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Inside Teaching : April 2011
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org 20 QUESTIONS 35 innovation and new ideas, a bit of irreverence and naughtiness. Do you use humour as a teaching tool? Humour is how you connect. It’s about revealing your own humanity. I’m incapable of not telling people who I am. I get a lot of laughter by just saying what I think. Some of the laughter is from shock but what’s the point in conversing if you don’t say what you think? Who would you most like to get in to talk to your students at UWS? Aung San Suu Kyi probably, or Germaine Greer. Greer is fantastic, although I don’t agree with everything she says. Chris Hitchens is incisive, intelligent and human. His use of language is precise, economical. Stephen Fry. Richard Dawkins. If you were back hosting Life Matters, what team would you put together to debate the public/private funding of schools issue and why these people? On the public side, the president of the Australian College of Educators Lyndsay Connors, Chris Bonnor, John Kay, Ross Gittens. Private? Maybe some of the private school principals, Judith Poole from Abbotsleigh school, say, or Shore’s Timothy Wright. The trouble is most people talk crap when it comes to funding. I’d include Michael Duffy and John Howard – at least Howard is smart. Your main argument in The Stupid Country, co-written with Chris Bonnor, is that choice turns the public system into a poor option, and sometimes a very poor option. Can you explain this process? Society is not obliged to provide everyone with choice but governments have an obligation to provide excellent education, free of charge to every child. If people want to buy an advantage for their child, they can pay for it as happens in most democracies, but frankly it probably doesn’t matter that much at all. Their kids will do as well wherever they go. We’ve confused people about what schools do. Parents are ultimately responsible for what kids achieve, not schools. Kids who grasp opportunities wherever they go to school are the ones who’ll do well, but it’s unfair if from the age of five differences are exacerbated so that everything goes against them. The less fortunate should have more opportunity, not less. What are a school’s most important assets? Teachers and students. The teachers and the principal create the character of a school. There are good in both public and private schools. They are warm, energetic, everyday people. They don’t have to be inspirational, rather commonsensical. The public school is the last institution that can’t file a child down because they have a legal obligation to educate. They do a welfare job to keep at-risk kids hanging on in there. The public school system shouldn’t be despised for doing this. I mentioned my daughter and the Oprah donation to Canterbury Boys High earlier. The value wasn’t just in the stuff donated but in the recognition that the students’ futures and opportunities mattered. Trinity Grammar, say, or Abbotsleigh are not more important even if they’re the schools governments help first. Oprah and Jay-Z showed these kids that they mattered. We shouldn’t walk away from them. If you were going to send a copy of The Stupid Country to Julia Gillard what inscription would you put in it? ‘Stop playing politics with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. Be the first to stand up for them because no one else has.’ She’s been sent about 35 copies; I doubt she’s read any. Thank you, Jane Caro. David Rish is an award-winning writer for children and a regular contributor to Inside Teaching. * Okay, okay, if you counted the questions you’d know there are fewer than 20. Image by Gregory Myer.