JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Unintended Consequences – part 1

We come across these stories all the time: Those moments when the most well-intended ideas turned out to have a kicker of an outcome. It’s time to start organizing and filing them.

Money is a powerful fuel. But, some people think you can inject it into a human ecosystem, and that everyone will keep acting the same.  Like people are forgetting the feedbacks….

Here, one legislator describes the outcome of his own work as a “gigantic rort”, and another researcher uses the word blackmail. Meanwhile, two out of three children diagnosed with autism in Queensland are apparently not autistic.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time: Who could argue with extra funding for schools to help them teach children diagnosed with disabilities? But, alas, money can’t be tossed at any system without changing the system, and now in Queensland, children are three times as likely to be diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) as children elsewhere.

Disorder in the classroom on the rise


Teachers and schools take the carrot that’s dangled. They want the extra funding on offer, and some of them push hard on parents to get children diagnosed with ASD.  Parents and doctors get squeezed, and children may spend tender years growing to fill shoes they don’t fit.

From The Australian today, credit must go to Dean Wells for being so honest about the legislation he helped create:

Funding for autism in Queensland schools was championed by state Labor MP Dean Wells a decade ago, when he was the minister for education in the Goss government. He knew early intervention could change young lives, but he is now the most vocal critic of the scheme he created.

“I had my heart in the right place. It never occurred to me it would become a gigantic rort,” Wells tells Inquirer.

As the architect of the scheme, he feels a great sense of responsibility and disappointment. Many children who do not have autism have been labelled for life.

“It’s a mass defamation of an innocent generation,” he says. “It’s appalling. It is driven by the fact that to get resources out of the Department of Education you need to get a diagnosis.”

According to Queensland DET figures on state school funding, there is $510.9 million available this financial year to support students with disabilities with specialist teachers, therapists and teacher’s aides.

There’s no extra funding for ADHD (hyperactivity) or ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) in Queensland, though in NSW right-next-door, there is both funding and, not coincidentally, diagnosis.

In Queensland it’s a case of where there is a dollar, there is a diagnosis, according to O’Keeffe. Despite the high levels of ASD in the Sunshine State, there’s not a single case of oppositional defiant disorder in Queensland schools. ODD is marked by a child’s ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behaviour towards authority figures that goes beyond the bounds of normal childhood behaviour. It exists south of the border in NSW because the disorder is recognised and funded in schools.

Don’t think I have any great answers, but New Zealand’s approach might avoid the whole quagmire that is “diagnosis” and labeling.

Wells suggests Australia look to New Zealand, where a verification system is in place for children needing assistance.

“In New Zealand, a teacher says this child is difficult to teach, for whatever reason, it is verified without a medical diagnosis and assistance is rendered. They don’t have kids labelled.”


Please dig out and list other examples of unintended consequences (readers will appreciate a wry explanation and a link if you can manage it). We need to raise awareness that governments can be dangerous entities, even if they are run by honest hardworking and compassionate people.


Misdiagnosis?

For those who want more specific information on the misdiagnosis of gifted souls, the book below is written by experts who work at the front line, and systematically lists the telltale differences between gifted children with eccentric behaviours, and children who are in need of some more specialized attention.

What it doesn’t really deal with is that some food additives appear to increase or exacerbate irritable children with stuttering, repetition, ADHD, sleep disorders. and a whole list of other symptoms.

Misdiagnosis And Dual Diagnoses Of Gifted Children And Adults: ADHD, Bipolar, OCD, Asperger’s, Depression, And Other Disorders

James T Webb

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45 comments to Unintended Consequences – part 1

  • #
    MadJak

    Jo,

    First of all Dean Wells should be commended for his honesty and his ability to put his ego to the side in order to help make the world a better place. It’s a trait we don’t often see.

    I read somewhere in the long long ago that psychologists have a label/compartment for everybody. Unfortunately to some people this offers an opportunity.

    What people seem to not understand is professionals in any area are prone to the same bias and preconceived ideas as anyone else. They can and do make mistakes. This is not a criticism of the professionals themselves, necessarily, to err is human, after all.

    Mistakes taken at the systemic, institutional and/or political level, however, are particularly pernicious and have to be acted upon and corrected both quickly and effectively. Very few high level systems will work perfectly the first time.

