Thursday, March 24, 2016

Campaigns and fundraisers

    • In my paper about how volunteering is propping up a broken system I am also writing about fundraisers and campaigns. There are lots of things I don’t understand.
    I see lots of fundraisers that don’t account for all costs: time, health, environment. I see fundraisers where the people who make the stuff are the people who buy the stuff. That’s not efficient. I see people wearing rubber wrist bands that will take hundreds of years to degrade. I see people buying plastic stuff that will probably end up in the ocean. I see people sending Christmas boxes to children in the Pacific Islands, who then have to live with the wrapping and plastic on their island or in the ocean. I see cupcakes and donuts. A teacher I know was selling chocolates to raise money for a children’s hospital. At one school the students ran a campaign taking enviro-selfies. They declared it a success because they had 300 likes on Instagram. It made zero impact on the environment.

    I see the RSPCA gives a tick to dead animal products.

    I see people shaving their head for the Leukaemia Foundation. A girlfriend in Melbourne told me she was planning to do it. I asked her not to.
    • I don't like the 'Shave for a Cause' campaign. There are a few reasons why. I understand that people want to raise money and to make cancer patients feel less alone, but shaving your head isn't a great way to go about it. At a school I was working at the students were doing it, and everyone was clapping and cheering, and a teacher who had just recovered from breast cancer was in the staff room sobbing. I couldn't participate. When you shave your head you don't lose your eyebrows and eyelashes. That's the weirder part than having a bald head. When you shave your head your hair grows back soft and normal. After chemo your hair grows back different and weird. My hair is very different now from what it was. It is coarse and weird. I had my head shaved because the hair on my head had died and was coming out in clumps. It was confronting and distressing. My main concern was hiding it from my kids. Having non-cancer patients walking around with bald heads makes it harder to identify the real patients (unless I'm at hospital). I don't know if people I meet have a shared experience or not. Helen Razer calls it 'cancer cosplay', and she's right. Traditionally shaving one's head symbolises a loss - mourning or a loss of identity - it reminds me of entering the army or a concentration camp - a way of stripping people of their individuality. It's punitive. That’s why patients who have chemotherapy (which makes you sick - it’s poison) feel the loss of their hair. Because I’ve had cancer treatment I’ll never be the same again. I’m on medication. My bone density is weakened. I take supplements. I need to stay out of the sun for the rest of my life. I’m always worried about relapsing. I understand people might not have thought of these things before, but it isn’t an act of solidarity. When I saw a child at my daughter’s primary school get his head shaven at school, I cried.

    • Here’s another one: the White Ribbon Campaign. 
    • Women have been telling men, forever, to stop hitting women. Men get the idea to say the same thing (because everybody knows that no-one listens to women). They name the campaign. They have ambassadors and advocates (some of whom have a record of violence against women). They buy billboards. They sell white ribbons. They are heroes. (Men who speak out about women's rights can even be Australian of the Year!)
    • What are they doing? Do they provide funding for abused women? Help the campaign to provide women’s refuges? Organise counselling for violent men? Campaign against sexist advertising, the porn industry, gender equality in power positions on boards or in government, change the way violence against women is reported in the media? No. They are asking men to take an oath. They say 156,636 people have taken their oath and their reach is growing. That’s their aim and their product (although, you could argue their product is themselves).   
    • Now, lets follow the money.
    • According to their  professional, corporate looking website, their funds come from donations, merchandise, events, partners and philanthropic organisations, and receive 10% government funding. Their revenue in 2013/2014 was $2,697,261. They aren’t funding anything that helps women in a practical way, so what is their money spent on? Paying men to run their events and campaigns and show what great guys they are for telling men to stop hitting women. A swanky website doesn’t pay for itself. It is very corporate looking, with a mission statement and graphics. The money goes to paying themselves. They are a not for profit organisation.

    Meanwhile I see the Coalition for Women's Refuges, made up of women who have worked in women's refuges and feminist groups for years or decades, campaign for the restoration of safe places for women and children to go when abused, working for free with no money, no website, no corporate sponsorship, no big media campaign. Why is that?

