Academic website The Conversation bans climate change sceptics, locks dissenter accounts

Global warming has become conventional wisdom among Leftists.  If you tell a big enough lie often enough, Leftists will be eager to believe it.  Conservatives worldwide rarely believe in global warming but are under a lot of pressure to keep quiet about it.  This is the latest example of that

Amusing that the "conversationalists" now want to have a conversation only with themselves.  Not much of a conversation.

They started out with some pretensions of scholarliness but now they are just another Leftist propaganda rag.  But they never were much more than that. Conservative comment of any sort was always rare there

Academic website, The Conversation, has banned publication of comments that dispute man-made climate change and will lock the accounts of readers who attempt to post dissenting views.

As part of a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets called Covering Climate Now, The Conversation said constructive positive discussions did not include having contact with “climate change deniers”.

The Conversation Australia said banning comments from contrarians was part of improving its climate change coverage. “Once upon a time, we might have viewed climate sceptics as merely frustrating”, Editor and Executive Director, Misha Ketchell said.

“But it’s 2019, and now we know better,” he said. “Climate change deniers and those shamelessly peddling pseudoscience and misinformation, are perpetuating ideas that will ultimately destroy the planet. “As a publisher, giving them a voice on our site contributes to a stalled public discourse.”

The Conversation’s editorial team has been told to take a zero tolerance approach to moderating climate change deniers, and sceptics. “Not only will we be removing their comments, we’ll be locking their accounts,” Mr Ketchell said.

“We believe conversations are integral to sharing knowledge, but those who are fixated on dodgy ideas in the face of decades of peer-reviewed science are nothing but dangerous,” he said.

“It is counter-productive to present the evidence and then immediately undermine it by giving space to trolls.”

The Covering Climate Now initiative includes more than 250 outlets world wide with a combined audience of more than one billion. From September 15-23, participants have committed to emphasising climate stories.

Other participants include The Guardian, AFP, Bloomberg, The Christian Science Monitor, New Zealand Herald, Newsweek magazine and Al Jazeera.

The Conversation ban is in line with a push within the climate science community to de-platform those with unorthodox views.

A non-Aborigine?

The media are quick to call admirable people Aborigines even when they are to all appearances white. So how come the guy below was not identified as an Aborigine? He is in fact a fairly typical urban Aborigine. Urban Aborigines do typically have some white ancestry.

The Left-led media try their best to create a picture that it the opposite of reality. One wonders if that does any of the good that is presunmably intended. Can any good come from a blatant lie?

A man has been charged with murder after allegedly stabbing his girlfriend's father to death in front of his family on Christmas Eve.

Garth Michael Reid is accused of killing Warren Toby, 53, just before midnight on Friday in the front garden of a home in North Ipswich, south-west of Brisbane.

The 33-year-old allegedly used a 'sharp implement' to stab the man multiple times as horrified family members watched on.

Police said the group were drinking before an argument broke out and spilled onto the street.

Paramedics desperately tried to resuscitate Mr Toby but he could not be revived.

Reid, who was in a relationship with the alleged victim's 30-year-old daughter, was arrested at 5pm the following day at his home in Woodgate.

He was charged with murder, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and wilful damage.

Reid did not apply for bail and will appear in Ipswich Magistrates Court on February 3.

The Pressing Need for Everyone to Quiet Their Egos

Scott Kaufman offers some sound psychology below but seems unaware that it is mainly Leftism that he is criticizing.

It is clear that Leftist advocacy serves ego needs. It is submitted here that the major psychological reason why Leftists so zealously criticize the existing order and advocate change is in order to feed a pressing need for self-inflation and ego-boosting -- and ultimately for power, the greatest ego boost of all.

They need public attention; they need to demonstrate outrage; they need to feel wiser and kinder and more righteous than most of their fellow man. They fancy for themselves the heroic role of David versus Goliath. They need to show that they are in the small club of the virtuous and the wise so that they can nobly instruct and order about their less wise and less virtuous fellow-citizens. Their need is a pressing need for attention, for self-advertisement and self-promotion -- generally in the absence of any real claims in that direction. They are people who need to feel important and who are aggrieved at their lack of recognition and power. One is tempted to hypothesize that, when they were children, their mothers didn't look when they said, "Mummy, look at me".

We live in some times. On the one hand, things are better than they've ever been. Overall rates of violence, poverty, and disease are down. There have been substantial increases in education, longevity, leisure time, and safety. On the other hand... We are more divided than ever as a species. Tribalism and identity politics are rampant on all sides of everything.

Steven Pinker and other intellectuals think that the answer is a return to Enlightenment values—things like reason, individualism, and the free expression of as many ideas as possible and an effective method for evaluating the truth of them. I agree that this is part of the solution, but I think an often underdiscussed part of the problem is much more fundamental: all of our egos are just too damn loud.*

Watching debates in the media (and especially on YouTube) lately has been making my head explode. There seems to be this growing belief that the goal is always to win. Not have a dialectical, well-intentioned, mutual search for overarching principles and productive ways forward that will improve humanity—but to just win and destroy.

Now, don't get me wrong—I find a good intellectual domination just as thrilling as the next person. But cheap thrills aside, I also care deeply about there actually being a positive outcome. Arriving at the truth and improving society may not be explicit goals of a WWE match, but surely these are worthy goals of public discourse?

There is also an interesting paradox at play here in that the more the ego is quieted, the higher the likelihood of actually reaching one's goals. I think we tend to grossly underestimate the extent to which the drive for self-enhancement actually gets in the way of reaching one's goals—even if one's goals are primarily agentic.

Since psychologists use of the term ego is very different ways, let me be clear how I am defining it here. I define the ego as that aspect of the self that has the incessant need to see itself in a positive light. Make no doubt: the self can be our greatest resource, but it can also be our darkest enemy. On the one hand, the fundamentally human capacities for self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-control are essential for reaching our goals.

On the other hand, the self will do anything to disavow itself of responsibility for any negative outcome it may have played a role. As one researcher put it, the self engenders “a self-zoo of self-defense mechanisms.” I believe we can refer to these defensive strategies to see the self in a positive light as the “ego”. A noisy ego spends so much time defending the self as if it were a real thing, and then doing whatever it takes to assert itself, that it often inhibits the very goals it is most striving for.

In recent years, Heidi Wayment and her colleagues have been developing a “quiet ego” research program grounded in Buddhist philosophy and humanistic psychology ideals, and backed by empirical research in the field of positive psychology. Paradoxically, it turns out that quieting the ego is so much more effective in cultivating well-being, growth, health, productivity, and a healthy, productive self-esteem, than focusing so loudly on self-enhancement.

To be clear, a quiet ego is not the same thing as a silent ego. Squashing the ego so much that it loses its identity entirely does not do yourself or the world any favors. Instead, the quiet ego perspective emphasizes balance and integration. As Wayment and colleagues put it, “The volume of the ego is turned down so that it might listen to others as well as the self in an effort to approach life more humanely and compassionately.” The quiet ego approach focuses on balancing the interests of the self and others, and cultivating growth of the self and others over time based on self-awareness, interdependent identity, and compassionate experience.

The goal of the quiet ego approach is to arrive at a less defensive, and more integrative stance toward the self and others, not lose your sense of self or deny your need for the esteem from others. You can very much cultivate an authentic identity that incorporates others without losing the self, or feeling the need for narcissistic displays of winning. A quiet ego is an indication of a healthy self-esteem, one that acknowledges one’s own limitations, doesn’t need to constantly resort to defensiveness whenever the ego is threatened, and yet has a firm sense of self-worth and competence.

According to Bauer and Wayment, the quiet ego consists of four deeply interconnected facets that can be cultivated: detached awareness, inclusive identity, perspective-taking, and growth-mindedness. These four qualities of the quiet ego contribute to having a general stance of balance and growth toward the self and others:

Detached Awareness. Those with a quiet ego have an engaged, nondefensive form of attention to the present moment. They are aware of both the positive and negatives of a situation, and their attention is detached from more ego-driven evaluations of the present moment. Rather, they attempt to see reality as clearly as possible. This requires openness and acceptance to whatever one might discover about the self or others in the present moment, and letting the moment unfold as naturally as possibly. It also involves the ability to revisit thoughts and feelings that have already occurred, examine them more objectively than perhaps one was able to in the moment, and make the appropriate adjustments that will lead to further growth.

Inclusive Identity. People whose egos are turned down in volume have a balanced or more integrative interpretation of the self and others. They understand other perspectives in a way that allows them to identify with the experience of others, break down barriers, and come to a deeper understanding of common humanity. An ability to be mindful, and the detached awareness that comes with it, can help facilitate an inclusive identity, especially under moments of conflict, such as having one’s identity or core values challenged. If your identity is inclusive, you’re likely to be cooperative and compassionate toward others rather than only working to help yourself.

