xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: October 2012

Saturday, 27 October 2012

It really is harder for women

In today's Weekend West Australian, Janet Holmes a Court said that it was harder for women to be successful in Australian society.  Mrs Holmes a Court, a respected business women, philanthropist, republican and and patron of the arts, feels women are judged much more harshly than their male counterparts.

She could be right.

Julia Gillard said before the last federal election that there would be no carbon tax under her leadership.When the election produced a hung parliament she negotiated with the Greens and some Independents to gain a slim majority on the floor of the House of Representaives. A few weeks later she said that her government would  introduce a carbon tax.

All hell broke loose. She was castigated by the opposition and many in the media. She was lampooned and at public rallies was called a bitch and a witch. Notorious broadcaster, Alan Jones, repeatedly called her Juli-LIAR when he interviewed her face to face.

Julia Gillard is not the first prime minister to reneg on an election promise. John Howard turned it into an art form. He will be long remembered in Australian political history for saying, when asked why he was not implementing policies that pre election he said were rock solid,  "Well, there are core promises and non core promises." Mr Howard was never belittled in the media or called a liar for reneging on his promises.

The great John Curtin campaigned vigorously against conscription during World War One. As Prime Minister of Australia in 1942 he quickly introduced conscription when the Japanese threatened our shores.

Before the recent state election in Queensland, Campbell Newman said that if he was elected Liberal/National Party premier, he would never allow uranium mining  in Queensland.

In the lead up to the Victorian election, Liberal Pary leader, Ted Ballieu, said that no public servants need fear for their jobs if he became premier.

Well, Campbell Newman was elected premier of Queensland. Two weeks ago he said that he was going to allow unranium mining in Queensland. So far there has been no media outrage against his reversal of policy.

In Victoria, more than 1000 public servants (and still counting) have already been sacked by Premier Ballieu. Again, nobody in the media seems too upset by this.

It seems Janet Holmes a Court makes a very good point.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

An actor's life for me. Not!

When I was very young I wanted to be a song and dance man. Aged about eight my parents took me to Inglewood's  Civic Theatre  theatre where I saw 'The Jolson Story".In the opening scene young Asa Yoelson is wagging it from the synogogue and sitting in the balcony at a vaudeville show.
At some point the violin playing comedian on stage asks everybody to sing along with him, but of course, nobody does. Except young Asa. He sings like an angel and the crowd loves it. Pretty soon Asa is part of the act, he calls himself Al Jolson and the rest is history.

Whenever I went to the old time vaudeville shows in the 1950s and 60s at theTivoli Theatre in Beaufort Street or His Majesty's Theatre in Hay Street, I always went in hoping that somebody on stage would invite everyone to sing and I would rise to my feet and famously  launch myself into the world of show business.Obviously, it never happened.

I did get to be involved in the acting game when I was a student at Graylands Teachers College in the late 1950s.To develop our self confidence and oral expression it was mandated that each college group had to perform a play reading of a well known play each year. College play readings were performed in the hall and were full-blown productions with costumes, scenery, stage lighting and sound effects. In deference to the trainee teachers' lack of experience and the pressures of academic studies, the actors did not need to memorise their lines and were allowed to read from their scripts during the performance. In fact, some of the students did manage to learn their lines and get through each performance without carrying or referring to their scripts. Others managed to hide their scripts in their hats, various parts of the scenery, at the back of ‘the flats’ in the wings of the stage, in their costumes or even pinned to the back of someone else’s costume.
My friend, Brian Pinchback, who eventually obtained his Masters Degree in psychology and became a high ranking member of the Department of Foreign Affairs, was one  student who did memorise his lines. Brian gave a dramatic and emotionally charged performance as Denmark’s troubled Prince Hamlet. This was all the more incredible because Brian had had no previous acting experience. Our English lecturer and drama teacher, Peter Mann, had chosen him simply because he was the only blonde haired male in our group.

Despite  my stage ambitions, I never made it to the ‘big time’ in college play readings. In First Year my group put on J.M Barrie’s The Admirable Crichton, an amusing commentary on the class system of Victorian England. In his wisdom, Peter Mann decided that I did not really suit any of the parts on offer. Instead he put me in charge of the sound effects.

