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Deng Adut

The other evening, I was asked to photograph the New Members Ceremony for the Golden Key Honours Society from Western Sydney University Campus. Areas of Western Sydney are areas of welfare and poverty, and it was inspirational to hear stories of people who have managed to achieve high marks in their studies so far. Only the top 15% of students are offered a place in this society which prides itself on 3 pillars, Academia, Leadership and Service.IMG_2147

I have been a member of Golden Key now for about 8 months, having first been invited when I was doing my degree at ACU. It was because of my involvement with that chapter, that I was invited to take the photos at the ceremony for new members.

One of the highlights of the evening for me, was hearing a young man named Deng Adut give the keynote speech, and receive his honorary membership to the society. Deng was born in Sudan. At 6 years of age, he was taken by an army from his war torn village. he was made into a child soldier. Deng has written a book of his harrowing ordeals called “Songs of a War Boy”. you can purchase a copy here. http://dengadut.com/dengs-book/IMG_2220 (2)

Deng was shot a number of times and carried schrapnel around in his body. As a result of one of his injuries, he was unsure whether he would be able to father a child. On Friday evening, he told us a miracle had occurred and he became a father 3 weeks previous.

Deng arrived with his brothers, still a wounded child. When he arrived, he could not speak much English, and he could not read or write. He taught himself and did anything he could to drag himself through school and later University, graduating in Accountancy and then Masters of Law. He is now a partner in his own law firm, and a greatly sought after public speaker. Deng gave the Australian of the Year speech in 2016 and became NSW Australian of the year in 2017.

It was an honour to hear him speak, inspiring the high acheiving students in the room to keep going.

The older brother who helped Deng escape into Kenya, to later be granted refugee status in Australia, returned to South Sudan as an Aid worker. Unfortunately he lost his life while saving others. deng has started a foundation in his honour. It is called the John Mac Foundation. It is “a charity working to educate and empower refugees and people whose lives have been interrupted by war.” Donations to the charity, and to find out more about it, you can go to http://johnmacfoundation.org/

I hope you find inspiration in the life of Deng Adut. If a wounded Child Soldier, who cant speak English, work to achieve a Masters of Law, become a father, and help so many others, what can someone who grew up in a privileged western society do.

Blessings

Dave

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Facts. Hard Times,Gradgrind and The Wall

“In this life, we want nothing but Facts,sir, nothing but Facts”. (5)

“Girl Number 20, unable to define a horse” (7)

Sissy could of course defined a horse, but it would not have been in the terms that Gradgrind would have liked to hear. She would have said that they are magnificient creatures with shiny coats that have a loving streak and could be encouraged (not trained), to performed tasks when they so loved their master.

But Gradgrind, who I would think had no real reason to be in the classroom, and the aptly named M’Choakumchild wanted only facts in this chapter of Hard Times entitled ‘Murdering the Innocents’. Mr M’Chakumchild would strangle every bit of creativity and playfulness out of every pupil in this utilitarian world.

When Sissy Jupe told Gradgrind that her father “belongs to the horseriding, ” she was in fact talking about the trick riding of horses in a circus, for the entertainment of people. Gradgrind was adamant that he must have a more nobler, more useful profession, that of a “veterinary surgeon, a farrier and a horsebreaker”. Imagination and playfulness killed (or at least stunned), mission accomplished.

In this extended version of the filmclip of The Wall, by Pink Floyd, we see the master admonishing the boy in the class for reading poetry. Again the arts, imagination, and playfulness are killed.

The education of children was purely for the results.Little has changed. Education is not for the growing of the mind or extending the imagination, but for the testing of the mind and comparing it to others who were taught the same thing. Children are taught to compete. Who can remember the lessons taught, be compliant to the rules given and tow the line the best? It is really not for the betterment of the pupils but for the advancement of the teachers. The teachers and schools can show how well they do their jobs, and therefore compete with the funding of the almighty dollar. Think NAPLAN (for international readers, please google it).

Teachers, mentors, parents and others need to produce innovative thinkers of our children. To just be thinking along the same lines will not cut it in a world that is dying, in a world where things always need to be done better. We need to teach children to think more for themselves, to explore, to use their imagination.

I hope that in the future we might encourage children to ask why, and when they do, we will not answer with the classic “Because I said so”.

