Category Archives: Reblogs

Reconstructed music of ancient Greece

Why Evolution Is True

Reader Gravelinspector sent this 15-minute video and the comments below; I found that listening to what the ancient Greeks may have heard as their music was fascinating. How did they get the melodies? Watch the video!  Now a lot of the music is improvised, but we do have a starting point.

From Gravelinspector:

This is probably going to mean more to you in terms of the technical terms like “rhythm” and “melody”, and what the actual sounds are, but in the wider cultural sense, I would be surprised if you didn’t sense an attraction to seeing a performance of a 2000+ (sometimes nearer 2500) year-old play in a theatre where it was performed 2000+ years ago. (We went to see Oedipus Tyrannos at the Herodion in Athens – not quite hitting the 2000 year mark.)
 
Anyway, a combination of archaeology (preserved wooden instruments), epigraphy (interpretation of inscriptions) and the…

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Schools are not adequately preparing young Australians to participate in our democracy

The Conversation

File 20171211 9386 g1ceyf.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
As young Australians approach voting age they need simple, clear and practical instructions about the mechanics of how government works and how to vote. Shutterstock

Zareh Ghazarian, Monash University; Jacqueline Laughland-Booy, Monash University, and Zlatko Skrbis, Monash University

Australia’s youth are interested in politics and are passionate about issues but, unless we take note of the latest report into civics and citizenship education, their capacity to participate in democracy and shape society in future may be limited.

Since 2004, the National Assessment Program – Civics and Citizenship (NAP-CC) has been administered every three years to a national sample of year six and ten students. It’s used to measure students’ level of knowledge about subjects including Australian government, judiciary and democratic processes, and explores their attitudes towards civic participation.

The 2016 NAP-CC report has just been released and the results show some concerning, but familiar, trends.

As with previous assessments, the percentage of Australian students achieving the proficient standard remains low. This is a point on a scale that represents what has been deemed as a challenging but reasonable expectation of student achievement for their year level.

The report shows 55% of year 6 students achieved at or above the standard.

More problematic is the fact the rate of year 10 students attaining this standard was just 38%. This is the lowest result on record.


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Civics and citizenship is a government priority

Enhancing young people’s understanding of civics and citizenship has been a priority for successive Australian governments.

The Australian Curriculum: Civics and Citizenship was developed in 2012/2013 to provide educators with tools to teach students about democracy and civic participation. This curriculum is delivered to students from Year 3 to Year 10. It’s based on the principle that informed and committed citizens will advance a robust democracy and schools play a vital role in preparing young people for the responsibilities of adult citizenship.


Read more: National curriculum review: experts respond


This latest report into civics and citizenship education is the first opportunity for educators to see how students are performing under the new curriculum, and the results are disappointing. It shows by Year 10, Australian school students don’t possess the fundamentals deemed necessary to become active, informed citizens.

So what else should be done to help prepare our young people to participate in the democratic process?

What do young people think?

We have been undertaking research with recent school leavers aged 18 and 19 about their preparedness to participate in the Australian political process.

Many have told us they’re interested in political issues, but are uncertain about how the system works.

They also believe more could’ve been done to address this knowledge deficit while they were in school.


Read more: Young Australians are engaged in political issues, but unsure how democracy works


These high school graduates reported, while they could recall the subject being covered when they were in primary and early secondary school, they did not remember what had been taught.

The young people we spoke to suggested civics and citizenship education be extended through to Year 12. Interestingly, they wanted it to be viewed more as a life skill (similar to drug and alcohol education, for example) and not an academic subject.

They said young people need support when they’re approaching voting age and it would be useful for schools to assist with enrolment and provide basic information about the system of voting.

As one 18-year-old put it:

The last time that my high school spoke about politics I was in Year 9. I was 14 years old. I’m not voting yet, it’s not relevant to me, I’m not even 16. I can’t even go to the doctors by myself.

A simple and clear explanation in late high school would help alleviate the feelings of uncertainty first-time voters can experience when they go to cast a vote at the ballot box.

As another 18-year-old said about her peers:

So many of my friends said to me, “which box do I tick?” and, “what do you mean I have to go above the line and below the line?”. Basic definitions and terminology is really important.

Where to from here?

The 2016 National Assessment Program – Civics and Citizenship report tells us by Year 10, a majority of school students have little knowledge about Australian civics and democracy. This is concerning, especially as many students don’t encounter the topic later in high school, yet they will be required to vote when they turn 18.

We need to ensure all young people have the basic skills required to engage in Australia’s political process. As young Australians approach voting age they need simple, clear and practical instructions about the mechanics of how government works and how to vote.

The ConversationSchool is the best place to teach this and it should be covered in the senior years. Doing so would help more young people become confident and empowered participants in Australia’s democracy.

Zareh Ghazarian, Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, Monash University; Jacqueline Laughland-Booy, Research Associate in Sociology, Monash University, and Zlatko Skrbis, Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. (Reblogged by permission). Read the original article.

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Five Books: Robert McCray’s list of the best novels in English

Why Evolution Is True

Over at Five Books, writer and journalist John Robert McCrum (also an associate editor of The Observer) has compiled a list of his Five Best Novels in English, and also makes some thoughtful remarks about other novels and the genre in general. (The interviewer is my friend Sophie Roell, whose questions to McCrum are in bold.) It’s interesting that three of the five are by women—and were written in an era when women novelists were very scarce.  I’ll show pictures of the books and give a few quotes that I like (indented) as well as my own remarks (flush left). I’ve read four of the five.