Perspective-Taking. By reflecting on other viewpoints, the quiet ego brings attention outside the self, increasing empathy and compassion. Perspective taking and inclusive identity are intimately intertwined, as either one can trigger the other. For instance, the realization of one’s interdependence with others can lead to a greater understanding of the perspective of others.

Growth-Mindedness. A concern for prosocial development and change for self and others over time causes those with a quiet ego to question the long-term impact of their actions in the moment, and to view the present moment as part of an ongoing life journey instead of a threat to one’s self and existence. Growth-mindedness and perspective taking complement each other nicely, as a growth stance toward the moment clears a space for understanding multiple perspectives. Growth-mindedness is also complementary to detached awareness, as both are focused on dynamic processes rather than evaluation of the final product.

These qualities should not be viewed in isolation from each other, but as part of a whole system of ego functioning.

Six Tasmanian Aborigines killed unlawfully in 1827

The killer was a livestock handler so it seems probable that the Aborigines came to attention for cattle stealing, a grave offence in those days

It is important to note that the killing was illegal -- not part of any  official policy.  It would in fact have been prosecuted if it became known.  So it was no evidence of the colonialist "genocide" that some Leftist historians assert.  It is in fact evidence against that

A soldier's diary disintegrating in Ireland's national library has revealed disturbing evidence of an undocumented massacre of Aboriginal people in Tasmania in the colony's early years.

The diary belonged to Private Robert McNally, posted to Van Diemen's Land in the 1820s, and records in gritty detail colonial life and encounters with settlers and a notorious bushranger.

But it's his account of his part in the cover up a massacre of men and women on March 21, 1827, near Campbell Town in the Northern Midlands, that stunned University of Tasmania history professor Pam Sharpe.

Searching the National Library of Ireland catalogue for documents about settlers, Professor Sharpe found a note referring to "two volumes in bad condition" of a soldier's writings.

Unearthed, the diaries were identified as the work of McNally, an Irishman who served in Ireland, India, Sydney and Van Diemen's Land, Professor Sharpe told ABC Radio Hobart.

Professor Sharpe said she approached the find with low expectations, but that soon changed when she got her hands on the first of two notebooks. "I didn't hold out much hope that it would be interesting, but I opened it and it was absolutely fascinating," she said.

What she read prompted Professor Sharpe to divert her research funding to have the handwritten entries digitised. Efforts are underway to conserve what remains of a second McNally volume in poor condition.

"It is extremely unusual, very valuable, and completely worth diverting my research to investigate because some of these things aren't on the record about Van Diemen's Land," Professor Sharpe said.

She said the diaries recounted McNally's time with the infantry from 1815 to 1836. "He gets to Van Diemen's Land around about the time that Governor [George] Arthur comes — 1825. He's here for three years," Professor Sharpe said.

"The critical thing is that it's the only diary of an ordinary soldier that anyone has found for colonial Australia."

Professor Sharpe said she was disturbed to read McNally's account of the aftermath of a deadly confrontation between a livestock handler named Shaw and local Indigenous people on the Sutherland Estate.

"McNally doesn't actually see any Aboriginal people for the first few months, but then he is involved in some alarming episodes," she said.

"He was called to [the scene of] a massacre that my researchers and I can't find any other evidence of."

McNally wrote:

"A man of the name of Shaw came to me with information that he had killed six of the natives, two of which was woman.

"I advised him to say no more about it but keep it as a secret as he would be called to an account before a justice. He took me to the place where I saw him make a bonfire of these bodies."

A lot of violence perpetrated against Aboriginal people happened in remote areas of Van Diemen's Land and many incidents were not recorded, Professor Sharpe said.

"It is horrific, absolutely awful, but unfortunately it is probably the story of what happened to a lot of Aboriginal people in the 1820s," she said

The University of Newcastle's Professor Lyndall Ryan, who created an online map of massacres in Australia, said there were lots of massacres that never came to light.

"Most of them were carried out in secret. If you were caught, you would be hanged," Professor Ryan said.

'Colonials hid massacres'

Heather Sculthorpe, chief executive of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, said any new information would need to be substantiated.

"It will be exciting if there is new information, but we do need it to be historically verified," she said.

"There has been a lot of work done on the history of Tasmania, but of course there is more to be found.

"The way that colonials would have written about massacres would have been hidden."

Professor Sharpe said she had only had four hours to examine the McNally diary before returning home to Hobart. She hadn't even seen the second volume, because it was covered in mould and deemed too fragile.

But the research continues.

"After a lot of effort, and the involvement of the Irish ambassador to Australia, the National Library of Ireland is now conserving [the second volume]," Professor Sharpe said.

"It is undergoing an enormous restoration process in the Marsh's Library in Dublin, where they're experts on 18th century paper conservation."

According to his diary, McNally witnessed another famous event in Tasmania's history.

Matthew Brady was known as the "gentleman bushranger" and one of his most audacious actions was the capture of the entire township of Sorell, near Hobart, in November 1825.

His "gentlemanly" attributes included rarely robbing women and fine manners while stealing from men.

"To start with [McNally is] chasing Matthew Brady, who more or less held the whole island to ransom," Professor Sharpe said.

"I mean, Brady and his gang are running rampant.

"Robert is part of the military force trying to capture him and they have an eyeball-to-eyeball encounter at Sorell jail and Brady gets away yet again.

"That's quite a famous episode, so it's just fantastic to have a very close and detailed account of this."

Immense drinking and women trouble

Professor Sharpe said the McNally diary also documented the minutiae of colonial life.

"There is a lot of everyday detail, including what they wore, what they do all the time and all the drinking they do, which is immense," she said.

"He recounts his liaisons with women. We have a lot of quite explicit detail of his affairs, which I hadn't expected of an early 19th century journal.

"He really struggles with forming relationships with women."

Signs of authenticity
Professor Sharpe said McNally was born in the 1790s and died in 1874 in Ireland.

She said she had strong indications the diary was McNally's own work and not that of an amanuensis, or person employed to take dictation or copy other people's experiences, which was common at the time.

She said the library conservator had established the diary was very early 19th century handmade paper.

"We've been able to fact check against military records, newspaper reports and so far, Robert McNally is where he says he is," Professor Sharpe said.

"We know that writers of military memoirs sometimes put themselves into the spotlight, as Albert Facey did in A Fortunate Life when he gives a description of the beginning of Gallipoli, when we know he wasn't there.

"In the McNally diaries there is quite a famous incident in Ireland called the Churchtown Burnings and Robert says he is nearby but not actually there.

"This gives us confidence that, when he gives himself a central role in the Sorell jail hold-up by Matthew Brady a few years later, he was actually there, and he did what he describes."

Robert Hogan is working as a research assistant on the diaries, and has found Private McNally's service record in the British National Archives.

"The information he gives in the journal is consistent with military history," Mr Hogan said.

"I found that he joined the 96th Regiment in 1816 and when they disbanded in 1818 he moved immediately to join the 40th Regiment.

"His length of service in each place is consistent with what he says in his diaries."

Must not doubt weepy tales of racism

The Left are constantly finding racists under every bed. Accusations of racism have become a form of virtue signalling. Claiming that you have experienced or seen instances of racism has become a form of Leftist identification and proof of your right thoughts.

And the temptation to get into that act is strong. You do yourself a favour by claiming to be someone who finds racism in others. So even where there is no racism it pays to make some up.

It is at its most ludicrous among various minorities who have actually done well for themselves. You might think that such people are a living disproof of us living in a racist society. But that will never do. To retain Leftist respectability, the successful minority member has to complain of all the racism he experienced on his way to the top and how he is still racially victimized.

It was such ungrateful people whom Steve Finn pointed to below -- mocking their claims of victimhood. But you must not doubt claims of racism so he was fired for pointing out the obvious

Coronation Street bosses axe director after he 'claimed that racism doesn't exist in the media and branded stars speaking out against discrimination "victim-making frauds"'

Coronation Street bosses have dropped freelance director Steve Finn after he made social media comments about racism and slammed those speaking out against it.

According to the Huffington Post, Finn claimed that racism doesn't exist in the media, reportedly taking things a step further by disparaging the public figures who spoke about experiencing it.

In posts attributed to Finn, historian David Olusoga was the target of vitriolic posts, calling him a 'victim-making fraud' after he spoke about being marginalised in his career. Further posts also took aim at director Noel Clarke and author John Amaechi.

After his Finn's posts came to light, a Corrie spokesperson told MailOnline: 'We have been made aware of comments on social media by a freelance director, Steve Finn, which are inconsistent with the values of both Coronation Street and ITV.' 'The director will not therefore be returning to Coronation Street,' they concluded.

After Olusoga spoke about his experiences with discrimination in the industry, a post attributed to Finn was shared on Facebook, which read: 'Oh poor dear, so crushed by his success on the unenlightened British media. 'Could I get just a tenth of his salary for making programmes which people actually watch, as he is so crushed.'

In further commentary on the matter, he is said to have claimed that he had never seen any racism during his decades-long career in television. The post read: 'I have worked in this business for over 40 years and I have not seen one instance of racism.

