Educating Sexism?

A significant part of students’ ‘informal’ education today is that provided by the various forms of media they are exposed to. Students are influenced particularly by the popular media forms – magazines, movies and social on-line networks.  Increasingly these media are having a dangerous influence as students adopt and act in accord with these presentations indiscriminately. Accordingly it is become increasingly important that students are educated to be observant, analytical even critical of the information being relayed to them through these mediums.

Last Thursday, October 11 was UN International Day of the Girl.  To bring awareness to issues facing young women around the world a screening of the American film, Miss Representation was shown in Perth at the State theatre.

The documentary exposed how the mainstream media shapes gender norms and attitudes and reveals that this can have startling effects on how women think about themselves and where their position is in society.

The American Psychological Association’s Taskforce on the media’s sexualisation of girls and young women found that it is linked to mental health problems including depression, anxiety and eating disorders in women. There are dangerous consequences for this kind of representation of women in the media as according to one Doctor Jean Klibournes “turning a human being into a thing is almost the first step in justifying violence against that person.” Media portrayals of women, even those in movies who are the heroine of the film or the action hero are usually sexualised. These portrayals reinforce negative stereotypes of women within society.

In a study of top films across all ratings from 1990 to 2006, 73 per cent of the characters were men. The same study found that there was no representation of women working in medical science, executive business, law or politics.

These images can also have effects for men and their relationships with women as they come to expect an unrealistic body image of what a ‘real’ woman should look like.

The representation of women by the mass media adheres with the saying that “you can’t be what you can’t see.” There are virtually no role models portrayed for women by the media.

In Australia’s top ASX 200 companies:

Only 3 per cent of Chief Executive officers are women.

Only 8 per cent of Board Directors are women.

Nationally women’s average earnings are 18 per cent less than men’s. In WA the figure is 28 percent.

The film also depicts young girls and boys accounting what effects they believe the media has on their own self esteem. One girl said that because of the media’s portrayal of skinny busty girls, her sister is bullied for being fat and resorts to cutting herself.

The media and its portrayal of females should be questioned and it should start with young children in schools. Questions like the following should be asked.

– how many female characters are there compared to males?

– Is the focus on women’s bodies or on their characters, achievements or jobs?

– Are women portrayed as victims in need of saving by a male?

– Are there any female characters leaders – in positions of politics, business, authority?

Clearly the media needs to be scrutinized through education in schools. There is an important role for the teachers of our english and media programs in both high school and primary schools to ensure students consider how women are portrayed by society.


Department for Communities (2012) ‘Women and the Media: Who do they think you are?’, pp.1-4.

Siebel Newsom, J (2011) Miss Representation.

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The Difference between Life and Death

Good news for nerds. The more years you spend studying the longer you are likely to live.

 A recent study conducted by Chicago University of Illinois has found that some developed countries are going backwards.

 In 2008 US men or women with fewer than 12 years education had life expectancies not much different from those living in the 1950s and 60s.

 The figures are pretty startling. A white man with 16 years or more of schooling could expect to live 14.2 years longer than a black man with fewer than 12 years of education.

 In Australia we are said to be experiencing a longevity revolution. However not everyone is experiencing this. The difference between the average lifespan for Aboriginal men compared to non- Aboriginal men is 17 years. 

 It is obvious then that the government should be spending more on the resources for education.

 If this study is anything to go by, the years lost by not investing in education could have a very big impact on families, the community and the wider Australian society, potentially having disastrous effects on the economy.


Wright, S, (2012) ‘Education can add years to your life’, The West Australian, October 8, p.17 

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The Mean Streets of Northbridge

In light of the recent rape and murder of Jill Meagher in Melbourne, Andrea Burns’ opinion  article in The West highlighted the anxieties of mothers who have young girls.

Burns’ 13-year-old daughter is at the age where she is starting to go to the movies and shopping ventures without parental supervision.

She goes on to talk about some of the teaching methods of Mount Lawley High School in educating young people about self awareness and safety when out at night.

The initiative is called City after Dark and is run by a parent who is also a member of the WA police. Groups of fourteen year olds take to the street of Northbridge to be educated on street safety and how to conduct one’s self if placed in dangerous situations.

Is this an overreaction of parents who may be anxious about letting their kids roam free when they come of age? Or an evolution in safety education?

In light of the rape and murder of Jill Meagher, this was an isolated case. Will this kind of education embed anxiety and fear in kids who want to go out at night?