The Admiral Crichton concerns an upper class English family who are marooned on a desert island with Crichton their butler. Crichton is the only one with any practical experience of actually doing anything useful. The rest of the family rely on him entirely for their survival. As a result, Crichton, over time, becomes their acknowledged leader. The formerly upper class family members become very much the island’s under class and are very happy to have the admirable Crichton in charge of their safety and well-being.

There was not a lot of scope for sound effects, though, with Peter Mann’s help, I constructed a ‘wind’ machine which consisted of three pieces of three ply securely wired to a common garden hose reel which had been completely covered by coarse canvas. When the hose reel was rotated the wooden blades sounded very much like the wind whipping through the ship’s sails or blowing through the tropical palm trees. When the sounds of a storm were required, I rotated the reel rapidly with my right hand and wobbled a small piece of galvanised roofing with my left. This was about four years before I saw Rolf Harris launch his wobble board from the studios of Perth’s Channel Seven.

At the climax of the play, the family are all gathered on the beach, sitting in a circle around Crichton. They have reconciled themselves to island life forever and have decided that Crichton will be their permanent leader. The group then stands, joins hands and bursts into a joyous rendition of Oh We Do Love to be Beside the Seaside. During the course of this song a cannon is heard firing in the distance. A British frigate is signalling its arrival in the lagoon, adding another dramatic twist to the fate of Crichton and the family.

It was my job to put into effect J.M.Barrie’s instructions that “the sound of a cannon shot is heard far off”. I told Peter Mann that I would purchase a firecracker and let it off backstage to achieve the right effect. Peter Mann appeared rather dubious, but cautiously agreed with my suggestion.
On the night of the play reading, I took up my position in the wings on the extreme left of the stage behind a thick curtain. Here, unseen by the audience, I had a perfect view of the players and could use the wind and thunder machine as required. I had also discovered a small peephole in the curtain so that I could look out at the audience.I did this frequently, happy to see pleasure on the faces of the large crowd as they enjoyed the performance of my friends on stage. I noted that the front row was full of notables such as Dr Traylen, the Principal, Dr “Jock” Hetherington, the Vice Principal, Miss Dolly Newton, the Warden of Women, and several other lecturers including Miss Lesley Graham, Mr Ross Bromilow and Mr Len McKenna. The play proceeded as rehearsed and the dramatic singing on the beach scene finally arrived. I was ready for it.

I had actually purchased two penny bombs, just in case the first one was a fizzog.Of course this was the 1950s and before the government banned Guy Fawkes Night and the sale of firecrackers. I had also found out that the actors only knew how to sing the first few lines of the song, so I needed to have my timing spot on. I also was not sure just how loud the penny bomb would be. After all, there were very thick curtains, several asbestos walls and about 250 people in the hall to deaden the sound. To help the firecracker resonate, I had placed it inside a metal waste paper bin. At the back of the stage lurked Peter Mann, who nervously glanced at me throughout the performance. He was not terribly happy that I would be lighting a match and exploding a firecracker backstage in contravention of several fire and safety regulations, but it was too late now. The show must go on.

Oh we do love to be beside the seaside…”

I lit the match, touched it to the wick of the firecracker, dropped it into the waste paper bin and then quickly looked through the peephole to note if my sound effects would be picked up by the audience.

We do love to be beside the...”


The noise was deafening. Truck Traylen, Jock Hetherington and the first four rows all jumped out of their seats. Even I was shocked by the noise. Billowing smoke and little pieces of red and brown firecracker paper fluttered across the stage clouding the actors, some of whom had gone into shock thinking a real bomb had gone off. At length the audience recovered. The little pieces of paper stopped fluttering to the ground, the smoke cleared and the show continued.
Unfortunately, the next line was, “Hark, is that a shot I hear?” It wasn’t J.M. Barrie’s intention, but on that night that line got the biggest laugh of all. I didn’t hang around backstage after the show. I didn’t think bumping into Peter Mann would be a very good idea. I dashed off quickly to the ‘after the show’ party being held in a house in Subiaco being rented out by four of the girls in the play. I was one of the first student to arrive. Later in the evening, when the party was in full swing, Peter Mann turned up. To my complete surprise he seemed quite happy. The show had been received very well and everyone was in a sparkling mood. Much later in the evening, I even shared a drink with Peter Mann who told me in confidential tones that some of the sound effects “were perhaps a trifle overdone”. This was in contrast to most of the other party goers, who during the evening, told me that I had made sure that The Admirable Crichton really went off with a bang!