    I see welfare programs that were once run by government agencies now run by church based groups. The church based groups can afford to deliver services more cheaply because they use volunteer labour. They can access more volunteer labour by funnelling people into that labour through their programs. These groups own property, pay no tax, accept tax deductible donations, and, one could argue, have a vested interest in keeping people poor and uneducated in order to prop up their own institutions. These institutions have systematically abused children and covered it up. They are not ethical.

    You can see what I mean by fundraisers and campaigns being inefficient, damaging, or ineffective. They are propping up broken systems. The way to fix the broken systems is to campaign for proper use of taxpayers’ money. Children's hospitals should be funded. Animals should be protected. Victims of domestic violence should have safe refuge. Australia should give aid internationally. Guess which countries do these things rather than run stupid, time wasting campaigns and fundraisers? Nordic countries.

  • So, here's my suggestions. Whenever we are asked to donate or fund-raise or volunteer, say this: No, but I will send an email to a politician asking that your program be funded properly.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mother advocacy 2016

Mamapalooza

We have two events planned for Mamapalooza this year: a film showing and a comedy night.

You are invited to our Mamapalooza Film Showing
WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS? by film maker Pamela Tanner Boll.
This academy award winning documentary features five fierce women who refuse to choose between mothering and work. Through their lives we explore some of the most problematic intersections of our time: mothering and creativity, partnering and independence, economics and art.
Where: The Women's Library, 8/10 Brown St. Newtown
When: Saturday 14th May, 2pm to 5pm
Discussion and refreshments after the film.
www.facebook.com/mamapaloozasydney/
Please invite your friends.
Part of the Mamapalooza Festival.
Other events include: Mamapalooza Stand-Up 
and Mamapalooza Music Night
www.facebook.com/mamapaloozasydney/
www.mamapalooza.com  Celebrating Mothers in the Arts

and

MAMAPALOOZA STAND-UP
SAT 14TH MAY 7.30PM
A spectacular night of hilarious mama-comedy like you've never seen before!
Lou Lou Pollard - Host
Amanda Gray
Dolores Lorette
Christina Van Look
Sallie J Don
Frida Deguise

Location Tap Gallery 1/259 Riley Street Surry Hills NSW 2010 Australia
$20 at the door.
THE COMICS:
LOU LOU POLLARD - She’s wowed audiences at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Sydney Comedy Festival & Adelaide Fringe as well as supporting Arj Barker & appearing on TV shows including Playschool and the Today Show.
AMANDA GRAY has a relentless assault that’s delivered with a deadpan, straight-faced style, packing a huge armoury of laughs. No topic is sacred, no taboo untouchable.
DOLORES is sharp, blunt and a quick witted delight. With stage presence galore, Dolores has even been described by those in the industry as ..too Funny!
"A very funny lady" - The Funny Tonne.
With support act by Ana Key and the Bra Girls! 



The AMIRICI conference is on in Melbourne in July. I am delivering a paper arguing that volunteering is propping up broken systems and we shouldn’t have to fundraise. It includes reference to this:
http://storyofstuff.org/movies/the-story-of-solutions/

Again, if you have any ideas to share, that would be welcome.

Also, this blog is referenced in a book being published in the UK. Oh, and I was escorted from the Hilton whilst protesting to save women’s refuges.

Autumn equinox 2016

It’s Equinox break in Term 1, 2016, and what’s happening? It's been a while, so I have sub-headings.


WORK

Well, I have been applying for jobs.


Most of the jobs have been part time or temporary at Catholic schools. The only jobs advertised within the Department of Education (my natural home, you would think) are rural or regional. My interview with the Department is a month away.

I can't tell you how sick I am of reading the word 'passionate'.


I have registered to do casual work and thought that once everything was set to ‘go’ that I would be getting a call each morning and running out the door to go wherever needed. But no. I have been getting up each morning and there have been no calls. Well, I’ve had two calls, but they were in the afternoons, and I didn’t see them in time to respond. So, I’ve probably fallen off those lists. (There are 40,000 casual teachers in NSW.) A bit sad, really.


