HONORARY DOCTORATES ARE A SELLOUT

Few things make my blood boil more the the crass and indifferent manner in which our universities hand out honorary doctorates to notary publics. Doctorates not earned through any academic effort but conferred because they are deemed to be important people.

The ‘Australian’ today noted that Adam Goodes had been awarded his third honorary doctorate – this time from the University of Adelaide. He already has honorary doctorates from the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales. He joins the myriad of sportsmen, politicans and other citizens who have done good works but not in the academic field.

No one denies that Mr Goodes is a standout citizen who earned the Brownlow Medal and was deemed to be our Australian Citizen of the Year in 2014. My point is that academic qualifications should be earned through academic application and deep study. Honorary qualifications are not so earned and discount the worth of the efforts made by those who study hard for years and years in pursuit of academic excellence. They may help university administrators in some feel good way, but they are given in arrant disregard of the worth of genuine academic effort.

Hundreds and hundreds of people in Australia have been given honorary status and then lauded in a way that must be off-putting for genuine university students.

Honorary doctorates waive all thesis, research and examination requirements. They are pyrrhic. They acknowledge people who have contributed in other arenas in life’s world but not through university study. Their conferral at awards ceremonies must do little to make genuine doctorate earners feel good about the work they have done, their hundreds of hours of study and the many thousands of dollars surrendered in university fees.

Those with the ‘honorary’ title go on their way, generally in a quite affluent financial environment, and in a manner totally unrelated to the university, to students and to tertiary education.

I wish the practice of giving out honorary qualifications would become history.

RECYCLING IS BEING RECYCLED

This article was published in the NT Sun Newspapers on April 23 2019 under the title Let us stick to programs.


A recent Will Zwar, NT News report generated a wry smile. Zwar’s column was titled Kids to study recycling – Council plan to combat damning contamination stats (NT News April 8 2018).

The article went on to outline deep concerns within the City of Darwin Council about the poor attitudes of Darwinians toward recycling. Plans are being put into place to correct ‘don’t care’ attitudes through the advocacy of school students. “… Darwin council has engaged (the) Environment Centre NT … to conduct Waste and Recycling Education Programs at schools across Darwin … which will be out to schools within the next few weeks.” (Op cit).

My wry smile was about the fact that this ‘initiative’ is hardly new. It is revisiting a series of programs and learning opportunities that were shared by the (then) Darwin Council and Keep Australia Beautiful (NT).

Each year up until 2000, Darwin schools were invited to enter a council judged competition which focussed on clean, green school gardens and grounds environments. Many schools participated.

Carefully maintained and litter free school grounds were judged and Council sponsored recognition offered. The program was one that encouraged environmental consciousness and pride in school appearance. That highly successful program was discontinued.

KAB (NT) conducted a Territory Anti-Litter Creation (TALC) Program that embraced Darwin, Palmerston and indeed all schools in the Northern Territory. The program focussed on recycling waste materials, turning them into products with an artistic and craft focus. The program offered workshops open to Territory schools and community. The workshops educated participants, conferring skills they might need to transform otherwise useless products into objects of merit.

Among other initiatives, the TALC program offered prizes for the best, most imaginative ands purposeful creations. Included, were awards for poster design and creation. The best and most meaningful messages were shared through media coverage with urban schools and with the Territory as a whole.

The TALC program was shelved because of sponsorship issues. The program had been funded by an annual donation to KAB(NT) by the beverage industry. This support was discontinued because KAB supported container deposit legislation which, at that stage, was opposed by the beverage industry as a whole.

Without TALC and the City of Darwin school gardens competitions, recycling awareness and environmental consciousness, have gone steadily south.

Mr Zwar’s column is not about a new initiative. It is about our Council reaching out to reinstate beneficial programs that were discontinued. Allowing good programs to lapse all too often plays badly upon organisations that consider short term outcomes rather than long term consequences.