'I’m afraid I find people like him [Olusoga] beyond contempt because he has made a very nice earner out of his niche abilities, but now wants to ride the racism high-horse to maximum effect.

'I am a product of the white working-class, and have often felt alone and isolated, and yes unwanted, especially in the BBC, but I would never have made such a shameful parody of myself just to further my career.'

Another post read: 'People like Olusaga [sic] are victim-making frauds and need to be called out.'

He is also said to have called Kidultood star Clarke a 'f***tard' after he spoke about asking for a more diverse production crew on the set of a TV show. 'You got some white people "let go" to assuage your own agenda,' read the post.

In July, after a host of stars spoke out publicly about their experiences with racism, ITV announced a Diversity Acceleration Plan to 'create more opportunities for those from Black, Asian, minority ethnic and other underrepresented groups'.

No more guilt trips? Revolutionary process converts carbon dioxide into jet fuel using cheap catalysts for emissions-free flights

Ya gotta laugh! Adding a hydrogen atom to CO2 to make a hydrocarbon seems obvious chemistry but it is not so easy in practice. So the scientists below deserve some credit for their achievement.

But where does the hydrogen atom come from? The usual source of hydrogen is natural gas, which is a "FOSSIL FUEL". So those dreaded fossil fuels are still being used to create the new "non-fossil" fuel. The non-fossil fuel comes from fossil fuel. Follow that? Clarity of thought is not to be expected from Greenies

Creating jet fuel for planes out of carbon dioxide – which could make flying guilt free – could soon be a reality.

The process from a team at Oxford University uses cheap iron catalysts to capture CO2 from the air and converts it into fuel for aeroplanes.

The academics have labelled their innovation a 'significant social advance' in how the abundant greenhouse gas is converted and its potential to make flying more environmentally acceptable.

The chemical reaction takes CO2 out of the air, and converts it into jet fuel, which is then emitted by the plane in flight.

As there is no need to extract oil from the ground, the process is carbon neutral.

Aviation is a large and growing contributor to the greenhouse effect – with its gases labelled by Boris Johnson as creating a 'toxic teacosy' around the earth.

It contributes around 10 per cent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions, and is growing as air traffic rises here and abroad.

Flying has as a result become an environmental and political battleground – with environmentalists opposing expansion of air travel – for increasing CO2 emissions.

Teenage activist Greta Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic to the USA to avoid getting in a plane, and celebrities such as Emma Thompson and Harry Potter actress Emma Watson have been lambasted for lecturing the public on the evils of global warming, while regularly jetting round the world.

But the UK is legally bound get to 'net zero' carbon emissions by 2050, so to do this a new form of carbon neutral fuel must be found.

The issue for aviation is that its fuel breaks down and spews out CO2 and water, and both of these products are emitted into the atmosphere.

However, the new technique would capture the gas already in the atmosphere and create fuel, negating the need to fill up with new fuel extracted from the ground.

CO2 is highly stable, but the researchers led by Peter Edwards of Oxford University managed to convert it back into fuel by using a chemical reaction powered by an iron-based catalyst – at low temperatures – and adding hydrogen.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, Professor Peter Edwards said the breakthrough could put Britain at the forefront of a revolutionary new green industry.

He said: 'This is a really exciting, potentially revolutionary advance, the most important advance in my four decade career.'

Professor Edwards said he expected it could scale up in two to three years to create jet fuel in large quantities.

He added: 'Our vision is that the world can see that captured CO2 can be used as energy carrier to enable sustainable aviation.

He added that the team are in advanced discussions with UK industries to set up a pilot plant demonstration.

'With government support this would provide the stimulus to grow a new UK synthetic aviation fuel manufacturing industry .

'This advance offers post – Brexit Britain a chance to lead the world in climate change , boost our science base and enhance our reputation.

'These scientific advances must now lead to break-through technology and innovation. We mustn't miss this opportunity.'

Writing in the respected journal Nature Communications, the authors said that their discovery could 'mitigate carbon dioxide emissions but also to produce renewable and sustainable jet fuel'.

How accurate is our Hebrew Bible?

My Christmas essay

Most Christians are aware that the Bible was not originally written in English, though some have thought so.  The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in ancient Greek.

But both were written over two thousand years ago.  So how do we know that we now have accurate copies of what was originally written so long ago?  That is what I want to address here.

The basic problem is that we do not have the originals of what was written.  All we have copies.  And the copies do differ in various ways.  So which -- if any -- is the correct version of the originals?

One way of looking at that is to find the oldest possible copy -- on the assumption that errors are less likely to have crept in the closer we get to the original.  But the oldest copies we have of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) go back only about a thousand years.  A lot could have happened in the thousand years before that.

Over 60 years ago, however, there was a great find.  Hidden away in some caves in Israel were some copies of the Hebrew scriptures that dated from about the time of Christ.  They are sometimes referred to as the "Dead Sea Scrolls", though the term Qumran scrolls would be more accurate.

So how do those scrolls compare with the Hebrew Bible we have today?  That has been the focus of a huge body of scholarly enquiry and analysis.  And the broad answer is that some of the scrolls are exactly as we have them today and some are not.  So how do we account for that?

The biggest wonder is that some parts of the Hewbrew text  -- particularly the book of Isaiah -- have survived without change for so long.  What we have today is the result of copies of copies of copies of copies and it is well known how inaccuracies can creep into any text that is the result of much copying.  So how did at least one book of the Bible survive copying without error?

The answer is religious.  About a thousand years ago a group of religious Jews emerged -- the Masoretes -- who devoted huge efforts into copying accurately.  It is the copies that they made which are the basis for our English Bibles. And the Masoretes claim that the copies that they have so painstakingly produced are an accurate copy of what was originally written.

So how can we check up on that?  There is one major way.  Since before the time of Christ, the old Hebrew text had been translated into Greek -- the language of learning in the ancient world. Those translations are called by scholars the LXX.   When Jesus and the apostles quoted from the OT, the words they used as quoted in the NT came from the LXX.  And we have some very old copies of the LXX -- going back to around the 4th century AD.  And being much older than the copies we have of the Hebrew Bible itself, the LXX could be regarded as as closer to the Bible as originally written. So how does the LXX compare with the Hebrew Bible we have today?

There are many differences, most minor but some major. So how do we accout for those differences?  Based on very detailed studies by many scholars, it looks like the copy of the Hebrew text that the translators used was different from the Hebrew text that we have today.  Some scholars have even done a careful back-translation from the LXX to produce a probable version of the Hebrew text underlying it.  That version is usually referred to by the German word "Vorlage".  But the Vorlage too differs clearly from the current Hebrew Bible.

So the fact that the Vorlage differs in many ways from our current Bible reinforces what the Qumran scolls tell us -- that there is much uncertainty about what the Bible authors originally wrote.  The broad outline is there but many details are different.

One of the most prolific and authoritative writers on the Qumran scrolls is Emanuel Tov, an Israeli. From 1990-2009 he served as the Editor-in-Chief of the international Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project, so he knows his subject.  And a few years back he produced a summary of what the many years of research into the scrolls have taught us.  Find it here. I have just read it and find much interest in it.

His final deduction is the most interesting. He concludes that, before and during the time of Christ, the Pharisees maintained in the Jerusalem temple copies of the sacred Hebrew texts that they regarded as authoritative.  Christ himself admitted that the Pharisees were meticulous scholars with a great reverence for Jewish law so we can assume that they went to great lengths to ensure that their copies of the ancient texts were as accurate as possible.  What they produced was probably nearly as good as what modern scholars would have produced in their position.

But Jews have always had great reverence for their scriptures so there would have been many copies of them in whole or in part throughout the land.  The Temple scrolls would have been in part a reaction to that.  They were an attempt to sort out from the many scrolls available what could be relied on.  And access to the Temple scrolls for any purpose would have been closely guarded.  So only a minority of the scrolls in circulation would have been copies of the Temple scrolls.  

But here's the thing:  From the copies of them that we have, it seems that the Temple scrolls were almost identical to the version that the Masoretes gave us, identical to our Hebrew Bible of today.  One could proclaim that to be a blessed miracle but the more likely explanation is that the early Masoretes of a thousand years ago did have access to good copies of the Temple scrolls and relied on them.  So what we have today is the version of the Hebrew scriptures that originated from the ultra-careful work of the ancient Pharisees

So the explanation for variations in ancient versions of the scriptures becomes clear:  There WERE different versions of some of the scriptures circulating in ancient Israel but we have the Pharisees to thank for sorting out that confusion and arriving at a version of the scriptures that is as close as possible to what was originally written.

Australia tackling online bullies

If American media companies think that they can ignore Australian law, they should reflect on the humbling of Dow Jones a few years back.  

They uttered a serious defamation of Australian miner Joe Gutnick in one of their publications and thought they were protected by America's permissive libel laws

But since the libel was of an Australian, Australian law had jurisdiction and Dow Jones eventually settled, costing them a heap

Harmful online abuse would be stripped from websites under a new government proposal to squash adult cyber bullying.