I’ve been doing professional development. I’ve been to two English Teachers’ professional development days, which I’ve paid for myself. I really am quite capable of doing the job my peers are currently doing. I’m doing a course on The State of Education in Australia, in which we have guest speakers who are politicians or professors. The group is small so we have good access to knowledgeable people and can ask questions. I did training to be an adjudicator of debating. What more could I do?


I have two students I tutor, which I enjoy, and I’m happy to take on more students. I put in a lot of preparation for my students. I’ve approached the coaching colleges, but they want teachers with three years experience.


I’m also applying for non-teaching jobs. I’m overqualified for these jobs but haven’t got an interview yet.


So I’m looking at plans B, C, D, E, and F.


I’m writing two books and preparing sessions I can present at schools (even though I don’t like the privatisation of education that is happening, little by little, in public schools, but what else can I do?)


I’m thinking I’ll end up patching together some sort of part time and piecemeal work.


I’m open to any suggestions. However, I'm not prepared to pretend to be a Christian when I'm not. (There is lots of casual work available in Catholic primary schools, but I would need a priest or minister to endorse me to be able to work in that system. It's not going to happen.)


Wish me luck!

FAMILY

The family is fine. The two teenagers are working at fast food outlets. One is a vegetarian and one is vegan - we are all compromised in one way or another. We are now a vegetarian household. The youngest still wants to eat meat, and is visiting friends and neighbours more regularly at mealtimes. She says she wants to marry a butcher. I’ve been telling friends she will work for meat.


We’re thinking about how to rearrange the house to be more functional for older children. Does anyone want a free piano?


The youngest is unhappy at school, and truly, I would homeschool her if we could forego any potential earnings.


It is coming up to a year since my mother died. We have celebrated the first Christmas without her, her birthday, now Easter, soon Mothers’ Day. Over the past few years I have been kind of steeling myself for when she goes. I’m not sure it helped. I’ve been more functional than I was when my sister died, but I can’t talk about it anymore than this.


HEALTH

As I think I’ve already said, since the stem cell transplant I find it a bit difficult to know when I’m really sick. I don’t know if I should expect to ever be really energetic again, so I just plow on. It’s hard to know what is caused by side effects of the medication and what is simply ageing.

It may be that there is never anything wrong with me that can’t be helped with exercise. I do know that I’m not as strong or flexible as I once was, so I can work on that.

The long, hot summer seemed endless. It was uncomfortably hot. I had a solstice party, which I’ll continue to do, but it seems a long time ago. I’m relieved it’s autumn.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Seven Stupids of Christmas


It’s that time of year again when everyone goes crazy about Christmas. The economic forecast is good. The environmental forecast is devastating. Women are expected to be working extra shifts. We celebrate as if it is the middle of winter. The biggest loser is logic itself.

            1. December 25 is not Jesus’ birthday

Christians will say that Jesus is the reason for the season, and that celebrating him is the ‘true meaning of Christmas’. This doesn’t hold up to examination. There is no historical evidence to support much of the story of the birth of Jesus, which is fine because the story was not supposed to be interpreted literally. Myth is often based on some fact but then moves on. There is nothing in the gospels about Jesus being born in December. In the early Christian communities the birth of Jesus was not celebrated because the story of Jesus’ birth hadn’t started yet. Emperor Constantine, who declared Christianity the official religion for the Roman Empire, declared in 336 AD that December 25 would be celebrated as the birth of Jesus. This was reinforced by Pope Julius I a few years later. If you don’t believe that a Jewish man of Iron Age Judea is your personal saviour, then it doesn’t matter when he was born, or when his birth is celebrated. The first recorded use of the word Christmas was in Old English in 1038 CE. The words ‘true meaning of Christmas’ were first used on the blurb for Dickens’ book ‘A Christmas Carol’.

2. The celebration has pagan roots, and is about winter

We know that Christmas replaced a winter solstice celebration in the Northern Hemisphere. It makes sense to have a festival when winters are cold and long and people are prone to depression. Bringing the branches of evergreen trees inside and having a special meal would help people through the winter. The early Puritan settlers of America banned the celebration of Christmas because of its pagan roots. Why are we decorating everything in fake snow, eating plum pudding and singing about Jingle Bells? Why do we sing carols by candlelight in a heatwave during daylight savings? Celebrating a winter wonderland doesn’t make sense in Australia, where it is hot and we all go swimming.

