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.


March 7, 2015

School exchanges to get to know each other

School interchanges

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 full-day exchanges with other types of schools , taking part in their lessons.  They can have  visits to other forms of religious services when they are taking place. 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?

.  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

I saw Australia when we only had Catholic schooling as a distinctive schooling – apart from schooling for the rich. Australia has had our own experiences of how Catholic-Protestant hostility and mutual ignorance has been promoted by separate schooling for the frogs and dogs of Micks and Prods.  In Collingwood, then a slum suburb of Melbourne, we had children’s religious wars around our home.  “Yah! Yah! You don’t believe in God!” “Yah, yah, Catholic dogs jump like frogs!”  “Sister says you’ll go to hell!”

This situation changed with all the immigration in the 1950s, and Catholic schools were open to all. Turkish parents brought their children. “We all believe in the same God, Allah,” although they really meant they thought the Catholic schools had better discipline than the state schools.

Catholic schools often had more non-Catholics than Catholic.

The fear and hatred dissipated. The migrants did not have the old Catholic-Protestant fighting traditions.

The situation now is more dangerous.  Catholic schools are reverting to being almost entirely for children of Catholics. Other faiths are setting up their own schools. Jewish children used to go to Protestant schools, and when they grew up, they had links with non-Jewish schoolmates. Now they have their own. All sorts of fringe Christians and every other religion are setting up their own schools.’

Within those schools, however much harmony they claim, there is ‘religious’ teaching that they are the only truth, and the outside is heretics.

The children get this teaching at home, at their places of worship, and at their schools. Seven days a week.  They do not learn about other people and other ways of life within their society,

This is dangerous.  Here are the possibilities of fanaticism and fear of others.

We see what happens overseas.  In Britain, some religions are like a state within a state, with their own laws competing with the national laws, and the people only interacting with each other.  ‘UnBritish’ practices like shariah and oppression of women flourish in them. The religionists learn nothing to make them British, except insofar they watch TV – which can put them off.

And the terrible thing about it is that the government facilitates this segregation with financial support for establishing and maintaining these schools, in order to curry favour with parents and the religious leaders.

And among other things, this means that State and Federal governments in Australia have less money to spend on public schools, to make them more attractive and diverse.

Parents must realize what this segregation will mean for their children in the future.

December 6, 2014

Which way should a pram face?

Filed under: children, Education, Pleasures, social problems — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 11:23 pm

Sometimes a psychological problem of childhood can be prevented by simple parental actions early rather than therapy later.

Which way should a pram face?

Early developmental delays and psychological abnormalities cost a great deal in therapies today. How many are exacerbated by the way that a pram faces and could be prevented by having a pram that faced the pusher?

Prams usually faced the human who pushed them. The human talked to the baby, telling it about what they could see, and responding to the baby’s needs and chatter. The time spent on an outing was time spent with someone interested in the baby. They learned to talk.

Then prams started to face outward, so that the baby could see where it was going, and what was ahead of it – but with no help in understanding this, or ways of making its needs known except by crying loudly.

Mothers or others pushed the laden pram like they pushed luggage.
The baby did not see them, or see when it was about to be removed.

The mothers or others pushed the pram down the street. They sat with their mates at outside cafes and talked with them, but the baby still faced outward, and was given edibles such as chips of bottles from hands that came round to hand them to them. They ate and drank and looked at what they could not understand.

Sometimes it is even worse. The baby looks at meaningless mobiles that interrupt the sight of where they are going. Or a black veil over the pram gives the baby nothing to do except go to sleep. Go to sleep on an outing when there is so much to see!

The mothers who push this human luggage look like luggage-pushers, not like caring mothers.

