Valerie Yules Letters

June 30, 2015

Policy of more children and fewer schools – Is that our future?

Policy of more children and fewer schools – Is that our future?

We are selling off our schools to developers to build apartments and town-houses, in which will live more children.
In Victoria, Oakleigh South Primary School land will become 56 townhouses and up to 65 apartments.
Clayton West Primary School land will become almost twice the number of townhouses.
Monash Special Development School is planned to become 122 apartments in a 4-storey apartment building and 28 townhouses.
Five former school lots in Monash were sold by the State Government for $97 million last year.
The Monash Council is challenging the prevention of residents appealing to VCAT.

This is on top of former primary schools already sold.

This results in:
Children must travel to schools by car or public transport, making more traffic, more cost to families, less exercise for children, more carbon emissions, and bigger remaining primary schools which are less friendly for young children. Local communities cannot build up and so less safe neighborhoods.

April 11, 2015

Loneliness

Children like to choose whether they will be alone. In hospitals I saw them forced to be alone and forced to be with others.

In the 1930s the Royal Children’s Hospital kept children in long wards, preferably on open-air balconies. My cousin John had a terrific time with all his pals in hospital, and kept up with some of them for a long time afterwards. We visited him and saw the fun he had.

My grandson Patrick was in a Scottish ward of about fourteen children, and while he was really sick, took no notice of them, but when he was convalescing he had such fun with them he did not want to go home. It was a noisy ward because parents were welcome to visit for long periods. (Named the Royal Children’s Hospital but called The Sick Kids.)

When I was at the Royal Children’s Hospital in the 1970s children were usually in wards of about six children, well spaced, with curtains to draw when needed. They had less to do with each other, it seemed, than in earlier years.

Now in hospitals there is the bugbear of infections and sometimes children are in single rooms. This may not matter when hospital stays are so much shorter, but I wonder at the loneliness and desperation some children may feel when alone in their rooms – more visiting and lots of TV may not make up for it.

It must cost a lot more in cleaning – sometimes a crucial matter.

When I was in hospital as a mother or because of accidents, 1943-1981, I always liked best a ward of 4 beds. You could always choose whether to talk or to keep to yourself, and the chatter helped you to think of happy things.

When I read today of mental health wards in which women are menaced by men in the same ward, that seems to me a retrograde step from the old system of single-gender wards. Apparently it is because of cost – no bed is allowed to be vacant.

But the cost in extra distress to the women means more time in hospital.

In other hospitals, there may be single-bed rooms that are accompanied by their own bathrooms. I would not like that

March 26, 2015

State Aid for Religious Education and Segregation

State Aid for Religious Education and Segregation

We have many more varieties of religion running different schools than we have ever had – about twenty-five sects and denominations among the different religions we now hold. What is serious, some of these are hard-liners, preaching exclusivity of salvation to their pupils, and their religious teachers even telling them of doom to those not of their faith.  And what is serious too, the government spends taxpayers’ money on upholding these schools.

Segregated schools can probably not be prevented – indeed, the trend is to multiply them, and some governments fund this trend. However, schooling itself must not be segregated. All young people – and adults – must have open access to how other people live and what other people think.

The schools must know each other and their curricula.

They can share school exchanges and open days. Small groups of pupils and teachers can have day exchanges with other types of schools and visits to other forms of religious services. Children should visit every variety of religious establishment. I organized exchanges like this in the 1970s, as a multi-school psychologist, and they were most successful and popular – but it needs someone outside the schools to organize them.

Public examinations in religious knowledge are run by the State as part of the final year schools certificate. But instead of allowing public examinations in one’s own religion and ethnic culture, the studies examinable must be about other religions and cultures, Every student who participates in such exams must study a religion or religions that are not that of their school. To gain credit for knowing one’s own school’s religion is aiding ignorant segregation. Students must have knowledge of what other people think..

