Recently I have been interested in the promotion by William D. Lutz of what he borrowed from George Orwell, DOUBLESPEAK. This involves words whose true significance is not what it seems to be. I have had some fun with my own examples. Here is my list of interpretations.
gaol without trial
a folly that got you elected
a place where inaction is given the go ahead
government functions not yet privatised
your excuse for indefinite detention
level playing field
where nobody notices corporate collusion
40 MPH WORKMEN
a place where you drive past slowcoaches
with great respect
I thank the honourable member for the question
I am about to abuse the questioner
opponents with policies opposed to yours
listen to the experts
you choose the experts
last resort of fools
policies different from your own
tested by time
unaware of the latest discoveries
robust manufacturing sector
profit before climate
an improbable outcome
wolves in sheep’s clothing
sheep in wolves’ clothing
a group who can’t make up their mind
tall-tale influence inducing affluence
rational ways of making irrational decisions
no such thing as a free lunch
put your money where your mouth is
replacing costly labour with cheap slave labour overseas
letting somebody else make your mistakes
covering your tracks or hiding your crimes
regulations that restrict corporate exploitation or proliferation
personal or party source of funds
checks and balances
cheques and bank balances
a unity that only war or pandemic can achieve
a rational, concerned candidate free of party politics
your grass roots
where you fund just before an election (AKA pork barreling)
organised shots of you to foster your false image
highly paid liars who work for you
insight into the future from the oracle
bill of rights
a human rights declaration tyrants prevent from happening
law and order
power to stop dissent
words (whistles) only dogs, racists or gullible voters hear
Using language to distort or even reverse the meaning of unpalatable information that has to be given. Allegedly the amalgam of two George Orwell’s creations from his novel 1984, Doublethink and Newspeak. Source: http://democracy.org.au/glossary.html
The Phoenix People performing in a TIE play: Imagination Can Set You Free: Nepean CAE in the 1970s
Maybe you have seen my descriptions of earlier journeys into academia. This is an account of my studies for a third degree. Special memories.
What a powerful influence on our lives the theatre has been. It is so involved with our language. We have a theatre of war and our lives are saved in an operating theatre. When young people die in a road accident, it is a tragedy. Our rivals will constantly steal the limelight and try to upstage us. The policy of our political opponents is either a farce or a comedy of errors. That frivolous lady friend will always be making a scene and in spite of her, all the world’s still a stage. A policeman might unmask a criminal and make a dramatic arrest. A car model might make a world debut and a debutant might play a leading role with an orchestra. Politicians might get a chorus of approval. It is such fun to study the theatre because it is so relevant to our lives.
I began my next degree course, an MA in English Literature, at the University of Sydney. The main focus was on theatre although there was some consideration of other literary forms.
I enjoyed for example, discovering the haruspication – in ancient Rome the interpretation of omens by inspecting the entrails of sacrificial animals – in Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. In this case the sacrificial animal was a wounded airman observed by the central character Yossarian.
The divination theme was a powerful literary trick that swept me away because it was so powerful when you discovered it. I enjoyed the satire too.
Then there was Jane Austen, with her small piece of ivory two inches wide on which she “worked with so fine a brush” (her own words). There she was, writing at a time of great upheaval yet she was content with a study of manners.
Just fancy: here was a great woman author unable to publish using her own name. I have long enjoyed the ironic realism of her work and have taught HSC classes about Emma. When you teach, there is no doubt you learn something twice.
That’s all I have room for regarding other literary content. We studied lots more. But now for the theatre.
It is such a vast subject too. I want to share more detail of that study of mine so I’ll focus the rest of this post mostly on my condensed version of its story as I learned it all those years ago (in the 70s).
A History of Western Theatre
You can’t escape the influence of the ancient Greeks when you trace the story of our theatre. The theatron was their “seeing place,” originally for viewing ceremonies dedicated to the gods. The orkhestra was the dancing and singing place; quite different from today’s symphony connotation. It was simply a flat area where the chorus danced, presumably often to music although none of that remains.The skene was the changing tent or the place where the fatal action occurred. The Greeks never killed in public view. It was always done “offstage” in the skene.
A catastrophe was originally a turning point for the ancient chorus dancers. It meant a “turning down.” Antistrophe was another turning point this time meaning “turning against.” The chorus had traditional movements. I find the ancient word for an actor most interesting. Guess what it was: hupokrites. So the original actors were hypocrites. What a surprising and wonderful thing language is.
We have only a small percentage of ancient Greek drama available to us. The comic and tragic masks are well known though.
Masks. Attribution: Creative Commons
Masks were a definite way of portraying character. Actors would step offstage, change masks and become a different character. Sophocles apparently was an actor at first but lacked the required strong voice so turned to writing.
I believe the acoustics in the plays’ amphitheatres were very good. One of my friends who visited Greece told me so.
The word “drama”by the way comes from the Greek drao “I do.” Reminds me of a saying I have used on and off during my teaching: “I hear what you say but I see what you do.” Drama in all its forms in the classroom remains a passion with me. Actions speak louder than words is the old cliché that still seems relevant here.
As part of our studies at Sydney, we were required to read extensively from the few remaining plays of the ancient Greek period. I remember quite well the Oresteia of Aeschylus and Aristophanes’ great comedies Lysistrata and Frogs, as well as Medea by Euripides and Sophocles’ play Antigone. I won’t discuss them or any others here as I want to talk more about the theatre itself.
Now the chorus was a vital part of the Greek theatre. It had a leader. Thespis of Icaria (c. 6th century BC) is believed to be the first chorus leader with lines distinct from the rest of the chorus; that is he was the first actor (?). He apparently wrote plays with one actor. Aeschylus is thought to have pioneered more than one speaking part. Some writers say Sophocles gave us three actors although others think Aeschylus gave us all three.
At this time I came across Aristotle’s term catharsis. To him tragedy had a cleansing effect, causing the audience to suffer with the characters and then end up somehow cleansed with a better awareness.
I later learnt of Bert Brecht’s alienation effect (Verfremdungseffekt) that took a different point of view. He seems to have sought to limit the audience’s emotional involvement and protect them from the brain washing that he alleged characterised traditional Western theatre. Brecht stressed that conscious awareness of ideas was essential for true understanding of theatre. For this effect he would from time to time write something outside the written narrative to remind the audience that it was theatre and not the real world, to break the spell you might say, perhaps to check up on whether that audience was paying attention.
So there we have two philosophical positions: catharsis versus alienation. Theory and practice are not necessarily the same in our contemporary productions. I have come to think that the dramatist’s instructions are what truly matter, and I am not very fond of “director’s theatre” where original ideas are often cast aside.
One of the problems I have with this post is the vastness of the subject matter. How can you deal with two and a half thousand years in a single post? I’ve decided simply to rely on pleasant memories as they come to mind. So it will not necessarily result in orderly chronology.
The Golden Age
What an incredibly fruitful era for theatre began during the reign of Elizabeth I! The period from 1580 to 1630 must be considered a golden age for dramatists. Before that time the status of actors and theatre in society was very low indeed.
The 1572 Vagabonds Act said that…all common players and minstrels not belonging to a Baron of the Realm or a person of higher status, and without a licence from at least two justices of the peace, “shall be taken and adjudged to be deemed Rogues, Vagabonds and Sturdy Beggars.”
Actors were linked with pedlars, tinkers, jugglers and “petty chapmen” as undesirables and ready to be punished at law.
What a change came over theatre life during the period in question! Distinguished people including the royal Elizabeth and James came forward as sponsors of theatre companies. Actors had theatres for performance instead of inns or rooms in rich people’s houses. Theatre companies flourished. Audiences grew to fantastic heights.
Actors were suddenly significant and reputable. Some became the equivalent of our movie stars. Edward Alleyn, for example, was very rich. So rich that he founded a College – Dulwich – that still exists.
One of his claims to fame was his marriage to entrepreneur Philip Henslowe’s stepdaughter Joan. Henslowe was a very influential figure, an impressario, frequently paying advances to dramatists and thus promoting a spectacular array of plays for performance.
Alleyn was famous for his roles with three of Marlowe’s characters: Tamburlaine, Barrabas (the Jew of Malta) and Faustus. Richard Burbage, son of theatre builder James Burbage, was another distinguished actor. Shakespeare often wrote with these actors in mind when he created characters.
When his first wife Joan died, Alleyn married Constance, the very young daughter of John Donne, poet and Dean of St Paul’s – much to the anger of Donne and his wife. When he died, Alleyn was worth six times as much as Shakespeare. No mean effort.
Burbage was very successful too, although not as rich as Alleyn. He was a boy actor with great success in women’s roles and worked his way into prominence as an adult. Shakespeare wrote these roles especially for Burbage: all the kings, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and King Lear.