It costs nothing to have a pram where the baby can see and hear what is happening to it, described by the pram-pusher, and it may save a lot of therapy in language, relating to others, and the meaning of the life it sees.
What does the research say?
The only research I have found on the subject was by Dr. M. Suzanne Zeedyk, of the University of Dundee , ‘What’s life in a baby buggy like?: The impact of buggy orientation on parent-infant interaction and infant stress’ 21 November 2008. ( She wrote up two studies. The first was a ‘national observational survey, conducted on High Streets in 54 locations throughout the UK and eventually comprising 2722 observations of parent-child pairs, which systematically documented the social interactions of families occurring during buggy use. The second was a small-scale experimental study with 20 mother-infant pairs, which built on the findings of Study I by monitoring both mother-infant interactions and indicators of infant stress, during journeys in the two buggy orientations.’
The average baby spent two hours per day in a pram, so the question is quite important. (Survey of the National Literacy Trust, 2005)
Two studies found that mums were more likely to speak and laugh with their babies in a parent-facing pushchair than in a forward-facing one. This means that taking your baby for a stroll may give you a great opportunity to make lots of eye contact and to bond with your baby
The research also claimed that sitting in a forward-facing pushchair increased a baby’s stress levels. Researchers concluded that travelling in a forward-facing pushchair can therefore leave your baby feeling isolated.
Zeedyk concluded that a cultural belief appeared to exist in the UK (and amongst manufacturers) that, once they can sit up, babies benefit from looking out onto the world around them. However, she claimed that research repeatedly shows that in order for babies to make effective use of that experience of the wider world, they need parents to help mediate and make sense of it for them.
This finding was not accepted by everyone. Baby Love author Robin Barker said that as long as babies are loved and fed, the direction they face when in a pram is irrelevant, but her evidence is anecdotal. Ms Barker said parents had enough to worry and feel guilty about without considering which way they push their child in a stroller.
“This is just another thing that can worry mothers,” she said.
Nevertheless, she does make a point – what a particular baby may want. Associate Professor Hannah Dahlen of the Australian College of Midwives said many children get bored facing inwards after three months.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with children looking forward and watching stimulus around them,” she said.
“He doesn’t seem interested in turning around,” one mother said of her nine-month-old son. Another said her nine-month-old baby was trying to turn around as soon as she could. “She got bored looking at me,” she said.
Perhaps such mothers were not using the pram-time for interacting with their child, being bored themselves.

One solution of course is having a pram that can be fixed to look the way that the baby wanted, and these prams can be bought.

October 12, 2014

Climate change and exercise

Climate change and Housework Exercise

Recently a radio station ran a campaign for more exercise. People rang in about how they exercised with gyms, bikes and so on. None of it was useful, apart from transport.
In the past until about 1950. and in many countries still, exercise by almost everybody was useful. Only the wealthy took on useless exercise – or huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’, which had something at the end of it, or in ancient Greece, they went to the Gymnasium.

Most of the people rested as their recreation; Their work was their exercise – outside, growing their food, or inside, cooking, cleaning and making their clothes.
Today in our cities almost everybody uses electricity instead of exercise in the home.
Yet we can reduce carbon emissions by reducing unnecessary use of electricity and exercising instead.

People could save electricity by bending their knees, stretching their arms, strengthening their arm muscles, tuning up their wrists, and reducing their waistline. Thus with minimum electricity and carbon emissions, they would sweep and garden, clean the floor, polish, and sweep cobwebs off the ceiling.
It would improve their circulation, tone up pelvic-floor muscles, keep the heart fit, strengthen the legs and prevent osteoporosis, by doing housework like it was done up to 1950, without unnecessary electricity.

Carbon-emissions are saved by not driving.
Walking to go shopping used to require for light shopping, a basket, soft-handled string-bag, dilly-bag or backpack, and for heavy shopping, a shopping jeep or pram. This is exercise especially good when the back was kept straight and elegant and pulling or pushing with your arms so that the back was not bent. Shopping was not weighed down with wasteful packaging

A good hand-mower for level or ‘drought’ lawns. Push from the waist, not hunched, for figure-improving exercise for the stomach. Save $$$ and £££. A hand-mower saves carbon emissions and does not annoy neigbours. There is at least one excellent mower on the market so light it almost flies.
Do repetitive jobs with rhythm for more speed, pleasure and exercise – eg dishwash by hand, hang up washing, make beds, use a carpet-sweeper for quick jobs rather than vacuum. Move your feet rather than stand still at kitchen jobs, or use a high stool or chair when convenient, to avoid varicose veins. Carbon-emissions saved by not using electricity.
Exercise while you wait. Walk and turn while waiting for a bus or train or person, turn and stretch when sitting at a phone. These are times to exercise the neck, feet, leg and arm raising, pelvic-floor contracting, posture correction, correct breathing.
Sing or hum around the house or in the bathroom for morale and good breathing. Children love to hear you singing, until they are old enough to discriminate. Dont disturb adults though.
Dance down the passage sometimes.
Creative hobbies for healthy exercise – play music, paint, carpentry, home renovating.
Play with children. Even catching children for bedtime or washing them can be good exercise.
Sleeplessness. A good time for breathing exercises . . . . by the time you have breathed deeply to a hundred or so . . .
Don’t use electrical goods that do the job no better than you could get exercise. Buy the goods you really need to make life easier with the money you save.
Exercise inventions. Here’s an opening for the local bicycle industry. An exercise bike could generate TV power for your home – pedal as you watch, or run a mulch-maker, or . .
One Englishman powers his television with an exercise bike – the children can watch as long as they keep pedalling.
Human energy could generate power for many household tasks, and charge batteries. Treadmills and all those machines to make you strong or powerful or fast, could all do something useful – turning a compost-cutter, helping to make waste-paper into recycled paper, grinding up stuff, charging batteries.