The eSafety Commissioner would be given the power to direct platforms to take down abuse, when they have failed to respond to complaints.

The online watchdog’s capacity to unmask the identities behind anonymous or fake accounts used to conduct abuse or share illegal content will also be beefed up.

Cyber Safety Minister Paul Fletcher said the new scheme was a world-leading online safety framework for seriously harmful content.

“Overwhelmingly what victims of serious cyber abuse tell us is they want the material taken down but that can be very hard to achieve,” Mr Fletcher told the ABC.

“The eSafety Commissioner has done that effectively with cyber-bullying against children and we’re now going to extend that to cyber-abuse directed against adults.”

Under the new Online Safety Bill, out for consultation on Wednesday, services will be required to remove image-based abuse and cyber bullying content within 24 hours of receiving a notice from the commissioner.

Companies that don’t comply will face maximum civil penalties of $550,000, while individuals will be subject to fines of up to $111,000.

Websites streaming online crisis events such as the Christchurch terrorist attacks and extreme violent content will also be able to be blocked for a limited time, under the commissioner’s request to internet service providers.

Protections for children will also be strengthened to enable bullying material to be removed from online services frequented by children.

Mr Fletcher said the measures recognised adults had greater resilience than children when it came to abusive content, and appropriately balanced the importance of freedom of speech.

The bill will also include legislated “basic online safety expectations” for digital platforms to establish a new benchmark for industry to keep Australians safe.

Under these, the eSafety Commissioner will be able to seek an explanation from the platforms about how they will respond to online harms under new transparency reporting requirements.

The industry will also be required to do more to keep users safe under updated codes.

“The internet has brought great social, educational and economic benefits,” Mr Fletcher said. “But just as a small proportion of human interactions go wrong offline, so too are there risks online.”

Windfarm operators blamed for the big blackouts of 2016

Allegedly, the operators should have had in place cut-out switches etc that would have prevented the disaster, even though the storm was an exceptional event.

The real problem was the state's heavy reliance on wind after scrapping its coal-fired generators.  It was the Greenie government that had no backup against rare events

A South Australian wind farm operator has been fined $1 million for contravening national electricity rules in the three years leading up to the 2016 statewide blackout.

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) launched legal action against Snowtown Wind Farms last year and was accused of supplying power to the grid when the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) had not approved it to do so.

The Federal Court today ordered the company — which has 90 wind turbines in the SA's mid north — to implement a compliance program and provide a written report to the court after six months, to ensure there is not a repeat.

Justice Richard White also ordered Snowtown Wind Farms to pay the regulator's court costs of $100,000.

HSC a brutal and irrelevant way to define ‘intelligence’ in a world opening its eyes to other values

A rather silly article below tries to downplay the importance of your final High School results (the ATAR).

But it does a very bad job of that.  It rather boringly says the ATAR does not measure intelligence.  He is right.  It measures APPLIED intelligence -- what happens when you combine IQ with hard work. Business-people have long hired on the basis of that.  The ATAR gives them an indication  of how likely you are to make a success of a difficult task in the workplace.

The claim that your ATAR ceases to matter soon after you got it is nonsense.  He actually admits that it is nonsense, saying it matters in forming relationships and will matter when you have chidren

And he seems to think he is original in saying that IQ is not the only personal quality that is important.  I know no-one who would disagree.  To me a kind heart trumps most other qualities

On Thursday night, the ATAR was the be-all and end-all; by Friday lunch, it was on its way to being forgotten.

One of the great joys of leaving school is the discovery that the all-important marker of so-called intelligence, which school leavers feared was going to define them, was a mirage. It wasn’t quite a con job: the HSC, as a rite of passage and an educational journey, has a lot going for it and is often unjustly criticised. But the ATAR is only a functional gateway for entry into certain university courses. Like a ticket of entry for a long-awaited show, you might have kept it under your pillow and kissed it every night for months, but once you’ve used it, you screw it up and the next day you can’t remember where you lost it.

For those who shocked themselves by how well they did, their ATAR might provide a secret treasure of self-esteem – “I am a 90 person, even if everyone took me for a 70 person” – but they will have to keep it to themselves, because from today forward, there will be not a single thing more uncool than telling someone what you got in your HSC.

For those who were disappointed, or – horrible word – who “underachieved”, the end of the HSC will come as a blessed relief. They will no longer wear that mark on their forehead.

Whether your result was good, bad or indifferent, forgetting your ATAR starts the moment you receive it. Ranking intelligence is one of the many components of our colonial inheritance that is coming under an attack that is more concerted each year. There is a broad illusion in the brutality of a number to rank a person’s intelligence. Those two years of the HSC apportion intelligence as if it were money, handed out unevenly yet treated as a symbol of virtue. For many students, knowing where they stood in this hierarchy has offered the comforts of certainty and security. Some will proceed through their lives into workplaces that replicate this hierarchy – the professions, academia, the military, some of the rank-conscious remnants of the business world. Perpetual strivers will find a sequence of substitutes for the ATAR, so they may go to their grave knowing, or thinking they know, exactly where they stand. But that way of viewing the world is shrinking with each year.

Any agreed consensus on what constitutes “intelligence” is under assault on various fronts. Science is bringing us to the humbling understanding that “intelligence” is not an objective but a social measure, conditioned by circumstance, gender, race and dis/ability, just for starters. A quantifiable scale for “braininess” is as anachronistic as an IQ test, as mustily irrelevant as Mensa membership. The drive for diversity in workplaces is not based just on the notion that anyone can be just as “smart” as the white men who invented the rules; it is based on the suspicion that “intelligence”, and the hierarchies that flow from it, was a rigged game in the first place. The diversity movement has its excesses and missteps, which are generously well reported, but at its heart is the encouragement to think about brains differently, and to figure out that the greatest contributors to our social good are those whose qualities slipped the noose of the HSC markers.

My favourite Gary Larson cartoon is the one showing the student at the “Midvale School for the Gifted”, leaning with all his weight, trying to open a door that has a big sign on it saying “PULL”. For today’s school leavers, their parents’ and grandparents’ generation saw “intelligence” as a narrowly fixed quantity, a door for the gifted. But for the class of 2020, the paths of opportunity promise to branch out in a world that is finding many different things to value: emotional intelligence, kindness, empathy, understanding, intuition, commonsense, initiative, as well as countless exercises of brainpower for which there was no measurement at school.

For all that, the HSC will still leave a heavy after-trauma. Those students might think they have been liberated from the HSC, but they can look forward to a lifetime of waking in a cold sweat from nightmares in which they still have to do their HSC exams and are even less prepared than the first time, and probably have forgotten to wear certain articles of clothing.

And then, years after putting it all behind them, they will meet their life partner and, over a bottle of wine, the old zombie will stir from its grave. “What did you get in the HSC?” And neither will want to confess to their number, because the last thing they want is for love to be polluted by memories they have succeeded for so long in burying. Their ATAR need not be tattooed onto their arm.

In time, they in turn will have children, and will love them to bits through their infancy and primary years. But then those children will enter secondary school and the nightmare of classification will become real again. As parents, today’s school leavers will make enormous sacrifices so that their children will have an opportunity to get that golden ticket. Is the ticket worth such sacrifices? You will have forgotten. Your children will ask, “What did you get in the HSC, Mum? Dad?” And back you plummet into the embarrassment of either having done better or worse than your family had you pegged for, and now you’ll get scared all over again, this time that your children will see you differently if they know your secret number.

And then those children will enter year 11, and before you know it, the HSC is the be-all and end-all again, and you’ll have forgotten the most vital lesson out of all those 13 years of schooling you did, which is that the day after your children have received their results, it will have ceased to matter. Until you become a grandparent. Onwards … and upward

The carefree larrikin is a myth. Australians are obedient to authority

Waleed Aly does have a point below. <a href="">I found</a> something related in my survey research some years ago.  I found that Australians disapprove greatly of lawbreaking but were also much less respectful of authority of than are the  English. Evidently, being anti-authority does NOT extend to tolerating crime.  So that surely leads to cautions about what we infer from the available data

I think Aly somewhat misreads Australians' motivations. What he attributes to submissiveness to government I would attribute to the famously relaxed attitudes of Australians.  They just do not get worked up about much, including demands on them from the government.  Rather than protest government intrusions they just go to the beach

And the demands that Australian governments make can usually be seen as commonsense so the beach is doubly attractive because of that.  Not much is lost by letting the government have its way.

Regardless of its explanation, however, the result is the same.  Australians do live in a remarkably peaceful and orderly society with good modern amenities and a high standard of living.  That's pretty good.  It's particularly good when we read of the great and ongoing fractures in American society

Thinking about Australia’s stunning success in handling COVID-19

If there are cultural dimensions to America’s poor performance and current paralysis, a similar explanation probably exists for our triumph.