Alleyn and Burbage were the leading actors of the time, very popular. But there were many others, including Nathan Field and Gabriel Spencer who enjoyed considerable success.
Spencer had a tragic life. He was an argumentative type and killed a man in a fight. He in turn was killed by Ben Johnson. To avoid execution, Johnson took the Church. That is he recited a required biblical text, the first verse of Psalm 51 known as the ‘neck verse,’ and became overtly religious, thus avoiding the hangman. He kept up this holy persona for twelve years.
While on the subject of Johnson (a close friend of Shakespeare), I found his partnership with Inigo Jones in the creation of court masques fascinating. If you get the chance to see the wonderful stage settings of Inigo Jones in colour, I recommend you see them. This site shares a little of that background.
Dramatists other than Shakespeare in the golden age mentioned above are also a captivating group. One who interested me greatly was Kit Marlowe.
Marlowe was a brilliant innovator as well as a spy for the Queen and died young in a tavern (aged 29), murdered (I believe) by another spy. During his studies for his MA at Cambridge he was frequently absent. When there was some doubt about him graduating because of his long absence, a message from the Queen via the Privy Council, insisted he be granted graduation as he had been absent from studies on important royal business.
This business was looking for Catholic conspirators overseas. Despite the many other possible reasons now given for his death, I think he was executed because he had become an embarrassment to Sir Francis Walsingham, head of Elizabeth’s spy network. His plays, especially Tamburlaine, The Jew Of Malta and Doctor Faustus were great successes.
Despite the triumph of the theatre in the age I mention, life was hard and many of Shakespeare’s contemporary dramatists had tragic lives. Take Thomas Kyd for instance, the author of a groundbreaking and highly successful play: The Spanish Tragedy.
Unexpectedly Kyd was arrested and tortured by government authorities in a quest for evidence against Christopher Marlowe. Had Marlowe lived in our age he would have been studied by MI-5.
One of the interesting features of the time was that many dramatists worked together to construct their plays. This was the case with Kyd and Marlowe. As Marlowe had fallen out of favour, authorities were using Kyd to get evidence on him. Hence the torture.
Soon after this arrest Kyd died at the tender age of 35. The torture produced little for the government but left Kyd very ill.
One of the interesting features for me of Kyd’s life was his attendance at the Old Merchant Taylor’s School. In 1989 I played cricket on their lovely ground during a tour of England with the Australian Old Collegians. Edmund Spenser, who later wrote The Faerie Queene, also attended that school.
Robert Greene was another tragic figure. He was born c.1560. He had a BA from Cambridge and an MA from Oxford, a rare feat in any age. He wrote a number of plays, that were very popular. One of these, Orlando Furioso, he sold to a theatre company and then, while the company were touring, he sold it again – this time to Philip Henslowe the main entrepreneur of the time. Greene had become desperate for money.
One of his plays, Ponderoso, influenced Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Greene was a very bitter critic of Shakespeare, calling him “an upstart crow.” Greene died in poverty at the age of 32 in 1592.
George Peele was another dramatist who met a sorry end, also dying in poverty. He was a brilliant scholar, with a BA and MA from Oxford. His plays included the Old Wives’ Tale a comedy,The Battle of Alcazar, a patriotic play, and a biblical play: The Love of King David and Bethsabe. His death was a sordid affair.
So life was tough in these times when you fell out of the company of the powers that be. Shakespeare we all know was the brilliant success with no worries concerning money.
There were so many other dramatists in this golden age. They included George Chapman, Thomas Dekker, John Marston, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, John Webster, John Ford and Philip Massinger.
I’ve got space to talk about George Chapman here. He spent a bit of time with Ben Johnson in gaol for writing a smash hit play, Eastward Ho, that offended King James. He was perhaps more famous as a brilliant translator of the classics. I remember in another place studying John Keats’ lovely sonnet: “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”
Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Chapman seems to have led a more peaceful life, having given up writing plays to concentrate on translating the great works of his past.
Long before Shakespeare’s age there was another event from my study of the history of theatre that stays in my memory. It was perpetrated by Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester from 963 to 984. After the fall of Rome with the onset of the so-called Dark Ages, events to be described as theatrical were limited indeed.
Ethelwold did something that contributed to a change of this. Looking at his church service one day he was suddenly inspired to enliven the service by adding a little drama. He devised what is now known as the Quem quiritis trope (“Whom do you seek?”). You can read about it here.
A trope is a phrase or verse added as an embellishment or interpolation to the sung parts of the Mass in the Middle Ages, according to Merriam-Webster. So that was what Ethelwold did. He jazzed up the service to add force to the story.
I believe this was the first step in the rise of Church drama in the Middle Ages, the remarkable miracle, mystery and morality plays. We spent a lot of time reading these during that course. I remember The Second Shepherd’s Play and Noah’s Flood quite fondly. The morality play Everyman seems to me to have a timeless relevance.
As the director of tertiary student plays at one stage of my teaching, I became very interested in stagecraft, especially lighting and set design. This has a fascinating history from the deus ex machine of the Greeks, Hell mouth of the Middle Ages, Renaissance sets, elaborate melodrama stages of the Victorian era and lighting from limelight to Fresnels.
When I go to the theatre, before the play begins I find myself caught up by the magic of that environment. I look at the lighting equipment when it’s visible. I think about the staging – whether it’s end staging or arena. I think of Wagner’s idea about gesamptkunstwerk, or “universal art work,” how the theatre becomes a remarkable combination of so many art forms including music – visual effects are so magical in the modern theatre; sound is important too. I always tried to include music when I was directing.
Another aspect of theatre coming to mind now from my studies is Expressionist drama. It involved a focus on the inner workings of the human mind. I recommend a visit to this site to experience the troubled Swedish life of August Strindberg, a major figure in this type of drama.
My interest here in Expressionism was especially focused on Eugene O’Neill, the American dramatist and Nobel Laureate.
Part of my reason is that I directed one of his plays during my time as a Sydney teacher. That play was The Emperor Jones. It’s a very good example of Expressionism. In the plot, Jones is a leader of natives on an island. He is a former murderer who has fled the United States.
He is worshipped on the island as an “emperor” but suddenly loses face and has to flee. For the rest of the play a drum beat sounds to match the rhythm of his heart. That heart beats faster as the action moves towards a violent climax. Among the characters in the play are Formless Fears who writhe across the stage on one occasion. It’s very much an illustration of the inner mind.
One other joy I had with this course was the Commedia dell’arte (Comedy of the profession). The Commedia flourished in Italy and elsewhere from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. They were travelling players who wore character masks, improvised heavily and devised dramas appropriate to the place where they were performing.
The Commedia influence spread from Italy to England via Shakespeare and France notably via Molière. The influence can be seen in The Tempest, Love’s Labour Lost and The Taming Of The Shrew and Tartuffe for example, by Molière.
Here is a good list of Commedia characters.
Other characters began as stock masks and developed into well-known characters in the hands of the most talented players. The Capitano developed as a caricature of the Spanish braggart soldier, boasting of exploits abroad, running away from danger at home. He was turned into Scaramuccia by Tiberio Fiorillo, who, in Paris with his own troupe (1645–47), altered the captain’s character to suit French taste. As Scaramouche, Fiorillo was notable for the subtlety and finess of his miming. The zanni, who were often acrobats, or “tumblers,” had various names such as Panzanino, Buratino, Pedrolino(or Pierrot), Scapino Fritellino, Trappolino, Brighella, and most notably, Arlecchino and Pulcinella (related to the English Punchinello, or Punch). Pulcinella, like Capitano,“outgrew” his mask and became a character in his own right, probably created by Silvio Fiorillo (died c. 1632), who had earlier created a famous Capitano, Mattamoros. Columbina, a maidservant, was often paired in love matches with Arlecchino, Pedrolino, or the Capitano. With Harlequin she became a primary character in the English pantomime’s harlequinade. The zanni had already been differentiated as comic rustic and witty fool. They were characterised by shrewdness and self-interest; much of their success depended on improvised action and topical jokes. Arlecchino (Harlequin), one of the zanni, was created by Tristano Martinelli as the witty servant, nimble and gay; as a lover, he became capricious, often heartless. Pedrolino was his counterpart. Doltish yet honest, he was often the victim of his fellow comedians’ pranks. As Pierrot, his winsome character carried over into later French pantomimes. The zanni used certain tricks of their trade: practical jokes (burle)—often the fool, thinking he had tricked the clown, had the tables turned on him by a rustic wit as clever, if not so nimble, as his own—and comic business (lazzi).
It is the revival of the Commedia in Italy after World War II by Amleto and Donato Sartori. There is now an International Museum of the Mask in Abano Terme near Padua in Italy. After my degree study, in 1989, I went to Padua and talked to Donato about the Commedia and mask making. The manufacture of masks is a highly specialised art form. Actors at the time of my visit went to Padua and stayed there for a considerable time being measured and modelled until the mask virtually grew on their face.