Loneliness is a major reason why people do not like doing housework. Have a child or adult friend around, or listen to interesting talks on the radio to ,or even sometimes enjoy the quiet, to think and daydream.
Do men and women need the same sort of exercise?
For hundreds of thousands of years, men have been the exercise freaks, out hunting and fighting and digging and building, muscling their way around, puffing and panting and sprinting away. Today if modern man does not have regular vigorous exercise, his health deteriorates.
For hundreds of thousands of years, women have worked very hard but at a more regular pace. They have not needed large-muscle speed and power. And if they survived child-bearing and resulting disorders, they lived longer. Today perhaps modern women are still evolved to need that sort of exercise, which most women have had in housework and in the fields. Perhaps puffing and panting exercises are for male physiology, and may wear women out sooner. As, conceivably, the men’s harder, faster life, may actually wear out the healthy male for a shorter life than the conservationist female. Like that famous jogger, they may ‘die healthy’.

Formal exercise is unnatural. That is, understood as formal exercise not contaminated by being useful in any way. I never do any formal exercises. (I’m heading for eighty-six, and last tested bone density was better than my age.) Instead, I do gardening, walk to the shops with a shopping jeep, do housework – including twin-tub washing machine and outdoor drying, and carpet-sweep the floors
Formal exercise can be a waste of fossil fuels as well as waste of time when people substitute it for doing things for themselves.
Snobbery and exercise
Throughout history, slaves and peasants did the hard work. Useful work was thought undignified. Indeed, most of it was dreadful toil. The upper classes got their exercises at sports, hunting and gymnasiums.
Chinese mandarins even grew their fingernails about a foot long to prove they did no manual work.
Today machines can do the dreadful toil. Thank goodness. But should we still be snobs about useful work that is healthy exercise for us? As well as saving emissions, electricity, oil and money.

Do men die younger because they do the wrong sort of exercise – the repetitive fast Olympic sports type (lots of RSS)and not regularly, and women did regular housework exercise? Doing housework exercise at the times that you don’t really need the electric appliances also saves carbon emissions and money, and you can listen to the wireless at the same time. Or just think.

September 22, 2014

Plastic bags in the oceans

Filed under: climate, conservation, economic, social innovations, Waste — Tags: , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 1:24 am

Action on plastic bags in the oceans

Until fifty years ago, the world lived without plastic bags. It can be done.
Most people do not realise what happens to plastic bags in the oceans.
One step to action:
Every supermarket should be offered posters to put near their doors –
These posters tell people what happens to plastic bags in the oceans, and offer alternatives to carry their purchases – like cotton re-usable bags and baskets.
Telling of Alternatives to using plastic bags to put their rubbish and dog poo in.
Telling of Alternatives to putting food scraps in their rubbish bins in plastic bags – like worm farms, compost, and waste packaging.
Using plastic bags again and again, not one-use.
See Dr Jennifer Lavers account of what happens to plastic bags in the creeks and oceans and
Waste no plastic bags
Here’s how:
Re-use plastic bags. Keep them in a bigger bag hung on a door, or in your shopping jeep. When you go shopping, put some in your green bag, string-bag, basket or empty grocery box, and re-use them until they are tatty. Then use the tatty bags and empty packaging packets to put your squelchy rubbish in, to put in the rubbish bin what can’t go in the compost. Nobody needs to take home a new plastic bag from the supermarket just for the sake of something to put the rubbish in.
You don’t even need bin-liners, except perhaps a bit of newspaper or cardboard at the bottom.
Plastic bags can also be re-used as pooper-scooper bags, and large pretty bags can be kept for gift-carriers.
And it is amazing how, somehow, plastic bags will breed at home. so you don’t run short.
Reasons against plastic bags
Our billions of plastic bags are about the worst litter after cigarette butts. Plastic bags choke and smother dolphins, penguins, seals, fish, birds, pets and bushland animals.
Plastic bags are made of petrochemicals, increasingly costly. They wreck the environment. Even biodegradable bags can take longer to degrade than the life of the person who chucks them out.
It takes more energy and resources to make paper bags than plastic ones – the solution is to use neither. It is estimated to take 12 million barrels of oil to produce the 100 billion plastic bags used annually in the US alone.
Plastic bags don’t recycle. Anything put inside a plastic bag into your recycling bin will just be chucked away into landfill, plastic bag and all.