The next year, my group produced Hamlet, featuring the aforementioned Brian Pinchback as the troubled prince. Peter Mann did not ask me to do the sound effects. Instead, I was one of the guards on watch at Elsinor Castle when the ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father appears. Another one of the guards was my great friend, Sean Walsh. In producing the play it had been decided to construct two walkways extending out at an angle for about twenty feet into the hall from either side of the stage. These walkways were then decorated and painted up to look like the battlements of a castle.

At the beginning of the play, Sean stood on the left battlement and I on the right. We saw the apparition and conducted our conversation with the ghost from these positions. Naturally, many rehearsals were held in and outside of college hours and everyone eagerly awaited the night of the performance. As the performance began, Sean and I marched out in military fashion and took up our respective positions on the battlements. Slowly the lights dimmed. The audience hushed, the curtains opened to reveal the rest of Elsinor Castle glowing in eerie moonlight.

Lucy Walsh, no relation to Sean, was in charge of the lighting for all college productions. Lucy spent most of her time at Graylands College in a pair of khaki overalls, clambering across the rafters in the hall to position and re-position the stage lighting. She did her work enthusiastically and Hamlet was her crowning glory. The lighting effects were excellent. However, the moonlight was causing problems for Sean and me. We had not learned our lines off by heart and we could not read them in the dim light. The fact that we were about twenty feet out into the darkened hall made the stage lights even dimmer. Although we had not memorised our lines, we had a rough idea of the dialogue.What followed was five minutes of creative Shakespeare with such riveting dialogue as:
“What ho, Marcellus! Forsooth, how goes the watch, forsooth?’
“Yea, verily in truth, forsooth, methinks I’ve seen that ghost again tonight. Verily, in truth, methinks I have, forsooth.”
“Gadzooks. How so? Where so, forsooth, hast thou seeist it?”
“Methinks, on yonder battlements, yonder.  Yea, verily, forsooth, methinks”
And so, this travesty of Shakespeare’s masterly prose rambled on and on until the ghostly apparition appeared at the back of the stage and said the damning lines that would set Hamlet on his fateful obsession. After the ghost disappeared, Sean and I continued our impromptu impressions of Shakespearian conversation between two scared soldiers. Eventually it came time for us to move back onto the stage proper and exit via stage left and right, respectively.

As I moved off, I remembered my final, scene ending line, which was, “Something’s rotten in the State of Denmark.” Maybe so, but not as rotten as our acting in that opening scene.

Although I did not star in the Graylands College playreadings, I did get onto the stage and into the limelight from time to time. At the regular college camps at Point Peron, I had fun writing skits and reviews that often lampooned college life. After the play reading of Hamlet, I wrote a skit entitled Cutlet, which parodied Hamlet and finished up with everyone stabbing or poisoning everyone else to death. The cast all finished up as a pile of dead bodies in the final scene. To try to make up for the terrible mix-up in the first scene of Hamlet, I wrote the opening scene for Cutlet. This had Cutlet’s father appear as a black-faced ghost singing like Al Jolson to his little Sonny Boy, Cutlet:

“Climb upon my knee, Cutlet boy.
Though your twenty three, Cutlet Boy,
You’ve no way of knowing,
I’ve no way of showing,
What your uncle’s done to me,
Cutlet boy!
Your uncle, he poisoned me.
Darn right, boy, he poisoned me.
Now it’s up to you,
Cutlet boy!
So your mother, she’s shacked up with him.
Time you, my boy, you hacked up to him!
Now, I’ll rely on you, Cutlet boy!”

And so on. It didn’t get any better, but it made me feel as if I had made some amends to the Bard of Avon.