Will this education really put an end to the mind set that I can totter the few metres to hail a taxi by myself or I can walk the few hundred metres up the road to my car?

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Education as a Commodity

Do you see higher education, or university studies as a commodity? Are universities simply selling degrees and nothing more?

Twenty years ago university studies were seen as an opportunity to broaden your education. Today I believe that students view their university degree differently. The certificate of graduation is a commodity, something that is paid for as a way of ensuring a place in the working world.

Students want value for money for the type of course that they choose to do. This is often measured by the types of job prospects on offer post graduation.

Most people that do law degrees will not actually become lawyers but they choose to invest in that degree because they know it will bring a large number and variety of job prospects. Law, as a degree which requires a higher academic ranking to participate in, is viewed more favorably by employers.

Ever since universities have had to rely on students for funding, rather than the government, they have been forced to become more business like in nature. This seems to only be increasing with the cuts in education funding in NSW and Victoria and the proclamation that the student subsidy from the government is too high.

Pressure to fund their own resources increases competition with other universities. There is a need to attract students that are intelligent and willing to pay for a higher degree.

Through advertising universities tend to exaggerate the potential for student to thrive after their degree. They exaggerate the truth.

Recently I came across my own degree being advertised in The Australian. The catchphrase of the article was that “He (Prof Peter Van Onselen) can help you Master journalism for a global career.” If so am I guaranteed an international journalism career at the completion of my course? Personally I believe this to be quite unrealistic especially with the recent decline of print journalists across the globe.

That is not to say that I am negative about my job prospects after the completion of my degree as I believe there will always be a place for professional journalists. However I believe that these kind of advertisements give students unrealistic promises for the completion of their degree.

Do you view yourself as a consumer? Has university through advertising, given you unrealistic expectations what you will gain from your degree?

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Taught by Dummies?

Recently there has been discussion in the media as to the academic standards of students aspiring to do teacher courses at university.

In The Sunday Times an article titled “Aspiring Teachers Don’t make Grade in University Ranks” stated that some universities are accepting students into teaching courses with an academic ranking of less than 50.

There is an old adage that “those who can’t… teach”. Traditionally teaching is seen as a last resort career for those who can’t do better.

Rebecca Halse wrote an opinion piece in The West Australian titled ‘Smart Educators not Extinct’. Within the article she praised intelligent teaching students who are passionate about their career choice and want to inspire younger generations.

In the article she highlighted her concerns about the calibre of teachers, today’s institutions are producing.

Peter Garrett recently claimed that teachers do not have to be smart.

“I do not think education should necessarily be the province of the particularly smart or gifted.”

He said that there is no need for teachers to be smart, just that they needed to be ‘passionate’ about their career choice.

Halse shuns Garrett’s comments and questions why can’t teachers be both intelligent and passionate?

They can. I believe that in today’s society we are putting more emphasis on personal ‘people’ skills. After all medicine students don’t become doctors just from having good marks. Being enthusiastic and committed to their clients is seen as an essential part of their professional requirements.  To determine their facility in these areas they undergo lengthy interviews. They are judged on their people skills rather than solely on their marks.

Why do we put so much emphasis on academic rankings? I believe that we should be judging the student on their passion for teaching rather than on the basis of what they got in their final year exams.

What do you think?

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Sacrifice one’s Privacy: The Greater Good?

Recently Bullying in schools has reached new extremes with the perpetrators using their computer screens as protection in order to taunt their victims.

Should Facebook and Twitter make these people accountable by making identification compulsory through these sites? The problem is that people get away with bullying because there is no accountability. If they chose to be anonymous there is no easy way to track them down. Perhaps this is where they get most of their pleasure from taunting others. They know that there is a low likelihood of them getting caught.

Changes to Facebook and Twitter privacy laws seem to be the only reasonable solution to this problem.

Another solution is for victims to go offline all together but this, in my opinion, could only result in social isolation.

Also the issue here is that walking away from problems does not necessarily make them go away. It does not make the victim feel any better as they have not solved anything. They have not stood up to the taunts and abusive verbal behaviour.

When the person is not identifiable to the victim it is hard to stop them from backing down from their actions.

If a kid is being bullied at school they have the option of either moving schools or confronting the situation head on.

Who actually has the courage to do that in a physical environment?

Confronting the situation online can be a bit of a stab in the dark not resulting in any positive outcome.

Perhaps the authorities are catching on to those who hide behind ‘faceless Facebook’. Yesterday authorities caught six Ballujura Community College students who were making derogatory remarks about their teacher. Three of the students had private profiles.