Here is a picture of an Arlecchino mask. It’s mine. I bought it in Venice for around $300.
My final task for this degree was to write a long essay with two aims: a critique of the plays of Robert Bolt and an account of my Theatre In Education work at Nepean College Of Advanced Education.
Robert Bolt has my enduring respect. I haven’t read his plays since those readings before 1980 but they are still vivid in my mind. I remember my sympathy for the central character in Flowering Cherry when he finally over reaches and dies. The Tiger and the Horse also generated my sympathy for the wife of the ambitious professor who finally realises what he has done to his wife through his relentless drive.
A Man For All Seasons is one of my favourite plays. I particularly remember the role of the common man who acts as a chorus and as other characters including the executioner.
The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew inspired me as a teacher. In my many teaching days I have not found a better work for children.
Vivat! Vivat Regina! is another play I remember with much respect. I remember especially the dignity with which Mary Queen of Scots faced the executioner.
State of Revolution, Bolt’s last performed play, was produced after I studied for this degree.
Theatre In Education (TIE)
Theatre in Education is my passionate field, and I have had considerable experience in it. I had my own student TIE Company, the Phoenix People, at Nepean CAE. The group performed with dignity and success in Western Sydney schools for audiences totalling more that 4,000.
To complete my final task for the degree I had to write an account of this aspect of my teaching days. First we contacted schools around the College offering to write and perform plays on the subject of their choice. Two plays resulted, one Imagination Can Set You Free, an Arthurian play about the heroic defeat of a dragon, and Billy Button, the story of a teenage convict who was sent to New South Wales.
In my later years, I went to Coventry, by choice that is, and interacted with the Belgrade TIE Company, the originators of TIE. I used this 1987 study leave to explore theatre throughout much of Australia, in Italy, Germany, France, and in the UK.
Here are images of the King Arthur TIE play: The audience: School for Deaf and Blind, Sydney.
Here is a newspaper action shot of the Billy Button play.
I hope this humble set of recollections, despite my numerous flaws and omissions, touches on some of the joys of the study experience. How lucky I was to have studied before the imposition of the HECS tax on students! My knowledge from those three degrees has been shared with thousands of students. That learning was supported by governments, not penalised.
I began my MEd studies the year after I graduated with my BA, 1968. In the meantime I moved from my position at Granville Boys High School to History Master at Dover Heights Girls High School. Geographically my new teaching position was relatively close to the University of New South Wales, my place of study. This was a help.
If you are a teacher, the interesting thing about such part time study of eduction is how linked it is to your profession. Somehow it makes you think twice about teaching behaviour that previously had seemed natural and appropriate.
The course work I elected to do was Child Growth and Development and Educational Planning and Administration. The second choice turned out to be a wise one when I moved to the girls’ high school as there, for the first time, I was in charge of a school department with several staff members.
I still remember much of Child Growth and Development, probably because it was so relevant to my teaching in so many different ways. I remember Freud and his id, ego and super ego. Those unconscious urges were interesting then but as time passed, I realised there was much more to learn about human behaviour.
I remember, during that year of study, thinking how clever Shakespeare was to have Lady Macbeth constantly wash her hands to wash away her guilt. That novel Freudian idea fades away in the context of Coronavirus doesn’t it? Another memory is the struggle between life force Eros and Thanatos or death instinct. I remember feeling happy about Freud’s belief in the dominating strength of Eros.
In later life I have also learned that Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, possibly had more immediate and dramatic influence on society than his uncle. Bernays’ Public Relations are so much a part of modern life aren’t they?
Carl Jung is also there in my memory but I remember most clearly his notion of the collective unconscious. Somehow there still seems to be some justification for this idea. I found Jung’s opinions convincing, despite his critics. This is possibly because as a history teacher I have come to believe that we cannot escape the past.
Jean Piaget is the dominant part of my recollection regarding this course of study. I was quite swept away by the links I saw between his stages of learning and pupils I had taught, especially in my infants teaching stage. Piaget’s emphasis on the power of teaching as a part of cognitive development inspired me.
Piaget’s theory concerning the way a child constructs meaning at different stages, still rings true to me. Especially welcome is his view that intelligence is not an unchanging, predetermined statistic.
Erik Erikson is another memory of an important cognitive theorist. I learnt about how he too believed in stages of development, in his case eight, linked to psychosocial interaction. He reminded me, in a number of ways, of Freud. His notion of stages depended on a series of crises from birth to adulthood, with success linked to trust in the earliest stage. His notion of “basic trust” seems to knock on my memory door. I still find Erikson interesting but wonder if any theorist can tell the whole story – can control all the variables of any research.
Behaviourists had an important place in this course. I remember especially Edward Thorndike’s Law of Effect as a prelude to later behaviourism. Thorndike’s principle suggests that responses giving satisfaction will recur more often. Dissatisfaction will tend to reduce recurrence. I have not found any reason to criticise the Law of Effect. It seems so logical.
John Watson and B F Skinner were important in the course. They seemed to extend Thorndike’s work. Operant conditioning dominates my memories: learning through rewards and punishment in response to behaviour. At the time, this theory dominated much of my learning. In later life I have become less fond of these theorists because of the harshness of their techniques and the effects on the animals and children used for their research.
John Watson was a major early experience of behaviourism for me. Conditioning, as I said before, was the key to his influence – a dramatic extension of Pavlov. Behaviour was to be the source of prediction and control by the psychologist. The dangers of control are a warning I now feel in later life. When I was teaching in a university milieu, some of my colleagues used to speak of “behaviour mod.” as a useful tool to establish authority. These days it doesn’t have my absolute respect.
Then there was B F Skinner. What a champion he was for my lecturers! Not for me now. I remember the Skinner box, his invention for recording the behaviour of rats. For Skinner, learning was a series of conditioned responses always controlled by the environment. Mind was nothing but a myth.
I was asked to read his utopian novel Walden Two. This I did with some enjoyment. The title is an overt reference to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: a tale of a simple existence close to a natural environment. In Walden Two, everyone is happy as life is controlled by a program of behavioural engineering begun at birth. I remember a funny incident where a man gives performances as the World’s Greatest Bore. His performances are banned and shut down because he draws such vast crowds.
I remember especially John Bowlby and his Child Care and the Growth of Love. This researcher has stayed with me ever since, probably because I believe so strongly in the power of parental love for children. Mental health, Bowlby claimed, was closely linked to maternal care and was also a function of support from fathers and family members. In later life I have come to believe this even more strongly.
One of the interesting aspects of this program of study was the way examination trauma was reduced. We were given the final examination question on the first day of the course. This is a brilliant way to get rid of examination fears. It’s still rigorous as you have to produce your answer under examination conditions, and the answer reflects your study during the year. I managed a credit in the exam. A rare achievement for me.
My studies of Educational Planning and Administration were exciting. At 4PM every Wednesday for much of a year we met in a university room, chaired by the Professor of Education of the University, Professor J J Pratt. He was a truly wonderful teacher.
We talked about current administration experience each of us, the students, had. We took turns at holding the floor while the others made judgements and discussed solutions. We were a diverse group, working in a wide range of teaching climates. The discussions were very stimulating, with the Professor leading us to wider awareness of possible solutions to problems.
One of my memories stands out: Andrew Halpin, The Organisational Climate Of Schools. A most inspiring influence during these studies was this man.
He was concerned intensely with what we still call school climate. I found his suggestion that every school can be distinguished by a unique administrative style or atmosphere very convincing.
To me then and now, this is like saying that each school has a personality similar to that of a particular person. As I have walked into so many schools during my lifetime, I have been struck by the range of different atmospheres (climates) unfolding. The children too, so often reflect the climate of the school – cheerful courtesy perhaps, or sometimes a cold, anxious stare.
In addition to Open and Closed climates, Halpin et al. referred to Paternal, Familiar, Controlled and Autonomous types. With the Paternal type the principal acts independently and does not use the leadership skills of his subordinates.
The Familiar Climate features much socialising but relatively little focus on task orientation. In contrast, the Controlled category is impersonal and features high concentration on task. The Autonomous Climate is characterised by leadership emerging from the group with little contact with the principal. The group is so focused on task achievement.
The two extremes I remember best. They have more support among academics than the other four categories. The Open Climate is characterised by what Halpin called “authenticity.” This involves both principal and staff working cooperatively and supportively. The Closed Climate is very different, featuring a more isolated principal, obsessed with trivia and matters irrelevant to the needs of the teaching staff. I have personally worked amidst both categories.
In all the years passing since my first study of Halpin, I have retained my respect for his approach. The terminology may change but the reality remains.
My own research program constituted the major task for this degree. I was interested in the effects of praise and blame on pupils’ classroom performance. The technique I used was interaction analysis after the Ned Flanders model (with no reference to the Simpsons), but as refined by Amidon, Edmund J and Hough, John J.