Dave

 

 

 

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The scholar

image

Sketched ideas for a canvas. It shows the schoolboy writing lines on a blackboard in the background with the idea being that he then grows up to become the teacher who is sitting at the desk in the foreground. The plan is to have the background in shadow and the foreground lighter…representing the passage of time. But both characters in the piece will be highlighted to make the connection between the 2.

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The Changing Role of Education from a Sociological Perspective

Following is my final paper for the course Introduction to Sociology.

Finishing this course will give me a University Certificate of Liberal Studies. It is this certificate which enables me to go on and study at ACU, doing my BA next year. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to study at this stage of my life and look forward to doing more next year.

The Changing Role of Education from a Sociological Perspective

According to Jacque Delores, the mission of education is to enable each of us, without exception, to develop all our talents to the full and to realize our creative potential, including responsibility for our own lives and achievement of our personal aims. (Delores, UNESCO 1996). This education does not begin at the start of the first year of institutionalised learning and end when one completes a degree at university, but rather continues from our first breath to our last. This essay however, will concentrate on the changing role of institutional learning from a sociological perspective.

In earlier generations, it was the role of the family, and the mother within that family to be the primary agent of socialisation for a growing child. The mother was there to teach the first words, to encourage first tentative steps and to praise the efforts of children as they grew. Now these milestones are being achieved in day-care without the input of the mother. In fact, there is a curriculum called Early Years Learning Framework written to encourage and document milestone achievements from birth to five years of age. (Community Childcare Co-operative, n.d)

Increasingly, due to economic pressures, the mother is returning to work and placing the children in child care, day care or kindergarten at a much earlier age. Where previously it had been the role of the parent to prepare children for the next phase of their lives, the first day of school, this role is now being given to institutions who have specialised ‘school readiness programs’. (Wellbank Children’s Centre, n.d.)

From a functionalist perspective, Emile Durkheim wrote that the main function of education was to create social cohesion or unit (Durkheim, 1956). This is achieved not only in the classroom, being a collective class, but also on the school sports field as a unified team. Durkheim went on to say that schools are likened to mini societies in which we are to live and work.

Talcott Parsons, continuing on that theme, stated that schools take over the socialisation role of the family becoming a secondary socialisation agent. Peers are also an important secondary socialisation agency. Students at this age are influenced greatly by what their friends collectively think and do.

Where in previous generations secondary school was about learning the fundamentals and a range of cultural and social subjects; it is becoming more geared towards gaining credentials for future employment. The Higher School Certificate was considered an achievement in itself, whereas in this generation it is a means to achieve the required Tertiary Entrance Rank to study for further qualifications.

Tertiary education is now more vocationally based, with the end result being certification or a credential to obtain employment. William Chace states in The American Scholar that over the last four decades there is a shift away from English with the study of business becoming the most popular major.

English: from 7.6 percent of the majors to 3.9 percent
Foreign languages and literatures: from 2.5 percent to 1.3 percent
Philosophy and religious studies: from 0.9 percent to 0.7 percent
History: from 18.5 percent to 10.7 percent
Business: from 13.7 percent to 21.9 percent (Chace, 2009)

Credentials are becoming more important to be considered for meaningful employment. This is also reflected in changing statistics from ABS on education levels completed across the generations. Whilst generations labelled Oldest, Lucky and Baby Boomers had a consistent level of around 10% for the highest level of schooling being year 12; this has jumped to 23% for Generations X and Y. Indeed non – school qualifications have risen from 23% in the Oldest Generation to 57% in Generation X and Y. (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS] 2006). Those without qualifications have little chance of competing for well-paid employment in this capitalist society.

In previous eras, following work comes retirement and leisure time. Durkheim states that the old should retire and leave the work for younger people. (Durkheim, 1984) Leaving a work environment with its own social structure could leave one bewildered, wondering where they fit in. It is fitting then that older people seek to include themselves in groups of likeminded people.