Other outlets for my latent inclinations to be a stage entertainer were the lunchtime concerts that various students put on in the hall from time to time. I once teamed up with my friend, Ivor Davies, to do a passable version of Brush Up Your Shakespeare from Kiss Me Kate, Cole Porter’s musical version of The Taming of the Shrew. However, I was quick to modestly admit that Cole Porter did a much better job of putting Shakespeare to music than I had in Cutlet.

In 1955, the film Blackboard Jungle was released to great acclaim. It featured Glen Ford portraying an idealistic teacher in a tough school in New York. He had major conflicts with a bunch of juvenile delinquents led by a mean and lethal Vic Morrow. The film was a powerful social comment and a huge box office hit. However, the major impact of the film was its sensational soundtrack with Bill Haley and His Comets commanding everyone under thirty to “Rock Around the Clock”. Fans jived wildly in the picture shows and music was changed forever. It was the dawn of Rock 'n Roll.

By mid-1956, Elvis Presley was already ‘The King’. At lunchtimes, some male students used to go into the college hall, turn on the public address and give their impressions of Elvis. Even though I was a staunch Bing Crosby fan, more tuned in to crooners like Perry Como, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, I used to jump on the stage and do my Elvis impressions.

“This is an impression of me doing an impression of ElvisPresley doing an impression of me,” I would yell and let fly with the latest Elvis hit. Other students used to come and eat their lunch while the Elvis impersonators did their thing. Occasionally, a fine fellow named John Maloney would sit at the piano and expertly play Lullaby of Birdland or some groovy Dave Brubeck jazz number, just to remind everyone that “real” music still existed. Television’s Ron Howard was right. They were indeed such Happy Days.

My only other major stage acting experience was when as a young teacher I appeared in The Desert Song. In 1960 the Bunbury Musical Comedy Group was founded and chose Sigmund Romberg’s classic musical of the Riff rebellion against the French as its very first production. The story revolves around the mysterious Riff rebel leader, The Red Shadow, who also leads the double life of a mild and gentle French language teacher in Casablanca. Because of the double roles, the hero, had 28 entrances in the show. I, however, could proudly boast that I had 29 entrances. This was due to the fact that because of a lack of male members in the cast, I had three roles to play as a Riff, a Legionnaire and a harem guard.
In the first scene, I created some sort of theatrical history by chasing myself off the stage. The show opens with the Riffs gathered on stage and the Red Shadow leading them in the stirring Song of the Riffs.

Over the ground,
There comes a sound.
It is the thunder,
Of the Shadow and his band.”

This then lead into a rousing chorus, at the end of which the Riffs lustily sing that:

If you’re the Red Shadows foe,
The Riff will strike with a blow,
That brings you woe.”

At that exciting moment I rushed onto the stage and cried out, “Master, Master, I have seen the French!”

“Where?” asks the Red Shadow.

“Over yonder hill,” I replied with a dramatic gesture towards the green EXIT sign halfway down Bunbury’s Railway Institute Hall.

“Come on men, let us away,” commands the Red Shadow, leading everyone off at stage left.
I was the first one off, quickly shedding my djalaba as I raced around the back of the stage. I was wearing my Legionnaire’s uniform underneath. On the way to the other side of the stage I was handed my Legionnaire’s hat and a machine gun, which was actually a tractor muffler, painted black, with a canvas strip bullet belt and fake wooden bullets attached. In the wings at stage right, I then lined up with the Legionnaire Captain, about to march his troops on stage.

As the last of the Riffs were departing to the left of stage, the Legionnaire Captain marched his four soldiers on from stage right rear, pointed to a papier mach'e boulder and said to me, “Set up that machine gun in position of ambuscade.” If I had been any quicker, I could have shot myself in the back.

Ah, yes, some wonderful memories of my brilliant stage career that wasn't. The good thing, however, was that I quickly realised that teaching was mainly acting, anyhow, so in the end I had a pretty good run.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Confessions of a Golfer

Mark Twain once said that golf was a good walk spoiled.  On the other hand golfing legend, Lee Trevino, said it was the most fun that he ever had with his clothes on!

