Credit:Illustration: Andrew Dyson
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Inspirational teachers can impart the magic
The immediate future of civilisation is dependent on the vaccines based on the substances DNA and mRNA to counter the various coronaviruses and their future variants. Any cursory questions which seek an understanding of DNA, mRNA and their actions in human cells require a basic understanding of their component elements, and so, a knowledge of the periodic table.
It is therefore ironic that the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority is seeking to remove the periodic table from part of the chemistry curriculum and instead introduce industrial processes incorporating “the study of metals, carbon compounds and polymers and how they can be recycled and repurposed in a circular economy” (The Age, 14/7). Even this low target requires an understanding of the periodic table. And how could such a study rival even the most superficial of glimpses of the human cell in action?
Even before I commenced high school, I had an understanding of the elements of the periodic table, and nearly 70 years on, I cannot fail to be entranced by the chemical processes that occur in the trillions of cells that make up each and everyone of us, and all living things. The magic is there. It just needs inspirational teachers to impart it, not grey-suited committees bereft of imagination.
James Reiss, former associate professor of chemistry, La Trobe University
This is about our students and their future
The periodic table is, and will always be, a fundamental part of chemistry education. What the 2023 VCE Chemistry Study Design proposes is a contextualised approach to learning the facts and functions of the periodic table whilst exploring important real-world environmental problems (eg, the climate crisis, materials depletion, chemical pollution, ocean acidification).
So instead of recounting chemical history, let us embrace 21st century education practices and equip our students with the critical thinking skills they need to tackle the global problems that they will need to solve. This revised curriculum takes a step towards chemistry education that is purposeful, meaningful, powerful and current. Remember, this is not about us oldies (what we were taught or how we like to teach it), it is about our students and their future.
Lisa Chiavaroli, former VCE chemistry teacher, Pascoe Vale
Allowing VCE students to focus on chemistry’s giants
It is fantastic to see chemistry education on the front page as chemistry has become so central to critical challenges such as sustainable development. Australian chemists and engineers are innovating and design 21st century solutions in battery technologies and renewable energy production, to name two.
Teachers want a course that is very engaging for their students and strong on the fundamentals. The VCE is undergoing a public consultation process and teachers are very engaged with it as they want a study design that they will love to teach. But there are plenty of years before VCE to “learn the language” (what is an element, what the periodic table shows us) in junior secondary school, and this is mandated curriculum content from years seven to 10.“With the basics of the language of chemistry learnt, our VCE students could then study the “literary giants” , such as green chemistry and the development of sustainable materials, and be inspired to join in with what chemistry has become.
Dr Seamus Delaney, lecturer in science education, Deakin University
More than rows and columns of names and numbers
The periodic table allows students to understand the similarities and differences between elements and how they can combine. It is important to first teach how things work and then what they can be used for. If we continue this approach, we could drop addition, subtraction, multiplication and division from maths because calculators can do them. We could drop Shakespeare and his odd words from English or even running from physical education. The periodic table is a tool that illustrates, informs and inspires, not just rows and columns of names and numbers. Let students learn from it and keep an old science teacher happy.
Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill
Treasurer for NSW, too
Well may we have Scott Morrison looking after New South Wales, but we also have Josh Frydenberg looking after it as well. Who would of thought that the member for Kooyong would turn against his own state and constituents?
So Victoria “had to shame the federal government into doing their job and providing income support for Victorian workers when we battled the Delta strain earlier this year” (The Age, 13/7).
Mr Frydenberg has always criticised Victoria on its lockdowns, but nary a word against NSW.
Thank you, Treasurer, for reminding me that you are in politics for you and not your elected constituents, one of whom is me.
Kate Read, Canterbury
You had your chance
People aged 60-plus who are bemoaning they have to wait for Pfizer need an injection of reality. They could, and should, have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca months ago. It was irresponsible not to do this for themselves, their families and the community. What sticks in my craw is that some are whinging about not being given a gold pass to be front of the queue for the still limited supplies of Pfizer.