Leisure, then, is a block of unoccupied time, spare time, or free time when we are free to rest or do what we choose. Leisure is time beyond that which is required for existence, the things which we must do, biologically, to stay, alive (that is, eat, sleep, eliminate, medicate, and so on): and subsistence, the things we must do to make a living as in work, or prepare to make a living as in school, or pay for what we want done if we do not do it ourselves. Leisure is time in which our feelings of compulsion should be minimal. It is discretionary time, the time to be used according to our own judgement or choice. (Brightbill, 1960)

Increasingly, leisure in retirement is including further education. Sydney University of the Third Age organises life-long learning for retired and semi-retired people in a friendly and stimulating environment. Mature aged students learn subjects that are not geared toward further employment, rather what is of interest to the student. These could include new skills in Arts, language, music, history and a whole range of subjects. There is no qualification needed and none is achieved. Education at this time of life is for interest sake only, not to gain a qualification. Older people can then reintegrate themselves into a new social group, again feeling a sense of belonging.

So we can see that education and educational institutions are important not only for the teaching and acquiring of knowledge and skills, but from a functionalist sociological perspective, to socialise people on all levels. Day-care takes over the primary socialisation agency from the parents, in teaching basic social interactions and skills needed to progress to the secondary stage. Primary and secondary schools teach social cohesion as well as preparing students for adulthood and vocations. Tertiary education facilities continue that vocational focus preparing young adults for work and family life. Then after employment ceases, mature age students learn subjects of interest to them, for pleasure not productiveness, and as a way to stay part of a community.

References

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2006) A Picture of a Nation. Retrieved from http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/5f72bc4e2f670666ca25754c0013fa19/$FILE/20700_a_picture_of_the_nation.pdf

Brightbill, C.K. (1960). The challenge of leisure. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice- Hall.

Chace, W. (2009) retrieved from http://theamericanscholar.org/the-decline-of-the-english-department/#.VEWxevnLfig

Community Child Care Co-operative Ltd (NSW) (n.d.) Early Years Learning Framework Practice Based Resources – Developmental Milestones. Retrieved from http://files.acecqa.gov.au/files/ACECQA/2014/developmental-milestonesDevelopmental%20Milestones%20and%20the%20EYLF%20and%20the%20NQS.pdf

Delores et al, (1996) Learning, The Treasure Within. UNESCO publishing retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0010/001095/109590eo.pdf

Durkheim, E. (1956) Education and Sociology. New York: Free Press

Durkheim, E. (1984). The division of labour in society. New York: Free Press

Wellbank Children’s Centre, Canada Bay (n.d.) School Readiness and Transition School Program: Retrieved from http://www.canadabay.nsw.gov.au/link.aspx?id=749

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A S Neill and Summerhill. Essay number 2

The second essay asked us to look at some of the Innovative Thinkers within education, and asked our opinions. It had to be a critical essay with peer review articles to support our views and findings.

I chose A S Neill and Summerhill as the subject of my second essay.

I disagree with A.S. Neill’s statement that “A child is inherently wise and realistic…if left to himself will develop as far as he is capable” ( Neill 1968). Wisdom comes with age and experience. This is not inherent in a child but must be nurtured and encouraged to grow to maturity.

I believe Neill’s ideas in education are admirable but simplistic. I certainly admire his goal to produce happy individuals, but his view on how to produce children that are happy, functioning individuals is simplistic and based on the notion that a free child is a happy child. It doesn’t take into account external factors and fails to acknowledge that feeling sad is a natural part of life.

The style of education presented at Summerhill, while producing happy creative people, is not realistic or conducive to producing a responsible member of society and does not consider the personal and social implications for the child who attends nor the community in which He is to integrate.

In my opinion, an educational institution should provide:

  • Guidance in the learning of basic skills such as reading, writing and elementary arithmetic
  • A framework which provides guidance to learners from those with the ability to make informed decisions
  • Basic tenets for individuals on how to function within a structured community
  • Situations which allow the child to recognise that life will include the full gamut of emotions.

For a person to be able to survive successfully in a society basic literacy and numeracy skills are vital. “The school enables the children to develop their numeracy and mathematical skills based on their individual needs and choice and at their own pace. Summerhill Numeracy Policy “If a child doesn’t want to study mathematics, it is nobody’s business. (Neill 1964)

Neill’s vision of creating happy children rather than knowledgeable ones while admirable does not do the child or society justice where assessment is based on Summerhill being an academic facility. Neill claimed often that “Summerhill was not a boarding school, it was a children’s community.”(Neill 1964) I agree that it should not be considered an education facility however with its provision of teachers it is on some level striving to be one.

Education should be designed to prepare a young person for the future, both as an individual and as a member of the community. Summerhill does neither of these. Summerhill houses a child until they are 16 (maximum), and then thrusts them into the community to try to survive. Neill’s view of producing “happy street-sweepers” doesn’t work in a society where one is expected to know how to fill in an application form and communicate at an interview.