BAGGING BABY BOOMERS

I generally reserve this blog for matters of an educational nature. However this topic is close to my heart. The way in which generalisations are made about Baby Boomers is unfair, unjust and untrue.


It annoys me greatly that all baby boomers are tagged with being less than productive, people who grew up through life with no thought for the future and a generation now prepared to leach off the sweat of those who are contributing their taxes to baby boomer pensions.

In my case and for others I know who ARE boomers, this is unfair labelling and I must respond. The use of ‘baby boomer’ as a label with negative intent is unfair and unjust.

I was born in February 1946 so am one of the oldest boomers. When I retired it was on superannuation not on a pension. I had super from the mid 1970’s and built it up over time. I remain in that context.

And yes, I saved and always lived and will continue to live, as an OLD boomer, self sufficiently. There are many baby boomers of the same ilk, people who worked hard, paid their way, saved and during their wage earning years, supported the country through the taxes they paid.

And all this in large part during an era when superannuation schemes were still being developed.

So please, don’t generalise. My hands are not on the throats of the young who are paying taxes as they are NOT keeping me. Indeed, I am still levied tax and contribute to the welfare system supporting many nowhere near my age

EUTHANASIA – THE NT LEGISLATION OF 1996 DID NOT DESERVE TO BE OVERTURNED


I am a believer in and supporter of Euthanasia. I wrote the following letter to Kevin Andrews in 2016 and share the text. It is still pertinent and current.

How interesting that the Victorian Parliament – the parliament of MR Andrews’ home state – has seen the light.


Dear Mr Andrews

For a long time I have been distressed by the fact that you saw fit to introduce a private member’s bill into the Federal Parliament during the Howard years, which went to the overturning of the Northern Territory Euthanasia Bill. This is a matter about which I have harboured resentment for many years.

The NT Euthanasia Laws were well shaped and carefully structured by our then Chief Minister Marshall Perron. It was a day of relief rather than rejoicement when those laws were enacted into legislation.

In opposite vein, it was a day of rather astounded and disbelieving sadness, yet inevitability, when your private member’s bill got its overriding guernsey in Federal Parliament. I do not know if this bill was your own initiative or whether you were prevailed upon to move it to the parliament by other members of the Coalition. In any case, the rescinding of our most reasonable NT Act did our Territory and Northern Territorians a great disservice.

It is interesting that, by degree, the world is starting to catch up with Mr Perron’s ‘Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill’, which became part of our law over 20 years ago.

I have just turned 70. In my time, members of my family have passed in sad circumstances during which their rationality and their humanity was progressively dismantled by creeping loss of body and mind. I have seen that happen for many people and my awareness grows with advancing age.

For mine, I am desirous of incorporating into the provisions of my hastening old age, a provision that should I become totally incapable or demented, to the point of my reliance on life becoming the full responsibility of others, that I be allowed to decline my mortality: That I be allowed this as a legitimate right to determine, while still of sound body and mind.

Your bill stripped me of a basic human right and the possibility of action that should be an entitlement. I was deeply disappointed in what you did then. That disappointment remains until this day.

Sincerely

Henry Gray

11 March 2016

Mr Andrews eventually replied in a nondescript manner. Just to tell me in broad brush terms that the Federal Parliament acting on its operational principles, scuttled one of the wisest, most decent and empathetic pieces of legislation ever introduced into any Australian Parliament.

I still seethe about Mr Andrews and the Federal Parliament for mechanically and unreasonably brushing aside the Marshall Perron Euthanasia Bill. Few things in my life have been unforgivable. This matter is an exception.

ARAFURA GAMES GREAT FOR SCHOOLS


This was published in NT Sun Newspapers on April 16 2019 under the title Games to give kids’ experience.


It is wonderful that the Arafura Games are back and will take place between April 26 and May 4 this year.

When the games were discontinued in 2012, an outstanding learning opportunity for territory school students was lost.