Geoff Warren, Anglesea
Safer to stay at home
If the authorities want to get people back into the CBD, we need to feel safe on public transport. In my peak-hour train carriage this week, three people were eating and drinking coffee, and two were not wearing masks at all in the small area around me. There seem to be no public announcements on trains – unlike trams – to remind people to wear masks, and no inspectors. Who can blame people who are not fully vaccinated for staying home?
Vicki Doherty, Blackburn
When will we learn?
As further cases of the Delta strain emerge in Victoria, I despair at how quickly we fall back into complacency.
Not a single person – staff nor patron – was wearing a mask at my (until now) regular cafe on Wednesday morning. If, heaven forbid, the virus takes hold again, it will be businesses like this one that lash the government’s response, when it could have helped cut the virus off at the pass.
Andrew Bartlett, Coburg
Josh Frydenberg had to be dragged kicking and screaming to provide wage assistance to impacted workers during the recent Victorian Delta variant lockdown. Yet as soon as NSW went into lockdown, he and Scott Morrison fell over themselves to provide a more generous package. This hypocrisy and double standard is unbecoming of the privileged positions they hold.
Judging from the Treasurer’s performance on 7.30 (ABC TV, 13/7), it appears he has a personal animosity against the Victorian Premier that is clouding his judgment. Congratulations, Josh Frydenberg, you are uniting Victorians of all political persuasions.
Jim Demetrious, Geelong West
Protecting our loved ones
Yet again we see COVID-19 spreading further from Sydney and surrounds into Goulburn. I may not have a PhD, but common sense and experience tells us that this virus spreads with movement and travel. I hope it is not too late with the cases connected to the removalists (who delivered furniture in the City of Hume and picked up another load in the City of Maribyrnong) and perhaps some of their less-than-accurate answers when questioned by the public health team. Missing out on seeing family, friends and colleagues is the price we pay to prevent us being on the receiving end of the Delta strain and losing loved ones forever.
Joy Foster, Ascot Vale
Well done, both sides
How sad to read such vindictive letters from some readers. The politicians on both sides are doing the best they can in horrific circumstances. Let us give them some congratulations for work well done.
Diana Goetz, Mornington
Praise to a strong leader
Thanks, Dan Andrews and the Victorian team, for giving us strict guidelines on the definition of essential work when we have lockdowns. Leaving it up to individuals to decide whether their reason to leave home is essential seems to be a recipe for disaster. Some saw the Premier as dictatorial. I see him as strong, decisive and willing to bear the responsibility of decision-making.
Pat Dowling, Elsternwick
Purely cosmetic changes
What difference does the appointment of an Australian Defence Force general make to Australia’s vaccine rollout? The answers: Meaningless and vague waffle is now provided by an older, white man in a uniform, rather than an older, white man in a suit.
Ken Richards, Elwood
Still waiting, dear Auntie
Alan Sunderland defends the mechanisms of the national broadcaster – “Don’t blame umpire on ABC complaints” (Opinion, 14/7). However, in my experience, these mechanisms have not worked. After registering a complaint about blatant political bias expressed by a radio presenter last year, I had it acknowledged and registered. Nevertheless, even after two attempts to follow up, I have not had any response. Maybe when the complaint appears valid, dear Auntie thinks it best just to lie low.
Barrie Dempster, Balwyn
Why do it in-house, ABC?
Why is the ABC so resistant to having an independent umpire? What is it afraid of? It could be the same thorough system as it is now, with some tweaks – I doubt those who make complaints the ABC deems are “minor” would agree with that categorisation and I am sure they would want their complaints to be independently assessed.
But instead of reporting to ABC managers, who clearly have a vested interest, they would be properly independent. This would improve trust in the system and might even improve ABC journalism. Sunderland says “do not blame the umpire”, but football supporters would not be pleased if the umpires reported to the opposition instead of to the AFL.
Robbie Gore, Brighton East
Just as a one-off example of the ABC’s supposed “impartiality”, it published an online article in September 2017 about a confrontation between two opposing groups, one left, one right. At no time was there mention of Middle-Eastern politics or religion between the demonstrators. It was neither party’s agenda.
Nevertheless, our ABC thought it relevant to mention that the leader of one group was of the Jewish faith. I am still waiting for an answer as to why it deemed this necessary, and also a request to know the religion of all other mentioned parties. Good luck with getting a response from the ABC if it feels challenged.
