for a roll in the hay, the girls are in a valley with a headache. And when the late-blooming ladies are hitting the milestone in their thirties, us boys will prefer to go out to the pub than doin’ the deed. What’s the deal with these spikes?’

‘Conventional wisdom -and plenty of magazines- claim that men and women differ in the rates at which they mature and think about sexuality. If we are to look at hormonal levels alone, this is largely correct. In men, testosterone levels reach their apex around age 18 when they start petting and necking.’

‘Whoever named it necking was a poor judge of anatomy.’

‘On the other hand women’s estrogen -and fertility- hits a high-water mark during the mid- to late-20s. This hot and heavy stage of sexual maturity is known as the genital prime, because it’s when the body responds most quickly to arousal.’

‘So, is this when these late bloomers hit the sexual peak?’

Hitting a sexual peak—a common term for a period of sexual maturity, competence, and desire is actually a myth. It affects how we think about gender and sexuality. A person’s genital or hormonal peak isn’t the same as his or her sexual prime. In fact, it’s difficult if not impossible to predict or claim that a certain age comprises a sexual peak, because it’s different for every adult. Being at the top of one’s sexual game is much more complicated than the number of sperm in the tank or the ease with which one can get pregnant—sex is also psychological if you haven’t already gathered… Mental factors like body confidence, personal sexuality, feelings of intimacy and trust with a partner, libido, and knowledge of sexual preferences take time and experience to develop.

The idea that men and women have specific, but different, sexual peaks is pretty outdated. Regardless of hormonal maturity or concentrations, both men and women reach their sexual peak when they’re most comfortable with their own bodies and sexuality. And because hormones and relationships change throughout life, a so-called sexual peak can come at any time or age. Also, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can have a significant impact on sexual pleasure and performance. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and not smoking can make psychological and physiological sexual peaks last longer.’

‘So how has this myth been kept going?’

‘You have to understand that back in the 1950s, women often weren’t considered sexual beings at all. Even in the present day, sexuality presents different social pressures and stigmas for different genders. Women may embrace their sexuality later than men because they are pressured to appear ‘innocent’ and ‘inexperienced’ in comparison to men. Think about the plot of most major romance novels. The perception that women across the board have lower sex drives than men, and that females are consequently less interested in sex, is both old-fashioned and potentially harmful. Expecting women to stay sexually inexperienced makes it difficult for them to control their own sexual development and become sexually fulfilled adults.’

‘They’re called sluts and molls if they follow their feelings, aren’t they.’

‘There’s talk about ‘bits of fluff’ who are a sure thing, easy to pick up. About one in particular. ‘Jingle Bells’. She’s looked down on just because the mood took her all the way.’

She’s been picked up so many times she’s starting to grow handles.’

‘She talked so slowly before she could say she wasn’t that kind of girl, she was.’

‘Elizabeth Taylor has at least done something for them. She’s built a halfway house for girls who don’t want to go all the way.’

‘Social pressures come to bear on them if they do.’

‘So this myth helps keep women down?’

‘The word ‘slut’ is used by males feeling left out. They’re just saying of a female ‘she’s chosen everyone else but me.’ Sexual stereotypes pose difficulties and pressures across the board, for men as well as women. Because men supposedly peak at age 18, many young male adults are expected to be “experienced”, which can create a culture of peer pressure for men to have sex before they’re ready. For both men and women, buying into the idea of “sexual peaks” is a waste of time, if not outright damaging. The best way for a person of any gender to develop their sexuality, and reach that confusing “sexual peak”, is to cultivate a positive relationship with their body, their sexuality, and their partner—at any age.

Whether you call it a sexual peak, prime, or gold-star-worthy performance, everybody hits his or her stride in the bedroom department at some point. Exactly when this golden age happens is less certain—while our bodies may be more physiologically primed for baby-making at certain points in our lives, sexual peaks are more dependent on confidence and being comfortable in one’s body than on hormonal timetables.’

‘So it’s not Mother nature playing a joke on us but people’s ignorance.’

‘It’s still very difficult for many people to look at these matters rationally. It should be easy.’

After writing ‘Steroids’ on the blackboard, I asked the class,

‘What do you think about that?’

‘Remarkable,’ was one comment.

Very clever’, I replied. But I’m not talking about the blackboard. What are your thoughts on steroids?’

‘How do steroids affect the sex drive? My brother’s friend plays League. He says they can increase it as well as building extra muscle mass.’

His neck size is probably the same as his I.Q.’

‘Anabolic steroids are a synthetic version of testosterone, the male sex hormone responsible for the growth of long bones and muscle, and for masculine features such as facial hair and a deep voice. It does make the body stronger in the short run.’

‘That’s why Superman left Krypton. Earth was the only place he could get steroids.’

‘However, it is a popular misconception that taking steroids will guarantee a large physique,’ I continued. ‘Athletes do not need to resort to the use of steroids in order to get the rewards of working out. Many people obtain those rewards without ever using steroids. They keep themselves aware of new workout techniques and supplement a nutritious diet with regular exercise. Steroids simply are not a part of their diet.’

Some say steroids are addictive. Is there any truth in that?’

My brother’s friend, the League player says this is nonsense. He says he should know. He’s been taking them for years.’

He’s probably not fully aware of the long term damage to his body. In any case it’s possible to achieve results, feel better and increase your confidence without steroids. It may take a little longer, but people who get fit without steroids feel proud of themselves and of their achievements. The muscles they build are theirs for keeps.’

‘What is the downside of steroids?’

Anabolic steroids are strong prescription drugs that have some dangerous side-effects. Some people get bad acne. Some get headaches and nosebleeds. Others have painful breast enlargement. Steroids can also stop bones from growing: If you’re a teenager, you may never grow to your full height – and there’s no second chance. Steroids affect your sex drive. For men, steroids can shrink your testicles and cause impotence (can’t get it up). Steroids affect your personality.’

‘Roid rage’ said one boy. ‘You can feel happy one minute and down the next.’

‘Right. You may become edgy, paranoid, even violent – an easy way to lose your family and your friends along with their respect.

Steroids threaten your life. Steroids can contribute to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels – the leading causes of heart disease and the number one killer in North America. Steroids have also been linked to kidney disease and liver tumours. ‘Remember: Your body is your temple – Treat it with respect!

And like good Scouts, be prepared. Kids in the backseat cause accidents, accidents in the backseat cause kids’.

’And health problems too. What about the link between promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases.’

‘Don’t let the little head do the thinking for the big head. About something that takes the least amount of time but can cause so much trouble. Don’t ruin your life for ten minutes of pleasure.’

‘How do you make it last ten minutes?’ asked one boy.

I read about this problem in Cosmo,’ said one girl. Men were asked to tell of their experiences here. All were too shy until this guy with a premature ejaculation problem eventually wrote in.’

‘Where was he coming from?’

‘He didn’t say. He came out of nowhere.’

One of the girls saved me the trouble of raising the matter of family planning. Tracy was aware how important it is to assist women at birth. With regard to population statistics, I told her class of a simple way to comprehend the rapid growth of newly born: ‘Somewhere on this globe, every ten seconds, there is a woman giving birth to a child.’ Tracy’s comment: ‘We must get to her beforehand and give her every support.’

After telling them everything I thought they always wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask, I said: ‘Well, boys and girls, you heed what I told you. Now what do you say?’

One student called out: ‘Not bad, Sir. You got most of it right.’

‘Where do you get what you know about such matters?’ I asked him.

‘We pick up what we can from magazines and off telly and videos.’

Sex is everywhere on the airwaves. You can’t turn on your television without seeing it, although sometimes you have to hunt around.’

‘Oh, there’s so much nudity on TV, I just sit there shaking my fist.’

‘Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us when it’s on; we’ll find it,’ said another.’

I don’t like sex on television… I keep falling off.’

‘Try learning about it the hard way… from books.’

‘I’m told those acting on telly can now see you too. I’ll never watch ‘Number 96’ again,’ one boy said, referring to the T.V. series in which nudity was shown front and centre. ‘I’d be so embarrassed.’

Then I had a very nasty incident handling related matters with a junior class. A child asked me what AIDS was. Not knowing too much about this emerging scourge, I reported in a matter of fact way what was being written on the front page of the newspapers. The aforesaid head muggle put it to me bluntly that I had been ‘teaching buggery’. O fie! There was no telepathy with him.

My ship had finally came in, only to find pirates waiting at the docks.

It was then I realised what Oscar Wilde had meant. When you reach your target, you have to fight hard to hold onto it while some prig tries to strip you of it. In a commerce class, the fly in the ointment had been misbehaviour from a sassy young provocatrice which had seemed a closed book. It took a talk with her and her parents on teacher parent night for her to divulge that the head had told her behind my back I wasn’t qualified to teach the subject, my double major. This spelled trouble. Game on. Having been around the block enough times, I knew of the rough and tumble climbing this greasy pole but I didn’t expect anything so down and dirty. Things settled down with her after that but not my stomach, churned by this malicious head shyster, totally innocent of common courtesy getting at me all the time.

‘He has to learn what manners are,’ I said to the Principal. ‘A way of dealing with people you don’t agree with or like.’

‘You’ve just got to take the rough with the smooth’, the principal said. She told me I was being shifted to another school. When I asked if I could discuss the destination on head office’s directive, she replied, I’m afraid you have no choice as to where. This is no mail order catalogue.’

‘Being lowest in the pecking order, there being no way to have it out, I was forcibly transferred to the next, Concord High School, to teach – wait for it – geography. Give me strength. Plus “slow learners’, science and a large load of mathematics. Here we go again. Back to square one. When would there be plain sailing for this factotum? On the surface, there seemed no rhyme nor reason to this staffing system, merely bureaucratic tyre kicking. In the larger scheme of things, it did, of course, but it had little to do with the requirements of the public, those who foot the bill. I didn’t need to look at the sky to know where the rain was coming from. At Bass Hill I had put down some of the heat that had been put on me to my writing my own notes, purged of the pervasive propaganda in the commerce and economics textbooks – the main being that every owner of resources in the ‘free enterprise’ system, whether they own a factory, cattle station or just their own labour is free to sell these equally. I saw the opportunity to teach less sugar-coated schlock in a more open-minded niche, closer to home, as a chance to get some latitude in what I could do, not having to worry about my paymaster’s reactions, to get such footling undermining minds off my back.

When Mr Chips is Down

(Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes)(Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes)I’m telling you beware, beware of the handshake that hides the snake. Listen to me now beware, beware of that pat on the back. It just might hold you back.Your enemy won’t do you no harm‘Cause you know where he’s coming from. Don’t let the handshake and the smile fool ya.Take my advice I’m only tryin’ to school ya.
[Whitfield and Strong:’Smiling Faces Sometimes’]

The authorities had thrown down the gauntlet in the tasks they set me and the man for the job rose to the occasion, jumping through all the hoops. In rare form, extremely directed, poised for a strong showing, I was going great guns, doing the heavy lifting with elan, high-minded commitment, maturity, self-possession, and the sense of purpose that comes with being a father. This was my strong suit. When I was originally broken in as a fresh-faced novice in country town high schools, I saw the job as a ‘back-up’ position that would give me free time to work out my next move. Not a patch on what I would be capable of, I was rubber stamped as up to scratch, no sweat. But the gauntlet the authorities had in mind for me this time was the other kind – the one you are tripped up and pounced on running through. There were upbraiding reprimanding reports. Niggling ones. There were ‘incidents’ and ‘accidents’. There were hints and allegations.

One battle axe took me to task for being five minutes late to sport duty. ‘You should have been here at 1:30!’

‘Why? What happened?’

‘What kept you, Mr. Davis? You must set a better example to the children.’

‘I had to stop a fight between two boys on the way here. I’m a mere mortal, not Apollo. The beneficent deity gave me two hands, not two wings.’

‘What an oversight,’ she replied tartly.

‘You could say the same thing about my oversight of professional courtesies here and I’m sure you do.’

Called on the carpet, driven up the wall, fair game, I had to attend constantly special cavilling sessions with some officials that would do any stalinist hacks proud, where they kept going on at me, stiltedly carping at my ‘inability to cope’. They couldn’t tell me to shape up or ship out as they couldn’t justify what they were doing professionally. These sessions proved a waste of time.

One asked me to see him after school one day. ‘Can you think of any reason you can’t come?’

‘I can’t right now, but I’m sure I will.’ There were plenty of reasons of course. We both had better things to do and this was a waste of public resources. I wanted to get home and correct homework.’

‘Well do your job properly so we don’t have to get someone to do it for you.’

What he had the last casual teacher filling in for me while I spoke to him was to get the students to copy pages from their textbooks. In silence of course.

This official came up to me once and caught me in mid-sentence, saying, ‘—been making things difficult for some heads’.

‘Are you asking me, or telling me?’

He said, ‘Would you come and see me in my office in an hour’s time?’

‘Do you look any different there? Just want a little confab? Some grown up company?’

‘Your next class will be supervised by the casual teacher. I see you don’t approve of that.’

‘You’ve got it in one. How did you guess?’

‘Well do your job as required so we don’t have to get someone to do it for you.’

‘Please be prompt.’

‘I wouldn’t dream of leaving you alone for a minute longer. I imagine that while you can eat better, it can be lonely at the top.’

‘Here I am!’ I said, once in his office. ‘Now what are your other two wishes?’

‘May I ask you a personal question?’.

‘I can hardly wait. Go ahead.’

He said, ‘How long have you been teaching, Mr. Davis?’

‘You’ve got all my vital statistics in your staff records. Get to the point,’ I replied, fed up with this absurd pretence.

‘Do you know what your problem is, Mr. Davis?’

‘Don’t you start on me’, I thought. ‘Just don’t start on me.’

‘Certainly. I have to waste my time and yours here rather than teaching.’

‘A friendly word of advice. Don’t try too hard’, he said. ‘What do you say?’

He dropped in the room after the class assigned to me bracketed as ‘general activities’.

‘Wet enough for you? Not good for it, eh. Won’t do the geraniums a bit of good. They say we’re in for more heavy rain tomorrow.

‘Well you can’t argue with ‘they’, can you. ‘They’ seem to know everything. But you didn’t come here to tell me about the weather, did you.’

Mr. Davis, from what I know, you’re a man who looks at the situation, acts accordingly and asks ‘What’s best for me?’

‘You’ve got something there. That’s why I aim my best to bring out the best in all my students.’

He proceeded to advise me the kind of donkey work to give them. ‘Keep it simple’, he said. ‘They don’t have much upstairs. Genius does what it must, talent does what it can, and they had best do what they’re told. With them, it’s in one ear and out the other. Some are so slow they have to speed up to stop. I’d wish them good luck on their career path but they wouldn’t know what to do if they got it. None will ever be invited to join Mensa. When most took an IQ test, the results were negative,’ he said laughing. ‘Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but they have abused the privilege.’

‘Would the real teacher please stand up,’ I said.

‘You might think I’m a back number but you’re wasting your time trying to boost their intelligence. Our inheritance, our genetic endowment is overwhelmingly innate.’

‘I agree that genetics plays the significant part in our intelligence. At least half our intelligence is inherited. I don’t think any combination of determinacy and randomness can easily explain intelligence. However a rigid insistence on it’s innateness acts as a developmental straitjacket or a prison cell. If you don’t get the right nurturing and access to health and education, you’re unlikely to develop your full potential. We each have the same cortex as every genius who ever lived-every great villain too. Every child has a greater potential to develop. As for the environment we can enrich it as we like.’

‘I know your ideas about this and I have my own. You might like to drop into my office to discuss them further. That’s what I’m here for.’

‘Just say the word. Now, where was I? Ah yes, enrichment. The earlier the exposure to an environment rich in intellectual stimulation the better.’

‘We don’t want it to be too loud, do we. What are your thoughts on this?’

“Personally I like things quiet but I don’t think silence is our paramount goal. We need room to move. A margin of tolerance. Many students can be compliantly quiet yet disengaged. A good learning environment can be quiet or noisy, but it’s one where all of the students are actually thinking about their work, wrestling with it and keeping up with their peers,’ I said. ‘We have to halt the widening of the the IQ gap that accompanies adolescence. Racism, poverty and the teen culture of sexual conquest, hanging out at shopping malls, dressing sharply all significantly affect it. This subculture is less cognitively demanding. A high level of IQ can be a source of embarrassment for these kids. They hide their light under a bushel. Yet they can be anything they want. ‘The problem for them is getting them to believe it. IQ scores are not set in stone. Judging people using the analytic and verbal skills that IQ tests measure is way too narrow. There are children with ADHD who have high IQ’s.’

‘I don’t like the look of that sky,’ he said, looking anxiously out the window. ‘I’m not sure if the weather’s going to hold.

‘Don’t tell me you’re taking refuge in the weather,’ I thought.…

‘There is more than one kind of intelligence,’ I went on. ‘In real life there’s no one who gives you a problem and says the answers are a,b,c or d. In real life you have to figure out what the problem is and then you have to figure out some of the alternative ways you can go about solving it. Then you have to figure out whether any of these solutions are any good. The best way to increase intelligence is to use it in everyday life. Intelligence is a lot like muscles. If you use your muscles, if you exercise them, you improve them. If you let it go, so too do your muscles. So too is it with our intelligence. ‘We have to cultivate their talents much greater.’

‘I’m afraid some people lack the capacity for that.

‘It’s a bit late in the day with this unresponsive lot.They’ll tell you themselves of their limits.There’s some real live ones amongst themJust keep your charges happy and quiet. Monkey see, monkey do. They don’t need to think for themselves here. It’s all laid on for them.’

‘I’ll make a note of that.’

‘Easy does it. I’m looking to you to keep things in order.Just lead them by the nose.’

‘I hear you.’

‘And please don’t rearrange the seating for any improvised movement.We are not amused.It disturbs the childrens’ sense of   structure.’

‘We needed to make space for break dancing, moon walking and doing the splits.’

‘One of your boys tore his pants.That is unacceptable.’

‘I’m more concerned about what they’re learning rather than any sense of feng shui.’

‘Take your cue from your colleagues,’ he said, his hand on his cheek, ‘it will count well for you.’

‘Don’t worry,’ I replied. ‘I’ve been around long enough to pick up a few tricks of the trade. I know what’s what.’

‘I would thank you not to give them anything too complicated. It only messes with their heads. You won’t do it again, will you.’

‘Don’t worry. I’ve got it covered.’

‘They can’t fully think for themselves. A good teacher needs to know this.’

‘A good teacher’s got to know his limitations, hasn’t he.’

I had approached such children as would Mr. McKenzie, the English teacher in the British TV series ‘Hearts and Minds’. You can see him in action in episode two. With limited resources but limitless enthusiasm and imagination. In one scene he subjects his pupils to a frenzied interrogation. He wants them to describe a visit to a chip shop but he isn’t satisfied with the bland responses he’s getting. What noises can they hear, he asks? Exactly what noises? What do the chips feel like in their hands? Who else is in the shop?

Slowly the children grasp what’s required of them and oblige with growing excitement, a chorus of suggestions which creates a chip shop as you listen, from the babble of the wall-mounted telly to the frizzle of wet chips going into the fryer.

‘Don’t get me wrong,’ this official told me during another of our sessions, ‘Would it be that hard for you to get other kind of work? Surely someone like you could think of such a move as a re-birth, as self-renewal. And please don’t misunderstand me, I’m only trying to help you.’

‘I’ve heard that one before.’

‘I’m trying my best to do you a favour.’

‘Well do me a favour. Don’t do me any favours.’

‘Is all this trouble worth it, Mr. Davis?’

‘What do you think? That I’m a masochist. That I can suffer fools gladly? What do you want to know? If I have endured all this hassling enough to want to keep going?’

‘Mr. Davis, I’m given a policy. I’m paid to marshal my staff. I do what I’m paid to do. You might do the same. I’m not responsible for what head office decides.’

‘It’s not you, it’s not your predecessors. I wonder who the hell I’m talking to sometimes.’

‘I contemplated the sign on the road near the school. It read,’ Slow– Children.’

‘That can’t be good for their self esteem.’ I said to another teacher.

‘You have to look at it on the positive side. Some can’t read it.’

I felt sorry for another official at Concord. It stood out a mile she was feeling a right proper charlie at the cringeworthy hatchet job she was put up to. ‘We need to talk, Mr. Davis,’ she told me one day.

We need to talk actually means, ‘I need to talk, You’d better listen.

‘We’ve got to stop meeting like this,’ I greeted her to no avail. ‘People are going to start talking.’

I grew accustomed to her face. There were awkward moments of silence as she tugged at her lower lip with the thumb and forefinger of her hand.

‘This is the hardest part of my job,’ she declared when trying to justify this idiocy.

Would you like me to give you a hug?’ I replied, ‘you must be under a great strain.’

‘Just biorhythms. Now I just want to know, Mr. Davis, what are your goals?’

‘ I try to encourage students to think for themselves, to question standard positions, to question what they read, to question everything.’

‘So they will arrive at the truth?’

‘ I tell them, ‘You have to put yourself out, seek the truth and take what comes from it.’

‘And what advice do you give them?’

‘ I advise them ‘You have to draw the connections between things yourselves rather than rely on others to do it for you.’

I tell them, ‘Don’t take assumptions for granted. Both in nature and in society, there’s more than meets the eye. Begin by taking a sceptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Question everything including what is taken for granted.’

‘You’re trying to produce free thinkers-at age 16?!

Why not? It’s time for their generation to inherit the earth.’

‘The meek shall inherit the earth -if that’s all right with the rest of you,’ he said laughing.

‘What’s so funny about peace,love and understanding?’

‘I appreciate your spirit but this is not Nimbin.The hippy era elsewhere has been supplanted by harder edges and cynicism.Many people now are having to work round the clock or not at all.’

‘We have to investigate why this has happened.Children should never be afraid to ask important questions.’

‘Such as?’

‘Such as why should we take it to be obvious that if I let go of a ball, it goes down and not up? Learning comes from asking, “Why do things work like that? Why not some other way? Believe nothing without reliable proof and evidence. Try to think things through for yourself, putting two and two together. Look for more findings that tie in with what you already know. You’ve got plenty at hand to get a line on more. You’ve got to learn how to appraise, get the measure of, and compare it with other things. At the same time you’ve to take some things on trust or you can’t get by. When a physicist tells you that there are over a billion stars in the universe, you can believe them. If someone tells you there is wet paint somewhere, you don’t have to touch it to make sure. But if there is something significant and important don’t take it on trust.’

‘And what if they disagree?’

‘I invite them to have a discourse.I say to them, ‘Take the opportunity to make your case. We’re all open to hearing your arguments.

If they’re valid and you persuade us, I’m sure we’d all be willing to change our minds.’

‘Don’t you think they’ve got enough to think about what with the large body of knowledge they have to remember for exams?

‘We shouldn’t be on about getting students to memorise and regurgitate masses of facts and figures but getting them to think critically and communicate respectfully with others.

Our knowledge of the world is always changing. Just when you think you know something, you have to look at it another way.

As you  investigate a matter more deeply,  step by step, each step leads to a new discovery.You have to peel back the surface layers of things to find what lies inside.’

‘I get them to cut open golf balls as I speak,’I told her, ‘ to find the little bag of rubber inside.They enjoy that.’

The world is a very puzzling place.’I tell them. If you’re not willing to be puzzled, you just become a borrowed voice, a replica of someone else’s mind.’

‘Hello?! Do you really think you can get children to understand that?’

‘It’s not so much children who I have difficulty with.’

‘Don’t you realise that you’re stirring them up when you talk to them like that?

‘I’m only activating what’s already there laying dormant.’

‘If you question everything, what’s to prevent them from doing the same? You’ve advised them not to conform, not to be like lemmings.

‘Actually these are the words I’ve employed to urge them to be independent minded. ‘Boys and girls, you must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. The American writer Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!’

‘They will take that literally. You’re giving them the green light to muck up. We have to protect our children from certain concepts that they are too young to understand.’

‘I believe you’ve met with parents to discuss their children‘s progress.’

‘I went to the home of John Altomare to talk about their son.They were very welcoming to me.He promised in front of them to apply himself better to his schoolwork.He has come through on this.’

‘You realise you have ignored and countermanded direct, explicit and specific orders to the contrary.Unsanctioned contact between teachers and parents is strictly forbidden.It can lead to all kinds of legal complications.’

I’m sorry.I wasn’t aware of that.No one ever mentioned that.’ ‘Well I am now.’

‘The next time I consider that I will ask for approval beforehand.’ 

‘You just leave contact with parents to myself and our executives.If you see them as you cross the street,say hello and confine it to that.They’re not your concern.Here’s a thought.Why don’t you try teaching in a denominational or private school?’

‘I’d feel as out of place there as a left-handed violinist in a crowded string section. I have no desire to teach over-privileged children or lie about my lack of religious commitment.’

‘Well isn’t that precious. If you can’t cut it, lay low on your ideas.The problems they raise won’t solve themselves. Maybe your talent lies in another direction. If you want to cultivate your emotions, maybe you should try something else.’

‘‘I’m here not by chance but from conviction,I am never going to be anything else, okay? That boat sailed years ago.’

‘Look, get this straight. We’re not the keepers of some sacred flame. There’s no heroics involved in teaching here. Just pick and shovel work. Check through the ‘Wanted’ ads.Your best days may well be ahead of you. If you’ve got a strong itch you can’t scratch, press on to pastures new. You should go far.’

‘Yes, and the sooner the better as far as you’re concerned’, I thought, replying, ‘I do what I have to do. And this doesn’t include handing in my notice if that’s what you’re after.’

Judging by her furrowed brow, I was flying in the face of the done thing. To churn out obedient, docile working stiffs, people just smart enough to run the machines and just ‘dumb’ enough to passively, apathetically accept jobs with lower pay, longer hours, reduced benefits and the end of overtime. To keep them slavishly adhering to superficial values, busy chasing shiny things, fuelling endless fires of consumerism. To render them susceptible to advertising’s empty cycle of acquisition, unable to focus on important social matters and obsessing about trivialities that lead to debt and a deep dissatisfaction with their lives and bodies. To indoctrinate them with Corporate Stockholm Syndrome on behalf of the owners.

If I couldn’t oblige, I was expected to come around to their point of view, roll over, fold like a cheap accordion and chuck it in. I stood my ground keeping focussed on my work at hand.

‘Look, let me put it another way. I do what I am.’

‘You mean you are what you do.’

‘That too. But really I mean I do what I am. We’re born with a gift. It’s what we’re put on earth to do. If not that, then we get good at something along the way. And what we’re good at, we can’t take for granted. We can’t betray it. If we do, we betray ourselves.’

All right, all right, all right, have it your own way’, she said, clearing her throat, ‘but get real. We’ve been over this again and again.Let me explain it once more in simple terms. The Department is well disposed to the idea of tradition. It likes things to stay the way they are.’

‘So I’ve noticed.’

‘It likes it when personnel  fall naturally into line. It works for us. You’ll see that eventually.Don’t waste your time whistling in the wind.Be more pragmatic.Cool it til the ink on your permanency agreement is dry. Know your place. Your assigned position is an entry level one.It’s not a springboard for promotion. The door to advancement opens only from the inside. Let it’s officials think better of you, that you’re on their side, be noncommittal. Do you think you could do that? It doesn’t do to act otherwise. Play along with them.’

‘Are you talking to me?’ I asked, looking around the office, ‘or is there someone else in here?

‘What do you mean?’

‘What do you take me for? Do you honestly expect me to compromise my principles about this? I can’t go for that.’

‘To be a man of principle is one thing. But a man doesn’t cut his throat on principle. I’m just asking you to co-operate. In return the Department takes care of everything. It looks after it’s own. And all it asks of anyone, all it’s ever asked of anyone ever, is not to interfere with management decisions. This is how things work. Take it from someone who knows. There’s a way we do things hallowed by usage, consecrated by time.’

‘Trapped in amber. How do you know it’s not time for a change? There’s a first time for everything surely.’

‘Why now of all times? Why here of all places?’

‘Times have changed. We need to move with the times, not be in variance with them. How we work is outmoded.’

‘And your suggestion is plain out. We don’t need anybody to tell us the time.’

‘Surely this choice location is an obvious place to start. And doesn’t any request for some flexibility have to go through you. Surely the Department could get off my case and accord approval for all the children to enjoy school?’

‘And what do you want for your next two wishes?’

‘Don’t you think a principal would be able to press successfully for this? Isn’t that your call?’

‘Fiddle-de-dee. Do you know what my fellow principals would call putting forward such a demand?

‘No, you’ve got me there?’

‘Early retirement. You know how it is.’

‘No I don’t know how it is. Here and now would be a great opportunity.’

‘Or it’s opposite. You understand me. I haven’t been with the Department all these years for nothing. Let well enough alone. Be your age.’

‘Then I shouldn’t be treated like a child. No one tucks me in at night. I’m not afraid of the dark. I blow my own nose and even go to the bathroom by myself. I can eat peas with a fork. I haven’t had a pimple in years. I shave every morning. I’m no longer Mummy’s little boy.’

‘You’re looking at forty, I see. You’d do well to think of tomorrow. Do I need to draw you a picture? You’re starting on the ground floor. If you want a big tick on your CV, if you don’t want to be up for the high jump, it’s best you keep to your allotted place. There’s no second slot for you to be pushed back to. Not even an Irish promotion in the offing.You’re taking your life into your own hands. You don’t want to be like some poor old actor and be dragged literally off the stage, do you? You keep insisting you want to further develop the concept of the comprehensive school. I’m not expecting you want to throw it all away.’

‘Nor am I. Once you break the tradition of the common desegregated school you create classes in society – the elite who are ‘clever’ and the rest who are taught to put up, shut up and do what they’re told.’

‘No disrespect intended but you just don’t get it. Your unorthodox methods have attracted the attention of the more traditionalist. It’s all your own doing. The trick to survival in the Department is going unnoticed.Not drawing attention to yourself.’

‘You mean running with the crowd.’

‘You weren’t appointed as a new broom.Don’t go getting fancy ideas. You can’t expect to waltz in from cloud cuckoo land and the system to adapt to them.’

‘They’re not that complicated. I only want to engage the students. I’m not trying out for an Oscar or to re-invent the wheel.’

‘You don’t know how things work here.’

‘Yes I do. Just like everywhere.’

‘You should consider your position.Ask yourself if you’re the right man for it. Things could get very complicated.’

‘Things are never simple.’

‘And so it goes. Listen, things won’t change on your say-so. It will go hard with you otherwise. Needs must, you know. We can’t stop our wheel turning for anyone.If you go against it,you’ll see what happens.’

‘And what is that? Sparks flying?’

‘Worse than that.I’ll tell you what you’ve got to face up to. You won’t just get passed over for promotion. Don’t spit in the face of your future. It’s as well to be forewarned.’

‘I’ll take my chances.’

‘On your own head be it.You have no guarantee of continued tenure. There are plenty of Chinese teachers who’d love to work here. Do I have to spell it out? I’d advise you to tread lightly-and that’s flat. I urge you to see sense over this. Anyway, suit yourself. If that’s the way you want it.’

‘That’s the way I want it. Now have a nice day.’

‘I have other plans.’

She would just have to like it or lump ‘it’. Whatever this nebulous ineffable ‘problem’ of excess was that they didn’t want to go into, that couldn’t be openly addressed. That could only be side-tracked. What more did they want me to say?

Utterly engrossed in my work, blinded by natural contrarian optimism, refusing to be worn down. Like the man asked as he was falling many floors down the side of the tall building, “How’s it going?”, I would have answered: ‘So far, so good!’ I was deaf to the increasingly persistent ugly rumblings of the edcons, the educational conservatives: ‘The user pays- Cut the fat! The user pays-Cut the fat!’

Never letting up, the only scope they had in mind was that guiding their aim. The firing line. The problem with trouble shooting is that trouble shoots back. I was being issued with a verbal cease and desist order. For all my trouble, you might have expected them to come around and cut me some slack. No siree! Just as things were looking up and I was on a roll, picking up steam, getting into full stride, fast tracking it to the top, I was lumped and rolled. Landsakes these pikers shot me down. To help their aim in this open season, they had the tailwind at their back. I knew then which way it was blowing. To help their aim in this open season, with me the sitting duck. For ammo they chose default accusations which they direct at anyone trying to exert any degree of improvement.

In my brochure I draw attention to comments made about my teaching practice by the principals of the schools where I worked in Sydney. These comments reflect the image of the exemplary yeoman, top of his game, I aimed to be, or at least that of a competent professional, who’s applied himself to his finicky craft, dotted his i’s and crossed his t’s. I prepared my work well and all students had to was get on with it. That can’t be bad. In my résumé these bona fides conferred a certain certified cachet on me, I felt, that no one can take away. I thought they would have spoken for themselves. However, as well as a good word put in for me, other negative nitpicking potshots were taken after a pernickety inspector’s visitation.He had gone in hard. His audit was brief, superficial and a mere formality. The inspector had spent all the time at the back of the class with a clipboard making notes which were never shown to me. There was no follow-up action of the quibbling inspection reports with the result that the very purpose of the inspection seemed to have been defeated. Not so. It was never discussed with me but it led to me being declared unsatisfactory.

