Show us your favorite t-shirt.
Yesterday's letterbox junk included a flyer from an academic coaching college – the kind of place that specialises not so much in remedial tuition as in helping kids pass selective high school and scholarship exams.
Among its claims to fame, the college says it placed 66 students in the 2007 Year 7 intake for the best selective high school in the state. Now, given that this school offers only 120 places in Year 7 and assuming that there are other coaching and tuition colleges around the city that are also successfully preparing students for selective high school entrance tests, it does rather look as if a significant majority of the current cohort has been coached. (Whether or not these students *needed* the coaching in order to gain their places is too speculative a question.)
Flashback 25 years: some of the kids entering Year 7 at this school had been in "opportunity classes" in Year 6 – a kind of accelerated or advanced program that allowed bright kids to tackle more challenging work – but very few, if any, had had any kind of formal coaching for the entrance tests themselves. It was more a case of blithely rocking up to the examination centre on the day, doing the tests, and thinking no more of it until the results came in.
Let's say I'm bothered by the shift. There's a difference between extending an academically gifted child through more challenging or advanced study and coaching them to blitz a very particular set of tests. One stimulates intellectual development and joy of learning as well as allowing students to progress at a faster rate than they might otherwise in normal classes; the other has a narrow focus which is entirely to do with "getting in" (and then what?).
My concerns aren't allayed in the slightest when I read forum and facebook discussion comments from recent alumni and current students and see disturbing references to "Factory/Academic Centre of Excellence" and "UAI factory". It's odd, because on the face of it the school still has what looks like a thriving extra-curricular program (all the music, theatre, debating, sports, cadets, Duke of Edinburgh, and other programs of yore) – so students must be doing more than churning out the marks – but it does seem as if the attitude and values have shifted.
Perhaps it comes from the school, but given its relatively stable teacher population I'm not convinced by that argument. Perhaps it comes from the students and their perceptions of what's expected of them after high school. Or perhaps it comes from the parents. After all, it's a parent who sends a 10 or 11-year-old to a coaching college...
And then there is the inevitable: a few years back another large coaching college was alleged to have stolen past papers, thereby giving their students an unfair advantage on tests that are ultimately meant to test natural ability.
Moving from parliament to the media later that month, an article that mentions that the tests be given a written component. I found that interesting because there had been a written component in the past, so clearly at some point the creative writing and similar writing questions had been removed.
These are old links, but reports and comments elsewhere suggest very little change. One kiddie last month wrote: "i ama kid and i hate selctive high schools because they put so much pressure on us to get in. parents send kids to coaching3 days a week." Sad.
UPDATE (10 April 2008): Allan Tieu, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, offers a different perspective on the broader theme.
Here's one for the ladies: What's in your handbag right now?
Submitted by Kadeeae.
My "handbag" is in fact the lovely chocolate coloured shoulder bag that has taken me from work to concerts and just about most places that aren't casual since 2003. Not a handbag exactly, but not a satchel or a briefcase either. (Looks a little like the Arielle.) Perfect.
The techie stuff: mobile phone, PDA, iPod and in-ear monitors, flash drive
The prepared for all occasions stuff: folding umbrella; tissues; crystal nail file; tiny purse that manages to hold chapstick, travel toothbrush with mini toothpaste, lipgloss, earplugs, eyedrops, toothpick, tampon, panty liner, glasses cleaning cloth, bandaids, nurofen, lip and eyebrow pencils, and an aromatherapy roll-on.
The writing implements: Rotring Freeway ballpoint pen, Lamy fountain pen, Staedtler clutch pencil
The "access" stuff: keys, work pass
The CDs (at the moment): a recording of Celibidache conducting Ravel; a recording of an interview that I have to edit
In a simple Lantern Paper zipped fabric "stationery satchel" (which, incidentally, sort of matches the aforementioned folding umbrella): Moleskine Cahier medium lined notebook for research notes, a fundraising brochure for an orchestra I don't work for, some health insurance documents that I need to act on, and something I found on the printer at work that horrified me at first and now just makes me laugh.
The paper stuff: business cards in an embossed aluminium case, Remo General Store 2008 Pocket Planner, Moleskine grid pocket notebook, Moleskine volant lined notebook (for library/catalogue searches), Moleskine red weekly pocket diary (which I actually leave at work during the week but take home on weekends to plan), homemade Circa hipster PDA (modelled on the Levenger variety) that I'm experimenting with, and in a slim plastic file various work papers that I really need to weed big time!
And finally: my wallet with money, cards, public transport tickets, etc.
Conclusion? I probably carry more than I really need to, especially on the accumulated paper and notebooks front. I'm a Moleskine tragic, it goes with saying, and I believe in using good pens – always.
Tell us the story behind one of the text messages or voicemails you have saved in your phone.
One of my few saved text messages purports to have come from Alban. That is, Alban Berg, Viennese composer. I was about to talk about his Violin Concerto to an audience of concertgoers that evening. His message said:
Well I didn't tell them all his secrets, just some. Even though he died in 1935, so the message surely couldn't have come from him, could it?
Don't tell them all my secrets!
Something I wish I had made...
I saw this gorgeous yellow and black wool mantle at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It's by a French designer, Paul Poiret (1879–1944). I bought a postcard, thinking that one day I might try to copy its deconstructed kimono styling. But I never did. Or at least I haven't yet! More detail about the mantle can be found on the V&A website at this link. And the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers more background about Poiret here and here. (The Met has included some fascinating video animations showing how Poiret manipulated linear fabric into incredible draped and spiralled designs on the mannequins themselves, eschewing the traditional method of shaping garments from cut pattern pieces.)
Issey Miyake springs to mind as a contemporary manifestation of the technique. And in fact there is an Issey Miyake for Vogue jacket (the one at the bottom on the left), which I've also yet to make, that is in much the same spirit!