What can people do instead of bringing home more plastic bags to put their rubbish in? or buying single-use bin-liners? It depends where you are, especially if you live in a multistorey apartment block, but there are solutions. Sooner rather than later councils and landlords, builders and architects must come up with answers.
But what can you do, wherever you are?
What did people do before plastic bags for their rubbish? Plastic bags made of thin, flexible, blown polyfilm only came in 1977, believe it or not.
In many countries people still throw their rubbish in the street, expecting pigs, birds or sweepers will get rid of it somehow. In places where rubbish is put out in big plastic bags, crows and rats peck, gnaw and multiply. We had hardly any rubbish at all when I was a child, in an Australian city with a Scottish mother. The dustbin was tiny, and the rubbish was wrapped in newspapers that had first been read and then used as kitchen table-cloths or wet-floor mats. Today, if you are able to have a worm-farm or compost bin or pets, or even pot-plants, the only food scraps that really must go out in the trash bin are chicken-bones – and even those can burn into fertiliser in the ashes of my garden-stove.
But if you live in a high rise flat, that does not even have a landing where you can keep a neat little rat-proof worm-farm for friends who like compost, or a rat-proof rubbish chute (very very difficult, because rats eat plastic) there are still other things you can do instead of automatically putting all your kitchen rubbish into plastic bags, hung on a peg or lining a bin. Or worse, putting it down the drains with an insinkerator.
New methods to recycle food waste for useful purposes are developing rapidly. For example, bokashi bins which use fermentation can sit in your kitchen, looking really trendy. The costs of such techniques will keep coming down.
You can look at what sorts of rubbish that you have.
* The only kitchen rubbish that needs wrapping of any sort to keep your rubbish bin clean and unsmelly is the squelchy stuff and bones. But you accumulate enough unrecyclable packaging to put the squelchy stuff into. Waxed cardboard boxes, plastic bags inside cereal boxes and other food packets, the unrecyclable plastic containers, plastic bags that have been re-used so often in shopping that they have become tatty – keep these in a grocery box. As needed, fill these containers with your squelchy rubbish to put in your kitchen bin. All this bin needs is a liner at the bottom, such as the plastic wrapping from a daily newspaper, or tatty cardboard.
IN THE KITCHEN keep your bin for rubbish on the floor or inside a cupboard, the size and shape you need need. If you don’t want to bend, your bin can sit on a box. I like a rectangular bin kept under the table. Just tip in the kitchen rubbish without bagging, except for bones and soggy stuff and bones, which go inside the old packaging. With a worm farm or compost bins of course there is no soggy stuff.
YOUR OUTSIDE WHEELIE BIN needs only a bit of old cardboard or paper, such as copy-paper wrapping at the bottom. The contents of the bin just get tipped into the garbage truck, with no human handling, so plastic wrapping isn’t needed at all..
Your kitchen-rubbish regime soon becomes as easy and automatic a habit as brushing your teeth.
MAKING LESS RUBBISH to go in your bin.
Re-use, recycle, mend, op-shop what you can. Use all the food you buy. Compost what you can for your garden or neighbour’s garden. Make a little worm-farm. Taking out the trash appears to be the major chore for teenagers in American comic-strips. No need here.
Take re-useable string bags, baskets, cardboard grocery boxes (keep boxes in your car) or a shopping jeep. (See the chopping chapter, for a description of the waterproof two-wheeled shopping jeep with a stander foot, that is the most useful and easy to pull or push or let stand.)
Re-use clean bags for shopping, storing things in, for carrying anything you like. Wear one as a hat if you are caught in the rain. It is far more creative as a game to find 100 uses for a plastic bag than finding 100 uses for a dead cat or a brick. Or, ‘100 ways to do without plastic bags’
You can keep your collection of re-useable multi-use grocery plastic bags in a box, or in your ‘green’ shopping bag, which you hang on a coat-hook or in the kitchen, or inside another large plastic bag on a hook, or in your shopping jeep . You find they will breed. More sensible than squeezing them into a bag, to pull out at the other end looking tatty already.)
Keep bags that have become tatty inside another box or bag, to end their working lives as containers for soggy-squilchy rubbish you can’t use for anything.
LARGE PLASTIC BAGS from clothing and other stores are useful for storage and for gift-bags. The labels can be appropriate for the gift – books in a book bag, surprises in a show bag. You can store large bags flat in a drawer, or inside each other on a hook in a back room, or slip bags over an old mop-pole in a corner. It is easy then to find just the one you want.
(But there is another problem. What about the supermarkets? Checkout staff can work quickly when groceries all go straight into the plastic bags that hang ready in dozens below the till. It can be slower when someone hands over green re-usable bags to be filled. When someone uses no standard bags at all it can take longer still, because goods are handed back to the customer to pack herself in her trolley, box or big shopping bag, while she gets in the way, but at present supermarkets with high volume turnover may want to keep on dispensing plastic bags, to avoid slowing down, even for a second. Yet even this can be solved, for example, by ergonomic improvements, or by computerised checkouts that are on the way.)
The old story runs—For want of a horse-shoe nail the kingdom was lost. Plastic bags are like horse-shoe nails in reverse. Smothered in plastic bags the kingdom was lost.
Save a fish! Save petrochemicals! Save landfill! Save the future! Twenty million Australians could save sixty million plastic bags a week! That’s a lot of saving.
Biodegradable bags
Friends of the Earth say degradable and biodegradable bags are not an environmentally friendly option. Degradable plastic bags usually can’t be recycled with normal plastic bags, and people may think they can put degradable bags into their compost bins, which they can’t. Degradable bags are still made from plastic, continuing to place demands on oil. They contain a metal additive to make them degrade and tend to require sunlight to break down. If biodegradable bags end up in landfill, they eventually produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Paper bags are no better, says Friends of the Earth. They are less easily reused and require more energy and resources to make and transport than plastic alternatives. Bags made from recycled plastics, which are then reused or recycled, are considered by many to be a better option, but recycling points are not yet widely accessible. Far better to use durable bags, string-bags, baskets or boxes when shopping.

