Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sun 16th Dec Todays News

ABC goes bananas to help Julia sell her dodgy record

Piers Akerman – Saturday, December 15, 2012 (11:07pm)

ABC’s AM program gave Prime Minister Julia Gillard an early Christmas present on Friday when host Tony Eastley made the specious claim the government had been able to “bring in changes to education and deliver a National Disability Insurance Scheme”.
Sure, that education change would be the $16 billion Building the Education Revolution that saw the spread of unusable halls and lunch rooms; this, in a week when it was revealed Australian primary school students scored the lowest of any English-speaking nation in an international test of reading, ranking 27th out of 48 countries.
We’re down there with Bulgaria, Slovenia and Lithuania. Is this the sort of change the ABC welcomes?
As for delivering a NDIS, all that has been delivered is a draft that will cover a trial period and the Gillard government is pushing the real delivery of anything substantial five years down the track when its dysfunctional existence will be just a bad memory.
The prime minister’s spin doctors are hoping they can piggyback an election on this pie-in-the-sky promise using the optimism of people with disabilities to cover their failures.
That’s why Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin was shrieking at the opposition across the house in the last sitting week: “Labor. We own the NDIS!”
Except for the funding the states are agreeing to find because the Gillard government can’t count.
They key to the ABC’s loyal attempt to help the government is that there is a widespread perception that Labor is the party of social justice. This illusion must be maintained because Labor doesn’t have any successful policies to boast about and the distractions provided by Trade Minister Craig Emerson and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese are now only remarkable for their grotesque hypocrisy.
The conservative side of politics actually has an astonishingly sound record in the field Labor is trying to co-opt.
When Bob Menzies was forming the Liberal Party in 1944, he said: “What we must look for, and it is a matter of desperate importance to our society, is a true revival of liberal thought which will work for social justice and security, for national power and national progress, and for the full development of the individual citizen, though not through the dull and deadening process of socialism.”
After winning government in 1949 he proceeded to deliver policies which took the ratio of home ownership from about 50 per cent to about 75 per cent, made Australia one of the top-10 trading nations, delivered a sound immigration program with the arrival of 1.25 million immigrants in a decade and created social security measures, including the pensioner medical and free medicines service; free milk to school children and a national health scheme based on self-help, providing cover for all citizens.
It was the Menzies government that established the Australian Universities Commission and introduced commonwealth scholarships for secondary schools.
It was the Menzies government that engaged with Asia and negotiated the remarkable Australia-Japan trade agreement in 1957, establishing the most important trade relationship the nation has had over the past 50 years.
Gillard, with her hollow White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century is only half a century too late. When she recently captivated the luvvie “mummy bloggers” with drinks at Kirribilli House, she probably omitted to mention family allowances and family assistance supplements were introduced in the period of Liberal prime ministers Harold Holt, John Gorton, Billy McMahon and Malcolm Fraser. It’s a cert that the Balmain basket-weavers don’t know that the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Film and Television Corporation and the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), were also Liberal creations.
SBS TV and radio, and the Institute of Multicultural Affairs - more from the Libs.
Sport wasn’t neglected either, with the establishment of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), along with the Sport Development Program, National Athlete Reward Scheme, National Committee on Sport and Recreation for the Disabled.
For the gender-obsessed, there was the National Women’s Advisory Council. For the environmentally fixated, the declaration of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the World Heritage listing of the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, Wilandra Lakes, Lord Howe Island and Southwest Tasmania.
The heavy lifting continued under the Howard government with real wages rising - they had fallen under the previous Labor governments - and policies which delivered an extra $2.4 billion in family benefits and childcare assistance and Work for the Dole, while tighter welfare controls targeting cheats saved taxpayers more than $2 million a day.
Record amounts were spent on health and education - and after paying off Labor’s $96 billon government debt - Australia was saving $8.8 billion a year in interest payments by 2007.
That is some record and it doesn’t tell the whole story.
But Gillard and Labor have an army of spin doctors and the ABC and much of Fairfax working for them.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is undergoing an image transformation - his blue tie matches those worn by world leaders Barack Obama and David Cameron - but as the election year approaches there must be more than a change of uniform.
The message must be one of contrast.
A failed government running up a huge debt to pay for failed policies or an opposition with a bloodline of economically responsible pragmatism and a proven record of standing for self-determination and providing support to the most vulnerable.
The conservatives won’t be given any soft Christmas interviews by the ABC or any other media - but then their record doesn’t need manure to shine.