3. Santa isn’t real

The conspiracy about Santa is deep and broad. Adults behave as if he exists. They talk to children as if Santa really does know if they have been naughty or nice, and that he will sneak into their house at night and leave presents. Shopping malls and the post office are complicit with the lie.

St Nicholas was a priest, and then Bishop, who lived in Asia Minor about 300 CE. He was kind and generous. In the 17th Century Dutch immigrants brought the story of St Nicholas to America. In 1822 the story ‘The Night Before Christmas’ was written. In the 1920s the image of Santa became a jolly fat man wearing a red suit with a white trim. Coca Cola owns the rights to the image of Santa created for their advertising 1931-1964.

The practice of exchanging gifts began in the late 1800s. Christmas became a national holiday in the US in 1870.

4. Santa is bad for parents

Parents have the power to reward and punish children if they choose. They could accept that power rather than defer it to a fictional middle man. It would be honest and transparent and grow trust. Children would know they are dealing with their parents directly.

5. Christmas is bad for women

Christmas is run by women; they do all the work to keep it going. Women put toys on layby mid-year and keep track of gifts the children might like. They organise the food and do the cooking. They organise the relatives and try to make sure everyone is happy for the big day. Expectations are high. This brings into question the unpaid work women do. This is work women could just stop doing. We could give the work of Christmas to men and be happy with receiving gift cards and having a BBQ for lunch. Or we could scale it all down and eliminate the pressures. We could kill off Santa, let children know that their mothers hold the power, and women could accept the credit for the work they do. It makes no sense for women to do the work of gathering gifts and giving the credit to a fictional fat man. Holding on to the idea of Santa and the expectations on women for Christmas works against the goal of gender equality.

6. Christmas is an economic hoax

In Australia we celebrate Christmas as a festival of excess and shopping. Prices are inflated before 25 December and reduced the next day. If the date is not tied to any specific event, why can’t we celebrate when we please?

7. Christmas is bad for the environment

The way we celebrate Christmas has an enormous environmental impact. We spend time shopping, buying gifts packaged in plastic, then wrap them in paper that is bought especially and used once. We buy gifts for people who need nothing new. We buy gifts for people whose houses are filled with clutter. We wrap the biggest thing we have, our houses, in Christmas lights.

It makes no sense to save energy, to reduce, reuse and recycle for eleven months of the year, and then create enormous amounts of waste in celebrating Christmas. If an evil villain wanted to trick us into destroying the planet, slowly but surely, he would invent Christmas the way we celebrate it now.

We can celebrate when we like and how we like

Christmas today can bee seen as a celebration of friends and family. It can be valued as a time of economic upturn. It can be seen as a festival of excess and waste.

The broader question might be whether Christmas should be a public holiday. To accommodate people of all religious beliefs and none, perhaps we should no longer assume that everyone celebrates Christmas in the traditional way. We could be more flexible in choosing our holidays.
Now that we have critical thinking as a general capability in the National Curriculum, we should expect that our traditions will be challenged. They should be challenged. Is doing something on the basis of tradition a good enough reason? In a hundred years how will people look back on us today and regard our celebration of Christmas? Is our celebration of Christmas something you could explain to an alien and hope to be considered an intelligent being? Christmas does not have one true meaning. The meaning is constructed, contested, and shifting. We should be challenging ourselves to celebrate according to our values, the values we claim to be protecting from terrorists.






Monday, October 05, 2015

A working life

I have been working full time. I’m very fortunate to have been offered a job for a term, which has been extended to two terms. I have ten classes, which means I have about 230 comments to write on reports. I’ve had nineteen sets of class assessments tasks to mark. 

I like teaching. I have realised that I do have a lot to offer, and there is a lot that I know and can share after years of study and workshops and exploring my own interests, although it has been challenging. I’ve been learning about staff and procedures, marking, parent/teacher interviews, writing reports, and working out when to be hard and when to be soft. I’ve come to the conclusion that soft is better. The more I get to know my students, their needs, interests and abilities, the better we all are.

