Monday, March 19, 2012

A radical solution to excess alcohol consumption

Australia has a drinking problem.   There are 3000 deaths in Australia each year from alcohol - cirrhosis, car accidents, alcohol related violence, alcohol poisoning.   It costs us a lot:

It has been estimated that alcohol cost the Australian community about $15.3 billion in 2004–05, when factors such as crime and violence, treatment costs, loss of productivity 
and premature death were taken into account. These figures are recognised to be conservative, 
as the cost of alcohol related absenteeism alone has recently been estimated at $1.2 billion 
per year, using self-report data from the 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (AIHW 2002). 

My husband was watching an NRL game on TV on Friday night.  I noticed on the field two ads, both for Bundaberg Rum.  The one that stood out to me said: Get footy ready with Bundy and BWS.  

The message that this ad presents is that drinking alcohol is an important part of watching football.  But this is the problem.  Somehow, we have got this idea in our heads that you can’t have fun, you can’t enjoy life, if there isn’t alcohol involved.  

 I don’t think we need to go as far as making alcohol obsolete or socially unacceptable, in the way we have smoking.  Tobacco smoke in any amount is hazardous to health, whereas alcohol in moderation is okay.  We need  to make excess drinking socially unacceptable.  

Here’s a suggestion: get rid of ads for alcohol, or at least set up tighter restrictions on where and when alcohol ads can be shown and what can be shown in them.  

Stop the advertising companies from making us believe that alcohol is an essential part of life.  

Reducing Australia’s alcohol consumption needs a drastic solution, but who is going to stand up and make it happen.   Sporting organisations, such as the NRL and the AFL, stand to lose millions of dollars in sponsorships from alcohol companies are banned.    Television networks would also lose millions of advertising dollars.  

But worst of all, our Government isn’t going to do anything real to combat Australia’s drinking problem.  Not only do they bring in a lot of revenue from taxes on alcohol sales - a deterrent which obviously isn’t working - they fear losing votes by making an unpopular decision.  And those who stand to lose the most have the money to stop the changes we need to happen.  Money talks.  Those with money can talk to the voters and convince them this is a bad move. 

This is the sad thing.  Money is more important than lives. 

Stand up, Australia.  Let’s show the world that we can have fun without excessive drinking.  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Don't get organised: simplify!

This week, I sold my Filofax on Ebay.  I can’t wait for it to be paid for and so I can put it in the mail!  

My Filofax is beautiful red leather, neat, tidy, with a clasp and just the right size.  And a big waste of my money. 

You see, I bought my Filofax at a time where I thought that all I needed to have a beautiful tidy house, and days filled with enriching activities for my son, was to be more organised.  

Only, as it turned out, I didn’t need to be more organised.  I needed to simplify.  

This is what I learnt from my expensive mistake:

- I am not a routine person.  I have routines which I follow; things I do at certain times during the day.  Things like when I eat, and when I check my email, and what I do when I get up in the morning.  But to have to follow a schedule?  That makes me break out in a cold sweat!   I love lists, and lists help me when I’m busy and I’m concerned I’ll forget something.  But if I make a list and I can’t get things marked off, it stresses me out.  A schedule is like a giant list that I might not get the things done.  A bad night sleep, a child who wants extra attention, a great article or book to read, an idea that has popped into my mind that I have to write down RIGHT NOW, something I need to know that is going to drive me crazy until I’ve found out, I just feel like sewing today, or a job takes longer than I expect: those things each mean something doesn’t get marked off, and I feel like I’ve failed.  
- I am already organised.  I am just an organised person.  Unfortunately, it’s all in my head and doesn’t translate to the chaos on the dining table, so I’ll forgive you for thinking otherwise. 
- I don’t need to be more organised, I just need less stuff.  The chaos on my dining table usually has more to do with my spontaneity and distractability than my lack of organisation, but the chaos filling the rest of the house has got to do with the lack of cupboards in which to keep it. The solution is not more cupboards.  The solution is less stuff.  I’ve been working on that, and my house is getting less chaotic. 
- I don’t need to be more organised, I just need to be less busy.  I know Mary has six kids, is on twelve different rosters at church, leads Bible Study, visits old ladies on Mondays, and listens to kids read at school, but I’m not Mary.  I’m only capable of X, Y and Z, and if I try to do more, then other things start to fall apart.  Besides, you don’t know what is actually only being held together by a loose piece of thread in Mary’s life.  She may be brilliant, or she may just not know how to prioritise or say no. 
- I’m not a tidy person, and I hate housework. I don’t need to be more organised, I just need less house to keep clean and less stuff to keep tidy.  And if you don’t like my imperfect housekeeping, well, you don’t have to live here, do you?
- Less busy-ness with housework and clutter means more time to do fun things with the kids. 

I'm getting $30 for my Filofax, and will soon be rid of something that is just cluttering my life. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Richard Gill on Music Literacy

Richard Gill is one of Australia's foremost experts on music education.  This video is about twenty minutes long, but he talks about what he sees as some of the problems in our education system at the moment.

A few of his best points:

  • That we have insisted literacy and numeracy is the right of every child is fundamentally good, but to ensure every child is literate and numerate we need to test.  But in order to ensure the school gets good results teachers are beginning to teach to the test, or excluding students who won't do well.  This is not education.
  • There are two reasons for school: to learn to think and to learn to learn. Education should be about teaching students these two things and instilling a hunger for them in the students.
  • We can't dumb down the curriculum!  Gill used the example of teaching music notation to small children using flowers or ducks or cars instead of noteheads, and that he has never, in all the music repertoire, seen a piece of music written in ducks.  This gives the message that children are silly, but they are not.  
  • The reason for teaching music is that music is good, but the bonus of teaching music is that it has flow on effects in all areas of learning.  Much research points to the reality that students who learn music do better in other subjects. 
  • Sadly, 80% of schools don't teach music.  (I'd be interested to know where he got this statistic, because I thought the number of schools that did offer music would be higher than that.) 

I agree with him.  Children need things simplified, not dumbed down.  That's the way I approach my own children: put things in a way that they can understand, but don't 'baby' them.  

Also, school should not be about learning facts, and not just about learning the mechanics of reading, writing and arithmetic.  We as educators should be creating lifelong leaners.    Unfortunately, I believe, standardised testing leads to teaching the mechanics and making sure the kids can pass.  Kids definitely need to learn reading, writing and arithmetic, but they need to learn it in a real world context, not just well enough to pass a test! 

And as for music, the new National Curriculum asks for two hours a week on the arts (music, art and drama), lets hope this happens in practice!  Music is good because it is good.