Monday, April 09, 2012

The eternal stupidity of Paul Sheehan a black mark on the Australian education system ...

What a tedious, boring, uninformative, and irrelevant member of the commentariat columnist brigade Paul Sheehan has become.

Today in Parents the X-factor in education rankings, Sheehan begins by reviving for no apparent purpose, the defamation of the year 12 class of Mount Druitt in 1996 by the Daily Telegraph.

He repeats the claims of the Terror regarding the students, and their combined tertiary result, and their entrance ranking, and notes that the high school is now called the Chifley College Mount Druit campus.

And he mentions an apology, but not the real point, which is that the Terror wrote a standard shock horror tabloid story which got it wrong on a number of key points, and which therefore allowed the students to win their action, leading to this apology:

In that story The Daily Telegraph suggested, among other things, that the students in the class of 1996 failed their HSC. This is wrong and The Daily Telegraph withdraws any such suggestion. The Daily Telegraph also withdraws any suggestion that those students acted without discipline or commitment in their HSC studies. The students in the HSC class of 1996 successfully completed their HSC and contrary to the suggestions in the original article many of those students performed very well scoring high marks in the HSC. The Daily Telegraph apologises to each student in the class of 1996 at Mt Druitt. It also apologises to their parents and friends for all the hurt, harm and suffering it has caused them.

So what's Sheehan do? Deplore the Terror for shoddy sensationalist shock horror reporting that got certain facts wrong?

Certainly not.

He goes on to repeat the exercise, this time naming names on the basis of NAPLAN scores!

Come on down Wilcannia Central, Boggabilla, Coonamble High, Chifley College Bidwell campus and Coonamble High - etc etc yaddda yadda, the ten schools at the bottom of the NAPLAN lists, and proceeds to blame their education results on either (a) their Aboriginality (b) their ethnic melting pot multi-cultural elements, including but not limited to non-English speaking, Aboriginal or Pacific Islander households or (c) their parents.

Does Sheehan provide any understanding of each of these schools, and their particular circumstances, and the circumstances of the students?

Nope. He just, in Daily Terror style, scoops them up and labels them as the bottom of the barrel.

So how does he explain his methodology?

Teachers like Dianne Pyne, and her union, regard the information available to the public and media on the My School website as invidious because it is open to misuse, or misinterpretation, or simplistic comparisons. But the point of drawing attention to these schools is to remind the schools and the public that they are not forgotten, that they cannot be left behind by a system increasingly stratified by government policies and private trends.

Yes, Sheehan is only explaining to dumb blacks and dumb islanders and dumb non-English speakers that their dumbness, clearly related to their skin colour, is not forgotten by the likes of Sheehan.

And please remember that this is not a simplistic comparison, nor a misinterpretation, nor a misuse of NAPLAN statistics that are clearly open to misuse by the likes of Sheehan.

And how does he dress up his black-bashing? Why with a holier than thou righteousness:

To not care about lifting up the poor schools is to not care about the Australian ethos of egalitarianism.

Sheehan a carer for egalitarianism? Why at this point the urge to throw jaffas down Oxford street became almost irresistible.

It seems that Sheehan, who is now turning into one of the laziest columnists doing the rounds, has found a fertile new field for simplistic analysis, all thanks to the NAPLAN tests, lumping schools together as failed melting pots because he's learned and understood nothing at all about the dangers of statistical abuse.

So here's one simple conundrum: if the problem is the elephant in the room, the thing that's rarely discussed, which is to say parents and socio-economic disadvantage - and never mind that it's discussed all the time, and Sheehan has only just joined the party - why does Sheehan routinely bag people who draw attention to the way the socio-economic divide and the funding of the private education system at the expense of the public flourished during the Howard years?

You see, only recently the dunderhead was furiously scribbling about The X factor that adds up to schooling success, again deploying a simplistic misuse of NAPLAN tests and data, to come to the conclusion that being a melting pot school had absolutely no implications in relation to education performance:

The top academic school in NSW, James Ruse Agricultural High, has 96 per cent of its students from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

And back then, way back then on March 19th, it wasn't parents that were the X factor in success or failure of students, it was being in a private school:

The MySchool data offers an overall conclusion: when private schools and public schools are handed a similar cohort of students and income, most private schools produce clearly better results.

And back then he had the cheek to say this about his mumbo jumbo twaddle:

For those with reservations about the MySchool rankings, I share those reservations.

Yes, it seems he has some reservations, but whatever you do, don't ask for the details, because then comes this.

However, this is transparency at work.

Transparency ...

Transparency is Paul Sheehan misusing and abusing data to come to mutually conflicting understandings in a couple of columns?

Wouldn't it just have been better if he'd said, in Humpty Dumpty style, that data will mean what I chose it to mean, and if it produces differing results and insights, well so much better for the bulldust needed to fertilise the soil. And by the way have you noticed how all the failed schools are melting pots full of blacks and non-English speakers. Except when they're not ...

But perhaps the worst crime in all this? Quoting extensively from the thoughts of Dianne Pyne - you can find her submission here in pdf form - while at the same time going on to show he hasn't understood a word she's written. Inter alia Pyne wrote:

Already, in NSW we can see the 'Naplan Industry' taking off. There are commercial coaching schools, websites, textbooks and even Naplan camps tun to coach and hot-house students in this narrow area of learning. This is not education for a thinking democratic nation.

Amen to that Dianne, but you forgot to mention that an important part of the 'Naplan Industry' is columnists like Paul Sheehan, misusing your words, and misusing the data, to come up with contradictory conclusions, praising the joys of private school education while blaming parents for all the failings of public school education ...

How did the bible put it? Suffer the little children, but don't let Paul Sheehan and his statistics and his educational solutions anywhere near them.

And now for something different.

While in Cabramatta, the pond noted this sign. If you don't blink, you can read the words:

The world is for us to share and to respect.

This sounds dangerously green, perhaps even a dash of Bob Brown.

Time for that dim-wit Kevin Andrews to pen another witty satire, perhaps entitled A statement by the President of the Cabramatta Street Signs Global Parliament?

Oh dear lord, so many squawking geese in the world, and so little time ...

(Below: click to enlarge).

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