A whole year after waiting anxiously for a reply to my response to this evaluation, the principal approached me hesitatingly with a letter. I hoped expected it would be one of approval setting out how my recommended ideas could best put into operation. ‘to stop someone worrying, usually by giving that person information that they have been waiting for: to stop someone worrying, usually by giving that person information that they have been waiting for: Come on, don’t be shy,’, I said to her. ‘Put me out of my misery.’ Instead the letter put me deep into it, informing me of my new status. Not suspended, not stood down indefinitely, not benched, not held in abeyance, assigned to other duties, placed on administrative or sabbatical leave. No rap over the knuckles like for Detective Harry Callahan, told to take a vacation until things ‘cooled down’, whatever ‘things’ were in my case. I was given no grace to allow my defence. Obstructed by the dead hand of officialdom, I was surplus to requirements.What I was being effectively told was ‘That’s your lot. Stand aside! Take the rest of your life off! Go to hell, don’t pass ‘Go’, don’t collect superannuation, don’t bloody well come back!

The Dismissal.

“School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there, and especially sports. Because of this, I wasn’t worth anything, and several times they suggested I leave.”
                                                          Albert Einstein.

If you’re ridin’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there.

                                                           Will Rogers

Standing on the shoulders of this giant, my head above the parapet, I felt the floor open under me. I had been issued a summary dismissal.

It hit me between the eyes to the General I was a cipher, not worth the candle, a misfitting cog in this machine designed to obliterate individuality and free will. A bit of grit to be chewed up and spat out. Someone to take the fall. To be made an example of. Receiving short shrift, cutting the niceties, without so much as a thank you, I was allowed just enough time to clear out my desk.

‘There must be some mistake,’ I told the principal. ‘Someone has a lot of explaining to do.’

‘The Director-General is no mistake,’she said. ‘He’s the consequences. If he thinks he has just cause, he doesn’t have to explain anything.’

‘Just how democratic is that? Isn’t any organisation dependent on all the numbers that make it up? Aren’t we all numbers of equal value?’

‘He’s only a number here too. But he’s Number One.

Everything goes through him.

He’s not just anyone.He’s way,way above your pay grade. He has the ultimate say who teaches in the system.

His word is law, as binding as a papal bull. Absolute, final and clean cut. I can’t make it go away.It is what it is.Once he makes a decision, that’s it. It’s not up for discussion. Unless you know something I don’t, what he says goes. You don’t get to vote on this.’

‘Who exactly did get to vote on this?’

‘The Department has it’s own constituency. You don’t dare go against it.’

‘Are you threatening me?’

‘I’m telling you. It’s a fight you won’t win if you force its hand. I don’t like all this any more than you. It’s not what I wanted. But it’s what it has to be. It’s not optional. I’m sorry.’



‘Try putting that in a sentence.’

‘I’m sorry it had to turn out this way. I’m a teacher too. It goes against the grain. I’ve got my principles.’

‘Yes, and if people don’t like them, you’ve got others. Well there it is. Just one of those things.

‘It’s just like that. I can only say I’m sorry.’

‘That’s very noble of you.But what about this kind of sorry ? Sorry the whole school knows what a big lie has been told about the staff and students?’

‘It’s not like that.’

‘No, how is it then?’

‘You don’t have to take it this way. Listen.. Don’t look at me like that.I had no choice.’

‘You always have choice in these matters.You just made the wrong one.’

 'I’m just doing my job. I’m only trying to show you how things are.’

‘Maybe I don’t like the way things are.’

‘You lost your job because of your ego. Instead of subordinating it to the habits of others you had to be cock of the walk.’

‘That’s not true but you can say that if it makes you feel better.’

‘Look at what you made them do.You put your belief in your intelligence and your vanity project above everything else.You were too sure of your abilities. That’s what this is about.’

‘Listen, if I want to be analysed, I’ll pay for it.’

‘Just accept it, Mr. Davis. It’s for the best. Everything happens for a reason,’

‘You really think there’s some pre-ordained chart floating around the ether with our fate all figured out. That this action against me is some test sent down by the universe. But it’s not. Things happen because human beings make choices. They commit acts and that makes things happen. This can have a snowball effect causing others to make decisions. The cycle continues, the snowball keeps rolling.’

’You’ve no one to blame but yourself. You should have resigned when you had the opportunity.’

‘For me to resign when I’ve given all to my work is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. I’m not going to bend over for anybody.’

‘It’s out of my hands now. My contract to advise you has run out. I’ve got no room to manoeuvre on your behalf. It’s not up to me. You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mine.Don’t make this any more painful than it has to be.The most I can do for you is offer you a short term subscription to the ‘Herald’. They have the best ‘Classifieds.It’s the least you deserve.’’

‘Don’t bother palming me off. The Federation, my local member and the whole community shall hear of this. They’ll have something to say about it. I’ll make sure of that.’

‘You do just that. But don’t worry…You show quickness of mind. You’ll land on both feet. You’ve got a great future—but not here. Now move on and get over it.Enjoy your downtime.Make the most of it. ‘

‘I know.Go on,say it.A change is as good as a holiday.’

‘Think of it as a time of reflection’

‘Just a parting question. From a personal perspective just tell me one thing. How do you do it.’

‘You know what Mr. Davis, sometimes I wonder myself.’

Having studiously avoided courting controversy or rocking any boat, I had nevertheless become a lightning rod for negative reactions, ones that distracted attention away from my detractors.

I had nevertheless become a lightning rod for negative reactions, ones that distracted attention away from my detractors. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. I was under fire. It was alleged that the students in my classes were violent and unruly. Well fancy that! I had used every trick in the book to occupy any restless minds. Most conversation was pitched low. I emphasized self-control.

‘Read my ellipse, Tracy. I desire average solutions by means and extremes. So leave your ‘Boy George’ magazine at home. You might think him sharp, that his angle is acute one,that he’s the x factor. You might think you have his number. You might think that like parallel lines, you and him have a lot in common. However I assure you that like these lines you and him will never come together. There are sines that he’s an odd number. And stop drawing hearts around pictures of boys you fancy. “Draw a circle around the one you love because a heart can break but a circle goes on forever.’

‘You can define a circle, I hope,Tracy.’ ‘A circle is a round straight line with a hole in the middle.’

When I brought a pile of graph paper to class she asked, ‘Are you plotting to get us drawing curves?’

‘Having studiously avoided courting controversy or rocking any boat. My standard introduction to any class with reputedly difficult children went along the following lines: ‘Good morning, girls and boys [or ‘ladies and gentlemen’ depending on their age], my name is Mr. Davis. You may call me that or ‘Sir’ if you so wish. This is my first session with you and I don’t intend it to be my last. If any of you wish to challenge me, I suggest you do it now.’ Then after the pause for this to this sink in, ‘Good, that settles it. I’m a fair man but don’t be under any illusions. I’ve got eyes in the back of my head. I see everything. I hear everything. My main concern is that when you’re in this room, you learn what you’re supposed to. You may ask me any questions you like. I will try and answer them. If I can’t I will say so. Do I make myself clear?’

I ran the room like an orchestra conductor with me at the helm getting the students who picked up things quickest to help the slower ones catch up. This meant they could move freely and give me their undivided best. No No one in the corridor peering through the classroom’s door windows had ever come in to read any Riot Act. Those observing the ‘mayhem’ either chose to let it go, or through their charismatic powers claimed they could halt it simply through their surprise look-in followed by a smug ‘I should think so!’ Not surprisingly any group of hormonally charged fidgety scamps are going to mind their ps and qs and hold back from mucking around when an authority figure is briefly in their presence Authorities pinned the cause of the ‘disturbances’ – of which I was said to be ‘oblivious’ – on my ‘vague’ questioning technique. As if roughhouse hellions would be riled by vague questions! As the slugs, slings and arrows rained fast and thick, I sat tight, keeping my head down decorously, unphased, wrapped up in my work, on the back foot, sticking to the business at hand, dodging the bullets, riding out the battery. Cutting to the chase, I answered at great length, admittedly in a candidly dismissive tone with thinly-veiled contempt, a welter of preposterous trumped up charges along similar lines. Blind Frieda could have picked holes in them.

Never having issued any skerrick of complaint, I set about pointing out deficiencies and weaknesses in operations and stressing the need for corrective measures. To smooth out the humps and bumps. I believed the matter would have been handled in-house. I recommended that all the children be encouraged to read and write, that they keep their eyes glued to books to avoid distractions. I said to the principal: ‘Far be it from me to tell you what to do, but don’t you think this would serve as a means to obviate any funny business?’

‘Mr. Davis, Never you mind about that. There’ll be no stopping the presses. Our books are about right and they’ll do. In fact, they’re more than adequate. A good craftsman never blames his tools. As for your pupils, there’s one duffer born every minute. Not everyone wants to drink in the fountain of knowledge.’

‘You can talk!’ I thought. ‘You’ve only had a light gargle.’

‘Do you really think all those we have are up to learning reading and writing properly? If they haven’t picked it up by now, it’s too late. They’ve only got themselves to thank.’

‘Surely it’s down in part to the way they learn and reproduce knowledge. Their exam results don’t do them justice.’

‘That’s what you think. This is not a holiday camp. You can’t pick and choose. You just follow your instructions. Leave the decision making to us. Your job is to keep your eyes on these kids at all times, to keep them in line-to see they don’t walk all over you.’

‘Heavens above! We wouldn’t want that to happen, would we?’

You’ve got to lay down the law. Sit on them at all times. You can’t be too careful.’

‘What, is the sky going to fall because they’re engaged looking at books rather than at me?

I had been directing my comments to her mainly about the general activity class. With these children I had to work through a watered down version of the academic stream’s curriculums. Although the problem with many was difficulty in concentrating, hard and fast regulations required that after I had settled them down to working in one subject, with the bell I had to start again and settle them into another subject. No allowance was made for their difficulty in concentration. The rigid compartmentalization of knowledge was totally inappropriate. One boy in this class was a football junkie. He had little to say if the subject moved beyond rugby league.

When I handed out copies of a book, he took one look and turned his nose up at it. It didn’t have anything to do with league on the front.

‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.’I urged him.

‘I should be so lucky’, he said, I can’t read even that much.’

I informed the class one day about news from the Prime Minister. ‘Bob Hawke has announced “Advance Australia Fair” as the official national anthem.’

‘Who’s Bob Hawke?’ asked the boy.

He’s our captain and one of the forwards.’ I explained.

The boy was interested in one thing and one thing only. Rugby League.

‘My mum is unhappy about it’, he said. She said I love rugby league more than I love her. That hurts. We’ve been a family thirteen seasons.’

He thought he was intelligent enough to go up to a mainstream class but needed to broaden his horizons.

‘No matter how good you think you are,you can’t skip reserve grade and go straight into first grade.And if you can’t be convinced otherwise,then you go and get an early shower.’

Of course this sport ties in with everything, especially in N.S.W., but unless that everything was on their current curriculum, it was considered off-side.

‘They’re here to follow orders, not to have fun.’ I heard tell several times.

Unable to keep up with the academic stream, they tended to give up trying. One G. A. student said glumly ‘I’ve failed maths exams so many times, I can’t count’.

Such children need to be exposed to the best of popular culture, to talk and write about what interests them, and to learn the curriculum content in a non-academic way. What they were left with was an academic qualification hardly worth the paper it was written on, and an abiding loathing of school. Most teachers want to avoid being lumped with such children but cannot. How to lighten this millstone around teachers’ necks led to the germ of my brainwave for change taking shape in substance.

Not taking no for an answer, keeping my powder dry, I first believed that defending my practice would be a piece of cake. I had followed instructions to the letter, working out everything to the last comma and decimal point, punctiliously and voluminously recording every extraneous transaction and any misdemeanour that occurred in class and having them countersigned by those involved with their agreement. As it turned out, defending my practice became a slice of life.

Set in their ways, the school executive wasn’t a scrap interested in discussing my ideas let alone allowing me to run with them. In raising them I had laid myself wide open to attack. My creative licence was revoked. Pulling rank, they left me holding the baby, dropping the problem of school discipline right in my lap.

‘Look upon this as a good career move’, said one head of department as I was leaving the building. Clean break, pastures new. I expect your talents will be equally appreciated elsewhere.’

‘Well, you can’t keep a good man down, can you.’

The first order of business was to take things up with the Staff Inspector. He pencilled me in for an early morning appointment. Our meeting was delayed as in the words of  his secretary ,he was in ‘the middle of something’After having me wait an hour, Greatness called me.

‘I’m given to understand you’re very upset about this decision’, he said.

‘ ‘Upset’ doesn’t begin to cover it. I’ve been put in a terrible place.’

‘Mr. Davis, It may come as a surprise to you that in the Department we instil discipline-we don’t dispense with it. Still less do we expect our staff to criticize their heads of department.’

‘I don’t consider drawing attention to a head running me down to students inappropriate. I took it up with the principal.’

‘You feel you have been unjustly treated and discriminated against. This is your line of argument and you’ve leaned hard on it. However, let me draw attention to your organization – or lack of it.’

‘Have you actually taken time to look at the details of these accusations?’

‘I cannot confirm nor deny them. What I will say is that believe it or not classroom management is essential for orderliness. A teacher’s only as good as his classroom management. A teacher’s practical skills for handling a classroom are probably more important than knowledge of the subject he’s teaching. You failed to implement sanctions to deter students from disrupting the learning environment.

‘Go on, be vague, accusatory, whatever sticks. Is that how it works?’

‘You failed to prevent such behaviour occurring in the first place. Let me be unambiguous. This lowered the tone and reflected unfavourably on the Department’s image. Procedures only work if we follow them every time. This is a matter of maladjustment. If your apparent management is anything to go by, we have no reason to believe you’d ever turn your game around.’

‘Isn’t this where you’re supposed to say, ‘We’re going to give you now a better chance to show us what you can really do?’

‘Mr. Davis,’ he said taking an antique timepiece out of a drawer, ‘this fob watch has long been in my family. It was passed to me by my grandfather on his deathbed.’

‘He sold you this when winding up his estate? You wrote a post dated cheque?’

‘It was a gift. A hand-me-down. Providing I respect it and look after it, it keeps perfect time.’

‘I wouldn’t trust it. One hand is shorter than the other.’

‘All I have to is wind it up and this piece of peerless, miniature engineering takes care of itself. in “the pursuit of perfection. Each particular spring and wheel has a particular duty and function to perform, everything working together in harmony and integration. You can imagine the Department working like this, as an enormous watch. It operates with a definite rhythm and purpose. If you tamper with it’s mechanism, you interfere with the arranged order of things. Otherwise it works precisely. Tried, true and trusted.

‘The same exact unchanging movements over and over again’, I said, saving him the trouble. ‘Perfectly designed to get the results you’re getting. Where not even the slightest tiny ‘error’ can ever slip through.’

‘It only works if all the moving parts, all the little cogs mesh together. Now, a watch needs to be cleaned, well-lubricated and wound tight. The best watches have jewel movements, cogs that fit, that cooperate by design.’

‘‘Who’s your oculist? Your late grandfather’s watch, as you refer to it, ticks and tocks but doesn’t show the right time. Like the Department it too is late. It’s too tightly wound. After all is said and done, this is the twentieth century isn’t it? There’s a whole new set of numbers. And surely you can’t in all seriousness pretend everyone in this department works in unison when so many are off the hinges.’

‘You’ve got a lot to say for yourself, haven’t you.’

‘There’s more where that comes from. The only thing co-ordinated about the Department are the control measures. It’s apposite you make the analogy of an enormous fobwatch. It’s designed to appease by evasive means. It’s designed to dismiss underlying issues with something easier to explain. So, what’s your point? Or am I missing something?’’

‘I’m referring to your attitude. Who knows what things it might lead to. While this is no reflection on your intelligence or character, you haven’t tried to fit in. You’re a holdout. I hope you don’t feel offended by me saying that.’

‘Oh I’m not offended. You’re pretty much what I expected.’

‘This attitude won’t do.’

‘Not fit for purpose, eh?’

‘You’ve been teaching geometry haven’t you? Since when is one part greater than the whole? You know your trouble? You’re not a team player. There is no ‘I’ in team.’

‘Maybe not. But there is an ‘I’ in independence, individuality and integrity.’

The Department rewards easy fits. Wasn’t that properly explained to you?You toe the line,you get to stay.You step off that line and you’re gone and you can forget whatever it was you wanted to achieve.’

‘You’re thinking of someone who blends,someone who would rather not stand his or her ground even though they know they may be right.Someone who also usually lacks the guts to take a risk to effect change.Someone who obeys and follows one side blindly.

‘Am I right in thinking you’ve let your side down.’

‘I want to be on the winning team. On the right side. On a level playing field, where everyone in the school has the same sporting chance of getting up the runs and scoring the points. Where everyone’s a winner.’

‘Welcome to the world, Mr. Davis. Life is full of disappointment. You can’t go to extremes with impossible schemes.’

‘Thanks for that valuable life lesson.’

‘The education system won’t revolve around you. This is the way things are,’ he said snootily. ‘You’ve got to take them for what they are. Now give it a rest. You have to be able to put up with it.’

‘I put up with it at Annandale Primary, at Hoxton Park High, at Chester Hill High, at Bass Hill High, at Concord High. At Leichhardt High. At Auburn Girl’s High. At Granville Boy’s High.’

‘‘O.K. I sense the trend. Now are you finished reminiscing?

‘May I ask you one last question?

‘Go ahead. It’s no skin off my nose.’

‘How does this continual being moved being moved from pillar to post benefit anyone? Who’s better off as a result?’

‘That’s two questions.’

‘I believe I’ve done my time. I’ve been jerked around so much, I got whiplash. I know how to suck it up.’

‘So what’s your point? Do you want a medal? Before you get too comfortable on your cross, let me remind you teachers have to go where they are sent.’

‘So do cocker spaniels. Are we not better trained?’

‘You can’t always get what you want.‘You can’t always get what you want. Life doesn’t come with a guarantee. Things don’t always turn out as planned. Why should teachers have tenure and be allowed to stay at the same job, no matter what they do? There’s your answer. I’m not going to argue anymore on such a level.Just be thankful the Department has allowed  this interview. This may surprise you but it does believe in the milk of human kindness,’

‘From my perspective I’d say it has as much such milk inside it as a bull.’

Mr.Davis, my patience is wearing thin.  Now good day to you.’

‘I only want a just hearing. Nothing more, nothing less’, I continued to  argue. ‘Fair’s fair.’

‘‘The answer is still a firm, unequivocal, thunderous ‘No’. We have to adhere strictly to our departmental code to allow  consistency and  impartial fairness. Fairness is vested in the code. Our strength lies in refusing to give special treatment. We are duty bound to avoid preferential action towards one person over another.It would set a bad precedent. If a special hearing were allowed for you, it would have to be allowed for everyone claiming it. Where would we be then?’

‘Where all involved could exercise judgement. Wouldn’t that be a nightmare, eh.’

‘Save your breath. How many ways do I have to say it. It’s categorical. The decision has been rendered.Case closed,’  ‘That is all,’ he said, chopping the desk with his hand. ‘Is that clear?’

‘We’ll see about that. You have to do what you have to do. Well guess what? So do I. I’m not going to let it rest there. I’m within my rights and will get what I need.’

‘Then why are you the one you’s sweating?’’ he asked, smelling blood.

‘I’m not tense, just terribly, terribly alert until I have satisfaction.’

‘You might say that, I couldn’t possibly comment.Like I haven’t got enough to deal with already. Now can you leave, Mr. Davis? I’ve got actual work to do.’

‘You really mean to say, “Would you leave now, please’, don’t you. I have the same problem with some students. I can never get them to say the magic word. I put it down to nerves. They forget it when they’re nervous. Does that happen with you?’

‘That will be all, Mr. Davis, let’s bring this in for a landing. I don’t want to even hear you clearing your throat. You’re really getting on my nerves. Now step out of my office, please.’

‘And a merry Christmas to you.’

So, rather than pushing an open door, I was quickly being shown it.

You could talk to such apparatchiks about the done deal until you’re blue in the face and nothing would shift them. None took a blind bit of notice. You couldn’t argue with them. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience. The decision had been fixed back at Bass Hill. Presumably some in the Department viewed me, challenging them on each and every one of their indignities, as unco-optably uppish, bucking their rigged system, testing their rigid mould. A loose cannon to be muzzled. ‘Howzat!’ they cried to the umpire, the Minister, a cricket enthusiast, adamant that I was out fair and square while hiding behind their obstructive hardballing dictates, denying me the verbal sparring basic to a healthy democracy, not just one in which you say what you like and do what you’re told. I couldn’t expect to draw them across to my point of view. No gentlemen’s covenant in play here.

The words ‘when I hear the word ‘culture’, I reach for my gun’ are attributed to Goering. Our eugenist apparatchiks only need reach for their pen.

A well-organised society is one in which we know the truth about ourselves collectively. I had paid my dues. I thought I had covered all my bases. I saw myself as a citizen above suspicion. My approach was predicated on the belief that there would be some allowance for my undisputed dedication. To my astonishment I discovered alas that there was no professional hearing available where I could be heard out, spell out my thoughts, cross-examine the witnesses against me, at which I could answer this intellectual cowardice. From the upper echelon no cut, thrust and parry whatsoever. Just cut and dried. I had a right to my opinions. I just didn’t have any right to do anything about them. They just didn’t want to hear them. Apart from a terse ‘be that as it may’, those obscurantists who levelled charges, lacking probity, shielded from oversight, stopping at nothing, didn’t have to justify anything. All neat and handy, with me the fall guy.

This insolence of office reminded me of the plea made in the US by Assistant Secretary of the Interior Gerard Davison to Presidential advisor Clark Clifford. He reminded him of the unconscionable miscarriages of justice suffered by government employees during the McCarthyist period. “Employees must be guaranteed the standard rights of due process to confront their accusers – to hear the charges against them, to present witnesses on their own behalf, to appeal”.

Such drumhead justice is subversive of British constitutional liberties. In the judgement at Nuremberg, the tribunal noted that elimination of the right of appeal was the first act of the National Socialist regime. The basic concept of a rigid separation of public powers and functions, on which our liberties largely depend, seem to be beyond the grasp of the bureaucratic edcons. You can understand if not excuse politicians and private magnates behaving this way, but not public servants.

The Thought Police were very much on the case,busy as ever looking for some difficult individual who they think may be saying something that in some ways undermines authority. What would they have considered my thoughtcrimes? Maybe they felt I had not participated in enough official activities and that I had  appeared to not enjoy them.It isn’t only one’s actions and words that they consider are punishable; they attempt to detect,listen in on and punish even unorthodox opinions. Finally they would try to render those harbouring unapproved thoughts such as mine as unpersons.

I remember seeing a film from the German Democratic Republic which showed the high handed punishment meted out to a teacher who encouraged his students to watch West German television for ideas and information. The G.D.R. state media portrayed the West as dominated by a small group of very rich capitalists while most people were very poor. A lot of people suffered political persecution. In fact they were painting a picture of states like the G.D.R. itself without the respective window dressing. Falling into line politically was a prerequisite for an undisturbed life, and was preferred over discussion and individual opinions. After receiving his marching orders without the right of appeal, and his ensuing isolation, he committed suicide.

I haven’t yet been able to source the film which was shown on the Special Broadcasting System in Australia. It made a big impact in East Germany because of its critical nature. I find the parallels with our own system telling.

Yes sir, a schoolteacher in N.S.W. is something to be.

Executive Decision.

My being dumped flat was preceded by a newspaper barrage targeting ‘bad’ teachers, and heralding special powers to make short work of them. Of all the dirty tricks! In this baiting game, the media had a field day offloading blame for the crisis. Muggins me was put in the frame as a ‘whipping boy’. My colleagues were browbeaten by the sound and fury, simply shrugging their shoulders. At a meeting I called to protest my dismissal, no one among my colleagues could say anything about what to do. They were thinking to rule. Considering that I had allowed such disruptiveness to reign in my classrooms, it was remarkable that no other teachers were aware of it.

One of them, Denis Petratos, knew exactly what was going on, and what I was up against. He had grown up in Greece and knew these sleazy machinations for what they were.

‘It’s not that I don’t have good comments written about me by the school heads,’ I said to him.

‘It isn’t what they write about you, it’s what they whisper. I know a set-up when I see one, Allan, and this is one. Those behind it want to destroy initiative. There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially that which produces better results than the old routines. Improvements make those at the top of the heap look inept. ’

‘I need greater support from every thinking person involved,’ I told him.

‘That’s not enough. You need a majority.’

Denis had been a worker before studying mathematics at university..  Alas,this  circle of professionals was one he couldn’t hope to square. He had difficulty articulating himself in the English involved in this situation and  couldn’t come up with the rhetoric to defend me.

My Member of Parliament, a colleague of the Minister for Education, the deciding voice in this matter, was very supportive on my behalf and got onto it right away, trying to swing his opinion, trying to shake something loose. However, Dr. No said ‘No Go.’ A tough nut to crack, he took not a blind bit of notice, turning me down flat. Just like that. I wasn’t calling in my chits or didn’t expect any strings to be pulled, but hoped for some principled protest at this blatant abuse of professional ethics. Thanks for nothing, brother.

From his secure, pensionable perch on top of the heap, collecting the scraps tossed to him by the narrow circles of power, this spokesman for the A.L.P. abdicated his responsibility to further workers’ democratic rights to defend their work practices, using public sector workers as a trojan horse. The party was heading into an election campaign responding to the dictates of the media and the judgement of public relations firms rather than to the intercession of his colleague. For me there was no counter-balancing force against possible abuse of ministerial authority.

In terms of getting justice, I was a dead duck. The gnomes, having neatly picked me off on the wing, did not wish to have their marksmanship questioned.

Spokesmen for the Teachers Federation to which I belonged and naturally support said they could not do anything about the regulation which denies probationary teachers right to an appeal. ‘You shouldn’t have committed your thoughts to paper without consulting us. That’s the way it is’, I was told. ‘We don’t make the rules.’ Clearly I was disturbing their polite arrangement with the Department. I was told I hadn’t talked to my colleagues about my position. Too bad. ‘We’ll see you when we see you.’ That kind of thing.

One of my colleagues who wasn’t in the Federation didn’t blink when I told him this. He said: ‘That’s union officials for you. They’re supposed to back you up, not leave you up in the air. You’re as much the union as they are. They should reimburse your dues. Didn’t they offer you any assistance or is that up to divine intervention?

‘One official I spoke to promised to look into it further.’

‘Sure, and the cheque’s in the mail. Is that all they’ve got to offer? What a weak act.’

Some time later he asked me if they’d extracted the digit.
I told him, ‘ They said to me they’re working on it.’

 ‘That’s reassuring. You must be really browned off at them.’

‘Not really’. I said. “I don’t know what people have against them. They’ve done nothing.’

‘And the Minister won’t listen?’

‘He turns out to be your typical politician.One who doesn’t look beyond the next election cycle.’

To cap it all the Minister accused the Federation of backing ‘incompetent’ teachers for any offence short of child molesting! For me to be placed under the same foul rubric as‘rock spider’ was rich considering what would unfold.

Within the Federation any account of my case dribbled off until it fell out of the paper.

The students at the school who I had found quite tractable were all too happy to make supportive statements as to my service.

Like high school students any where, it is they who can make life unbearable for any uncommitted teacher. To see the lies gotten up about their behaviour going so brazenly unchallenged would take them quickly along the learning curve of corruption. Learning about hypocrisy rather than democracy. In a perfect world this kind of under-handness shouldn’t have been allowed. In a less than perfect world, my colleagues and the community backing me up would have shut down the school until an enquiry was held. Unfortunately this possibility was slim because of the milktoast support from, without mentioning any names, certain of my colleagues, silent and acquiescent. Some fake death – they faked living. On autopilot, they had been ground down long since and never got over it, lifers given up on their dreams, afraid of endangering their retirement fund.They were born retired. Somewhere along the path of least resistance, they had lost sight of any sense of mission. Some had gone into playing at educating for want of anything better to do. Convinced the only way to make it in life is to fake it.

‘Deal me out, don’t feel me out’, was all one could say as I approached to solicit his vote.

As for me rounding up support, the well was very dry. I had no favours to call in. I had been done like a dog’s dinner. Shafted royally. They had stuck it to me good. The Departments practice of shuffling me around had paid off for some. I could never sink my roots in deep enough anywhere I was sent.

My supplication to the Ombudsman about the matter was likewise to no avail, what I considered my airtight case laying outside their ambit.

I couldn’t blow the whistle on the Department to any official agency. Undeterred, I sought legal advice about taking on this mindless behemothyou pays your money and you takes your chances-but was told there wasn’t much I could do about the stitch up. Like the steps in an Escher drawing, those toward justice went nowhere. I had come up against the culture of complicity – an establishment involving politics, segments of the media, the judiciary, and the economy which functions through a series of self-protective, tacit understandings, and without sharply defined checks and balances.

After sending me packing the Minister brought in special powers to start on the next on his hit list. He would deal with ‘disorderly’ children so as to ‘protect’ teachers. The sheer brazen-faced cynicism of such deuced blackguards I feel, to talk up fear both of teachers and students is breathtaking. It solidified the climate of fear and withdrawal.

While I was leafleting outside the school in protest the principal came up past me and said, ‘You couldn’t help yourself, could you.’

‘To each his own.’

‘I tried to warn you. I hope you’re enjoying yourself now.’

‘It’s right up there with my father’s funeral for sheer entertainment value.’

I had hoped somewhat romantically that the community would rise to my defence, joining me on my picket, organizing a letter writing campaign, making so much noise calling for my reinstatement. Parents trusted my witness but couldn’t respond to the situation. They were bound up in their daily jobs and often didn’t know many other parents. I quickly understood better how lightly the sense of public community can be embedded. However I have no reason to be cynical. I had been fully bound up in mine.

On the notion of cynicism, I will always remember the throwaway comment of one hobbledyhoy -one who was never in my classes. While I was picketing the school alone that autumn, putting on a brave face, twisting in the wind, openly addressing the dangers of the powers, this rubbernecking boy called out glibly ‘Sucked in!’.

This buzz phrase would become a recurring motif in my life.

Back on the Beat.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.”
Hedy Lamarr, screen actress and inventor.

Slipshot in every respect the system kept calling me, it’s patsy, back to work again after I had been drummed out of the teaching service. A case of the left hand not knowing what the right was doing. The selection process was as if names were drawn out of a hat.

In this game of snakes and ladders the banned played on.I did a melba, returning to the profession after my ‘farewell’ performance. I worked on standby at four more schools, two as a casual teacher. At Auburn Girls High I taught Art and Arabic. The girls only wanted to learn about pop music, fashion and Australian things. I arrived at the same conclusion that Russel Ward had in N.S.W. public schools a generation earlier. That national feeling and patriotism are in no way conditioned by one’s ancestry but in every way by the environment in which one grows up. Doomsayers asking ‘Please explain! Australia isn’t one big waiting room,’ who borrow trouble over the volume of non-european immigration, wouldloosen their girdles if they had ever taught immigrant children. The Auburn girls, like their brothers at Granville Boys, had been in Australia for only half their lives, yet they were fluent in strine, which most of their parents could hardly speak at all let alone know it’s rules.

‘An abstract noun,’ I explained to one class, “is something you can think of, but you can’t touch it. Can you give me an example of one?” ‘Sure,’ a boy replied. ‘My father’s new car.’

I showed these children how to simply transform a flat sheet square of paper into a finished sculpture: ‘The advantage of easy origami is twofold…’

As usual I had to counter the argument that they would never use the skills I was passing on: ‘I’ll never have someone come round and I ask them, do you want a coffee? I’ll just put on the Bunsen burner. What colour flame would you like? I’ll never have one of my friends ask me when we want to light up at the back of the toilet block. Do you have a gas tap?’

I could have kept on forever working like this, supporting this ineptitude, another brick in the wall, if I had never let on. I could simply have continued clocking on and clocking off, a fifth wheel filling in for laid up or absent teachers, a fake smile plastered on my face, and no one would have been any the wiser. Or cared. Such a prospect-glorified babysitting in weary fits and starts- proved unprepossessing, unfeasible and insufferable. When it came right down to it, it meant I could never develop professionally, my discipline in the hand of the gods. I swore off going down that road, driving with the handbrake on, dancing to the eugenists’ tune. No way in the world.

As for my continued work helping my re-instatement, this mattered not a whit to the Department.

It mattered not a whit to the Minister despite my local member’s continued representation.

The School Of Hard Knocks.
When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall.
Paul Simon.


The next and last departmental government school at which I worked, Yasmar, was situated inside a juvenile detention centre. Now what was my role there? You’re going to like this. I was a youth worker supervising children who had a troubled history at school, some stroppy ones who others couldn’t tame.They took so much out of you. You’d feel wary of them on sight.They were far advanced in the science of every kind of misconduct.

The vast bulk were the product of where they’d come from, a product of circumstances, just as their parents before them were. Family breakdown, bereavement, multiple foster placements, violence and sexual exploitation were the background to their lives.

’Hey Gazzer,do you remember when we couldn’t get arrested?’  one asked his mate.

Garry replied; ‘When was that? When you were four?’

Their cases fell into the amorphous catch-all called juvenile delinquency. Some of the wilder ones kicking over the traces had been involved in gangs. Their motto was simple: ‘Do it to them before they do it to you’. Often, they were not the first in their family to be inside. Physical and sexual abuse and neglect were common experiences among them. Alcohol and substance abuse came into it. Some were a danger to others, unafraid to face down staff.

They didn’t waste time trying you out.