The question here is would you sacrifice your ‘democratic’ freedom of having the ability to be anonymous on Facebook or Twitter, so that bullying is less likely to happen?

Or do you believe that cyberspace bullying will not go away even with tougher privacy laws?

Hiatt, B. (2012) ‘Students threaten teacher on Facebook’, The West Australian, September 7.


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Drugs and Sex… Teachers??

Drugs and sex. These are two topics that you don’t normally associate with the behaviour of teachers. Yet several recent news items have revealed dark antics in and out of the school environment.

News items have features teachers misbehaving by video taping students, having a sexual relationship with students and using drugs.

A high school teacher Adrian Granger and the Chairman of the School Council, Paul Owens of Northcliffe District High School were convicted of drug offences on two separate occasions earlier this month.

You would think that teachers would be mature enough to think about what kind of example they are setting for future generations. Their actions have meant that Northcliffe High School is at risk of shutting down altogether because of the ‘drug culture’ that now exists.

New technologies such as mobile phones have ultimately meant that teachers are able to prey on students and take advantage of them.

Such was the case when a teenage girl texted a teacher to tell him she had feelings for him. The teacher took advantage of the girl’s crush and began a 19-month affair with her.

The question is how did the student manage to get the teacher’s personal number? Did he give it to her? Or did she acquire it another way? There should be no links between students and teachers and their personal lives.

New media makes this harder to achieve but there must be limits otherwise these incidents could keep happening.

Surely there have to be stronger laws put in place to ensure that students and teachers can maintain a professional relationship.

Or maybe it is not a downfall in the law at all? Perhaps it is the people who are employed by the education system, whose behaviour must be consistently regulated and monitored to ensure that children are learning from individuals who set a good example.

What is your opinion??

Hiatt, B. ‘Drug culture’ fear at Northcliffe school’ The West Australian August 29, 2012

Owens, J. ‘Rap for teacher who slept with girl’ The Australian, August 29 2012.

‘Teacher charged with filming schoolgirls in Sydney’s west’ The Telegraph August 23, 2012

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The Great Divide

The Academic Ranking of World Universities really put The University of Western Australia on the map. UWA was named as the ‘quiet achiever’ on August 15 in The Australian jumping from the top 150 to 96th place. 

This year marks a milestone for Australia with five universities placed in the top 100. According to the Australian, Australia has the fourth most successful higher education system globally.

It appears to be ironic then that we were the only country in the world last year where literacy rates declined.  The situation this year doesn’t seem to be improving, exemplified by an article in the Weekend West yesterday (p.3).  The article titled ‘Kids not learning the basics’ pointed the finger at WA’s primary school system, where students are failing to learn basic reading skills.

‘Class of…’ a new television series on Channel Ten follows a group of 15 Year 11 and 12 students at Bradfield Senior College. The first episode aired this week on August 15 and it showed that the students had basic literacy problems. The school is being credited for its ability to adapt to the teenager’s needs; offering an adult environment and teachers who build a mentoring relationship with the students.

Clearly then there is a great divide in the Australian education system.  Perhaps we need more TAFE colleges like Bradfield which offer a friendly environment where students from troubled backgrounds can get the support they need to learn? 

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The Dog Ate My Homework

Good news for homework avoiders. This age old excuse may soon become extinct as the front page of The Sunday Times revealed today that top private schools are pushing to ban homework on weekends and during holidays.

Phil Beadle, British Teacher of the year and one of the world’s leading educators has welcomed the new plan comparing excessive homework to a form of abuse, particularly for primary students.

The new proposal raises questions of whether kids should be doing homework because it sets them up for a number of skills which are useful in later education years such as organizational skills, time management and gaining a sense of responsibility. On the other hand homework can be seen as a tough demand for primary students who should have the right to ‘leisure and joy’ as Mr Beadle states.

Homework is often seen as a chore. Mr Beadle reinforces that children would learn more effectively if reading and writing were developed as fun activities done in spare time.

Phillips, Y. (2012) ‘Homework Ban’, The Sunday Times, August 12, p.1.

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Decline of Political Interest?

Does the young generation of today suffer from political apathy? A front page from the Post pictured Katherine Swann who has dreams of becoming a United Nations diplomat and had won a trip to a UN convention for her ability to debate around the topic ‘striving for justice’. Katherine chose to represent Syria in the UN-style debate, which took place in Melbourne. In my opinion not many people in my age group would be able to point to Syria on a map, let alone be able to understand the current political crisis it now faces.