Oliver Cromwell





[edit]Holidays and observances


We’ve failed to give kids education they need

Miranda Devine – Saturday, December 15, 2012 (11:05pm)

THE woeful results of Australian primary students in an international reading test are a disgrace. Our Year 4 students are ranked the lowest in reading skills of all the English-speaking countries tested in the first Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) of 325,000 students.
Australia came 27th of 48 countries tested, behind top scorers Hong Kong, Russia, Finland and Singapore, and also behind Northern Ireland, the US, Ireland, England, Canada and New Zealand.
One quarter of our students even failed to meet the minimum standard for their age group, despite being among the relatively most advantaged in terms of reading resources, home environment and the emphasis on early grades on reading skills.
In science and maths, our students are similarly languishing, at 25th and 18th place, respectively.
But it is not the fault of the students that they have performed poorly. Nor is it entirely the fault of their teachers. The fault lies with the progressive education ideology that has infected teacher training establishments and education departments in every state for 40 years.
Faced with more proof that their methods haven’t worked, education academics last week flocked on to the universities’ website, The Conversation, to declare that the PIRLS test is suspect, the results meaningless, and all that is needed is more taxpayer money.
That was the blindingly brilliant recommendation of the Gonski review, to pour $5 billion extra into schools for smaller class sizes and more specialist teachers. In other words, do more of the same that hasn’t worked.
But it’s not as if we don’t know what actually does work. The National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (NITL) of which I was a committee member identified Australia’s literacy problem in 2005 and mapped out a clear solution, after a year examining the wealth of scientific evidence which shows the best way to teach children to read.
Our Year 4 students who fared so miserably in the PIRLS tests were two years old when that inquiry concluded. Had its recommendations been implemented, those students might have been able to read and comprehend properly today.
Children need “early systematic and explicit teaching of phonics” to learn to read successfully, the inquiry found. They need to be taught how to link sounds with letters and “break the code” of reading.
Yet trainee teachers are barely taught how to teach reading. Instead, various guises of the discredited “whole-language” philosophy remain entrenched, in which children are supposed to learn to read by osmosis just by looking at books. Some will, but most won’t.
The inquiry, headed by the late Professor Ken Rowe, found that as many as 30 per cent of children were leaving school functionally illiterate.
Its Teaching Reading report made straightforward recommendations about teacher training and early reading instruction which should have been followed.
Seven years later the report has been buried, its recommendations ignored, and the nine-year-old students who would have benefited from its wisdom are lagging well behind the rest of the world.
Professor Kevin Wheldall - one of the nation’s leading reading researchers and founder of the MultiLit remedial reading program - says the only way we can improve student skills is to forget ideology and follow the evidence.
What works and what doesn’t work was laid out methodically in the 2008 book Visible Learning by John Hattie, research director of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. Hattie has distilled the results of 800 “meta-analyses” of 50,000 studies involving more than 80 million students from around the world.
And what worked was, “surprise, surprise, systematic, explicit, direct instruction”, says Wheldall. That is, organised, clear, face-to-face teaching, with constant checking to make sure the student understands. In other words, traditional teaching.
Hattie found phonics instruction was highly effective and whole language was not. Nor did the research find much merit in the other “sacred cows” of progressive education, such as “constructivist” (where students basically teach themselves, or “construct” their own learning).
This is all blindingly obvious to anyone with common sense. Now, with a prime minister who says her focus is education, all we ever hear is Gonski, Gonski, Gonski. Yet the Gonski review doesn’t refer to the evidence of what actually works in teaching.
Since its release in February it has taken on iconic status with the militant left-wing teacher unions who love smaller class sizes and who hope that its shake-up of the school funding model will achieve their dearest aim - cutting off funding for non-government schools.
In fact, the evidence shows that, expensive though it is, reducing class sizes makes little difference to student learning. It also shows that more money is not the answer.
Australia increased spending on schools by 44 per cent between 2000 and 2009, far more than the OECD average, and yet the performance of our students declined markedly, according to a report by the Grattan Institute. Reading scores fell from second place to seventh place, and maths scores fell from fifth to 13th in OECD rankings.
Now, when the chickens are coming home to roost, the education establishment wants to waste more taxpayer money on more strategies that don’t work.
The evidence is in - no more excuses. Parents will vote for the party that understands our children deserve better.