At present foreign languages exams may be taken by those who must learn them in competition with those who know them through their family, who have experience of a language from infancy. Australia needs these naturally bilingual with their extra familiarity with a foreign language, and can set examinations for them – but we also need new learners, who start from scratch, born into Australian-speaking families, and there can be set two different categories of examinations for them.

All students need to take cultural studies of the world today and how it came to be. They must also know about the laws and their history of this country, knowledge of the origins of the benefits of the society they live in, and the constant challenges to reduce its disadvantages; knowledge of history as the struggle for peace and fairness against disorder, destruction and greed.

Students must also have knowledge of their own countries of origin and that of their schoolmates.  Much that is most worth while in the cultures of the newcomers is lost as the children fail to inherit it, and born Australians do not know of it. Children can have pride in their Australian culture and pride in their origins too. The melting pot achieves a lowest common denominator, when parents are unable to pass on their cultural lore and wisdom, and even schools’ sharing of cultures can be restricted to dress, food and, in religious education, descriptions of each other’s exotic rites and dress without their rationales. Much in our education system at present is less important than these two strands of culture that are woven into our present tapestry.

We can see the bases of conflict in other countries to avoid them ourselves. In Ireland and in the Middle East the conflicts have been in the name of religion. The leaders argue about theology and religious practices., aiming to reach unity of a religion or to emphasise their own singularity. However, the basic difference between their adherents is not discussed.That is, people on the whole believe what their family believes, and their arguments are really only to support what they have been taught. In discussing religion they forget this, but it would be a great advance in thinking and towards a truly multicultural society if we constantly recollected it.

It would make very clear the bases of religious conflicts if those who held the religion of their families were labelled accordingly, and converts differently. So someone would be called family-Christian, family-Muslim, family-Buddhist, family-Agnostic, family-Atheist, including those who converted on marriage. Children at school would be called family-(whatever). Those who joined a religious group through their own thinking would be called convert-Protestant convert-Catholic, convert-Humanist, oonvert-Muslim, and so on.  And it is basic to religious freedom that a person should be free to change their religion without penalty or ostracism.

And so Australia would have every reason to show the world what a truly multicultural society could be.

In our schools and educational systems we have become increasingly segregated. This is serious. In the late 20th century, it was common to have twenty-one nationalities in one class in public education and inner-urban catholic schools. Now it is rarer, and the public education sector is becoming smaller. The private schools emphasise the differences between us – the rich and the poor, as well as the different religions and nationalities.  The Turks and Greek who came in the 1950s to the Catholic schools with their parents protesting, “We all worship the same God,” but really wanting the discipline they saw missing in the public schools, now have their own schools. The Catholic schools themselves are no longer catholic, in the primary meaning of the word as “including a wide variety of things; all-embracing” and reverting exclusively to the original meaning for the schools “of the Roman Catholic faith” <Wikipedia>.

We have many more varieties of religion running different schools than we have ever had – about twenty-five sects and denominations among the different religions we now hold. What is serious, some of these are hard-liners, preaching exclusivity of salvation to their pupils, and even telling them of doom to those not of their faith.  And what is serious too, the government spends taxpayers’ money on upholding these schools.

Segregated schools can probably not be prevented – indeed, the trend is to multiply them, and some governments fund this trend. However, schooling itself must not be segregated. All young people – and adults – must have open access to how other people live and what other people think.

Some things that people object to in other groups in their society, such as dress and worship, do not really matter for the state’s survival as a unity despite diversity, but other things do matter, and we need to be aware of them.

One way of becoming aware is to look back at history. In British and Australian history, the story of Catholic-Protestant can teach us much about today’s Muslim-Secular division.

At certain times, to be Catholic was to be considered subversive and traitorous, and Guy Fawkes Day continued to remind us of this.

In Northern Ireland, divisions have continued for hundreds of years, fostered by segregated schools and Catholic larger families. In Australia until the 1950s, with immigration of all children of all religions allowed into Catholic schools, segregated schools were the main reason for continual hostility.