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  • #
    Dave N

    The prime example is of course, Climate Change (or Global Climate Disruption, or whatever Holdren’s phrase of the year is).

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  • #
    Binny

    It’s simple really, you get what you pay for. If you pay for autistic kids then autistic kids is what you get.

    00

  • #
    Rick Bradford

    Government intervention almost always has the opposite effect to that intended, because the people who get into positions of political power tend to be narcissistic moral pygmies with no understanding of human nature and no interests beyond making themselves feel adequate, and getting re-elected.

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  • #

    This is IMHO the root of the USA’s welfare problem. A system that started out with the best intentions of helping out low/no income families has been perverted into a system that pays women to produce babies with out any external means of support or succor. And to add insult to injury, the politicos have latched onto this and are bent on maintaining the system in perpetuity so as to maintain a liberal voting base.

    When the govt. offers $ for a particular item or situations those things come out of the woodwork at alarming and often preposterous rates.

    BTW, I am glad to see at least one “Official” who is willing to admit that something isn’t working as intended!

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  • #
    John Trigge

    1. Running generators and arc lamps at night for feed-in tariffs – http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/04/13/the-insanity-of-greenery/
    2. Payment for freon 23 destruction becoming the prime business rather than producing HCFC22 and destroying the freon 23 by-product – http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/08/24/the-biggest-environmental-scandal-in-history/
    3. Funding/grants to study anything that will confirm AGW
    4. Batts/roof insulation subsidies in Australia – look at how many new installers crawled out of the woodwork for that rort (and we are still paying the consequences in deaths and more money for inspections)
    5. Building the Education Revolution – shonky work, over-priced constructions, unwanted facilities, inappropriate facilities, etc
    6. Cane toads
    7. The use of 2 digit year fields in computer systems made for less space being used in the days when computer memory and storage was expensive. Then the year 2000 approached and an inordinate amont of many, time and man-hours was spent to overcome the ‘year 2000 bug’

    and on it goes………

    [John. Thanks. An excellent start. That's just what I had in mind. Cheers, JN]

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  • #
    elsie

    I was a teacher. I began in the days when old fashioned teaching was applied. That is, maths tables were taught by rote, spelling and grammar as well as speech development were all high priority. So too were salient facts in Social Studies such as the Magna Carta. Geography that taught where the main cities and rivers were was a favourite with kids who loved to produce the best looking maps. Science too concentrated on basic points that would be of value later on.

    But then process education infiltrated the content so much that most content went by the wayside. It didn’t matter so much if a fact was taught but rather how a student arrived at a conclusion, right or wrong. Worse, there was to be no negatives. No marking with red pens. Then no real marking at all. Every pupil received a good or merit for any work (so called) performed. No teacher could raise their voice or even give a child a stare (such as Julie Bishop’s ‘death stare’!)

    Children, contrary to present belief, like strict parameters, rules, a structured environment, etc and without these tend to lose focus, discipline and any behavioural compass. I believe that is why many more children become disorientated at school. This shows up as behavioural problems or switching off. Students may have been bored in spelling lessons but they get lost when ther is nothing to follow. This is not a plea for corporal punishment. It was good to be rid of that.

    But schools can’t be substitutes for Disneyland with something breathtakingly new every day or being lavished with unearned rewards every hour. Autism is real and it may have been missed in the old days but with the post modern teaching methods autism is certainly over diagnosed. Some pupils just need to be told and be aware that they are not the centre of the universe. Egos of pupils and parents may be hurt but that is just too bad.