Political apathy amongst youth of today has been linked with a growing disenchantment with traditional news forms such as the newspaper. A 1994 study conducted by Rager et al. investigated what youth would like to read in newspapers. The study found that there was a demand for background information that would allow them to better understand the context of the news story. If the newspaper editor agreed to accommodate this request, their young readership would be better informed, able to understand the news and likely to make conclusions and comparisons to the society in which they live.

The consequences of youth turning away from news are that they are becoming increasingly ignorant of the foundation of their democratic lifestyle and geographical position in relation to the rest of the world. In Evans and Sternberg’s research this was exemplified by a young boy who read about a tragedy yet could not feel any empathy for the victims involved. Brad: “Actually it sounds really sick, but I … don’t really get horrified … when you see things like earthquakes in Japan and that big explosion thing in wherever — Oklahoma.” His response suggests that youth are turning away from the traumatic events in the world because they live in a society where they feel they do not have to care and are not motivated to do so.

According to Buckingham, young people are increasingly being condemned for being lazier and less socially responsible. They have blind faith in the leaders of their government and are not questioning the structures of the government itself. Democracy relies on voters making an informed decision. If youth are turning their back on politics in the media, this could be seen as a direct threat to democracy and the integrity of its processes.

However all is not lost, while the youth may reject the traditional mainstream news mediums they have been switching over to different news forms, which they find are more sympathetic for their age group. The question is whether these new forms educate them to the same extent as a traditional news form potentially would.

The Internet has been shown to facilitate participation in politically driven discussion by the youth. While not many studies have been conducted in Australia that specifically examine the impact that the internet has on the youth’s daily lives, Ariadne Vromen’s (2007) ethnographic study examines the way young Australians use the internet and online networks to participate in politics.

Vromen’s study found that the Internet both provides a medium, which establishes both an autonomous and an alternative form for politics. This means the Internet has a dual role in both creating a space, which reinforces the politics and also provides an online sphere where new political opportunities can be made.

‘Kony 2012’ was representative of just how politically active the youth can be with issues that are of concern to them. It was reflective of how new media could be used as an opportunity for film to provoke social change. The video spread quickly over Facebook and then went viral on YouTube.

The film was constructed to appeal personally to the viewer of the film. A study conducted by Kalin, found that participants reported that participation in the project for Invisible Children made them feel as though one person can make a difference. The message was carefully constructed to emphasize a human-interest concern that directly related to youth who were politically charged to cause the government to act.

Gibson and Ward also praise the Internet for its capacity to provide a space where politicians can voice the principles of their party. Twenty-four-hour access and instant updating also allows for the continuous distribution of campaign news and rebuttal of opponents’ attacks. The multimedia, online format (bright colours and short headlines) appears to be highly attractive to young people. Candidates in Australia have been using Twitter and Facebook in an attempt to engage with the youth of today.

New forms of media provide an opportunity for making politics attractive to the youth. The youth are politically engaged in their own way through ‘twittering, posting and texting’.

The question is whether new forms of media are more effective than traditional forms for engaging the youth with politics?

Buckingham, D. (2000) The Making of Citizens: Young People, News and Politics, Routledge, London.

Buckingham, D. (1999) ‘Young People, Politics and News Media: Beyond Political Socialisation’, Oxford Review of Education, vol. 25, no. 1&2, pp. 171-184.

Evans, V. & Sternberg, J. (2000) ‘Young People, Politics and Television Current Affairs in Australia’, Journal of Australian Studies, no. 63, pp. 103-109 195-197.

Karlin, B. (2012) ‘Power through Participation: Impacts of Youth Involvement in Invisible Children’ Center for Unconventional Security Affairs (CUSA) University of California, Irvine, pp.1-19. Availability: [cited 12th August 2012]

‘Off to Haggle at The Hague’, Post, August 4 2012, p.1

Rager, Gunther, Muller-Gerbes, Sigrud and Haage, Anne (1994) Leserwu ̈nsche als Herausforderung. Neue Impulse fu ̈r die Tageszeitung, Bonn: ZV, Zeitungsverlag Service

Vromen, Ariadne. (2008) ‘Building Virtual Spaces: Young People, Participation and the Internet’ Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 79 – 97

Ward, S, Gibson, R. (2002) ‘Virtual Campaigning: Australian Parties and the Impact of the Internet’ Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 99–129


Please comment on this blog post! Do you believe that our generation are turning their back on politics in the media? Could this be seen as a direct threat to democracy and the integrity of its processes?

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