Rosie Elsass, Brighton
Bailing out La Trobe
La Trobe University has proposed another 200 full-time professional and academic jobs will be axed (The Age, 14/7). The total job losses there must be running into the thousands, including redundancies, fixed-term non-renewals and cutting casual employment. If Josh Frydenberg genuinely cares about Victorians, he should bail out La Trobe to protect jobs and the quality of teaching and research.
The federal government previously gave the JobKeeper payment to private universities, while staff at La Trobe took a year-long pay cut in an effort to save jobs. The role of the government is to provide support to the sector, not shift the burden onto individual workers.
Corey Rabaut, Malvern East
Too precious to lose
Why is it that the public cannot let their heritage buildings go to ruin and then pull them down, but Parks Victoria can drag its heels on repairs and then announce “it’s too late” and that it will demolish the iconic Flinders Pier (The Age, 13/7), home of the endangered weedy sea dragon?
Fiona Parker, Flinders
Italy’s truly great win
Why has the Australian media’s narrative revolved around discussing England’s loss in the Euros, more so than focusing on the brilliance of the Italians and the impact of them winning the tournament? When have Australians ever felt heartache for English defeat in sports? It seems the media prefers to romanticise football’s underachieving losers than a team which played arguably some of the best football of the tournament. Italy remained undefeated for 34 games straight, including seven within the tournament – and after not qualifying for previous 2018 World Cup. The media could be romanticising about a story which actually ends in victory.
Rocco Iacovino, Brunswick
Adapting methods to kids
Is Jo Rogers saying that phonics is the only way to teach reading (Education, 12/7)? If so, how does she think deaf people learn to read? Perhaps because I may have had a hearing problem all my life, phonics made no sense to me. Has it affected my reading ability? With three years of teacher training, an arts degree, a graduate diploma in librarianship and various maritime qualifications, probably not.
I think she is equating oral reading skills with silent reading skills. They are entirely different. At times, I come across unfamiliar words that I cannot pronounce orally but I can still come up with the meaning using context and prediction. In teaching, there is no method that fits all students. In my time as a consultant, I learnt that to be successful, teachers had to use a method that suited the kids.
Mick O’Mara, Winchelsea
Our warped priorities
Multi-billionaire Richard Branson wantonly spends millions of dollars to float in space. The media gives extensive and fawning coverage of his achievement. Meanwhile, we are witnessing countless thousands of our fellow humans are dying or are ill without access to vaccines around the world.
Nalliah Suriyakumaran, Preston
AND ANOTHER THING
Credit:Illustration: Matt Golding
It appears Frydenberg is a VINO (Victorian In Name Only).
Andrew Gemmell, Glenroy
The Victorian government is being “petulant and childish”? Just look in the mirror, Josh.
Pauline Ashton, Maribyrnong
Re the controversial “Arm yourself” ad. What do you expect when a General is in charge and calling the shots?
Peter Molina, Brighton East
Morrison needs to remember that Victorians also vote in federal elections.
David Mitchell, Moe
So much for light lockdowns premised on lax “common sense”. Pride comes before a fall, and how Sydney has fallen.
Meg McPherson, Brighton
I’m organising a booze up in a brewery. A catering firm, Morrison and Hunt, has offered to run it. Should I engage it?
John Annison, Yering
The sitting Victorian Liberals stand for NSW.
Peter Bragge, Blackburn South
Perhaps we could shift the General into Kirribilli House and move Morrison to Puckapunyal.
Ian Maddison, Parkdale
Vaccine rollout bungled. Quarantine project delayed. COVID uncertainty continues. Now is the winter of our discontent.
Elizabeth Meredith, Surrey Hills
Farewell Katz. Ratz!
Keith Fagg, Geelong
Nobody does savvy as good as Savva. Looking forward to devouring Niki’s first column in The Age.
Tris Raouf, Hadfield
Environmental vandalism is a more apt description of Richard Branson’s space travel and his planned space tourism.
Mark Dymiotis, Hampton
Let’s flip it. Did the English players miss penalty kicks, or did the Italian goal keeper with his skill save them? Goal keepers don’t get the credit they deserve.
Belinda Burke, Hawthorn
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