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  • #
    Ken Stewart

    I have a modicum of experience on this topic as a school principal (until 3 years ago).
    Autism Spectrum Disorders are a very real range of conditions that can have a mild to devastating impact on a child’s development and education. Until about 5 years ago Education Queensland’s policy was for funding to be based on the diagnosed level of disablity. Then it was recognised that the diagnosis rate was escalating, and the policy was changed so that assistance is now provided on the basis of the degree of adjustment to the educational program that is required. I am not aware if this has reduced the number of diagnoses but, because it is only assessed once a year, it has reduced the level of support available to schools.
    In my experience parents are very determined advocates for their children, frequently advocating for the school to do more for their children than the school team thinks is needed. In other words, I would think that parents are driving the ASD diagnosis rate up more so than schools urging parents to get children diagnosed. Diagnosis of ASD is by a paediatrician by a formalised process. If initiated by a school, the interval between the teacher’s referral and final diagnosis and verification can be many months, and additional support is usually not provided until the following calendar year.
    Similarly, ADHD is a real condition and can be successfully treated with drugs- I’ve seen many cases of this. There are also many instances (I would guess one third) where drugs are not warranted and teachers frequently call this “Discipline (or Dad) Deficit Syndrome”. By the way, there is no funding for ADHD support in Queensland.
    I have had to deal with children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder and it’s not much fun. It is diagnosed in Queensland, and reported, but there is no support available except from a few and far between Challenging Behaviour (I forget the real title) centres. Likewise children with mental health problems get no support at all.
    The incidence of ASD, ADHD, ODD, and mental health problems has increased markedly over the past 20 years. There may be some misdiagnosis of ASD especially in mild cases but not all. If the rate is statistically different between different states the reasons need to be explored fully.
    Ken

    10

  • #
    Lawrie

    Unintended consequences. My niece has a son diagnosed ODD. She focused on diet and eliminated all preservatives etc and hey presto ODD a thing of the past until someone, usually another child, introduces a lolly or biscuit then ODD back. Anecdotally conclusive but no one seems to care. A tablet instead.

    Today the Sunday Telegraph reports a stouch over beachside property owners erecting walls and groynes to protect their properties much to the dismay of surfers wanting access to beaches free of hazards. Reason for the problem; sea level rise due to climate change. That is a rise of about 2mm a year when daily tidal changes exceed a metre or so and a low pressure cell could raise levels by 30 or 40 cms. First you scare people then you have to live with the consequences. In this case the state does the scaring and everyone else pays. These politicians have a lot to answer for.

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  • #

    Elsie and Ken, thanks – it’s great to hear from people with front line experience.

    I do not for a moment begrudge paid support and help for kids with autism or their teachers. In fact I’d like to see more done for their parents — for the parents of all disabled kids. Parenthood is a lottery and those who draw the card that calls on superhuman sacrifices so that our civilization stays civilized deserve much more support to share that task.

    As I said, I wish I had the answer, but somehow we need to keep helping kids who need it (regardless of the cause or condition) and stop providing an incentive to make childrens health into a bargaining chip. Maybe the New Zealanders have the answer.

    Lawrie, I so understand where your niece is coming from and when I have more time I will write about those additives.

    Off the top of my head — tell friends with ODD / ASD / ADHD affected behaviour that getting rid of colours and additives makes a big difference — read the Fed Up With Food Additives site for case studies. Some of them are heart-breaking.

    Get rid of 160b, colours, 319-320 (these are some of the worst), as well as MSG and other flavour enhancers (621 – 635).

    319 -320 are unfortunately often unlisted and are found in bulk commercial vegetable oils, which means they are in many soft butters and margarines, some chips biscuits crackers, and almost all takeways. (Bummer). Stick to block butter, or Mainland Dairy Soft (a NZ butter). Most bottles of oil are ok in Australian retail stores, but not so in NZ I am told.

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  • #
    mobihci

    this is an interesting video of Carly Fleischmann, a bit of a breakthrough in communications with severely autistic children-

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34xoYwLNpvw

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  • #
    Henry chance

    The prescriptive use of psychotropic drugs is increasing at a rate of 20% a year for kids under 7.
    This means children are not learning to control their own behavior. This is scary.

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  • #
    John Brookes

    Indeed Henry chance@12, psychotropic drugs to kids is probably a bad idea. When I was at school, we had the cane and sadistic teachers, and I guess that worked. Not sure I want to go back to it though.

    Other “wonderful” ideas which went wrong:

    Introducing rabbits to Australia.
    Protectionism.
    Hunting passenger pigeons to extinction.
    Trying so hard to have a “fair” tax system that an army of tax accountants are employed (in Oz, anyway).
    Farming large chunks of the West Australian wheatbelt in a way which promotes dry land salinity (predicted in the early 1900′s)

    and of course:

    Burning vast quantities of fossil fuels thereby heating the planet.

    You also might like my theory on autism. I recall research that said that if both parents were from the top 25% of the autism spectrum, then the probability of their children being in the top 25% of the autistic spectrum was 16 times normal. So how can you get young men and women in the top 25% of the autism spectrum together? Well, let them go to uni, where the autistic types will gravitate to the sciences, where they can meet and breed. If you are a right wing nutter, you will conclude that letting women into uni was a bad idea….