Which serves to remind us that the world is divided into golfers and non-golfers?

In that respect I was quite unique. I was actually a non golfing golfer. I had all the gear...bag, boots and buggy. I really looked the part. Unfortunately what I did on the golf course bore no resemblance whatsoever to the grand and ancient game. I spent so much time in the rough that people asked me if I had been coached by Harry Butler, after his popular TV show of the 1970s, “In The Wild”.

Although I no longer play the game myself it should surprise no one that golf is the most played game in the world.From  Scotland, where it all began, to Japan where they have multi tiered, artificially grassed indoor driving ranges, golfers of all shapes, sizes and abilities take swipe after swipe at that little white ball. In my case it was definitely a case of swipe after swipe... after swipe. Quite often I missed the ball completely.

To a golfer, missing the ball altogether is most annoying. It is doubly annoying, really, because many years ago some smart alec good golfers established the tradition that if you had a “windy” (no, my dear, nothing to do with your digestive system) then you had buy your playing companions a jug of beer.

For years I had fellows clamouring to play with me. At first I imagined that this was due to my rugged good looks, elegant charm, rapier like wit and extremely modest disposition. But, no! It was merely in the hope that true to form, or lack of it, I would have some windies (does sound a little like digestive trouble, I'll admit) out on the course. They were rarely disappointed and enjoyed copious quantities of free beer at my expense.

 I had windies on the tee, on the fairways, in the rough, in the bunkers and on two infamous occasions on the very putting green itself.

On the first of these occasions I faced a 6 metre putt. About 20 feet in the old money.
As I lined the ball up with the hole I was distracted by a large black ant moving towards my ball from the rear. I swung at it and despatched it to the great anthill in the sky. 
My partners, however, all insisted that I had played at the ball and missed.

Rather miffed at their strict interpretation of the rules, and in something approaching high dudgeon (by the way, does anyone ever act in low dudgeon, or even just plain old dudgeon for that matter? But I digress.) I pushed my putter forward. I was determined to make very firm contact with the ball. Unfortunately my dudgeon was just a little too high. My club pushed forward too quickly, hit the ground behind the ball, bounced over it and took a small divot on the other side.

My ball was still on the green, as were my partners who were contorting themselves in paroxysms of mirth.
One, almost purple in the face, rolled around spluttering, “Guinness Book Of Records...two windies..(chortle)...two windies on the...on the..(long pause as he gasps for breath, his face now magenta)...on the green!”

Apparently these people saw some humour in the situation

Needless to say I had to purchase TWO jugs of beer as a result of that incident.

Back in the clubhouse my “friends” gleefully poured MY beer into other members’ glasses and cheerfully recounted the sorry event. For the remainder of the evening I suffered in silence as various people came up and told me, “ You know,Noel,  the main problem with your swing is that you are standing too close to the ball...after you’ve swung at it!” Once more the clubhouse would erupt in uproarious laughter.

A lesser man would have given up there and then.

 However, I did play one more game. It was at the beautiful Country Club course in Donnybrook where I happened to be teaching at that time.

I drove off from the No. 1 tee. The ball sliced viciously out of bounds across the roadway that runs between the fairway and the club’s bowling  greens.

As luck would have it, the Club Captain was driving up to the clubhouse along this road at the time and my ball completely shattered his windscreen. This obviously startled the life out of him. He swerved off the road, down a steep bank and rolled on to the bowling green, gouging out huge chunks of freshly mown turf as he went along.

In the process he knocked over three bowlers, crushed an eski full of cold cans and completely demolished a shelter shed erected at a busy bee earlier that very morning. Fortunately for the Club Captain, the car stopped rolling when it came to rest on top of the recently purchased electric “ride on” motor mower. Naturally enough, the Greenkeeper was not impressed by these proceedings. He was on the motor mower at the time.

After a while the confusion died down. The captain and the greenkeeper were extricated from the entangled machinery. Together, with those bowlers who could still walk, they proceeded up the bank to where I was standing on the first tee.