My job is to deliver the programs, facilitate learning and fit in with the culture of the school. That’s what I’m doing. I’m enjoying the content and working. I’m coping, energywise. Although I did get sick and kind of miss the last week of school.

I’m finding a dissonance between what I hoped teaching would be and what it actually is. That’s to be expected. A wise friend told me that I’ve had the freedom to live according to my values for a long time. I haven’t needed to engage in anything terribly compromising. That’s true. There is compromise in any work situation.

I think a lot about my students. Another friend has told me that I could spend all my time working, but I need to set boundaries and know when to take a break. The job could be all consuming, but I can’t let it be.

Even though I’ve been marking and preparing during the holidays, there are still things about next term I haven’t been told yet. I just have to trust that I’ll be able to pull it together quickly as needed. That’s what I did last term. I can do it. I’m hoping this term won’t be as steep a learning curve as last term.

And nobody knows what will happen after this term. I hope to keep working.


This is what I've thinking about learning.
'Critical thinking discourages ideas'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_8n0gLmL9M

This is what I've been thinking about teaching.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-greene/the-hardest-part-teaching_b_5554448.html?ir=Australia

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Christian Privilege

As a society we are raising awareness about white privilege, male privilege and the privilege of heteronormative sexuality, and we are challenging these structures. In a structure of power and oppression, it is time to also look at Christian privilege.

Here’s a list of how it works.

  • Christians can expect to have holidays on their holy days. They aren’t expected to justify it.
  • Their celebrations are accepted at a communal level, from foods available in supermarkets to   carols by candlelight. A mass singing in the Domain about Mohammed and Allah would not be televised.
  • People talk about prayers without having to explain what it is or how it might work (or not).
  • Most members of parliament identify with the Christian faith.
  • Christian faith group organisations don’t pay taxes and members’ donations are  tax deductible.
  • People don’t try to convert Christians (generally speaking).
  • Christians can wear a crucifix around their necks without confrontation or explanation.
  • Christian organisations are exempt from discrimination laws.
  • Christians can send their children to faith schools and, often, faith universities.
  • The government outsources services to Christian service providers, who then engage with people of all types, including those of other faiths or none, including those who Christians actively disapprove of. Under government policy people have no recourse but to use the Christian service providers.
  • Celebrities of faith can thank their deity on international broadcasts and not be questioned about it.
  • There is an assumption in our culture that ‘Christian values’, whatever they are, should be everybody’s values.
  • Christianity is considered the norm and the default. A person of unknown faith will be given a Christian burial.
  • Language from Christianity is used in conversation every day - Oh my God!, thank God, I swear to God, God given right, gospel truth, set in stone, cast the first stone, road to Damascus moment, good Samaritan, a cross to bear, forbidden fruit, references to miracles, heaven and hell, etc
  • Popular songs make references to God, Jesus and the church as if these things are part of everybody’s experience.
  • People say ‘that’s not Christian’ as if there is a wrong and right way to be Christian, and as if being Christian means being a good person, or morally sound, and to follow an Iron Age Middle Eastern Jewish prophet whose life was recorded in an ancient book is a rational way to live your life. Christians do not own goodness and morality, or even own Jesus.
  • A Christian church and its leaders are respected, even though for many people who suffered abuse through the church these references would trigger memories of abuse.
    * Theology is categorised as an academic subject, when, being the study of trying to discern the will of god from a series of old, translated, transcribed writings, and the existence of god being unproven, perhaps we could more accurately categorise it with astrology and tarot card reading. 

In the same way that acknowledging white privilege and male privilege is not persecution, acknowledging Christian privilege is not persecution. It will be confronting for those who have it. But it needs to be seen.









Thursday, May 07, 2015

Religion in public schools - what are the policies?

Religion in NSW Public Schools

There are a number of ways religion is present in NSW public schools. Here’s a fact sheet.

In primary schools, a unit on Understanding our Communities, which covers religious diversity, can be taught by the class teacher in Human Society and its Environment (HSIE) in Stage 2 (Year 3-4).
In secondary schools, Studies of Religion is a Board developed course for the HSC.  Aspects of religion may also be included in other Board approved HSC courses and Year 7-10 syllabuses (English, History, Society and Culture).
In all of these cases what children learn about religion is the responsibility of qualified teachers working from Board approved materials.

