Material providing evidence that

cross-disciplinary attitudes to study

engaging both linear and lateral

approaches to investigation


increasingly valuable and

 in fact necessary in

21st century



In the Adelaide Town Hall

Professor Elizabeth Blackburn,

Australia’s first woman

Nobel Prize winner said:

“Make sure your mentors have human qualities

 that support you.” She went on:

“There are many smart people in science but

check that you work with those who have humanity.” September 14th 2013.

She insisted we were training more people

not educating them.


Evidence here is being collected as part of an ongoing project

 to support a more holistic approach to study that may be applicable in early education, pre-tertiary and post-secondary depending upon the way it is used by teachers and lecturers across disciplines.

It begins in the northern hemisphere.


The words of Simonyi Professor Marcus du Sautoy,

Professor for the Public Understanding of Science

Oxford University

 “The more we learn to speak each other’s languages, ask each other new questions, the more hope there is of finding answers to the problems that have stubbornly eluded previous generations.”

 1. To all who are concerned with the focus on subjects as ‘silos’.

My name is Erica Jolly. I live in South Australia. I was lucky to be at a secondary school where we were not divided by whether we were good at the

‘science’ side of a supposed ‘divide’, or the ‘humanities’ side. It was 1946 – 1950. I was at Adelaide Teachers College and the University of Adelaide studying History (Honours) 1951 – 1954. All this was before C.P. Snow published The two Cultures in 1959. It was taken up by bureaucrats in Australia and in the UK to decide who went where in government schools. I taught in vocationally-oriented secondary, technical schools, with their cross-disciplinary and practical engagement in learning, from 1955 – 1974. They were four single sex girls’ schools, and one boys’ technical high school. I taught in a grammar school in the UK from September 1966 – June 1967. In 1967, I was in USA visiting schools across the country, in Maryland, Chicago and Los Angeles. In USA federal funds were being put into schools to ensure that America; was not left behind in the exploration of space.

In 1974 I contributed to the move away from the binary high/academic or technical/vocational system in secondary schools to comprehensive schools in South Australia. I brought girls into what had been a boys’ technical high school in 1974 and supported the cross disciplinary initiatives the school was making until 1980. This was Mawson High School, named so with the approval of Sir Douglas Mawson’s family.

From 1981 – 1992 as Deputy Principal (Curriculum) at Marion High School I worked with Brian Hannaford to extend his carefully-constructed cross-disciplinary approach that worked to help students think carefully before deciding on their pathway. I studied ‘Education and Society’ with the late Dr Denis Grundy at Flinders University, 1993. He supported my approach to the recording of secondary education in South Australia in secondary vocationally-oriented schools.

I attended ACE conferences in Sydney and Melbourne hoping to hear that the Australian College of Educators was rejecting that ‘divide’. I am satisfied that the narrow focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics is guaranteed to perpetuate the worst of the divisive approach that dominated thinking at the secondary and higher education levels of formal education from the 1950s until now, 2017. There is so much growing evidence that this divisive approach is unsound in educational terms as well as in terms of living in the real world.

At a time when there is increasing and important focus on relationships between teachers and students – the ‘pathic sensibilities’ [the phrase used by Professor David Giles of Flinders University as he focuses on relationships that foster engagement] – in Schools of Education, as well as increased support for cognitive psychology in the educational process, it is important to remember that the content of the curriculum and the quality and range of that content is not irrelevant.

And it is appalling that those who recognize the role of the sciences in gathering knowledge about the state of this planet have had, on Sunday, April 23rd 2017, to gather for a World March for Science. The new President of the United States of America is determined to get rid of ‘science and technology and all that stuff’ from government offices. For him it is coal, gas and oil. The ignorance behind that supposed ‘cultural divide’ – or ‘false separation’ as Professor Brian Cox calls it – has allowed this often profit-driven rejection of the significance of the role of science in examining our contribution to climate change. His accession to the Presidency has forced those of us who are not ‘sleep walkers’ to stand up for the planet and all who inhabit it.

While I am not in any ‘academic loop’, I think it is vital for someone to gather the evidence that shows how destructive this division in the formal schooling of secondary girls and boys has been in the last half of the twentieth century.

II. When the process of separation/segregation of the sciences from the humanities began to be encouraged.

In the southern hemisphere we tend to ignore what is happening across the ‘divide’ of the equator. Also, our knowledge of the history of changes in education is very limited. We decreased, in some instances got rid of, the study of the history of education in the Schools of Education. We had this assumption in Australia that the ‘lesser’ people, – tradespeople and blue collar workers, including most girls – unless they were very able – should not undertake academic studies in ‘high’ schools. They should be in alternative schools in a binary system. That view clearly existed before World War II when women, despite having the vote, were expected primarily to be wives, mothers and home-makers. [See A Broader Vision: Voices of Vocational Education in Twentieth Century South Australia 1895 – 2001 for the situation in vocational education in South Australia.]

After World War II, bureaucrats and academics chose not to take into account the additional impact of the “two cultures” notion that affected the way students, boys and girls, were directed in their secondary schools from the late 1950s and 1960s onwards. C.P. Snow’s Two Cultures was published in 1959. In 1964, however, he reproduced the first lectures but added ‘A Second Look”, Cambridge University Press,in which he insisted that education needed to include the humanities if we were ‘to think with wisdom’ [See also the detailed consideration of the background, from 1918, to the move to separate the sciences from the arts and the humanities in my Introduction to Challenging the Divide: Approaches to Science and Poetry.]

I ask teachers in Australia’s secondary schools and lecturers in post-secondary education to consider what the evidence here offers for the more effective engagement of students and teachers in education at all levels. I also ask them to consider what the loss of the socially-interactive, interdisciplinary library, with its range of possible connections through browsing, must mean for secondary schools, forcing students to use Google rather than explore, often with the cooperation of librarians who can help them range more widely and deeply, the extensive range of other media.

What is clear, as one considers the examples of authors and other material included here so far, is that the foundation of their learning is underpinned by what we call different subjects/disciplines. It is also affected by the informal learning that goes on coincidentally with formal schooling. These authors cross disciplines to engage in the humanities and arts as well as their chosen scientific, technological or engineering fields or their field of mathematics. As the Boston Globe says of the author of Linked, to be found in the American section:

Barabási may be a scientist, but he did not neglect his liberal arts education; his Renaissance man’s curiosity roves across history, economics, medicine and pop culture.

III. Background to that separation after World War II.

As early as 1944, with a second edition in 1947, students in secondary schools in Australia could have been using Working with Words: A Course in English Expression by E.A. Southwell, published by Longmans, Green and Co.

It not only had a section on Australian work in poetry and prose, it had a section that encouraged students and their teachers to think in terms of prose and poetry about aspects of the sciences. Part 11 ‘Comprehension of Prose’, Chapter XI ‘Reading and Thinking’ would be useful today. Even though it comes from the 19th century, Mary Kingsley’s story of “her passionate devotion to the science of chemistry” is worth reading. She was a writer about science and an explorer in Africa. [1862 – 1900.]

 The concluding section of the chapter in this textbook for students of English is “The scientist and the poet: the transformation of energy in prose and poetry” [p 132]. The examples make clear there was no intention in the mind of that author for students of English to accept a ‘divide’ and deny poetry a place in the consideration of the sciences. That separation appears to have developed later in Australia. One might hear a librarian respond to a question with ‘Science or poetry’, when one asked for books connecting both! That experience was as late as 2001. [In March 2017 in Los Angeles at the National Science Teachers Association [NSTA] conference, one paper brought the connections between science and poetry back into consideration. Look for detailed information in the American and Australian sections.]

The Cold War

That earlier connection of science and poetry in the humanities was before the impact of atomic power, the devastating effect of nuclear warfare, and the ideological collisions of the Cold War began to have their effect on the decisions of those in government about who should be ‘schooled’ and in what ways.

The Cold War had not, however, had an impact as yet in Cambridge where science students asked for lectures on literature. They felt their education was incomplete without it and they began to ask in 1950 for lectures about literature. As a result T.R. Henn produced The Apple and the Spectroscope (being) Lectures on Poetry designed (in the main) for Science Students.

Professor Sir Lawrence Bragg, so important as the son with the father, who became Adelaide’s first Nobel Prize winners for physics, wrote the Foreword. The lectures were published by Methuen and Co. Ltd, London, first in 1951, then as a school edition in 1963 that would be reprinted in 1967.  Sir Lawrence Bragg wrote something worth remembering in 2017.

The close connection between science on the one hand, and philosophy and literature on the other, may have been partly lost sight of during the recent age of scientific exploration, but it is inevitably emerging again and it is the duty of our universities to assign to it its full importance. [ p xix]

But in Australia where, in my experience, utilitarian attitudes have dominated approaches to schooling, there appears to have been no such request as that which inspired the wonderful collection of lectures in The Apple and the Spectroscope.

Moving on – the 1970s. ‘Future Shock’ and responses.

In USA an Institute for the Future had been established in 1970 And there was one in Copenhagen. Both are still there. Alvin Tofler had been teaching a course, ‘the sociology of the future’, one of the first such courses in the world. In 1969 he was a Visiting Professor at Cornell University. In 1970, his book, Future Shock, was first published in Britain. The paperback version would appear in 1971. A 12th printing would be made in  1975.

His index makes clear just how wide-ranging were his concerns about our future. Look for example at topics like: the arts, computing, pace of life, technocratic planning, rates of change, religion, robots, family, sex, science – even scientists as scapegoats -, super-industrial societies and the post-materialist society. And, on pp 408 – 414, ‘The need for the Humanization of the Planner’.

In Australia, how many of us were thinking along those lines? Obviously some were. Where robotics was concerned, for example, Dr Rodney Brooks certainly was. Called ‘The Robo Tsar’ in Investigator Transformed: Fifty Years of Flinders University 1966 – 2016, completing his first degree at Flinders University in 1977 and acknowledging the inspiration of Dr Jerry Kautsky in 1973, he had to go to USA to follow up that passion of his. There he contributed to the exploration of other planets and later founded iRobot, the company that is having such an incredibly diverse impact on the lives of people everywhere.