A child is not inherently wise. Wisdom comes with age and experience. A child is far from realistic. A child both then and even now lives in an instant society. They want things and they want it now. Children cannot fully comprehend that each action has consequences that are far reaching.

Freedom at Summerhill included freedom to be yourself, freedom to play and general freedom. (Neill 1964) Children enjoy as much freedom as is given. The self governing system at Summerhill while helping children see that there are consequences, needed far more guidance from those with the ability to make informed decisions; people who are able to foresee problems and able to circumnavigate any disasters rather than simply let them happen, and pick up the pieces afterwards. It was because of the self – governing aspect of Summerhill that the buildings were in disrepair, were dirty and the electricity was not operational. ( Cassebaum 2003)“This is a children’s community not a boarding school” (Neill 1964)

The community meetings were held weekly to discuss problems within the school and the breaking of the rules. Each person has an equal say in the community regardless of age or status. Fines are issued for misdemeanours and recompense overseen. The act of stealing from another student is not punished per say but if the offender confesses, the debt is to be repaid and then the matter is closed. There is no societal debt. If a child should commit a crime in the community outside Summerhill however, the child is berated at the meeting and given punishment that fits the crime, as this affects not only the victim but the reputation of Summerhill as a whole. Profanities were not dissuaded in Summerhill; rather swearing is an accepted form of communication at the institution.

Rules and Laws are generally put in place for the benefit of all society and as guidance for individuals on how to act within a functioning society. Summerhill itself had rules governing limits put on children of certain ages, and times. For example different bedtimes were allotted to children of a specific age group.

Happiness should not be the ultimate goal of an educational institution.   Happiness is not just a matter of “freedom to be oneself”. It is not a bad thing to be unhappy, it is a part of life and one should know that it’s ok to feel that way. Happiness is desirable but only one of the emotions that make up a full life.

In conclusion, it is my opinion that children at Summerhill do not benefit from such a liberal method of education and that the capabilities of children are extended by more formal educational facilities. When the wisdom of ex-students has matured, they discover they do indeed need more instruction in the three R’s and further their education later in life.

Ainsworth.S, Cunningham. I, Gray. H, Hannam.D, Honey.P, Horsburgh.J, Reid.C, Rosen.M. (2000)REPORT OF AN INQUIRY INTO SUMMERHILL SCHOOL – LEISTON, SUFFOLK JANUARY 2000

Cassebaum.A. (2003). Revisiting Summerhill:  The Phi Delta Kappan , Vol. 84, No. 8

pp. 575-578

Appleton.M. (2002) A Free Range Childhood: Self Regulation at Summerhill School

Review by: Donald Stucky Utopian Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 171-172

Neill. A.S. (1968). Summerhill, 1968 Middlesex: Pelican books

UEA East Anglia TV (1964) Recorded interview with A.S. Neill

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Attention. first essay

I have just finished a course within the Certificate of Liberal Studies which was entitled ‘Innovative thinkers and Education

Within that course were asked to do 3 essays. I will present the essays for you here for your perusal and comment.

 

The question for the first which I answered is ” Is attention essential to life and living?”

I agree with the question’s central proposition that attention is critical in life and living. Our choice as to what to give attention and to what degree determines the outcomes and quality of life.

 Firstly we must begin with a definition. Attention can be defined as the amount of energy one chooses to dedicate to the present moment. Focusing one’s full attention is important to our well being. It is optimal to devote one’s full attention to the task at hand; to consciously give full command of one’s senses to now. WE can see this in a number of instances that I will highlight in this essay:

  • Attention is a choice we make
  • Attention is important in terms of safety and mental wellbeing
  • Being attentive is critical to relationships for them to be fulfilled
  • There are many impediments to being fully focused
  • There are learned techniques we can employ to help us give attention

 

Attention is a choice. While the brain is capable of so many thoughts at once, one can choose which tasks to devote our attention to. While the brain is capable of many tasks at once, many of these are done sub-consciously; breathing, blinking for example.