Re-uses for plastic mail envelopes and newspaper plastic wrap
Plastic mail envelopes and newspaper plastic wrap have more uses than you realize, if you cut or pull them off so they do not tear, and keep them in a handy flat box for the envelopes and a container for the newspaper wraps.
I use them for keeping my papers sorted, mailing papers and disks, covering food dishes in the frig, and in making flower bouquets.
DOG POOPER-SCOOPERS. It is not only undesirable but in many places illegal for dog droppings to be allowed in public spaces. They can spread diseases and parasites, they get washed into drains to pollute them, and mess up unwary footsteps. They cost councils and water-companies a surprising amount of money.
Plastic bags are useful to take with you as pooper-scoopers for your dog. Tongs or plastic gloves are used to scoop them into the bag. Rather than buy plastic bags specially for this purpose, however biodegradable they may be advertised, re-use the bags that turn up in your home anyway, including the plastic envelopes that come in the mail with magazines and reports.
There are now high-tech products advertised to be able to mechanically scoop poo into bags, or to solidify it with expensive sprays, but none so far are worth the money, or to be frank, the extra effort they really involve.
Sooner rather than later however, more environmentally friendly disposal method will be invented, so that all those tons of dog droppings in every city every year can at least be used as fertilizer in compost (since because dogs are not plant-eaters, their poo is not much good on its own.)

September 21, 2014

Experiment in teaching literacy

Filed under: children, Education, spelling — Tags: , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 11:40 pm

Teachers teach what they have been taught to teach. It does not occur to most of them to query what they have been taught. Some children will always fail to learn to read; the reasons are assumed to be intrapersonal, their own defects, if they are middle class, and their lack of educational background, if they are disadvantaged. Who dares think that the task may be at fault? Who dares think that the task could be easily amended so that more children and adults could read it?
Thousand of books and articles are published every year, and thousands of research articles are devoted to this terrible failure to learn to read in English. Yet the failure to learn in English is greater than in any other language that has half the resources dedicated to its teaching.
In Victorian times hundreds of the eminent and well-meaning sought to reform everything they thought needed reforming, and this Age of Reform achieved most of its aims, from abolition of slavery to the Industrial Revolution. But they did not manage to improve English spelling or its teaching. So the working classes spent a third of their primary education on learning spelling. The ‘dyslexic’ among the middle classes received remedial education once they had failed.
Today we realize that the spelling reformers went too far. They tried to reform English spelling root and branch – it was too much, changing the alphabet or changing the spelling so much it would need to be learnt all over again.
But now Anglo countries are running out of innovation. Are we afraid? The costs of our illiteracy and child difficulties are more than in other modern languages which have updated the ways that they teach beginners, making it esier for them – in alphabetic spellings updating them, and in languages like Chinese and Japanese making the beginning of learning to be easy, e.g.with hiragana, and leaving the hard way for later, when learners were more confident and readier to spend the time on repetition to remember their characters in hanzi and kanji.
In English the educators and dictionary-makers stick to the old spellings, and a vast literature exists to keep them as they are, for the sake of tradition.
Yet it would be easy to make life easier for the down-trodden in English spelling. The Left would be able to reach them, which it cannot now.
– http://