I used a control group, a praise group and a blame group. For performance data, I was testing (a) factual recall of specific lessons and (b) creativity, as defined by E Paul Torrance.
Torrance drew on contemporary research that related creativity to divergent thinking—the characteristic of coming up with more answers, or more original answers, rather than deriving a single best answer. That divergent-thinking trait might exhibit itself in different situations, so that, in Torrance’s view, the creativity shown by an artist was not different in type than the creativity shown by a scientist, a teacher, or a parent. The Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking were the work of Paul Torrance’s lifetime. They are still widely used to assess students and job applicants, and have been translated into more than 50 languages.
Source: Studio 360 December 14, 2017 · 4:00 PM EST Producer Kerrie Hillman.
So a unique answer was highly creative while the less creative answers were those repeated often. I was fascinated by the possibility of furthering creativity in the human spirit. A dream I still have.
In my study I worked with several classes from state schools, including some of my own from Granville Boys High School and Dover Heights girls. In those days you had to get permission to do research in state schools. This was given to me by Dr Ralph Rawlinson, Head of Research for the Department of Education. I was very grateful for the support.
At that time when there was no internet, research tools were, compared to today’s, decidedly primitive. The computer was in its infant stage. The university had one. It was a very big infant; so big it was used by the government to process exams for the whole state of New South Wales.
You had to find a good time to use it. There was nothing like today’s sophistication, so you had to punch your experimental results on cards and feed them into the computer. A day or days later, when you came to collect your results, you hoped there was a big bundle waiting for you on the shelf. If it was thin, you knew that it had failed to process and you had to do it all again.
What of the results for my research? Life is complex and so is research into it. I standardised my praise and blame so that all groups had the same words. I controlled for age, for gender, for past success, for parents’ profession and even for windy days, using analysis of covariance. I checked the scores with Kruskal–Wallis one-way analysis of variance and studied regression with my results.
I found no significant difference with either praise or blame. That was a long journey that lasted years without the result I was seeking. But that journey was worth making and had its benefits for other researchers.
There was one significant complication during my studies. An event that made things a little more challenging.
It was the loss of a brief case with all my research in it. I put it on the roof of my VW Beetle when getting in and then drove off. I noticed a bit of a bump when I rounded a corner but didn’t think twice about it. When I arrived to do some work at the Dover Heights school, I realised what I had done.
I had to repeat parts of the research, not all of it because I had some duplication. I learnt later that some of the senior girls had gone looking for my brief case along the route I took. Deeds like that plus the support of Jean Pocock, the principal, helped me keep on with the voyage to completion. Eventually the journey ended and I wrote my thesis.
The title on the cover is:
AN ANALYSIS OF TH EFFECTS OF CHANGING PATTERNS OF CLASSROOM INTERACTION ON PUPIL PERFORMANCE 1973
Three copies were made: one for the library, one for the faculty and one I still own. You can read the University’s copy in the archives. Its contents still have a place in my mind all these years later. I realise now I told only a small part of the story and I still have so much to learn.
My journey to self awareness continued in 1963. My previous post (located below this one on this site) tells the story of the first two years.
I was feeling much more confident when my third university year began. I enrolled in English III and Education I. The latter was actually a second year subject. Psychology I or Philosophy I were prerequisites.
I managed more time in libraries then, despite my teaching commitments after being placed on Primary Promotion List 1. Remember there was no internet at this time. Information was far more remote than a click away. You had to work hard to get it, often competing with fellow students who were on the same mission in those libraries.
Modern English literature was the theme of English III. Dennis Biggins, father of the distinguished actor Jonathan
and of other successful siblings, continued inspiring me as head of English.
I remember doing well in an essay on sexuality in the modern novel. I still recall much of my analysis, ranging through Sigmund Freud, D H Lawrence, Hemingway, Joyce, E M Forster and others beyond my memory.
I had a major problem while doing my final English exam. A sabre jet fighter plane from Williamtown air base, crashed just down the road from the University. Pandemonium broke out. There were sirens and bells ringing out and I quite lost my train of thought. The result was a viva voce test for me later.
Griff Duncan, former Principal of Newcastle Teachers College, became a Professor at the University and was one of my inspiring Education lecturers. Like so many of my teachers of that time he is now a university building. Our main concern during the course was to compare various education systems from around the world with our own.
I remember Scandinavian education, especially Finland. I have found a present day site that is worth visiting. It helps to explain the respect I felt for Finland all those years ago.
Another fascinating foreign insight came concerning the Jamaica Youth Corps. Here was a role model of interest to Australian teachers and I dreamed that one day I might be able to create a replica of it here. Alas that did not happen, but the philosophy of the West Indian locale influenced my teaching. This site well captures the spirit of the place.
Exam time loomed again according to the nature of things. I passed comfortably in Education and my viva voce English test went well. My teaching salary increased with this success, as I was now considered three year trained.
In the next year I studied Education II and History II. In Education we researched a ground breaking 1963 document from England, the Newsom Report: ‘Half Our Future.’ It made a case for children below the 50% level, the failures or under achievers, as opposed to the elite top decile.
That study of mine had a profound effect on my teaching. Later in life I found myself in classrooms with what were known as GA or General Activities pupils. These were depressed high school students who found normal lessons beyond them.
Many of them were simply passing time until the school leaving age arrived. Such pupils as these were precisely the subject matter of the Newsom Report. I remember one of the pupils saying to me, “Gee Sir, you must be dumb having to teach us.” Spelling lists tended to include such words as danger, poison, wrong way go back, and keep off the grass. I did what I could to give them self respect, and helped them stand in other people’s shoes through drama.
History and philosophy of education were also my focus for study in this year. Another profound influence on the rest of my life. I learnt that education in Ancient Greece was not for all citizens.
Privilege existed and best served the elite, for example excluding women and slaves. Plato’s emphasis on education for social justice has influenced me ever since. Here is a rather good contemporary summary of Plato’s impact.
We moved on to Saint Thomas Aquinas of the thirteenth century, a vast influence on universities in particular, but also on the earlier stages of child development. His emphasis on moral values has echoed into the present, especially in religious schools.This article is a very thorough treatment of Thomism. It is quite long and you may not read all of it, but I found it interesting.
I remember so well John Locke’s definition of early learning as writing on a blank slate or ‘tabula rasa.’ My clear recollection is probably because it is exactly opposite to my views. There is much of value in Locke’s writing, as I remember it, but I have a problem with the blank slate.
I met John Dewey, the Progressivist, as part of this course. His burning desire to change society through the learning and verve of the young, inspired me. Social reform was Dewey’s mission.
I found Maria Montessori’s child-centred approach to teaching quite an inspiration. I note today that her influence is quite significant in Australia and throughout the world.
Another interesting source of learning for me was the notion of Great Books, promoted by Robert Maynard Hutchins, among others.
I found and still find the idea that a body of great books, say 150 in number, deserves to be an important part of learning. Books, especially in those early years of mine, were ongoing things and could be read over and over. Now we move into the cyber age but great books are still available, especially through Project Gutenberg. The choice of books for the list was in Hutchins’ day decided by tradition and the judgement of reputable authorities. I am aware of the criticism of this idea from the perspective of multicultural education. I am still thinking about that. Maybe the selection of books could be multicultural. Ideas do need to focus on the needs of the pupils.
Teaching turned out to be my profession for a long time. Meeting these university masters of educational thought, even though it was at night and often after a hard day, was a great motivation. I continued willingly.
History II was another moving experience. We focused on modern British history. I remember vividly the Irish question. The Act of Union of 1801 I learned didn’t ease the tension between the English and the Irish. On the contrary.
I remember especially the Great Hunger during the 1840s in Ireland. A million Irish men, women and children died as a result of the famine, largely caused by the potato blight that swept Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. Apparently the English landlords promoted only one variety of potato, which didn’t help. I recall my lecturer pointing out that although famine was killing so many people, Irish citizens behind barricades had to watch food being loaded onto ships as export.
Another vivid memory I have is of the Easter Rebellion of 1916. I learnt to love Willie Yeats’ wonderful poem about this tragic event that cost so many Irish and other lives. I reproduce the last part of it here:
From Easter, 1916
By William Butler Yeats
One of my lecturers in English remarked that Yeats was the greatest poet since Pope. I was not equipped to confirm this, but I was certainly a fan of Yeats. I read his Cuchulain plays at another time, another place.
Success in this year’s examinations meant that I had eight subjects to my credit. One more remained and I would have my degree.
We moved from Maitland to Sydney at the end of this year. This meant I had to enrol at Sydney University for one final subject. In a fit of aberration I chose Economics I.
