A Quick Note on Marty and the Media

I’ve pondered doing this post a few times, at various stages, but it felt like it would be grandstanding and so I left off. I’ll do it now.

I started this blog in 2017, after Burkard and I had ended our various popularising activities, and after I’d had enough of the MAV (and vice versa). Things in Australian maths education were, and are, an unmitigated mess, and the MAV and everyone didn’t want to know about it. The blog was an easy way to state easy truths, which no one else had a mind to say. There was no intention other than to say what I thought, with no sense that it would do any good other than to make me feel a little better. A couple years ago, that began to change. Continue reading “A Quick Note on Marty and the Media”

Musical Interlude 3: Robert Webb’s Eclectic Dystopia

We’ll be back with regular programming soon, but while we’re picking up steam here’s another quick music post on Robert Webb. Robert is a long-time friend of Burkard’s and mine, since the museum days, and he is an incredibly inventive guy. Robert’s music and music videos are vaguely or less vaguely mathematical and are, well, disturbing. And great. Continue reading “Musical Interlude 3: Robert Webb’s Eclectic Dystopia”

The Undeniable Presence of the Bull

Calvin Trillin is one of my favourite writers. Trillin is very much an American writer, essentially unknown in Australia and even in America you have to be the type to want to read his style of journalism and humour. But we of the type love his writing, and the man himself, regarding him as a national treasure. Trillin writes beautifully, with an E. B. White-ish gentleness and elegance, but can also be incredibly funny, particularly about food and eating. To quote one of a thousand passages, here is Trillin in the foreword to his Tummy Trilogy:

From the point of view of a traveling man with a strong interest in immigrants being able to get a toehold in this country by starting family restaurants, the pre-1965 immigration policy was a matter of simple madness: we were basically shutting out the Chinese while letting in as many Englishmen as wanted to come, even if they were dragging their overcooked vegetables behind them. … I have previously acknowledged, when helicopters were snatching people from the grounds of the American embassy compound during the panic of the final Vietcong push into Saigon, I was sitting in front of the television set shouting, “Get the chefs! Get the chefs!”

(A few years ago, Trillin got walloped for a similarly self-centred, ethnic-focussed ditty, which was antipodally misread by a multitude of humourless assholes. The episode was very minor in the scheme of the current offendedness mania but it was about as idiotic as such episodes get and Trillin was defended by no one of stature.)

That is all by way of introduction and this post is not about Trillin. It is about just one great Trillin line and why it has come to mind. In one section of Travels with Alice, Trillin is in Barbados with his wife, Alice, lamenting the difficulty of getting good food in the Caribbean, dreaming of the Italian West Indies and its fabled island, Santa Prosciutto.

Somehow I always arrive for my first visit on a Caribbean island confident that I am going to find something decent to eat. When we arrived in Barbados, Alice reminded me that even my most frenzied efforts in the Caribbean tend not to be fruitful. …

“Don’t forget the bullfoot soup,” she said, referring to a native dish on St. Thomas whose name, I’m afraid, described it with unfortunate precision. 

“Well, I’m sure at least that it was authentic,” I said. “It tasted pretty much the way you’d imagine something called bullfoot soup tasting. And there was, of course, the undeniable presence of the foot …”

Which brings us to the International Congress on Mathematical Education.

ICME-15 is on in Sydney right now, with roughly a million maths ed people having flocked in, all now congratulating each other on their brilliant insights. Unsurprisingly, I’ve paid the Congress little mind, but I’ve caught glimpses out of the corner of my eye and one cannot help but ponder. Surely, with a million people sharing their hard work and deep thoughts, there must be something there, right? But then I remember.

I ponder what four decades of mathematical ignorance might produce, and what we have is much as one would imagine. One needn’t bother listening to what these people say. Look instead, always, at what they have produced. It is bull. It is undeniable.

Deloitte, Gniel and VCAA’s Falsehoods

The background to this post is here.

Although the Deloitte review of VCAA’s mathematics exams was a sham, designed to conclude nothing of substance, the final Deloitte report nonetheless contains some well-hidden but damning conclusions. Having finally been permitted to read the report, it now seems clear to me that VCAA repeatedly lied about these conclusions: to me and Burkard; to John Kermond; to at least two media outlets; and thus, by extension, to the general public. It also seems clear that the fundamental responsibility for what was, at the bare minimum, a shameful deception sits with Stephen Gniel, then CEO of VCAA and now CEO of ACARA. Continue reading “Deloitte, Gniel and VCAA’s Falsehoods”

Deloitte, QCAA and NESA

This is the first part of a double-post. It was initially one long(er) post, but it seemed preferable to split off the background, on aspects of the Deloitte review, into its own post, which is below. The substance proper is in the next post. I’ve also written on the Deloitte story here, but there are new details in the following.
Continue reading “Deloitte, QCAA and NESA”

Stephen Gniel Falls Upwards to ACARA

Yesterday, ACARA and the Federal Minister for Education announced that Stephen Gniel had been appointed to a three year term as CEO of ACARA. Gniel was selected by the ACARA Board following a “competitive selection process”, noting Gniel “brings to ACARA a wealth of knowledge, expertise and experience in education …”. Neither media release addressed the follow-up question, of whether, with this “wealth” of knowledge and expertise and experience, Gniel had ever failed to screw anything up.

Continue reading “Stephen Gniel Falls Upwards to ACARA”

Grattan, Ashman and the Legislative Council Inquiry

Last year, Victoria’s Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee launched an “Inquiry into the state education system in Victoria“. As we wrote last year, it was never clear what the purpose of the inquiry was other than to stir up trouble for the Labor Government. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. The inquiry wrapped up its hearings a couple weeks ago, with the intention to report in October, and a couple things seem worth noting. Continue reading “Grattan, Ashman and the Legislative Council Inquiry”

Phonics, Experts and the Warriors for Freedom

It is unnerving to suggest it, and it is still early days, but Ben Carroll might be a very good Minister for Education. Carroll was righteously and rightly angry about the VCE exams screw-ups, on which basis Carroll instigated the excellent Bennett review. Then, a week or so ago, Carroll announced that the Government would be “putting explicit teaching in every classroom”, including that K-2 students in Victoria’s public schools will be taught reading “using a systematic synthetic phonics approach”. This is great news, which of course pissed off some people. Which is also great news. Continue reading “Phonics, Experts and the Warriors for Freedom”