Innovation in publishing and education in English

April 25, 2014

cheap worm farms reduce landfill from rubbish

Filed under: conservation, economic, garden, social innovations, social problems, Waste, waste — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:24 am

THIS simple design for a homemade worm farm is rat-proof and fits a small shady space. It suits a family of four, as the worms eat the kitchen scraps so fast!
All you need are two empty plaster or paint cans, often thrown out from building sites, and two cheap plastic garden sieves. Builders and plasterers at a building site will usually be happy to give you the used cans rather than throw them in a rubbish skip.
Place one can in a depression in a shady space on damp ground. Put a sieve on top. Cut the bottom from the second can. Place the can on the sieve. Top it with the second sieve (if there are very clever rats around, weight this sieve with half a brick, so vermin can’t lift it).
The sieves stop rats, mice and blowflies getting in, but allow worms perfect freedom to come and go. A few fruit flies do not matter.
Start off the worm farm with some damp earth with a few worms in it. They will multiply quickly, so there is no need to buy worms.
Then all you do is add your kitchen scraps (except bones) to the top can. Worms don’t like citrus, eggshells or tea leaves much, so put those in your compost bin instead. After a few weeks, you’ll have made rich fertiliser for the garden. Just lift the top can off and take out the fertiliser (full of worms) from the bottom of it. You can also take rich worm tea (from the worm poo) from the bottom can.
Shift the worm farm around the garden if you like, but keep it in a well-shaded spot—a cooked worm farm is a sad and smelly thing.
Apart from the fantastic fertiliser, having a worm farm reduces your waste: only bones and packaging need go out in your rubbish or recycling bins. Your compost bin (or heap) will
a All you need is a couple of old buckets and two garden sieves.
also have less food scraps in it and so will be less likely to attract rats. As an added bonus, the worm farm also stops the used plaster cans from going to landfill; these plastic cans are useful as gardening buckets, too, and for making liquid manure.
It’s amazing how quickly the worms reduce the scraps to earth, so the worm farm is hardly ever full. And with a well-run worm farm there’s no smell.
Friendly neighbours in flats could share a worm farm or you could even keep this farm on a balcony in a flat.
Perhaps councils could promote or sell these very cheap worm farm kits, as well as the more expensive commercial worm farms that many sell already. Everyone could afford one! S

Shops full of food

Filed under: conservation, economic, Waste, waste — Tags: , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:15 am

Shops full of food
The food Shops at our shopping centre are full of food. They have far more on display than we can hope to buy. Fresh food must be thrown out; food past its use- by- date must be thrown out.
The shops have to have this display because otherwise we shoppers think the shop has had it, and we will not buy from a shop that does not look full of goods.
But it means we pay more for what we buy, because we must pay for what gets thrown out.
SUGGESTION. Since shoppers will not learn to shop at shops that do not look full of goods, shops could have ‘pretend goods’ apart from what they have a good idea they would sell.
Made of plastic, they will look just like more of the fresh goods that are on sale. They are already on sale by the makers of artificial products for various purposes. They will just make more of them – artificial fruit, vegetables, meats, bread and cake.
When people in the world are starving, we should not insist that our shops carry more than they can sell or even put out for dumpster scavengers.

January 11, 2014

Truth, Lies and Pretends

Filed under: children, Education, Fantasy, social problems — Tags: , , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:46 am

It is almost always possible to tell the truth to children – and to others.
And it is necessary for the sake of our society.

The general agreement on a recemt Life Matters program that lies were inevitable to children is a change from the past, when theology not psychology would have provided the standard – however much people might have in practice fallen away from that standard.

When the children ask, tell them Santa and the Tooth Fairy are Pretends. Do you want to join in this Pretend? (Oh YES)

“There’s a bear under my bed.” “Mummy can shut that sort of bear in the cupboard.” (She leans under the bed and then shuts the cupboard door, and for as long as necessary at bedtime she shuts the ‘Imaginary Bears’ in the cupboard.) If a scent is used, it can be called a This-Can-Work,-We’ll-Try -This, without specific details or promises.
Promises. “We might be able to go to the beach tomorrow but I can’t promise.”

(Do I look nice in this? ) I like the blue dress better. (It is not fair to someone to let them think they look good in something that makes them look dreadful.)
(How are you?) All the better for seeing you, or Better than yesterday, or Battling on.
A dreadful dinner party. Choose the least worst thing to praise. “I particularly liked the – “

I believe that . . . but I may be wrong.

Dreadful questions – “Where is your father?” demand the baddies. “I don’t know where he is just now” or whatever can be told truthfully. Let’s hope we never are asked that sort of question. It’s not the sort that we usually are tempted to lie about.