When that course began, the professor announced that 40% of the students enrolled would fail. Numbers studying that subject were very great. I was to fall victim to the fail category. It is hard to describe the misery of finding that news on a notice board with my wife and a young child in a stroller.
The following year I chose to study American History III. Such a good year it was. It certainly made up for the previous year’s disappointment. Memories still come flooding back.
Frederick Jackson Turner’s moving frontier was so much more than a Hollywood western. As well as creating a special way of looking at American history, Turner’s moving frontier also promoted imperialism. The Mahan Doctrine concerning naval bases outside America, also contributed to the imperialist push.
I read of the Dred Scott case with considerable compassion. I learnt of its contribution to the Civil War climate, in itself a fascinating unit of study.
I did an essay on Social Darwinism in the US. Darwin’s critical influence on such Robber Barons as Andrew Carnegie and JP Morgan et al., with the help of Herbert Spencer, made interesting reading. Those survival-of-the-fittest disciples were a tough bunch.
Another thing I remember well was William Jennings Bryan’s famous “Cross of Gold” speech. How could I forget it. It was so poignant. So relevant to the suffering American millions. So brilliant. Here is the last paragraph. A moving thing. He wanted to give silver to the poor at the expense of gold.
There, in Bryan, was a great speaker. It was quite sad in some ways that he met his doom at the Scopes Monkey Trial, even though his prosecution case was unjust.
The Immigration Act of 1924 was another interesting part of American history to study. It was an obverse response to the massive immigration wave surging into America during the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. No longer would teeming hordes enter the US via Ellis Island. Today, that past learning experience of mine about America, makes me view Australia’s present immigration policy more clearly.
From the Boston Tea Party to Wilson’s Fourteen Points American history reached out to me. Australia has so many links with American life: films, cars, politics and world war history. I found non stop study fascinating and worth every moment.
To add to my enjoyment, I passed the exam. I was finally a Bachelor of Arts. Life was moving on in the right direction at last.
I have three degrees and all my studies were free, apart from a few insignificant charges. Why is this so? It’s because I am 86 and belong to the Silent Generation. That placed me before the neocon John Sydney Dawkins put a hex on university learning. As Labor Education Minister 1987-91, he decided to make education a business instead of a right. Lucky me. I had no hellish university debt to pay off while I was raising children and getting a home.
I believe my category, the Silent Generation, those born between between 1928 and 1945, gets its name inter alia from the McCarthy era, where we were too afraid to speak lest we be declared communists.
I always wanted to go to university. I was disappointed not to qualify when I did the Leaving Certificate. I passed but didn’t matriculate. That left me two choices. I could do the exam again or wait until I turned 25 when I could apply for university entry.
Fate intervened to give me another place to study. There was a desperate need for teachers in the late Forties, thanks to the Baby Boomers (1946 -1964). My pass was good enough to get me into Bathurst Teachers College, so off I went.
Two years there and three years primary teaching gave me my Teaching Certificate. I was only 22 then.
Three years later, at the required mature age of 25+, I tried my luck as a correspondence student with the University of New England. My destiny at this time was not written in the stars.
Circumstances were not exactly conducive to part time study. I was teaching in a very isolated, one-teacher school: nineteen pupils, no electricity, no water laid on, a pit toilet and no weekend accommodation. I spent my weekends with my parents, seventy odd miles away in Raymond Terrace. Each of the summer Saturdays (I confess) was spent playing cricket for Stockton in the Newcastle cricket competition.
My first attempt at studies took me into English and Psychology. I was very naive still and as I have already said, very isolated. No company to discuss problems. No easily accessed library. My failure was written on the subway walls. I did so well in one psych essay the lecturer posted it to all the other students doing the course. But my exam technique didn’t exist.
To sit the exam I had to go into the nearest town. There I was in the hands of a minister of the church. A lovely man with a lovely wife. I was given tea and biscuits using superb crockery.
That wonderful invigilator was a stickler for the rules. I was the sole candidate, working alone in a room. When my reading time began, he rang a little bell for me. Ten minutes later he rang me the little bell again to announce the beginning of writing time. Ten minutes before the end of examination time he rang the bell again and announced the warning. Finally the bell proclaimed the end of the examination. Those two people are a happy memory of a not so happy time.
My teaching went well however, which was very important to me, and I earned a very good inspection report. With cricket I was chosen in the Newcastle representative team. So I was not completely forlorn.
Things changed when I married in 1961. My wife Judy had a degree from Sydney University. She changed my life in so many ways. I was a virgin bachelor, 28 years old, with so much to learn about life, when we married. Somehow our togetherness helped me gain new confidence to try again to study.
Off I went to the University of Newcastle administration. I was interviewed by Professor Brin Newton-John, of Bletchley Park fame and father of Olivia. He gave me my chance. Another landmark in my life. He was gently encouraging and somehow I felt more confident after talking with him. I enrolled in English I and Psychology I.
So I was a university student at last, at the age of 28. But was I going to succeed at last? I was standing on shifting ground. Part time status, teaching in the day and studying at night. I was not sure of myself. Lectures and seminars were a vivid adventure. I was quite nervous. I was what was called “provisionally matriculated.” To confirm my place in the university I had to pass in those two subjects. No room for failure this time.
My lecturers were god-like creatures to me – so aware of so much. So knowledgeable. So interesting. Some other part-time students and I formed a team to help each other during that first year. It was Warren, Norman, Valerie and Royce. We discussed lectures and seminars, found talking points to consider and filled in any gaps for each other due to absence. It was a good plan and made a difference, certainly for me. Later in life I discovered that Valerie married Brin Newton-John. By a strange twist of fate my wife Judy taught their children at Fort Street just before she died.
English did much to lift my spirits as a student. It touched my soul. During that first year I became a different person. I befriended Chaucer, the Romantic poets, and a number of more recent stars including Ernest Hemingway and Eugene O’Neill.
Psychology changed my life as well. I was surprised how much time was devoted to statistics. One psychology lecturer played a mean trick on some of us. We were given a test in a lecture and half the group (me included) were told on the test paper that the test would count towards our final mark and the other half were told it was merely practice and would not count. A nice little controlled experiment, but not so nice for some of us who found the test very hard.
Chaucer was a different story. I loved the sound of his language. I learnt of his importance when he chose to write in English in the fourteenth century. I also loved his stories. I laughed at the Miller’s Tale, the Wife of Bath’s Tale taught me about women’s “soverainte” (“mastery”) in relationships, and the Pardoner’s Tale was to me an exposé of the human trend towards ruthless self-interest.
A passion for words and their meanings became part of my makeup during that first year. I learnt for example, that Chaucer’s horses moved at a leisurely canter because they were going to Canterbury. I remember doing an essay based on the Oxford Dictionary’s pages dealing with the word “commonwealth,” which was originally written as two words: “common weal.” That memory includes visions of big dictionary pages telling the history of the word and making me realise that words in dictionaries are potent, alive and changeable things.
Assignments on semantic change were significant focuses of study. I found this most interesting. I remember King Lear describing himself as a “foolish fond old man” when “fond” meant “foolishly affectionate.”
Pray, do not mock me. I am a very foolish fond old man, Fourscore and upward, not an hour more nor less. I fear I am not in my perfect mind.
Act 4 Scene 7
I remember too my discovery that once the word ‘clue’ had nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes but referred to a ball of string. You can find similar unexpected meanings here in a contemporary resource, to help you taste the spirit of my earlier semantic adventures. There is also an excellent talk on the power of words.
With psychology I was sane enough. I moved with the spirit of investigating the human mind. Statistics challenged me but I survived. Life is just a radical equation after all.
My study time then was actually a golden age of the Behaviourists (alas) and I gave them the respect as a student they didn’t deserve. John B Watson and BF Skinner were part of that experience. Things are different today, as you can confirm from more recent research.
So much to learn. That was the experience of mine in a university of the Sixties! It’s still true isn’t it? Teaching had to come first however, and took up so much of my time and energy. I was a primary teacher in Maitland, and journeyed down to Newcastle after school for the lectures. I did the university assignments at night, often working to dawn or further when essays were due.
I did well in an essay for psychology questioning the categorisation of humanity into races. The English essays went well too. Wordsworth, Blake, Shelley, Keats and Coleridge became new idols. I understood their revulsion concerning the factory system and other aspects of their nineteenth century life, and I shared their rebellious spirit. Here is a contemporary site I have just visited. It reminds me of those days Romantic, and takes me a little further.
One strong memory I have is how I identified with the solitary wanderer of Romanticism. Here is one of the many poems I read. Not the most significant poem, but one I remember well.
The end of that first year came so quickly. All of the assignments were done on time. Then loomed the exams. I will never forget that anxiety. To my credit, at last I had good examination technique. I planned the time and no more leaving out whole questions.
Waiting for the results was a major agony. But I had a wife this time to share the burden. Wonder of wonders I passed in both subjects.