There are many other researchers who were well aware of the changes taking place that were social, economic, demographic, meteorological, cultural and political. For example Professor Graeme Hugo, who studied and later taught at Flinders University before moving to the University of Adelaide, had an international reputation for his study of populations and demographic changes. His death in 2015 produced an outpouring of grief across the nation. Also we know evidence of the human contribution to climate change had been being suspected since the late 19th century. By the late 1960s we were talking about pollution. We talked of the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic. By the early 1980s schools might have giant computers needing air-conditioning! [In 2017, to hear an American President, Donald J. Trump, call ‘climate change’ a Chinese hoax is one of the most frightening statements being made by some one with the power he holds. The kind of ‘future shock’ his attitude makes possible is something all should worry about.]

In Future Shock Tofler was emphasizing, on pp 408 – 414, ‘The need for the Humanization of the Planner’! That’s problem we certainly still have in 2017. [In Australia, in 2017, the use of the ‘robo-debt collector’ system set up by the Federal Department of Family Services shows what dehumanization is doing to our services.] But why was not the voting population of Australia aware? I suggest that the level of ignorance and indifference was, in part, due to the fact of the separation of the sciences from the humanities and the arts. In Australia, scientists were, on the whole, not seeing the need to communicate with us about their concerns. The divisions, intellectually, were horizontal. And that is how barriers were created.

In Britain – 1970s onwards

In 1970s Britain, however, there was an awareness of the potential for a problem in terms of the lack of scientists’ capacity to communicate with the rest of us. In 1975 D.E. Royds-Irmak began producing books to improve the writing of scientists. John Swales had produced Writing Scientific English. Now Royds-Irmak wrote Beginning Scientific English Book I, Key to Exercises in Beginning Scientific English, Books I and 2. all published by Nelson. Their approach to words, to precision in verbs, clarity in description I found valuable and added to my curriculum library at Marion High school in 1983 for teachers to use. And by 1979, Robert Barrass, of Sunderland Polytechnic in Britain was trying to wake up scientists with his book, Scientists Must Write: A guide to Better Writing for Scientists, Engineers and Students, published by Chapman and Hall, London.

Britain, like USA, has had organizations connecting the sciences and the arts for centuries. For example, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce, founded in 1754 – inevitable with the Industrial Revolution underway – was given a Royal Charter in 1847. Among Fellows of what is now called the Royal Society for the Arts [RSA] have been Benjamin Franklin (scientist and diplomat), Charles Dickens, and very recently Stephen Hawking and Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web. The RSA is there to celebrate ‘innovative contributions to human knowledge.’ Interestingly, the Oxford English Dictionary records the first use of the term ‘sustainability’, in an environmental sense, in the RSA’s Journal for 1980.

In 1989 the first Edinburgh International Science Fair took place. It is now one of the most influential science fairs in the world. The book Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science, edited by Robert Crawford, published by Oxford University Press, 2006, grew out of a discussion with Ian Wall of the Edinburgh International Science Fair. [Read Robert Crawford’s list of acknowledgements to see how far the cross-over between the sciences, the humanities and the arts made his book possible.]

Also the Wellcome Trust Sciarts program enabled Robert Crawford to bring together scientists and poets for the meeting that resulted in the poems in the book. The Wellcome Trust supported this interdisciplinary, trans-disciplinary approach from 1996 to 2006. Contributions to Robert Crawford’s book from Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, astronomer, and Simon Armitage, poet, are in Challenging the Divide: Approaches to Science and Poetry, Lythrum Press, Adelaide, 2010, launched in March of that year by Robyn Williams of Australia’s ABC Radio National “Science Show”. [The bibliography and index to Challenging the Divide provide evidence of other work contributing to this kind of discussion.] Unfortunately, except for the work of Robyn Williams and the ABC, and SBS, we seem to have no such forward thinking among acknowledged leaders in our Schools of Education in Australia.

A new degree has been established at University College London,[UCL]. London’s Global University. A BASc. Look at the requirements for entrants. It will begin in 2018 with “a mixture of arts/humanities/social sciences and sciences/Mathematics. Major pathway requirements: Cultures or Societies: two arts/humanities/social sciences plus one science/Mathematics; Sciences and Engineering: Mathematics and one other science plus one arts/humanities/social science; Health and Environment: Chemistry or Biology, and one other science or social science plus one arts/humanities/social science.

The situation in Australia – with a focus on SA – 1970s.

It appears to me that in Australia, in South Australia for example, there was no systematic support for an interdisciplinary, integrated approach in South Australian secondary schools. The exception was the work by Brian Hannaford, Principal of Marion High School from 1974 – 1983. He had, in fact, begun to think and work in this way at his previous school, Elizabeth West High School where his efforts to encourage faculties to think cooperatively about themes are remembered with pleasure and admiration by a teacher there, now a Student Counsellor supporting those kinds of connections in the thinking at Westminster School. To Marion High School, set in the old mould, he brought approaches that challenged those who saw subjects as silos. [See We Came to Marion: Celebrating Forty Years of Marion High School, published by Flinders Press in 1995. The school, while recognized for its ‘successful  programs’ by the then Minister for Education, Rob Lucas, was destroyed by the State Liberal government in 1996. As were two other progressive secondary public schools. Mawson High School had been closed the previous year and the land sold to Catholic Education.]

Hannaford encouraged students to cross disciplines, to create bridges for advancing learning, before the end of the 1970s as part of their independent study. For teachers to be fully informed and prepared, he had set the process out systematically in Moving into the Future. And it was timetabled into the whole school program! He was increasing the possibilities for a student’s development from Year 9’s thematic cross-disciplinary study, through the Year 10 self-directed ‘Bridging’ program, requiring students to cross disciplines, to the Year 11 more advanced student Independent Study. And this approach continued after he retired in 1983.

However, there was little systematic recognition of the value of this approach by the SA Department of Education [See Risky Business: Changing a Secondary School by Brian Hannaford FACE. And We Came to Marion 1955 – 1995.] Brian Hannaford also encouraged his senior faculty leaders to visit schools in other states to ensure that they did not just stay in their own backyard. In addition he created senior positions that were not faculty-based! One such was Outdoor Education. Another Senior had the oversight of the multi-disciplinary Lalor Learning Centre.

The Freedom and Authority Memorandum issued in 1970 by the SA Director of Education, Dr ‘Alby’ Jones had, theoretically, given the principals their heads. Les Kemp, Principal of Banksia Park High School, wrote in A Broader Vision that many in the administration did not approve of or support it. He wrote: “Some of the officers of the Education Department did not like the memorandum. It reduced their former authority which was in my view too open to abuse. The ‘department’ was not democratically inclined. Disagreement with departmental decisions was seen as disloyalty to the department. This was a peculiar view point, as most teachers put loyalty to their students, their colleagues and their own educational and moral stands, well ahead of loyalty to the department.”

There were exceptions. In 1977 the Director of Education, Dr John Steinle, supported the publication of Help Yourselves: Food for Thought, compiled and edited by the late Frances Wells and myself as a collection of essays across disciplines by writers, working in different occupations, to encourage students to understand why writers choose different styles for different audiences. However, it was not taken up by teachers of English even though writers of the calibre of Iris Murdoch had supported the idea and contributed to the book. And it had a contribution from the Aboriginal poet and playwright, Jack Davis. [

Changes in 1980s

Les Kemp also noted that “Some principals – Brian Hannaford for example at Marion High School – took advantage of the memorandum immediately to re-structure their schools.” With the support of that memorandum, individual schools might be encouraged to try different things. They might set up integrated alternative settings. However these approaches to cross disciplinary engagement were despised by the traditionalists in schools, in academe and among politicians. Such integration had allowed connections across disciplines. [See A Risky Business.] When the binary secondary system began to end in the latter part of the 1970s, those in authority discouraged their continuance. Phrases like ‘dumbing down’ could be heard. The Keeves Report also undermined the role of principals as leaders in innovation. So, in the 1980s and into the 1990s, unless a principal had the energy to go on fighting for what he or she believed, in South Australia secondary, now comprehensive schools would focus, to a large extent, on traditional, self-contained faculties with subjects as ‘silos’ competing for available funds rather than collaborating with one another.

Mawson High School, for example, had taken the initiative with its approach in the integrated centre, DELTA, in the late 1970s. [See A Broader Vision.] Mawson had also set up a mainstream integrated Year 8 class later in the 1970s. Both Marion High School and Mawson High – formerly Brighton Boys Technical High School – were among metropolitan progressive schools, including Port Adelaide Girls (former Technical) High School and The Parks Community School destroyed by a State Liberal government in 1996.] I had been aware of radical thinking about education going on at Swinburne Technical College in the 1970s and 1980s. [It would become Swinburne University of Technology in 1992.] However, the University of Adelaide and the new Flinders University, that did bring in drama with all its cross-disciplinary aspects, showed no interest in supporting integration as an aspect of secondary education as far as I could see.

Into the 21st century.

Integration involving cross-disciplinary exchanges can still be encouraged in the middle school and, to my knowledge for example, operates at Birdwood High School. But, and it is a major concern, in the 21st century, the continuation of this kind of cross-disciplinary approach depends on the values of a secondary school principal. Today, in the light of the recognition of the discouragement of studying in the sciences and mathematics that so many girls experienced in the past, plus the need – in this digital age – for a greater cohort in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the separation of the sciences et al from the arts and the humanities is being reinforced, to the detriment of both.

If a principal is only on a STEM crusade, such a process involving the cross-over between the sciences and humanities might not be valued. A Principal in secondary schools can undermine anything that tends to move towards a holistic approach if he or she so decides. And a Principal can decide to keep or destroy the multi-level, cross-disciplinary structure of a school library. In early childhood and in primary schools their structure allows them to be more holistic in approach. In secondary schools that tremendous capacity to make unexpected connections is valuable. You don’t have to click open a screen to browse in books. And if STEM is the narrow crusade, then girls may still be disadvantaged. See the article in ‘Empower Women’ about the necessity for a more holistic approach requiring the inclusion of the arts and humanities.

I have found some potential secondary teachers for the middle school being introduced to an integrated approach at Flinders University’s School of Education. Everything still depends on the problem-solving approach that crosses ‘the two cultures divide’ being permitted, understood intellectually as well as emotionally and actively encouraged at a secondary level for students – and their parents – to accept the value of this approach. It can never be as neat as a ‘subject as silo’ approach. One needs to be asking questions all the time. At the senior level, in 2017, too many subjects have remained ‘silos’. That is now more likely to occur, in my view, following the 2015 revisions in the Australian national curriculum which removed, for example, the connection of issues like sustainability from consideration in mathematics. It also removed from the Indigenous and Asian cultures any possible connections with the sciences and mathematics.