‘You’re Steven, aren’t you?’ I asked one boy, addressing him for the first time.

‘What’s it to you?’

‘You should drop your sweet wrappers in the bin rather than on the floor.

‘Drop dead!’ he replied.

My response was, ‘I don’t do requests. And you won’t do lollies. There must be one hundred reasons why you shouldn’t have your access to sweets taken away but I can’t think of one  right now.’

When he finally started to bend down ever so unwillingly  I said ‘Are you going to pick it up or not?

He replied, ‘What does it look like I’m doing?’

Others were a danger to themselves, sent there for their own protection. I had to monitor their every move, every moment of the day. When the school race was held, I watched the guys like a hawk, making doubly sure no one did a runner.

At this purpose-built secure unit, the ceilings were designed high, the walls far apart so the inmates couldn’t easily shin up. I got to know all the angles. They had to have me or another member of staff with them at all times. With a courteous manner and a large collection of keys, I opened the doors for them. When suspicions arose, I’d shake down their room and go through their personal items, looking for ligatures and contraband, items that had been smuggled in. Matches, felt tip pens for graffitiing, and anything that could be improvised as a weapon. Their guiding principle was ‘Do unto others-then run.’ The kind of crimes they were there for included such things as carrying a bladed article, firearm, arson, assault, burglary, snatch and grab, hands in the till,dining and ditching, second-storey work. It could have been for sexual offences. At Minda, the higher security centre where I went on and off, it could have been for kidnap or murder. There cold, grey, solid walls, layers and layers of locked doors backed onto bare rooms, and heavy doors had bolted slits for basic meals to be delivered in.

Being locked up didn’t stop some hard cases, caught dead to rights, coming back for more.

Arrested Development.

They were real Jekyll and Hyde characters. Their stories ranged from the tragic to the absurd, though most were something of a mix. You could read their file and they could have a history of violent, aggressive behaviour and then you met them and they seemed like the most polite, pleasant young people. There were the ginger cats who needed to be stroked but also couldn’t wait to get into the alley and fight. Obviously, you had to be aware of the potential risks. Many invariably invent heroic fantasy accounts of their life. I got to talking to one wiry seventeen year old boy, suspicious eyes and acne scars on his cheeks, sitting on a bench, sweating after a football game. I asked him how he came to end up here, and something odd happened. He offered me a completely fictitious life, one in total contradiction to the story in his file. His mother was still alive selling hand-painted souvenirs in front of Bondi Pavilion. His brother, the same age as him, came and went. He never saw him from one day to the next. And he didn’t get his  skin in the game with other young hoods willingly. ‘I liked it though. It’s hard to explain… but it was good. I left them all for the love of a woman. She answers to the name Alice Peters.’ He says the name with dreamy love. ‘I met her because I stole her bag. I was busted and sent to the cop shop, but when she came to collect it she was so charmed by me she decided she wanted to adopt me.’

At first I think I must have the wrong person, but then I realised these young inmates coat the truth in self-protecting lies. It’s no use trying to shake them loose of them. His mother was indeed dead and he had no siblings. Tragically he was an only twin. He was never forced to mix with the other hoods. No – he joined them to get back on those they believed were the cause of his poverty. He continued with his dream story, where he was adopted by a rich woman. He said ‘ I think about her all the time. I’m like a cat on a hot tin roof. My tummy is upset, my chest hurts. It must be love.’ One of the other youth workers said, ‘You go on like this after meals. It sounds more like indigestion.’

I tried to get him on to something more real. What is a typical day in a gang like?’ “We would go to a mall or a street corner and have a tote. Or we would watch ‘Rambo’ in the cinema, or steal bags. We pinched flowers from the cemetery and sold them around the pubs. They called us ‘The Bad Boys’. I had a black belt in bullying.’ He drifted back into the fantasy, and the more I pushed him back to sense-impressions – did you see somebody being done over? – the more wet tears ran, unforced, down his face. Before he left to change, I let him tell me more and more about this Alice in Wonderland.

‘What work does your mother do?’ I asked.

‘It’s difficult to say what she does.’

‘You’re ashamed of her?’

‘It’s not that kind of soliciting. You’d never guess what it is she sells.’

‘She takes sparrows, paints them with peroxide and sells them as canaries?’

‘She sells sea shells on the sea shore.’

‘You’re expecting her any time now?’

‘She is coming to get me. She’s coming to get me any minute now.’

‘And your brother?’

‘I never know when he’ll turn up. Nothing new to me. When I lived at home, I used to lie in my twin-sized bed and wonder where he was.’

In loco parentis I had to monitor their prescribed medicine. One girl in there, a sly compulsive kleptomaniac, was subject to occasional fits. It wasn’t surprising. During biology lessons at her former school she had sniffed formaldehyde.

‘It’s gotten worse the last year’, another officer said. ‘Her father died last year.’

‘That must have been hard for her,’ I said.’

‘It was’, he replied, ‘but tough on him too.’

‘Were father and daughter close to each other?’

‘She wasn’t particularly close to her father before he died… which was lucky, because he drove over a cliff.’

In a quiet moment I asked her, ‘What did your father do before he died? She replied, ‘He went, ‘Aaagh!’

She had some loose springs when it came to respecting other people’s property.

I asked the officer how she kept things under control.

‘She’s normally O.K. but sure enough when it gets bad, she takes something for it.’

‘Can’t you explain to in simple terms her this is wrong?’

‘This is like threading the eye of a tiny needle. She always takes things literally.’

‘That means you really can’t take her out into the shopping mall.’

‘We had long sessions before she went accompanied shopping, working to relieve her of this disorder. I told her ‘We trust you won’t be trapped by the desire to steal again. Be a good girl!’

‘Not if I can help it.’

‘You’re going to have to learn some painful lessons.’

‘So what do want me to say ? ‘I’ll always try to be good because to act otherwise never pays off. ’

‘Always’ and ‘never’ are two words you should always remember never to use lightly.’

‘Don’t tell me what to do,’ she cried angrily.‘

Temper, temper,’ I told her, ‘get those anger monkeys off your back. Remember your temper’s the one thing you can’t get rid of by losing it.’

One of her friends said ‘If you do have a relapse, don’t lose my list. First of all I could do with a new CD player.’

Not that she baulked at making off with her friends assets.They were just one more class of victim. ‘When I woke up and found her gone with my money,’said one, ‘I was furious at first and thought, ‘Of course she’s taken it.Then I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t she?’

‘When was her condition first noticed?’

‘When she went with her class on an overnight excursion, they stayed in a nice hotel. You know the kind-fluffy sheets, big bath towel and all. It was then her teacher noticed. It was taking her an hour to get her bag closed. Then there was the beach outing.’

‘That’s a mecca for thieves isn’t it. Where to put your personal belongings when you go in the water? ’

‘People have their own little personal security things – things that they think will foil thieves, you know. In your own mind, right? You go to the beach, put your wallet in one of your sneakers and dive in the surf. Who’s going to find your hidey hole? What criminal mind could penetrate this fortress of security? You tie a bow. They can’t get through that. You put the wallet down by the toe of the sneaker. They never look there. They check the heel, they move on. But not our young female fagin. She quickly saw through that kind of deception.’

‘I’ll keep an eye on her.’

‘Be careful. When it comes to seeing other people’s property, she has special powers.’

‘Yes, what was the phrase I remember from her file, ‘Constant super-vision.’

‘Don’t forget-the hand is quicker than the eye. A hand that is supple, deft. A hand that slides. A hand that alights. If you shake hands with her, I suggest you count your fingers afterwards.’

I tried to instil in her the virtue of labour and it’s rewards: ‘Anything in life worth having is worth working for.”

She replied with ‘A thing worth having is a thing worth pinching for.’

I bluffed her when there was clear evidence she had taken a boys pocket money.’Do you have something to tell me?’’

‘I ain’t saying anything.’

‘Too late. You just did.’

This filching female complained about another girl who accused her of being a ‘lousy thief.’

‘If the shoe fits, wear it,’I advised her.

‘If the shoe fits, I’ll take another one just like it.’

One pair she lifted were too large leading to her constantly stumbling. I told her, ‘You don’t know what they’ve been laced with. That’s why you’re tripping.’

I endeavoured to get her to see things from the perspective of those she stole from: ‘Imagine how they feel at being ripped off. Think of things from their point of view.’

‘It’s simple’, she said. ‘They’re losers. Finders keepers. Losers weepers.’

I reminded her of the famous proverb: ‘Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.’

‘After that who cares?’ said this budding Imelda Marcos, ‘he’s a mile away and you’ve got his Nikes. Actually I need a new pair now ’

Aware their teacher had told the class about child labour in the poor countries I told her ‘You’re fifteen, make your own!’

‘And then you had the state wards in this secure unit for their own protection. They could be there for such things as domestic abuse, neglect, truancy and running away from foster placements. These were not cool, criminally inclined young thugs-in-the-making, but average, goofy kids, ill equipped to resist the negative pull of their surroundings.

Chaotic family backgrounds had left some of the errant youngsters unfamiliar with even the most basic house training tasks. Whether washing or tidying, they’d polish here, brush there, slop at one place, give a lick and a promise at another. Like nature, they abhorred a vacuum. Prepared for the inevitable comments, I had to to blag them into hoovering: ‘Yes, I know it sucks.’

It’s amazing how quickly teenagers learn to drive a car, yet are unable to understand pushing a broom, making an omelet or operating a vacuum cleaner.

When I got one girl finally started,she ran over a string at least a dozen times, reached over and picked it up, examined  it, then put it back down to give the vacuum one more chance.

‘Just finish cleaning up your room,’I warned each one, ’let’s see that dust fly with that broom, get all that rubbish out of sight, or no videos for you Saturday night. If you don’t straighten your bedroom floor, you aren’t going to rock and roll any more.’

‘Please, Allan, don’t do that to us.’

‘Show me a spotless room and I’ll think about it. Now start moving in that direction, pronto.’

I put to the aforementioned light-fingered, affectless lady the following question: ‘If you are in a vacuum and someone calls your name, can you hear it?’

She thought for a time and then asked, ‘Is it on or off ?’

I had to blag them into making their bed, ‘No, you don’t need nails and wood, fortunately.’

‘What are you doing?’ asked one of the boys as the young lady got into tidying up.

‘I’m trying to clean up before the Manager comes round.’

‘Chloroform, Rohypnol or a good old-fashioned cricket bat?’

‘Comes round on inspection, you nong.’

My most important daytime duty was to maintain order in the classroom for the teachers. I kid you not. In this school, every period ended with a bell. Every sentence ended with a period. Every crime ended with a sentence.

For some of the inmates having fallen between the cracks in the education system, it was the first time they’d actually had to go to school. Mostly they’d been expelled from mainstream school, many of them at the primary stage. Rage and an inability to control it were the common personality trait.

It was as if a vital behavioural development, which usually occurs when children emerge from the toddler stage and start school, was completely missing. So what we had at Yasmar were big, adult-sized teenagers who spat the dummy, throwing toddler-type tantrums. They were like dogs chasing cars. They wouldn’t know what to do with one if the caught one. They just did things.They believed in instant gratification no matter how dubious the prospects. Governed by the pleasure principle, they could revert to anti-social conduct at any moment as the mood took them. They were particularly dangerous when their desires were being frustrated.

In their face, in their space at all times, I had to stop young hard put minds from projecting spitballs onto the ceiling, throwing chairs, trading blows and interfering with each other and others with such interruptive pranks. Such messing around could lead to a critical incident. The smallest incident could set them off. With lots of different triggers, the tiniest push could escalate into a dangerous row.

The teacher once explained to the class about how verbs change to indicate time. He then asked one boy ‘ Peter, I’d like you construct a sentence where you demonstrate the three kinds.’

Peter offered this one with reference to his classmate sitting behind him: ‘Graham Turner, you were a cretinous scumbag yesterday, you are a cretinous scumbag today and you always will be a cretinous scumbag.’

Graham fumed and I positioned myself near him, ready to restrain him. It was tense. Peter had correctly included all three. The past, the present and the future.

With no real real warning, these youngsters could flip-just like that. Such behaviour recurred in a continuous cycle.

As for anger management, I took the line that I had to come down quickly and firmly to get the right boundaries in place.

‘You’re the living end.’I said to one of the boys I had to restrain from constantly moving from chair to chair. ‘Why so restless? Why can’t you stick to your allocated desk until moved.’

‘I keep hoping to get lucky, but there’s never any gum stuck under any of them.’

Chewing gum is surely one of the weirdest human inventions,’he said, popping a lump of congealed Juicy Fruit he’d scraped off the wall into his mouth. ‘It’s not a liquid, it ‘s not a solid, it ‘s not a food. What is it? It isn’t really anything, you know. I mean, it’s like a treadmill for your jaw’.

‘It’s good to hear you asking the right questions,’ I said, ‘because when you’re chewing gum, you don’t look like you’re too thrilled with anything anyone has to say. Teenagers seem more sarcastic when chewing it.’

‘Oh, World War Two. That was an important historical event?’ Yeah, I’m sure.’

‘They landed a man on the moon, nineteen sixty-nine? Yeah, right. Yeah, whatever.’

When I first came to class members  used hardened pellets of gum  to shoot at flies that wandered inside.If the two winged insects were plentiful and landed within striking distance they’d fire the rubberbands  themselves at them . The job was easy, quick,  precise and gave rise to knowledge about the physiology of Musca domestica.Their speed,trajectories and near 360 degrees vision.

The inmates found the practice fun because they competed with each other to improve their marksmanship. It was a challenge to see if they could improve their ratio of kills per rubber band releases.Sometimes  the  prey  would remain in one piece. More often there would be squished pieces  in several places. Needless to say the killers were not enthused about getting a piece of tissue and cleaning up the gross debris.After I pointed out the diseases borne by flies,I lowered the boom on the practice, confiscating bands and went for essential oils,strips and traps.

‘Be serious and passionate about the world around you,’ I constantly reminded them. Take advantage of your education here to straighten right out. While you’re here, you’re a prospect; once you’re out, you’re a suspect. Learn how to live with others without disturbance.

‘You can do this the hard way, or you can make it work for you,’I constantly reminded them. It’s your choice. Make the wrong one and it’ll be the big house for you. The Long Bay Hilton. Do the crime, do the time. When you get out you might just be about due for your pension, eh?’

‘What advice would you give us to avoid this path,Allan?’asked one boy.
‘There is a way to exit.Go through it. Keep walking..Turn over a new page but on’t turn around.Move on in life.Don’t look back.’

‘Are you afraid we could turn into a pillar of salt? ’

‘Did this really happen?’asked another.How do we take this ?‘

‘You can take it as a condiment.Of course it’s a reference to a Bible story.This man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.”

One boy asked, “What happened to the flea?”

‘There was an inmate here some years back,’contributed another boy. ‘who took off in a stolen Falcon.He looked back once while he was driving, and he turned into a telephone pole.’

 You couldn’t always count on humouring them. The staff had to take a lot of provocation from them.At the same time it didn’t pay to be confrontational. That just wound things up. A negative interaction or an ambiguous comment could cause an awkward situation to degenerate to dangerous hostility. I helped them teach problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills so the students didn’t resort to aggression to cope with situations. In a revolving door situation,

I restrained and escorted any scamps outside the classroom for a prescribed time until they cooled down and could come back inside to start again. Some spent more time outside the class than in it. I recall the almost unbearable jim jams as the clock on the wall crept toward the final bell. ‘Like the grip of the boa constrictor’, rapped the Bad Boy, ‘doing time swells up like those that convict ya. You got the pitcha?’

It’s tricky to turn around the learned behaviour of fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years. With little control over what they can do and how they’re going to do it, they take the only action they can do. They aim to manipulate certain situations where they know the staff will have to react in a certain way. Waving their finger at society, they do negative things to get attention. Getting restrained shows just how tough they are. They used violence as a way of gaining acceptance in peer groups.

Always on the move, they struggled with the age-old problems of class, the season, and their age: lack of money and opportunity; boredom; and sex, or, more accurately, thoughts of sex. Pining to be older they fretted about how they would make it through adolescence

One seventeen year old had a speech impediment. In a prison of illiteracy, one without visible walls, he was doing double time. I devoted as much time as possible getting him to stay composed and relaxed, to talk calmly but confidently. Gradually he pieced together what he wanted to say: ‘You should have seen me before I came here. I was really slow. Nobody really helped me. I couldn’t talk. I stuttered badly. I couldn’t say two clear words that made any sense to anybody else but me. And people laughed at me because of it. I felt like a real clot. And when they laughed, the only sound they’d hear would be my fist whistling through the air. Did I hear laughter out there? My fists did my talking. Now, that stopped the laughter for a while, but it also got me into serious trouble, and I didn’t pull a rabbit out of any hat. I still couldn’t talk proper. I wish I’d listened to what my mother told me.’

‘Why, what did she tell you?’

‘I don’t know, I didn’t listen.’

’When I arrived at the school I thought to myself, that at last I’d experience something really exciting educationally. If there would be any school where you’d expect the authorities to abide children enjoying learning it would be in such an institution. Anybody in a confined space such as a waiting room will invariably pick up any half decent reading material available to avoid boredom. Boredom is probably the most common factor behind much crime and anti-social behaviour. You don’t have to be a genius to recognize this. It led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Why can’t the authorities recognize it and promote universal literacy? The children were there as a punishment, not to be punished, so why not? When those young brains were not actively involved in thinking about what the teacher wanted, they’d be thinking about something else.

My considered opinion was they should get in on as many activities as possible to keep their minds off mischief. I had assumed that in this day and age, there would be some trade off in which the decision makers would relinquish some degree of professional control to the teacher in exchange for his or her dependability, integrity and uncomplaining, demanding workload. Quid pro quo.

The reality of the situation in this school was that it was much like the shambolic situation that it was alleged my classes were like before I was given the old heave-ho.

Not that I put blame on the staff. They had a lot to contend with. Yet in spite of this they knew how to react when things looked like getting out of hand. The strategy was to delegate responsibility.

‘Hold everything. Let’s not all panic! demanded the youth worker in charge on one occasion, ‘You, you and you panic. You and you stay calm.’

When I questioned this left of field approach he explained it as follows: ‘NASA points out there are ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’. We have to allow for all contingencies. If you can keep your head when others about you are losing theirs, it’s just possible that you haven’t understood the situation.’

I wasn’t held responsible for this situation, I’m glad to say.

These skittish feckless children with attitude to burn and plenty of lip, have great difficulties. Plagued by boredom, the tizzies and sex, all the usual agonies of the awkward age only more so.

They were compulsive yet at the same time indecisive. Not knowing what they wanted in life but knowing that they wanted it now.

All too often rather than achieve a fully human identity, an empty space appears where feelings beyond the purely instinctive are expected to be.

‘Watch your wallet while he’s around,’I was warned about one artful dodger. ‘He’d steal a dead fly from a blind spider.’

Running on impulse, they feed their drives and desires from one moment to the next, habitually, casually ransacking and ripping off anything not bolted down. Driven more by the thrill of transgression than the reward of hot goods and ill-gotten gains. At loose ends they’d be crawling in front of moving trains, hot-wiring cars harum scarum, then finding themselves on the road with a vague couple of ideas of where to go and what to do. Soon they’d be siphoning petrol, souping  up the cars for joyrides, wringing them out, breaking traction, doing burnouts and fishtails, mooning and zooming until the tank is empty. Dawn would see them fanging it down  abandoned roads, behind the drivers  a crazy flotilla of mates in cars with screaming horns, leaning out to get a photo of the race, aggressively sideswiping each other, and trying to spook the opponent’s car so he crashed.

They always came up quickly with a smart answer to explain their activities when apprehended. One of them was barreling down the motorway when the highway patrolman pulled him over.

‘Why were you going so fast?’ The policeman asked before taking him back to Yasmar.

‘Why? I had my foot to the floor. It sends more petrol through the carburettor. This makes the engine go faster. This makes the car takes off.’

‘OK Smartypants, you realise you went through a ‘Stop’ sign back there. How about you explain that?

‘Officer, I don’t believe everything I read.’

Some of these rev heads could never find a car they couldn’t jump start. They could jemmy most car doors and be off while the owner was still looking for the keys. Gone in 60 seconds. It happened to mine as I was leaving the Centre.

I had a new name bestowed upon me by the inmates.’Carlos’

Craig Dunne reported to me the news that a few of those responsible had used my car in a drive by shooting, I expressed great shock until he explained they just had their rear ends sticking out the window.

‘You hop in any car you want and just drive off ? I asked one of the culprits. ‘Not any car. I like a variety. I’m always looking for a new experience.’

What about your latest?’

‘I wasn’t prepared for that one and gave things away.The police pulled us over all polite and said, ‘We’re looking for a couple of adolescent housebreakers.’I looked at my mate,he looked at me and we nodded our heads.I said to the cops, ‘We’ll do it.’

Given what happens to them on the outside, I believed they-and the public-were better protected here. Softer on the inside, they were crazy on the outside. For some, it was the first time they were with adults who didn’t abuse them or deal with them unacceptably. They learned they could live with other people, including adults, and they’d be treated O.K.

‘It wasn’t that long ago, this would have been the last kind of place they’d want to be’, said one of my colleagues.

‘Why would they think that?’ I asked.

‘You know what happened at Parramatta Girls Home.’

‘Not as such. What really went on there?’

‘The inmates many of them indigenous. were kept in an isolation cell. They called it ‘the dungeon’. They were administered drugs while they were there was to ‘calm them down’.’

‘Which one specifically?’

‘Largactil. 300 milligrammes twice a day.’

‘That dosage would calm down the Middle East.’

‘It was to subdue them while they were being raped.’

Down By Law.

One of the wards of the State, Craig Dunne, a fine athletic fifteen year old boy, had a wicked sense of humour.

His boast in class was he could recite the alphabet backwards. When his teacher asked for a demo, he turned around and declaimed it in the normal sequence: A,B,C—-’.

‘Smile, you’re on candid camera,’ he cried as we passed any mounted surveillance devices.

‘I’m in, I’m out, I’m in, I’m out,’ he whooped gleefully dancing back and forwards over the gateway as we left Yasmar.

I had taken  him out shopping at a department store.When we were there he looked all around him before we went up a level to get a pair of shoes . ‘What are you looking for?’

A dog to carry ’,he replied. ‘Haven’t you seen the sign on the escalator?’’.


Going up to the next level there was a man ahead of him. He had a whole ton of shopping bags in his hands, so he wasn’t very balanced. All of a sudden, he started to fall over. In this escalating drama Craig quickly put down the dog and ran up to catch him. At the same time, someone else pushed the emergency stop button. Craig told me later, ‘Imagine if I hadn’t caught him. He would have just kept on falling…’

‘Aaagh! My shoelaces.’ was the screaming sound Craig made at the bottom of the escalator coming back that got everyone’s attention.

I had taken him  to the  store to buy some underwear.

‘When was the last time you shopped for clothes?’ I asked him on the way.

‘Last year I went to one of those army disposal stores. I wanted to buy some camouflage trousers and blend in like Travis Bickle.’

‘You were looking for the urban guerrilla look. Did you get a good fit?’

‘I couldn’t find any.’

The underwear he wanted stood out more. An assistant came up to us and Craig said ‘Could you help me out?’

The young lady said: ‘What way did you come in?’

He said, ‘I need to get some underpants.’

We have a big selection here,’she said, showing him their large display. ‘Why don’t I let you have a look through these while you think over what you require. If you need anything, I’m Leanne.’

Leanne had a conditional identity.

When Craig mentioned what he wanted she showed him some boxer shorts. Those with the circumvent at the front. On seeing him turn up his nose, she said ‘They look much better on.’

‘On what?’ he replied, barely unable to contain his dislike for them, ‘on fire? How can anyone wear those things. They bag up, they rise in. There’s nothing to hold me in place. I flip, I flop. Leanne, can I try those red briefs in the window? Are they satin?’’

Leanne assured him they were brand new but that it was O.K. to try them on. It wasn’t my fault she failed to direct him to the changing room instead.

‘Craig,’ I said, ‘Underwear is like intelligence. It’s important that you have it, but not necessary that you show it off.’

It wasn’t my  fault when I directed him to the change room he promptly went along the cubicles pulling aside the curtains, followed by female objections.

‘May I help you, Sir,’ asked the floor assistant?’

‘Just looking,’ replied Craig.

Not long after I had a my run-in with him at the high fence. He giggled when I had occasion to frisk him: ‘Ooh, aah, you could at least have bought me dinner first!’

When I felt through his trouser pocket, I came across a locker key. He said, ‘Thanks, Mr. Davis, I’ve been looking for that over six months.’

He been acting shifty, hiding something. He appeared to be pretending to tie up his shoelaces. I noticed the soft clump around his ankles. ‘I’ll have that if you don’t mind. Now come on then, give it to me.’’ I patted him down in full view of everyone. He went red and I asked, ‘What’s that under there?’

He replied, ‘Under where?’

I said, ‘Under there.’

‘Like I said- underwear.’

Would you like to take them out?’ He reached down and pulled out a pair of wrinkled up underpants.

This was his explanation: ‘Last night I ran into my room, kicked off my jeans, had a quick shower and threw on my jeans. Early this morning, not yet alert, I threw on my new pair of underpants, grabbed my jeans from the floor, climbed into them and ran out here. I noticed something funny in my pants. This soft bulge round my ankle. In my rush to get my gear off last night, I didn’t do a good job separating them so yesterday’s underdaks were still squooshed up in today’s pants. I was trying to get them out without anyone noticing or to get them back up the leg of the pants.

‘A brief word to you, Craig. Take off your clothes more carefully.

And remember, we’re on your side. This centre is like a good pair of underpants, supporting you and giving you freedom in equal measure.’

‘Hey, how’s it going?’ I asked him soon after that. So he grabbed my arm playfully and twisted it up behind my head and said ‘Now who’s asking the questions?’

Full of the devil, he howled along with passing police sirens, and affected mock fighting poses at the passing cops. He could fake walking into a door. He hit it with his hand and snapped his head back much to everyone’s amusement.

As part of their recreation the inmates were allowed to watch video cassettes. One movie Craig got into interestingly enough was ‘Police Academy’. He evinced a talent in mimicry. He replayed the scenes with Sgt. Larvell Jones over and over again and kept his hand in wherever making sound effects with his mouth. He used his vocal chords making noises to play pranks and deceive both his peers and authority figures. This ‘Winslow Boy’ as I called him was able to clearly imitate such sounds as a flat tyre, his mates noisily packing fast food in, machine gunfire, barking dogs, squishing soggy sneakers, jets roaring, spine tingling scratches from a chalkboard, radio noises, guitars screaming, telephones, and martial arts sounds. Other times he used his sound-effects ability solely to amuse himself such as one time when he imagined himself playing a game of space invaders and making all the known sound effects from that video game.

I showed him a performance of Marcel Marceau. I asked him ‘Have you ever tried doing mime?’

‘I have but I found I had nothing to say.’

One morning I approached his room to make sure he was getting cleaned up and ready for breakfast. I heard the questions ‘’You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? coming maniacally from inside, followed by ‘Oh yeah? Who the hell do you think you’re talking to?’ This had me wondering as he was supposed to be alone, couldn’t have known I was there, and mobile phones weren’t around yet. I pushed the door open wide enough to find him standing in front of the mirror, zipping his jacket up and down, folding his arms, in tough guy poses. He was practising the role of Travis Bickle from the film Taxi Driver in the mirror.  On the down low, or so he thought. He had seen this visceral vigilante movie, I hasten to add, before my arrival.

‘Yeah, I’m talking to you,’ I answered in Travistalk. ‘Who the hell else would be talking. Well I’m the only one here. OK. I’m the Man. I’m standing here. You make the move. It’s your move. You gotta get your act together. Like your room, your possessions. Take these socks you’re wearing, one is green and one is blue. Would you believe this coincidence. Your mate next door has got a pair like that two. Also you’ve got to get your timetable clear. You gotta get one of those signs that says ‘One of these days I’m gonna get organizized’, I said quoting the novelty poster Travis mentions.

‘You mean organized?’

‘Organizized. Organizized. It’s a joke. O-R-G-A-N-I-Z-I-Z-E-D.

‘Oh, you mean organizized. Like those little signs they have in offices that say ‘Thimk’

‘Yes. That way when you want to find your personal things, they’ll be at your finger tips. Take those new red undies of yours. If you store them with the others and place them ready for the next day, things will go smoothly. Do you know where they are now?’

‘Now let me see. They’re not around my ankles right now. I think they’re in this top drawer.’ He pulled it out. There were a few pair of other colours and some odd socks. But no red undies. He went through all his drawers but no trace of the undies. Finally after rummaging through all his cupboards he found them under his mattress. ‘It’s always the last place you look,’ he declared.

‘Of course it is, Craig! Thimk about it. Why would you keep looking after you’ve found them?’

Apart from throwing the odd wobbler, Craig seemed devoid of the thuggish instincts that drove others of his cohort to rape, rob blind, and muss up anyone and everyone who stood in their way. All there about where this would lead him, Craig wanted to take control of his future. He kept his nose clean, putting up with the bullying and extortions of the more hardened, tattooed inmates, but was able to defend himself when the horseplay became too aggressive. I could sense an energy trying to break through, emotions un-examined but urgent.

He oscillated effortlessly from emotionally neglected, moody child to streetwise slicker in a syllable, at once sympathetic and troublesome, cocky yet troubled. Not surprisingly one of his favourite songs was “Hurricane” the protest song by Bob Dylan about the wrongful imprisonment of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Craig took great relish in peppering us with it’s rich details and impolite truths, embarrassing the legal system by coming off smarter than every lawyer, cop, and jury on the case:

“How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool’s hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game.”

In class his mind was usually miles away. Endlessly fidgeting, he twisted his arm around his head as if trying to strangle himself. He rubbed his eye furiously, fingering his shirt buttons, smacking his lips and scrunching up his body.

‘Craig, do you have difficulty hearing? his teacher asked.

‘No Sir, I just have difficulty listening.’

‘Craig, I don’t think you’re really following me.’

‘Sir, I don’t think you’re really saying anything to me.’

Yet he wanted to read badly. He asked me if I could read him good night stories – I worked night shifts as well. Having vouched for him, I was denied approval for this.

Stirred crazy, forlorn of hope, eyes glazed, feet fidgeting, staring into space, he expressed terminal boredom with school: ‘It feels like I’m in a coma. Time stands still. The walls are closing in on me. I switch right off when the teachers drone on flogging some dead horse.’

‘Craig, I said, trying to convince him otherwise,’ only the boring get bored. You’re not boring. You’ve got hidden talent.’

‘My head hurts in class. It keeps falling on the desk.’

‘Wake up and live,Craig.Life is one big road with lots of signs.So when you riding through the ruts,don’t you complicate your mind.’

I had to catch his head once. ‘Do you need a pillow, Craig?’ asked his teacher?’

‘We’re told these are the best years of our lives,’ Craig told me. I can’t take this anymore. ‘Hah. I’m out of here if this goes on any longer. I’ll take the ‘midnight express.’ In a later conversation he was reluctant to say much.

‘Out with it,’I said. ‘It’s no good to bottle it up.’

‘They’re coming to take me away ha haaa ho ho hee hee,’ he sang, ‘and I’ll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats getting out the syringe.’

He intimated that he would use heroin if it were available.

‘That’s enough of those thoughts,’ I told him. ‘You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.’

I conveyed my concern about this needless self-destructive tendency to my superior officers who had duty of care. I stressed the impact that literacy, reading and writing, books and words, can have on the lives of those incarcerated. For those such as Rubin Carter, books were his only friends. These and Dylan’s lyrics were about to literally set him free. Now, that’s the awesome power of the written word.

I argued strenuously to management to be allowed to create a more engaging classroom climate for learning: raising student expectations; developing a rapport with students; establishing routines; challenging students to participate and take risks. A preventative approach to problems encouraging active learning in students – understanding that the goal is learning, not silence.

As with this report I agree the reasons for student disengagement complex. They arise from personal problems and because students find the subject not interesting, too hard or too easy. These latter factors can have overcome by allowing appropriate resources to allow each to develop at their own rate.

‘Don’t worry,’ I was told. ‘We’ll take care of this.’

As with my casual work previously, my Member of Parliament informed the Minister of Education and pointed again to the numerous inconsistencies, consistency and politics never being bedmates.‘If we are intending to try to find consistency in the Department of Education,’he said, ‘we’re going to look for a long, long time.’

Hoping against hope, he likened me to being caught in a bureaucratic web. It was one that became widely dragged out timewise. It required someone who cleaved to party principles, a books not bars, bold stroke approach, no weasel wordsmith impersonating a progressive politician, to cut through this. Someone who stood up to the conservative opposition, not for them. Someone who’d extract his digit, not hold it up to test which way the wind was blowing.

Bend with it a little maybe, but not way over backwards. Hmph! Once again, the Member’s words fell on deaf ears. The conclusion was foregone. True to form this two timing ‘Honourable’ reprobate gave the thumbs down. Refusing to budge, the smartest guy in the room declared the matter to be closed, far and away more interested in asserting his power and finding a sacrificial lamb than ensuring that justice is served. Well, wasn’t that the limit! Cavalierism at it’s most imperious.

It wasn’t as though he was unaware of the qualities necessary for resolving this situation. He would go on to eulogise a colleague for his ‘loyalty, courtesy, competence and common touch’, the very qualities he failed to display in my case.