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  • #
    Joe Lalonde

    The thing with creating new programs or inflicting new policies on the population is that they usually are the first to be slashed when trying to balance the books.
    How beneficial is it to be dangled a carrot and then taken away?

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  • #

    Joe, yes. Changing the rules is itself another unintended consequence. The Australian government thought mass intro of pink batts was good, but now they pay compensation to businesses who are going broke because the scheme ended suddenly…

    Meddle, fiddle and tweak til it breaks.

    John, it’s easy to criticize right wing nutters when you just make things up isn’t it?

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  • #
    John Brookes

    Fair cop Jo. But I wouldn’t be that surprised if my theory explaining the increase in autism in the last 30 years turned out to contain an element of truth. Having said that, I know three couples with mild to mediumly autistic children. One has two university educated parents, one has a university educated dad who seems a bit autistic, and one where neither partner were nerdy at all. In two of the three cases there is absolutely no doubt the kids are autistic. There is no way any of these kids could have functioned in school without a helper.

    The other increase which needs explaining is peanut allergy. How come this has rocketed? Thirty years ago, there were never any stories about peanut allergy. This is an unintended consequence of what? I hope they find out soon, because I really want to know!

    There was another unintended consequence, which like many things is disputed. Apparently Napoleon changed inheritance law in France, so that property was distributed equally amongst the sons, rather than just going to the eldest. Perhaps the reason for this is that Napoleon wasn’t the eldest, but I don’t know. Anyway, the consequence was a rapid decline in the size of French families, as they did not want to have to split their estates up, and so aimed for just one son. Like I say, this version of events is disputed.

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  • #
    Bob Cherba

    We have the same situation in the USA. As autism has been added to the list of “disabilities” eligible for Social Security payments direct to parents, and other payments direct to schools, the number of autism diagnoses has greatly increased — while the number of children identified with problems not getting compensation has gone down.

    Also, since autism is apparently more “socially acceptable,” the trend line for the number of autistic children has increased at about the same rate as the number of “mentally challenged” (or whatever the politically correct term is today) children has decreased.

    I don’t know what the term is in Australia, but in the USA we say “follow the money.”

    00

  • #
    observa

    Same with asthma I suspect after it was suggested my toddler son be treated for it after a succession of wheezes and coughs and colds when nervous mum took him to the docs. I wouldn’t have a bar of it being sure he was just going through the buggy phase where they are gaining their immunity much to mum’s dismay. He’s a 27 year old strapping footballer and surfer today and never had asthma in his life but I wonder with so many nervous nellies about these days and wonder about early use of puffers.

    At a party with the nephew’s crowd recently (30 somethings with 2-7yr olds) and there’s a 6 yr old there who according to mum is allergic to everything from gluten, eggs, peanuts, milk, presevatives, etc and she brings his special carrots and nuts and junk while the nephew and I fair piss ourselves as junior hoes into everything from cupcakes with cream to lollies and cocktail franks, party pies,sausage rolls, etc the moment mum’s not looking. He’s an artful dodger around her and she hasn’t got a clue what he’s up to. Same at kindy and school apparently with no ill effects whatsoever. Too many middle class neurotic parents about with too much information overload these days if you ask me.

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  • #
    MDM

    I submit that “climate change deniers” have Oppositional Defiance Disorder. ;)

    00

  • #
    Grant

    It is very convenient to diagnose a disease or disorder as a cause of antisocial behaviour as it absolves the parents and teachers of any responsibility. Furthermore, by making it a disease it is treatable by medication rather than judicious parenting. I wonder whether the pharmaceutical companies have developed the “cure” before the condition became recognised in society.

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  • #
    Lawrie

    Grant @ 20.

