Teachers Make a Difference round two

We've been working these past several months at the Teachers Federation on a new series of television and cinema ads that highlight the positive role teachers play in society. As we did last year, we had acclaimed Australian director, Ray Lawrence at the helm and the ads were written by author and commentator, Jane Caro. This year's ads are particularly pertinent as one deals with TAFE (the national industrial and technical arts school in Australia) which now faces severe budget cuts and privatisation and the issue of refugees and asylum seekers.

The cool nerdy thing for me was that we got to work with Wayne Pygram who is a cult sci-fi actor (Farscape and Star Wars). He plays a gruff but caring TAFE teacher in two of the ads. I was the 'client' on site for the production, though, really, these things take on a momentum of their own so I was mostly there to be pleasant and nod at appropriate moments. 

Billy Bragg at NSWTF

Billy Bragg stopped by my work today to speak to our monthly council; I recorded some audio and video of him. He gave a very compelling speech about the importance of education in his life and for society. He also noted the importance of respect and civility online. You can listen to this and him singing a couple songs for us in the player below.


Because an airplane flew overhead
At 4AM
I am awake.
It is the interconnectedness of all things;
Because, two days ago,
In an intersection somewhere 
In Denver,
The flight mechanic responsible for this plane
That flew overhead
At 4AM,
Missed a stop sign and nearly
Ran over a pedestrian,
He was upset and, later that day,
Forgot to note he had repaired a minor problem in a pump.
But, when the plane landed in Fiji, the prudent pilot
Was concerned and had it checked.
This only took a moment;
But, because of this, they missed a take off window.
Whilst they were waiting, the engineer there noticed something else
That was critical and had to be repaired
Thus delaying the flight several hours and putting it in to Sydney
At 4AM; awaking a swath of sleeping suburbs.
Because of that pedestrian, who had paused for a moment
To greet a neighbour in Denver who had surgery some weeks ago.

Yet, somehow,
I'm supposed to believe I have little care 
Or connection to people under siege in Syria,
The asylum seekers in Australian detention camps,
The people in dim factories who made the clothing I wear,
Or the children trafficked to harvest the tea for the cup in my hand.
All things that cover the compass of life and death
As well as the the choices I have to encompass.
When the synchronicity of a missed step
Ripples out across the world,
How can I glibly hold
That the deaths of so many
Are just the gloomy bits
Between advertisements on the evening news.

On Difference

There is a special awareness that comes from reading old journals whilst jet-lagged; the words don't seem any more profound, but the filter of strange tiredness certainly adds a layer of 'did I write this? What was I thinking?' which could be a positive or negative observation. 

I wrote the notes below about ten years ago when considering how a very conservative religious institution (I had my former university in mind) could open a discussion on racial diversity. Much of this would apply to ethnic or interfaith conversations as well. All, of course, presupposes a level of openness to begin with.

This is just the rough list; perhaps it would be worth writing up into something more coherent (when I myself an more coherent!)

  1. Must be presented as a tool to help those of whatever background communicate in a cross-culturally competent way–not as something that helps the white people be nice to the black people.
  2. Is not to be something that dredges up the harms of past generations (but must recognise them nonetheless).
  3. It's not to make everyone 'like' everyone else; should recognise the cultural differences that go beyond race.
  4. There can be no 'Generalised Diversity'. A place must be made welcoming but not artificially so.
  5. Be careful not to introduce racial stereotypes that people may not have to begin with.
  6. You do not have to compromise religious or moral convictions in order to sit at table with someone who differs from yourself. 
  7. A given 'methodology' or 'theology' is almost by definition excluding of 'the other'; a person aware of diversity seeks to understand others regardless of difference.
  8. People are, and will remain, different from one another; to realise this is the first step in bringing them together. It's the paradox of the matter.
  9. If Christians (or whatever creed) are not peacemakers we can expect little of other faiths in that arena–if one is ready to denounce an individual (or half the world) over some difference (even a major one that you both perceive as a matter of eternal importance) without bothering to explore him as a person, you've forfeited any right or chance for further conversation.
  10. Do not generate an empasse as a matter of course.
  11. Within your own realm, there must be a system open to discussion and debate without fear of either physical or 'spiritual' reprisal. If that openness is lacking, you've just made your belief static and there is no way for it to live and mature.
  12. If people live in an environment where they cannot develop a self-sustaining spiritual persona, they will forever seek others who are 'just like us'.


All our system

I'm jet-lagged and up reading through old journals. This from a decade ago:

What if man was not created to conform to the image of God; what if God created man to be man and conform to the law of a natural order? What if we are not supposed to live godlike over the earth in dominion but as a part of the creation–to be continually created and changing rather than forcing the change? Then all our system is void.