Blast and damnation, my work as a youth worker was abruptly terminated, effective as of then, without discussion. No more fresh starts. I was to all intents and purposes blacklisted, my career prospects stunted, no ifs buts or maybes.

The same old story. Punching above my weight, any thrusting ambition I held to improve educational standards working within the constipated system was dealt a hard knock on the head. Some brown-nosed sticks-in the mud sure had it in enough for me. They should live in infamy.

Death by Default.

You can tell a man by his enemies and mine are a right pack of bastards.
Frank Hardy.

“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of a doubt, what is laid before him.”
Leo Tolstoy

Not long after, one of the other youth workers I came across informed me that Craig Dunne had OD’d.

‘Tell me this isn’t happening,’ was my reply.’

Pow! This was a real kick in the teeth for me. There was a lower force at work here. He’d been taken care of all right.

‘Surely I’ll be called on to give evidence at an inquiry’, I put to him,‘in the interests of full disclosure. ‘Surely any education department worthy of it’s name wouldn’t impede this?’

‘You wish. I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that.There’s a marked discrepancy between departmental titles and those who carry out it’s activities .

Is the Education Department run by educators? Is Community Services run by humanitarians?  Is the Police Department run by criminologists?

‘They should be charged for contravening the Trade Description Act.’

‘If it’s an inquiry into these matters you’re looking for, save it. It’s not going to happen. Your word won’t hold up against those of your detractors. You’re entering a labyrinth of lies. Don’t lose yourself in it.’

‘The truth of the matter has to be brought out into the open.’

‘And where will it get you, trying to find this bright shiny truth. A lot of good? You don’t go hunting such big game, shooting high without any backup. They keep cases like this cold, tying them up with a bow. That gives them time to cover their tracks. It’s always the way. These are kids they’d rather forget. Any attempt on your part to expose this on the basis of what you know will never see the light of day. Their concern is that if you get a hearing other similar cases will be considered in the same way. They’ll treat you like a leper. Don’t be a martyr.Don’t beat yourself up about it. What chance have you got in this case? Do you think anyone cares? It’s easier for them to kill any unwelcome messenger.’

‘They see no evil, hear no evil and speak no truths. It’s up to us to set the record straight about these matters.’

‘People don’t care about the truth. They only care about the future.’

‘They have to learn the connection between them.’

‘What makes a person crazy enough to become a government school teacher in NSW?’ If you find out, please let me know.’

Eventually the correctional facility attracted publicity when a number of children turned up dead. The department responsible for their welfare couldn’t account for the children in its charge. With neither hide nor hair of them, it said they had ‘run away or something’. Such nonfeasance. For it, people count for nowt. One teacher at the school would be stabbed to death on the job. It really was what one Minister for Education would categorise as a ‘Death Trap’. Those entrusted with protecting them had failed them. Truth be told they didn’t even try.The child welfare administration still was what one of it’s heads had described several years earlier as something out of ”the Dickensian age”.[1]

The government began talking up their scheme for appointing ‘lead teachers’ for government schools. So called teachers who would ‘initiate and lead activities that focus on improving educational opportunities for students and for inspiring colleagues to improve their own professional practice’. Some said what Yasmar School needed was not it’s own politically correct teacher but it’s own coroner. I heard the children there had chosen to write an essay with the title : ‘What I’m going to be if I grow up.’

Any consideration of my prescient thoughts about Craig Dunne was out of the question. Keeping the matter under wraps, The Ministry of Education could kill two birds with the one stone. Judge, jury, and misprisioner all scrooged into one, it had found getting rid of teachers child’s play. As for children, officials could stand by and watch as they suffered without having to lift a finger to protect them. They were dead easy.

Such a great lurk for these officials. They got paid top dollar while they kicked this political football into the tall grass. Where all their mistakes got buried.

I made an appointment with the Director of Personnel. I was kept kicking my heels outside his door an hour.

His secretary said ‘

‘The Director is tied up with another visitor at present.I hope you don’t mind waiting.’

‘I’m very good at waiting. You could say I invented it.’

Finally one of his subordinates offered to look into my case himself. When I sat down with him, he pulled the file on some other teacher.

I saw this bungle as the Director attempting to fob me off. I insisted on seeing him and him alone: ‘I’m here to talk to the organ grinder not the monkey,’ I told the underling.

Finally His Majesty deigned to receive me. ‘Have him come in,’ I heard him command.

‘Would you come this way please.’I was summoned.

This saturnine grey suit in his big, easy chair, refused from the moment I was shown in to hear me out properly.

‘Mr. Davis, let’s skip the preliminaries. Now what’s all this about you wanting to be re-instated,’ he said with cool civility. His pale eyes flashing, he seemed as cold blooded as an old lizard on a rock.

I tried to imagine him with a personality.

‘The Department had no call to do what it did. The reason goes beyond my ability and professionalism. I want to know why I’ve been broken out of the teaching service. All I’m told is I’m ‘unsatisfactory’. Can you let me in on your little secret.’

‘Let me just say it’s not for no reason. Suppose you let us be the best judges of this.’

‘You think what I don’t know won’t hurt me.Well it does.’

As I looked directly at him, I could tell there was nobody home. His attitude was dismissive, his jaw clenching, his back straightening as soon as I told him what I was appealing.

‘‘My dismissal was issued without proper cause,’ ’I continued, ’What do you think is the real reason?’

‘Try not to live up to my expectations if you will’, he replied, ’‘I don’t know.’

‘Do you mean ‘I don’t know’-or ‘ I don’t want to know?’

‘Mr. Davis, get this straight. You make more insinuations than I care to hear. I don’t like it when people try to put words into my mouth.’

I had no choice. It was like pulling teeth to get a straight answer from him.

Maybe I didn’t know sufficiently how it works. Was it blink once for ‘yes’ and blink twice for ‘no’?

Of course to be fair, just because he didn’t seem to care didn’t mean he wasn’t listening.

‘Make a move,’ I told him in my mind, ‘nod, grunt or something positive.’

‘May I ask you a question?’ I said finally.

‘So ask.’

‘Excuse me for my inconvenience but don’t you have anything to say about this gross travesty of justice?’

‘No comment.’

‘No comment’ is a comment. Surely you’d know this. You’re telling me something without telling me anything. Can’t you just come out off the record with what you think personally.’

‘My personal feelings on your case are neither here nor there.’

‘So where are they? Would you at least tell me what you’re going to do about this so we don’t have this conversation again in future?’

He kept his arms crossed the whole appointed time of my interview, staring off into the distance.

‘For someone dealing with,’ I thought looking at him, ‘you certainly have a way with people. Your sense of empathy must have been surgically removed.’

‘I’ll never understand some people,’ I said to myself under my breath.

‘What was that?! I heard that!’ he cried, coming to life.

‘I said I need to understand what’s going on.’

‘I’ve been fully briefed about your case. It says in my file you have a rather questionable attitude to authority. You’ve just demonstrated this to me. We’ve got you for insubordination. This is not part of the job description.’

‘What do you want? A signed confession.’

‘No, just a realisation. There is a limit you know. We’re aware you consider yourself outside the normal chain of command by which decisions are made but let me remind you this is a service, not a laissez-faire free for all. Anything doesn’t go.’

‘Come now, you can do better than that. I’ve always gone strictly by the book.’

‘The book hasn’t been rewritten with just you in mind. And let me tell you something else. The Department is generous but can’t allow a probationary teacher to take such liberties, and you have. I don’t think I need to remind you of the tremendous responsibility we have.’

‘Please tell me something I don’t already know.’

‘Don’t come that tone with me.It appears you’ve veered off the rails, and in your case I use the term advisedly. You’ve taken a step too far.’

‘I was just getting started.’

‘We’ve already determined that your relaxed approach, your easygoing teaching style, well-intentioned I’m sure, led to pupils taking advantage of this. It’s immaterial whether students like you or not.Let me put it another way.You’re not here to win fans.Their advancement depends on their respect for you. You let them become over familiar, slaphappy and argumentative. They were disagreeing with things your colleagues were telling them.’

‘I was developing their systematic reasoning.’

‘You failed to take them in hand.’

‘A very swift deduction. Some nasty little fanciful accusations based on nothing more than supposition, guesswork and clairvoyancy. Congratulations, for someone who wasn’t there.’

‘‘You let your emotions cloud your judgement.Your pupils got way out of line.’

‘So you’re playing that old game. Guilt by coincidence. You put two and two together to make eight.’

‘I’ll trouble you to remember ‘Concord’ means harmony. This went by the bye when you arrived. Everyone was happy til you came and stirred them up.’

‘That makes nine.’

‘You had it coming. Our experienced personnel have given you every opportunity to mend your ways. My guess is—-’

‘Guessing is not what you’re good at.’

‘You display a fondness for dramatic exaggeration. It doesn’t serve you well. It is a characteristic you might want to reflect upon. Now listen here, our officers have got a good idea of where your problem was coming from. They’re not just stirring the dirty water to see what jumps out of it.’

‘I’m glad you mentioned that. I tried my very best to test it with them all along. To clean it up.’

‘Mr. Davis, we’re not here to discuss your ethics.If you want to refer to a professional code you can send it to me via a letter to my secretary. Let’s get this straight about the reason why. We’re not at all happy about your failure to comply.’

‘Humph! And I’m not happy with the shoddy way I’ve been treated to be perfectly honest. In all truth, I always used my better judgement. As the person on the spot, I consider my judgement more relevant than that of those riding antique desks in elegant Bridge Street offices.’

‘Now see here. You’re only here as a gesture of goodwill on the Department’s part. I didn’t allow you to come here just to be insulted.’

Now there sat a man with an open mind. I could feel the draft.

‘Am I to be marked down forever? Doesn’t my continued service warrant my re-instatement? ’

‘What of it? There’s no question of your being re-employed. We’ve concluded you’re not a fit and proper person to carry out the required role.Your approach is incongruent with the overall running of the Service.It doesn’t suit our purpose. Why should you be left off the hook for doing your own thing? This won’t happen. Not tomorrow, the day after or ever for that matter. Let it go at that and be done with it. You’re being recalled to work was nothing more than an unfortunate accident.’

‘We know all about the Department and it’s accidents.’

‘All right, that will do. All large institutions are accident prone, even ours. So what. These clerical oversights don’t change anything.Your case has been thoroughly assessed.Our officers have acted entirely within the scope of their responsibilities. Let me assure you  our final decision has been carefully, seriously  considered and not taken lightly. In view of your attitude we’re standing by it. Your tendency to operate alone and your somewhat obsessive behaviour has brought complications.It has left you in an untenable situation. We haven’t been able to protect you or defend your conduct.’


No you listen. You have exposed the Service to public ridicule, causing unnecessary concern, making people think their children are not achieving as they should. At Concord High it’s been all about damage limitation.This couldn’t go on. I would love to say this isn’t going to hurt,but it will.I’ll be brutally frank with you. You’ll never work in a N.S.W. government school again, so get used to it.’

‘Just like that.’

‘It’s only fair to warn you that it would be wise for you now to consider where else you might wish to pursue your career.’

‘Everything I’ve done in the Service has been for my country and to further the interests of my fellow citizens. I had no choice.’

‘Now if you don’t mind, Now if you don’t mind, I’ve had a long day,I’m slightly busy and these chairs are not well padded. I’ve got an office to run,I have other engagements and I’m not in the mood for further argument. Let me put it in words of one syllable. Don’t call us. We’ll call you. I believe we’re done here.’

‘But I didn’t get to—‘

‘Which part of the word “no” don’t you understand – the ‘n’ or the ‘o’?’

‘Is this the part where you ask me, ‘Read my lips?’

‘Mr. Davis, thank you! Now before you leave I want to tell you something,because it will explain things.You see,I have a very jaundiced view of life.’

‘I do see that.’

From what I see, most of it is corrupt, venal and vile. I am just saying this so that you know that I don’t have a better nature to appeal to,or a compassionate streak. I mean,you do understand don’t you.’


I got the strong feeling I wasn’t wanted there.To expedite my departure he took my arm to steer me towards the door.

‘Excuse me’, I said, brushing it off, ‘I think you inadvertedly placed your hand upon my arm.’

‘That wasn’t inadvertent. Hey why am I even talking to you. I’m not going to listen—-‘

‘—to any more of this.’

‘‘Mr. Davis, I don’t like it when people finish my sentences for me.’


‘Let me remind you you’re only here by my grace and favour and both have rapidly run out. Kindly leave now or else.’

‘You don’t mean that surely’, I said. I didn’t need no fascist groove thang.

‘Try me’.

I didn’t, deciding judiciously to leave before he could sic his security onto me  to escort me from the building..

‘Do you believe in anything,’ I asked this empty suit before leaving, ‘or are you wholly bought and paid for?’

‘We’re all bought and paid for Mr. Davis. I just don’t pretend otherwise.’

‘Tell me this, how do you manage to sleep at night?’

‘I never drink coffee after 6 p.m.’

Parallel Spheres.

Wake up all the teachers time to teach a new way
Maybe then they’ll listen to whatcha have to say
They’re the ones who’s coming up and the world is in their hands
when you teach the children teach em the very best you can.
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes

I find parallels in the boots and all way I was treated with that of a host of other idealistic teachers as depicted on film, our common denominator being at the outside an independence of mind at the outside. The most celebrated in this well established genre is the foursquare Latino maths teacher, Jaime Escalante, on whose experience, with some dramatic licence, the movie “Stand and Deliver” is based. An inspirational teacher he motivated his street wise students to sit for the Advanced Placement examination in calculus. His program was rivalled by those of only a handful of exclusive academies.

My task was to talk students through the maths leading up to calculus. In the lead up to exams, I reminded them if they didn’t think they had the ability, ‘Remember half the people you know are below average.’

I knew the score. My approach was to relate the maths to everyday life as far as possible.

‘That’s the wheel you’re thinking about. But let’s get the credit straight, the bloke who invented the first wheel was an idiot; the bloke who invented the other three…he was the genius.

‘Do you understand now?’ I said to one boy after I tried explaining coplanar lines to him?’

‘Well, yes, but but it beats me why I need to know this stuff. Because, I mean seriously, like, who, like, calculates coplanar lines, slopes and angles?’

‘Why should I learn Algebra? I’m never likely to go there.’

’Why should I learn to solve exponential equations. I don’t believe in higher powers.

‘Why should I learn statistics?’

‘Didn’t you hear of of the fellow who drowned in a river? The sign on the bank read, ‘Average depth one metre.’

Didn’t you hear of the fellow who believed that if you put your head in a furnace and your feet in a bucket of iced water, on the average you should feel reasonably comfortable’.

‘Sir,I have difficulty understanding fractions.’

‘Not to worry.You’re not alone.Five thirds of people have the same problem.’

‘There are few people these days interested in Roman numerals. I is one.’

‘A curve,’ replied a love-struck boy I had asked for it’s definition, ‘is the loveliest distance between two points.’

On the subject of points, I wrote 10.9 on the blackboard and then rubbed out the decimal point to show the effect of multiplying this number by ten.

‘Jim,” I asked, “where is the decimal point now?’

“On the blackboard duster” came back the quick reply.

‘Why do we have to clog up our brains with these figures and numbers?’ said one girl, rubbishing the products of centuries of sustained inquiry.

Her tribute was less than complimentary: ‘To those gyppos who first thought of the idea of zero, thanks for nothing!’

As the time for exams bore down closer, I had to rule out explaining the use for everything and argue that the result of the exercise would be to sharpen their logic and if nothing else help them get good grades after which they could find the reasons themselves.

I even managed to throw in some background music such as the Kraftwerk number ‘Pocket Calculator’. Provided with my worksheets, my students were as diligent as any students will be if everything is prepared beforehand. Not surprisingly they passed their exams with flying colours and no one challenged this.

Escalante’s students surprised the US in 1982 when 18 of them passed the Advanced Placement calculus exam. The Educational Testing Service found the scores suspect and asked 14 of the students who passed to sit for the test again. All 12 who agreed did well enough to have their scores reinstated. In the following years the program grew phenomenally with similar success. Equally phenomenonal was the precipitous collapse of the program following Escalante’s departure and the fact that it went virtually unnoticed. Garfield High lost its principal who had supported his belief in the intellectual potential of disadvantaged youth.

To understand the opposition to Escalante, We have to factor in unprofessional variables. Other colleagues were withering in their scorn for him fighting to turn around the lives of ‘losers’ and ‘unteachables’ – the same piddling putdowns directed at my students. In truth Escalante ran circles around his colleagues. He was of a calibre tangential to an uncaring system, the lack of appreciation didn’t end there. Piffling minds did a number on him from all angles. Escalante had been threatened with dismissal for coming to school too early – he was said to have done a number on the janitor; he was said to have kept students too late.His students were said to be ‘rambunctious’. Such ludicrous distractive doozies were on a par with that of Concord High where I was held responsible when a boy allegedly fell off his chair. I was too preoccupied with him balancing his equations to notice. I needed to watch both the political as well as the intellectual side of the education equation.

In Escalante’s story arc things reached a new nadir. He received threats and hate mail. The public attention he received aroused the green-eyed monster. Brilliant in it’s absence, the teachers union was upset because his classes were larger than those set by the contract. The vice president of the union said Jaime didn’t get along with some of the teachers at his school. He was pretty much a loner”. This is the same comment as was written about me by an official of the NSW Teacher’s Federation. He said I didn’t spend enough time talking to the other teachers. It’s true, I didn’t spend as much time in small party talk as teachers are encouraged to. Flat chat, I talked to them about what I had to professionally, as you do. Shop talk. No idle chit chat, blither blather, wibble wobble, abba dabba, trifling twiddle twaddle or yakkety yak. No natter. No matter. I was there to make a difference, not to occupy a space. Not to take up with flibbertigibbets. Like Escalante I focused on talking to the students, to bring out the best in them. I encouraged them to see me as a resource, as someone who they have to extract what they can from, as a guide rather than an absolute fount of knowledge, one to be feared. I tip my hat to Escalante and his open door policy of welcoming into his classes all students who wanted to have a go – a major reason for him making a go of it. Was I like him thought guilty of pedagogic Stakhanovism or being a class traitor? Perchance some of my colleagues suspected as much.

‘Qui Docet Discit. He who teaches, learns.

motto of the N.S.W. Teacher’s Federation.

I certainly learned a lot. Fully aware that campaigning against the edcons’ measures, they having it all their way, the upper hand in terms of the law and resources, was not to be taken lightly. They give teacher campaigns for better pay both barrels, exploiting the common envy that teachers finish work in mid afternoon and have lengthy holidays, ignoring the fact that most work much outside school hours.

I talked to the president of the Federation whose mother was a colleague. I pointed out that yielding to them allowed them to single out teachers individually.

‘This is the thin end of the wedge,”I told him. ‘It will allow them to pick us off, give more the chop, for the Federation to lose more ground and to be brought to it’s knees. Then we’re all goners.’

I attended a mass meeting of the Federation organized around the sacking of another colleague who had refused a forcible transfer. Unable to get in, I addressed the meeting about my situation from outside the building. I didn’t need a microphone to be heard.

Back from lunch, the Federation machinery suddenly swung into action with respect to my case. They sent me a letter informing me that because I didn’t have the approval of the Department, I couldn’t belong to the Federation anymore.

Thrown under the bus, wrapped around the axle, I saw the machinery from under the bonnet. The wheels weren’t grinding. The apparatchiks were asleep at the wheel. I learned fast. This was a closed club. Catch 22.

The Premier in waiting had achieved his goal of banning specific members from belonging to trade unions. As of then his Minister refused to talk further to Teacher’s Federation representatives. He went incommunicado.

Whatever the case, unfazed, unable to draw a line under it, I steadfastly dug my heels in. I was never one to snap. If the edcons were so dead set on stonewalling me at every turn, I would press on, hammering away, in whatever way I could. I didn’t have any choice.

Back to the Drawing Board.

“Things ain’t what they used to be and probably never was.”
Will Rogers


After being given my cards, I began reading between the lines in newspaper reports on educational matters in NSW. Many are reports of pronouncements made by conservative dog whistle politicians and bureaucrats who generally refer to their policy as one of ‘Back to the Basics’. This term evokes a mythical golden age in the past when all children became literate and numerate through coercion and by rote methods. Central to this is learning a draft list of essential dates that appear to suggest that, when anything did happen east of Dover and west of Perth, it was nothing at all, unless it was the ‘British’ extending civilisation.

I arrange the farrago of comments and information extracted in a structured rather than in a sequential manner so as to convey the body politic’s way of thinking and mores. I make the linkages between them, a method recommended by none other than the federal leader of the Liberal Party. Collected over a twenty year period they indicate that little changes over time. They start from the action taken against me.

I let the establishment spokespeople draw attention to their shortcomings, stripping away any gloss they otherwise attempt to put on what they see as their masterstrokes, holding themselves and their sententious nostrums up to ridicule, leaving my readers to form their own judgements on the black marks against them. I now include my own comments in italics.

In footnoting the source of these pronouncements and decisions, I often lack page numbers of the newspapers but include the names of the journalists.

The “Back to the Basics” School Policy in NSW (Expletives Deleted)[2]

The Ministry of Education in N.S.W. has given the Department of Education sweeping powers against teachers and school students.[3]The Ministry says it has forced large numbers of children out of school.[4]It says it wants ‘law and order” and “efficiency”. The Coalition Prime Minister described this social engineering as one of ‘zero tolerance’.[5]

The powers generate a need, pressure to produce “results.” So Departmental officers feel pressure to hit numerical quotas to produce a certain number. It doesn’t matter whether those held to be ‘inefficient’ or responsible for ‘disorder’ have any tie to anything resembling this.

The Department’s responsibility to provide instruction to all children has been questioned.[6] The Ministry has talked of students “heading for the scrapheap”.[7] It identified children who would receive repeated corporal punishment as those living in poor areas. It can boast of tens of thousands of children on the streets on any one school day.[8]

It was easy for me going at it, belting past, to pick them out in term time, mooching and puttering round the shops and the streets, twiddling their thumbs, scrounging for crumbs.

It was easy to pick them out in the vacation time at Waterloo, a treeless, low-rent neighbourhood full of grim-looking subsidized housing. As the city’s wealthier areas empty out with the annual summer vacation exodus, Waterloo’s population remains undiminished.

Unsupervised and free to do whatever they like, loitering conspirationally behind bus stops and toilet blocks, casing out unguarded properties, derbying around supermarket parking lots in shopping trolleys, climbing over back fences, kicking up garden beds, smoking, drinking in culverts, fart-arsing around near train tracks, busy roads and building sites, crawling in front of moving trains, throwing rocks at vehicles, putting themselves and the public in potentially dangerous situations. Making lots of noise.

Metal scavenging saw a rise in apprentices. On the railways significant delays and cancellations were reported as signalling and power cables were being cut and taken from the side of the track.

There were incidents in which homes, businesses and even hospitals suffered power cuts and surges as a result of copper being stolen from power stations. Often while the metal stolen was worth just a few dollars, the damage caused to infrastructure would run into thousands.

Manhole covers, domestic gas and electric pipes, lead flashing were taken from homes and churches, doors were wrenched from cars, all sold for scrap.

“Wonderful, excellent!” raved the leader of the conservative coalition, rubbing his nipples up against the Minister.[9] The police were less ecstatic.[10]Asked to pay a higher price, their reports were less glowing, more glowering. They would come under increased attack.[11] The Ministry admitted the changes “generate uncertainty and hostility”.[12] The Australian Council for Educational Research points out that truants can lose those reading and writing skills they have already learned.[13]

More than a generation after they brought in their powers, the conservatives would identify attendance as a continuing major area of concern.[SMH 17/6/19 Pallavi Singhal]

Students would be missing out on at least a year and as much as four years of schooling by the time they reach year 10, with attendance rates plummeting to as low as 60 per cent in some parts of NSW.

It’s not as though the conservatives don’t know the long term effects on people:

‘For a student to achieve their educational best and boost their career and life options, ongoing attendance at school is essential,’ NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell would say .

If children are not in the street, they may be outside the classrooms. The Ministry said when bringing in the powers. Its schools were in the ‘appalling situation where hundreds of high school classes every day were left in the playground’. In institutions under Federal Control, detained children could be taught for just ‘one hour per day’ four days a week.[14]

With respect to the education of girls, the Federal Government was in a race to the bottom with the medievalist Taliban.

The Ministry spoke of the “deplorable physical conditions of the schools … and the classrooms which leads to many of the disruptions that go on. The classrooms are very poorly built, they’re hot, they’ve got everything against them and all those things contribute to the poor learning outcomes. And the equipment and resources are dilapidated and inadequate”.[15] School toilets have been exposed as filthy and terrifying by a research group headed by the Chancellor of the University of NSW.[16] The Department has one category of school called “The Death Trap”.[17] The Ministry calls it “squalid, run down, and downright dangerous”.[18]

It increased the sizes of classes. It argued that this increases competition between students in a more stimulating environment[19] Christopher Pyne articulated this Coalition thinking: ‘‘There is no evidence that smaller class sizes somehow produce better student outcomes. In spite of Australia having small class sizes for 10 years … their outcomes have gone backwards’’. This self styled ‘Fixer’ confirmed the Abbott Government would increase class sizes in Australian schools.

The Coalition’s N.S.W. razor gang reduced the number of teachers.[20]After axing 2000 government school positions the Minister admitted it was facing long term shortages in critical subject areas.[21]One spokesman for the coalition says that there were teachers walking away from the public education due to stress resulting from a lack of resources.[22]

The Department puts forward a new type of class – one without teachers.[23] The coalition Premier called for the employment of teachers without training.[24]

The Department restricts what students and pupils can study and how they learn. There is a smaller range of subjects offered, particularly those considered as ‘basic’.[25] The coalition’s strategy is promote private education at all levels and run own public education. One mouthpiece for the coalition points out that he represents those who believe in choice and that if the state education system doesn’t deliver, then they will choose to ‘school’ their children privately.[26] Most people don’t have this choice. The Federal Ministry speaks of the enormous sacrifices involved for those families who attend private schools[27], whose children will not necessarily benefit in any case when it comes to higher education.

The Federal Ministry of Education has drawn attention to the repetition of topics in schools and how this ‘turns off’ students.[28] The Department’s deputy director-general has said “Parents tell us a lot of kids tend to “switch off’ in the early secondary years”.[29]

Yet more children spend their time idle and restless, hanging around. OECD statistics show that Australian teenagers drop out of high school at almost twice the rate of other OECD countries. An OECD report said that “education systems had to be more responsible to the needs of the minority of youths whose family background, schooling and communities did not equip them with the skills, qualifications, attitudes or motivation for the labour market”.[30]An OECD report in 2013 comparing Australian high school students with 65 other countries showed the nation slipping further behind in maths and reading skills.

‘I think they’re appalling results,’ Federal Education Minister Birmingham said of the ongoing decline in 2016.

‘I am embarrassed for Australia that we are not performing at the standard that we would expect our schools to perform.’

Senator Birmingham said he agreed with educational researchers that the results are a ‘wake-up call’ for Australia to re-examine what is being taught in schools.

How many generations of politicians does it take to wake up to this ?

The ‘Daily Telegraph’ sees the system as one designed to fail many people.[31] A report written by the Department’s assistant director-general reveals that the system has allowed ‘a culture of inequity and low expectations to rob the students of any equal chance to academic success”. This conclusion is agreed upon by the Federal Minister of Education.[32]

In studies where the final examination – the Higher School Certificate – is all important, the Ministry cannot secure the examination papers. The Premiers office calls this a disgrace.[33] The unproctored Ministry claims it is bringing about greater efficiency. The Labor Minister responsible for introducing the purge would befriend Howard and Abbott’s close friend and adviser, a fellow Friedmanite economic rationalist. Yet he claimed that efficiency cannot be measured in education.[34]

How could it be otherwise when those responsible are chosen according to their political reliability rather than the level of their learning and are entrusted with enforcing conformity.

The Department goes along with this in the matter of violence which it claims as “spinning out of control” in NSW public schools.

In 2018 (May 5 Jordan Baker SMH ) the Department’s Secretary would speak of the continued‘ closed door of the classroom and the mystery of what’s happening in the classroom.’

The Department stopped collecting statistics on incidents claiming they were unreliable and “it was too difficult to define violence”.[35] As for bullying this is less difficult to define. The parents of one boy who was the target of such violence and who was awarded damages against the government were told by a departmental officer that ‘bullying is character building’

The Ministry says decisions on education are the prerogative of business and government. It warns the courts not to become involved.[36] It endorses the view that business is not responsible to society.[37] The coalition Premier said that the court which deals with educations matters is “out of touch with reality”.[38] The Ministry says that teachers are disappointed and frustrated[39] by ‘narrow minded’ officials,[40] which makes them feel isolated from decision making.[41] The most senior official said that the officials can be ‘blasted’ if they make decisions the politicians don’t approve of.

The Department sees itself as having been guilty of exhibiting a “silo mentality”[42] and of promoting a “culture of remoteness”.[43] Various of its units were “perceived by many to be part of a large and uncaring bureaucracy, with some teachers feeling demoralized, devalued and disconnected”.

A discussion paper issued by the Ministry in 1997 painted a baleful picture of the teaching profession. There were, the paper claimed.. “no standards for professional practice; no single or agreed code of professional practice; no single or agreed code of professional ethics; no opportunity for the profession itself to have an input into establishing and maintaining standards and ethics; and fragmented and uncoordinated disciplinary and appeal processes”.[44] The Ministry describes teacher’s working conditions as “totally unprofessional”.[45]The Federal Minister say his government is the best friends teachers ever had.[46]

With friends like these—-

One of the Ministers responsible for the policy admits that there is ‘virtually no intellectual rigour involved’ in the policy.[47] The Coalition premier said the Minister was ‘remarkably on top of his subject”.[48] Then he concluded that what he was doing was ‘unbelievable, unreal’.[49] To learn more about policy, the Premier consulted with the American Vice President, Dan Quayle. The VP had reached a profound conclusion: ‘Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children.’Quayle’s boast was that when it comes to decision making he didn’t spend any time thinking”.[50]

Do we really need gun control checkpoints at schools that can rival those at airport security?

Do we need teachers armed?

Do we really need to consult with intellectually handicapped politicians abroad? John Howard would later consult with the President George W. Bush who promised to be the ‘education president’.. Bush had earlier raised the big question,’ Is our children learning?’ He would later state that ‘—childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured.’

The failure to sell the policy was seen inside the coalition as partly due to “laziness” at the top of the Ministry.[51]One of the Ministers behind the policy went to comment in reference to the problems resulting in learning foreign languages: “If we designed aircraft or built ships the same ways we organize schools and curriculum to teach foreign languages, the ships would sink and aircraft would fall out of the sky and a lot of people would go to jail”.[52]

The coalition federal Minister for Agriculture would justify this lack of accountability by politicians in the following way: ‘In this game you start throwing rocks and there won’t be a person left in the Parliament because everyone will have some issue somewhere in the past that is difficult to explain.[SMH August 2,2015]

The state Ministry estimates it took it 10 years to get into the mess it’s in.[53] One rare Minister who distanced himself from the fiendish policy observed that many senior staff in the Department had little knowledge of the needs and wants of teachers and students.[54] The sweeping powers enable the Department to enforce its ideas on intelligence and behaviour. The Department has an eugenist approach to intelligence.[55]Its public relations spokesman upheld the view that young people can’t read or write properly because they’re not sufficiently endowed genetically. This means they are “born this way”.

Fur was einer schmuckerei ist das?

As a means of serving political purposes, eugenics is a thoroughly discredited set of ideas.[56] This ideology was behind the historical programme that sought to breed out the Aboriginal bloodline.[57] The Department believes that “most people seem to have trouble getting the bits in right places for normal reproduction.[58]

Reproduction is a difficult area for the Department, ‘a hairy area’ described by it’s spokesperson. The Minister drew attention to it skinnydipping in the parliamentary pool, pointing out potential pitfalls.

In the area of much concern to people – AIDS – the Department admitted that it was ‘totally inadequate to understand what is going on”[59].

The coalition Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs said we have to stop breeding a race which…’snivels and whines”.[60] The coalition’s federal Ministry for Aboriginal Affairs approved of calls for compulsory blood testing of Aborigines to determine which ones are racially ‘pure’.[61]

The conservatives see their aim as silencing those whose ideas they disagree with. The Ministry approved consideration of a strategy raised by the assistant director-general. The strategy is for the Department to train “cadres” – special groups to “change the culture of the NSW Teaching Service”.[62] It was this very strategy that so strangled intellectual life in the Soviet Union.

The Education Minister said the coalition would step up its ‘propaganda’ campaign.[63] According to this view that there is nothing wrong with the ‘product’ but with the way people look at it.[64] The Minister believes if people are told something often enough, they will end up believing it.[65]

The Ministry warned of teachers with dangerous attitudes.[66] The Coalition Premier endorsed the view that alleged school violence is the responsibility of ‘socialist’ teachers.[67] The powers are said to be necessary to “stop the spread of this disease”.[68] They are designed to keep such teachers out without being seen to openly do so.

The Coalition Prime Minister expressed concern that teachers were “discussing” the Iraq war in the classroom.[69]

Small wonder he was concerned. Having been led on by an exorcist, not a leader, raving on spreadeagle about ‘evildoers’ and an ‘Axis of Evil’. By going along with the lie about the perpetrators of the 9/11 bombing, helping Al Queda gain entry to Iraq.