I don’t say this in a spirit of triumphalism, or with a sense of cultural superiority. I’m suggesting instead that the characteristics of different societies make them well suited to different kinds of crises. We’re poorly suited to climate change, for instance. But COVID-19 is a crisis that very much suits us. Our national psychology is tailor-made for it. Crudely, I’d put it like this: we love a closed border, we’re a surprisingly anxious people in the face of immediate threats, we’re very obedient to authority and we have a deep belief in the role of government to solve our problems.

Some of that is at odds with our self-image, which tends to emphasise the mythology of the carefree larrikin, thoroughly informal in manners and sceptical of power. This is the Australia of Ned Kelly and Waltzing Matilda, which captures much of how we talk about ourselves, but very little of how we actually behave.

Perhaps the best demonstration of this point came from the late Australian historian John Hirst. His argument is worth reading in full if you find the time, but to put it briefly, our whole history is one of reliance on the state, heightened regulation and mass compliance.

So, we were the first nation to make seatbelts compulsory in cars. We’re one of extremely few to make bicycle helmets compulsory. We were early adopters of mandatory breath tests for motorists. We have extensive prohibitions on smoking in public places, including vast outdoor ones.

As Hirst put it: “At games of Australian rules football the spectators yell foul abuse at the umpire and then at half time they file quietly outside to have a smoke”. We’re the only English-speaking country to make voting compulsory. Before that we had compulsory enrolment. We even had laws that made it mandatory to tell the Electoral Office if you moved house. The police were involved in administering all of these policies, aided by spies from the Electoral Office. Yes. Our Electoral Office had spies, most often postmen. That describes a libertarian’s hell. Hell, it’s vastly more interventionist than even social democratic Europe.

And while we have our share of people who decry the idea of a creeping "nanny state", I'd venture that every one of these measures, from compulsory voting to bicycle helmets, is wildly popular here. In general, we'd argue they're common sense and regard critics of them as unreasonably ideological. In any event, we comply silently with all of them.

We might despise politicians, but we ultimately like government for the very simple reason that the modern nation-state of Australia could never have existed without it. In fact, it never did.

The British arrived with Governors, ready to assume the role of governing. White government arrived with white settlers everywhere except Melbourne, which was the only place settlers formed their own government. Then, these governments set about building infrastructure in a way they never did in Britain. They were not managing a society that existed. They simply crushed the Indigenous ones that did, then proceeded as though no society was here in the first place. That set in motion a peculiarly Australian logic that government created society, not the other way around.

Beyond that, our love of border control scarcely needs explanation. One of the first laws we passed after federation was the Immigration Restriction Act, and it has been the most enduring theme of this COVID year. The federal government defied World Health Organisation advice by shutting down our international border. Then, most of our state governments defied the federal government and shut their borders, too. Spats repeatedly broke out between the federal, Queensland and New South Wales governments.

But for all the political fireworks, there isn’t a single leader in this country who didn’t benefit from a hard border policy during this pandemic. Indeed, there probably hasn’t been one in our history. You could never have done this in Europe, where permeable borders are so central to people’s understanding of life. You’d be hard pressed to close state borders in America. But we embraced it with astonishing ease.

All these traits are invaluable weapons against COVID. They’re also what makes it possible for us to legislate gun control after an isolated massacre, pass expansive counter-terrorism legislation without anything like the scrutiny of a serious public debate, and maintain a brutal policy on asylum seekers. Chances are you support some of these things and oppose others.

But that’s the nature of a national psyche. It leads us to do both daft and inspirational things without breaking stride. Perhaps America cannot control its guns for the same reason it can have a spectacular civil rights movement. And if that’s true, perhaps we stopped COVID for the same reason we stopped the boats.

The triumph of the selective schools

Selective schools are ones that admit smart kids only. Leftists oppose selective schools as a violation of their idiotic "all men are equal" doctrine but their success speaks for itself.  That success is the main thing that shields them from envious attacks.

A small complication is that the kids doing best in exams are not only from selective schools but of Asian background. James Ruse Agricultural High School is almost entirely populated by students of East Asian and South Asian ancestry.  Asians are on average smarter.  But even discounting the Asian element, selective schools still score best

James Ruse Agricultural High School has claimed the title of NSW’s top school for the 25th year in a row, an unparalleled achievement in the history of the Higher School Certificate.

Baulkham Hills High School was second, with North Sydney Boys’ and Girls’ high schools third and fourth. Sydney Grammar, at fifth, was the only independent school in the state’s top 10.

The top non-selective school was Ascham, at 11th. Mackellar Girls High, part of the Northern Beaches Secondary College (NBSC) network, was the highest-placed public comprehensive school at 43rd. Parramatta Marist High was the top Catholic systemic school at 46th.

Tangara School for Girls, which was forced to close for two weeks in August due to a COVID-19 cluster affecting senior students, climbed 78 places to 25th, its best performance in several years.

James Ruse principal Rachel Powell stepped into the role two years ago. “We got it! That’s such a relief,” she told the Herald. “It’s vindication of of all the hard work this year.”

The principal of Mackellar Girls’, Christine del Gallo, said she was “absolutely delighted that we were able to support our girls through the COVID-19 dilemma to enable them to achieve such amazingly wonderful results for them.”

Concerns private school students would have an advantage over high-performing public students due to better remote learning resources and a shorter shutdown due to COVID-19 appear to have been unfounded, with more public schools in the top 10 than any year since 2014 and more comprehensive state schools in the top 100 than last year.

It also did not appear to affect overall results among top students, with 17,507 distinguished achievers this year compared with 17,122 in 2019.

Of the top 50 schools, 18 were government selective schools, one was a comprehensive state school, two were Catholic systemic schools, and the rest were independent.

Of 14 independent schools in the top 25, nine were single-sex girls’ schools. Single-sex public comprehensive schools also fared well, with Willoughby Girls’ at 59, NBSC Balgowlah Boys’ campus at 60, and Epping Boys’ High at 76. Chatswood High, a co-ed comprehensive school, was 69th.

The highest-placed Catholic systemic schools were Parramatta Marist High, Brigidine College Randwick at 49th, and St Ursula’s College at 79th.

James Ruse has finished first in the HSC rankings since 1996, when it took the crown off Sydney Grammar. It was originally established as a farming school, and agriculture is still a compulsory subject.

It has become the most sought after of the state’s 50-odd selective schools, and has the highest year 7 entry scores. Alumni include Atlassian founder Scott Farquhar and concert pianist David Fung.

A debate over something seemingly innocuous – the title in front of Jill Biden’s name – has stretched into its seventh day

I would not normally weigh in on a matter as trivial as this.  I myself have a doctorate not in medicine but in a related field so I could with some justice refer to myself  with a title but I rarely do.  I see it as a matter of taste primarily.  When people ask me what sort of doctor I am I usually reply jocularly as follows:

"I am one of those funny university doctors who aren't really doctors at all"

But what bothers me is the low standard of the work that Jill Biden got her doctorate for.  Knowing of that I would certainly never refer to her as "Dr".

"Doctor" was originally a sign of distinguished academic achievement.  If it is not that it is nothing.

US media has been bickering about this for an entire week.

It started with an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal last Friday. Columnist Joseph Epstein said Dr Biden should drop the title because she’s not a medical doctor.

The incoming first lady earned a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware in 2007, having spent most of her career as an English and writing teacher. She then became a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College.

She also holds a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees.

“Madame First Lady, Mrs Biden, Jill, kiddo – a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr’ before your name?” Mr Epstein wrote.

“‘Dr Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic. Your degree is, I believe, an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.

“A wise man once said that no one should call himself ‘Dr’ unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.”

The article sparked a backlash, much back-and-forth ensued, and hence we are still discussing it seven days later.

It also prompted a number of female academics to add the title to their own social media profiles, in a show of solidarity with Dr Biden.

The angriest responses came from within the Biden transition team.

Michael LaRosa, Dr Biden’s spokesman, called the piece “disgusting”, “sexist” and a “repugnant display of chauvinism”.

Joe Biden’s communications director, Kate Bedingfield, labelled it “patronising, sexist, elitist drivel”.

“Dr Biden earned a doctorate in education, so we call her doctor. The title Mr Epstein has earned here is perhaps not fit for mixed company,” she said.

Dough Emhoff, who is the husband of vice president-elect Kamala Harris, said the article “would never have been written about a man”.

Former first lady Michelle Obama posted a lengthy statement in support of Dr Biden on Instagram.

“Right now, we’re all seeing what happens to so many professional women, whether their titles are Dr, Ms, Mrs, or even first lady. All too often, our accomplishments are met with scepticism, even derision,” Mrs Obama said.

“We’re doubted by those who choose the weakness of ridicule over the strength of respect. And yet somehow, their words can stick. After decades of work, we’re forced to prove ourselves all over again.”

Northwestern University, where Mr Epstein used to teach, issued a statement distancing itself from his views.