So I had arrived. Seven more subjects to complete. Each year to be a separate challenge.
Year 2 saw me studying English II and History I. The journey to knowledge continued.
I remember being swept away by the majestic imagery of Milton’s Paradise Lost mainly, but also by Paradise Regained. Coleridge’s claim that Satan was the real hero of Paradise Lost was quite but not completely convincing. The description of the war between the Satanic forces and the angels is so vivid and imaginative (Book 6).
My contact with lecturers continued to inspire me. Harri Jones in particular, an expert on Dylan Thomas, was a source of real influence. A lovely person, so knowledgeable in English and a little inclined to be tipsy in the late evening of his lectures. I got to know him a little better and gave him a lift in my car. He left his hat behind but I returned it later. I was very sad to learn, some years later, that he was drowned, falling into the sea I believe. His teaching of Under Milkwoodwas so interesting, as was that play’s radio genre.
I read James Joyce’s Ulyssesright through. That was a major effort but a great enlightenment. We were told that some people regarded the whole work as a gigantic lyric poem. I loved the experience of the stream of consciousness.
What a brilliant idea Joyce had! To portray the continuous process of thought. I also learned that authorised printing of the book would require a large black dot after the last words, indicating the final moment of Bloom’s awareness.
History was another adventure. I had failed the subject in the Leaving Certificate. I also failed at teachers college – my only failure I think. I had a thing about the subject then, just after the school failure. Studies at this level were a different matter.
I remember the Peterloo Massacre very emotionally, and Shelley’s passionate poem inspired by the massacre. The last stanza of the poem is very moving:
I suppose it is all my teaching of the underprivileged that makes me feel that way. Here is a good print of the poem if you have the time and energy to read all of it.
We dealt with the great reforms in England during the nineteenth century.
1832 and the Great Reform Bill was a major point of study. I learnt it was a significant event, but not as great as it sounded. Many more changes were needed. There is a neat summary of it here. Goodbye to rotten boroughs!
As for women, they still had a long time to wait: until 1928 I seem to remember. Yes that’s right.
I recall my fascination with the Chartists. Idealism has been around for a long time.
I love chocolate, although I am not supposed to eat it these days. Maybe that is partly why Seebohm Rowntree’s study of the poor of York in 1899 moved me profoundly. It led to the beginning of the welfare state in England.
Sport was another reason I was now beginning to feel at home at the university. Regulations demanded that because I was a student, I had to leave the Stockton cricket team and play for Newcastle University. I made many university friends in the cricket side of things.
Also I was chosen to represent the Newcastle Cricket Association against South Australia, Western Australia and the Cricket Club of India and I was also selected in an Australian Universities team. I was awarded a Blue by the university. My skill on the cricket field helped my confidence quite a lot, but far outstripped my ability as a student. Nevertheless I kept doggedly on with my studies.
And what about the second year of exams? Wonder of wonders, I passed again.
I will share some more of my journey in my next post. Au revoir.
Words That Seem Harmless But There’s A Wolf Inside
SHEEP’S CLOTHING WORD LIST
Australian way of life
Level playing field
Will of the people
Australian way of life:
This expression contains the seeds of racism. It can be a first step in a tirade against foreigners. The White Australia Policy was our way of life for a long time. I can remember in my childhood innocently making fun of different races coming to live with us. I remember too the tones of acceptance when the term “new Australian” was introduced.
Donald Trump provides a strong illustration for another country. Burt Neuborne reveals Trump’s version of the assaults on the American way of life.
Trump’s tweets and speeches similarly demonise his political opponents. Trump talks about the country being ‘infested’ with dangerous aliens of colour. He fantasises about jailing Hillary Clinton, calls Mexicans rapists, refers to ‘shithole countries,’ degrades anyone who disagrees with him, and dreams of uprooting thousands of allegedly disloyal bureaucrats in the State Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FBI, and the CIA, who he calls ‘the deep state’ and who, he claims, are sabotaging American greatness. Source
Implicit in Trump’s speeches is a glorification of his nation’s way of life and a determination to verify American exceptionalism.
This is a catchcry of every neocon. It is one of their excuses for privatisation. For small government. It is the declared goal, the mostly unfulfilled dream of politician-treasurers. It is why welfare, hospitals, education and pensioners suffer reduced financial support in Australia and elsewhere. It has been a longstanding missed target. But the dream lingers on. Stephen Grenville, writing in the Financial Review makes a relevant point.
Meanwhile, the Thatcher/Reagan revolution was underway, extolling free markets, private enterprise and radical deregulation. The moment was right, as both the USA and the UK had sclerotic institutions in need of shaking up. Like all revolutions, it was driven by fanatics and went too far. But the central fiscal message stuck: governments should run small balanced budgets. Source
It is very striking to note how Covid-19 has reversed this way of thinking. The virus has changed the world and taught us a lesson. According to your sense of values, some problems actually demand you run into debt to solve them. Maybe now there is hope for the poor suffering souls of the earth.
A connotation of this term is that borders are under threat. Fear of outsiders by voters is a very useful political tool. It helps make excuses for highly lucrative weapons manufacture, as well as laws that restrict the freedom of your enemies or rivals. Indefinite detention of refugees is an example. Amazingly, these suffering fellow humans of ours are so often managed by privatisation.
The Department of Home Affairs has begun taking steps to outsource its visa processing to private service providers…Home Affairs claims privatisation will improve efficiency and reduce costs. But it also comes with major risks, some we’ve seen already play out in the privatisation of immigration control through commercialised immigration detention, such as on Christmas Island. Source
Must we constantly compete to achieve perfection? Has not cooperation in times of crisis saved many a society? Look at the current Covid-19 episode to see what good cooperation can do throughout the world. And should even our children be forced into competitive situations?
Alfie Kohn has some interesting ideas on this.
There is good evidence that productivity in the workplace suffers as a result of competition. The research is even more compelling in classroom settings. David Johnson, a professor of social psychology at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues reviewed all the studies they could find on the subject from 1924 to 1980. Sixty-five of the studies found that children learn better when they work cooperatively as opposed to competitively, eight found the reverse, and 36 found no significant difference. The more complex the learning task, the worse children in a competitive environment fared. Source
Democracy is these days a well-worn, idealistic platitude. Recently some leaders, elected by the majority, have behaved appallingly. There are so many examples from Hitler to Thatcher to Nixon to Trump. If the majority choose a leader, does that mean that the leader and the associated crew will automatically work in the best interests of a nation? No.
The tyranny of the majority is a very real plague in many democracies. Witness the lot of minorities such as muslims, Kurds, hispanics, indigenous peoples and refugees in so many unjust, political situations. Minorities should not be ignored in civilised society. Unfortunately, because their votes don’t count, they are so often treated as if they don’t exist.
A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inactions, and in either casehe is justly accountable to them for the injury. John Stuart Mill: On Liberty Fourth Edition, Longmans London, 1869, p.24.
The free market in my experience is a myth. Like the level playing field it doesn’t exist. There are too many distortions of freedom. Even if it did exist, it would be a cruel thing. Kimberley Amadeo sums this aspect up quite well with a simple statement.
The key mechanism of a market economy is competition. As a result, it has no system to care for those who are at an inherent competitive disadvantage. That includes the elderly, children, and people with mental or physical disabilities. Source
I would add the homeless to the list of disadvantaged, voiceless minorities.
Level playing field:
The existence of a level playing field depends on equality of opportunity. The fantasy of untrammelled, level, magical market forces that intrinsically produce the best outcomes, has been blown to pieces throughout recent history.
If you look at the great playing fields, such as the Sydney Cricket Ground, you will find they are not level. Indeed the star players are those who use the slope to their own advantage. It’s the same with business. Expansion is the goal. Collusion is the reflex action. The playing field is deliberately kept askew.
Goliaths like Woolworths and Coles go to great lengths to control product sources; this gives them dominance over prices. That playing field is not level. For example, many a dairy farm has come close to grief because of vertical milk integration – a strategy whereby a company owns or controls its suppliers, distributors, or retail locations to control its value or supply chain. (Google Dictionary)
As he so often does, Noam Chomsky has some important thoughts.
The “dominant theory” is that of the rich and powerful, who have regularly advocated liberalisation for others, and sometimes for themselves as well, once they have achieved a dominant position and hence are willing to face competition on a “level playing field”–that is, one sharply tilted in their favour. The stand is sometimes called “kicking away the ladder” by economic historians: first we violate the rules to climb to the top, then we kick way the ladder so that you cannot follow us, and we righteously proclaim: “Let’s play fair, on a level playing field.” Source
Billionaire citizens and their mouthpieces are hypersensitive concerning taxation. They constantly denigrate welfare policies as sources of big taxes.