Tim Blair – Sunday, December 16, 2012 (2:59am)

“The Sandy Hook school was a gun-free zone,” reports Emily Miller. “The shooting in July in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. was also in a gun-free zone. Rather than engaging in yet another debate about the Second Amendment, perhaps we should be discussing whether security is enhanced or weakened by not allowing a school to be armed for self defense.”
Good point. Further from Glenn Reynolds
“After a shooting spree,” author William Burroughs once said, “they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.” Burroughs continued: “I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.”
Plenty of people — especially among America’s political and journalistic classes — feel differently. They’d be much more comfortable seeing ordinary Americans disarmed. And whenever there is a mass shooting, or other gun incident that snags the headlines, they do their best to exploit the tragedy and push for laws that would, well, take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.
There are a lot of problems with this approach, but one of the most significant is this one: It doesn’t work. 
Read on. Meanwhile, and not for the first time, Paul Toohey and Miranda Devine disagree with me about gun control.
The gunman who slaughtered 20 young children and six adults at a US school in Connecticut“forced” his way into the building, police say.
Lieutenant Paul Vance of Connecticut State Police said the man – identified widely in media reports as 20-year-old Adam Lanza – was not let into the Sandy Hook Elementary School “voluntarily”. 
One method might have stopped him.
UPDATE II. A request:


Here are two.
UPDATE III. Further reading for Jonathan, via Douglas Bass. 



Tim Blair – Sunday, December 16, 2012 (2:16am)

Tony Abbott rules the nation
Ms Gillard has no doubts about who was to blame for the brutal year in politics, which included the Craig Thomson affair, the asylum seeker issue, the Peter Slipper-James Ashby case and the AWU slush fund.
“All of it was the decision and style of the opposition under Tony Abbott,’’ she said. 
Not bad. Imagine how much more influential Abbott might be as Prime Minister.