If individuals have a reputation for truthfulness, we then know we can trust them. Nobody – neither me nor you – has never told a lie, but we can do our best.
A country with a reputation for dealing in truth has a great commercial advantage in the world as long as bad apples can be prevented from taking advantage of that reputation. We must keep our land incorrupt.
Victorian England and Scotland had a great advantage in an incorrupt civil service. The Quakers became wealthy because people knew they could trust them in business.

There are ‘pretends’, stories and fiction that can be shared around, as well as lies intended to deceive, not to amuse.

Suppose Truth became an ideal stronger than power or wealth or sensual pleasure. All of these goals are finally inaccessible in any ultimate form – but all of them direct our lives. What could happen with a goal for Truth?

A country with a reputation for dealing in truth would have a great commercial advantage in the world as long as bad apples could be prevented from taking advantage of that reputation. Currently the shift in business theory is to be quite open about deceit as a legitimate business manoeuvre, with best-seller adaptations of Chinese treatises on the art of war, such as Chu Chin Chang’s ‘Thick Face Black Heart’ so admired by the chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank, which through a merger became the biggest banker in USA.
A great deal of time and money would be saved in politics with open government and even in diplomacy. ‘I am sorry we cannot support East Timor in this as we want the oil from the Timor Straits’. ‘We are backing X because we fear future invasion from Y.’ ‘We can’t ban landmines because we would need them if we were invaded ourselves.’ Such naivety would be so incredible that other countries would be stymied and incredulous.

No incoming government could be surprised by the financial situation it met – it would be open knowledge. No voters could be surprised by what a newly elected government would do – it would have told them. ‘We will do this, unless that happens, when we will do such and such.’ We could even have voting for major policies as well as persons on the ballot ticket – plus regular electronic voting.
Statistics would always be presented to the public with figures, not just percentages. For example, it could be made quite clear in an opinion poll on satisfaction with education that only 100 parents of primary children had been asked their opinion, so that the comment in a newspaper editorial two days later would read ‘as shown by the opinions of 68 of the 100 parents of primary children polled recently, the great majority of Victorian parents are very satisfied with primary education today’.
If a mistake was accidentally made in any reporting in the media, the correction would be given as much prominence as the mistake. When letters were published containing information that a newspaper knew was incorrect, the correct information would appear in an editorial note below.
A regular feature in all media, electronic and print would be features for viewers, listeners and readers, ‘We want to know’ – not just about pets, gardens, health, finance and kitchen renovations, but about what was going on. What special rebates are being given to which group where? Why can’t this be done? Why was this done?
Budgets and government accounts would be given mass media circulation in comprehensible detail, including spending on publicity and consultants. Calls for tenders would have open details. Government contracts, once made, would have no shield of ‘commercial confidentiality’. After all, a Victorian newspaper in the 1880s printed the whole of of the Westminster Confession of Faith during some local theological controversy.
Advertising – now that is tricky. At present advertisers are the real modern equivalent of Renaissance patrons for art – and they are the patrons of the art that the public really likes. And to a large extent, when consumers buy products advertised on television, it is really the cleverness of the advertising agency not the value of the product that has attracted them. I think my vision would be of ‘sponsored commercials’, rather like the present sponsorship of whole programmes – the advertiser produces a segment of pure entertainment, followed by a clear and accurate statement of the advantages of the advertised product. The policy of public benefactions and sponsorships would also continue to create goodwill for businesses. However, the disadvantage for small and new businesses in lacking capital for expensive advertising would be overcome by special chances for them too to advertise in print and in all the electronic and broadcast media. Truth in business and advertising would apply to prevent individuals simply changing business names to abandon responsibilities and to resurrect to despoil others yet again.

Mr Gradgrind of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times was suspicious of anything that was not a fact – and he backed teachers who would not allow that horses could be depicted on home furnishings because real horses could not prance up walls like that. Sometimes I sympathise with Gradgrind when I am fed up with too many whimsical picture-story books for preschoolers like ‘The elephant that wanted to be a geranium’ or ‘The best nest’ that get their laughs from depicting stupid and twee behaviour. Why shouldn’t reality be fascinating? Why shouldn’t a cabinet of crystals be delightful?
What would happen to schooling if truth was a priority?
In the first place, English and media courses could be radically different because they need not spend so much time and effort trying to warn the young against being duped by all the misinformation and misleading advertising they would face in the real world. They need not spend so much time teaching the young how to produce advertising copy that preached any side that was asked of them.
Historical novels such as The Hand that Signed the Papers would of course have disclaimers that fact and fiction were mixed; most would indicate the historical characters, and have a note about significant changes in interpretations and events – as many novelists already do.