I’m not sure how old this piece is, but McCrum published a longer version of his list in book form, The 100 Best Novels in English, in 2015—surely a book I’ll read, as it’ll guide me to good novels I’ve missed.

Voilà: the…

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Cézanne Portraits @ The National Portrait Gallery

Books & Boots

Over a working life of some forty-five years, Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) made almost 1,000 paintings, about 160 of which are portraits. This major international exhibition brings together over fifty of Cézanne’s portraits from collections across the world, including quite a few which have never been seen in the UK, allowing us to review the development of his style and technique through the prism of this one genre.

It proceeds in a straightforward chronological manner, starting with family members, especially the series of his Uncle Dominique, dating from the 1860s – some 26 self-portraits – a whole room devoted to portraits of his wife, Hortense – and ends with his portraits of working class men and women near his home in Aix-en-Provence, particularly portraits of his gardener, Vallier.

Uncle Dominique in Smock and Blue Cap (1866-7) by Paul Cézanne. Metropolitan Museum of ArtUncle Dominique in Smock and Blue Cap (1866-7) by Paul Cézanne. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Early on we learn that Cézanne was schoolboy friends with Émile…

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Impressionists by Antonia Cunningham (2001)

Books & Boots

This is a small (4½” x 6″) but dense (256 high-gloss pages), handily pocket-sized little overview of the Impressionist movement.

The ten-page introduction  by Karen Hurrell is marred by some spectacular errors. In the second paragraph she tells us that Paris was ‘in the throes of the belle epoque‘ when the 19-year-old Monet arrived in town in 1859 – whereas the Belle Epoque period is generally dated 1871 to 1914. She tells us that Napoleon Bonaparte had commissioned the extensive redesign of the city – when she means Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, the great man’s nephew and heir, more commonly known as Napoleon III, who reigned as Emperor of the French from 1852 to 1870.

Thus cautioned to take any other facts in the introduction or the picture captions with a touch of scepticism, nonetheless we learn some basic background facts about the Impressionists:

  • Monet was inspired by the French landscape painter…

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Frank Zappa on communism

Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, composer, activist and filmmaker. His work was characterized by nonconformity, free-form improvisation, sound experiments, musical virtuosity, and satire of American culture.

“Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.” – Frank Zappa

 

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Is Lindsay Shepherd still in trouble?

Why Evolution Is True

Most of you know know about Lindsay Shepherd, the graduate student at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University (WLU) who was threatened by her advisor and her University for showing a short clip in class of Jordan Peterson’s views on using different pronouns for different genders.  Her university has apologized, as has her advisor, but it created a big kerfuffle in Canada, with most people being outraged that she was treated so poorly and harassed so mercilessly. Fortunately, the facts came out because Shepherd was savvy enough to tape her inquisition and to take it to the press. She’s since been all over the media, and that, of course, has simply emphasized that the Termite Feast has reached Wilfrid Laurier.

But is she off the hook now? Not according to columnist Christie Blatchford at the National Post, who talked to Howard Levitt, a Toronto employment attorney who’s defending Shepherd pro…

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A Closer Look: Colour by David Bomford and Ashok Roy (2009)

Books & Boots

This is another superbly informative, crisply written and lavishly illustrated little book in The National Gallery’s A Closer Look series. To quote the blurb:

A Closer Look: Colour explores how painters apply colour, describes different types of pigments, and outlines optical theories and artists’ treatises. The authors explain the effect on colour of the artist’s chosen medium, such as oil, water or egg tempera, and the dramatic impact of new pigments.’

It ranges far and wide across the National Gallery’s vast collection of 2,300 art works, selecting 80 paintings which illustrate key aspects of colour, medium and design. The quality of the colour reproductions is really stunning – it’s worth having the book almost for these alone and for the brief but penetrating insights into a colour-related aspect of each one.

They include works by Seurat, Holbein the Younger, Corot, Duccio, David, Chardin, Ghirlandaio, Monet and Van Dyck in…

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A Skeptic’s Guide to the Age of the Earth

Victorian Skeptics

This is a re-blog of an article which was first posted on this site in April 2012. Like most of our “Skeptics Guides” it was based on a Vic Skeptics discussion pamphlet. The full range of our discussion pamphlets can be downloaded in .pdf  form by clicking the “useful info” link here or at the top of the page.

USEFUL INFO

When naturalists started examining the Earth in the 18th century for evidence of its age, they were to a large extent seeking to confirm the suggestion of the Bible that the Earth was several thousand years old; but the closer they looked, the less certain they were that this was the correct answer.

Geologists examined the rocks across Britain, and noted that the same sequence of rocks occurred in different places, suggesting that the rocks had a common source. They also noticed that different levels of rocks contained different…

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Section 44: Is elected local government office an “office of profit under the Crown”?

I also have doubts as to how an elected local government councillor could be an employee of the Crown, since he or she takes no instructions from the Crown and is not paid by the Crown.

Boilermaker Bill's Rum Hospital

The section 44 juggernaut just keeps rolling. The next question likely to come before the court as a consequence of Jacqui Lambie’s disqualification on dual citizenship grounds is whether her likely replacement, Devonport mayor, Steve Martin, is himself disqualified, for holding an “office of profit under the Crown”, with respect to his office in local government. Martin maintains that he is on solid ground, citing advice given by the then Clerk of the Senate ahead of the 2016 election.

Indeed, history suggests he has a strong case.

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