The loyalty to a group beyond the nation, the larger families of Catholics, and the refusal to let people choose their own religion were reasons to dislike Catholics which are the same as reasons to distrust Muslims today.

Today the values of multiculturalism are subverted by outbreeding by some groups, segregated schools, refusal to admit personal changes of religion, and differences in values from the state’s laws – such as lower status of women, plural marriages, harsher punishments, and violence towards other groups or to the state itself.

Worship, places of worship and dress can be different without risking society.

We have had many races and cultures that can survive happily in our multicultural sociey – Jewish, German, Greek, Turkish. Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian and so on – but loyalty beyond the state, out-breeding, school segregation, and non-submission to the laws of the state are the four things that can destroy the ideal.

People have a right to places of worship. Everyone can go to them. What we have not realized yet is that we should not allow children to be taught in segregated private schools. The dangers are shown throughout history and across the world. In our multicultural society children must learn together.   The schools must be open for other children to see what happens in each others’ schools.

So the State is planning to finance the theological education of Catholics and mainstream Protestant teachers.(Front page of the AGE)

It must therefore  also finance the theological education of Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and far-flung sectarian religious teachers.

It must give them all the same religious education, so that they will be able to teach all the children the same theology.

The various State-aided faith schools must all be taught the same thing in Religious Education paid for by our taxes.

.

We must begin to think of what this course for all these theological teachers will be like.

Will the Humanists be counted as a religion too, and given the same education for its humanist educators?

The only safe way if we don’t like this idea is to keep the division between Church and State.

What else do we want to spend our taxes on, anyway?

BOOK ON INSIDE CHILDREN’S MINDS

INSIDE CHILDREN’S MINDS, edited by Valerie Yule, Queensland: Bookpal. 2014.    Illustrated with children’s drawings, 470  pages, $31.95.. Paperback  ISBN 13: 9781742844299 ISBN 10: 1742844294. Hardback .ISBN: 978174284537.Available from Bookpal, online booksellers and Australian bookshops like READINGS, Carlton

The book is a selection from thousands of stories told to me by children about their drawings when I was a clinical child psychologist and schools psychologist, taking their stories down in shorthand. It includes research on children’s language.

The stories in this book show the world as children see it, and how they can imagine things they cannot see – a world of work and play, fairy-tales and space adventures, success and failure, and ways of living, the effects of physical and mental disorders, delinquency, rejection and despair, their imagination about war in fantasy and experienced in reality. and their common symbols. The differences between the stories told by fortunate children and those who are disadvantaged reveal the impact on the imagination of a child of stresses, in economic circumstances, war, family breakdown, physical and mental disabilities, and learning difficulties.  Adults may see only the outward life and actions of a ‘problem child’, but it is the vivid imaginative life that can hold the key to the child’s future. Many stories seem to foreshadow their teller’s adult prospects, and a child of six may already be preparing to hope or give up. So many already seem destined to be the villains and victims of the next generation.

Are there differences between girls’ and boys’ imagination? What leads delinquents to their antisocial ends?  Why do later adults act against their own interests? What insights are there to Theodore Dalrymple’s Life at the Bottom

Psychiatrist Russell Gardner observes, ‘We use stories about ourselves to guide our every action’

“These stories not only give the reader much delight but also a rare and special insight into how children think.”  Dr Dorothy Rowe.

“Your spirited treasury is full of delights and wisdom, as I’d expect,” Marina Warner.

“I’m immensely impressed by the range and detail of the material. This must surely be a work of value to educators and psychologists .” Dr June Factor.

 The book is the fruit of 40 years of research during the author’s work as a clinical child psychologist, schools psychologist and academic, in Australia, Scotland, England and Belfast. There are defects in formatting because I have left writing up too late, and am now 86, recovering from a stroke.

This book is for the general public, psychologists, educators, and literary specialists.

Valerie Yule

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