History would contain many more connections and more context – it can never avoid interpretation, but readers would be given a note about interpretation. At present young students often study snippets of time without any overview, on the grounds that overviews are impossible – but they are necessary. The old memorising of dates was indefensible – but knowing about a time-line did give a setting for the present. Students need to know about how the past attempted to cope with its problems, and the results, and how it differed from the present, in order to stop repeating mistakes, and to have examples of ideals and heroes, with all their tragic flaws, and not just be fed models of the mean and mingy.

Drama is a special case – because here actors are deliberately trying to be other than themselves, in scenes that are not real events. I think that children, at least, are less likely to understand the characters if they act them than if they read about them or even watch great plays about them. This is because they cannot avoid injecting themselves and their own immaturity into what they play. After Socrates has died near the teachers’ desk or Captain Cook sailed on the playground or Antigone been shut in the cupboard or Jesus has had trouble adjusting his bath-towels, the triviality of the permanent impressions can make it unlikely that most members of the class will ever understand any of these above a childish level. Simply reading around the class divorces the present scene from the remembered language. That is what I liked about the way we ‘studied’ Hamlet and Macbeth at school, not the pundits who had written about them.

‘Honesty’ is often given the tag ‘brutal honesty’, in the same way that ‘reality’ is hard to dissociate from ‘harsh reality’. Here we face how much damage is done by people who think that if a cruel thought happens to come into their head, in order to be honest they have to say it and hurt people, often with barbs that never can be torn out. The matter is not as simple as that – the real truth is how to say what needs to be said in ways that will help not harm. If we have to say everything that comes to mind, we would all be the greatest bores, muttering all the time like so many Stephen Blooms.

If people felt bound in their inmost hearts to tell the truth, the law would be revolutionised, probably changing from the British adversarial to the Continental truth-seeking system. Pleading guilty or not guilty would solve most issues. However, I doubt if my vision can really assume a change in how easily human nature can deceive itself and in so many ways, when the personal costs can be so high. On the other hand, at present the law makes it often very difficult for the truth to come out. The only time I was called to be a witness, in a car accident case, it was possible to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, but to tell the whole truth was against all the rules of procedure – and yet the magistrate could not judge the case fairly without knowledge of significant facts that were necessary and relevant for the case. I managed to tell the whole truth but it was hard in the face of the legal procedures,

Religion is an interesting case about Truth. Faith has been defined as ‘belief in what cannot be proved, the experience of things unseen’ and certainly there are more things in heaven and earth than can be proved. Prophets and their followers can be sincerely convinced of their messages. However, today there is a good deal of religion-inventing that is not based on experiences of revelation, deluded or not. People can invent goddesses simply because they don’t want to be patriarchal, not because they genuinely think a goddess exists. Druids dress up imagining horned gods in Sherwood Forest. Superstitions multiply today without any concern for scientific evidence. “Do you think it is true? What are the grounds for you thinking this up?” are simple questions that should get answers. Do Satanists really believe in the Devil and seek to propitiate it? What if they were truly faced with what they conjured up?

A fairly general opinion now is that there is no Truth, not even at the bottom of the proverbial well. Everything is mirrors, illusions, change. This perception is increased by the scams and spams on the Internet, by computer imagery and by psychedelic drugs, which at one stage people like Timothy Leary thought might make truth more accessible to consciousness. Watch a few dozen videoclips or virtual reality, and the real world may only be recognised in the prick of a pin – ‘I dislike what I fancy I feel’.

In personal affairs, the Moral Rearmament people have found that living by absolutes is pretty hard. There is the joke about the competition for liars, which so shocked a parson who claimed he had never told a lie in his life – and so he was awarded the prize. Francis Bacon’s essay on Truth (‘What is Truth?’ said jesting Pilate and would not stay for an answer) is worth revisiting – Bacon himself had problems in the practicalities.

Truth is a journey that may never have an end. Old-time pilgrims believed they followed a track with maps. The modern tourist usually does not even have a brochure, but it would be the holiday of a lifetime.

November 29, 2013

Australian population

Filed under: conservation, population — Tags: , , , , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 10:26 pm

We cannot hope to do anything about protecting nature while we expect enormous population increases. Melbourne growing to 8 million people
with the loss of some of the most beautiful country and wildlife in Australia is
No profit to anyone except developers and big retailers.
Great trouble for all other inhabitants with horrid housing, transport, loss of amenities and fertile farmland, more landfill etc.

We must keep our population low while we still can.
Climate change requires a smaller population to survive.
No more baby bonuses after the first two children is easy to do, for example.

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