The necessity for a more holistic approach mentioned by Marcus du Sautoy has been identified in an article in Empower Women. See the article in the American section where Emad Karim argues for a more holistic approach to bring women into the opportunities provided by STEAM!

The inevitable contribution of Australian politics today.

Australians interested in education rather than schooling should never forget that Australia’s Federal Minister for Education in 2014 had previously, on television for everyone listening to the ABC’s Q & A in 2013 to hear, totally rejected the idea that sustainability could be connected with mathematics. His successor, on Q & A, rejected the possibility of any connection between the study of geography and the study of politics!

The separation of faculties as ‘silos’ was very much embedded in the structure of secondary high schools and in the structure of universities before the 1970s. So many politicians were brought up to accept that separation into ‘silos’. That approach reinforced the ‘two cultures divide’. Moves towards a more thematic study at a secondary level in SA were short-lived in the 1970s. The accepted conservative ‘academic’ approach was subjects/disciplines as self-contained faculties.

Those now in power have been schooled in academic structures of the past. Very often in private schools. They tend, in my estimation, to despise the vocational aspects of learning as beneath them. In fact, it was easier to cross disciplines in those ‘technical/vocational’ schools. However so many politicians were, and still are, comfortable in private traditional secondary schools Perhaps that explains, in part, the attitudes that, from 1996, have undermined the Technical and Further Education Institutions across Australia to the detriment of the whole structure of avenues of learning for people at different stages in their education.  [It is interesting that in senior studies in Sweden, they are now moving towards a more thematic cross-disciplinary approach.]

Holistic approaches in secondary schools. In South Australia, for example, only in the Australian Science and Mathematics School, established by the SA Education Department in 2003, with the support of Flinders University, had I found a secondary holistic approach in its interdisciplinary programs. The very structure of the school enables the process to take place. The interdisciplinary Central Studies helps to focus students’ thinking in Years 10 and 11. The interactions of members of different faculties and a philosophy based on cross-disciplinary engagement across the sciences, mathematics and the humanities in the service of the education of girls and boys, from year 10 to Year 12 – expected to enter the sciences, computing, engineering with a sound level of mathematics – reinforces the holistic approach. It still relies on the support of the Principal!

This philosophy at the ASMS was embedded from the start. Students have been encouraged to range widely when they are engaged in problem-solving. History and geography are likely to enter into the consideration of the problem. For instance a group of girls was searching for an idea that could lead to a way to increase access to light in the darkened homes of families without the funds to pay for electricity. They came to their idea – of a way to solve a real problem some families live with – as a result of their discovery of how the ancient Egyptians, mathematically, worked out how to focus light on the face of the Pharaoh in the central tomb within the pyramid.

In 2017, there has been a move towards a collaborative approach at Pasadena High School. It is going to have the possibilities of connections between the sciences, the arts and sport – in particular basketball. The school will work with Flinders University’s School of Education and will be supported by teachers who understand interdisciplinary approaches from the ASMS. It is an initiative of the South Australian Department of Education and the Minister, Dr Susan Close, is to be congratulated for this progressive thinking.

2017 – Holistic thinking – ‘Connective thinking’ – is a move coming from USA suggesting ways of “Framing a Second Enlightenment to Create Communities [my italics] of the Future. That is the sub-title of Preparing for a World that Doesn’t Exist – YET, by Rick Smyre and Neil Richardson, published by Changemaker Books, Winchester UK and Washington USA, 2016. They are doing what Alvin Toffler was trying to do in the 1970s in Future Shocks. Inevitably there will be a movement away from the focus on the individual. Collaboration rather than competition will be essential. And, in 2017, another term is coming into play – transdisciplinary – to identify the skills transferred across the sciences and the humanities! [See the University of Sydney in the Australian section.]


A warning about the evidence I am gathering. Always check the indices of books. A good index will tell a student or a lover of learning whether the author has the broader vision that connects across disciplines as well as the depth of vision in his or her chosen field.

IV. Cross-disciplinary approaches in material from the northern hemisphere. The alternative of science, technology, engineering, the arts and humanities and mathematics.

The lists will be long, including some reference to correspondence with different people. There will be a detailed comment on some material. I feel I have to keep on explaining just what is being lost. This narrow, short-sighted acronym-based focus of STEM is making educating the young more difficult. It needs to be replaced by STEAM.

The evidence here is in order of my discovery of mainly printed information over time and is gathered under the headings of different nations. Do not forget the roles that radio, television and documentary films have been playing in trying to overcome the serious ignorance produced by the separation of the sciences from the arts and humanities in so much secondary and tertiary education after WWII. Film is an interdisciplinary medium. Look at the outstanding work of the BBC and also of BBC Scotland now seen across the world. We have to hope it is making a difference. [“Lion”, in cinemas in 2017, brings in the mathematics in Google Earth as part of the process the young Indian man goes through to find his biological mother. ’Hidden Figures’ informs people in 2017 of the major roles of African American women in America’s efforts to gain dominance in the space race. And a recent ‘Dr Who’ has a focus on the sciences and the arts.]

V. Examples of inter-connection from the UK, Austria, Ireland, Italy and France and Sweden.

1. Professor Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.

In Oxford Today: The University Magazine Trinity Term 2013, Volume 25 No 2, Professor Marcus du Sautoy opens his article with the heading ‘No more Isolation’. He is a mathematician and is pictured beneath the new Mathematics Institute adjacent to the Radcliffe Observatory. He is asking ‘how many of the problems being addressed by academics are no longer amenable to a single subject focus?’ He says ‘This interplay between subjects is absolutely necessary if we are going to tackle such complex problems as climate change, virus spread, economic stability and population growth.’ [p. 31] He suggests that academics in one discipline or another like ‘two previously alien cultures’ should be speaking ‘the common language of discourse’ *** His area is Number theory.

He continues: ‘Despite the exciting new bridges being built, we still have a long way to go in breaking down the silo mentality traditionally found in universities.

Marcus du Sautoy writes that: ‘Profitable connections needn’t just be between traditional academic subjects.’ He has seen a play: Complicite’s award winning play ‘A Disappearing Number’ [which] brought the world of theatre and mathematics together in a piece that surprised many who came to see it.’

Later he will suggest, writing of a conversation in which a drama teacher talks for the first time to a maths teacher,

 ‘It was one of many stories that have contributed to my belief that the best education would be one where we tore down the walls between classrooms and taught education in a more holistic way.’ [p 33]

He ends his article with this sentence:

“The more we learn to speak each other’s languages, ask each other new questions, the more hope there is of finding answers to the problems that have stubbornly eluded previous generations.”

2. Dr John Emsley, the author of Nature’s Building Blocks: An A – Z Guide to the Elements, Department of Chemistry, Cambridge, UK published by Oxford University Press, 2001.

 From the title, it looks as if this book might be a repetition of the way the periodic table might be taught in schools. [See also my reference to Primo Levi’s collection of short stories about some elements in The Periodic Table.]

John Emsley has written this book ‘for the general reader who may have had little scientific training’. To make the book easy to read he sets the elements in alphabetical order to enable anyone to check the element he or she is interested in. He has deliberately chosen an approach that he would not have chosen if this were just a book for scientists. In other words, he cares about engaging those beyond the sphere of students of chemistry.

He adopts a similar process for each element. We get the pronunciation, the etymological derivation and how the element is spelt in other languages, reminding us of the international nature of scientific endeavour. Sometimes, in the case of arsenic, the human element is first. For carbon, the cosmic element is first. If I just concentrate on carbon the elements he covers are, in this order: cosmic, human, food, medical, history, war, economic, environmental, chemical and, for all of them, always, finally an ‘element of surprise’.

Emsley’s holistic approach comes from an academic who is eager to engage us in all the elements of the sphere of scientific study that he finds fascinating. In this process he is an educator. In this way he takes the reader into ‘the building blocks’ of biology, biochemistry, geology, medicine, metallurgy and nutrition according to the Times Higher Education Supplement. This scientist is not afraid of reminding us that war, politics and morality are part of the lives of everyone, that chemical elements are used in war and there is an ethical question that must always be asked about how these elements are used. [Think of phosphorus bombs previously dropped on Gaza by Israel and chemical weapons being used against victims of war in Syria now in 2017.]

3. Professor Richard Fortey, former senior palaeontologist in the Natural History Museum in London. His major work is, Life: an unauthorised biography. The American edition published by Vintage Books, New York in 1997 is called Life: a natural history of the first four billion years of life on earth.

His approach is seamless. For Professor Fortey everything that makes us human has a place in the way he weaves the story, in the way he explores the complexities of life. For this palaeontologist there are no two cultures. He interweaves stories of the events of the stages, the thresholds of change and new developments on the planet with verses from poems, lines from film, detective stories, myth and music. He shares his sense of humour, has us smiling at some irony, even laughing on the odd occasion, enjoying his use of alliteration, pausing, often stopping because we want to think about the threshold he has reached. We are totally engaged – heart and mind. He abhors reductionism.

Scientists are supposed to eliminate their personal voice, which no doubt works admirably for technical journals, but such spurious objectivity jettisons an awareness of what makes the process of discovery exciting, interesting, and informed with the whole inventory of our frailties and virtues. [ p 25]

In his chapter on the greening of the planet he will take the reader to the seventeenth century poet, Andrew Marvell and give us this ‘green thought’ to build on:

The mind, the Ocean, where each kind

                           Does straight its own resemblance find;

                           Yet it creates, transcending these,

                           Far other worlds, and other seas;

                           Annihilating all that’s made

To a green thought in a green shade.

4. Oxford University Press in 2006 published Contemporary poetry and contemporary science, edited by Robert Crawford who was supported in this endeavour by the Wellcome Trust. The idea for the dialogues grew out to the Edinburgh International Science Festival. first held in 1989.