“Hey, you!” exclaimed the captain. “Do you know that you just sliced your ball out of bounds, smashed my windscreen, caused me to crash onto the bowling green, colliding with several bowlers, gouge up the greens, demolish the shelter shed, wreck the mower and nearly kill the greenkeeper?”

“Yes, I saw it all” I answered truthfully.

“You saw it all! You saw it all! Is that all you can say?” exploded the captain. “What are you going to do about it?” he yelled.

“Well, I’m not really sure what I CAN do about it.” I replied.  “Maybe if  I dropped my left hand down the club and brought my right wrist over a fraction it would straighten out my slice and...”

That was when they took my golf clubs off me.

Anyone want to buy a pair of golf shoes?

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A Tale of Two Teachers

Whenever politicians talk about improving standards in education they generally say that teachers need to work harder or longer or should be much better qualified. The inference being that teachers generally are a shoddy lot responsible for just about every social ill. Various Federal Minister for Education have threatened strong government action unless teachers lift their game.

Since the arrival of NAPLAN in 2009, teachers have been commanded to improve literacy and numeracy levels throughout the country. This will no doubt not only reduce unemployment, but will also level out the balance of payments, reduce inflation, wipe out the trade deficit, increase the GNP, reduce taxation, cure the national health scheme, stop global warming, prevent bushfires and quite possibly even bring peace to Somalia.

Sometimes, some politicians, who have never seen the inside of classroom since leaving school, threaten that if standards don't improve then teachers should have their salaries cut or be dismissed. Now, with sagacious decisions like that from our leaders, is it any wonder that the rest of the world says that we really are The Clever Country!

The fact is that in many under achieving schools the teachers are sweating blood to improve the educational standards of their pupils. Unfortunately, they are under resourced in trying to cope with the many problems that are manifest in their classrooms, which are often a direct result of poverty, dysfunctional families and drug and alcohol abuse in the home.

Teachers need more school psychologists, more social workers, more adult support in their classrooms to assist them in educating increasing numbers of children who are suffering from what seems like an epidemic of emotional, intellectual and/or physical disabilities.

Politicians who criticise teachers for failing to improve standards are akin to army general who fail to give their troops any bullets and then blame them for losing the battle. To some, the government's criticism may seem a little harsh, but then governments have always been harsh with teachers. Two of the greatest teachers who ever lived were Jesus Christ and Socrates. Government crucified one and forced the other to commit suicide! Some would argue that little has changed in nearly 3000 years.

So, just how would Jesus and Socrates fair in today's educational climate? Thanks to The X Files, some internet bulletin boards and a couple of units in the Sociology of Education, we are now able to take a look.

Socrates accepted a teaching position at Ramshackle Community College and almost immediately fell foul of the administration. He was eventually dismissed under Section 86C of the Education Act for a poor professional attitude and a lack of teaching skills.

Part of his Adverse Report read as follows: "Socrates presents himself in a most unprofessional manner. He invariably arrives at school wrapped in an old sheet and wearing open toed leather thongs and no socks, which is quite contrary to the School Council's Dress Code. He does not seem to own a tie, or even a shirt.

Furthermore, he does not keep any data recording student performance.His lesson preparation is non existent. He does not use a Daily Work Pad and never has any work prepared for his lessons. In fact he rarely uses the classroom. He prefers to wander about in the school grounds with his students clamouring around him. He obviously has very poor knowledge of the subject matter that he is supposed to be teaching. He spends almost the entire time of each lesson asking questions of his students in the hope that their answers may enlighten him! However, their answers only add to his bewilderment, causing him to ask even more questions. Clearly no real learning is taking place and Socrates is a menace to our youth. He will be terminated."

After his dismissal, Socrates moved into marketing and the growth industry of Professional Development. He now has his own consultancy and presents seminars to New Agers entitled " Really Getting To Know Thyself Through Wisdom, Truth and Beauty " at $750 per person. No questions asked.

Jesus commenced teaching at Gonski Senior High School. On the first day Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called God's children. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see..."

At this point several students began interjecting in a disruptive and aggressive manner. "Hey, Dude, is this stuff part of our core curriculum?" asked Peter.

"Are we supposed to be summarising this for an essay?" questioned Andrew.

