Sunday, June 25, 2006


I've been reflecting, during the World Cup, at how good we Australians are at watching sport in the middle of the night. But it's part of being a sports fan, here. We've grown up watching pretty much any world class sport in the middle of the night. Think Ashes tests, Wimbledon, US & French Open tennis, Olympics, FA Cup finals, various Golf tournaments etc. etc. And of course the World Cup of Football.

When I lived in London, I suddenly realised that the rest of the world doesn't really do that. Although every now and again there is something on the other side of the world, it's not a standard part of being a sporting fan. A combination of a lot of Australians being fanatical enough about sport to actually watch something in the middle of the night, and that there is very little world sport actually happening in our own time zone.

Just that, by itself, probably gives the average Australian a much better appreciation of the size of the world than people in most other countries. We're not necessarily any more cosmopolitan, but we know from an early age, that exciting things happen in other parts of the world. ____________________________________________

For myself, I have never gone without sleep to watch golf (or even watched it voluntarily), but I have gone without sleep to watch everything else on my list above. And I'm not that much of a sports fan, really.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Via JennyD, I found an on-line Myers-Briggs personality test. I did it out of curiosity to see if my rating would have changed from when I did it 10 years ago at some work love-in. It hadn't, I'm still INTJ - Introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging (the opposites are extroverted, sensing, feeling, perceiving). Each of the 16 possible categories has some wonderful description and adjective that you can model yourself on so that you feel good about yourself.

Doing it knowing what the categories are gives you a slightly different view of what it all means, and I found it interesting when I got to the introversion questions. There are two quite different aspects to introversion, as defined by this test: do you like being the centre of attention? Do you like being with other people? For me, the answers are definitely not, and yes, I really enjoy being in a group of people. But for E, he is an introvert the other way round - he's quite happy being the centre of attention, but needs some time to himself to recharge after being forced into a big group.

It's interesting watching our kids - C takes after E and loves being the centre of attention, but will wander off with a book in the middle of a party. D seems to be taking after the extroverted parts of both of us, so far.

To me the two aspects are so different that it's almost strange that they are both labelled "introverted".

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I loved reading Fever Pitch, (one man's story of the highs and lows of being an obsessive Arsenal fan) when I first found it, but I never thought it would apply to me.

But watching the World Cup last night with Australia spending most of the match futilely trying to match Japan's controversial goal before coming good in the last 10 minutes with 3 glorious goals, I was reminded, unexpectedly of Nick Hornby's description of how, when you're a fan, you spend most of the time hating your team for their ineptitude. Every time Australia wasted time passing the ball to each other outside the penalty box before being tackled by the Japanese defence, or alternatively took hopelessly inaccurate shots at goal, I was inwardly cursing their hopelessness.

I realised that the Australian men's soccer team is one of my few experiences with real fandom. I'm not a serious fan in the Nick Hornby mold, but I have come to care. Probably that experience of watching Australia throw it all away in the last few minutes against Iran 8 years ago has made it that way, but who knows what captures the imagination? Suffice to say I'm now even more jealous of my brother's tickets for the Croatia game next week. That one's going to matter.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Gifted education

I've been mulling over gifted education for a while.

I think that streaming children into different ability levels is, on the whole, a good idea (that's probably the most controversial statement in this post). It probably doesn't matter that much in the middle of the bell curve, but at either end, children will learn better when they are learning with other children who learn at the same rate. Everybody is happy with doing that for sport and music; why not for book learning?

But, on the other hand, it's a good idea for children to be exposed to the fact that not everyone is the same. My son's kindergarten class has a child with Downs syndrome, who is probably operating at the level of my just-turned-three year old at the moment. I do think that it is good for everyone in that classroom to get to know him as a person, and to understand that he's a bit different. But I felt very sorry for him having to effectively sit and entertain himself as I played number bingo with his three classmates who were operating at a level that they could write numbers, and cross them off as they got called out. He has a full time aide though, so most of the time he gets pretty effective one-on-one education.

So the way in which the NSW education department suggests operating gifted and talented programs in infants and primary school - pull outs for a few lessons, rather than full on streaming - seems sensible to me. That's providing the kids who get pulled out are genuinely operating at a higher level (i.e. top 5% at most, not top 15%; probably the top 1% are the ones that really need it), and it seems sensible also to leave the kids together a lot of the time so that they get to know children at different levels as well.

But then the question is whether such programs become yet another way for middle-class parents to get more than their fair share of the education budget within state schools. If the testing for who gets into gifted and talented programs is based on achievements (like early reading), rather than some better measure of intrinsic intelligence (such as an IQ test, with all its faults), it will generally miss the children without rich intellectual home lives, and the children with english as a second language. That's not a reason not to have gifted and talented programs, though; it's a reason to make sure you have good identification methods, so you don't just get the polished middle class kids (although middle class kids can be gifted too!).

The other aspect that is often missed with arguments back and forth about gifted education is friendship. Some (not all) gifted children do find it easier to make friends with those who are also gifted, or operating at their own levels (e.g. an older child). Those children are condemned to loneliness if they never spend time with children their own intellectual ages.

From reading up on the subject, the simplest, cheapest way of providing for gifted children is to allow them to accelerate through school - start young, or skip a year or two along the way. It doesn't require any special programs, or special schools, just acceptance from teachers and schools. Although many teachers think that's a terrible idea, overwhelmingly the research supports it (see this campaigning summary of the research). Some accelerated children have trouble with their older classmates in their teenage years, but many don't, and their non-accelerated peers generally have more social problems along the way, if you do comparative research.

So that's what we've done with our older son - he started school at 4 years 5 months (six weeks younger than he was officially allowed). So far it's going great, and we don't think his classmates have really noticed yet, but I'll keep you posted.


A couple of contrary links: Laura at 11d had a post a few months ago about how she got really annoyed by gifted education in NY, because it tended to get hijacked by middle-class parents who wanted a good education for their children, but couldn't afford private school fees. And susoz at personal political had a post about the gifted education pull-out classes at her son's school, and how she found their testing methods a bit odd, and found it hard to believe that they would do much good anyway, the way they were structured.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Slow down

I've decided to slow down a bit on this blog. Notwithstanding all my crowing posts about work-life balance, it's catching up with me.

I started a new job just over three months ago, which I am finding far more interesting and enjoyable than my old job. The main thing is that I am learning, and continuously interested in what I'm doing (even when it's frustrating). But there are two side effects; firstly that in getting up to speed with a challenging role, I'm spending about an hour longer on work every day (mostly at home); and secondly, that because I'm finding it both interesting and challenging, my brain is engaged for even more extra time. So I find myself thinking about work (when not at work) far more than I ever used to.

It's a classic example of the employment phenomenen described in the book Better than Sex (which I reviewed a few months ago) - for an employer, you want someone who is engaged with their work for as much of their waking day as possible, and I am starting to become that person. I'm not necessarily moving that way voluntarily, but when you find a job interesting, sometimes it's hard not to.

So I've decided that since my home life is suffering from this, I'd rather it didn't suffer from thinking up blog posts all the time, too, so I'll only post when the spirit moves me, rather than feeling slightly guilty if I don't post every day or so. I can't imagine that I'll manage to cure my blog addiction entirely, so feel free to check in once in a while! While I've managed to cure blogging as a procrastination device in the office (largely by moving somewhere where I'm actually "engaged" (to use current HR jargon)), I find it hard to go a day without checking my favourite blogs, even just for "10 minutes" (hah!) on the way to bed.