“While we firmly support academic freedom and freedom of expression, we do not agree with Mr Epstein’s opinion and believe the designation of doctor is well deserved by anyone who has earned a Ph.D, an Ad.D, an M.D. or any other doctoral degree,” it said.

“Northwestern is firmly committed to equity, diversity and inclusion, and strongly disagrees with Mr Epstein’s misogynistic views.”

Merriam-Webster, the dictionary publisher, decided to chime in as well, noting that the word “doctor” comes from the Latin word “docere”, which means “to teach”.

And Dr Biden herself posted a tweet which, while not directed at Epstein, was clearly a response to his piece.

That wasn’t the end of it. The Journal’s editorial page editor, Paul Gigot, published an article responding to the outrage and hitting back at the Biden transition team.

He acknowledged that the article had “triggered a flood of media and Twitter criticism”.

“The complaints began as a trickle but became a torrent after the Biden media team elevated Mr Epstein’s work in what was clearly a political strategy,” Mr Gigot wrote.

“Why go to such lengths to highlight a single op-ed on a relatively minor issue? My guess is that the Biden team concluded it was a chance to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power.

“There’s nothing like playing the race or gender card to stifle criticism. It’s the left’s version of Donald Trump’s ‘enemy of the people’ tweets. The difference is that when Mr Trump rants against the press, the press mobilised in opposition.

“In this case, the Biden team was able to mobilise almost all of the press to join in denouncing Mr Epstein and The Journal.”

He said the backlash was “overwrought” because Epstein’s piece was clearly fair comment, whether you agreed with his view or not.

“If you disagree with Mr Epstein, fair enough. Write a letter or shout your objections on Twitter. But these pages aren’t going to stop publishing provocative essays merely because they offend the new administration of the political censors in the media and academe.”

On Monday night, Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson told his viewers she was “a doctor of education, which means basically nothing”.

“Jill Biden is not a doctor, no. Maybe in the same sense Dr Pepper is,” he said.

Carlson continued the argument on his Wednesday night show, saying he had read Dr Biden’s dissertation, and had come away unimpressed.

“Dr Jill needs reading glasses. Either that, or she’s borderline illiterate,” Carlson said.

“There are typos everywhere, including the first graph of the introduction. Dr Jill can’t write. She can’t really think clearly either.

“Parts of the dissertation seems to be written in a foreign language using English words. They’re essentially pure nonsense, like pig Latin or dogs barking.

“The whole thing is just incredibly embarrassing. And not simply to poor illiterate Jill Biden, but to the college that considered this crap scholarship.

“Embarrassing, in fact, to our entire system of higher education, to the nation itself. Jill Biden’s doctoral dissertation is our national shame.”

He said the rest of the news media would not let people “point out that Jill Biden isn’t really a doctor, may be not even very bright”.

National Review writer Kyle Smith published an article yesterday titled: “Jill Biden’s doctorate is garbage because her dissertation is garbage.”

“Insisting on being called ‘doctor’ when you don’t heal people is, among most holders of doctorates, seen as a gauche, silly, cringey ego trip,” Smith said.

“Consider ‘Dr’ Jill Biden, who doesn’t even hold a Ph.D. but rather a lesser Ed.D., something of a joke in the academic world.”

He went on to describe Dr Biden’s dissertation as “sloppy, poorly written, non-academic and barely fit for a middle school social studies classroom”, suggesting the University of Delaware only accepted it because of its ties to her husband.

“Mrs Biden could have turned in a quarter-arsed excuse for a magazine article written at the level of Simple English Wikipedia and been heartily congratulated by the university for her towering mastery. Which is exactly what happened,” he wrote.

“Jill Biden’s dissertation is not an addition to the sum total of human knowledge. It is not a demonstration of expertise in its specific topic or its broad field. It is a gasping, wheezing, frail little Disney forest creature that begs you to notice the effort it makes to be the thing it is imitating while failing so pathetically that any witness to its ineptitude must feel compelled, out of manners alone, to drag it to the nearest podium and give it a participation trophy.”

Dunce teachers to be weeded out with tough test

It is certainly a good idea to filter out the dummies BEFORE they do teacher training rather than after.  It avoids big waste of resources.

But no current proposals are going to help the kids in State schools much when all new teachers will be entering what is basically a destroyed educational sysyem.  Smart kids will always do well in any system so it is the plodders and the dummies who need to be looked after.  They are currently being largely failed by the chaos that is common in State school classrooms.

And that chaos both harms the pupil and deters good teachers.  Teaching is not a job for dummies so young people who would make good tachers usually will have many options for their future.  And they just have to look at a typical State school classroom to decide that there are jobs better than teaching

So there is something of a Catch 22 involved:  To improve the education of the kids you need good teachers.  But those who would make good teachers don't go into teaching.  Which leaves mainly the desperates willing to go into teaching.

In short, teaching is a low-prestige job and that is the major dictate governing whom you will get to go into teaching.  You can test yourself blue in the face but if the candidates for teacher training are mostly pretty dim, it it is only dim teachers that you will get. And the current crops of new teachers can be very dim indeed.  You are getting the blind to lead the blind

But teaching has not always been a low status job and  is not a low status job everywhere.  Perticuarly in Asian countries teaching is high status and well-paid.  

How come?  Asian schoolrooms are famous for their high levels of discipline. Teachers are free to teach and do so.  A good teacher likes to teach and in Asia they do

And that is the key difference between their government schools and ours.  In our government systems teachers are  too busy trying to get the pupils to sit down and shut up to have much time for teaching.  And they are even told that it is not their job to get the kids to sit down and shut up. Teachers are not supposed to teach any more.  They are merely learning facilitators.

That all asks too much of most potential teachers so State schools will always remain pits of poor education.

And parents know that.  It is why 40% of Australian teenagers are sent to private schools.  One way or another, such schools provide the sort of good  learning environments that few State schools can equal.  I taught High school in two quite different private schools and had no discipline problems at all.  I was free to concentrate on  my basic task of opening up young minds to the world of knowledge. So there are some dedicated and talented teachers in existence but they will almost all end up in one of our many private schools

So what can parents do who cannot afford private schools?  Their only hope is to get their kid into a selective school or a school in a "good" area.  But what is a good area?  It is wherever well-off people live. Their kids get disciplined in various ways at home so give little trouble in classrooms.  Teachers in such schools can teach.  But again there is a Catch 22.  "Good" areas are expensive so they are just not an option for the less well off.  The less well-off are stuck with government schools

So why are government schools often so bad?  It is purely the Leftist influence.  Leftists have a horror of disciplining kids and they impose low discipline through regulations and other ways.  Once again it is the Left who are NOT the friends of the poor

Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek has told Sky News there must be a higher university cut off to enter teaching courses and potential teachers need to be tested before degrees rather than afterwards.

Dunce teachers will be weeded out before they start university with a tough new English and maths test.

The nation’s education ministers have approved a skills test for school leavers before they enrol in a university degree to study teaching.

One in 10 trainee teachers flunked a similar test after finishing a four-year education degree at university last year.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan said the upfront test would save students time and money.

“We don’t want to see students getting to the end of their degree and not being able to graduate or work as a teacher because they haven’t passed the … test,’’ he said.

“The sooner a student takes the test, the earlier they can get support or make alternative arrangements.

“Giving students the option to sit the test before their start their degree will save time and money.’’

Mr Tehan said students who fail the upfront test will still be able to enrol in a teaching degree at uni.

“But it does make them aware that they need to work on their literacy and numeracy skills,’’ he said.

Student teachers cannot graduate until they pass a test placing them in the top 30 per cent of the population for literacy and numeracy.

In 2019, almost one in every 10 graduates failed the online test – 8.3 per cent bombed the literacy test and 9.3 per cent flunked the maths exam.

Each test has 65 questions, administered by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).

The ministerial decree to let students sit the test before signing up to a teaching degree overrides the universities, which had refused to let students take the exam upfront.

However, the upfront exam will not start until 2023.

The federal government will make teaching degrees cheaper next year, to lure smart school leavers into the teaching profession and head off a national shortage of classroom teachers.

The Education Council of federal, state and territory ministers has also agreed to “improve’’ the writing assessment for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 who undertake the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN).

Mr Tehan said NAPLAN was due to go online in 2022.

“NAPLAN is the best tool we have to understand the impact of COVID-19, the long-term trends in student learning and what actions we need to take to improve,’’ he said.

The controversial national test was cancelled this year due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

How our data encodes systematic racism

Deborah Raji below is pretty fired up about what she calls bias in the data we use in decision-making.  She notes that the data we use is mainly generated by whites in white societies and reasonably notes that this can introduce bias into research findings.

But I think she is asking a lot to ask for data with a worldwide perspective.  We just do not generate such data for cost and other reasons.  I have long been aware of cultural bias and did as a result gather multicultural data in much of my research.  But I was limited by language constraints and much else.  She may be pleased that I gathered some of my data from her ancestral India.

