Yet more babbittry

06 Sep

The entry where I first mentioned babbittry, our government’s default position, was triggered by Howard’s helpful line on Muslims and the English language. Today’s Herald has a brilliant letter on this.

I laughed then wept with shame at John Howard’s latest inflammatory and ill-informed comments about some Muslim sections of the community “not fitting in”.

I am a woman who experiences the urban-rural divide. I work with mostly Muslim migrants and refugees on the Government’s Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) in western Sydney, and run a farm in the Central West where I don’t always “fit in”. Here’s my mud map on Mr Howard’s three assertions:

They should speak English: my AMEP classes are full of migrants and refugees, trauma and torture survivors from almost every troubled place in the world whose efforts to learn a new language and a new script are impressive. Mr Howard, it is your Government that has privatised and butchered this program, reducing English tuition hours and valuable counselling services for students and until recently denying Afghan (Muslim) refugees on temporary protection visas access to these classes. Mr Howard, I bet you a dozen spring lambs you could not display functional oracy and literacy with only 510 hours of tuition in Arabic, Dari, Dinka, Creole, Amharic, Urdu or Tamil.

They should embrace Aussie values: what are these values, Mr Howard? Are they those held by some Anglo-Australian rednecks? Stuff like the macho guys who treat their wives like cattle and their cattle like non-sensory critters? Or are they the values of getting pissed and wife- and child-beating? Or disparagement of Muslims, gays and greenies? Which values do you refer to, Mr Howard?

Their women should be treated in the same fashion as men: Mr Howard, how are men treated in your “mums and dads” Australia? Australia has one of the highest rates of male suicide and/or drug-taking and/or drunkenness in the world. I wonder why.

Mr Howard, your superficial, hegemonic comments say more about your lack of informed research and critical reflection than they do about the section of our community you chastise. Certainly, there are difficulties within and between Muslim communities, as there are in every community. But pillorying Muslims is not the answer and it’s not even fair dinkum.

Vivien Clark-Ferraino Duckmaloi NSW

Also in today’s Herald, Ross Gittins is dead right about “payment by results” — a quaint nineteenth century wrinkle revived as new by the current government — for teachers.

WHAT are we doing to ourselves? Or rather, what are we letting the economic rationalists do to us? Consider the call by the federal Minister for Education, Julie Bishop, for the states to introduce merit pay for schoolteachers. She was responding to a study claiming to show a modest decline in the educational standards of new teachers over the past 20 years.

It seems a sensible enough suggestion, but that’s because we’ve become inured to a rationalist way of thinking that, if you think about it, isn’t terribly rational. It’s based on the unquestioned assumption that people need to be “incentivated” to enter a particular profession, or to try harder or to do a better job.

These incentives are always monetary. Why? Because money is the only sure-fire way to motivate people. Every conservative politician (including not a few Labor politicians) believes that.

But it’s nonsense…

God yes!

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Posted by on September 6, 2006 in Aussie interest, Current affairs, Education, immigration, Multiculturalism and diversity, News and Current Affairs


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