 

But attention is a conscious act. As the mindfulness training coursebook notes, when we are offering our attention, we can respond with awareness and clarity rather than out of habitual patterns, or learned behaviour. We can become aware and to some extent control sub-conscious tasks if we pay attention to them.  Breathing, moving, sensing, seeing, hearing, even balance can be regulated by being attentive.(2012)

 

 Attention is self- regulated. Nobody can force you to pay attention. Humans are a curious race. Our desire to learn demands that we give the subject our full attention for results to be optimal. The level of importance we place on learning the lesson subconsciously dictates the level of attention we dedicate to it.

 

Attention is about making what you are currently doing the most important thing in the world. Leave the past behind, it cannot hurt you. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (NIV Bible 1984, p. Matt 6:34)

 

 “If you take care of each moment, you will take care of all time. There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. The time is now.”

(Jack Kornfield… taken from Mindfulness Training Course Book 2012)

 

Concentrate on now; live in the present. Focusing on the present is taking care of current needs as this is what will take you forward to the next, and the one after that.

 

Paying attention to the task at hand is important to our wellbeing. This includes not only our physical safety, but also our mental health.

 

 

 

 

 (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2013), defines anxiety as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. If we are able to concentrate on the now and not worry about the future, anxiety is lessened and our mental wellbeing increased.

 

On the other hand, being aware of the body, with all limitations, current pains and feelings let us compensate for weaknesses so one can assess what tasks the body is capable of doing; not subjecting the body to extra stress. So we can see that paying attention to the present, not letting the past control us, nor worrying about the future is optimal to our health, and the health of those around us.

 

Attention is important to achieving a fulfilling relationship. Relationships of all kinds demand some level of attention for them to continue. Eye to eye contact when speaking shows attention is given to the speaker.

 

Relationship can be defined as communication or connection between two or more people (oral workshop “looking for Mr Right” at ACON 27 August 2013). Giving attention selflessly is an important part of a loving intimate relationship. So attention is critical for maintaining and fostering relationships.

Impediments to attention are an important consideration and we can see the potential effect on the quality of life through a number of items.

 

Multitasking is said to be a talent that the female of our species are blessed with. Is it an actual talent? Or does it perhaps imply a lack of attention to the task at hand? Can one be fully attentive to more than one task at one given time?

 

The RMS (Roads and Maritime Services of NSW) suggests in advertising that driving demands the full attention of the driver. Without that full attention, the risk of accident is far greater.

 

“In-car distractions can seriously impair driving and potentially contribute to accidents. In-car distractions include mobile phones, entertainment systems, interaction with passengers, and most recently satellite navigation systems. ( Nevile & Haddington.” 2010,piii).

 

 

There are many other impediments to giving full undivided attention to the task at hand. These could include personal, internal and physical distractions including comfort, temperature, and hunger.

 

 Today’s society is an instant society demanding to be constantly stimulated. If that stimulation is not forthcoming quickly, then attention could be lost or not fully given when required.

 

To combat some of these impediments, there are learned techniques available to help us achieve a greater level of attention in our lives .Mindfulness training is teaching people to be attentive not only in everyday tasks, but to be attentive to oneself. Recognising different sensations throughout the body and becoming aware of different thoughts and feelings within oneself. This allows the student to be more attentive within and without to the present moment and the tasks it presents. Mindfulness helps one to overcome the distractions to attention.

 

As I have highlighted in the key points above, the ultimate goal for devoting full attention is quality of life. It allows the lessons that life offer to be fully comprehended. One can have an epiphany to the meaning and purpose of one’s life, giving one a goal to work towards, and the means to get there.

 

Attention is important to life. It assists in the development of meaningful relationships. It assists to keep one safe and well. Attention allows one to experience the fullness of the moment, getting the most out of life’s lessons and embracing all that life has to offer at that moment. There are many impediments to attention but these can be overcome by choosing to give our attention to the present time.

 

 

 

Openground Training and consulting: Mindfulness Training Course Book (5th ed.) (2012) Double Bay NSW

 

Holy Bible New International Version: Matthew 6:34  (NIV Anglicised text 4th ed.) (2008) Minto NSW

 

Nevile, M., & Haddington, P. (2010) In-car distractions and their impact on driving activities. Canberra: Department of Infrastructure and Transport

 

Anxiety. (2013) Retrieved from http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/anxiety?q=anxiety Oxford University Press.

 

Oral workshop “looking for Mr Right” at ACON 27 August 2013

 

Keating, R. (2013) Reading #1; Let us begin with attention. Sydney ACU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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