    Several others think as you do and have written a book about it. Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels wrote an illuminating expose called “Selling Sickness”. Pharmaceutical companies have used agencies such as the FDA to promote cures for illnesses that may or may not be serious. Check out the gradual lowering of blood pressure that triggers the need for a blood pressure medication. Keep in mind that many of these medications end up costing the taxpayer through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

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  • #
    passer by

    John Trigge: “Building the Education Revolution – shonky work, over-priced constructions, unwanted facilities, inappropriate facilities, etc”

    Please can you expand on this? Any references? TIA

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  • #
    observa

    Well a quick google can elucidate the problem at least for atopic disease like eczema and asthma. A typical sample here http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/30/1/179.full
    and here
    http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/182_06_210305/gol10313_fm.html#i1085996
    Rising GNP/capita is also associated with higher health spend and couple that with increasingly litigious societies with that GNP/capita and is it any wonder our docs err on the side of caution and overdiagnose such fuzzy sorts of complaints and maladies. Furtermore as we’re continually bombarded with more marginal statistics and health campaigns, is it any wonder there’s an increasing feedback effect with more neurotic parents suffering from information overload? Reading between the lines with some of the research you could bet London to a brick Canberra is the ASD and atopic disease capital of Australia because they have all the precursor planets aligned.

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  • #
    Bernd Felsche

    Despite ahiatus of activity, Sandy Szwarc’s Junkfood Science Blog remains a valuable resource on matters food and health.

    e.g. Can living in rainy areas really cause one-third of autism cases?

    Steve Allen, who coined the term “Dumbth” to describe his “literally daily frustration with the degree of goofola thinking, speech and behavior that had become dominant.” He noted back in the 1990s that most students lacked even a basic grasp of science and ability to reason, and he lamented the dramatic and continuing erosion of American education and intelligence. Many of those students are today’s scientists, educators and doctors.

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  • #
    co2isnotevil

    There were the unintended consequences of the ‘Fair Housing Act’ and the chain of events set in motion. On the surface it seemed like an honorable thing to make loans available for anyone to purchase a house. Laying a guilt trip on the legislators was how it was passed in the first place. This act of altruism had the unintended consequence of triggering the financial crisis. Credit default swaps are often cited as the problem, but those were just risk mitigation insurance taken out by those who were heavily in to the paper backing sub-prime loans. The investors knew they were dodgey, despite federal backing and thought it wise to hedge their bets.

    I’ve noticed that the carbon market has no such outlets for mitigating risk. Such instruments have been legislated away, in fact, it’s not even permitted to take a short position on carbon offsets. I wonder what the unintended consequences of this will be. The market always seems to find a way around ill advised legislative obstacles.

    George

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  • #
    Baa Humbug

    passer by: #22
    September 20th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I guess if you’re always “passing by” things, you would have missed the BER fiasco.

    Try THIS LINK, then follow the links on the left margin titled “related coverage”.
    The hop over to Andrew Bolts blog and spend a few hours “passing by” the hundreds of BER related posts and comments.

    p.s. I assume you are an Aussie. If not, no offence meant by sarc.

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  • #
    John Coochey

    Speaking of false data check out this site for a rebuttal of the half truths at best and arrant nonsense that is usual from John Quiggin on the use of DDT and the rolf of Rachel Carson in killing millions of africans http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2008/05/ddtworks/ Once again his usual smear campaigns are easily rebutted

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  • #
    Another Ian

    What chance this might become fashionable in Queensland and as “Unintended Consequences Part ???” we’ll hear from Rod Welford on the vegetation management acts?

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  • #
    Another Ian

    Re co2isnotevil: #25

    It seems to me that legislators anguish for ages over proposed legislation and smart operators have the way around it in the time of a couple of beers

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  • #

    The title of this post may have been a little unfortunate.

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  • #
    DougS

    There’s a similar situation in the UK. Children diagnosed as having ‘special needs’ (it can be almost anything), attract more school funding.

    So….. you’ve guessed it – lots more kids are now being diagnosed in just that category.

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  • #
    Tel

    http://www.medicareaustralia.gov.au/provider/incentives/pip/payment-formula/diabetes-incentive.jsp

    The Australian Government already pays doctors to achieve quotas of diabetes diagnosis, and pays them per year to ensure no one ever get cured.

    If less than 2% of the patients at your practice have diabetes then you drop below quota and the payments stop.

    Might as well just introduce quotas for all disease, solves a lot of problems, easier for everyone if they just get sick when and how they are told to get sick.

