30/4/2013

Don’t Believe The Hype

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:15 am

The budget will be out shortly, and those on the conservative side of politics will be sure to be shouting from the rooftops that the deficit is due to Labor over-spending.

Here’s Tim Colebatch with some facts: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/before-we-tackle-the-budget-lets-clarify-a-few-points-20130429-2iot4.html

In particular, more of the problem is on the revenue side than the spending side, and that is due to a slowing economy.

Had the Coalition been in power throughout the GFC and until now, their avowed policy of ‘no stimulus’ would have led to a recession and to a much *worse* deficit, with much lower revenues.

Tony Abbott has not stated his policy yet – and has billions in unfunded spending commitments – but it’s plausible he would tend toward ‘austerity’, as a conservative (as the UK Tories have) and drag the economy into recession, worsening the deficit.

So please, by all means, let the facts get in the way of a (not so) good story about Labor’s spending and economic incompetence.

Then remember former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello’s comment that Abbott is ‘an economic illiterate’.

29/4/2013

Class Warfare

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:19 am

I’ve been thinking about the ‘class warfare’ framing for a while, and intended to post, but Nicholas Reece at The Age got there before me: and with specific examples of specific policies:

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/abbott-not-gillard-is-the-true-class-warrior-20130428-2imis.html

It’s been the international trend of more than a decade – indeed, arguably since Reagan and Thatcher – that governments have dragged resources out of the poorer end of the community and into the ‘big end of town’. Dramatically increasing societal inequality.

But apparently *that’s* not class warfare – but noticing the trend and trying to reverse it and create a fairer society is…

Education, Privilege and School Funding

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:01 am

I’ve quoted Kenneth Davidson, an economist writing for The Age, with approval here before, and this article is excellent:

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/how-privilege-rules-over-school-funding-20130428-2imiu.html

The issue is tied in with the ‘class warfare’ post I’ve been thinking about and will probably make later today.

24/4/2013

The Truth Matters in Public Life

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:21 am

Excellent article by Virgina Trioli on ‘Children overboard’:

http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/reith-rewrites-history-to-hide-the-shame-of-children-overboard-lie-20120831-255u3.html

19/4/2013

Bad Theology

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:42 am

The Sun is not a star. Apparently.

http://www.geocities.com/rebornempowered/thesun.htm

Bad Science

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:33 am

Yep: cherry-picking is a good way of making the ‘data’ fit the conclusion… and a terrible way of making the conclusion mean anything about the real world.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/04/18/graaarh-physicists-biologists/

(and yes, if y’all read Pharyngula daily I’d post a little less frequently ;))

17/4/2013

Return of the Pig Demons of the Bermuda Triangle

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:41 am

The archives here are deep: heading for 1700 posts over 8 years. So it’s easy to forget what lurks in the depths.

A random spammer (I think, hard to tell) made a comment on an old post from 2005, which brought it to my attention – and I was a little surprised to note that I had made a post entitled ‘Pig Demons of the Bermuda Triangle’.

Here it is: http://www.bravus.com/blog/?p=234

Wonder what other oddities lurk in the back issues?

Fascinating Article About Parents and Parenting Around the World

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:36 am

Australian parents are most likely, by a fair margin, to describe their children as ‘happy’. That ain’t a bad place to be…

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/04/how-parents-around-the-world-describe-their-children-in-charts/274955/

14/4/2013

Gaming, Autism, Nonsense and Evidence

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:30 pm

Nice takedown by Ben Goldacre of some silly claims by Baroness Greenfield:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/21/bad-science-publishing-claims

12/4/2013

Even More Pig-weighing

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:57 am

(‘weighing a pig doesn’t make it heavier’) Here’s an excellent little article about the proposal to add science tests to NAPLAN, and why it’s a terrible idea:

http://theconversation.com/naplan-science-tests-unlikely-to-improve-science-education-13399

I do have concerns about the way NAPLAN literacy and numeracy tests push aside other school subjects, but the solution is to scrap NAPLAN, not expand it.