"Is this junk going to be our major semester assignment?" queried James.

"I want an extension. I doubt that I was here when you started this topic" demanded Thomas.

"None of this is in our set text book" grumbled Mark

"Is this rubbish remotely relevant to the real world of business and commercial accountability," sneered Judas.

The Principal of the school heard the commotion and called Jesus to his office for a Performance Management interview. He said, "None of what you are teaching is listed as a school priority. None of it is related to our School Development Plan for 2012-2016. There is no Strategic Plan for it, neither is there a budget item allocation to provide for relief teachers for staff in-servicing, audio visual aids, text books and the other resources needed to support and implement it. There are no assessment tools in place to evaluate the outcomes.

It is not included in our school's Management Information System. It does not conform to The Education Department's Mission Statement of Purpose and Ethos. It is not relevant to the Student Outcomes Statements. Furthermore it does not relate to any of the Education Department’s Key Performance Indicators. How can this school be accountable for what you are teaching when it doesn't even have a departmentally approved Performance Indicator?

The Parent Participation Committee, The P and C Association and every member of the School Council have all contacted me to complain that your teaching has strayed markedly from the set syllabus and is not within the approved curriculum guidelines. Under no circumstances can you continue to teach at this school."

Jesus wept.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Confessions of a Jogger

When I was young I played quite a lot of sport and led a reasonably active life. However, the “Life. Be In It” brigade, and its international counterparts, have a lot to answer for.

 Two years ago the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that more elderly Americans are getting injured while exercising. It stated that injuries from exercising have risen 54% in six years. At the same time injuries from more energetic activities, such as aerobic gym work, have risen even more alarmingly by a whopping, and painful, 173%.

Even cheerleaders are getting injured. The US National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury (NCCSI) reports that "In the last 25 years cheerleading has accounted for 63 percent of all high school direct catastrophic injuries to female athletes and 56 percent at the college level. Cheerleader injuries continue to increase each year, in part because the sport has evolved into a high-risk activity. Injuries from exercising have risen 54% in six years. At the same time injuries from more energetic activities, such as aerobic gym work, have risen even more alarmingly by a whopping, and painful, 173%."

Similar leisure injuries occur in Australia. In 2014, Flinders University published its report on Australian Sports Injuries Hospitalisations, 2011/12. The report revealed that 36 000 people, aged 15 years or over, were hospitalised because of a sports injury. The report warned that this was a significant underestimate of sports injuries, because many injuries did not result in hospitalisation. The injuries that Flinders University did record amounted to 79 000 days in hospital. That is the equivalent of 216.4 years of hospital care. And why did this happen?  It happened because concerted  television advertising campaigns  enticed perfectly contented middle aged individuals into physical activities that  eventually made them casualties in the Battle of the Bulge, Mark 2.

All over the world doctors continue to report increases in exercise related injuries, such as jogger’s ankle, tennis elbow, bike riders bottom, kite fliers finger burn, frisbee flingers forehead fracture and roller bladers ankle roll. The increase in athletic activities has caused painful outbreaks of shin splints, plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, as well as achilles tendon, calf and pulled hamstring problems

Forty years ago I was an early victim of the get fit cult that lured husbands from their wives and even attracted entire families onto our streets, roads and parks.

When I was Principal at Three Springs Primary School in the early 1980s, a local charity decided to have a Fun Run. Surely, Fun Run is an oxymoron. They are two words that are mutually exclusive. As the school principal I thought I would set a good example by going in this 10 kilometre fund raiser. The idea was to get sponsors to promise to pay so much for every kilometre that I ran, or jogged or even walked. It was an exercise in total embarrassment. As I lumbered and stumbled past the 8 kilometre mark my eldest daughter skipped passed me, much to the merriment of the many onlookers who had taken the easy option of donating money without having to participate.

I quickly foresaw the horrendous human wreckage that was to litter the countryside as sedentary leisure lovers were shamed, cajoled and blackmailed into leaving the comfort of their lounge rooms for the dog eat dog physical fitness jungle outdoors.