I suggest those in Schools of Education preparing potential secondary teachers should read some of the essays by scientists and poets contained in this collection. They engage with one another as human beings with their preferences and points of view so that we know how they feel about each other and what they do. Dr Jocelyn Bell Burnell brings in poetry to her lectures to ‘laymen’ to help them get the feeling for what is involved in astronomy. Poetry, in Simon Armitage’s view, had a significant role in the tragedies of the twentieth century.

5. Read Rebecca Elson’s book A Responsibility in Awe, published by Carcanet Press, Manchester 2001. It is a delightful collectionof this late astronomer’s poetry. It reminds educators that scientists are human beings. Read the essay about her education at the conclusion of the book. She was born in Canada but worked on dark matter in the UK until her too early death.

6. A Quark for Mr Mark: 101 Poems about Science edited by Maurice Riordan and Jon Turney, Faber and Faber, London, 2000.

‘This anthology counters the notion that science and poetry are magnetically opposed. The editors have found poets as varied as Shelley, W.H. Auden, Jo Shapcott and Diane Ackerman, whose inspiration is science – its discoveries, processes and implications – and whose view of the world is influenced by scientific ideas whether from before Copernicus or after Einstein.’

7. The Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction (motto: “All the Best Stories are True”) “This prize is one of the most prestigious[1][2] prizes for non-fiction writing. It was founded in 1999 following the demise of the NCR Corporation Book Award and based on an anonymous donation. The prize is named after Samuel Johnson to whom the Enlightenment owes so much. The prize covers current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography, autobiography and the arts.[2] The competition is open to authors of any nationality whose work is published in the UK in English.[2].” Wikipedia.

Unlike this prize, the American International Lewis Thomas Prize is specifically for writing by scientists. Collect more information about the non-fiction books that are awarded this prize. It will reveal just how much writing is crossing discipline boundaries. Everyone should read Lewis Thomas’s essay, ‘The Medusa and the Snail’ that shows not all life is Tennyson’s competitive struggle for survival. Lewis Thomas gives a wonderful example of the collaboration that enables two creatures to live. Check this website for all the recipients of this award. In 2017 Sylvia Earle of USA won the award for her writing about the oceans.

8. Simon Flynn, The Science Magpie: Fascinating facts. stories, poems, diagrams and jokes plucked from science. This edition was published by Icon Books, London 2013. Simon Flynn worked in publishing for fifteen years and is a newly qualified teacher of science, teaching in North London. What matters most about this book is his recognition that poets and their poetry can be connected with science. He is not afraid of dealing with politics and its impact on decisions. The sections are brief and that is why it is a ‘magpie’ picking up all kinds of things randomly. One is D.H. Lawrence’s response to Einstein’s book, Relativity, The Special and General Theory. His poem ‘Relativity’ has a place in this magpie grab bag. Lines from the G&S ‘Pirates of Penzance’ will find a place here. All aim to expand, not narrow, connections with the sciences and mathematics.

9. A.N. Wilson, The Potter’s Hand, published by Atlantic Books, London, 2012. This is a novel of epic proportions. It embraces the lives of the Wedgewood ‘tribe’, their relationships with Dr Erasmus Darwin, – grandfather of Charles – their lives, the history of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the scientific developments and technical inventions, the growth of materialism, the reaction against it in Wesley’s preachings, the conflict between business and compassion – the refusal of parliament, although Pitt the Younger wanted it, to ease the burden of starvation on the Irish by permitting free trade between England and Ireland – the American and French Revolutions, the work of eighteenth century painters, the poets as people – look at the view of Coleridge here – education, and all the tendency to move towards conflicts and consequences resulting from the too often self-centred life. [It is no wonder T.S.Eliot would later want to establish the notion of the ‘impersonal poet’, just as Fritz Haber wanted to establish the ‘impersonal scientist’.]

10. The warning about the index applies to this book. The Story of Physics: From natural philosophy to the enigma of dark matter, by Anne Rooney, published by Arcturus, London, 2011. The author includes Alexander Pope, Napoleon and Mark Twain: an English 18th century poet, the Emperor of the French and possibly the greatest American novelist. And she begins the chapter on optics with mention of the poem by the Roman poet Lucretius, Dr Rerum Natura, that brought the Greek discoveries in natural philosophy to Rome. It is worth asking questions about why Anne Rooney considers these men, as well as Arabian scientists, significant in The Story of Physics. Clearly she does not accept the separation of the sciences from the humanities and, with the presence of Napoleon, she includes politics.But look critically at the index and see what or who might not be there. In this book the Braggs, father and son, have no place in her story and that needs to be remedied. Both were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 “for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays”. The connection of Sir William Bragg and Sir Lawrence Bragg with Adelaide in South Australia should remind people that not all the great work in the sciences has come from the northern hemisphere.

11. Sir Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers: The deep forces that shape the universe, published as a Phoenix Paperback, London 2000, is to help the general reader have a feeling for the significance of numbers in astronomy which he calls ‘the oldest numerical science’.  Given the move, I hope will come to pass, to a Masters degree in Education, with a broader and deeper knowledge base plus the concern for sensibilities – the trinity of heart, head and hand – of all engaged in teaching and learning, books such as this help us to understand the expanding dimensions of the world our children are entering. Martin Rees recognises the value of literature. In his opening chapter, John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez has a place. Later Woody Allen gets a mention as does St. Augustine. That tells us about the human being behind the Astronomer Royal.

12. Richard Hamblyn’s Terra: Tales of the Earth: Four Events that changed the world, Picador, 2009, reminds all who want a neat, linear, perhaps political or economic or, for example Whig interpretation of history that weather, and with it chance, comes into the story. Science – in this case the role of volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis in the earth sciences – have their effect on the behaviour of human beings, affect crops, livelihood, lives, the politics, social conditions and events of a time with consequent impact on the situations afterwards. The interdisciplinary approach of authors like Richard Hamblyn reminds us that the sciences have their place in the study of histories of different times and places. Here it is geology and meteorology as well as, in one tale, the investigation of a scientist, inventor, patriot and politician – Benjamin Franklin. Richard Hamblyn’s previous book, The Invention of Cloud, was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson non-fiction prize. [I’d also have teacher/librarians – get copies of the documentary ‘Filthy Cities’ which makes the same kind of cross-curricular connections needed for the broader and deeper understanding of our lives on this planet.]

13. The Earth: An Intimate History, by Richard Fortey. This edition published by Harper Perennial, London, 2004 does for us and our understanding of this planet, what his Unauthorised Biography does for Life. [See the previous note 4 for details.]By checking his index, you will realise that this scientist does not limit himself to one side of that C.P. Snow, 1959 ‘two cultures’ divide. For example, the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney is here. John Keats, D.H. Lawrence and others important in the arts and humanities are here. For Richard Fortey, they are part of the whole.

14. University of Liverpool Centre for Poetry and Science offers essays and interviews, poems and links to events. Check their website, Discover the aspects of the sciences that poets choose for their poems. The University of Liverpool’s Centre for Poetry and Science is a forum to facilitate discussion about the relationship between those two supposedly opposed subjects, poetry and science. The site provides new poetry, commentary, newly commissioned essays and interviews with leading poets and scientists. A new poem by Noel Duffy, “Rock Ammonite” from his collection In the Library of Lost Objects (2011), is now available in the poetry section.

15. Warwick University Centre for Poetry and Science has an important reputation. It now has the Warwick Prize for Writing. On June 2013 there was a list of 12 titles with novelists and poets pitted against non-fiction … Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science by Jim Al-Khalili (Penguin) … and more.

The Warwick Prize for Writing in 2015 was won by Phil Klay for Redeployment, a short story collection dealing with the American experience of the Iraq War, published by Canongate.

Look at the connections across disciplines and occupations in the 2015 judging panel. “The 2015 panel was chaired by acclaimed author and dramatist, Alison L Kennedy. She was accompanied by author and academic Robert Macfarlane, actress and director Fiona Shaw, physician and writer Gavin Francis and Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler.”

However, for 2017, the University of Warwick will partner with The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop for the Young Writer of the Year award. This is an extension of Warwick’s commitment to the nurture and support of literary work, emerging writing talent and the creative industries.

Where are we making connections like these in Australia?

Note also the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University, Belfast. Seamus Heaney has been recognised for his poetry that connects with aspects of science.

16. British Society for Literature and Science

There is reference on this website to Darwin’s Bards: British and American Poetry in the Age of Evolution (Edinburgh)

17. Michael Frayn, The Human Touch: Our part in the creation of a universe, Faber & Faber, London, 2006. Michael Frayn is a writer noted for the quality of the questions he asks, whether in prose, in plays, in fiction, non-fiction as well as for film and television. He also wrote the playCopenhagen, about Niels Bohr and Heisenberg. But The Human Touch matters for us. Numbers, abstractions are the results of human decisions and human actions, with results for all of us across the millennia. Michael Frayn is reminding us of the subjective element in the ways we operate.

18. John Browne, Seven Elements that have changed the world –iron, carbon, gold, silver, uranium, titanium, silicon – A Phoenix Paperback, 2014, London. Checking the index always tells you whether you are dealing with someone who recognises the artificiality of the science/humanities ‘divide’. This is such a book. The index reveals the depth of the author’s understanding but also his sense of the connections with the wider world.

19. Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder: How the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of science, published by Harper Press, London, 2008. The rejection of history as a valuable way of facing the significance of the developments in the sciences is a major concern today. Investigation of the background might help us avoid so many of these ‘unintended consequences’. Discovery may come from what might be called ‘a Eureka moment’. That moment might come in a bath! [Charles Dickens’ Hard Times makes us look at some of the consequences of the uses put to the sciences by early 19th century industrialists in Britain. Unfortunately the notion of the ‘lesser’ people has not gone away in our corporate-dominated world.]

Today’s focus on the infinitesimal – the tiniest, like the microchip discussed on “Future Tense”, on the ABC’s Radio National October 2nd 2016, came out of wonder. And, among other reminders of the impact of past imagination and thinking on the 21st century’s ‘age of artificial intelligence’, Richard Holmes takes us to Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein.

20. Peter Medawar, The Limits of Science, Oxford University Press, 1984. Sir Peter Medawar died in 1987. From Wikipedia I learn he is known as the “father of organ transplantation” With his doctoral student Leslie Brent and postdoctoral fellow Rupert E. Billingham, he demonstrated the principle of acquired immunological tolerance (the phenomenon of unresponsiveness of the immune system to certain molecules), which was theoretically predicted by Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet”, – the Australian scientist who also worked with Frank Fenner, both of whose contributions to medicine were extraordinary.