Teachers who emphasise the need to conserve the environment were seen as ‘peddling propaganda’ in schools by the coalition Ministry for Natural Resources.[70] The coalition Deputy Premier rubbished scientists who warned of the greenhouse effect.[71] He pointed out that he himself was less qualified than anybody.[72] He was not a very fast reader which he said blissfully was “perhaps a good thing”.[73]

He was perhaps one of the happiest persons on earth.

The acting Prime Minister tagged some material taught in public schools as “anti farmer” and “deep green”.[74] He said ideology was seeping into some parts of the school curriculum at the expense of facts.

Trying to replant the cross in the sand of one of the most irreligious societies on earth, he said ‘traditional Christian views are being diminished, rubbished, written off in public schools. He pointed out quite correctly that parents want their children to be given the mental skills to form their own views on the issues of the day. “… to be given the intellectual and moral tools to make their own wise decision about things”. Yet be believes children in public schools are being fed “pre-digested views on issues”. It is a view that sees teachers as being manipulative and children readily accepting their ideas and views without exercising those critical faculties teachers know are natural. How could any significant number of teachers not be fully up on the part religion has played in our culture, or the role of the farmer? These fears are totally unfounded.Jesus was just alright with me as long as his legend wasn’t twisted and held up to justify crimes. We are all influenced by traditional Christian views and values, whether we are secular or religious. These permeate our culture and reflect our religious past. They can’t be written off or rubbished so easily. Why would any teacher in a NSW school want to do this? Children have by their nature the intellectual and moral tools to make wise decisions wiser than some people give them credit for. So why would they fall so easily prey to any classroom ideologue in a democratic society who wants to retard their critical faculties?

The days when you could drum an ideology into kids’ heads in the classroom is long gone. When all high school kids have the world in their grasp through the tablets they’re doing their homework on, the culture has inherently relativised — because they can compare everything to everything else.

Federal education minister Brendan Nelson attempted to have students salute the Australian flag.

However the day is long gone when Australian children happily pledged allegiance the way still done in North Korea.

Monday mornings, grumbling at the end of another weekend, they’d gather in front of the school flagpole for Assembly. During the following ritual, a pupil chosen as flag monitor ran the flag up the pole, careful not to trail it upon the ground, for that would constitute something dreadful and unspoken, possibly treason, and the rest all warbled ‘God Save the Queen’.

I remember standing in the quadrangle of many a state school as the free milk soured in the sun and the program proceeded to reciting the Patriotic Declaration: ‘I love God and my country, honour my flag and will cheerfully obey my parents, teachers and the law.’

It was chanted so often it may as well have been a prayer in Latin.

We did, of course, love God and country, because that’s what everyone did and no one wanted to be struck down by lightning.

In any case citizenship was already our birthright. Reciting a pledge of allegiance made zero difference to that.

The chanted declaration, of course, made liars of most. Many cheerfully disobeyed parents and teachers, and in the following years, some were disobeying laws too. Some would mumble through ‘love, honour and obey…till death do us part’ just as numbly.

The political and religious right want to go back to the mythical days when everyone had good manners, including teenagers and everyone knew their place. Nostalgia was so much better when they were young. It was all so simple then.

So how does they political and religious right get past this built in firewall and erode further the mantra of “free, compulsory, and secular’, the philosophical bedrock of public education in Australia since at least 1870. Their strategy has been to get not just their toe but their whole foot in the door. This is to say God has not been absent from our schools. Those who comfort themselves with dusty old notions like secularism and the separation of church and state might be under the impression that God was expelled from state schools before the Flood.

Yet avoiding God at school is still not quite that easy. A parent can declare, “It’s all well and good to say ‘I chose my child not to take the special religious education program. But it doesn’t stop them being confronted by the chaplain at the front gate or being handed a special invitation to a before school god bothering breakfast, a lunch time program or an evangelical or mega church-funded barbeque.

There is absolutely no way that a parent can be across all that and there is no mechanism for them to opt out of it.

Parents’ and children’s right for freedom of and from religion are being violated by education departments in this way.

The chaplaincy program, which by 2016 would be taken up by 391 NSW state schools, is a blatant push to have Christianity in public schools and replace professional staff with non-professionals. Millions would be poured into this at the same time as billions were ripped out of education in the long term. Welcome to Amateur Hour!

The public school system remains wide open as the next “mission field” for evangelical churches, which remain free to provide chaplaincy services on the approval of a school principal in NSW.

Many question whether the volunteers’ training and qualifications are adequate to justify placing them in front of children in contemporary classrooms. This while teachers produced in our universities are deemed to be having personality disorders. Scripture was traditionally delivered by the major churches by friendly mums or grannies who had some time on their hands. It stuck to the simple message of being nice, forgiveness, and doing the right thing. It allowed students to explore the Christian story in an open-minded manner.

However there are other people out there who are more fundamental, and who create a fear and distrust and anxiety

rather than thinking creatively about spirituality and what life is about and how we relate to one another. Religious instruction in schools would be hijacked by missionary organisations such as the Scripture Union, Access Ministries, Hillsong, and other extreme Christian evangelisers. Their teaching is believed by many to be anti-science, homophobic, and discriminatory against women, non-Christian believers, atheists and critical thinking.

Former evangelical pastor Joel Pittman can attest to this first hand. Pittman took scripture classes in the Penrith area. In the classes he would explain to the children how they would have at some stage broken virtually all of the Ten Commandments, and how therefore they are going to hell. “And then after that, we say, ‘but there is a solution! And then in your nice little state high school, we would offer people the opportunity to become Christians, in class. And we would have the whole class shut their eyes, and ask that if they wanted to become Christian, and nine times out of 10 every single kid in the room did it.”

Mr. Pittman went from having a youth group with five or six kids at the start to having 90 kids in his youth group, “which was twice as large as the one I had at church”. He would then sign the kids up for Encounter Weekends, where they would learn about casting out demons and speaking in tongues.

Christians deny that SRE or chaplaincy is about proselytising. They say they are there ‘to provide emotional and spiritual support in schools’, something traditionally carried out by educational staff.

“In Australia, the state school is a very powerful and potent instrument for a sense of community, actually generally stronger than a local church,” Reverend Peter Robinson, CEO of Christian group Genr8, which is the largest provider of school chaplains in NSW.

A post on Genr8’s website suggests a range of ways that church and scripture teachers can get involved in school activities, including lunch groups, youth groups and school camps.

“Lunch groups are good, but short,” it says. “On a camp there for three days! Chat to [students], stay up with them, help with bedtime duties … Take a list of names. Remember students and what their lives are like, pray for them…. Don’t miss this opportunity to link them up.”

In the ongoing ‘culture wars’, the current Federal Coalition Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, has retreaded the revisionist polemic, labelling the national curriculum “black-armband”. In this monocultured ‘Death of the West’ thesis, the national school curriculum is loaded with too much frontier guilt, too little reverence for settlers and is failing students. He has indicated he wants it to have a greater focus on the benefits of Western civilisation.

Prominent national journalist Greg Sheridan added to the call, talking about how ‘National pride’ has been ‘assaulted’, how ‘European settlement of Australia is increasingly portrayed as some kind of hideous crime against humanity instead of the beginning of the Australian nation’.

Pyne has called on Dr. Kevin Donnelly, a teacher for 18 years, to review what is taught in Australian schools. The curriculum has become too ”secular”, ”Asia-oriented”, ”left”, ”progressive”, ”new age” and ”politically correct”, to use the words of this former Liberal chief of staff. A critic of multiculturalism, he warns ‘Look at the falling percentage of Australian’s [sic] with Anglo-Celtic ethnicity over the last 100 years. The post-war migration program and multiculturalism are designed to breed out Anglo-Celtic, Christian Australia and to reduce us to a nation of tribes.’

In an article, written for ABC’s The Drum, he writes: “Multiculturalism is based on the mistaken belief that all cultures are of equal worth and that it is unfair to discriminate and argue that some practices are wrong.”

This doesn’t include of course hitting children. He says it was effective during his childhood.

As for now he has ‘‘no problem’’ with it if the school community was in favour of it, ‘‘and if it’s done, you know, properly’’.

Commenting on 2014 reports that NSW students are being suspended and expelled from public schools at record rates, he was asked what he would describe as the ‘‘best punishment’’ he had ever come across, he recalled a stern Scottish teacher he had when he was a boy, who, he said, disciplined boys by taking them behind the shed and telling them: “We can either talk about this or you can throw the first punch.”[ Radio 2UE July 15, 2014]

Dr. Donnelly said, “I taught for many years and for a while there we had a time-out room, where kids who misbehaved would simply go and sit in the time-out room. They loved it because they could get out of class work, they could just relax and meditate for a while,” he said. He doesn’t say why his students didn’t love his work.

Instead of wasting the hundreds of thousands of dollars it has paid him for his insight, Liberal governments might have saved taxpayers money by allowing more time out rooms where difficult children who can’t yet appreciate Shakespeare because they’re not regarded intelligent enough to read might chill and learn in a relaxed atmosphere.

Dr. Donnelly has savaged a civics curriculum that teaches that “citizenship means different things to different people at different times”, rather than preparing students for an understanding of their responsibilities. “The civics curriculum argues in favour of a post-modern, deconstructed definition of citizenship,” he wrote in 2013. “The flaws are manifest. What right do Australians have to expect migrants to accept our laws, institutions and way of life?”

“Such a subjective view of citizenship allows Islamic fundamentalists to justify mistreating women and carrying out jihad against non-believers.”

Dr. Donnelly argues that a focus on “political correctness” has seen a national curriculum attempt to cover too much subject matter without any depth: “The Americans say that a curriculum like ours is a mile wide and an inch deep.”

His colleague, Professor Wiltshire is also critical of the curriculum. “Curriculum should also be knowledge-based, yet we are faced with an experiment that focuses on process or competencies.”

He attacked the “astounding devaluation of the book” in modern teaching. Fellow bibliophile Dr. Donnelly is a big fan of Shakespeare, the classic novels and phonics.

In the earlier tread, an influential Coalition representative said recommendations such as those of Kevin Donnelly “had already found their way into government policy”.[75] This was followed by a curtailing of the time set aside in the curriculum to the teaching of Aboriginal studies.[76] Prime Minister Howard declared that left wing ideologists had led to curriculums that were ‘incomprehensible sludge’. His Minister of Education pinpointed the source of this ‘sludge’ to the direct influence of the Chinese leader Mao within the state bureaucracies. Unlike in China there would be no repetition of The Hundred Flowers Campaign. To promote progress in the arts and the sciences, Mao had encouraged a variety of views and solutions to national policy issues, launched under the slogan: “Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend. In its own version of the crackdown that followed in China, The N.S.W. Ministry would allow only one-its own, naturally.

The Federal Ministry said that ‘the interests in Australia’s past, such as the Anzac tradition, could not be catered for by schools’.[77] Minister Pyne wants the curriculum ‘to celebrate Australia, and for students, when they have finished school, to know where we’ve come from as a nation.” The Howard-Abbot Ministry says that many government schools are hostile or apathetic to Australian heritage or values. This is despite the fact that students in all public and private schools study the same curriculum which includes Australian history and has mandatory lessons on civics and citizenship. Especially the Anzac tradition where Australians are asked to remember just who they are and where they have come from.

And in case they forget, that’s from Britain according to PM Abbott who can’t forget that’s where he came from. Reiterating the legal fiction of ‘terra nullius’, a belief overturned in the 1992 Mabo High Court decision, he stated in 2014 that Australia was ‘unsettled’, “nothing but bush” before British invasion.’

The Federal Coalition has identified the emphasis on tolerance as the main problem in public schools. Before going on to become Prime Minister, Federal Health Minister, Tony Abbott suggested that the Australian people are “tolerating the intolerable” because of political correctness.[78] He sees a rejection of traditional values in public school. He finds unsupportable what he sees as a high level of promiscuous sexual activity amongst teenagers.[79] After denouncing this, it was revealed that he himself was involved in premarital activity when he was a teenager. He claims that parents were leaving public schools because in it all cultures and value systems are treated as morally equivalent. Yet how is it that teachers portrayed by the Coalition as doctrinaire and single minded be so uncommitted when it comes to morality?

This anti-PC bandwagon is totally outraged that people are outraged by what they say and they never stop complaining about people who complain. They remember a time when difference wasn’t tolerated and they don’t like this time where people tell us that not to say things that are offensive.

The argument of teacher indoctrination and political correctness in public schools was developed most by the chief of staff to the coalition Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.[80] Kevin Donnelly speaks of a conspiracy to use the education system to attack the so called capitalist system and to indoctrinate students with a “left wing ideology”. His current patron Mr. Pyne argues that the curriculum requires students to learn about the day-to-day activities of the trade union movement, favouring the Labor Party while neglecting the role of business and commerce in the country’s history, glossing over the work of Coalition prime ministers and making no explicit references to conservative achievements in politics.

Dr. Donnelly avers that schools have been hijacked by “new age class warrior” teachers more committed to promoting homosexuality, multiculturalism and Aborigines than teaching the three R’s”. He claims teachers lack objectivity. He claims the “culture wars” have denigrated the teaching of Australia’s Anglo-Celtic history in favour of the “feminist, multi-cultured and neo-Marxist interpretation. He claims subjects like history and civics have been re-written to enforce this interpretation which denigrates the growth of Western civilization in Australia since 1788.

Mr. Pyne, Dr. Donnelly and fellow cultural hysterics see the teaching of history as slanted in a leftist direction. Accordingly, World War I is an event that would be dismissed by leftist teachers as “meaningless slaughter whereas it would have been, in their opinion, a war for “liberal civilisation” against a rapacious German horde who wanted to take away the right of Australians and Britons to their own country — and to India’s, East Africa’s and Malaysia’s, as well.

“What do I think of Western civilization? I think it would be a very good idea.”– Mahatma Gandhi .

We view much of our collective foundation – the base upon which we build and celebrate our national identity – in the mirror of history. This mirror is full of whorls, cracks, smudges and chips. Imperfections. In places, we have peeled away the reflective paint – sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. This results in historical blind spots. Consequently, what we see reflected is a distorted and unfaithful representation of our historical reality.

The missing parts of this reflected picture – the view of our collective history that we are unable to discern with clarity, due to the diminished quality and quantity of the imperfect reflected image – are often intentionally distorted, misrepresented and fabricated with the intention of manipulating the masses. What we should to aspire to as a foundation of our education system is a move towards an objective record for analysis, transparency, accountability and perspective.

Donnelly and former P.M. Howard claimed that public schools are too ‘politically correct’ and promote a lack of values, where children cannot “differentiate between right and wrong”.[81]

To straighten out these ‘biases’, Minister is championing the idea that schools will be improved by the imposition of rigid curricula content. He wants one that is orthodox, “free of partisan bias”, deals with ‘real-world issues’ and ‘doesn’t try and be all things to all people.’ This prescriptive ‘command-and-control,’ ‘we’ll tell you what’s good for you’ model is based on the one dimensional idea that Judeo-Christian civilisation is not only Australia’s cultural base, but is superior to others.

Ah yes, “One nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all”!

Yet the fact is development of the liberal curriculum was not by deliberately engineered political acts. They were not some concerted, deliberate plan to subvert Australia’s Christian British heritage. The importance of that heritage has been waning without conspiratorial help from the Labor Party or the left. Rather it’s a natural evolution to reflect the changes in Australia and the world. Australia has, in fact, moved closer to Asia. Britain and the US have been replaced by China and Japan as our major trading partners. More Australians travel to Asia than Britain and the US. A higher proportion of immigrants now come from Asia.

And Liberal leaders were involved in forging these ties. Menzies signed the treaty with Japan. Malcolm Fraser began Indo-Chinese immigration

Equality of opportunity and support for it has spread and the law of the land promotes it. It was Malcolm Fraser who passed the Northern Territory Land Rights Act. Discrimination on grounds of disability, race and sexual orientation has become unlawful and unacceptable. Unacceptable to the educational flat earthers, unable to bear that society more tolerant and progressive, fearful there’s too much knowledge in the world.

Is there any truth whatsoever in the ‘Back to the Basics’ policy? The State Minister eventually admitted that he believes lying is part of the politician’s armoury.[82] Another of those responsible for the policy said that “some departments and individuals purposely use ‘unclear’ English.[83] Both coalition Deputy Premier and Premier declared that the coalition had made “an awful hash” of selling the policy.[84] To sack teachers the Ministry says don’t work hard enough, the major newspapers oblige with a barrage of screaming ballyhoo with headlines about “bad” teachers.[85]

Christopher Pyne speaks of the rewards for ‘those who deserve to be paid more, but not all teachers (Lateline July 16, 2012). As for the ‘bad’ ones, he claimed in a 2012 interview, published in the Weekend Australian Financial Review: “In every staffroom, 5 to 15 per cent of teachers are not up to scratch, so it is commonly accepted that some students are going to be taught by underperforming teachers. This is unacceptable. What we need is for underperforming teachers to be managed out of the system.”

In N.S.W. when teachers reached the State Ministry’s ideal level of efficiency, it referred to teachers who “pump propaganda into children”, to those who “set up” children.[86] The Ministry says that one newspaper, which carries its own “propaganda” can be “willfully wrong” and “deliberately setting out to cause concern”.[87]

The Ministry says were it to use “propaganda” like teachers, it would be ridiculed. One coalition member called some of the policy “absolute rubbish”.[88]

At least one in five people in NSW cannot read or write properly.[89] This is a conservative figure. Figures from the Federal Government point to a particularly low level of achievement in this area by farmers and farm workers.[90] The directorate of Army recruiting has expressed concern about the failure rate of potential recruits in tests of their literacy and comprehension skills.[91] A high level of NSW Police Academy students fail their exams.[92] A study commissioned by the Bureau of Immigration found that illiteracy cost many millions of dollars a years in lost productivity.[93]

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2012, 46 per cent of Australians over the age of 15 lack the minimum literacy skills for everyday life, struggling to read newspapers, recipes and instruction manuals.[94]

Up to 65 per cent of Aboriginal people are “functionally illiterate” in English.[Good Weekend, July 19,2014] The Core Skills Framework identifies five levels of literacy and numeracy performance. Level Three is held to be the “minimum required for individuals to meet the complex demands of everyday life”, yet at least 40 per cent of Aborigines are estimated to rank at or below Level One. That dismal statistic helps to explain why Australia ranks below Cuba on some world literacy tables despite being 10 times richer on a per capita basis.

In mid 2018 the Coalition Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs pointed out that because the spouses, children and extended family accompanying permanent migrants do not need to prove they can understand English, this had created the “concerning situation” where “close to a million” Australians now do not speak the national language. (Jane Norman, ABC 14-6-2018)

It all checks out. This outcome is the result of deliberate decisions beyond any possibility of legitimate mistakes.

A generation after my unwelcome attempt to raise the level of literacy at Concord High, an English teacher there Chris Shiels reported the challenges of teaching as being the level of paperwork and ‘The kids you want to help but can’t.’[ABC Jane Caro Aug 24,2017]

Unfortunately, the social and moral consequences of this shameful paralysis go just as deep. Universal literacy has to be just that – nothing less. We can’t allow half measures. Literacy is far more than being able to read a comic book while unable to understand the vocabulary of a poem or follow in prose literature the meaningful variations of syntax, the use of words in ways that open up new depths of self-comprehension.

Our cohesion as a people, our togetherness in fending off disasters, depends on our ability to communicate with each other.

To deal with the problem, the Ministry increased the size of classes. It talks of children in the classroom who “cry out for help”.[95] It talks of the enormous number of children who suffer a learning disadvantage.

The Coalition Federal Ministry of Education launched a review into the way primary school children are being taught to read.[96]It argues that they are the result of “education fashions” that have taken root over the past 30 years. It takes issue with the “whole of language” approach to reading where the priority is to get children actively reading. It points to a lack of teaching phonics where there is association of letters or combination of letters with their approach speech sounds. The academic consensus is that both systems are effective learning tools and are used in tandem in most Australian schools.

The Federal Ministry played up one approach to reading which is unavailable to most because of its expense.

To deal with its problems, the Department says it is moving “heaven and earth” to find teachers. The Ministry speaks of the squalid conditions teachers work under, but describes them as “unreasonably good”.[97] The Ministry says that what students will learn will be more to do with Australia.[98] The Department says it has a good pool of teachers from Hong Kong.[99] One can understand the Chinese forte in mathematics and science, but as for their superior knowledge of Australia – who is the Department trying to kid? Do the newcomers from the pool really know more about us than we do? Was this the Chinese angle? Are they chosen because they have the Maoist imprimatur? Or is it calculated they’re simply smaller, more amenable and two bob a dozen? Buy one and they’ll throw in another for free?

Rather than doing away with illiteracy, the coalition Government brought up a wide range of disciplinary measures. Children who use drugs can be expelled. The coalition Deputy said that “for starters schoolyard punks” will get “six of the best across their backside like they would if they misbehaved at good private schools”.[100] The Deputy is “no advocate of bashing kids mindlessly with a stick or cane, but they have to get what they deserve in the classroom too, where justice can be seen to be done”.[101]

This recommendation followed the publicity concerning a pupil who had his head cracked open in the classroom.

The Ministry rules out humiliation and torture as disciplinary measures.[102] The courts found that those who used eugenics most effectively as a political weapon did so. They used them both to throw the book at children and to test their genetic endowment.

The Back to the Basics policy is followed also in the prisons where children may go. A tight restriction was placed on educational materials.[103] The Ministry for prisons thought it was “silly” to study the language of Australia’s major trading partner. “Mickey Mouse” stuff such as pottery was out. It was seen as nothing more than prisoners “throwing a bit of clay at one another”.[104] One professional report from within the prisons confirms that juveniles are generally worse off than adult prisoners.[105] The coalition welfare Ministry spoke of the “appalling conditions” juveniles face when in custody.”[106] The Director of welfare services pointed out that overcrowding of young offenders ‘make it difficult to provide more than basic facilities’ yet he wanted his staff to be ‘less squeamish about locking kids up, to be more pragmatic’.[107] The Prisons Ministry described the conditions of most inside as “bored senseless”.[108] The coalition Minister compared conditions to those of a ‘zoo’.[109] Prisoners became disgruntled.[110] The Minister was “delighted”[111].

A briefing sent to all NSW judges on the Young People in Custody Health Survey, which involved the Juvenile Justice Department Corrections Health Service and the University of Sydney, contained the findings that there is almost a 100 per cent chance that inmates of juvenile jails will have been suspended from school before they turn 15.[112] Most score so poorly in academic tests they should be treated as intellectually disabled. Those involved “did not find education rewarding” and had “difficulty comprehending problem solving and communicating using language or numbers”.

The people of NSW pay a heavy price for this policy. It comes down hard on the poor and adds to their number. Families that are none too endowed financially cannot afford certain courses or private schools.[113] The Ministry has as much contempt for those who are comfortable as those who are not. It refers to the “selfish, hypocritical” and “privileged squealers” from the North Shore.[114] The coalition Premier said “We want to cut the fat out first before we do anything else that will hurt people”.[115] He said people have in “in blood”.

The policy robs the community of its fountainhead of skills and culture. It places both children and the public at risk. The more children are forced out of schools this way, the greater the proclivity for them to go missing, get their own back, or resort to crime. The conservatives admit to the disturbing number of young people who “go down”. One member of the coalition inner circle spoke of the “beasts” running around who “prey on children”.

Rather than train children to have more employment skills, the policy is to create more places for them in prison. The coalition welfare ministry said that child offenders as young as 11 or 12 should be placed in prison.[116] The police ministry said it would lose the fight if they spend their money on courts and jails.[117]

Young people who are not expected to be capable of writing on paper can get up to three years’ jail if caught in possession of a spray can “with intent”. Children found guilty of using swear words could, to use the words of one senior coalition official, be thrown into “f…..g jail”.[118]&[119]

Members of the coalition felt prompted to express their repertoire in this matter. The Deputy spoke out against the “bloody wankers” among his conservative allies.[120] Like one of his senior colleagues, he takes Gods’ name in vain.”[121] “The Victorian coalition Premier described one of his opponents as a ‘f…wit”. A Senior federal Liberal senator branded a colleague a ”f—wit” during a heated discussion about the price of milk. This froth rose after the opening address in which the leader congratulated his team for its “exemplary discipline”.[122]

The conservatives are scatalogically fixated. They can watch ‘sh—‘ ‘drawn out’.[123] They can have it ‘cut out’.[124] They know what it is when they see it. Federal Liberal MPs would round on the Employment Minister’s comments suggesting a link exists between abortion and breast cancer, labelling them as ”bull–it” and backing the medical science.[Aug 9,2014]

The Education Minister spoke of teachers who talk “sh…. and drivel”.[125] Senior coalition figures referred to “bull…., horse… and rat….”*[126] The federal Health Minister would refuse to apologise to the Labor shadow Minister for talking about her ‘bull****’ He said she would need to get used to hearing bad language if she wanted to be health minister. [126a]

The Deputy speaker said she paid to have it put on her[127] The coalition Premier said he had had ‘sh.. kicked out of him’.[128] A coalition member of State Parliament described a retreat organized by his leader as “bull….”[129] “One federal coalition member told Parliamentarians they could all p…off”[130] The Premier called for a colleague to get “stuffed”.[131] It was said amongst his backers that he is no “smartarse”. He believes he did a “bloody good job” in his much vaunted reforms’.[132] He pointed out that some of his comments are unprintable.” He referred to people who see him as an “arrogant prick”.[133] He said he can be ‘buggered’.[134] He talks of what is called in corporate life the “oh s..t experience’.[135] He said he can get really ‘pissed off”.[136]

One senior federal coalition member called on John Howard to be ‘f…ed”.[137]He called him a “…..ing …..t” and a journalist a ‘bastard’.[138] Not to be outdone, one Immigration Minister would contact another journalist to tell her she was a ‘mad f—— witch’.[138.A Fergus Hunter SMH 4/1/2016 ] Another member referred to conservationists as ‘effing liars’.[139] The Secretary of the Police Association defended the use of swear words among the police.[140]

The Department portrays itself as being pitted against “small deadly groups who wage ‘guerrilla warfare’.[141] The Ministry said their average age is eight. It wanted to place elderly people in schools to act as buffers.[142] One spokesman for the policy called this “mean and callous”.[143] Another idea from the Department is to build security fences. But as the Minister pointed out: “If a particular group is determined to get into the school, putting a high fence along the boundary will not solve the problem.[144]

The Ministry said that officers in the Department fear being ambushed by a large angry mob, such as the one pursuing the Premier.[145] One area was classed as a “no go” area.[146] The Ministry said that parents will rise up.

To deal with the situation police were stationed in and around schools to enforce the sweeping powers. The Police Minister is reported to have said the police had an almost total lack of intelligence[147] The powers provided for police to be able to issue a warning when a person of “reasonable fairness” feels threatened by a gathering of three or more people. If the police warnings are not heeded, the “offenders” will be liable to between three and six month’s jail.[148]

The Deputy spoke of police who are a danger to themselves and to the public.[149] The Minister of Police is reported to have said, “there are more bloody police selling drugs than you can poke a stick at”[150]. The coalition Premier talked of “evil forces” at play.

The coalition Premier suggested bringing in a curfew.[151] A time would be set after which young people in certain areas must remain indoors until next day. His Deputy referred to another proposed curfew as a “Hitlerish” measure.[152]

The Ministry says that the welfare of the children it forces out of school is a minor consideration.[153] It rebuffs “the bleeding hearts”[154] who concern themselves with what befalls these children. The welfare ministry calls it a “gloves off”[155] policy: “… the day has long passed with this airy-fairy nonsense of children’s rights”.[156]

Some of these children get sucked in,[157] they have difficulty putting things into words. Their knowledge of what is around them is limited. The Education Department says it does not follow up what happens to children expelled. It can reject the warning of teachers as to the consequences out of hand.

The absence of accountability and ability to act with impunity of those outside business and government has a high price for society. During the NSW Royal Commission hearings into paedophiles, there occurred the[158]“ unprecedented appearance of high churchmen to account for the disgraceful activities of their priests, vicars and teachers, followed by a “procession of grim-faced senior public servants from the Department of Community Services, the Education Department and the Health Department to offer prevarications, then apologies, for child sex abuse within their establishments. It turned out that “there had been a culture over many, many years of not dealing with paedophilia”.[159] One ‘teacher’ continued to sexually abuse young girls for almost 20 years, despite the knowledge of his colleagues and superiors. After saying that 80 of his employees were under investigation for sexual misconduct and that he could not guarantee paedophiles were no longer active in our schools,[160] the Director-General of School Education appeared reluctant to back an independent body to handle sex complaints involving pupils. After relenting, he was over-ruled by the Premier who insisted such matters be handled by teachers. By those under threat of job loss, by ‘team players’, upright, downright, forthright arrested adolescents with their close shaved chins up, encouraged to tick all the Right’s boxes, smiles of naked compliance pasted on their faces, winking, wittering,nodding, duchessing, stroking, pointing friendly fingers, making empty compliments, flashing their ties, glad handing and slapping each other on the back. Pivoting to whatever sound bite or vapid talking point makes them seem the most interesting,

‘Have a nice day!’ Pull the other one.

Teachers accused of abusing pupils had been given references allowing them to work with children in other states.[161] The culture would continue. In March, 2009 the principal of St Andrews Christian School pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual intercourse with a child in his care. After his daughter was sacked for warning about the predator, a parent was told by the Department it was outside their jurisdiction.[162] Its officials know a lot, but they never learn. In cases involving private schools there are loopholes to maintain the “culture”. In NSW it can be easier to get access to a professional tribunal if you put children at risk than if you warn about this, easier if you seduce them literally than if you want to seduce them into reading and writing. Easier to be declared ‘satisfactory’. Whatever.

This culture of abuse gave rise to the cruel joke: ‘How do they separate the teachers from the children in New South Wales schools?

Answer. ‘With a restraining order.’

History has shown that regimes which fail to address past injustices, who don’t want them dug up, are tragically destined to repeat the same mistakes.

To make it appear that measures are in place to ‘protect’ children, unrealistic prohibitions against physical contact are imposed on teachers. To prevent ‘errors of judgement’, an encouraging tap on the back can be interpreted as such. Today, working with children is like working with radio-active waste: ‘Hands off, or you’ll get burnt!’ How do you teach gymnastics without touching them? Casual interactions with children can be misconstrued and then turned into a witch hunt.

The Coalition Premier commented: “We are struggling – both in a financial sense and ideas sense – to work out effective ways to strengthen the role of the family. I think it is an area we have been deficient in”.[163]

Never a truer word spoken.

One senior coalition minister described those behind the policy as “amazingly stupid” as well as “bloody arrogant”.[164] The Department says it is widely believed the changes have been at the expense of people.[165] Under the policy, it is not only children that go down. Schools are burnt to the ground. The Ministry declared NSW a “State of Fire”.[166] The Coalition Premier declared NSW a State of Crisis!

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”–Mark Twain

So there you have it. Make no mistake- it’s a crying shame, a wanton waste of perfectly good stock. It’s what’s rotten in the state of New South Wales. Bah, if this Homeric folly weren’t so tragic, it would be risible. Unscrambling the unqualified twisted narrowness of the myopic mindset and pathology of this large, hierarchical institution, being pushed on and on for a return to the ‘basics’, is to understand the system as it is, the manner in which teachers and children in NSW can be treated. Overwhelmingly Coalition, the ed-con artists were joined regrettably by a few spokesmen for the Labor brand of capitalism, playing to peoples’ base instincts. The two timing Labor Minister who introduced them and was lionised by the opposition leader would go on to declare that that true wisdom was acknowledging one’s errors. If ever he were to acknowledge his role in laying the way open to the societal damage done by his opposition, he would be a very wise man indeed.

This coalition poodle was joined later by a Labor premier who declared that parents whose children don’t attend school should be jailed. It was said if he’d sounded any more like the Coalition, they’d sue him for plagiarism.

Parents who want their children to work with them or don’t want them to be bullied, will be less likely to keep them away if they are making out at school. Even parents who don’t a fig about their kids would rather them be there, at least out of their hair. As for children jigging it, why should nonchalant bureaucratic sluggards care? Out of sight, out mind. They can’t see beyond the end of their snouts.

For hand-wringing politicians and media, the resulting hullabaloo provides further fodder for knocking the youth and tilting funding to the rich. So help me if the school doesn’t go to the people, the people are not going to come to school. It seems the ‘Back’ the overlords want to take us ‘Back To’ is our days as a penal colony. It took another Labor Minister, John Watkins, to bring some intelligence to the vacuous policy, observing that the Department ‘works in neither the interests of teachers nor students’. Wonders never cease.

Aye-aye, the policy beggars belief. Like much anti-socialist snarling and spluttering, quacking and squawking, this guff draws on bodily imagery: that of the social sickness and disease of progressive educators, carriers that must be inoculated against. The antibodies want a firewall to thwart it’s spread. They believe their own biological superiority. It’s hard to get a word in to pin them down about it. Like shearing a pig, there’s a lot of squealing and very little wool.

As for the voodo ‘educators’ thinking they were born superior, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. True, the more imbecile of them do furnish proof that some men are inferior. Endowed by their makers with dim wits, impermeable to reason. Yet how can anyone hold to their argument without reservations when aware they’re talking about themselves. They were born to fool, not rule.