It was the dog eat dog aspect of the health campaign that hastened my retirement from the runners' ranks.
Dog eat dog, unfortunately, is not what happened. It was dog eat ME! What started as a pleasant jog would end in an exercise in terror as dogs from near and far came far to near.To avoid this mongrel menace I ceased running around suburbia and took to jogging through the verdant, dew decked bushland of Perth’s fabulous Kings Park.

My fear of snakes was allayed by a certain Mr Harry Butler, who in those far off days, had assured me via his very popular television programme, "Into the Wild", that snakes are actually quite timid creatures. He said they would take evasive action whenever they heard the thud, thud, thud of a jogger’s joggers. (I must say that he described my running style perfectly).

This news gladdened my heart. As I jogged along the bush tracks that lace through the park, I gloried in the knowledge that not only was I getting fit but I was scaring the living daylights out of all those snakes. Macho stuff!

This, I reflected, is what jogging is all about. I actually began to lope along, breathing in deeply the crisp and tangy, aromatic air. Birds twittered musically overhead. My worldly cares dissolved. Life really was something to be in.

This euphoria lasted a full minute.

Bruno, a Doberman Pinscher of gargantuan proportions, suddenly appeared 50 metres down the track. He was headed in my direction. I knew his name was Bruno because his owner was a further 50 metres behind him yelling, “Heel, Bruno.  Bruno, here boy. Bruno, heel. Heel”. Bruno was either very deaf or  a drop out from dog obedience school. He just kept accelerating towards me.

“Don’t worry. He won’t bite you,” shouted Bruno’s owner.

I am sure that Bruno would never hurt his owner, but from where I stood (I had naturally stopped running as soon as Bruno came into view) it seemed that Bruno would take delight in hurting me a great deal.

I had vivid memories of my days as a telegram boy. As a secondary school student I often spent my summer holidays earning an honest shilling, pedalling around the suburbs of Perth delivering telegrams. On far too many occasions I was threatened and bitten by the householder’s faithful pet. Whenever I complained about a dog’s aggression, a kindly old lady would say of her pet, “Oh, but he doesn’t bite, dear.”

"He might not bite you,” I would loudly retort, “but he has just bitten me.” And I had the bloodied fang marks on my leg to prove it.

Anyhow, back to Bruno in Kings Park and me in a Banksia tree, up which I had hurriedly climbed. Bruno skidded to a halt at the base of my tree refuge, mouth agape, huge red tongue lolling over menacing rows of sharp white teeth. He tried unsuccessfully to climb my tree of refuge.

The owner finally arrived and looked up accusingly at me, as if, somehow, it was all my fault. “You startled him,” he complained, as he struggled to prise Bruno from the trunk of the tree. “He wouldn’t have bitten you,” he added.

This may have been true. Bruno might not have bitten me. He could have quite easily  swallowed me whole.

After this experience I decided to confine my jogging to the beautiful stretch of sand between Scarborough Beach and Trigg Island.  As a result I very nearly became the first man to RUN to Rottnest Island.

It was a mottled grey, unmuzzled greyhound that forced me to take to the surf. He chased me through the foam for 80 metres before I ran off the edge of the sandbank, plunged into a deep channel and the dog lost interest.

After that I gave up jogging and became a founding member of Athletes Anonymous. Whenever anyone had an urge to do anything athletic, such as participate in father/son football  or a mother/daughter netball match, they could ring Athletes Anonymous and a trained counsellor talked them out of it. Unfortunately, this marvellous organisation disbanded several years ago because the counsellors' union ruled that answering the phone was actually an athletic activity.  A pity really, because they could have thwarted the Life. Be In It mob’s efforts to turn us in to a nation of Willie Nelson’s...Back On The Road Again!

What followed my "running to Rottnest island" escapade was many years of peaceful inertia. Whenever I felt my lifestyle  under threat of enforced physical fitness, I would read again the sobering words of The American Safety Commission Report.

I hope everyone reads it because the increasing health oriented adverts on television are likely to rekindle the desire for fitness fanatics to again goad the rest of us sedentary soldiers into various undignified positions in the pursuit of  health,  hernias and hospitalisation.

I have seen it all before. It is not a pretty sight.