11/4/2013

Giving a Gonski – Part… Many

Filed under: — Bravus @ 3:04 pm

Good article on why properly implementing (and funding) Gonski is crucial:

http://theconversation.com/an-ethical-education-why-gonski-is-a-moral-issue-12849

Building In The Disadvantage

Filed under: — Bravus @ 2:48 pm

One possible topic for the essays I’m marking at the moment is the effect of socioeconomic status on educational achievement.

The papers on that topic, as on the various other ones, are typically of high quality, interesting and well referenced.

They include a variety of possible influences related to poverty itself – like lack of access to computers, books, resources and study space at home – and to the associated ‘social capital’ – things like lack of friends who aspire to success, parents who can help with homework and so on.

In a few cases I’ve suggested that it may also be related to parents who don’t value education – because in their experience, education failed to value them.

But there’s one issue I haven’t seen represented so far, and have been thinking about: development of language in babies and very young children. This paper offers a pretty good overview: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01805.x/abstract

The upshot, though, is that parents of higher socioeconomic status typically talk much more to their children – many times more words in total – and use a wider range of vocabulary and grammar, and a wider variety of modes (e.g. instructions, conversations, stories and so on) with the children, and that the children develop more language earlier.

This language development also predicts schooling success quite strongly.

What this suggests to me is that, while interventions at school level are important, and can address some issues, by the time kids get to school some of the effects of socioeconomic status are already ‘wired in’ to their brains in terms of language development – the tools for learning.

The ideal solution would be to eradicate poverty, but since that’s not going to happen, interventions that help parents to spend time talking with their children, encourage them to talk, get them in playgroups with other parents talking to their children, offers them books and encourages them to read stories to their children and a wide range of other not-so-easy but also not-expensive steps could help to address disadvantage in ways that can complement and enhance the things schools can do.

10/4/2013

[Open] This PowerPoint Isn’t Going on Slideshare

Filed under: — Bravus @ 4:46 pm

Not because it’s controversial, or for intellectual property reasons (although lots of images are borrowed), but because it won’t make sense to anyone.

http://www.bravus.com/EarthScience2013.pptx

I decided to try to do the opposite of my usual text-heavy approach and go all-images, and talk with the class about the images.

I think it’ll be fun, and educational – and it’s part of stretching myself as a teacher.

Aspartame

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:32 pm

My left hip had been getting very sore. That leg has been broken a couple of times and I limp a bit on it, which seems to bother the hip.

Cam had told me about aspartame in Pepsi Max causing him joint pain, and I was drinking a lot of Diet Coke.

Stopped drinking it, and after about a week and a half the hip stopped hurting. Almost completely.

OK then, that’s gonna have to be that – I like Diet Coke, but it’s definitely not worth chronic pain.

Pace (again)

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:30 pm

So, that post earlier on pseudojournals was my first of this month, and it’s the 10th. Just generally being too busy with other things for my brain to be in blogging mode, I think – no doubt the blogging pace will pick up again in a few weeks once my students go out practice teaching…

Pseudojournals

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:44 pm

I certainly get the spam, and I’m sure most academics do: ‘publish in our journal’! Have a read, dig down, and discover an ‘open access publishing fee’ of between 300 and 3-4000 dollars.

I don’t have it, but the web sites of the journals always look dodgy, and there are often no past issues to look at.

It’s pretty much a scam, and I suspect a lucrative enough one to be worth keeping on with, worse luck.

Here’s a good discussion of the issue:

http://smallpondscience.com/2013/02/14/the-evolution-of-pseudojournals/

Have to admit, if it came down to publishing or perishing, it might be tempting… you have to suspect the ‘peer review’ is fairly heavily tainted by their desire to get their hands on the cash.

Reputable journals are now also offering the Open Access option, for a similar price. That’s slightly more attractive (but I still don’t have it), in that it gets to work out to the world instead of keeping it behind their paywall.

In the absence of the publish-or-perish system, and tight specification of what ‘counts’, I’d be tempted to just publish everything myself and share it with the world…

In the mean time, I’ll avoid the pseudojournals and do work that the real journals will publish.