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  • #

    I taught in NZ for a couple of decades in both Primary and Secondary schools and was successful in terms of achievement levels in Primary and exam results in Secondary and generally got on well with most of the kids I taught, with a very few notable exceptions. I moved to the UK to work out my final few teaching years in and near London and literally could not cope with the UK kids’ extremes of behaviour, language and the ‘Special Needs’ system, wherein kids are encouraged by the system to use extreme behaviour to confirm their diagnosis that they were suffering from some form of something with a long acronym on the Autistic spectrum.
    At one stage in NZ, I worked in a special-needs school with violent and abused teenagers; in the UK the same behaviours were almost the norm in some classrooms. I eventually retired a month early due to being beaten up and having ribs cracked by a student in my own classroom, then told by one of the multitudinous non-teaching ‘Senior Management Team’ that the boy’s violence was due to me not allowing him to leave the room when he spotted some mates wandering around outside.
    I was initially trained to believe that often bad behaviopur and poor school performance may be rooted in health problems, but once the health problems are sorted or at least understood, many kids only need to know that there are clear boundaries for behaviour and those boundaries will be enforced for them to flourish.

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  • #
    John Brookes

    And how about the ever so noble prohibition of recreational drugs? It leads to petty crime, hepatitis C, drug overdoses, organised crime and corruption.

    It was misguided when it was alcohol that was banned, and its no better now.

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  • #
    zbcustom

    I can’t think of a better example than the continual closing and narrowing of traffic lanes to provide (under used) cycle ways. The ensuing chaos is then used as evidence for the need for even greater interference in the traffic systems. Of course in this particular case the result is an intended objective but not presented as such.

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  • #
    Tel

    I can’t think of a better example than the continual closing and narrowing of traffic lanes to provide (under used) cycle ways.

    In Sydney they have used up the main road traffic lanes to make outdoor coffee-shop seating where people are allowed to smoke (and generally the indoor part of the shops tends to be mostly empty, because quite a lot of their customers do want to smoke).

    In other places they have marked out cycle ways down the side of the road where everyone parks their car, and everyone continues to park their car in the cycle lane (thus no surprise that cyclists don’t use it). These cycle lanes frequently go for a few hundred meters and don’t match up with anything on either end further discouraging anyone from using them.

    Then there is the idea that cyclists should share the bus lane along with 10 tonne buses and “known for their caution” Sydney taxi drivers. Needless to say, most riders don’t have the stones to tangle with a bus, so they find some back street where no cycle lane is marked and use that instead.

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  • #
    John Brookes

    Hey Tel@36, why are you surprised – it is Sydney after all, a place not famous for its urban planning.

    Here in sunny Perth we have some pretty good cycle lanes, which I use. On the other hand, if I’m anywhere near the centre of Perth, the roads are a perfectly acceptable option. Once you get into the outer suburbs, the hoons make cycling on roads a bit less fun.

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  • #
    elsie

    Grant:#20

    It is very convenient to diagnose a disease or disorder as a cause of antisocial behaviour as it absolves the parents and teachers of any responsibility. Furthermore, by making it a disease it is treatable by medication rather than judicious parenting.

    I agree with you except that teachers are the ‘meat in the sandwich’. I think we should lay a lot of blame at the nebulous ‘Education System’. In my previous entry I tried to show that over the years the Curricula in all subject areas changed from being content based with a certain amount of recall to no real content and emphasis on vague process learning. Instead of teachings say, the capital cities of Australia and their locations one had to dream up lessons that somehow could teach about the geography around the school area. Teachers had to become their own curriculum developers. No more free text books were given…not even a specified spelling list for certain ages. Teachers were teaching in a fog.

    Yet they were being told to give individual attention to children. Well this can work out to be less than 5 minutes a day at best. But the problem children would rob much of that time so the well behaved, eager to learn kids received very little if any individual attention. Add the lack of ANY discipline (keeping in, writing lines, picking up papers, a good talking to, etc) to the mix and schools are just a minding house for working parents from 8AM to even 5PM.

    Ken Stewart:#8
    With all due respect principals were of less and less help. When I started teaching if the principal came to the class the pupils would all rise and say, “Good morning Mr. Smith.” But as time went by in order to be more ‘friendly’ principals stopped encouraging this little piece of manners. They stopped checking pupil’s progress in spelling and maths recall. Any student sent to the office once had some fear but eventually the teachers were told never to bother principals and handle their own class management. Most principals wanted to placate the parents especially those who belonged to the P&C.