“This became the foundation of tissue and organ transplantation.[1] He and Burnett shared the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for discovery of acquired immunological tolerance.[8]” Sir Macfarlane Burnett died in 1985. The work of this naturalised British citizen and this Australian scientist helped to change our approach to the possibilities for human life.

Why is Peter Medawar here?

In his essay “Can Scientific Discovery Be Premeditated”, in that extraordinary book, he wrote:

         Most of the day-to-day business of science consists in making observations or experiments designed to find out whether this imagined world of our hypotheses corresponds to the real one. An act of imagination, a speculative adventure, thus underlies every improvement in natural knowledge.

            It was not a scientist or a philosopher but a poet who first classified this act of mind and found the right word to describe it. The poet was Shelley and the word ‘poiesis’. the root of the words ‘poetry’ and ‘poesy’, and standing for ‘making’, ‘fabrication’ or the ‘act of creation’.

            With this wider sense of the word in mind, Shelley roundly declared in his famous “Defence of Poetry” [1821] that “poetry comprehends all science”, thus classifying scientific creativity with the form of creativity more usually associated with imaginative literature and the fine arts. What is more to the point is that Shelley went on to assert. “A man cannot say I will write poetry . . . the greatest poet even cannot say it.”

            No more, I submit, can a scientist say I will make a scientific discovery; the greatest scientist even cannot say it.”  

Look also for Peter Medawar in the Australian section even though there is no mention of Australia in his excellent index.

21. Professor Dame Athene Donald is concerned the UK curriculum has shown too little interest in the arts. Robyn Williams encouraged me to contact her, and I did, September 2015.  Professor Donald contributed an article to the UK Conversation in which she said that she had found a serious problem with the Art-Science divide in the curriculum. She wrote of ‘the danger of narrow specialization.’ She called it a ‘strange habit’, and was working to bring about a positive change in the UK Curriculum. As a Professor in experimental physics, concerned about the art-science divide, and a ‘University Gender Equality Champion (2010 – 2014) she is someone we should be taking note of in Australia where the ‘divide’ still exists in the revised Australian national curriculum. She is Master of Churchill College, Cambridge.

22. The tendency of the STEM approach to science, technology, engineering and mathematics is to assume there is no need to consider their history, the nature of the people who did the work and how the lives, times and places might have affected how they worked. So A Little History of Science by William Bynum, Emeritus Professor of the History of Medicine at University College London, published by Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2012, is worth reading.This history is an important counterweight. It is written with such an engaging narrative style that makes it suitable for the young as well as adult readers. It is a reminder that knowledge travels cross the Atlantic Ocean more readily than it finds its way “Down Under”. The index focuses on the very human history, the situations in existence when different discoveries were being made over millennia! One can ‘cherry pick’. Perhaps start with the last chapter “ Science in our digital age”. Or follow the stories chronologically. Maybe risk entering the story with “Needles and Numbers”. Needles! Or, as another reminder of the need for an open mind, consider “Science in Islam”. This ‘little history’ is as valuable for families as it is for schools, in their libraries.  

23. This collection of Nick Drake’s responses to his trip with climate scientists to the Arctic Circle reminds everyone of the power of the poet to awaken responses to developments in nature. Here in The Farewell Glacier, Paperback, published 2012 we have just such an example of the contribution of poetry to the understanding of the significance of scientific observation and the impact of climate change. He helps us feel what is happening. It is 64 pages. Note the role of the Arts Climate Change Association in this investigation and in the poetry prompted by these experiences. This collection of ‘voices’, some non-human, could be part of a study in chemistry or geo-science. Listen to the ‘voices’ of PCB, POP, DDT. Toxic chemicals – please read their story and see what it means for humanity. ‘As ye sow, so shall ye reap.’ [He was in Adelaide at the Festival of Ideas in the Elder Hall, October 22nd 2016. Anyone who heard him read the ‘voice’ of the ice core is unlikely to forget it or to forget what it tells us.

“In late 2010 Nick Drake sailed around Svalbad, an archipelago of islands 500 miles north of Norway, with Cape Farewell, the arts climate change organisation. It was the end of the Arctic summer. The sun took eight hours to set. When the sky briefly darkened, the Great Bear turned about their heads as it had for Pythias the Greek, the first European known to have explored this far north. Sailing as close as possible to the vast glaciers that dominate the islands, they saw polar bear prints on pieces of pack ice the size of trucks. And they tried to understand the effects of climate change on the ecosystem of this most crucial and magnificent part of the world.

Nick Drake’s new collection gathers together voices from across the Arctic past – explorers, whalers, mapmakers, scientists, financiers, the famous and the forgotten – as well as attempting to give voice to the confronting mysteries of the high Arctic: the animal spirits, the shape-shifters and the powers of ice and tundra. It looks into the future, to the year 2100, when this glorious winter Eden will have vanished forever.

Many of the poems from ‘The Farewell Glacier’ were included in the ground-breaking High Arctic exhibition, installed at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich from July 2011 to January 2012, which received substantial national publicity, including a feature on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row and national press reviews. [Wikipedia] It is a wonderful, and worrying collection. I was able to buy it from Imprints in Adelaide.

24. Connecting the arts and sciences in teaching at Kingston University (formally Kingston University London) which “is a public research university located in Kingston upon Thames, London, United Kingdom. It was founded in 1899, and became a university in 1992 after being Kingston Polytechnic. The four campuses are located in Kingston and Roehampton. There is a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate work spread across five faculties, and some further education provisions.”. Note a former ‘tech’ it brings the practical and the theoretical together. What works for the Health profession could work for teaching. Where is it happening in Australia?

An example of the partnership of the sciences and the arts in Healthcare Network Partnerships in practice

Play the part: a theatre show teaches student nurses compassion

Careful is an interactive drama in which those studying nursing at Kingston University take the place of patients

About Careful Michal Kaim said: ‘Elevating nursing to the level of art gave me another reason to be proud of the choice I have made to become one.’

See this article in ‘The Guardian’.

Hannah Partos@hannahhh

About the drama = ‘Careful’ is both a standalone piece of theatre and a partnership between the drama and nursing faculties at Kingston University, which is exploring how theatre can help train nurses. The director, senior performance studies lecturer Dr Alex Mermikides, was inspired by her own experience when her brother Milton was diagnosed with leukaemia and she underwent an operation to donate stem cells which eventually saved his life. Mermikides was “astounded” by the highly-skilled work the nurses did, and their compassion in such demanding circumstances.

Careful’ is a standalone piece of theatre and a partnership between the drama and nursing faculties at Kingston University.

Wednesday 14 December 2016 18.45 AEDT

Five nurses on a busy ward greet patients in beds with cheery smiles. “Morning, Mr Matthews!” “How’s Mum today?” “I’m going to take your blood sugar – just a tiny prick”. As the day wears on, they grow tired and irritable. “No Mr Matthews,” one nurse snaps. “You absolutely cannot have a cigarette break now.” Another scolds a teenage diabetic for drinking too much alcohol, addressing him like a naughty child even though he is depressed and suicidal. “Don’t be silly,” she says. “You don’t want to end up in a coma.”

It might sound like an average day for overstretched NHS staff – but this isn’t a real hospital. It’s a simulated ward at Kingston University and the nurses are actually performers, transforming typical nursing moves – hooking up drips and donning surgical gloves – into a dance routine, which they repeat over and over, speeding up each time until they fall out of sync and make clumsy mistakes. The bed occupants are student nurses taking part in a learning exercise designed to help them empathise with patients.

Kindness and compassion are thought of as prerequisites for becoming a nurse – and if you asked any of the students why they’re studying nursing, they would say they want to care for people. But even with the best of intentions, after several 12-hour shifts it is a real struggle to “be nice alongside all the other stuff you need to do,” says Philippa Hambly, one of the performers, who used to be a nurse herself on a paediatric unit. She adds: “Sometimes you’re working for four long days. That’s 46 hours of being on your feet, running around. Giving that little bit extra, the bit that people deserve – in everyday life, you get tetchy or short-tempered or you do things with a little less presence. The performance really explores empathy exhaustion, where you just get tired.”

Careful is both a standalone piece of theatre and a partnership between the drama and nursing faculties at Kingston University, which is exploring how theatre can help train nurses. The director, senior performance studies lecturer Dr Alex Mermikides, was inspired by her own experience when her brother Milton was diagnosed with leukaemia and she underwent an operation to donate stem cells which eventually saved his life. Mermikides was “astounded” by the highly-skilled work the nurses did, and their compassion in such demanding circumstances.


Facebook Twitter Pinterest

Careful is a standalone piece of theatre and a partnership between the drama and nursing faculties at Kingston University. Photograph: Ben Roost

After the birth of her first child, Mermikides received what she describes as “rather less caring care” from midwives, who she felt were not responding urgently enough to various medical complications. Her own disappointment, coupled with the public outcry after the Mid Staffordshire scandal, led her to question why nurses – professionals who had chosen care-giving jobs – could be responsible for such failures.

While Mermikides doesn’t offer a definitive answer, the performance does show nurses as well-meaning human beings who go wrong sometimes, usually because they’re struggling with exhaustion and overwhelming workloads. As part of the project, she has led several drama-based workshops with nursing students aimed at helping them cope with these pressures in their future work so they can still give patients compassionate care.

A large focus has been on self-care, with breathing and relaxation exercises to teach nurses how they can “warm up” before 12-hour shifts and sustain their energy, as actors do when they prepare to go on stage. Role-play exercises have also featured strongly, with the Careful performers and actor Ganiat Kasumu (formerly a nurse in the BBC’s Casualty drama) playing patients in pain, distress, or with dementia, while the students took the role of nurses dealing with them, followed by a group feedback discussion with their nursing lecturers.

Hambly says: “Learning to improvise in a controlled setting can be a useful skill for crisis situations … My theatre tutor used to say that theatre is the rehearsal for life. Nobody dies when you do a terrible performance, but you can learn something from it.”