So I think she needs to moderate her ambitions.  Gathering bias-free data is a snark.  The best we can do is to point out instances of cultural bias when we see them

I’ve often been told, “The data does not lie.” However, that has never been my experience. For me, the data nearly always lies. Google Image search results for “healthy skin” show only light-skinned women, and a query on “Black girls” still returns pornography. The CelebA face data set has labels of “big nose” and “big lips” that are disproportionately assigned to darker-skinned female faces like mine. ImageNet-trained models label me a “bad person,” a “drug addict,” or a “failure.” Data sets for detecting skin cancer are missing samples of darker skin types. 

White supremacy often appears violently—in gunshots at a crowded Walmart or church service, in the sharp remark of a hate-fueled accusation or a rough shove on the street—but sometimes it takes a more subtle form, like these lies. When those of us building AI systems continue to allow the blatant lie of white supremacy to be embedded in everything from how we collect data to how we define data sets and how we choose to use them, it signifies a disturbing tolerance.

Non-white people are not outliers. Globally, we are the norm, and this doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Data sets so specifically built in and for white spaces represent the constructed reality, not the natural one. To have accuracy calculated in the absence of my lived experience not only offends me, but also puts me in real danger. 

Corrupt data

In a research paper titled “Dirty Data, Bad Predictions,” lead author Rashida Richardson describes an alarming scenario: police precincts suspected or confirmed to have engaged in “corrupt, racially biased, or otherwise illegal” practices continue to contribute their data to the development of new automated systems meant to help officers make policing decisions. 

The goal of predictive policing tools is to send officers to the scene of a crime before it happens. The assumption is that locations where individuals had been previously arrested correlate with a likelihood of future illegal activity. 

What Richardson points out is that this assumption remains unquestioned even when those initial arrests were racially motivated or illegal, sometimes involving “systemic data manipulation, police corruption, falsifying police reports, and violence, including robbing residents, planting evidence, extortion, unconstitutional searches, and other corrupt practices.” Even data from the worst-behaving police departments is still being used to inform predictive policing tools. 

As the Tampa Bay Times reports, this approach can provide algorithmic justification for further police harassment of minority and low-income communities. Using such flawed data to train new systems embeds the police department’s documented misconduct in the algorithm and perpetuates practices already known to be terrorizing those most vulnerable to that abuse.

This may appear to describe a handful of tragic situations. However, it is really the norm in machine learning: this is the typical quality of the data we currently accept as our unquestioned “ground truth.” 

An analysis of 63 recent statements shows that US tech companies repeatedly placed responsibility for racial injustice on Black people.

One day GPT-2, an earlier publicly available version of the automated language generation model developed by the research organization OpenAI, started talking to me openly about “white rights.” Given simple prompts like “a white man is” or “a Black woman is,” the text the model generated would launch into discussions of “white Aryan nations” and “foreign and non-white invaders.” 

Not only did these diatribes include horrific slurs like “bitch,” “slut,” “nigger,” “chink,” and “slanteye," but the generated text embodied a specific American white nationalist rhetoric, describing “demographic threats” and veering into anti-Semitic asides against “Jews” and “Communists.” 

GPT-2 doesn’t think for itself—it generates responses by replicating language patterns observed in the data used to develop the model. This data set, named WebText, contains “over 8 million documents for a total of 40 GB of text” sourced from hyperlinks. These links were themselves selected from posts most upvoted on the social media website Reddit, as “a heuristic indicator for whether other users found the link interesting, educational, or just funny.” 

However, Reddit users—including those uploading and upvoting—are known to include white supremacists. For years, the platform was rife with racist language and permitted links to content expressing racist ideology. And although there are practical options available to curb this behavior on the platform, the first serious attempts to take action, by then-CEO Ellen Pao in 2015, were poorly received by the community and led to intense harassment and backlash. 

Whether dealing with wayward cops or wayward users, technologists choose to allow this particular oppressive worldview to solidify in data sets and define the nature of models that we develop. OpenAI itself acknowledged the limitations of sourcing data from Reddit, noting that “many malicious groups use those discussion forums to organize.” Yet the organization also continues to make use of the Reddit-derived data set, even in subsequent versions of its language model. The dangerously flawed nature of data sources is effectively dismissed for the sake of convenience, despite the consequences. Malicious intent isn’t necessary for this to happen, though a certain unthinking passivity and neglect is. 

Little white lies

White supremacy is the false belief that white individuals are superior to those of other races. It is not a simple misconception but an ideology rooted in deception. Race is the first myth, superiority the next. Proponents of this ideology stubbornly cling to an invention that privileges them. 

I hear how this lie softens language from a “war on drugs” to an “opioid epidemic,” and blames “mental health” or “video games” for the actions of white assailants even as it attributes “laziness” and “criminality” to non-white victims. I notice how it erases those who look like me, and I watch it play out in an endless parade of pale faces that I can’t seem to escape—in film, on magazine covers, and at awards shows.

Data sets so specifically built in and for white spaces represent the constructed reality, not the natural one.

This shadow follows my every move, an uncomfortable chill on the nape of my neck. When I hear “murder,” I don’t just see the police officer with his knee on a throat or the misguided vigilante with a gun by his side—it’s the economy that strangles us, the disease that weakens us, and the government that silences us.

Tell me—what is the difference between overpolicing in minority neighborhoods and the bias of the algorithm that sent officers there? What is the difference between a segregated school system and a discriminatory grading algorithm? Between a doctor who doesn’t listen and an algorithm that denies you a hospital bed? There is no systematic racism separate from our algorithmic contributions, from the hidden network of algorithmic deployments that regularly collapse on those who are already most vulnerable.

Resisting technological determinism 

Technology is not independent of us; it’s created by us, and we have complete control over it. Data is not just arbitrarily “political”—there are specific toxic and misinformed politics that data scientists carelessly allow to infiltrate our data sets. White supremacy is one of them. 

We’ve already inserted ourselves and our decisions into the outcome—there is no neutral approach. There is no future version of data that is magically unbiased. Data will always be a subjective interpretation of someone’s reality, a specific presentation of the goals and perspectives we choose to prioritize in this moment. That’s a power held by those of us responsible for sourcing, selecting, and designing this data and developing the models that interpret the information. 

Essentially, there is no exchange of “fairness” for “accuracy”—that’s a mythical sacrifice, an excuse not to own up to our role in defining performance at the exclusion of others in the first place.

Those of us building these systems will choose which subreddits and online sources to crawl, which languages to use or ignore, which data sets to remove or accept. Most important, we choose who we apply these algorithms to, and which objectives we optimize for. We choose the labels we create, the data we take in, the methods we use. We choose who we welcome as data scientists and engineers and researchers—and who we do not. There were many possibilities for the design of the technology we built, and we chose this one. We are responsible. 

So why can’t we be more careful? When will we finally get into the habit of disclosing data provenance, deleting problematic data sets, and explicitly defining the limitations of every model’s scope? At what point can we condemn those operating with an explicit white supremacist agenda, and take serious actions for inclusion?

An uncertain path forward

Distracted by corporate condolences, abstract technical solutions, and articulate social theories, I’ve watched peers congratulate themselves on invisible progress. Ultimately, I envy them, because they have a choice in the same world where I, like every other Black person, cannot opt out of caring about this. 

As Black people now die in a cacophony of natural and unnatural disasters, many of my colleagues are still more galvanized by the latest product or space launch than the jarring horror of a reality that chokes the breath out of me.

The fact is that AI doesn’t work until it works for all of us.

For years, I’ve watched this issue extolled as important, but it’s clear that dealing with it is still seen as a non-priority, “nice to have” supplementary action—secondary always to some definition of model functionality that doesn’t include me.

Models clearly still struggling to address these bias challenges get celebrated as breakthroughs, while people brave enough to speak up about the risk get silenced, or worse. There’s a clear cultural complacency with things as usual, and although disappointing, that’s not particularly surprising in a field where the vast majority just don’t understand the stakes.

The fact is that AI doesn’t work until it works for all of us. If we hope to ever address racial injustice, then we need to stop presenting our distorted data as “ground truth.” There’s no rational and just world in which hiring tools systematically exclude women from technical roles, or where self-driving cars are more likely to hit pedestrians with darker skin. The truth of any reality I recognize is not in these models, or in the data sets that inform them.

The machine-learning community continues to accept a certain level of dysfunction as long as only certain groups are affected. This needs conscious change, and that will take as much effort as any other fight against systematic oppression. After all, the lies embedded in our data are not much different from any other lie white supremacy has told. They will thus require just as much energy and investment to counteract.

Greenie exhibitionists let off lightly

These egotists imposed huge costs and frustrations  on other people.  Time is money, among other things, and people who were forced to sit in their cars for extended periods were out of the productive workforce during that time.  They lost various sorts of productivity for no good reason and making up for that lost  productivity would often not be possible.

And that is not to take account of the stresses which were no doubt imposed on many busy people. Many drivers would have been working to tight time deadlines and being blocked from meeting those deadlines would have been very stressful.