Federal investigators planned to visit dozens of shooting ranges and gun stores across Connecticut Sunday, attempting to figure out what led smart but painfully awkward 20-year-old Adam Lanza to murder 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, while townspeople and President Obama prepared to attend an interfaith vigil amid sorrow and confusion.
The tragedy brought forth soul-searching and grief around the globe. Families as far away as Puerto Rico began to plan funerals for victims who still had their baby teeth, world leaders extended condolences, and vigils were held around the U.S.
The gunman's father released a statement on Saturday. 
"Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those who were injured," Peter Lanza said. "Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are. We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We too are asking why. We have cooperated fully with law enforcement and will continue to do so. Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired."
The victims of the shooting were shot multiple times by rifle, the medical examiner said Saturday, and Dr. H. Wayne Carver said the deaths are classified as homicides. Police began releasing the identities of the dead.
Police said they had found "very good evidence" they hoped would answer questions about the motives of the gunman, described as brilliant but remote, who forced his way into the school and killed 26 children and adults in one of the world's worst mass shootings.
Lt. Paul Vance of the Connecticut State Police said Saturday morning that the suspect was not voluntarily let into the school. 
Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, drove to the school in her car with at least three guns, including a high-powered rifle that he apparently left in the back of the vehicle, and shot up two classrooms around 9:30 a.m. Friday, law enforcement officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A custodian ran through the halls, warning of a gunman on the loose, and someone switched on the intercom, alerting people in the building to the attack -- and perhaps saving many lives -- by letting them hear the hysteria going on in the school office, a teacher said. Teachers locked their doors and ordered children to huddle in a corner or hide in closets as shots echoed through the building.
Lanza was found dead inside the school, according to officials. Eighteen of the children and six more adults were dead at the school and two more children died later, Lt. Vance said at a press conference Friday.
The well-liked principal, Dawn Hochsprung, was believed to be among the dead. A woman who worked at the school was wounded.
President Barack Obama will attend an interfaith memorial service Sunday in Newtown.  It will be the fourth time he has traveled to a city after a mass shooting. 
The president had planned to travel to Maine Wednesday for an event promoting his positions in "fiscal cliff" negotiations, but the White House canceled that trip because of the shooting.
The tragedy elicited horror and soul-searching around the world even as it raised more basic questions about why the gunman, a 20-year-old described as brilliant but remote, would have been driven to such a crime and how he chose his victims.
The rampage, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 33 lives in 2007.
In tight-knit Newtown on Saturday, overflow crowds packed St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church. The Rev. Richard Scinto, a deacon, gave a homily.
"In the past 48 hours I've said the phrase `I don't know' about 1,000 times," he said. "That not knowing has got to be the worst part of this whole thing."
At St. John's Episcopal Church, 54-year-old Donna Denner, an art teacher at an elementary school in nearby Danbury whose classroom was locked down after the shooting, said she feels the same way she did after 9/11 but isn't sure the rest of the country is.
"I don't know if the rest of the country is struggling to understand it the same way we are here," she said. "Life goes on, but you're not the same. Is the rest of the country -- are they going about their regular activities? Is it just another news story to them?"
Lanza's brother, Ryan Lanza, 24, who was widely and erroneously reported to be the suspect, was questioned in Hoboken, N.J., but authorities said he was not involved.  An FBI source tells Fox News that Ryan Lanza and the father, Peter Lanza, have both been cleared and are not longer being questioned.
The vehicle the suspect drove to the school was registered to his mother. At least three guns were found -- a Glock and a Sig Sauer, both pistols, inside the school, and a .223-caliber rifle in the back of a car, authorities said.
Sources told Fox News the guns used in the shooting were owned by and legally registered to Nancy Lanza.
ATF spokeswoman Ginger Colbrun said earlier that there was no evidence Lanza was involved in gun clubs or had trained for the shooting. When reached later in the day and asked whether that was still true, she said, "We're following any and all leads related to this individual and firearms."
Dean Price, director of the Wooster Mountain State Range -- a shooting range in Danbury -- said two ATF agents visited the range Friday night and stayed into the early morning looking through thousands of names on sign-in logs.
He said that he had never seen Adam or Nancy Lanza there and that agents told him they did not find their names on the sign-in sheets.
Law enforcement officials have said they've found no note or manifesto from Lanza of the sort they have come to expect after murderous rampages such as the Virginia Tech bloodbath in 2007 that left 33 people dead.
Vance said during Friday afternoon's news conference that police arrived at the scene "within minutes" of a 911 call placed shortly after 9:30 a.m. Friday.
"Every door, every crack, every crevice of that school" was checked, Vance said. “The entire school was searched.” He said the shooting occurred inside two rooms in "one section of the school." 
Lanza was believed to suffer from a personality disorder and lived with his mother, said a law enforcement official who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to discuss it.
Education officials said they had found no link between Lanza's mother and the school, contrary to news reports that said she was a teacher there. Investigators said they believe Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary many years ago, but they had no explanation for why he went there Friday.
President Obama was notified of the shooting about an hour after it occurred, White House officials said.
"Our hearts are broken today," Obama said in a brief address to the nation on Friday. "We've endured too many of these tragedies in these past few years, and each time I receive the news I react not as a president, but as a parent." 
"Most victims were children, between five and 10 years old...They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations weddings, kids of their own," he said, pausing before wiping tears from his eyes.
Sandy Hook Elementary School has close to 700 students. 
Newtown is in Fairfield County, about 45 miles southwest of Hartford and 60 miles northeast of New York City.'s Cristina Corbin, Jana Winter, Perry Chiaramonte, Mike Levine and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


This is Victoria. She died a hero today. She hid her first graders in the cabine...ts and closets after hearing the gunfire. When the shooter came to her classroom, she told him that her students were in the gym. He then gunned her down and moved on. She saved the lives of all of her students. Please pass this on if you see it. She deserves to be remembered for her bravery.
This is Victoria. She died a hero today. She hid her first graders in the cabinets and closets after hearing the gunfire. When the shooter came to her classroom, she told him that her students were in the gym. He then gunned her down and moved on. She saved the lives of all of her students. Please pass this on if you see it. She deserves to be remembered for her bravery.

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