Michal Kaim, a student nurse participant, agrees. “I’m much more aware of my body language now and how we can send nonverbal signals to patients.” Getting feedback after doing the role-plays was “precious”, he says – especially for his current placement on a busy day surgery ward, where he doesn’t usually have the chance to reflect on his bedside manner. With limited time to build a rapport with each patient – Kaim sometimes has just 10 minutes to meet someone and get them ready for surgery, during which time he needs to ask certain intimate questions. He has found that something as simple as walking over to a patient’s bed in the right way can help put them at ease. With a heavy workload, it’s easy to be too task-oriented, he says, and end up striding around briskly, concentrating on medical details rather than the human being in the bed. He says: “If you look like you’re on a mission, you don’t seem approachable. Everyone knows that one nurse who was horrible, or that doctor who came across as cold. Patients can be scared to share important concerns.”

After lying in beds for the simulated ward performance of ‘Careful’, Kaim and his fellow students feel they have a better awareness of the fear that comes with being a patient. Even though they weren’t really being prodded with needles, Mermikides says the trainees said that “seeing the ‘nurses’ from the perspective of lying down – being vulnerable and passive – was daunting. When someone comes at you with a needle, it seems magnified.”

‘Careful’, which is still a work-in-progress, recently made its first appearance outside the simulated ward, at Kingston’s Rose theatre, with Kaim watching from a more conventional audience seat this time. Weighed down with written coursework assignments on top of working shifts from 7.30am to 8.30pm on his ward placement, seeing the stage performance seemed to lift his morale. He says: “Elevating nursing to the level of art gave me another reason to be proud of the choice I have made to become one.”

Join the Healthcare Professionals Network to read more about issues like this. And follow us on Twitter (@GdnHealthcare) to keep up with the latest healthcare news and views. [Is there anything like this in Australian universities preparation of members of the future nursing profession?]

From Austria

In March 2016 Dr Markus Powling attended the 15th conference of the European Council for Higher Ability in Vienna. [ECHA] Markus Powling was one of six Australians among the 600 participants. The main points for this document are these. In his report he noted that the keynote speaker and leading American psychologist, Robert Sternberg, called for a new model of giftedness. He said that identification of the gifted, as well as methods of instruction and delivery are defining issues of the past. Instead, he argued, we need to focus on how to make the world a better place. To do this, Sternberg believes we need to look for wisdom rather than only high intelligence or cleverness in gifted children and adults. [Remember what C.P. Snow wrote in 1964 about the need to bring in the humanities to ‘think with wisdom’.]

From Finland

Phenomenon-based learning. By 2020, there will be these changes in their approach to learning. It is important to see how the focus on subjects and interdisciplinary approaches are being brought together. The article below is from ‘The Conversation’ and provides detail about how the changes are to be implemented.

A move towards ‘phenomenon-based’ teaching has been divisive in Finland. Kimmo Brandt/EPA.

Finland’s plans to replace the teaching of classic school subjects such as history or English with broader, cross-cutting “topics” as part of a major education reform have been getting global attention, thanks to an article in The Independent, one of the UK’s trusted newspapers. Stay calm: despite the reforms, Finnish schools will continue to teach mathematics, history, arts, music and other subjects in the future.

***** But with the new basic school reform all children will also learn via periods looking at broader topics, such as the European Union, community and climate change, or 100 years of Finland’s independence, which would bring in multi-disciplinary modules on languages, geography, sciences and economics.

It is important to underline two fundamental peculiarities of the Finnish education system in order to see the real picture. First, education governance is highly decentralised, giving Finland’s 320 municipalities significant amount of freedom to arrange schooling according to the local circumstances. Central government issues legislation, tops up local funding of schools, and provides a guiding framework for what schools should teach and how.

Second, Finland’s National Curriculum Framework is a loose common standard that steers curriculum planning at the level of the municipalities and their schools. It leaves educators freedom to find the best ways to offer good teaching and learning to all children. Therefore, practices vary from school to school and are often customised to local needs and situations.

Phenomenon-based learning

The next big reform taking place in Finland is the introduction of a new National Curriculum Framework (NCF), due to come into effect in August 2016.

It is a binding document that sets the overall goals of schooling, describes the principles of teaching and learning, and provides the guidelines for special education, well-being, support services and student assessment in schools. The concept of “phenomenon-based” teaching – a move away from “subjects” and towards inter-disciplinary topics – will have a central place in the new NCF.

Integration of subjects and a holistic approach to teaching and learning are not new in Finland. Since the 1980s, Finnish schools have experimented with this approach and it has been part of the culture of teaching in many Finnish schools since then. This new reform will bring more changes to Finnish middle-school subject teachers who have traditionally worked more on their own subjects than together with their peers in school.

Schools decide the programme

What will change in 2016 is that all basic schools for seven to 16-year-olds must have at least one extended period of multi-disciplinary, phenomenon-based teaching and learning in their curricula. The length of this period is to be decided by schools themselves. Helsinki, the nation’s capital and largest local school system, has decided to require two such yearly periods that must include all subjects and all students in every school in town. [“The Finnish strategy for achieving equality and excellence in education has been based on constructing a publicly funded comprehensive school system without selecting, tracking, or streaming students during their common basic education.” – Wikipedia ]

One school in Helsinki has already arranged teaching in a cross-disciplinary way; other schools will have two or more periods of a few weeks each dedicated to integrated teaching and learning.

In most basic schools in other parts of Finland students will probably have one “project” when they study some of their traditional subjects in a holistic manner. One education chief of a middle-size city in Finland predicted via Twitter that: “the end result of this reform will be 320 local variations of the NCF 2016 and 90% of them look a lot like current situation.”

You may wonder why Finland’s education authorities now insist that all schools must spend time on integration and phenomenon-based teaching when Finnish students’ test scores have been declining in the most recent international tests. The answer is that educators in Finland think, quite correctly, that schools should teach what young people need in their lives rather than try to bring national test scores back to where they were.

What Finnish youth need more than before are more integrated knowledge and skills about real world issues, many argue. An integrated approach, based on lessons from some schools with longer experience of that, enhances teacher collaboration in schools and makes learning more meaningful to students.

Students involved in lesson design

Pupils will have a hand in planning classes. Markku Ojala/EPA

What most stories about Finland’s current education reform have failed to cover is the most surprising aspect of the reforms. NCF 2016 states that students must be involved in the planning of phenomenon-based study periods and that they must have voice in assessing what they have learned from it.

Some teachers in Finland see this current reform as a threat and the wrong way to improve teaching and learning in schools. Other teachers think that breaking down the dominance of traditional subjects and isolation of teaching is an opportunity to more fundamental change in schools.

While some schools will seize the opportunity to redesign teaching and learning with non-traditional forms using the NCF 2016 as a guide, others will choose more moderate ways. In any case, teaching subjects will continue in one way or the other in most Finland’s basic schools for now.

From France

In Leonardo: Journal of Arts, Science and Technology.

A review of the film Proteus: A Nineteenth Century Vision, a film by David Lebrun. Leonardo, the Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology.  “Leonardo, the journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology is what you might call a serious publication. Since 1968 it has been a forum for professional artists to describe and discuss their work, a brief that makes it something of a rarity.” Wired Magazine. Bookmark and Share

         ‘Leonardo’ was founded in 1968 in Paris by kinetic artist and astronautical pioneer Frank Malina. Malina saw the need for a journal that would serve as an international channel of communication between artists, with emphasis on the writings of artists who use science and developing technologies in their work. Today, Leonardo is the leading journal for readers interested in the application of contemporary science and technology to the arts.

         The review of Proteus includes the following about the connections with science and the arts in the 20th century of this biologist and artist. “Around Haeckel’s story, PROTEUS weaves a tapestry of biology and oceanography, poetry and myth.” This film has been twenty years in the making. “ The work of Ernst Haeckel influenced, among others Freud, D.H. Lawrence, Lenin and Edison.’ We limit the possibilities in knowledge when we discourage these kinds of links in the more restricted way we prepare students for their future.

There is much more going on in the United Kingdom, and indeed in Europe. At this stage – it was early 2016 – I had to leave out other material I had but I needed, at least, to make mention of the role of film in learning. And discovered the existence of this cross-disciplinary journal in the process! For this information I thank my friend, Michael Bull, in London. Notice I have seen the 2017 developments at Warwick University

From Ireland

Look up The Leonardo Effect: Motivating Children to Achieve through Interdisciplinary Learning, Routledge Books.

See also the Institution: Leonardo Unlimited, Ireland.

Ivor Hickey is a scientist. He was speaking at the International Conference: New Perspectives in Science Education, Edition 6.

Ivor Hickey is a scientist who has published widely in the area of cell biology, genetics and cancer research. He is concerned that the current nature of education in schools produces a population of undergraduates who are weak in the basic thinking skills and the creative attitudes to problem solving that are fundamental to successful careers in science and other occupations.

Working with his colleague, Deirdre Robson, he has developed a unique approach to education that develops transferable skills and creativity without sacrificing subject knowledge and understanding. The method is known as ‘The Leonardo Effect and is based on interdisciplinary teaching of art and science where each subject is given equal weighting. The results are significant, especially in the areas of student literacy and motivation of disaffected learners.

He regularly speaks at conferences, organises in-service events and acts as a consultant and external examiner in education and science. His other interests include bioethics and environmental education. Recent books include the one that is the heading for this article, and the fourth edition of the popular genetics text book  Notes in Genetics: Garland Science.

From Italy.

At the Science Education Conference in Florence, March 2017. A speaker from Ireland, Maeve Liston, connects ‘Science and Literature’. This is the sixth educational conference run organised by Pixel.  Information provided by Dr Markus Powling, – PhD in psychology – who presented a paper at the conference. His paper was based on the experience of actually working with primary school children in New South Wales Perhaps too often insufficient experiential-based approaches are presented at these conferences. Dr Powling uses a holistic approach, involving story-telling in his work with young children in a STEM program. Dr Powling, of NSW, presented a paper on his approach to STEM teaching ina primary school

From Malta

The University of Malta has interdisciplinary programs in its Faculty of Education! [Where are Australian universities doing this?]

Integrating education for sustainable development through physical education :

The integration of physical education in early years primary Mathematics 

The links between design and technology and other subjects 

Promoting energy conservation in secondary schools : a cross-curricular environmental pack  Bonnici, Tracy (University of Malta, 2014)

From Sweden

I am not surprised that Swedish pre-tertiary curriculum is increasing its interdisciplinary focus.