This you will understand if you do the arithmetic. Tax me 5% of my $50,000 annual salary and you get $2,500. Tax me 5% of my billion and you get $50,000,000. Now that is really a sizeable amount. It is well worth spruiking the constant propaganda against high taxes, in an effort to keep it.
Call me a tax lover if you like because I am. I see it as a kind of crowd funding. If you want good hospitals, good education, good public transport, good lifestyle in general, you should be willing to pay for it. The pain is small when everyone pays. If your paying population is 25 million, 25 million times $2,500 (5% of my hypothetical annual wage) is a lot of money and would help to keep ownership and control of all the resources in the hands of the people. Really quite a small price though, for each individual to pay.
The meaning I am interested in is this: the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election. (Google Dictionary) Such alleged authority is so often misused.
For example, if your election policy is border protection and you are voted in, does this give you the right to forego habeas corpus with asylum seekers or even terrorism suspects? I don’t think so. But authoritarian governments, especially past Fascist entities, would disagree with me.
Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression… John Stuart Mill: On Liberty Fourth Edition, Longmans London, 1869, p. 13.
The belief in the essential nature and validity of the free market is a present day religion. Speeches linked to the stock market refer to trust of the free market as axiomatic.
Noam Chomsky sums up the deception reality well. Regarding this religion he is a learned atheist.
And the principle of really existing free market theory is: free markets are fine for you, but not for me. That’s, again, near a universal. So you — whoever you may be — you have to learn responsibility, and be subjected to market discipline, it’s good for your character, it’s tough love, and so on, and so forth. But me, I need the nanny State, to protect me from market discipline, so that I’ll be able to rant and rave about the marvels of the free market, while I’m getting properly subsidised and defended by everyone else, through the nanny State. And also, this has to be risk-free. So I’m perfectly willing to make profits, but I don’t want to take risks. If anything goes wrong, you bail me out. Source
Once in the days of the guilds, craftsmen survived through pride in their work. The apprentice on graduating became a journeyman, travelling to find even more skills to devote to his craft. Today things are very different.
In the age of efficient markets, cutting costs has become a major philosophy. Why spend costly hours refining your work when you can get slave labour to do it overseas for half the cost? Lower the price and elasticity of demand makes you rich. To Hell with pride in your work. This is the age of miracles and wonder. Gesture hypnotically and the product sells.
Private enterprise is a euphemism for unlimited profiteering. Its motive is financial gain ahead of service. As a young Australian I was very “rich.” I owned two banks, an airline and more than one airport, a very functional post office, an insurance business, electricity generators, well paid up water storage systems, serum laboratories, aerospace technologies, an industry development corporation and a fine government printer, to name but a few of my riches. One government publication explains this really well.
In a plague of mindless efforts to balance budgets and pay off debts, people have drastically reduced, since the 1990s, my control of my wealth. Instead of creatively building sources of productivity, above and beyond what you can dig up or cut down, the drones of government have sold off the family jewels to get their funds.
This is the axiom of the kakistocracy. It is the catchcry of the billionaire activist to promote privatisation for his own benefit. It is a scream of self interest well illustrated in Australian history. To keep the government small you sell off what you can to the corporate world.
Fascism promised renewal of the nation and irresistible power to the people. Are we in danger of a fascist revival today? Note, for example, Donald Trump’s promise to the people: “Make America great again!” Jonathan Wolff has some relevant words on this posture.
Ours is the age of the rule by ‘strong men’: leaders who believe that they have been elected to deliver the will of the people. Woe betide anything that stands in the way, be it the political opposition, the courts, the media or brave individuals. Source
Liberal democratic institutions, such as those we have now, exist only so long as people believe in them. When that belief evaporates, change can be rapid. Beware leaders riding a wave of crude nationalism. Beware democracy submerging into a vague notion of the will of the people. But why now? In 1920s Germany, it was obvious. Loc. cit.
These additional words of Burt Neuborne (loc.cit) add meaning:
The Nazis did not overthrow the Weimar Republic. It fell into their hands as the fruit of Hitler’s satanic ability to mesmerise enough Germans to trade their birthright for a pottage of scapegoating, short-term economic gain, xenophobia, and racism. It could happen here.
My word, some of those words in that list have important, subtle meanings. All of them in fact.
Do you know the origin of Jingoism? I just looked it up.
It comes from a popular song sung by supporters of a British venture into Turkish waters against Russia in 1878. The chorus lines said this:
We don’t want to fight, yet by Jingo! if we do,
We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, and got the money too.
So there you are. Jingoism. An interesting synonym, according to Merriam-Webster, for hawk, war hawk or warmonger, and an antonym for pacifist.
Now a bit of honesty. I am a pacifist. I am currently 86 years of age. That is why I have quite a data base of war memories. I was born in 1933, the year Hitler came to power. I don’t remember this but I’ve read about it. I do remember a lot of other things.
My grandfather and uncle were in Japan’s Changi Prison. Another uncle was a Rat of Tobruk. Two more uncles fought on the Kokoda Trail. Another uncle survived a torpedoing of a troop ship. I was a national serviceman during the Korean War of 1950-1953. On a less family-focused scale, I have other memories.
I remember Pearl Harbour very clearly: December 7 1941. I remember the midget submarines in Sydney Harbour: 31 May-1 June 1942 (as a nine-year-old I looked through one of their periscopes for a fee of sixpence). I still feel the anguish of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: August 6 and 9 1945. I vividly remember the excitement of the Normandy invasion: 6 June 1944 – mid-July 1944. I shall never forget the joy of the Sydney Australia peace celebrations in 1945.
I marched more than once in the Sixties against the Viet Nam war. I learnt the songs and played my guitar with them: “We Shall Overcome,” “The Willing Conscript,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” and “What Did You Learn At School Today?” to name a few.
I demonstrated against the crazy war in Iraq too: 19 March 2003, and the hazy war in Afghanistan, named misleadingly by President G W Bush on October 7 2001: “Operation Enduring Freedom”. Lord what fools those warmongers seemed to me. By Jingo! that’s still my way with things.
I’ve been out and about looking for anti-war quotations to weave into the rest of this post. Here they come.
…the role of the military is to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.
George W Bush
I think war is a dangerous place.
George W Bush
Our enemies are innovative and resourceful…They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.
George W Bush
I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace.
George W Bush
There you have it. Thought samples from the supreme commander of the world’s most powerful army. It is hard to find better evidence for the need for checks and balances – the separation of the powers. I am thinking too of the Coalition Of The Willing (the USA, the UK and Australia) that gave us the Iraq war of 2003. Blaire, Bush and Howard; what a pity they were not checked and balanced!
Thank you for sharing this space with me. I have found a little more wisdom in other places. Here it is.
A rational army would run away.
Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu
O Peace! how many wars were waged in thy name.
All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.
Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought!
In peace, sons bury their fathers; in war, fathers bury their sons.
How can you make a war on terror if war itself is terrorism?
In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.
During war, the laws are silent.
Quintus Tullius Cicero
All wars are fought for money.
All murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
There you are then. Above are other shoulders to stand on. Most of them are worth standing on. I have been lucky down all these years to have lived in a country relatively undamaged by war. I notice with pity the misfortune of many of our asylum seekers for example, whose lives have been so riven by conflict – nation versus nation or civil war. Such a sad existence theirs and so worthy of our compassion. In 2010 I heard a speaker at a human rights conference talk about primary school children in Afghanistan whose school maths problems used war statistics, for the purpose of realism, as all their lives had been lived in a country torn by war.
I have just been reading about another ingredient of war. It is a very strange one really, but I suspect it is important, extremely important. It’s so linked to covert schemes. But if you look carefully, it keeps coming out into the open as a cause of war. The ingredient is oil.
Hitler’s invasion of Russia clearly had the oil of the Caucasus as a motivation. As Hitler himself put it, “My generals know nothing about the economic aspects of war.” Source: loc. cit. 12/12/19
The Iran-Iraq war of the Eighties is another good example.
The Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 dragged on for eight bloody years, and dragged down both of the combatants. Frustrated by the stalemate on the ground, both sides sought to strike at their enemy through oil. Iraq began the Tanker War in 1984 by attacking Iranian oil facilities and vessels trading with Iran. Iran struck back with air and naval attacks against Iraqi ships and oil sites and, more importantly, laid naval mines in the Persian Gulf.
Source: loc.cit. 12/12/19
The US conflict with Iraq in 1991 and 2003 seems another justifiable example of the power of oil, this time as a catalyst for the vast intervention of half a million troops. I remember reading somewhere that you wouldn’t get such a massive troop movement to protect broccoli.
I have decided to end my oil examples there. I can feel in my bones that I could go much further about oil if this were an academic treatise.
A volcano disaster has just happened in New Zealand so there is much tragedy adrift in the current news. Another awareness for me: my luck to avoid such sadness.
At the time of writing, Christmas is approaching. So peace be with you.