At the same time there are those of them putting us on. Treating people like mushrooms, keeping them in the dark. Feeding them their ‘-–it’. As their leader summed up ‘–it happens’. It just so happens they’ve stockpiled tons to feed people. Regarding child abuse, it is their own culture of acting behind closed doors and low professional priority that facilitates this. Wasn’t there enough spirit of glasnost to extend to us as well? As for its call for corporal punishment, it is wiser to promote non-violent methods of conflict resolution so as to guard against a culture of violence. The cane might elicit short-term behavioural improvements. If an adult belts a child with a stick it’s going to hurt and it might be two or three months before the child repeats the behaviour. But this only hides the behaviour – it doesn’t fix it. Poor behaviour is often a result of things going on in children’s lives, so hiding that behaviour isn’t going to solve anything in the long term.

It would be wrong to idealise children as cherubic treasures who know not what they do and who are never intentionally bad. But they are still children, innocent and impressionable.

In commenting on bullying in the new millennium, Premier O’Farrell said ”Parents have to be concerned about estimates that up to half of the students in year 9 are either being bullied or bullying others.’ [167] While allowing for the fact that this is another alarmist beat-up, there is a big problem in this area. The rise in bullying as other mental disorders in children is largely the result of current societal conditions e.g. a disjointed society and the loss of nurturing, non-stressed parenting.

The bullying is taking a heavy toll on school principals, themselves bullied into implementing the educational ‘reforms’. Compared to the general population, principals experience a higher prevalence of violence (seven times higher), threats of violence (five times higher), and adult-adult bullying (four times higher). [ According toThe 2014 Teachers Health Fund Principal Health Wellbeing Survey Report]

Mr. O’Farrell returned his predecessor who introduced the educational ‘reforms’ to public office after his becoming an executive in the tobacco industry. The former premier argues his successor had inherited a ‘first-class shambles of global proportions’’ in infrastructure. To align perception with reality, he says there has to be a focus on introducing economic rationale into planning. Yet a sound economic infrastructure depends on a highly trained workforce to build and operate it and an educated populace to choose it and use it.

‘I don’t want to sound immodest, but I’m the ideal person, the natural pick,’ boasts the former premier. That’s a classic coming from him. His jig was not up. His successor has entrusted Mr. Fixit, who admits failure in driving the Back to the Basics education policy, with the task of identifying the infrastructure projects ‘needed to improve the lives of the people of NSW’. Seriously. Time wounds all heels?!

Presaging his return to public service, The Industry Skills Councils released a report calling for urgent action to remedy literacy and numeracy problems. ‘No More Excuses’ which shows almost half of Australia’s working age population does not have the literacy or numeracy skills required to study a trade. As well it might after so much chopping and changing between pursuit of narrowly defined vocational objectives and a fuller rounded less instrumental education has created much uncertainty in the system.. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive said business was having to pick up he load.” We shouldn’t be the primary provider of basic literacy and numeracy education in Australia,” he said. ‘Australia’s education system is structurally flawed when it comes to literacy and numeracy. As a result, between seven and eight million Australians are in danger of being confined to low-wage jobs with little prospect of improvement.’[167]International studies have shown that over the past two decades Australia’s literacy and numeracy skill levels have stagnated compared to those of other countries.

The same decline has continued throughout the years. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report released results in late 2019 showing Australian students registered record low results in reading,maths and science. The decline was particularly pronounced in NSW.

The NSW Coalition Minister for Education said the results showed ‘we have a lot to do when it comes to lifting performance’.

The federal Coalition Minister said the slide ‘should have alarm bells ringing’.Unfortunately for everyone the alarm system broke down years ago.His recommendation is for the states to be ambitious and ‘go back’-yes,you’ve guessed it- ‘to the basics’.

However Geoff Masters, the chief executive officer of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), which runs PISA in Australia and is reviewing the NSW curriculum, pointed out PISA did not assess basic skills, and instead focused on higher-order thinking.

The Minister appealed to his state counterparts to work together with him to turn these results around.It hasn’t occurred to him that’s it’s this bankrupt,backwards policy that needs to be turned away from.

As for the edcons claiming their approach will lead to economic take off, I’d say pigs might just fly at that.

As for their capacity to drag humankind backwards— well, swine flu.

Will their rebranded government deal quickly with the educational problem it lay ground to? The former premier says of his new approach ”You will end up with a more measured approach, with less of a commitment to the speed of achieving results than perhaps I had – but I don’t think there’s any evidence to say that is necessarily bad, because a lot of these issues are long-term.”

Whether they destroy quickly or slowly, it will take a long time to repair the damage.

With regard to social infrastructure it didn’t take long with the government selling off large slabs of public housing assets to raise funds-– an approach described by the NSW Auditor-General as ‘not financially sustainable’- and the deepening of the state’s housing crisis. Mr Fixit said he had made ‘little progress on social housing while in power, and little had been achieved in the 23 years since’.[SMH May 25,2015, Nicole Hasham] ‘At the end of the day the existing stock is crap and the new supply is non-existent,’ he said. ‘This is an area where something bloody well ought to happen’.

His successor as Premier linked school-yard violence with the culture of bullying in NSW schools-but only to that involving children, not teachers. His Minister of Education correctly recognises that “school education is the greatest opportunity to intervene in people’s lives – to change their trajectory – particularly kids from a disadvantaged background,”[168]. He knows that ‘intervention in education can play a crucial role in keeping people out of prison. Our prisons are full of people who can’t read and write. When those issues are addressed at school it can take lives in a completely different direction.”

He hasn’t yet determined when the issue of those who have to address these issues will be addressed.

As for the charge that the bureaucracy is Maoist, it’s true it reflects the opinions of its critics in garbled doublespeak and at times completely falsified way. Mao painted the Chinese state he helped create as controlled by a ‘bourgeois state apparatus’ just as the Coalition paint the N.S.W. bureaucracy as a convenient obstacle to target.

But is this influence the result of what  retiring spy chief Lewis would declare to be the unprecedented rate of foreign interference in Australia’s affairs? Others didn’t hesitate to name China as the threat.

At the same time there has no attempt to emulate Mao’s Hundred Flowers campaign. In February 1957 Mao invited criticism of the party under the banner of “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.” The N.S.W. bureaucracy allows the sound of only one school of thought. Their Master’s Voice.

Young, Foolish and Ultra Right.

A book written by a prominent journalist and insider Greg Sheridan provides some candid revelations and admissions about the role of groups outside the Teachers Federation, intelligence agencies and political fringe-dwellers who sought to interfere with the operations of the Teachers Federation. It fills in the information gap regarding my dismissal, ones which I couldn’t have known at the time.

History can sometimes take a long time to reveal all of its secrets. But when key and interesting information comes to light, even years later, it is worth publicising, dissecting and putting it into some sort of explanatory context so that future generations can learn and move forward.

Details of these machinations were brought to my attention by Denis Fitzgerald, Federation Vice-President who has kindly approved my drawing upon the results of his analysis.

In the early 1980s, a curious alliance of elements of the labour movement, the leadership of the Labor Party and those from the extreme right wing National Civic Council[NCC] joined forces to overthrow the leadership of the Teachers Federation. The activities of the NCC were closely linked with the breakaway Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist), which eventually became the Democratic Labor Party (DLP). By allocating its preferences to the Liberal Coalition, the DLP managed to keep the Australian Labor Party out of office till Whitlam’s victory in 1972.It was a proscribed organisation in the ALP, and ALP members were not allowed to belong to it or co-operate with it too closely.

But principles meant nothing when it came to ALP leaders white-anting the Teachers Federation. It had been an independent thorn in the side of the ALP government of the day. Not long before, an Annual Conference of the union had overwhelmingly rejected the idea of affiliating with the ALP.

What Sheridan reveals in his published When We Were Young & Foolishis that leaders of the ALP, joined by officers of the Labor Council and the shadowy and religiously-inspired National Civic Council backed a team in the Federation’s presidential elections in order to change the leadership, orientation and culture of the union.

Being the Catholic he is, this self-styled “hero” of his own memoir is keen to confess his own faults, even if his achievement of mischievous, meddlesome interference survives the act of contrition. His objective was not just to report news but to make news.

And sell newspapers it did. This right wing generated ‘crisis’ of education became an issue of the first order. While lacking solid evidence, it captivated its readership. With its lurid prose and shocking, fearful and menacing images, it tapped into parental anxieties about child safety, moral security, unemployment and career prospects. Letters poured into ‘The Australian’. Their conservative writers were all opposed to egalitarian and progressive strands in education.

Sheridan discloses that the standard modus operandi of such capering was to gain huge donations from big business to fund union interventions such as these whilst the campaign work was carried out by unnamed operatives from the various organisations.

‘What happened in the 1983 union presidential elections,’ says Denis, ‘was a massive ambush campaign in support of a presidential team which, it might be gently observed, had a modest involvement and understanding of either unionism or the needs of public education. It was a “leadership” group that was the team of choice of the privileged, the rich and the fervently conspiratorial.’

The key campaign intervention was the deployment of direct mail, hand-addressed correspondence to every member of the Teachers Federation. This involved approximately 50,000 letters written to union members and was preceded by the Minister for Education distributing material via the media attacking the union leadership.

So while I was teaching children with great difficulties writing, this clique was busy writing to ensure that efforts such as mine would go without support.

Sheridan confesses to overseeing campaign material for the election, whilst employed as a journalist on The Bulletin: ‘My main contribution to the Pagett campaign was to find quotes from both Neville Wran and Nick Greiner to the effect that the Teachers Federation’s behaviour had hurt the reputation of teachers.’

The cost of the mailing would have been in the realm of ten times that expended by the incumbent presidential team . The time and personnel required to produce such a mailout would have been huge. As Sheridan admits, “It is immensely expensive to post campaign literature to every member.” The group led by Ivan Pagett were boosted to electoral victory.

Other bizarre liaisons revealed by Sheridan include regular meetings between senior ALP figures and ASIO operatives, when information about trade unions was exchanged. ASIO had a long and collaborative working relationship with the NCC.

ASIO’s intrusion into the affairs of the Teachers Federation goes even back further than the 1980s. When Denis Fitzgerald was researching a history of the union, Teachers and Their Times(University of NSW Press, 2011), he interviewed Thomas Shepherd, one of many people employed by ASIO to spy on individuals active in Federation.

After years of such work, Shepherd disappointed his ASIO minders mightily by uncovering no leftist conspiracy, no scandal, no Moscow Gold to fund it, no grand communist strategy. Instead he reported to his superiors that, “the Teachers Federation was an organisation committed solely to the wellbeing of its members and public education”.

The teachers union was not the sole object of such voyeurism at the time as other groups such as the History Teachers Association (HTA) were also infiltrated and examined to detect unorthodox thoughts and tendencies influencing syllabus development. Each member of the executive of the HTA was spied upon by ASIO and records opened on them.

What Sheridan and those strange times reveal is a certain infantile McCarthyism that infected the course of history. Drawing on the accumulated techniques of cold war propaganda, he branded government education as subversive. Early on, this determined operator manifested that occasional adolescent fear of other people’s ideas. Coached to oppose with his every breath any progressive cause going, he set to detecting sinister forces at work that justified any intervention or utterance. All this made teachers like me red meat for this budding inquisitor on the prowl.

Anti-communism was the prism through which his entire ideological perspectives were formed and maintained. This crusade involved uncovering any ‘nests of traitors’ operating as a fifth column for a foreign power with a masterplan to seize the reins of government. Carrying a flaming torch for the right wing Catholic idealogue Santamaria, this National Civic Council functionary devoted his political activity to eroding what he saw as the threat of the left in the education system.

Friends with fellow ex-seminarian Tony Abbott, he began his religiously inspired activism against left wing student opinion and unionism as turbulence swelled in Australian politics. They lamented the wide range of political and social causes pursued by the Australian Union of Students on campuses across the country, especially with the Vietnam War being over.

Another prominent journalist and commentator says of his colleague: ‘Young Greg was – and remains – a traditional Catholic. He believes in God and is not afraid to write that.’

Why should he have to be afraid? He’s not a Muslim, is he?

Contemporary Australia is not Stalinist Russia.

Talking about ex seminarians, when Sheridan was one, he “saw at the foot of the altar, a woman in radiant white robes kneeling in prayer” – the “most beautiful sight” he has ever seen. An apparition – in the Catholic parlance of the time.

In the eyes of the sceptic, ‘God only knew what he was on at the time’.

His colleague says Sheridan has “had no trouble with religious belief” but, correctly, acknowledges “living up to the belief … has been enormously difficult”.

It’s easy to see why. What he does can go against basic Christian teachings of love and peace.

He describes himself as having been ‘misguided’ as a young person. It didn’t stop there

Years after helping to bring down a union leadership, Sheridan still seeks out conspiracies and paradoxically uncovers his own extremism. In that time, he has displayed a febrile mind matched with a bellicose temperament. An insight into his qualities was listed by the Bulletin’s editor: ‘a quarrelsome, difficult, unpleasant personality which succeeds so well in journalism’

These qualities came to the fore in his full-frontal attack on teachers. Exhibiting sweeping generalisation, exaggerated metaphors, intemperate and offensive descriptions of opposing views, this self-styled champion of academic excellence demonstrated a sinister vagueness about the enemy he’s attacking. In the lead up to my dismissal he spoke of ‘vipers teaching children lies’, teaching syllabuses which are deeply hostile to Australia, to the US, to capitalism, to European civilisation, to industry, to Christianity. They, in fact, embody a widespread hatred for our society.

He sees them as ‘mediocre talents who adhere to a variety of fruit-cake ideologies with little regard for serious scholarship which conflicts with their views.’

In human rights education, and other areas that deal with international poverty, he sees ‘updated derivatives of Lenin’s theory of economic imperialism’ being ‘promulgated to convince students, against all the evidence, that the Western industrialised nations are the cause of Third World poverty’.

‘Against the evidence’ one cannot deny one’s adversary in any dispute.

But ‘against all the evidence?!

And why the selection of Lenin as regards these?

And wouldn’t he have seen it as the main but not the only cause of Third World poverty?

Lenin never left out the role of the comprador capitalist class who share the scraps and the spoils.

Mr. Sheridan believes that ‘the general thrust of curriculum reform in Australia in the past few years has been to water-down traditional and academic courses in favour of more “life-centred” and “relevant” courses, designed to be easier and more interesting for students. It is thought that by transforming education into entertainment, more students will stay at school beyond compulsory years.’

As a backer of Mr. Pagett, he must have been informed that the traditional and academic courses at Concord High were watered down but not in favour of any entertaining alternative. And why shouldn’t non-academic students be encouraged to find learning as interesting as their more serious fellows?

He deplores the degree of decentralisation of much decision-making in curricula to school level, rather than curricula being centrally set: ‘The external examination, the only guarantee of some uniformity and coherence in education, has been steadily eroded.’ What he doesn’t know is that it will be some in his political circles who’ll do the eroding by proving incapable of securing the examination papers.

He sees such teachers as pseudo-radicals trying to ‘convince students that everything is relative, no one set of moral standards is any better than any other, and that traditional customs are, at best, a curious anachronism.’

Which teacher wouldn’t see his or her moral standards as much better than his? They wouldn’t have to be very high.

Sheridan says such teachers are guilty of ‘a grotesque and dangerous hypocrisy. They say Australian society has given out being one in which there is moral and religious consensus. Therefore, schools can no longer indoctrinate traditional values.

But in their own indoctrination courses— such as peace studies, human rights, non-sexist or multicultural education— they change their clothes and become old-fashioned social engineers, using education to “raise the consciousness” or “challenge the attitudes” of children.

They hold as a standard part of their mythology that, in a capitalist society, the education system reinforces the ideological hegemony of the ruling class. It is up to idealistic socially aware teachers to provide “critical” education, which challenges this hegemony.

This is almost a mirror reversal of the truth, for education is increasingly one of the major subversive (in the strict meaning of the word) influences in our society.

Sheridan sees such teachers as replacing traditional religion with the new secular religion of environmentalism. Accompanying it are ‘endless Malthusian delusions about the doomed future of the planet because of over-population and under-production, and the evil effects of industry. Out-of-date, contentious and often inaccurate information is given to school children to show them the path of disaster the world is treading because of the sins of capitalism.’

As for peace studies, he sees those who teach them as trying to scare children into pacifism.

He began his years in politics justifying the Vietnam War. Since then, he has barracked for every ill-considered war and hectored those that questioned military conflict. Sheridan has scarcely located an international complexity that could not be ameliorated by bombing and shooting.

He has claimed that President Obama was conducting an “anti-Israel jihad”. Years before He has declared that George W. Bush is, “really a modern Winston Churchill”, one of the great presidents of the United States” and also observed that anyone with doubts about the claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were “ludicrous”.

Moving on from the Teachers Federation, he has discovered in the ABC another hotbed of sedition wherein, he has alleged, employees have praised the Soviet Union, supported apologists for Pol Pot and vilified Catholicism. Sheridan claims that the broadcaster “will go to great lengths to prosecute its endless war against the dark forces of conservative Australia”.

A vocal supporter of Suharto’s rule in East Timor, this ardent critic of teachers and students he accused of defending Communist totalitarianism would mock the eyewitnesses of a massacre near the Santa Cruz cemetery in November 1991.

“The sad truth,” wrote Greg Sheridan, “is that even genuine victims frequently concoct stories.”

Not much sympathy for fellow Catholics from a man brought up to condemn persecution of Catholics by Communist regimes.

‘Every night,’ he says, ‘I thank God for his tender mercies.’

Suharto would show no such compassion to the people of East Timor.

Sheridan would also vehemently oppose Howard’s 1999 intervention on our small neighbouring island and wartime ally.

At the end of his memoir, our ‘hero’ concludes with the question: ‘Will God forgive me for my wrongs?’

No one can speak for God but there are countless activist citizens who will not forgive him for his role in the subversion of their democratic rights, for undermining their lives and careers .

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

                                                  Matthew 7:5

Les Enfants Terrible.

Fast forward to 2016, spokesmen for The State of New South Wales added a new dimension to the Spectre posed by teachers and students.

That posed by trainee teachers.

My imagination was set on fire by the picture painted of them.

Driving me on, it has impelled me to add to the call to arms:

‘Citizen of New South Wales,

Not matter the write stuff .Do you have personality plus?

NSW teaching students will face personality assessments from next year, the NSW Board of Studies has confirmed. [Teaching students to face personality assessments SMH Jan 22.]

The President of the NSW Council of Deans of Education, Chris Davison, said the assessments will draw from tests similar to those undertaken for the army and will weed out candidates unsuited to teaching before they begin their degrees.’

Me: ‘If they have this test that can select people correct for teaching why weren’t they using it last year or the year before that. That is because they don’t have a test.

“The challenge is to have one that works for teaching. You probably need a much higher degree of empathy than you do in the army,” she said.

It’s instructive that this leading academic compares educating children to training military personnel.

Anyone who’s worked for the NSW Department of Education or read about it knows empathy, like attaining universal literacy, is not a priority.

How much empathy do you need need in the army?

My invaluable experience in the armed forces and reading and writing about it { inletterandinspirit.blogspot.comFind‘alarums and excursions’}tell me it always exists amongst the rank and file. However it has led me and many others to conclude it’s not always a virtue that’s officially encouraged.

For some the armed forces’ function is seen as much more about hostility than empathy. For them it’s purpose is training to kill a designated enemy obediently.

So why start with such low expectations of those wanting to join the teaching profession?

Why start at such a low level of empathy?

And how much do those behind the new control measures exhibit this quality?

To understand this we must understand the personality and psyche of those who are visiting this embarrassment upon the citizens of New South Wales.

The Board of Studies’ move to institute personality tests at all universities comes after a crackdown on teacher training by the NSW government in September.

Professor Davison said that the national program was necessary despite tough new regulations on literacy and numeracy imposed by the NSW government.

“We already have high teaching standards in NSW schools, said Education Minister Piccoli in September,2014, ‘but we need the high achieving students of today to be the high achieving teachers of tomorrow,”

Me: So how come with such high standards are such measures warranted? Are aspiring teachers being deliberately shielded in schools from these standards?

Professor Davison said the personality assessments were being implemented because students with poor communication or behavioural issues were still undertaking teaching degrees.

“At one stage it emerged that someone in our own program at UNSW had major psychological problems,” she said.

If one looks at earlier versions of their program, they let us in on their own communication skills, behaviour and psychological problems. Those must be seen against those of others deemed to be Personality Minus.

“They already had a degree in another field so had passed the academic requirements but they couldn’t maintain eye contact, they couldn’t maintain conversation.’

‘Come on , you’ve got to be joking..

We found out they had recently been released from psychiatric ward and had problems interacting with people.

‘So why were they released, one asks?’

And were they re-committed?’

And how did they pass the high academic requirements of our established universities.’ Using the tests is a vote of no confidence by the Board of Studies in the ability of university faculties of education to assess the learning and practical competence of their students. This is particularly worrying given that one of the things these faculties teach is “educational assessment and evaluation”. “Their counsellor suggested they take up a teaching degree. I counselled them to withdraw.”

She would have advised the same to Einstein if he applied to teach in N.S.W. today. Even if he were to tap dance his way into a NSW classroom, dressed in a tutu with the sunniest disposition, it would be his lack of ability to control children that failed him.

Professor Davison said the tougher academic regulations announced by NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli at UNSW in September were “ironic, because we are not affected by them”.

Me: ‘How fortunate to be in that situation. For most people, such continual attacks on the ideal of a free, compulsory and secular system of the highest standards have affected them deleteriously for many years .

But trainee teacher wait, all is not lost. Do we have a deal for you. Just forget that stuff about secularism.

There’s a miracle cure on offer. Despite the crackdown, second chances have been extended to trainee teachers who have not met the new standards. At the University of Notre Dame Australia, students who failed to get the required marks will be able to take a bridging course. The course will focus on HSC English and the seven key competencies outlined in the Australian Curriculum: literacy, numeracy, ICT capability, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding.

The Board of Studies’ move to implement personality tests at all universities came after a crackdown on teacher training by the NSW government in September, 2015.

They were at it again exactly a year later. Under new hiring standards, graduates will only be allowed to apply for jobs in the public system once they have shown ‘superior’ cognitive and emotional intelligence in a psychometric test administered by the Department of Education.

One thing is for sure. The politicians behind it would fail abysmally judging by their language and practice.

Practical teaching experience will be heavily scrutinised. So what’s new?

One must keep in mind crackdowns on teachers themselves and their costly consequences.

This is the limit! It’s the increasingly pathetic control measures themselves, not the calibre of our students or universities, that’s responsible for our baleful statistics for literacy and numeracy.

Here’s their final joke. The Sydney Morning Herald reported the last requirement thus: ‘Applicants will also have to show a committment [sic] to the values of public education.’ This coming from those who’ve gutted and debased it systematically.

‘Don’t you wonder sometimes ’bout sound and vision’ D.Bowie “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

The policy throws light on a wasteful system about which many express the view that they learned, not because of it, but in spite of it, in which many teachers and students don’t have a prayer of testing their dormant talents. In which based on postulates of opportunity and mobility, the myth of people being able to move in and out of classes is shown as fake. Even so, a very seductive system for me because if nothing else it exposes similar possibilities the soviet model did, of the vast potential of the upcoming generation just waiting to be tapped fully. With the clock ticking we will need all hands to the pumps to get to grips with the Homeric environmental and economic crisis we face. This generation will grow up at least without that self-deforming image of innate superiority purchased for other children by their parent’s wealth. It’s the driver behind my mission to debunk eugenics and the myths surrounding it and to help contribute to the introduction of legal machinery which would allow all teachers to have access to an independent professional body. Some see this as a threat. It would consider more than the requirements of the cadre system. It would consider both the ability of teachers to convey ideas and information and their role as protectors of the welfare of the child as factors of importance. The rest is propaganda.

I saw it as a play to get inside the heads of the young and develop their conscience, not by sermonizing but by sharpening their intellect. This is the ability in which I define myself. a role in which I, nudging my fortieth birthday couldn’t wait longer to work myself into. This knowledge highlights the importance of my holy grail – support for an around the clock outreach, offering young people a guide to daily life in Australia. A survival kit, it would help to minimize the risks to children, such as the kind who were in my care, to enable them to have a good hold on the world around them, to broaden their sense of what a human being is, and to be able to express what they want to say. That these aims are not met by the poor man’s education setup should be a matter of concern to a population who have been constantly warned to be alert to the activities of ‘terrorist’ enemies by leaders who say it’s only a matter of time before there is an ‘incident’.

The beauty of a democratic public education would be that it is the one area where domestic social tensions could be damped down without cost. Much of the violence that does occur in schools is mindless and could be reduced greatly if democratic procedures were introduced. Throwing money at them without such reforms is no solution. The answer is right under our noses, staring us in the face. The intelligence of our children harnessed by a save-all to avoid the massive waste of time, paper and electricity of endless repetition. I’m not so naïve as to think that universal literacy will square all the circles- but much of the anti-social violence that occurs outside schools, whether opportunistic-vandalism, glassing, road rage, the king hit- ‘the cowards punch’- for example- or racist could be minimized. After rioting broke out in the Cronulla area of Sydney between groups of Lebanese Australian youths and aggrieved ‘whites’ putting the rant back into migrants, one response was to set up mobile educational units to allow the communities some understanding of each other. Why can’t such understanding be systematized and encouraged in schools in the first place? Why can’t we achieve the same rights for young people our leaders claim we’re fighting to bring to Afghanistan? This would have helped forestall what the former chief of the Australian Defence Force, General Peter Cosgrove described as the ‘cowardly and sly’ attacks on Indian students which he linked to the Cronulla riots. ‘It is easy to conclude that they are racially targeted’, he concluded. The General was taken to task publicly for tackling the issue by politicians in deep denial, eyes wide shut, craving froth and bubble, no mention of trouble, anxious as always for window dressing. And privately by those gloating at the attacks. Short memories. When will they ever learn? Conditions of social dislocation and economic freefall steal the clientelist appeal of the ruling parties. Many of their voters turn towards those who make no secret of professing what traditional politicians only imply. The privileged strata who see the cultivation of a fascist mass movement as a legitimate reply to any inroads made by the left play with fire. While the mainstream left hope that this movement will evaporate by itself, it never does. What goes around comes around and can explode.

By encouraging all children to read and write in the first place, a tried and true teacher’s approach, such commotions as at Cronulla would be much less feasible. An educational guide like mine would help neutralize the instigators. A boon for the hoon, the goon and the loon. It would help counter the widespread perceptions of decay and victimisation, feelings of national persecution and humiliation cultivated by the chauvinist mainstream media. Habitually presenting prominent racists as normal people, exploring their lighter side and even turning them into lifestyle icons or tele-celebrities. It would render young people subjected to violent pauperisation, feeling swamped by Asians and others, less vulnerable to the advances of racist groups. It would require some curbing of the powers of this mafia of the mediocre whose interests are material, base and commonplace. These archetypal philistines, misanthropes and vulgarians control thought, not so much through what they dictate, but through what they dismiss and deny. Censorship by omission. Not by explicit statements, but by the norms which they implicitly circulate. Imagination, talent, diversity of thought, conviction and creative searching – let alone the voice of the public, or democratic processes – all held back, all anathema to it. It is hard to resist the notion that many of our leaders deliberately –despite the flap they get into over delinquency -allow the spread of an ignorant cohort of heavies and knife-wielding, drug-snorting roughnecks who tear around in herds, high as kites, belching, throwing beer cans or bricks at innocent passers-by, swearing and rendering bus stops and railway stations unusable. Who will support the right electorally and scab on others. There are three ways in which people are controlled. First of all, frighten people, secondly demoralise them and thirdly deny them literacy. An educated healthy and confident nation is harder to govern.

Which is why it was a crime during American slavery to teach a black person how to read or write. It suited the economic interests of the slave masters to keep Africans in the field instead of in the classroom. As one bluntly put it, “Learning,” he said, “will spoil the best nigger in the world.”

It suits the interests of our own masters to keep so many of our children bored, restless, not fulfilling their potential. They themselves feel protected from the consequences, in their palm-fringed chained up residential compounds with electric gates, warnings about “armed police response” and lawns kept immaculate by automatic sprinklers. Their educationists justify denying education to all the masses in their snide aside: ‘If they had half a brain, they’d be dangerous.’ Their real fear is that of a highly articulate cohesive generation demanding greater rights in schools, universities and workplaces.

Aloha Merrylands

“I’m not concerned about all hell breaking loose, but that a PART of hell will break loose… it’ll be much harder to detect.”
George Carlin


Since my neurological Event, some notorious incidents involved students from some the schools I taught at -those where gaggles of idle hands mill around due to the ‘teacher shortage’, carrying out the devil’s handiwork. Leading to shock jock hoopla, the incidents brought into question our so-called superior public educational policy. 2011 saw a race-based brawl outside Hoxton Park High and a student severely stabbed in an altercation at Granville High. In April, 2008 five teenage boys from Granville school paid a visit to neighbouring Merrylands High school to demonstrate the failed educational ‘cutting edge’ practice. Armed with machetes and baseballs bats, the boys from a Pacific Islander background made their presence known during morning assembly. It is believed they were seeking retribution for a perceived slight. Entering two of the school buildings, the boyos went on the rampage, running through corridors smashing as many windows as they could, broken glass showered students huddled in the classroom leaving some with cuts and abrasions. Sydney newspapers, all over the story, suggested the attack was just the tip of the iceberg of a growing gang problem in Western Sydney driven by a romantic inspiration from a Los Angeles organized gang culture and fuelled by the internet.

The ‘racist moral panic’ was slammed by a gang culture authority, Professor Jock Collins from the University of Technology, as a media beat up. In rejecting the lurid sensationalism regarding the incident, Professor Collins thought that there’s an asymmetrical response to gangs when they’re from different ethnic groups and when they’re our gangs. He pointed out that gang violence has existed in Australia for over a century but is at a far lower level than in the US. The impression being given by ‘news management’ is that ethnic diversity is somehow destroying our society. While he admits it is worrying that some people imagine themselves through ‘gangster’ culture and promote such images on the internet – “live in honour, die with respect, steel from the rich, hang with the poor,” reads the chatter on their web – Professor Collins cautions strongly against overreacting. ‘Gang behaviour, particularly in the US is very formal very organized and very systematic’, he said.

This is the bad form that teachers like Mr P., the Baltimore cop who converted to working in a high school in the realist TV series “The Wire” must deal with every day.

As for the boys of Granville High “this is just friendship groups of kids acting though and getting into trouble. That happens, it will happen and has always happened. “But I think the problem with moral panic is we over exaggerate stuff and it draws attention away from the solutions, which is schooling, education, jobs, public spaces for youths”.

Who can deny the obvious factors that Professor Collins draws attention to? In “Gee Officer Krupke!” from ‘West Side Story’ the Jets, staging a mock scenario where a delinquent is shunted from police to judge to psychiatrist to social worker, give multiple explanations with delicious tongue in cheek irony as to why they are delinquent. It remains one of the strongest popular statements about troubled youth and the devastating effects of poverty and racism. The Jets come to the dismal conclusion that juvenile delinquency is an ailment of society-they’re depraved-on-account-a-they’re-deprived- and, “No one wants a fella with a social disease!” The song is as explicit as a sociological treatise about the causes of many of the problems of urban youth, and its acute goofiness easily transcends decades of at-risk teenagers.

A Change in the Wind?

In  2019 [Oct 22 Ashleigh Raper ABC] The NSW Government  released an interim report into the review of what students learn from Kindergarten to Year 12.

The report, written by Professor Geoff Masters, was highly critical of the current syllabus, particularly what it described as its “crowded nature”.

“[This] is not conducive to teaching in-depth or helping students see the relevance of what they are learning,” the report said.

The report also raised concerns about the “lock-step nature” of the curriculum, which the review concluded did not allow for flexibility for teachers to meet the learning needs of all students.

The report also found the curriculum was doing a disservice to senior students.

‘Teaching and learning in the senior secondary school are perceived to be overly focused on examination preparation, maximising the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), and university entrance,’ it said.

It said the curriculum was, “insufficiently focused on equipping every student with the knowledge, skills and attributes they will require for further learning, life and work”.

Significant changes to the curriculum are proposed to decrease the amount of content and reduce the number of subjects offered in senior years.

“The review envisages syllabuses that are leaner in content and more focused on developing deep understandings of disciplinary concepts and principles,” the report said.

“A curriculum structure that better recognises and accommodates the wide variability in students’ levels of attainment.”

The recommendations seem to me long overdue and are  similar to those I proposed to the Department and got fired over.

The Coalition Premier  welcomed the interim report and  says she supports a “back-to-basics approach”.

The very approach that led to the problems in the first place.

The Between the Lines Education Consultancy

“Be the change you want to see in the world” – Gandhi


“In our narrow, confined existence, we tend to forget the essence of life … All of us, whatever our occupation or class, are equally guilty: the employer is lost in the running of his business; the workers, sunk in the abyss of their misery, raise their heads only to cry in protest; we, the politicians, are lost in daily battles and corridor intrigues. All of us forget that before everything else, we are men, ephemeral beings lost in the immense universe, so full of terrors. We are inclined to neglect the search for the real meaning of life, to ignore the real goals – serenity of the spirit and sublimity of the heart … To reach them – that is the revolution.”
Jean Jaures.