Consider the work of the Gapminder Foundation. This is an important reminder that sustainability, which is significant in so many aspects of life on this planet, is connected with mathematics and statistics. Professor Hans Rosling [1948 – February 2017] was a founding member of the board. Look up his global TED presentations with animated statistics that make very clear to the general audience what is happening. He demonstrates the value of the global TED conferences. Education is now increasingly not limited to formal schooling. Professor Rosling could demonstrate the vital importance of seeing problems in their context. The founding board of the Gapminder Foundation is composed of Ambassador Gun-Britt Andersson, Professor Christer Gunnarsson of Lund University, Professor Bo Sundgren of Stockholm School of Economics, Professor Hans Wigzell of Karolinska Institute and Professor Hans Rosling of Karolinska Institute was co-founder and a member.

The Gapminder Foundation is a non-profit venture registered in Stockholm, Sweden, that promotes sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by increased use and understanding of statistics and other information about social, economic and environmental development at local, national and global levels.

The object of the Foundation shall be achieved by:

1. use and development of information technology for easily understandable visualization of statistics and other information;

2. ownership, protection and free dissemination of development results;

3. use, together with various cooperation partners, of the development results with a view to making statistics and other information about development available and understandable to broad user groups via the Internet and other media.

An example of their interactive approach is “Dollar Street, an interactive display of the world as a street. The street number is the daily income per person in the family. All people of the world live on Dollar Street. The poorest live in the left end and the richest in the extreme right end. All other people live in between on a continuous scale of daily incomes.” [Wikipedia]

VI. Evidence from the United States of America.

Notice the real concern with bringing children into the sciences through poetry. See the work of Sylvia M. Vardell in this section.

1. American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780 and is still one of the most prestigious academies in the world. Its aim is: To cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honour, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people. Its headquarters is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Membership 4,000 fellows and 600 foreign honorary members. Website

Today the Academy has a dual function: to elect to membership the finest minds and most influential leaders, drawn from science, scholarship, business, public affairs, and the arts, from each generation, and to conduct policy studies in response to the needs of society. Major Academy projects now have focused on higher education and research, humanities and cultural studies, scientific and technological advances, politics, population and the environment, and the welfare of children. Dædalus, the Academy’s quarterly journal, is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading intellectual journals.[2]

2. Joy Hakim’s The Story of Science Smithsonian Books, Washington. I would have the three volumes of Joy Hakim’s book, The Story of Science,in every school library/resource centre for students and teachers, and for interested parents, across disciplines. Beginning as a newspaper writer and editor who had been a teacher, Joy Hakim began to write the stories of science and scientists in a narrative way. In Volume I, Aristotle leads the way she begins in a way reminiscent of Robyn Arianrhod, the Australian mathematician who begins Einstein’s Heroes – available through Amazon – with a reference to a novel by David Malouf. Joy Hakim, writing for a young American audience, begins in this way with “A Writer’s Reasons”

The sight of stars always sets me dreaming.” Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo. Somehow it consoles me to think of that tormented painter finding repose by looking heavenward. So, in a notebook I keep (don’t all writers have them?) I put Vincent’s words about stargazing right next to those of Huck Finn. “We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they were made or only just happened.”  She follows this reference to a Dutch painter and one of the greatest American – and I think the world’s – novelists writing in English with these sentences. Funny thing: the Greeks asked that question. Mark Twain asked it, and we’re still asking. The big questions don’t seem to go away.” She adds:

 “In the twentieth century, we compartmentalized knowledge: in the information age that doesn’t make sense.”

Her volumes from the earliest times – for example the chapter headed ‘Pythagoras Knows It’s Round’ – are combinations of content, pictures, graphs, quotations from mathematicians, philosophers, the work of artists, verses from poets, the impact of history on the people and their time. Everything is done to engage the young reader who need not be a scientist but who might become one if what he or she discovers encourages him or her to turn in that direction. The second and third volumes of The Story of Science are subtitled: Newton at the Centre followed by Einstein adds a new dimension, published 2007. All three volumes are endorsed by top American educators.

3. Nobel Laureate Professor Roald Hoffmann, Cornell University: quantum chemist, poet and playwright. Professor Roald Hoffmann of Cornell University was invited to write books and prepare a television series to encourage American students to take up the study chemistry. As a playwright, with Carl Djerassi, who developed the ‘pill’ in the 1960s – which offered liberation to women from unwanted pregnancies – they wrote ‘Oxygen’, a play considering who should be lauded as the discoverer of oxygen. It was performed in conjunction with the 2001 Sigma Xi Forum: Science, the Arts and the Humanities: Connections and Collisions.

The books for potential chemistry students written by Roald Hoffmann include: Chemistry Imagined: Reflections on Science with Vivian Torrence, an artist, published by Smithsonian Institute Press, Washington, 1993. This book is accessible to the general reader. In a review of the book, Richard Jerome of Science says:

Every now and then (the Renaissance come to mind) one finds evidence that the lines between science, art, culture, et cetera, are a little fuzzier than some people might think . . . Hence ‘Chemistry Imagined: Reflections on Science’, by the Nobel Laureate chemist Roald Hoffmann and the artist, Vivian Torrence. The spare but rich volume of words and pictures introduces general readers to the history and mystery behind all the formulas and the test tubes. In spirited bursts of text Hoffmann – best known for applying quantum mechanics to the study of chemical reactions – filters his field through the soul of a poet, skirting deftly what he calls the ‘deadening jargon’ of science. Here he weeps for Madame Curie; there, in the space of a page, he leaps from William Blake to Niels Bohr, or from the music of Elliott Carter to a molecule of haemoglobin. And Torrence, whose fantastic, finely wrought collages are like windows on the working intellect, matches Hoffmann step for step.

In 1995, Roald Hoffmann wrote The Same and Not the Same published by Columbia University Press, New York, 1995. This was part of a lecture series, the George B. Pegrum Lecture Series, named for a scientist who saw science serving ‘the needs and hopes of humankind’.

I would have everyone concerned with the quality of education read Hoffmann’s short essay, Lecture 4, Fighting Reductionism(p 18 – 22)

Roald Hoffmann says, writing for American students,

Moreover, adherence to reductionist philosophy is potentially dangerous. A vertical mode of understanding, if championed as the only mode of understanding, creates a gap between us and our friends in the arts and humanities. They know very well that there isn’t just one way of ‘understanding’ or dealing with the death of a parent, or our country’s drug problem, or a wood cut by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The world out there is refractory to reduction, and if we insist that it must be reducible, all that we do is put ourselves in a box. The box is the limited class of problems that are susceptible to a reductionist understanding. It’s a very small box.

4. Richard Feynman – first had the idea for nanotechnology at a dinner party.

Leonard Mlodinov in Feynman’s Rainbow: A search for beauty in physics and life, published by Vintage Books first in 2003, this edition 2011, reports Richard Feynman’s view: The goal of science may be to describe reality, but as long as science is carried out by human beings, human qualities will affect the description. [p 109] Feynman places scientists in one of two categories – the ‘Greeks’ and the ‘Babylonians’. The former need to classify nature neatly and cleanly: the latter will stay close to the data. [p109]

5. The International Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science.

Named for its first recipient, Lewis Thomas – one of America’s finest writers about science – it is an annual literary prize awarded by Rockefeller University[1] to scientists deemed to have accomplished a significant literary achievement: it “recognizes scientists as poets”.[2] The award was established in 1993 and is endowed with a nominal US$5,000 purse that scarcely reflects the prestige the award carries. The university gives the prize annually to scientists whose books bridge the gap between the laboratory and the wider world, in the spirit of Lewis Thomas’ collection of essays in, for example, The Lives of a Cell. [It is worth thinking about the significance of the indefinite article in this title. He always has a clear purpose in what he does.]

The international Lewis Thomas Prize honours “the rare individual who bridges the worlds of science and the humanities — whose voice and vision can tell us about science’s aesthetic and philosophical dimensions, providing not merely new information but cause for reflection, even revelation as in a poem or painting,” Nobel Laureate Torsten N. Wiesel, M.D., President of the University made this remark in 1996. Note the presence, among the recipients, of Richard Fortey and Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal of the UK and Oliver Sacks, author of Uncle Tungsten: A Chemical Boyhood.

6. Natalie Angier, author of The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2007. Of this science journalist, Leon Lederman, Nobel Laureate writes: Her command of language shames the poets; her grasp of how science works exposes the joy and beauty of discovery, which I thought belonged only to the scientists.

Natalie Angier studied physics and English at Barnard College, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1978.[1] From 1980 to 1984, Angier wrote about biology for Discover Magazine. She also worked as a science writer for Time Magazine, and was briefly an Adjunct Professor in New York University’s Graduate Program in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting. Natalie Angier has won the Lewis Thomas Award for distinguished writing in the life sciences.

7. Evidence that the Cartesian divide of intellect from emotions is inadequate is in Antonio Damasios Descartes’ Errors: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain published by Vintage Books, London, 2006. His research shows how far behind we still are when we focus on the intellect as just ‘I think, therefore, I am.’ I can provide other examples of writers in different disciplines who make connections in thought-provoking ways across the disciplines.

8. James Gleick in The Information, this edition published by Fourth Estate, London, 2012 makes clear there is no separation of the cultures. Consideration of the very impressive index would tell all who read its blurb, which concentrates on transmission of communication from African talking drums to Wikipedia, from Morse code to the ‘bit’, that James Gleick is not a devotee of the separation of the cultures into that man-made divide separating the sciences and the humanities. He brings in poetry explicitly and names poets such as W.H. Auden, Byron, John Donne, e.e.cummings, T.S.Eliot, Edgar Allan Poe, Emerson, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and Shakespeare for the words he brought into the English language. He includes Aeschylus, Plato, Democritus and music with Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and there is so much more connecting disciplines in his approach. Remember what Joy Hakim wrote:

In the twentieth century, we compartmentalized knowledge: in the information age that doesn’t make sense.”

9. Margaret Wertheim is Australian but her home is in the USA where she is acknowledged as one of their finest writers about the sciences. The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet, published by Doubleday, Sydney, paperback edition, 2000 demands attention. Her work, with its understanding of the impact of history, reminds us that we are caught to some degree in the cultures out of which we spring. We need to understand how we reached where we are now in this digital age. [She has been a Visiting Fellow at the University of Melbourne.]