    Teachers are like police, firemen, ambulance medics, nurses…when it comes to having a say we “know nothing”. (Like Emanuel in Fawlty Towers.) We just work in the vocation and are told what to do by leather armchair academics who never do any real work.

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  • #
    Tel

    Speaking of power grabs…

    http://nestmann.sovereignsociety.com/2010/09/16/are-independent-thinkers-mentally-ill/

    Laws in most states allow child protective services agencies to forcibly medicate your children. Indeed, if you fail to administer drugs ordered by a physician or have your children submit to vaccinations, you can be imprisoned.

    . . .

    The conversion of personality differences into psychiatric disorders, and the forced medication of children, is a dangerous trend. It is but a short step to extend these laws to adults who have a pattern of “negativistic, defiant, disobedient and hostile behavior toward authority figures.”

    I’d prefer a different approach: institutionalizing the psychiatrists that came up with all these new disorders. Perhaps we could call their condition “overmedication psychosis.” And those of us with ODD, CD, or who simply don’t like the government telling us how to live our lives could breathe a bit easier.

    I expect the situation in the USA to get worse under the coming economic pressure. You will be seeing more power grabs and more brutal enforcement.

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  • #
    John Brookes

    Tel@39, it sounds awful to forcibly medicate children, but here in Perth there was a recent case where “independent thinking” parents decided not to follow medical advice and subsequently their young daughter died from an entirely treatable condition.

    Where do you draw the line?

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    Ken Stewart

    Elsie@38:
    I can only speak for myself, and I know a lot of principals who do not fit your example….. but I would have to agree there are good principals and not so good principals. All of them are seriously over worked, over stressed, and squeezed by the system. And I have to agree with your last paragraph, teachers are where the tyre meets the road. All fed up with the constant curriculum changes (I’ve seen at least 5 different English syllabi in the past 12 years) and ever changing demands from on high, as well as the behaviour resulting from modern “parenting”.
    Ken

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    Tel

    Where do you draw the line?

    Always in favour of freedom, because the damage done by a few mistaken parents is insignificant compared to the damage done by a government gone rogue.

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    Tel

    Ken and Elise, I quite appreciate the stress of a teaching job, but most jobs are stressful these days. Try any IT job for a while, and learn a bit about stress.

    What I don’t understand is why teachers are so consistently opposed to any system of performance metric that allows the better teachers to demonstrate that they can do a good job. Surely in a system without any performance metric, only the people who just ignore problems and let it wash off them like water off a duck will be the winners. Anyone who really cares ends up doing the heavy lifting for those who really don’t care.

    Of course, finding a good performance metric is difficult but if you thumb over the activities of all the teaching unions they have fought tooth and nail against any outcomes-based evaluation. Why do individual teachers support that?

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    Roy Hogue

    All this points out what I’ve thought for a long time — our greatest human failing is the making of authorities over this, that or the other thing. Whether it’s federal, state or county educrats determining what the curriculum must be or someone (soon to be a damned committee in the US) determining what constitutes acceptable medical practice, it all amounts to being put under someone’s thumb. I’ve called it the “Despotism of Benevolence” for many years. They will swear they’re taking care of you even as they hurt you irrevocably. I wrote letters to the editor about it more than 15 years ago.

    The more things are centralized the greater the probability that a mistake by one person or a small group will be forced on a whole state or the whole nation — and if the UN gets its way, the whole world.

    I would rather the local school board screwed up and caused trouble in only one school district than to have the federal government screw up and ruin education right across the country. I have many other examples.

    Frankly I would rather make my own mistakes than someone else’s. How about you?

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    Roy Hogue

    Tel @43,

    When I was teaching part time (17 years, Community College level) I got all the union publications. One (just one) teacher proposed what I would call a good performance metric:

    1. Measure where the students are at the beginning of each semester with a test of the subject matter that should have been learned in the previous semester.

    2. Measure where the students are at the end of the semester with a test of what they should have learned in that semester. The difference is how effective the teacher was.

    I will admit that this has its problems too. But if administered anything close to honestly it stands a very good chance of showing what the teacher was really worth to the student. Over several semesters it would be the metric by which teachers stand or fall.

    This is nothing more or less than the yearly performance evaluation that I go through on the job. Unless you’re self-employed you probably go through it too. Come to think of it — if you’re self-employed your customers put you through it a whole lot more than once a year.

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