Some argue that revolution is something intellectuals need to get off on.

Whilst the brave new world precludes political revolution for the time being, the opportunity for personal revolution remains as ever. At this crossroad , biting the bullet, it was time to come into my own. In time anything I had said to the business reps would have gone in one ear and out the other.

I am not a defeatist. It only made my determination to succeed stronger. I never had any thought of quitting. I should forever have lost all self-respect if I had given up.

After being derailed on my career path so decisively, sequestered by the Machine, ‘losing’ not being in my vocabulary, i was spinning my wheels, chafing at my bid to carve out a new one, come hell or high water. I had returned to the N.S.W. Teaching Service fired with enthusiasm and left the same way. Regaining my momentum, getting back on track, I would steal a march on the edcons in winning over the masses. I couldn’t just flip a switch and become someone else. I took matters into my own hands. This was my baby and I had to work it out for myself. Weighing up the consequences, I set about prevailing on my own terms, bypassing demeaning pandering to the bureaucratic buzz-killing beast. Keeping upwind of it, my final labour would be to help cleanse the Augean stables.

I suppose if I had been prepared to grovel and bow my head meekly, I could have pressed to become some clockwatching,

sleepwalking fixture as a cushy deadwood desk jockey, in charge of paper clips, risking no more than a shiny bum, gravel rash, paper cuts, getting my thumb stuck in a filing cabinet or my tongue nauseated from licking stamps.

Busted down to some bean counting flunky, shuffling paper, cleaning the windows on envelopes, wrapped up in regulations, playing verbal tiddlywinks and pushing a pen on the hot airborne gravy train. Praying for the little hand to move on relieved by breaks for tea, bikky wikkys and wee wees. Getting up to the clock, going to bed to the clock, waiting for that retirement clock. Just another day at the office.

I found this empty prospect unacceptable.To be deprived of my freedom of expression was basically to be deprived of my identity as a professional worker. I was offered nothing and asked for nothing ..No more of the elephantine and humourless look-the-other- ways the ever present, servile, dried-up, gabfesting, mealy mouthed, platitudinising, malfeasant, sinecured lackeys nobble even the tiniest manifestations of originality. A rort that was tort-meting out penurious droplets of cognitive jot or tittle. No more of their boondoggled jiggery pokery, trough snouting flummery.My message to them was plain and simple: ‘Bring it on!’ ‘If you think you’ve seen the last of me, Try this: ‘You ain’t seen nothin’ yet’.

Single minded I would make headway writing my own ticket. Being of creative temperament, cut loose with exigent long-term ambitions that I needed to act on, a mite short of the elbow room, I rose exasperatedly to the challenge. Filling the huge void the government were leaving, filled by an industry tiptoeing around the real issues, covering rear ends with piles of paperwork , generating a wall to wall talkfest about ‘reform’, like that about the weather. People who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, meet and decide that nothing will be done. Committees who keep minutes and waste hours.

You know the spiel : ‘Everybody repeat after me: ‘We are all individuals.’

These talkers were like balloonists. They rise to where they are due to a lot of hot air. Out of the way everybody, you’re using my oxygen! Chocks away, stepping up the timetable, I charged hard, flying solo, a well-oiled lean machine, moving into top gear, speaking louder than words, striking out on my own fast track. A case of make or break, derring do or die. I had to get going if I was going to make a showing. I knew I had the right of way. I believe in the possibility of something, that by putting my energy into that possibility I can make it happen. It’s belief on a concrete level.

It was patently apparent the field of popular education in New South Wales was wide open and up for grabs to any clear-sighted go-getter worth his salt who wanted to see it through, would step up to be counted, swimming against this surging reactionary tide. I wanted to stand on its head the the oft repeated and depressing truism that every human being grows more conservative the older he or she gets. Feeling equal to the task, ideologically unregenerate, suffering no backsliding crisis of faith or second thoughts-not a bit of it-I dived headlong and headstrong into the undertow, absolutely up to my eyes – to fill the gap. Mine for the taking. Opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss. Getting the jump on any potential competitors, I shot the works. I warmed up selecting another string to my bow, completing a certificate in teaching English as a second language. My game plan was to dedicate myself to offering what was missing – an around the clock on the spot service at the coal face, promoting a policy of inclusion, catering not just for the A-team moulded in the establishment image, not just for the mainstream but for for the boy and girl in the street. For children with good heads on their shoulders yet believe education is irrelevant to their lives. Children with qualities like being empathetic, creative and practical just as important as IQ, even if they’re hard to measure. Children few of whom climb out of the scholastic sinkhole, who resist learning in the formal classroom, driven by exams and recess bells- it disrupting adolescent pleasures-but respond in their own setting. Climbing up the wall with enthusiasm, soaking up knowledge like a sponge if you prepare it for them. With plenty to say but can often only express it in an aggressive manner.

For families from the wrong side of the tracks who do not place a high value on education. With home conditions that make learning difficult. As in the two Britains.

Some people see things that are and ask, ‘Why?’ Some people dream of things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’ Some people have to go to work or spend their time looking for it and don’t have time for all that. Their children grow up in difficult or challenging kinds of environments where the kinds of skills they really have to develop are practical skills to survive and creative skills to deal with constant changes in their environment. Their children don’t have the luxury of developing abstract analytical skills but have to develop practical skills.

From Cuba with Love.

For Australia’s indigenous population it remains as difficult as ever to develop even these.

Not too long ago students at Walgett High School in north west NSW used to whoop with relief when they came back over the town’s flood levee after a bus trip away.[SMH May 30,31 Julie Power]

These days, reports Julie, the kids are whooping with glee as they leave. Those who are left sit in empty classrooms with one or two others.

Walgett has a potential high school population of around 350. Yet only 149 students are enrolled in the local high school, according to a census by the NSW Department of Education in February 2015.

Of those, nearly all are indigenous and nearly 90 per cent come from the poorest homes in NSW. Only two students did the HSC last year. Attendance averages 50-60 per cent, a Departmental official said, even though eight attendance officers are employed.

‘About 100 Walgett students have left to take up indigenous scholarships at private schools around the state and in Queensland,’ said local member Kevin Humphries. Others have been sent away to boarding schools or to stay with relatives in Sydney and regional towns that provide a better and safer education. On nearby farms, generations of non-indigenous farmers have always sent their kids away to boarding school. But now families – black and white- say there is little option. ‘For the life of me, the last thing I want is to send my child away. But this is what the whole scenario at the high school has done,’ says a local mother.

Those who do attend the school regularly move in and out. Department statistics reveal that every year, 75 per cent of the school’s students leave or re-enter, giving it one of the highest mobility rates of any school in the state.

A quick poll finds that anyone who can scrape together the money is sending their children away. Others are planning their escape routes, and scouting out jobs in other areas where the schools are better.

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli says there is no school he cares about more than Walgett, and his department’s head is pledging to expand opportunities for children at the school so they have more pastoral care and a greater range of courses.

But Walgett’s former school captain, Bek Cullen, is taking another stance. She loved the school, which had indigenous and non-indigenous students when she attended. But she has lost faith in the Department.

Her children go to the Catholic primary school, where not one of last year’s year six class went on to the high .

Despite the problems, she wants her children to follow in family tradition and go to the same high school that she and her mother attended. She also says her small family construction business can’t afford the $100,000 it would cost a year to send the three children to boarding school.

‘I have never felt more insecure about my school’ she said. As a former teacher at Walgett high, she despairs at how anything can be done before a new principal is appointed.

The high school has had more than a dozen principals in ten years, and the acting principal’s term is limited. The increase in violence spiked in 2015 after the departure of Richard Rule. The veteran teacher was credited with improving results and discipline at the primary and high school.

Earlier this week, departmental official Ms. Bruniges announced that for the first time ever, the Department would use an executive head hunter to recruit a new executive principal at the high school and a new primary principal.

Her top priority was looking at ways to re-engage students who wanted to learn and provide other options to those students who didn’t. A big challenge in a town like Walgett is what to do with those students who are expelled. Most end up hanging out on the streets without any educational or vocational prospects.

Ms Bruniges said she planned to introduce a new charter of expectations that set out clear and high expectations for students, parents, teachers and the community. It would also spell out what sort of behaviour was unacceptable and the consequences.

‘Having a set of expectations that everyone is clear on, students, staff and community is critically important,’ she told Fairfax Media. ‘It isn’t clear at this point. And we need to apply that set of expectations consistently. So, everyone has the same message: If you come to school, it is a place of learning, it is not a gathering place.’

Why can’t the Department take advantage of the school being a gathering place, thus doing away with the need for attendance officers and replace them if need be with at least fly in, fly out motivated teachers who could instil and maintain a love of learning in the gathered children. It could select some from its list of blacklisted socialist teachers. And what happened to those leading teachers the Minister’s party boasted about? Can’t teachers like Richard Rule become the rule? How many years does it take for government to allow learning options for those young people who reject academic curricula.

For many Aboriginal elders, the fear is that those children who leave will be lost to their communities forever, and those who stay in the school have little ambition or hope.

Many senior indigenous educators say the Minister and the Department are evading the need for review of the ‘Connected Communities’ program in the town, which runs in 15 schools in the region and aims to give Aboriginal communities a bigger voice in running the schools.

Bob Morgan, chair of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education at Newcastle University, says‘ I know the school can be turned around–if people stop playing politics, and listen to other voices outside the school’.

Such were the conditions that would confront a literacy team from Cuba, a country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, when it brought it’s ‘Yes I Can’ campaign to other aboriginal communities in N.S.W. Aboriginal residents of Wilcannia, Bourke and Enngonia have been mobilised to go to classes through a ‘mass campaign’ approach pioneered in the early years of the Cuban revolution. Jack Beetson, who once ran Sydney’s Tranby Aboriginal College, says ‘Literacy is a human right that traditional education has failed to deliver to these people. It’s a huge step for most of them to even come to class,” he says. Beetson, 57, a Ngemba man from Nyngan, remembers that in parts of western NSW, Aborigines were excluded from mainstream schools until the 1970s and then only got in if the local Parents & Citizens Association approved. ‘When I went to school, I was in the D class for all the blackfellas and poor white kids. I wanted to study history but was told, ‘That’s not for you, son.’

A team adviser Lucy Nuñez, an exuberant 54-year-old grandmother from Havana, who would work among Maoris in rural New Zealand, was unprepared for the social disintegration she’d encounter. ‘I learnt about how Aboriginal people suffered from colonisation, how they have been separated from their families, moved out of towns and put on reserves. Their communities are broken, they have addictions and no jobs. Life is very hard,’ she says. Lucy believes her skin colour and a shared experience of colonisation helped her win the trust of sceptical communities. ‘They say, ‘You are black, we think the same’. They tell me black people think with their hearts and white people think with their brains. I tell them if you want respect you have to increase your knowledge.’

Jack Beetson believes the Cuban approach to learning can work where traditional education has failed many Aboriginal populations, because it makes illiteracy the responsibility of an entire community rather than an individual problem. ‘We aim to build a community culture that values and supports learning,’ he says.

“You have to build trust and respect before you can do anything with our people. The Cuban program has done that,” says Lillian Lucas, who co-ordinates the Bourke arm of the scheme. Some of its 27 graduates live at Alice Edwards Village, where Lucas grew up, a squalid former reserve on the Darling River outside the town levee. “There is a lot of negativity here, our community is broken,’ says Ms. Lucas, 37, as she drives around the village with its decaying dwellings and overgrown yards studded with wrecked vehicles. ‘But we are getting results with kids who have come out of high school but can’t read and write.’

The literacy classes are based on a set of 64 one-hour lessons on DVD. Each lesson shows a class of non-literate learners – played by English-speaking actors from Grenada – being taught by an experienced teacher. Class facilitators help students do oral and written exercises being modelled on screen. Words and phrases are broken down into component sounds and letters and then re-assembled. Each letter is associated with a number, on the assumption that most people of low literacy have some familiarity with numbers.

Associate Professor Bob Boughton, an adult education expert at the University of New England, which would help manage the literacy campaign, says students tend to identify with the black Grenadian actors and gain confidence from knowing their own community is part of a global campaign.

Dr.Boughton would advise the East Timor government when Cuba developed and ran a literacy campaign in the newly independent nation. ‘Over 120,000 adult Timorese gained basic literacy within four years from 2007 to 2011, in conditions of extreme poverty and despite political upheaval,” he says.

The final phase Three of ‘Yes I Can’ is a range of post-literacy activities that include computing, healthy cooking from recipes, art and reading to children. These are designed to consolidate learning and build pathways into jobs, further education and community participation.

How I would have loved to share my work in tandem with such a team.

The authorities either don’t want to or can’t raise the level of literacy amongst such people in in N.S.W. government schools, and won’t allow anyone who wants to, someone who doesn’t need to be a genius but well-rounded with empathy. This was the area where I wanted to solidify my practice, to stamp my authority, helping wise up the populace, not dumbing them down.Promoting the advancement of all,not keeping many in their place. My be all and end all. The longed-for alchemy of education, all that dull base metal glinting into gold. I had no out. In this for the long haul, deeply invested in this my country, I wasn’t going anywhere. I’ve always called Australia home. If I couldn’t make it here , I couldn’t make it anywhere. At this time of my life I had a crystal-clear vision of where I wanted to head. I had the credentials and was hardwired for this – and nothing else. I wasn’t the best at what I did, I was the only one that did what I did. A one-trick pony, but a very valuable trick, specialised in teaching nothing but everything. The works. Going it alone,forever blowing bubbles, aiming to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, and to confound all sneering expectations, I launched my education consultancy. I set out its far reaching scope and my modus operandi in my brochure. It is a resources based inclusivist approach to education in NSW. It offers families access to a professional service providing systematic and imaginative education material. The material covers knowledge essential for daily life in NSW. It enables total immersion in its language and culture. Filling in the gaps in the system, not an alternative but a complement to it. It fosters a sense of belonging, cutting across the social divisiveness engendered by the educational conservatives. It is geared to providing a key to lifelong learning. It shows concretely what teachers in the public sphere are capable of producing. It avoids information overload. In the encyclopaedic material the text is minimal. Knowledge is broken down into its component units and is presented in the form of these self-contained abecedarian units which are illustrated. The student can arrange these as desired to build on a structure of knowledge, satisfying inside out both his or her interests, and falling within the context of the New South Wales syllabus, an all embracing one despite conservative attempts to limit it. Everything is linked and teacher intervention is minimal. This way the student cannot but learn.

Each unit of knowledge forms part of an emerging jigsaw puzzle, producing an increasingly more complete picture of the state in which we live and the world beyond.

The reading and writing material is based on black and white comic book material which is edited. Recruiting the talents of the leading writers from MAD magazine, I set about doctoring the captions and illustrations. I liquid papered out the text and drawings to create stories that preserve the best of the originals, doing away with the silliness, vulgarity and stereotypes that spoil them. This is determined by the dictates of the market more than any shortcomings of the artist. I have done so on the understanding that these cultural works, used for educational purposes, will have the respect of the artists and will earn a wider appreciation for their talents.

In the finished product the aim is to have the text coincide with the images. Both text and images are imposed with putty-like pressure sensitive adhesive on A4 sheets, enclosed in plastic sheet protectors and stored in jumbo binders. This allows shuffling text and images around, interpolating new material and continuous editing. It very durable. The contents I introduced at the beginning of this operation blend in perfectly with those most recent. The more the material is used the more firmly the contents remain attached.

It is universal in appeal. It takes into account the cultural shift towards the moving image over the written work and aims to keep them in balance. It bridges the gap between what is onshelf

and what is online. One technology doesn’t replace another, it complements. Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

“The teachers explode a pyrotechnic in the sky and all for a moment you can see the landscape, where you come from, where you could go, whereas the kings and presidents shine a torch and say here is the path you must follow. So my starting point is knowledge frees you.”

Tony Benn. Sister: Alice…! Will you kindly pay attention to your history lesson? Alice: I’m sorry, but how can one possibly pay attention to a book with no pictures in it? Sister: My dear child, there are a great many good books in this world without pictures. Alice: In this world perhaps. But in my world, the books would be nothing but pictures. Sister: Your world? Huh, what nonsense. Now… Alice in Wonderland.

Grabbing the eyes the visually dazzling images from my bank bewitch and motivate you to sit up, take notice and read about them. Outside our schools children are bombarded with images from everything under and around the sun, but inside the school they are largely fed on a diet of words which only the academically minded children – such as I once was – gravitate to.

The first things many are drawn to in the stodgy, insipid dross issued are the moustaches, devils’ horns and genitals illustrated by other children and that’s often as much as they look at. Things haven’t changed much since the young Sam Beckett, bored stiff in his science lessons, drew lewd caricatures of his teacher under his desk, colouring outside the lines.

The coalition’s refusal to open up public schools to visual education, it’s preference for private schools seems to be guided by the motto, ‘Education is show business. No business, no show.’

John Lennon pointed out that 80% of people who read magazines don’t read at all. They just flip through and look at the pictures. They can get a story upfront looking at three or four pictures. Then if they like the pictures they might get in deeper and find out more. The image comes first. It’s the first thing people see. It’s immediacy will never leave us.

Everything in the universe as we know it has been photographed, drawn or painted. All children should be encouraged to study it in its full complexity, beauty and wonder, to be able to discern the consumerist propaganda about how we should live and what we should look like. Children should always have an explanation available for what they see, be guided, and be able to write about or illustrate what they see. Children who are not academically minded can proceed intellectually by leaps and bounds through harnessing of their visual acuity. Teachers must be able to boost and refine their pictorial vocabulary. This way they can’t but read extensively with enjoyment.

It Seemed a Good Idea at the Time

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”[Hamlet (2:2) ]

Me and my big ideas went along with the encouragement by the Minister for Education for teachers to set up their own business, seeing I didn’t have much choice in this bread and butter matter. It was all or nothing. I had to look on the detours they set up as an opportunity, the kind that don’t knock twice. If the edcons were bent on pushing society backwards, I would make it my business to live out my days helping pull it forwards. At least I would give them a run for their money. If I had the will, surely the means would present themselves. My skin was fully in the game. Surely If I had been able to profit from skinning dead sheep, I could skin this mangy old fat cat another way-to wit through my latent powers of persuasion. Be it skinning or belling, there was nothing to it but to do it. To play to my strengths. It seemed right up my alley.Going it alone while the getting was good, I was presented with the chance to do a very special thing, unique to me, fitted to my talents and going beyond what was expected. After much brainstorming,soul-searching and calculating the risks, everything riding on it, time getting away from me, I accordingly reached a fateful and consequential fork in the road. My one man band would raise the wind for my free peripatetic service by selling my policy to businesses and travellers to Australia, cold-calling, and cashing in on the current tourist windfall. I did it it on spec, as a gamble, without having  definite buyers or customers but with the hope or expectation of finding them as I went.I did it without  the certainty of getting the financial return I wanted   Also it meant that I’d be more tied down to working in N.S.W.

The upside was that eventually the lone hand would be snapped up, showered with handsome offers, able to name my own price. It was in the bag I believed. My gamble would pay off and the family would be well fixed, in a position to take some trips. Getting my sure-fire failsafe show underway on the bright side of the road, I distributed my fliers in hotels and the airport, moving between these and my peninsular Parnassus to establish my clientele and explain the service. What you see is what you get. The work is the entity. I saw myself as a dark horse, the unknown contender, who coming quietly from behind is catapulted to unexpected success despite great odds, in the fullness of time an overnight sensation, going viral with popular recognition, honours coming thick, the seas parting for me. upon. The triumph of mind over matter. I wanted to be seen as a man of distinction – indispensible, not disposable. My motive was to use the service for political leverage-to act as a quiet catalyst, to create hey presto acause celebre, a groundswell in which the public demand a shake-up, a full court press for the right of freedom of speech for teachers and students in which the humane treatment of children would gain traction. Into the bargain I aimed to set the pace, outdo myself, jump the line, raise the educational bar, further the achievement of literacy across the board, capture and shape the identity of this society, and help curb some of the senseless violence that plagues this effluent society. This well kept secret worked to act as a trendsetting touchstone, a reference point against which the work of teachers inside the system could be calibrated. How the best teachers in the system are chosen is a state secret[169] according to one retired principal. In choosing those teachers best able to teach gifted and talented students, teachers, the Department says the process involves ‘a complex analysis of students at differing levels of performance; it is not a simple aggregation, and cannot be conveyed simply without degrading its value and accuracy.’

If I, to whom a message of unsatisfactoriness could be conveyed so simply, was among the’ worst’, according to the edcons, working with less ‘gifted’ children in a classroom whose mystery I had no right to clarify, , it would be easy for parents to judge who were the ‘best’. And to conclude that all teachers are valuable and worthy of better status.

Making any progress towards getting due process with respect to my treatment in this kafkaesque system was like bashing my head against a wall. How do you get through to those determined not to listen? How to shame those who are shameless? Nowhere left officially to turn I couldn’t waste any more breath on the matter. The political and social boundaries had placed decisive limits on the application of “rationality” to any official response. Peddlers of just one more economic activity, these officials were unable to transcend the policy limits that the ruling elite imposed. I had failed to reinforce what they wished to hear. I had not reconfirmed the power structure’s interests and predetermined policies.

Hi-ho Silver, and away. Sustained by the knowledge that if you can offer something one up on the edcons, people will demand it, I threw myself into my grand design, body and soul, my one-track mind blocking out most everything else. The files in my head, I took them to bed, I was never ever through. Looking for a way in, pushing through, eating, sleeping and breathing this magnificent obsession. Knowing not exactly where it would end, but that from little things, big things grow. And my, did it grow. With a long gestation period it grew like Topsy, freed of its turvy.

Spreading the Word. ‘He travels fastest who travels alone.’ Rudyard Kipling The Between the Lines Education Consultancy.

In order to arouse interest in my service and generate a going concern, I advertised by disseminating flyers with my mission statement and a brochure describing my methodology. In size a third of an A4 sheet of paper apiece, they slotted neatly into the uniform leaflet compartments of hotels. The text of the brochure outlining my methodology [See below] was set out across the width of the sheet and folded into illustrated panels spaced such that each treats a discrete aspect of my work. Commission paid for my policy funded a practice based on these principles.

With the aim of conciseness and clarity, the flyer runs as follows:

Mission Statement: To further the vision of the founding father of Australian Federation. This was that all children, regardless of religion or social status “sit side by side”[170] in free, compulsory and secular schools.

The Education Act (NSW) underpins public schools with these principles.

Henry Parkes’ vision was of “a new society based on equality, fairness and justice for ordinary people”. A first rate, universally accessible public education system is fundamental to this dream. “It has the potential to give equal opportunity to all. If life’s chances are seen as fair and open, there is hope. Without hope, anger and violence breed from despair”[171].

The aim of the Between the Lines Education Consultancy is to keep this vision alive. It identifies those elements that cloud this vision.

Commission paid for its policy funds a practice based on these principles. It provides all members of the family the means to enjoy studying about this country, its language and its culture.

The text of the brochure was set out across the width of the sheet and folded into illustrated panels spaced such that each treats a discrete aspect of my work.

The ‘Between the Lines’ Education Consultancy assists you to :

  • Improve your research skills rapidly
  • Observe and identify surrounding phenomena
  • Read and write thereof
  • Work at your own pace with programmed assignment material
  • Gain access to the best popular encyclopaedic material about all areas of knowledge
  • Store the knowledge you garner for later reference
  • Build on a structure of knowledge

To guide your research, you are posed a number of questions and problems. You are told where to look (location) for things (phenomena), and what area of knowledge (category) these fall into. The areas of knowledge are indicated by capital letters in the statement:

“in nature MATTER is formed from changes in ENERGY. In society PEOPLE form IDEAS about these things. Through WORK they change things. They make things both TECHNICAL and CULTURAL. These things all change over TIME”.

Arrangment of Knowledge.

  • Knowledge is broken down into its constituent parts and presented in the form of self-contained units.
  • The phenomena are arranged alphabetically and cross-referenced. In order to get more information, you are told how to go from one unit to another. It makes it easy to start anywhere with a minimum knowledge of specialized terms.
  • The names of things are entered first. Then comes what we know about them. You may, for example, want to explain the formation which four congruent right triangles make when they line their sides up. You are told to look in “knowledge” for “triangle, congruent, right”. Background information can be found by looking up “Triangle, Angle” etc.
  • As far as possible, both words and images to do with things coincide.
  • Maps are arranged alphabetically and show where things can be or could have been seen.
  • To find out more how English works, you encounter it through language situations of your choice or through studying the forms and structures of language. It is not necessary to know the terms for these forms and structures. For example, to find information on “the articles” you could look up a, the, zero article or articles, or for information on conditionals you could look up conditionals, if or You could look up the ending –ed to find information on the past tense and the past participle.
  • If your English is at an early stage it is suggested that you begin by reading the entries for sentence and clause and the entries for word classes (parts of speech): noun, verb, adjective, preposition, conjunction, pronoun, determiner.
  • An inventory of items of knowledge covered by the student is made available.
  • Fictionalised images are distinguished from actual ones. They appear against a coloured background.

The Between the Lines Education Consultancy offers you a systematic listing of things about New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

  • The kinds of people, what they have made, and their gathering places.
  • Animals, plants and natural features.
  • It covers what has gone on this area and what is going on now. It gives a good insight into this area of Australia.It gives a good overview.

Vignettes. The Consultancy offers you a series of character sketches, descriptions and short stories-vignettes-which you can read and write about if you want to sharpen your language skills.There are three kinds of vignettes from which to choose:

  1. ‘Staying Alive.’ A series of adventures in which characters confront death defying situations.
  2. ‘Routine Matters.’ A series of events in everyday life.
  3. ‘Full House.’ A celebration of life.

You are provided with model answers with which to compare your own. Discrepancies which arise lead to self-diagnosis. The Consultant

  • Studied in all areas of NSW Universities.

His university described his post-graduate study as a ‘pioneering work in a very difficult area.’

  • Was awarded the Teacher’s Certificate by the NSW Department of Education.
  • Worked in all areas of NSW public schools.
  • The heads described his practice as follows:
  • “prepares his material well. Works extensively with specially prepared sheets”
  • “is conscientious in assisting students”
  • “is respectful in assisting students”
  • “is sympathetic to students”
  • “has interacted well with students and staff”
  • “has presented himself as punctual, reliable and cooperative”
  • “has a definite commitment to teaching”

Client Comments.

The general public expressed great appreciation of my work, as attested to in client statements. These are available for inspection on request.

Like everyone who read my ideas and saw my rare and exceptional material, Professor Harry Messel found it interesting. I managed to rope him in for comment. Baby boomers will all remember the “Blue Book” – the high school science bible of the 60s and 70s. Harry, was determined to inspire young people to love science. Arriving in Sydney from Canada, he discovered there wasn’t a girls school in the city that offered physics. Unpersuaded by the excuse that ”girls don’t like physics”, he battled for the country’s first compulsory, integrated science syllabus to be introduced in 1963, which also gave many boys the opportunity to study biology for the first time.

‘As a keen photographer I can see the quality of your material. It must have taken an enormous amount of work to prepare. What is the purpose behind your campaign?’ he asked.

‘To make learning easier for children and involve them in the learning process.’

‘You know all knowledge comes from the sweat of your brow. People think everything is supposed to be easy. You have to make things easy for the children, poor kids, how could you make things difficult for them. You can’t spoon feed children. They have to take the crookeds with the straights. You have to make things difficult for them and put some fibre up their back.’

‘I agree with you about this aim. You know there is a problem with the education system when you realize that out of the 3 R’s only one begins with an R. But I’m talking about the boy and girls in the street, who don’t go to school much. They’ve never been challenged intellectually. I make it easy for them to begin with. To get them hooked. Then the schools can reel them in and get them going. How was your schooling, Professor?’’

‘To me, learning was beautiful, learning was exciting, it made me feel good and I felt I could conquer the world. I read every book in the library. I’d read three books in one day. I hated holidays, because it meant I had to give a learning a rest.’

‘My aim is for all children to share this enjoyment. Some might say that this is to raise nerds .That children need to get out more in the open’.

‘Never let it be said I’m a geek. I spent my childhood years in Canada running. I never walked, I ran. I ran all the time from the time I got up to the time I turned flukes at night. I ran continuously. And the Indians used to do the same.’

The Indians?’

‘The Sioux. We were thick as thieves. I learnt to speak their language when I was a youngster there and they became lifelong friends until the deaths of some of them. They were very gentle people, very knowledgeable, they had great understanding of nature which they passed on to me.’

He chose to look at my sections on crocodiles-he is a leading authority on these-and on the countryside.

‘I used to water-ski there on the Hawkesbury. I water-skied for 45 years and taught dozens of kids. I’ve been fishing and hunting since I was 5.’

‘Well there you are, what restless child wouldn’t be interested in these things?’

“What hyperactive child like me!’ he laughed. ‘I’m having fun, keeping moving. I don’t know how I ever had time to work,” he said, stopping to quickly write his comment.

The Hard Yards.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; None but ourselves can free our mind.

                                                          Bob Marley.

Underestimating the extent of the vast wealth of raw material going begging, and of my body’s capacity to process it, I nevertheless kept it on a tight rein, guarding against it’s potential to become unwieldy.Fully accepting my parental responsibilities I was chief cook and bottle-washer in the house. As long as I was shopping and rustling up, pinching the pennies, covering my share of the bills, placing a high value on constancy, we made out and things hummed along, falling perkily into place. You could set your clock by me. Scheduled, routine comings and goings, appointments and meetings, arrivals and departures, day-to-day hassles and joys, within a structured workaday life. Through the good and lean years, the in-between years, on the trot, walking the talk, riding on the merry-go-round, treading water, touching wood. I had it down real tight. At the end of every month, we made critical trade-off decisions, determining whether we’d get the roof fixed or pay the council rates or keep the electricity on. Staying one step ahead of utility disconnection and going under the hammer, we kept on top of things, the homefires burning, the books finely balanced, the household squeaking by, ticking over like clockwork. Down to a fine art, the boys were fed, schooled , socialized, taken to soccer, settled in the comforting rituals of family life, while I , spurred on by public approval– documented in well received client details– nurtured my picture-perfect brainchild. Reading me by my books which spoke for themselves, strangers were sold, trusting my motives and agenda at a glance. Seeing is believing. One look was all it took.

One of my clients, an aboriginal father had become entangled in the court system with heavy fines for unlicenced driving that would take years to pay off.

He hadn’t been driving for fun. His outback town had a pub, police station and primary school, but no supermarket, doctor, bank or employment office. The nearest was some distance away with infrequent public transport. There were never enough seats and the bus wouldn’t take small children like his. Hence his taking to the steering wheel. ‘It would be easier for me to get a driving licence if I could read the questions asked and answer them properly.’

One client who remains etched in my mind jibbed at filling out his details: ‘I can’t think of anything to say.’

‘Just write your name if nothing else.’

I guessed straight away by his hesitation he was illiterate. I had to sweet talk him into doing it. He was pushing it to manage a reasonable facsimile of his name. He had somehow been able to get through life, so far, without learning how to read and write.

‘I’ve given myself away, haven’t I.’

‘There’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not as though you rob banks, ‘I said, ‘or own one.’

‘True, but I can’t even open an account in one. I keep my money under my mattress. I’m afraid of going into shops because I can’t understand what the labels are. I’m worried I’ll get the wrong thing and end up poisoning someone. I have an inferiority complex about my lack of formal education. I can’t apply for jobs, you know, and show any qualifications. I left school at 13 and I’ve nothing to show. I can’t even drive a taxi, you know. I can drive like Jack Brabham but only in the scrub. I can’t pass the theory to get a licence. The Roads and Traffic Authority say it’s too dangerous I can’t read street and road signs. I get lost on foot. I can’t take buses as I don’t know where they’re going. I have to stop people and ask them the way.’

‘You must ask a lot of questions?’

”I ask myself the big ones,” he said, ‘Do I have a name if I can’t write it?’ ‘Am I a human being if I can’t read it?’

What had happened in his education to bring about this neglect? He told me of his childhood. When he was growing up, he had peregrinated around the state with his salesman father, never  staying put in one place long enough to receive a basic education.

‘We moved so often,’ he said, ‘I thought we were in the witness protection program.’

When, finally, they did settle, he felt he was too old to go through the humiliation of attending primary school. The Department hadn’t followed him up.

He accommodated his disadvantage by limiting his contacts with the world, living in self-imposed isolation. He had developed the wiliness of a thief in his stratagems to avoid exposure. Not until I came along did he find the nerve to face the facts. Helping such people understand their handicap and know how to overcome it gave me immense satisfaction.

Another client Paul, a dyslexic, related his school experience: ‘They just kept putting me up. Third class, fourth class. I just sat in the back, sticking to myself. It was like no one noticed, and I went all the way through and left Primary School.

Then they sent me to high school. General Activities. They could have sent me to Taronga Zoo.’

‘Didn’t anyone ever help you?’

‘No one. No one ever said: “Paul, you can’t read. What will you do with yourself?”’

‘What did you do with yourself at school?’

‘I got into lots of trouble deflecting attention away from my weakness.’

‘How was it eventually picked up on?’

One of my remedial teachers noticed how I kept writing “semoithng, soemthnig, smoeithng’.

He realised you were trying to tell him something. Did you end up passing the School Certificate?’