It is surely the job of the police to remove such deliberate obstructions expeditiously and it is surely the job of the magistracy to impose on the offenders a penalty that reflects to some degree the frustrations they deliberately imposed on many innocent people.  As it was, both the police and the magistracy failed to do what was their bounden duty

Two Extinction Rebellion protesters who held up inner-city Brisbane traffic for more than two hours earlier this month have been fined hundreds of dollars each.

However, serial protester Eric Serge Herbert, 21, and Wenzel Auch, 28, will not have to pay $917 restitution to the State fire service and their convictions have not been recorded.

The pair blocked traffic at the intersection of Edward and Queen Sts on December 7, from 7.15am to 9.25am, while protesting on top of a truck, Brisbane Magistrates Court heard.

Police, including the Special Emergency Response Team, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service and Queensland Ambulance Service, were called to the scene.

Herbert has just spent seven days in Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre, after he refused to sign a bail condition agreeing not to participate in any illegal protests while on bail.

Wenzel Auch, 28, who also refused to sign the bail condition, spent four days in custody, before being released on Friday.

The court heard the protesters appeared to have their arms locked in a metal pipe “sleeping dragon’’ device, while they stood on the truck during the protest.

However, after fire officers brought them to the ground and sawed through the pipe, it was revealed the pair were only held together with bulldog clips.

Herbert pleaded guilty to obstructing the path of a driver, contravening a police direction to move off the road, obstructing a police officer and refusing to state his full and correct name.

Police prosecutors asked for each man to be ordered to pay $917 restitution to QFRS.

Herbert objected, saying it should only be ordered if there was damage to property or injury to people.

“My conscience dictates that it is my duty to follow our ancestors and do peaceful civil disobedience when our lives are threatened by the government or its laws,’’ he said.

Magistrate Mark Nolan said he took into account Herbert’s early pleas of guilty and that he had voluntarily spent several days in custody.

Mr Nolan said everyone had the right to protest and make statements about their beliefs, but the law required everyone to abide by it.

He fined Herbert $600, and did not record a conviction. Mr Nolan refused to order restitution to QFRS, saying the paperwork was insufficient.

Auch pleaded guilty to causing an obstruction to drivers, contravening a police direction and obstructing police and was fined $500, with no conviction recorded.

When Auch told Magistrate Terry Quinn that he had not enjoyed making people angry by disrupting traffic, Mr Quinn said: “I disagree.’’ Mr Quinn said he had seen Auch looking around the court, looking very happy with himself.  “I have formed the opinion you are enjoying the limelight,’’ the magistrate told him.

Auch, who recently graduated with an environmental science degree, said he felt such a protest was a small impact on people’s lives compared to a catastrophic climate emergency.

Mr Quinn told Auch his protest could have prevented people, including pregnant women or doctors, from going to hospital.

While Herbert and Auch were in custody Extinction Rebellion staged a city protest on Thursday, which resulted in several arrests.

Auch said outside court he was released from prison at 1am the following day.

Language cuts risk Australia's regional relationships -- or do they?

It is a common view among educated people that we all should learn a foreign language.  Although I personally gained a lot from my studies of German, Latin and Italian, I do not agree. I get a lot out of classical music and what I gained was an enhanced understanding of those three languages as part of  classical music. With the honourable exception of Russian, those three languages are the source language of almost the whole of the classical music repertoire.  If you want to undertand the words in a Bach cantata, it helps a lot to know German.  And you need Latin for the Stabat Mater  etc. 

But how many people really enjoy classical music? Best estimate is 2% of the population so why should the rest of the population study languages? 

In answering that I hearken back to the fact that only a tiny percentage of English-speakers who study (say) French ever become fluent in that language. I have a small gift for languages but even I am fluent only in English.  So the time spent studying a language is a waste for most people in the English-speaking world.  And that goes A fortiori for students of Asian languages.  Asian languages are so alien to us that even many years of exposure to them in adulthood will not suffice to bring  native fluency

But is partial fluency useful?  Perhaps for tourists but for business a very accurate understanding of the other person is usually important, which leads us to the real important factor in foreign language utilization:  The fact that we have among us a large number of foreign-born people who have learnt both English and their ancestral tongue during childhood.  

So they constitute an easily available pool of near perfect translators.  We do not ourselves need to learn a foreign language when we have large numbers of good translators at hand.  The are a valuable resource that we should use.  They can aid international communication where our own abilities at that would be pathetic.

The author below recounts a pleasing life journey that resulted from his decision to study Indonesian.  Indonesia is a country and a culture well below the intellectual horizons of most Australians.  But is it nonetheless imporant to Australians?  It is one of the world's largest bodies of Muslims and is rather close to our Northern borders, so its strategic importance must be allowed for but as a source of cultural products or economic relationships it is of negligible importance to us. There are many more things we could study which would be more gainful than the Indonesian language

La Trobe, Swinburne, Murdoch and Western Sydney University. These are some of the Australian universities considering axing various Indo-Pacific language programs from Indonesian to Hindi. It’s feared other universities may follow suit.

Abolishing language programs is a dumb move. Australian universities are a key ingredient in the government’s commitment to engagement with the Indo-Pacific.

Universities are essential training grounds for a future generation of Indo-Pacific literate Australians.

The decline in programs corresponds with a decline in enrolments. This is evident with the Indonesian language.

In the 1990s, enrolment in Indonesian language was at its height, with 22 programs at Australian universities. In the decades since then, there has been a major decline.

According to David Hill, emeritus professor of south-east Asian studies at Murdoch University in Perth, in 2019 there were only about 14 Indonesian language programs left at Australian universities. As a result of COVID-19, that number may fall further.

Australian universities must retain language programs, which are vital to equip the next generation for smart engagement with the Indo-Pacific.

Institutional commitments to language programs by universities are crucial because studying a language requires a significant investment of time, commitment and money.

As part of my Arts degree I undertook an Indonesian language program, building on my four years of Indonesian language studies in high school.

Yet this was in mid-2000s, when I was one of about 400 students studying Indonesian in Australia. By 2014, those numbers dipped below 200 equivalent full-time students. It is feared that in the future the number of students could be much less.

At university, I was privileged to be taught by the likes of Arief Budiman, a well-known activist and scholar, and Professor Ariel Heryanto, a cultural studies expert.

As part of my degree, I also took Indonesian studies programs like politics, media, religion, law and society. This helped me to appreciate the great diversity and richness of the country’s history, people and culture.

My university also facilitated several internships in Indonesia. It was through contacts at university that I heard about the Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program. This collective experience with a group of 15 Australians and 15 Indonesians set me on a course of lifetime engagement with Indonesia.

Many of the Australians on that youth exchange program have found exciting and fulfilling careers in diplomacy, business, academic, education and the civil service. Their skills in the language and their knowledge of Indonesian enabled them to achieve the vocations they now pursue.

Through my university, I also received support from my faculty to undertake an internship with the Office of the Ombudsman in Yogyakarta.

These short-term trips would not have been as rich and meaningful if I did not have basic competence in the language. In short, my years of studying the language in high school and at university equipped me for deep engagement with Indonesia.

Our universities are now at risk of curtailing access to Indonesian language programs for a future generation of students.

If the decision by some Australian universities to close language programs is dumb, then the Australian government is dumber.

Over the past two decades, the government has been told time and time again that student enrolments in languages of the Indo-Pacific are falling, particularly for Indonesian. This is a well-established fact.

Yet the federal government has done nothing about it. Short-term study abroad is no quick fix for an Indo-Pacific literacy crisis. It's great to have the Governor-General of Australia studying Indonesia, but what about the future generation?

The government frequently refers to its commitment to the region and its Indo-Pacific strategy, as set out in its 2016 Defence Paper and 2017 White Paper.

Yet it has failed to live up to this aspiration with real policies that create incentives for Australian students to study languages of the Indo-Pacific and the necessary funding for institutions to make this happen.

What we are left with is a future where there are fewer graduates of Australian universities than ever with basic competence in one language of the Indo-Pacific.

These graduates are going into business, diplomacy, academia, education and science with less knowledge than ever before about our neighbours.

Collaboration and partnership in the Indo-Pacific region require mutual understanding.

Australia’s bilateral relationships are strengthened when Australians take the time to learn a language.

To take one example, the landmark Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement should see more Australians incentivised to study the language, rather than less.

The more students studying Indonesian language, the greater chance we have of building strong relationships with our most important neighbour. Our economic, diplomatic and cultural ties remain hollow without a basic appreciation for the language.

The dual lack of commitment by Australian universities and the government to invest in language capabilities affects our engagement in the region.

Even the embassies based in Australia agree. That’s why the recent consultations to axe language programs at some universities have received a strong and swift response from both the Indian embassy and the Indonesian embassy.

That’s right, our neighbours know it’s important for us to learn their language more than our own government and universities do.

And there lies the challenge for 2021: both the government and Australian universities must work together to ensure Asian language programs not just survive, but thrive, post COVID-19.