Image: Lady Justice – William Cho/Creative Commons
For pity is the virtue of the law,
And none but tyrants use it cruelly.
Shakespeare, Timon of Athens,
Once upon a time a political leader said: “No one is above the law in this country…There is a process to be followed.”
I choose here to forego the naming of that leader. My interest lies in the discussion of significances.
“Which law are you talking about?” you may ask. Is obedience to every law a moral duty?
Well this post has some tests for you.
1.The German Enabling Law 1933
On the 23 March 1933, Hitler introduced the Enabling Law to the Reichstag. This law gave Hitler the right to rule by decree rather than by laws passed through the Reichstag and the president. It was a legitimate enactment of its time, duly passed by the German parliament.
The Law: Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Volk und Reich: To Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich
Der Reichstag hat das folgende Gesetz beschlossen, das mit Zustimmung des Reichsrats hiermit verkündet wird, nachdem festgestellt ist, daß die Erfordernisse verfassungsändernder Gesetzgebung erfüllt sind:
The Reichstag has enacted the following law, which is hereby proclaimed with the assent of the Reichsrat, it having been established that the requirements for a constitutional amendment have been fulfilled:
Many people disobeyed this law. Tortured people. Dead people.
Here are some famous words from Pastor Martin Niemöller, appropriate for us at this point in time:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
So where would we stand with this law if it were passed today?
Or what about this example?
2. The Carlsbad Decrees
An attack on university and school free-thinking, the Carlsbad Decrees were a set of laws passed by the German Confederation in 1819. The Decrees were motivated by fear of insurrection. The French Revolution of 1789 and the Napoleonic Wars were stark memories in August,1819. So Klemens, Prince von Metternich and his political colleagues aggressively decided to punish dissent and so guard against a repetition of 1789.
Germany as a unified, single nation did not exist at this time. It was instead a military style confederation including Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Mecklenburg, Hanover, Württemberg, Nassau, Baden, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and electoral Hesse. Metternich, Austria’s foreign minister, was the dominating force of the group.
It is important now to look at the provisions of the Decrees, you know, laws no one is to be above. Metternich et al. proposed these decrees: (1) that the Diet of the German Confederation (Bund) implement censorship of all periodical publications; (2) that the Burschenschaften or nationalist student clubs, be broken up and schools and universities placed under constant surveillance for dissent; and (3) that a powerful inquisitorial commission be set up at Mainz, to detect and remove conspirators. The decrees were agreed upon by the representatives of the German states on September 20, 1819.
They crushed dissent for many, many years. In 1848 revolution was partly successful in reducing the effect of the the Decrees. At least Metternich resigned and went into exile.
Now comes the vital question. Is obedience to such laws today a moral duty? That is a thought for all of us.
Now here is a third example.
3.The Butler Act: the law against the teaching of evolution in Tennessee schools
It is forbidden…to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals…
An Act…prohibiting the teaching of the Evolution Theory in all the Universities, Normals and all other public schools in Tennessee, which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, and to provide penalties for the violations thereof.
One high school science teacher in Tennessee famously defied the Butler Law. John Scopes was indicted in May 1925 for teaching Darwinian science. He was convicted and fined insignificantly at a trial that gave us Inherit the Wind, a notable 1960 Stanley Kramer film and a 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.
The National Service Act 1964, passed on 24 November, required 20 year old males, if selected, to serve in the Army for a period of twenty four months of continuous service (reduced to eighteen months in 1971), followed by three years in the Reserve. The Defence Act was amended in May 1965 to provide that CMF (Citizen Military Forces) and conscripts could serve overseas. Over 63,000 men were conscripted and over 19,000 served in Vietnam. 15,381 conscripted national servicemen served from 1965 to 1972, sustaining 202 killed and 1,279 wounded.
A young teacher named William White was a great influence on me not only in my position as a teacher but for me as an active demonstrator against the ignominy of Australia’s participation in the invasion of Vietnam.
First, I am standing against killing – the taking of human life… Morality, to me, is based on the respect for life. I respect people, I respect their feelings, I respect their property and I respect their equality, on the basic conscientious assumption that they have, as I have, the unquestionable right to live.
Secondly, I am standing against the war itself as a national and international policy. As war, by definition, has always incorporated killing, I would have been opposed to any war on this basis.
On the third front I am opposed to a state’s right to conscript a person, I believe very strongly in democracy and democratic ideals—and I believe that it is in the area of the State’s right over the life of the individual that the difference lies between totalitarian and democratic government. My opposition to conscription, of course, is intensified greatly when the conscription is for military purposes. In fact the National Service Act is the embodiment of what I consider to be morally wrong and, no matter what the consequences, I will never fulfil the terms of the act.
There are some more words on the Vietnam war worthy of note. Inspiring words.
They belong to a time when political speakers dared to proclaim ideals instead of simply meeting requirements of focus groups. This is some of a speech by the Leader of the Opposition in November 1966, Arthur Calwell:
My fellow Australians. There are many issues in this election which you must consider carefully and well before election day.
I shall state the policy of the Labor Party in regard to most of them tonight, and I will deal with the remainder during the course of the very short campaign of less than three weeks which the Government has allowed.
The most important issue in this campaign is Conscription, the conscription of a section of our twenty year old youths, against their wishes and their wills, to kill or be killed in the undeclared, civil war in Vietnam and the threatened extension of conscription to all twenty year olds and other age groups to increase our unwarranted and unnecessary commitment.
We can prevent all this happening by defeating the menace on next Saturday fortnight.
The Menzies Government made the first blunder over Vietnam nearly two years ago. It blundered equally badly over Suez in 1958. The Holt Government is determined to increase the extent of the Vietnam blunder.
So unimpressed are our men of military age, about the need to fight in the war in Vietnam, that none of them will volunteer. No one can deny this fact; not even our own bellicose Prime Minister.
The Government, having failed to attract volunteers, has resorted to conscription to maintain our army. It asks for your endorsement. I hope you will refuse it most emphatically.
Conscription is immoral, it is unjust and it is a violation of human rights. It must and will be defeated.
So time now has passed. Knowing what we know today, in a time slip back to 1967, where would you stand with this law?
All right, I confess. Here is a picture of me today wearing my 1970s “moratorium” badge.
Now time for scrutiny of another law.
5. South Africa’s Apartheid Law 1948
This system was called apartheid. Suddenly, a white person and a black person could not marry. Black and white people could not share a table in a restaurant, or even sit together on a bus, and black children and white children were forced to go to different schools.
What do you think? Would you be above or below this law?
Perhaps Nelson Mandela’s words give the best guidance we can find:
I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.
After eighteen years of confinement on Robben Island, working at hard labour and being allowed but one visitor every six months, Mandela was finally freed and became South Africa’s first black president.
Yet another law draws our attention.
6.The Unlawful Oaths Act 1797
This obscure Act has a weird place in British trade union history. Its use challenges us law abiding citizens.
Really! It is linked despicably to the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
Who were these historic figures?
They were six farm labourers from the village of Tolpuddle who were convicted in 1834 of swearing unlawful oaths and transported to Australia for six years. That conviction is now recognised as a virtual miscarriage of justice.
The injustice is linked to the British fear of trade unions. Fear has long been a useful propaganda tool of those who fashion harsh laws.
In 1799 and 1800, the Combination Acts (anti trade union laws) had forbidden “combining” or organising to gain better working conditions, and were laws created partly because of political fear generated by the French Revolution. In 1824, the Combination Acts were repealed due to their unpopularity and replaced with the Combinations of Workmen Act of 1825. This law legalised trade unions but severely controlled their activities.
In 1833, six poorly paid labourers from Tolpuddle, a village seven miles north east of Dorchester on the River Trent, formed the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers to agitate for relief from pathetic low wages. Current wages were seven shillings a week and reduction to six shillings was imminent. Their aim was ten shillings.
William Lamb, Second Viscount Melbourne, Home Secretary at the time, was particularly hostile towards trade unions, and seems to have seen the six villagers from Tolpuddle as convenient scapegoats to inhibit future combinations. So George Loveless, a Methodist preacher and the leader, his brother James, James Hammett, James Brine, Thomas Standfield and Thomas’s son John, were relentlessly pursued by officers of the law.
The Workmen Act of 1825 made prosecution difficult. So the prosecutors turned to an archaic naval law designed to prevent mutiny: the Unlawful Oaths Act of 1797. This did the job as the six men had sworn an oath to protect the Friendly Society, so the humble labourers were successfully sentenced to transportation for six years in the Australian colony.
Transportation to Australia was a very harsh punishment. The voyage was dangerous and convict life was a cruel imposition. There was strong popular agitation in England in support of the Martyrs. A thousand fold petition was lodged with parliament.
After three years of this popular support, the men were allowed to return home with pardons and with heroic status – 1837-1839.