‘Well, the ceremony came and my mother came. She took the day off work.

So, we’ re there. The Headmaster calls out the names on the certificates and what each kid had done. Like “Tony Harris, credits. ”Mary Kirby, pass. And then he came to my name. He said, ‘Paul Smith receives a certificate of attendance. You could hear people whispering. A couple of parents laughed.’

‘How insensitive!’

‘And I had to go up there and get it. I had to stand up there just so embarrassed, trying not to look at anyone, trying not to look too stupid. Mother was in front. She had her hat on and her purse in her lap, tears coming down from behind her glasses Iike someone, Iike someone died.’

‘I take it you never became a tattooist.’

‘Get us some sandwiches from Thompson’s Deli,’ I asked one of my clients as lunchtime came.

‘Which shop is that ?

‘It’s in the middle of the next block. You’ll see the sign on the top of the awning.’,

‘Thompson’s.’ ‘Is there a problem?’ ‘Nothing wrong. Nothing the matter at all. Now, the shop says.. ’ ‘It says ‘Thompson’s Deli’ on the front.’ ‘What’s that look like?’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘ I’m talking about I can’t read much at all, Allan.’ ‘But I’ve seen you working your way through the newspaper .’

Well, that’s just it. I just look! I try to figure out what’s going on from the pictures.’ ‘Do you know the letters of the alphabet?’

‘Yes I do. I know my ABC. I just can’t read.’

The shopkeepers name is ‘Thompson.’ What does that “tuh” letter sound like? – T?

Now the tricky part is there’s two letters you don’t pronounce The ‘H’ and ‘P’ are silent. Got it? Of course! Now the last part is ‘nuh.’ What letter sounds like ‘nuh’? N! So the first letter is… ‘T’. And the last letter? ‘N’. ‘T-N’. T–n. It even sounds a bit like like Thompson, doesn’t it?

‘It sure does, Allan!’

‘Going to offices like Centrelink or the Post Office is a challenge,’ said another client. ’Filling out forms and applications.I have to get someone else to help me do license forms and rego. Now don’t get me wrong but they provide interpreters for New Australians but nothing for those like me.’

What was your experience of school?’ I asked.

‘I hated school.My time there was brief and brutal. I was told I was dumb so many times I began to believe it. At school I was ignored or teased and pushed aside. I was told, ‘Why don’t you stop while you’re behind?’ I coped by copying everything from others. Can you believe I got enrolled in French classes after which my father visited the school. He pointed out to the Principal, ‘If my son can’t read and write properly in English how can he possibly do so in another language?!’

I was one of a number of outcasts. No-one really cared about us. We went outside to do gardening or clear rubbish. We went on lots of excursions. Anything to keep us out of the teacher’s hair.

‘How has this handicap affected you in life?’

I would have liked to have been eligible for better safer jobs. People have taken advantage of me like in getting credit cards, leases and loans. Someone I trusted is out there driving a brand new car which I paid for.’

Hunting and Gathering.

I had it made-or so I thought. While the prodigious materials, a time capsule of when the printed word ruled, were purchased to the tune of very little financially, this shoestring operation cost this culture mulcher innumerable hours combing through charity shops and home sales.

I built it to last, and people were able to see that in the work.

In the shops’ aisles of books, I stood before such marvels like a child let loose in a sweet shop, not knowing what to grab first. The things people throw away! Let loose on the stacks I was in a book constructor’s fairyland, scanning the titles on the spines, winkling out the best- many which had been thrown out of schools-like truffles, picking the eyes out of them fastidiously, scissoring and storing what I wanted for the future. Culling the inferior images, the repetitious, looking for the differences between the best, either stylistically or in substance, to set up questions as to the connections between them. In this venture, I had to build up a critical mass to enable me to get what is necessary for my purpose. This purpose deepened the further I strayed from shelves of Australiana. Gradually I cast my net more widely, going beyond the parameters I had set for myself –hunting and gathering material on this region of Australia. Tempted by the allure of visually exciting books going for a song- some sold simply by size – I couldn’t resist. Like Joost Swarte I was truly at home with books.

Books on everything when I was doing the spadework.

Everything except sport which I felt was less priority notwithstanding its sacred place in the Australian psyche. While its heroes have been traditionally revered as demi-gods, I haven’t been intoit since my younger years. If someone told me I had athlete’s foot, I’d say that’s not my foot. Then when it was announced the Olympic Games were to be held in Sydney, I threw this in the mix, adding this sporting life to my perfectionist portfolio, thinking it would attract a wider market. Determined to see my idea through, my task was now truly a marathon one.

Up and running, logging up the mileage on the odomoter, I had the laurels I wanted to be garlanded with – a government appeal for my services on the strength of my achievement – firmly in sight. What could possibly go wrong? I was taking a mighty tall chance, but couldn’t see myself ending up like the legendary greek runner, pushing himself to the point of expiry, his race run, falling at the final hurdle, his garland used as a wreath. Neither iron man nor nervous nelly, I had plenty of drive and staying power. In fair fettle, up to speed, I was functioning as well as could be expected, going the full distance through my middle age, no exceptional signs of crisis, albeit less sprightly, worse for wear, losing steam, running out of puff. Like a swan I appeared to be effortlessly gliding but I was paddling like mad under the water. All over the place.

I had the chemistry and only needed one other thing, timing, and timing is a bitch. With my wits about me, never a sigh, all I needed was time. Wrapped up in it to the last, I had gone in too deep- the whole nine yards- to change course.

I kept in mind the words of Horace,the Roman poet.  Palma Non Sine Pulvere– no palms without dust.meaning ‘ ‘no reward without effort’.

I was constantly countering the inevitable ‘ What if …’ line of thought.

What if after all the dust I went through,I wouldn’t bear the palm

Did I have an Achilles heel? A weak spot that would leave me- with all my strengths- vulnerable? Becoming unhinged. My greatest concern was the theft or loss of my library – to share the anguish of Pramoedya.

My open-ended project shaped up well taking on a life of its own as a fascinating whiz-bang jigsaw puzzle, growing ever more complex and compelling the more pieces I found and put together, a gestalt greater than the sums of it’s parts. However creating something unique and one that most people find wanting in the desiccated system is one thing. Translating it into a hard-headed paying proposition is another. It was fine to be a genius of course, but imperative to keep the old horse before the cart. My inordinate desires mismatched my finite resources.

A Bridge Too Far.

I fooled myself that I could make a decent living doing something both creative and socially beneficial, while tilting at such injustice. A knight errant on a fool’s errand? Chasing rainbows by day and a will o’ the wisp by night? Building castles in the air by day and pipe dreams at night. Granted it proved rather quixotic , cargo cultist, sisyphean and delusional to an extent, me being too high headed, too clever by half .The problem working in such an idiotic governmental environment is you end up over-estimating your own intellectual capacity. I had hope of some governmental breakthrough when the Premier’s Department announced an award for innovative projects. Ministers like Christopher Pyne [In an opinion piece for Fairfax Media.] complain that ‘what happens in the classroom remains unchanged’. However, there was a catch, of course. It was restricted to those of teachers employed in officially approved schools.

I managed by chance to speak to the new Minister of Education in 1990. I encountered this ultimate stamp of approval one morning when she was crossing Macquarie Street from the State Parliament. She offered to speak to me in her office after I raised the matter of my case. She told me that she would be prepared to give me advice and assistance. Virginia Chadwick was a Greiner loyalist and a key architect of the disastrous education policies they made. She had a reputation for taking no prisoners when it came to matters she believed in. However she had come to the fore to take a less confrontational stance to teachers. A former teacher, happy to be known on a first name basis, she was said by her colleagues to be full of  humour and fun. She played an April Fools’ Day joke on the Department directing that every member of the senior executive should spend two weeks of work experience in a school. You can imagine the consternation that ensued. I was curious to find out if being a woman of wit she might not just put me on but lend a sympathetic ear. I’d believe it when I saw it. Maybe she would be able to do something, and maybe Christmas would come in July.

‘So Mr. Davis, you don’t think you have been treated respectfully during your tenure with the Department.’

‘Not for a minute. My complaint is its refusal to seriously consider my re-employment and the circumstances of my dismissal.’

‘So you still feel resentful about this?’ ‘I’m past feeling resentful. I’m all the way to outraged.’

‘Mr. Davis, I’ll tell you straight up what’s wrong with your case. It’s a closed case. You realize that far too long has expired since you left the Department, don’t you? From what the Director of Personnel informs me, they’ve refused your petition over and over again.’

‘For Pete’s sake they can’t just do that. Whether they’ve mislaid it, put in on the shelf or got it mixed up with someone else’s, they have to address the concerns I raised.’

‘I hate to tell you it’s like the Monty Python sketch. The one with the parrot. Look, I know a dead petition when I see one, and I’m looking at one right now. Your petition is not just old and tired, it’s stone dead. It is no more. It has ceased to be. It has expired and is definitely deceased. This is an ex-petition.’

‘You’re a barrel of laughs’, I thought, but said instead, ‘How do you manage to keep a straight face while saying that?’ hoping this humour would be followed by some some intelligent proposition.

‘Accept this for what it is.It can’t be helped. Have you been doing any more school teaching or further studies? ‘

‘I completed a certificate in teaching English as a second language and I’ve been selling ‘The Forward to the Basics’ Education policy in N.S.W.’ I explained my mission to her and showed her a range of client comments.

‘Mrs. Chadwick, in your first parliamentary speech, you referred to the importance of the field of education. You said and I quote: ‘I defy anyone to show me in this complex society a well-adjusted illiterate. I find it shocking that such high levels of poor literacy are allowed to persist?’

‘Don’t we all?’

‘How can you just ify  expelling such large numbers of  school children? How does this contribute to society? ’

‘Those disruptive  kids are a worthless bunch.So don’t lose any sleep over it.They’re someone else’s worry now.’

‘You’re just shifting responsibility for them.In relation to problems you perceive as afflicting the New South Wales education system, you said: ‘In education you have the capacity to truly make a difference in your community, to make a difference on the world. And nobody goes into politics, or nobody should go into politics, unless they wish to make a real contribution to the community. And in education what you do and how you do it has a critical importance for the next generation.’

‘In relation to problems you perceived as afflicting the New South Wales education system , you said: ‘The answer lies further back along the school chain in an effective learning process tempered with human understanding.’

So why don’t the Department and those on high allow teachers to contribute as people expect them to? If they can’t protect the integrity of the system, then there is no system. This is not simply a fifty million or fifty billion dollar question. It’s a question of freedom of speech.

Teachers in Russia can now give their mind police a serve openly without fear of retribution. We should be allowed an amnesty too? Is that too much to ask or what?’

‘You don’t in all seriousness compare teachers’ rights in Russia to those here, do you? That’s an accusation most would find extravagant.’

‘Take it any way you like, Mrs. Chadwick, ‘that’s how many feel. We too need someone to tip the scales more in favour of greater democracy.’

Our party is elected to run the country and represent the people. Do you really think everyone should lead and know everything? That would lead to pure chaos.’

‘I’m glad we understand each other.’ ‘What do you want out of this from the Department?’

‘I want an apology for their mistakes and a promise that this will never happen again.I want an end to this conspiracy of silence.’’

In the brief time allocated to me, she said in conclusion. ‘Mr. Davis, ‘My time is limited and I have many matters to attend to. We don’t have enough to get into huge questions like this. You have to take these up these through the normal channels. What you want is a big order. I’m not a miracle worker.I can’t just make a captain’s call. With the best will in the world, there is a limit to what I can do. As I said because of the time lapse it’s outside my jurisdiction. I don’t have any magic wand. I have a strong management focus and am guided closely by the Department’s rules and regulations.’

‘What precisely does pedantic mean, Mrs. Chadwick?’ Enough said. End of story.’

‘I know, instructions are instructions, it’s not up to you. The buck stops somewhere else.’

‘You know being Minister is like being the groundskeeper in a cemetery: Everyone is under you, but no one is listening to you. Now this is the part where you leave, Mr. Davis.’

Yes,Virginia,there is a ruling class. It does things like this just because it can. You might at least play the following April Fools’ Day joke on it. Send your Departmental executives a memo directing that every child be immediately taught to read and write properly straight out of the chute. That would scare the pants off them. Especially your predecessor’s, if he’s got any on. Perhaps I might visit you again to find if this has worked. When might that be convenient?’

‘How about never? Is never good for you?’

‘It’s good enough. May the farce be with you!’

Biting off more than I could chew, my eyes bigger than my brain, Mr. Bigstuff did it my way-the hard way. A vast backlog of material banking up, packed to the rafters,as unwieldy for one person as the Pentagon Papers. The devil was in all the details. As the years wore on I kept plugging away, in obscurity, either tucked away in my inner sanctum, the wizard of Oz, burning the candle at both ends, the oil at midnight, wading around the cutting room floor, through piles of off cuts, consumed in reams of meticulous bibliophilia, winnowing useless chaff from vital knowledge, boiling the grains down into bitesize chunks, funnelling, filtering, filing, classifying, comparing like with like, like with unlike, whipping it into shape and storing it. Having laid out a simple basic structure, fleshing it out by putting in each new addition where it belongs-just as I do in writing this saga. Revving around town double-time in my turbocharged vehicle for hope, keyed up, stepping on it, full blast, on my tour de force, my long hard race against time, knocking on doors, flogging my service, getting my point across, everything riding on it, getting way ahead of myself, giving it my all, considering all else a waste of time. So much to do, so little time in which to do it.

Hitting the switch, tromping on the accelerator, flat out, fast forwarding like fury just to stay in place, I couldn’t afford a backward glance. Working against nature’s timetable, fighting to get off the ground, bleary eyed, there were just not enough hours in the day. I couldn’t have tried harder. That’s all I had in me. Phew! When would it break for me?

My wife advised me: ‘Just face it. Your youthful blush has drawn to a close. If you’re to last the pace, you have to get more solid shut eye. We are designed to sleep around eight hours per night. Otherwise, you’ll end up having an accident or a coronary.’

‘There’s no rest for the wicked. I’ll sleep when I’m dead and buried’ ‘Do you think you have the ‘Thatcher gene’?’

‘If you look at Maggie Thatcher – she had cat naps like me.”

‘The aussie lifestyle’s not geared to siestas. Going without sleep won’t necessarily contribute to a successful career.And don’t forget. The Iron Lady’s now said to be suffering Alzheimer’s disease.’

‘Like Reagan who loved a good midday nap in the White House. He left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if he was in a cabinet meeting.’

I learned the only way for me to double my money was to fold it in half and put it back in my pocket.

I was caught between the longing for creativity and the struggle for the legal tender.

Financially beleaguered, hoping for something to turn up, I was overtaken by events, riding out downturn after downturn, tightening my belt even more notches. I got to realise it would never have been easy otherwise someone else would have already done it.

I spent so much time in my mind, puffing myself up, tearing myself down.

I was determined to crash through or crash. Less and less physically attuned, I was trying to outrun my life, careering towards the early death of this reluctant sanguine ‘salesman’-the Willie Lomax of self-marketing. My work would either be my salvation or the death of me. Forfeiting my health for the greater experience, there were hidden costs. Getting my money’s worth from the cars I hired for work meant too many hours spent in the killer sedentary seat, too few for a constitutional. This was a slow suicide. My Achilles arteries were as overstretched as the system I was trying to improve on, as inflated as my sense of my capacity.

Holding out hope, my optimism, absorbing further unpleasant shock, served me as a kind of ship’s fender, protecting me on all sides. All except the inside.I convinced myself I was on the verge of my paragon coming together pat, of reaching the critical mass, blowing away the resistance, being sought out and having the world beat a path to my door. Alas it was not to be. My blood beat a path to the wrong part of my brain. It was not the market I was aiming to crack wide open that got cornered. It was me.

The tiger had left my tank.

If I could have had a bit more time or some start-up capital-the vital missing link-things would have come to financial fruition. It takes money to make money. But that’s neither here nor there. What’s the use of wondering. I couldn’t and they didn’t. Fate had other plans. Within striking distance, on the home straight, the dead run, unable to slam on the brakes, I overshot my aim, my blood smashed through the arterial wall cracking it wide open. That was that then. The point of no return and for me no turning back. So close and yet so far. Game, set, match. I was snookered in. And the trap was set long before I realized it was one. Anti-climax. No skyrocket but a damp squib. Such is the final balance-sheet of my life, happening while I was making other plans, all part of its rich pageant. Striving but never arriving, always in pursuit of a time that never came. Way out in my reckoning, in over my head, I had lost myself completely in my work and overtaken by events, couldn’t find my way back.I was on track to  snatch disaster from the jaws of victory. Ruefully, I realized the deep frustration I had been feeling at my immense effort and agonized hours, incommensurate with a result that had not fully jelled. My mission was good while it lasted but it seemed like the window of opportunity had slammed shut. As my bookshelves sagged and groaned under the sheer pressure of my lode, threatening to give way, so too unbeknownst to me were the walls of my arteries. In this Battle of The Bulge, it was their seams that would first reach breaking point. My body couldn’t take it any more. Part of me snapped. My bubble was burst. My purpose defeated. The end of the road for the busted flush.

By the standards I had set myself, I fell depressingly short of my just reward. At the end of the day we’re remembered not by what we didn’t do but by what we did. Whoever said, ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts,’ probably lost.

You’ve heard of Who’s Who? I’m in Who’s He?

Truth be told, unpurged, self-respecting, my identity submerged, I would have remained a never-wozzer, deadened sooner or later by the stultifying effects of an unrepentant system which sedates consciences and encourages teachers to spend so much jaded time whinging plaintively about children, so much tedious time crying out for resources. The way I see it it’s not so much the cupboard is bare– most of the material is we need is at hand – but a stifling lack of freedom for teachers to act resourcefully and make any input creatively.

My response to this political control was shaped by it. I aimed to break out by outjockeying the right on their own turf, aware how they serenely consistently play on image of socialist teachers as rootless cosmopolitans. ‘Anywheres’ with portable achieved identities based on educational success which makes them comfortable and confident with new places. Professionals. who care strongly about other countries but don’t give a tinker’s cuss about their own, and keep the populace ignorant about it. There is an element of truth about the first part but nothing more. Personally, I can’t but feel like a citizen of the world too never having considered myself particularly Australian. Home is where you find it but I understand for most people their national identity is what counts most. Celebrating the soil rather than being exclusivist. I focused on developing this sense as the gateway to that of reaching an international identity. You have to go where people are, emotionally and politically. It’s a gradual and slow process. You give them what they want and only then explain where it’s from.

This was uppermost in my mind when I set out relentlessly on my own literacy crusade, filling the gaps in the system convinced that my will, underlying consuming passion and discipline would win through and carry the day. I adhered strictly to covering the syllabus as outlined by the Department. I submitted my lesson plans for approval by the Heads of Department when required. Having studiously kept to the unwritten protocol not to speak out against the Department’s dismal practices when employed by them, I had suspended disbelief in its role of co-opting conformity and reproduction of the class system, in a system where children learn their place in society and respect their social betters. Where some can’t learn to read and write, but can be taught to kill efficiently.

‘Be the best!’ the recruiters entice. While Telstra says some don’t have enough qualifications to sell phones and Microsoft says they don’t have enough experience to answer phones, the Army is prepared to hand them a machine gun.

I set about advertising my wares with some hesitation. I feel it’s unbecoming and crass for a professional public worker to have to do this. Moreover after what had been pulled on me I would have to maintain a circumspect approach in my advertising. Some stories are too true to tell. While aiming to tweak the lion’s tail without having to watch my back, I couldn’t put it past the edcons to try on something nasty in retaliation. Letting themselves draw attention to their inane shortcomings, I kept the door open to my future re-employment. I had no choice but to wait out the political climate. The policy I have been selling is set out in my flyers which acted as talismans, affording me protection. A ‘Get Out of Jail Free card’. It says simply that all children should be brought up, that they should be valued as a resource and that all should reach their full potential intellectually. You would think that in a parliamentary democracy like that of Australia this would be for the asking, a given. My experience and the pronouncements and decisions made by bovine bloviating bosses and judgemental junketeers indicate why it’s otherwise. Why these make our only experiment with higher intelligence more likely to prove quite brief.

One of my goals was to create a salutary learning environment very different to that of the eugenists, to slay their misconceptions and put them to shame. The German eugenists had shown that an elite of young people from different backgrounds could excel physically together. In my model I wanted to demonstrate that all children can excel intellectually through competition and cooperation. My approach was to create a nucleus of families whose “unteachable children” would make clear and rapid progress, where class achievements were seen as equally important as one’s own individual attainments. To create a hive of activity with students grouped not by age or ability but by being able to get on with others. Where the better students helped those less able, passing on their skills and verve in a ripple effect to persuade the authorities to create a more level playing field of learning in which all forms of intelligence are recognized, all children seen as gifted in one way or the other.

I wanted to stamp my authority on popular education and therefore helping eclipse the culture that the eugenists maintain in NSW – one in which they promote neither intellectual excellence nor physical excellence for all children. Because as long as they maintain this culture, there will always be the desire by nascent fascists to rehash their more virulent version of the ‘born to rule’ ideology.

[1][SMH obituary to Rex Jackson 5/1/2012] Unless stated otherwise, all footnotes refer to the Sydney Morning Herald. [2]To be determined. [3] 29/01/1985, 30/01/1985.,02/12/1987,17/04/1991. [4]Daily Telegraph. 16/02/1997. [5]To be determined. [6]01/07/1987., Sunday Telegraph 29/12/1996 p.7.,22/07/1987., Daily Telegraph 23/04/1994.,17/03/1997. [7]Daily Telegraph 05/10/1989 p.1 [8]Check.23/10/ ,11/06/1996,06/06/1998.Check.17/07/2000,20/06/2004.19/07/2003. [9]16/11/1987.(Ross Coulthart) [10]24/05/1989 p.9 [11](Luis M.Garcia ) [12]28/07/1990 (Paola Totaro ) [13]26/06/2004 (Linda Doherty) [14]13/05/2002 (Linda Doherty ) [15]17/08/1988 p.17 [16]26/03/2003 (Linda Doherty ) [17]Daily Telegraph ? 05/08/1988 (Jacqui Hocking ) [18]Daily Telegraph 01/07/1988 p.1 [19]Daily Telegraph 17/07/1988 (Sarah Harris & Nick Yardley) [20]D/M 26/08/1987 [21]Daily Telegraph 29/08/1988 (Peter Grimshaw ) [22](Robert Wainwright ) [23]04/08/1988 (Richard Macey ) [24]31/05/1990 (Matthew Moore & Julie Lewis ) [25] (Richard Macey )p.2 [26]02/09/2002 p.4 [27]05/01/2004 ( Linda Doherty ) [28]Sunday Telegraph 15/10/2000 (Simon Kearney) p.22 [29]18/12/1991 (Kathleen Hickie ) [30]25/10/1999 [31]D/T 10/03/1997 p.1 [32]15/09/Year to be determined (Stephanie Raethel ) [33]Editorial.date to be determined.

[34]From the Address given to the Architecture, engineering and Science Graduation by the Hon. Rod Cavalier, Minister for Education, on May 3rd1986

[35]27/10/2001 (Robert Wainwright ) [36]The Minister for Education Mr Cavalier, speaking at a graduation ceremony at the NSW Institute of Technology. (Anne Susskind ) [37]09/04/1990 (Paola Totaro ) [38]17/07/1991 [39]15/08/1991 Spoken by Minister Mrs Chadwick. [40](Paola Totaro ) Spoken by Minister Mrs Chadwick. [41]15/12/1989 (Richard Macey ) [42]18/10/2004 (Kelly Bourke ) [43]07/02/2004 (Kelly Bourke ) [44]08/04/2000 (Gerard Noonan ) [45]17/08/1988 p.17 [46]Queensland Media Club, August 1,2013] [47]04/01/1992 Minister Metherell interviewed by John Doyle. [48]22/06/ ?? Date to be determined. ( Anne Susskind and Luis M .Garcia ) [49]11/12/1991 ( Mike Stekatee ) [50]Punch Magazine 12/01/1990 p.21 [51]13/05/1992 (Mark Coulthan) [52] Minister Rod Cavalier.Source to be determined. [53](Judith Whelan ) Date to be determined. [54]Sun Herald 16/12/2001(Miranda Wood)

[55]A statement made on ABC’s “ Focal Point “ by the Department’s PR Officer, Frank Meaney.

[56]See entry Eugenics in Encyclopaedia Brittanica [57]Robert Manne. [58]Statement by Mr Frank Meaney (Margaret Harris, Medical Reporter ) [59]Ditto [60]17/06/1988 ( Bernard Lagan ) [61]Daily Telegraph ( Jim Pollard ) [62]23/11/1989 ( Anne Susskind ) [63]11/02/1989 ( Anne Susskind ) [64] Source to be determined. Comment by Minister Cavalier about his policy statements, copies of which were distributed to all schools. [65]Source to be determined. Minister Metherell in statement to the Herald. [66]17/08/1988 p.9 [67]01/07/1988 (Anne Susskind ) [68]Ditto [69]29/05/2004 ( Linda Doherty ) [70](Luis M. Garcia & Philip Clark ) [71]19/06/1989 p.4 [72]18/06/1989 p.37 [73]Daily Telegraph ? (Darren Goodsir ) [74]02/02/2004 (Cosima Marriner Mark Metherill ) [75]Ditto [76]Source to be determined. [77]Source to be determined. [78]22/01/2004 (Mark Metherill, Cosima Merriner, Aban Contractor ) [79]Ditto [80]22/03/2005 (Damien Murphy ) [81]03/05/2004 (Linda Doherty ) [82]13/05/1992 (Tony Stephens ) [83]07/12/1996 (David Luff)

[84]15/08/1989 (Philip Clark ) Deputy Premier Murray addressing a banker’s lunch.

[85]Source to be determined.

[86]22/06/1988 (Anne Susskind ) 17/02/1990 Spokesman for Premier Greiner commenting on the Premier being pelted by food and empty drink cans at Lithgow High School.

[87]02/11/1989 (Mathew Moore ) p.2 [88]18/08/1988 p.1

[89]04/11/2002 (Gerard Noonan ), (Anita Catellano ) According to Federal Education Minister John Dawkins illiteracy is costing Australia more than 3.2 billion dollars a year in lost productivity and is promoting social and economic inequity. 15/03/1991 (Paul Chamberlin) & 21/06/1996 (Stephanie Raethel) According to Federal Minister Dr. Kemp, up to 20 per cent of children fail to master literacy and numeracy skills by the time they leave primary school (Tina Diaz ) According to a Federal Parliamentary Committee up to 25 percent of primary school children go on to high school without being able to read and write adequately.

[90]This is according to a statement by Coalition Science spokesman Peter McGauran. [91]19/04/1990 (Peter Hughes ) [92]Sun Herald 16/12/2001 (Alex Mitchell )

[93](Robyn Willis ) After the release of this study State Employment Minister Fahey said 8% of NSW workers believed their inability to read and write stopped them from achieving their full potential at work.

[94]James Robertson, page 13, SMH April 23, 2012. [95]Source to be determined. [96]9/11/2004 (Kelly Bourke ) [97]13/11/2004 (Kelly Bourke ) [98]29/01/1987 p.10 (Armstrong ) on politics

[99]Statement by the Dept of School Education’s assistant director-general for Ms Jan McClelland

[100](Luis M. Garcia ) Comments made in an interview with the Melbourne Sun News Pictorial. [101]Ditto

[102](Anne Susskind ) Minister Cavalier announcing a dramatic rise in the number of expulsions and suspensions.

[103]Spokesman for Justice Minister Terry Griffith. [104]Minister for Corrective Services Michael Yabsley. [105]Report by the chief executve of the PMS , Dr Frank McLeod in response to Minister Chadwick’s policies.

[106]Statement by Minister Chadwick following chronic staff shortages at Minda , the states highest security institution for juveniles and the closing of Endeavour House at Tamworth.

[107]31/10/1987 (Graham Williams ) [108]Statement by spokesman for Corrective Services Minister Yabsley.

[109]15/12/1991 Letter to the Editor by Tony Vincent , Dean, Faculty of Professional Studies, Uni of NSW. Referring to statement by the present Minister of Corrective Services.

[110]Statement by Minister of Police Pickering . [111]Ditto. [112]04/10/2004 (Michael Pelly ) [113]( Paola Tortaro ) article “ Free schooling gets to be costly “ (Stephen Long ) [114]12/04/1989 ( Luis M. Garcia ) [115]20/05/1989 ( Philip Clark, Mathew Moore )

[116]( Lynnette Cassells & Alex Mitchell) Announcement by Minister for Family and Community Services Chadwick in a joint initiative with Minister Yabsley.

[117]Statement by Minister Pickering.

[118]07/03/1991 p.2 (Karin Bishop ) This is the offensive language provisions of the Summary Offences Act.”. A sixteen year old high school student from south west Sydney was charged with this crime and appeared in Minda children’s court.

[119]The comment about being thrown in jail was made by Queensland Coalition “ Minister for Everything “Russell Hinze when he told a lawyer Mr Waterhouse to “f— off

[120]NSW National Party Leader, not happy about the prospect of three-cornered election contests in the bush.

[121]Mr Murray called out “Jeez I’ll have another sausage on the strength of that “ on election night as another Labor minister fell.

[122][ SMH,29/2/2012, Phillip Coorey] [123]Queensland Deputy Premier and National Party Leader Mr Gunn. [124]Premier Greiner referring to Education Minister Metherell.

[125]Minister Metherell described as bull… claims reported by by teachers and principals in a Herald survey.The survey found an increase in unsupervised classes in senior high school, but the minister denied this whole admitting the Dept. had no hard data.

[126]7/11/1990 and 25/06/1988 Premier Greiner according to a ministerial adviser is prone to pour out a stream of conscious invective where he repeats this vulgarity.08/07/91 Premier Greiner’s self styled “ordinary man”, the member Bob Graham , who revealed that there were sweeping powers against teachers talks about “the wind’ that comes out with the sh… released by his opponents.5/10/1991 A spokesman for Minister Tim Moore described Minister Metherill’s description of the decision making process as horse….

[126a]Tony Abbott, Oct 31,2007] [127]01/03/1990 Deputy Speaker of the NSW Parliament, Ms Wendy Machin. [128]17/11/1990 Referring to the Labor party strategy towards him. [129]Daily Telegraph 09/06/2000 p.12 (David Penberthy).

[130]17/05/1991 ( Mike Seccombe ) Mr Wilson Tuckey told the Parliament “You can all piss off”

[131]Premier Greiner referring to his Minister for Transport, Mr Baird. [132]11/03/1989 Premier Greiner talking about his ambitions. [133]Premier Greiner referring to the Newcastle earthquake.14/12/1991 (Mike Coulton ) [134]Referring to his inability to understand his Minister for Education. [135]T/A p.5 20/10/1999 [136]Sun Herald 04/09/1988 p1

[137]Victorian Liberal Party Leader Kennett on his car phone to Andrew Peacock

[138]Mr Peacock warning the T/A journalist Paul Kelly.

[139]19/01/1992 Tasmanian Coalition Premier Gray referring to female Parliamentarians.

[140]07/03/1991 Secretary of the Police Association, Mr Lloyd Taylor. [141]04/06/1981 (Anne Suskind) [142]D/T 22/06/ ? (Nick Yardley ) [143]Ditto [144]Statement by Minister Metherill (Luis M. Garcia ) [145]D/T 16/06/ ? [146]9/10/1989 (Adam Connolly )

[147]NSW Police Minister , Mr Pickering addressing the Australian Police Ministers Council in Canberra, according to the “Australian Senior Citizen” column 8 26/03/1992

[148]These powers are in the Public Disorder section of the Summary Offences Act.

[149]06/01/1989 Acting Premier Wal Murray talking about the manning of some NSW police stations

[150]Police Minister Pickering speaking to the “Liverpool Champion “ in answer to a question about the drug problem. (Bernard Lagan )

[151]Premier Greiner’s suggestion for solving problems in Redfern.

[152]The Deputy Premier Mr Murray was referring to a curfew self imposed by aboriginals in Moree and conducted by the Moree Lands Council.

[153]D/T ( David Armstrong ) Warning by Minister Cavalier. [154]Ditto [155]08/02/1990 P3 (Luis M. Garcia ) [156]14/04/1990 (Alicia Larriera )

[157]18/12/1990 (Alicia Larriera ) The NSW Dept of Family and Community Services admitted that it had lost 17 of its state wards .

[158]16/03/1997 (Alex Mitchell ) [159]Sun Herald 01/12/2002 (Mathew Bens) According to former NSW Director General of Education Dr Ken Boston [160]Sun Herald 23/02/1997 Editorial [161]28/02/1997 (Morgan Ogg) [162] Sun Herald19/04/209

[163]Headline “Greiner :we have failed on welfare “ Family and Community Services Minister Virginia Chadwick refused to discuss the Premier’s aassessment.

[164]National Party shadow minister John Sharp.(Tom Burton & Pilita Clark) [165]03/01/1991 p3 (Paola Totaro ) [166](Brad Norington) [167]The Age, April 4, 2011. [168]S.M.H.Quick learner aims high May9, 2011 [169]17/07/2010 p5 ( Heath Gilmore) [170]Sydney Morning Herald 24/1/2004. Report: “Class Divide”. [171]The Henry Parkes Foundation. Cremorne. SMH 20/1/04.