From their inception in 1996 until the last games in 2011, the Arafura’s offered our schools some quite special and unique experiences. To have the games restored after eight years of absence will reinstate some of these benefits for both school students and our community.

During previous games, students from some of our schools had the opportunity to participate in the colour and spectacle of opening ceremonies. While this opportunity will not be part of the 2019 program, many will have the chance to join in as spectators when the games are formally launched. This will heighten awareness about our neighbouring countries and competitors.

The reinstatement of the games will stimulate interest in participating countries and their populations. Social and cultural education is always enhanced when students have the opportunity for first hand awareness of our geographical neighbours.

Study of language and culture is always boosted by events of this nature. Suddenly our neighbours become closer with an understanding of their situations more purposeful and relevant.

Some schools organised mini Olympics or sports extravaganzas to coincide with the Arafura Games taking place in Darwin. The focus was often on sports included in the program. The games return may well stimulate the rebirth of this activity.

The organisation of visits to schools by athletes or representatives from visiting countries during the games can be a highlight. So too is the adoption of countries by schools . These activities build relationships, empathy and cross cultural understanding.

Confidence, awareness and the understanding of many older students is enhanced through some volunteer work they undertake during the games.

With volunteers being welcome to offer support after school hours and at weekends, this is complimentary and does not have to conflict with school day activities.

The Arafura Games lead to the development of friendships between Darwin families and people coming to our city as athletes, officials or team supporters for the games. This has been a positive outcome emanating from each of the programs that have taken place.

The games confirm the worth of competition being offered to athletes from neighbouring countries with the program bolstered by Australian competitors. Sportspeople are recognised and appreciated for offering enjoyment through their participation. The Arafuras are the friendly games, acting as a catalyst in building understanding and relationships. May their reinstatement be a permanent feature of Territory life.

OLD FASHIONED READING IS THE BEST

This piece was published in the NT Suns Newspaper on April 10 2019 under the title Books are still valuable.


In these modern times, it is easy to replace traditional reading approaches with device supported alternatives. The proof of this change is confirmed by the number of bookshops that have been relocated away from the Northern Territory, changed business focus or closed. Among these are the ABC Bookshop, Dymocks and Angus & Robertson. While newsagents carry text material, dedicated bookshops are in decline.

Tablets and electronic books are becoming ever more popular, replacing what was a preference for books and traditional texts. Newspapers and some magazines have skyrocketing numbers of online readers, but subscriptions to hardcopy and paper formats are declining.

Electronic reading is an individualised alternative. The interaction is between the reader and the device. Text sharing and discussion does not take place because this reading method is not a group activity. Reading from devices does little to promote text sharing and companionship between readers.

Jackie Sinnerton made this point in a recent column about what should be an important sharing between parents and children. She suggests that “… parents should stick with old fashioned storybooks when reading to their children and ditch the electronic devices … reading from a device or e-book fails to engage children in the same way as a storybook. Parents and children verbalise and interact more when story and pictures are in print.” (Reading more special when it’s in print, NT News, 27 March 2019)

Traditional reading offers interactive opportunities for parents and children. Quoting from a prominent paediatrician Dr Tiffany Munzer, Sinnerton explains that the tradition of parents and children reading together offers “ … interactions, including warmth, closeness and enthusiasm during reading (which) create positive associations with reading (that) will likely stick with children as they get older.” (Op cit).

Although not stated, this benefit will in all likelihood be carried forward and become a habit that today’s children will practice as tomorrow’s parents.

Traditional reading promotes family togetherness. It also supports children in their acquiring of reading, conversational and comprehension skills.

The NT News and other papers belonging to the Murdock stable recognise the importance of shared readings in the family context. From time to time, sets of books which can be purchased by families reading newspapers, are offered for sale at most reasonable prices. This is a positive and practical initiative.

Access to traditional books and sharing quality time focussing on written text, adds value to family life. Children from homes where shared reading and discussion is a family habit, stand to gain a head start in reading, discussion and social sharing which are elements of formal schooling.