There are three other avenues through which religious belief may be raised in public schools.

The first is through Special Religious Education (SRE), often referred to as Scripture. Scripture is delivered by volunteers in accordance with Department of Education and Communities' Religious Education Implementation Procedures (REIP) and related policy documents. SRE is offered when parents request it and authorised volunteers are available to deliver it at times when the school can timetable it. It is usually timetabled in weekly classes of 30-60 minutes and is limited to forty hours per year.
Volunteer SRE teachers must be the representatives of a religious organisation that is an approved provider. Approved providers use their own materials which don’t need to be approved or vetted by the DEC. SRE boards, associations and incorporations are not approved providers. The list of authorised providers is here: http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/policies/religion/assets/approvedproviders19112014.pdf.
Students are placed in SRE classes by the school when there is a class available in the religion nominated by their parents/caregivers on their enrolment forms. Parents can make written requests to schools to change a child’s placement.
Students not approved by their parents to attend SRE attend non-scripture, supervised by qualified teachers during Scripture times, but students are not allowed to be taught anything by them.
Some primary schools offer Ethics Classes as an alternative to non-scripture. As with Scripture, Primary Ethics is taught by volunteer visitors to the school. Unlike Scripture, its curriculum is approved by the DEC and its teachers must complete a specified training program.

The Controversial Issues in Schools Policy, which states that visitors to schools are not to recruit students into partisan groups, is suspended during the Scripture timeslot. However, all volunteers must comply with the DEC’s Code of Conduct.

The second avenue is voluntary student gatherings such as lunchtime clubs. REIP (updated 25 March 2015) states: "Voluntary religious activities and prayer groups are not part of special religious education, but may operate under the auspices and supervision of the principal. Scripture Union (NSW) coordinates Interschool Christian Fellowship (ISCF) groups in secondary schools and Scripture Union Primary Age (SUPA) groups in primary schools. Principals in their supervision of voluntary religious activities and prayer groups must ensure that:                   
- parental permission is obtained                   
- appropriate child protection checks and practices in relation to any volunteers coming from outside the school               
- the content of the activities undertaken are monitored                       
- students or members of religious persuasions do not engage in attempts to proselytise or convert non-adherents of their religion to their faith in the course of school authorised activities."

Other programs, such as JOLT (Jesus Over Lunch Time), STIVE (Students Alive), RICE (Renewal & Inter-Church Evangelism), and ones run by Generate Ministries and local churches, may operate. Extra curricular religious groups and clubs may not be run by school staff. Neither may they offer food or other inducements to students to attend nor may they try to persuade other students to adopt their religious beliefs. Principals are to monitor the content and delivery of information for these groups.

The third avenue is the School Chaplaincy Program. The chaplain’s role is to offer pastoral support to students without proselytizing.

There is no other avenue through which religious organisations can access students in public schools. No religious group is authorised to deliver religious instruction during regular class time.

Schools must inform parents and caregivers about all religious activities at school via enrolment forms and by providing information in newsletters and on their school website. No student may be allocated to an SRE class or admitted to a religious club unless informed prior parental/caregiver approval has been given. 

Public schools have policies about inclusion, embracing diversity, and rejecting racism, homophobia and bullying. The core values are integrity, excellence, respect, responsibility, cooperation, participation, care, fairness and democracy. It is unclear whether these policies apply during SRE timeslot.

The Australian curriculum’s general capabilities, which include critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, intercultural understanding and ethical understanding, do not apply to SRE because SRE is not part of the Australian Curriculum.

NSW DEC is currently undertaking a review about Scripture and Ethics in schools. Consultation closes 31 July 2015. Parents are invited to contribute.

You can call the Department of Education and Communities about the SRE policy on 9244 5607.
Under these policies parents have a right to information and have the right to complain to the principal.

If your child’s school is not compliant with DEC policies, speak to your school principal, or raise the matter at your P&C meeting. Principals can terminate agreements with visiting groups if they breach policies. According to the Controversial Issues in Schools Policy  Implementation Procedures: If visiting speakers will not guarantee to respect this policy, access to the students must be declined. [3.32]