Faith Less


The other day I saw a sign advertising something called “Catholic Education Week”. While thinking, snarkily, they had mis-spelled the third word, I saw the slogan – “Faith in every child”. I paused, briefly, as I am sure you have, to admire the cleverness, nay genius, in that play-on words. Then I got a bit cross, and I thought I’d share my crossness with you.

Not, I hasten to add, crossness merely with the Catholic “educators”. For all I know there is also a “Jewish Education Week”, a “Muslim Education Week”, a “Evangelical Education Week”, and a “Scientology Education Week”, all of whom could use exactly the same slogan.

Instilling “faith” in children is indeed what religion is about, but is precisely the opposite of what education is (or should be) about. Here are some alternative education slogans for you:
“Curiosity in every child”
“Inquiry in every child”
“Confidence in every child”
“Ambition in every child”
“Caring in every child”
“Achievement in every child”
“Balance in every child”
“Happiness in every child”

I invite you to add some more.

Tell you what, keep “faith” away from a child until it is seven, and I’ll give you an educated and rational adult.

Bigger, dearer, exclusiver


The other day there was Sebastian Coe (who I remember as that slim young magical runner, not the middle aged Lord Coe he has become) did one of those “Here come the Olympics” Press occasions, this time to announce 100 days to go until London launches into its third Olympics. This time of course it will be a vastly different event to those of 1908 (when the modern games had barely begun) and 1948 (when Britain used it, though in a very austere way, as a way of firmly leaving the war behind). And that difference over the course of just over 100 years I suppose sums up why my interest in the Olympic Games now verges on zero.

The sums of money now spent to hold an Olympic Games are obscene. Huge stadia are built, transport reorganised, media outlets pay for exclusive rights, gimcrackery souvenirs are produced in landfill quantities. Most facilities continue in use for a short time, then fall into disuse, then get demolished. Rarely do facilities built for the specific conditions of the games suit what an individual city may later need. The result of all that is that the major criterion used to evaluate Games “Bids” (and that is a whole other topic) are whether a city and country can afford them. No poor country could hold a modern games, and that in itself is a damning inditement of the loss of the “Olympic Spirit”. As is the tendency for winning cities (most notably China) to bulldoze poor housing and move beggars off the streets, so as not to detract from the glossiness.

And if poor countries can’t afford to hold the Games, athletes from poor countries can’t afford to hold Olympic medals. Once upon a time the Olympic mythology echoed “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” credo. Not any more. It has long been known that the number of medals a country wins (and the Olympics was supposed not to be a competition between countries but athletes) is directly proportional to how much money a country spends (so much so that Australian Olympic officials keep demanding more and more money otherwise our “medal count” will go down). These days sports training is a science, and equipment is also very important (the Australian bobsled team was complaining the other day they had a $5000 dollar sled and needed a $25,000 one to be competitive. I hate to think how much things like cycles and rowing boats cost). Athletes from the great majority of countries in the world have no chance of winning a medal, no matter how much natural talent a swimmer from, say, Guinea-Bissau might have.

Look if the Games were like those of 1908, where Australians with a bit of natural swimming or running talent paid their own way to Britain to chance their arm (and legs) against the best other amateurs who turned up, I would be happy to wave a little Australian flag and cheer them along. But Olympics 2012? I doubt I’ll bother watching.

What about you?

Well played sir!


Apologies for my recent absence from this blog. Just for fun I developed a case of Shingles. I suggest, if you can avoid it, you don’t; and if you have some odd symptoms, ask your doctor “Could this be Shingles?” just in case. Anyway, slowly recovering to the stage where I can write again.

One major political event during my absence has been the announcement by Bob Brown that he was resigning as leader of the Greens and would not contest the next election for the Senate. A great deal has been written about Bob in his role not only in Australia but worldwide in establishing both conservation movements and Greens political parties, but I thought I would add a couple of observations of my own.

I met Bob some years ago, and was immediately struck by the fact that his private persona was exactly like his public one. You will often hear it said about politicians, carefully guarding, on the advice of image makers, their public persona, that either they are much more unpleasant in real life than on tv, or they are much nicer in private than they appear to the public. Bob Brown was a classic case of what you saw was what there was – image and reality were the same.

The second unusual thing about him politically was that he answered questions honestly and thoughtfully and individually. He didn’t go out to the press pack with his prepared slogans and practiced one phrase answers. but dealt with each question on its merits. I was struck this week how rare this was, in listening to the Victorian Attorney General, quizzed on his setting up a parliamentary query on child abuse by the churches, answering every question with the same carefully memorised three sentence “reply”. This essentially said he was setting up a parliamentary enquiry because he was setting up a parliamentary enquiry because … well you get the idea. But they almost all do it these days, to the extent that it comes as a shock to hear a politician answering a question directly.

As I write this I am struck by a thought. Being the same person in public and private, and answering questions in a rational way, are both features of our everyday lives. Do any of you not behave like that to family, friends and colleagues? And yet we have come to accept, to our detriment, that politicians live in some other world in which that behaviour is not normal.

Bob Brown showed that it doesn’t have to be like that, and he will be missed.

Note – It is time to vote for your favourite blog (you will find this one alphabetically under THE Watermelon Blog) at the Sydney Writer’s Centre Awards. I will try to incorporate the voting button on this post so subscribers will get it in their feed, but if I fail, could you visit the blog please, admire the new design if you haven’t yet seen it, and click on the voting button on the right. You can vote for more than one blog (there are 900 nominated) but you can only vote in one session. It would be good to feel I was getting things right for you

Anyway, will try to get back into regular posting (and tweeting), health permitting. See you again soon.

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