10. The American Library Association – Look at the efforts made to connect with children, parents and teachers! Here is a valuable collection of poetry books related to the different areas of science.

Everyday Poetry: “Doing” Science with Poetry by Sylvia M. Vardell. Book Links March 2008 (vol. 17, no.4) writes:

“Science-themed poetry books can enhance your teaching of the science standards”.

At first glance it may seem odd to combine science and poetry, but they share one major attribute in common: the importance of keen observation. Poetry offers highly charged words and vivid imagery that tap the essence of a subject using sensory language. Poetry is also accessible to a wide range of ages and reading abilities and can help introduce or reinforce important science concepts. A brief consideration of a handful of poetry books will quickly lead one to discover many poems that connect with the sciences. In fact, there are numerous thematic poetry collections devoted to science-related subjects.

The National Science Education Standards identify seven major areas of science that are critical to the K–12 curriculum. For each of these areas, poems can serve to initiate a topic or enrich and extend it. Below is just a sampling of science-related poetry books arranged by the seven science standard areas.

Science as Inquiry

 * Brain Juice: Science, Fresh Squeezed! by Carol Diggory Shields (Handprint, 2003)

    * Scien-trickery: Riddles in Science by J. Patrick Lewis (Harcourt, 2004)

    * Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Simon & Schuster, 1999)

These poetry collections can lay the groundwork for helping children develop their understanding about scientific inquiry. Students will also enjoy Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s poetic picture book ‘What Is Science?’ (Holt, 2006), an exploration of the field of science as well as the nature of scientific thinking. Students may enjoy choosing their favourite aspects of science and creating acrostic poems using the letters in the word ‘science’. Or, challenge their deduction skills by placing objects in a box and inviting them to describe and identify the objects. Then pair them with (or create) corresponding poems.

Physical Science

     * Central Heating: Poems about Fire and Warmth by Marilyn Singer (Knopf, 2005)

    * Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham (Houghton, 1999)

    * Splish Splash by Joan Bransfield Graham (Houghton, 1994)

    * Winter Lights by Anna Grossnickle Hines (Greenwillow, 2005)

As we introduce children to physical science and the concepts of motion, matter, energy, atoms, light, heat, electricity, and magnetism, poetry can help pave the way. Read by flashlight when you share Graham’s poems in ‘Flicker Flash’, about the different ways that light appears in our world. Many of the poems in Graham’s water-themed collection Splish Splash lend themselves to reading aloud with props such as soap bubbles, Christmas tree “icicles,” or audio recordings of waterfalls or the ocean surf.

Life Science

    * Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman (Houghton, 2006)

    * Hey There, Stink Bug! by Leslie Bulion (Charlesbridge, 2006)

    * Insectlopedia by Douglas Florian (Harcourt, 1998)

    * Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems by Joyce Sidman (Houghton, 2005)

Life science focuses on the life cycles of organisms and cells, reproduction, heredity and evolution, populations and ecosystems, diversity and adaptations, and the interdependence of organisms and their environments. There are more poetry books in this area of science than any other, by far. The collections listed above introduce readers to creatures of the insect world in particular, through descriptive poems and beautiful illustrations. Bring a bug in a jar (with air holes) for children to study and describe. They can create thumbprint insect characters or draw pictures to accompany their writing. Contact a local museum of natural history or children’s museum to see whether they offer a “loan” program to borrow items (such as rocks, shells, animal skeletons, etc.) to pair and share with poems. Challenge children to use parallel informational books to look up the facts they glean from the poetry. Encourage them to use new facts in poems of their own.

Earth and Space Science

 * The Earth Is Painted Green: A Garden of Poems about Our Planet, selected by Barbara Brenner (Scholastic, 1994)

    * Shape Me a Rhyme: Nature’s Forms in Poetry, selected by Jane Yolen (Boyds Mills/Wordsong, 2007)

    * Sing of the Earth and Sky: Poems about Our Planet and the Wonders Beyond by Aileen Fisher (Boyds Mills, 2003)

    * The Sun in Me: Poems about the Planet, selected by Judith Nicholls (Barefoot, 2003)

The study of Earth and space is an important part of the science curriculum, including an examination of the properties of Earth’s structure, energy, geochemical cycles, history, origin and evolution of the universe, the solar system, and changes in Earth and sky. Share the poetry collections listed above during Earth Day celebrations; children can choose favourite poems to copy onto “globe” shapes. Expand a display of favourite “earth poems” to include other poems about planets, stars, and space on shapes arranged strategically around the Earth. Poetry about space and the solar system can be found in Myra Cohn Livingston’s Space Songs (Holiday, 1988), Seymour Simon’s anthology Star Walk (Morrow, 1995), and Douglas Florian’s Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings (Harcourt, 2007).

Science and Technology

 * Click, Rumble, Roar: Poems about Machines, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Crowell, 1987)

    * Roll Along: Poems on Wheels, selected by Myra Cohn Livingston (Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. ­McElderry, 1993)

    * Zoomrimes: Poems about Things That Go by Sylvia Cassedy (HarperCollins, 1993)

The study of science also includes developing an understanding of technology, technological design, and distinguishing between natural objects and objects made by humans. A handful of poetry for children explores these concepts, including the older collections listed above, which are available in many libraries. Assemble a collection of toy vehicles, parts, and machines to display along with favourite poem selections.

Considering the role of chance in scientific discovery.

For a completely different focus, link the poems in Joyce Sidman’s Eureka! Poems about Inventors (Millbrook, 2002) with the fascinating profiles of accidental inventions in Charlotte Foltz Jones’ Mistakes That Worked (Doubleday, 1991) and Accidents May Happen (Delacorte, 1996), or Judith St. George’s humorous informational book So You Want to Be an Inventor? (Philomel, 2002).

Science in Personal and Social Perspective – Silvia Vardell understands the direct connection with humanity.

* Color Me a Rhyme: Nature Poems for Young People by Jane Yolen (Boyds Mills/Wordsong, 2000)

    * Footprints on the Roof: Poems about the Earth by ­Marilyn Singer (Knopf, 2002)

    * Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems by Kristine O’Connell George (Clarion, 1998)

The study of science also includes an examination of natural resources, environment quality, personal and community health, population growth, and local, national, and global challenges. Nature and environmental themes are the focus of the poetry collections listed above. After reading a selection of these poems, children can research ecological issues that touch their lives, such as recycling, or participate in clean-up efforts in a local park or roadside (with adult supervision).

History and Nature of Science

* Behind the Museum Door: Poems to Celebrate the Wonders of Museums, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Abrams, 2007)

    * Trailblazers: Poems of Exploration by Bobbi Katz (Greenwillow, 2007)

In USA, the science standards also include a component focused on science as a human endeavour, the nature of scientific knowledge, and science history. [I think chemistry as a human endeavour appears in the Australian chemistry curriculum.] In Katz’s collection, Trailblazers, children can seek out poetry about the people of science, such as scientist-astronaut Mae Jemison or oceanographer Sylvia Earle. Children can prepare dramatic readings dressed as the poem’s character and research additional facts to learn more about these famous scientists. Alternatively, children could experience a virtual ‘field trip’ through the poems in Hopkins’ anthology –  [Who would be the ‘trailblazers’ in Australian scientific fields? How many can we identify and in what fields? ]

Sylvia M. Vardell is a Professor of Children’s and Young Adult Literature at Texas Women’s University. She is the author of Poetry Aloud Here! Sharing Poetry with Children in the Library (ALA Editions, 2006), Poetry People: A Practical Guide to Children’s Poets (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), and the Poetry for Children blog.

11. Physics for Future Presidents: The Science behind the headlines by Richard A. Muller, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2008. “Professor Muller is Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a past winner of the Macarthur Fellowship, often called the ‘genius award’. This book is based on his renowned course for non-science students.”. I suggest Australian teachers and students and general readers who do care about the impact of new technologies in politics, should consider Chapter 25.

The book is written for the general reader but Professor Muller is aware of the significance of the decision-making power of an American President, elected after a complex voting system of electoral colleges is completed, when so many voters are welded to one party or another. He or she is the Commander-in-Chief and has the ‘finger on the nuclear button’. Remember how afraid we were when we feared that America and the then USSR might bring down on us a nuclear war in 1961 over the ‘Bay of Pigs’ episode?

This book shows how closely science, in this case physics, can be tied to political decision-making.I’d have the section headed ‘Global Warming: Presidential Summary – The buck stops here’ pp [344 – 346] read by everyone and particularly every political leader or potential leader. Published in 2008, when George W. Bush was still President of the United States, [2001 – 2009] Richard Muller said, giving as balanced a picture of the physics as he could, which inevitably included his preferences, what he would do in his concluding paragraph: ‘The really good news is that we are currently wasting vast amounts of energy. Conservation is the greatest investment. After all the cheapest way to remove carbon from the atmosphere is never to put it there in the first place. Sequester it in its current form: keep coal, oil and gas underground.”  He wrote that in 2008. The ideological inclinations of those holding power have so far prevented it from happening as of 2016 in either USA or Australia. In 2017 with Donald Trump, President of the United States, we have a serious problem. In a recent TED address by Hans Rosling about the necessity to put everything in context and not make sweeping generalisations, we were told that the scientists in  America are not listened to by those in Washington!!

There is a ‘Presidential summary’ for each section:

1. Terrorism, 11 Energy, 111 Nukes, 1V Space, V Global warming.

12 The Physics Book: From the Big Bang to Quantum Resurrection, 250 Milestones in the History of Physics by Clifford A. Pickover, published by Sterling, New York, 2011. To get a feeling for the wonder of it all, the author begins two billion years B.C. with a prehistoric nuclear reactor beneath Okla, Gabon, Africa. Brilliantly set out, we recognise the human curiosity that stimulated and stimulates people to go on investigating. For example in 250 B.C. some one in Baghdad had developed a battery thought to enable electroplating. It is thought that the acid used was wine or vinegar. [pp 38 – 39]. One can just stop, read and take in what is presented. There’s no need to hurry. A history of the magnitude of these discoveries is there for all of us who want to learn more and feel the presence of the people who have done the work, making the discoveries throughout these millennia, that has brought us to where we are now. [Further reading is at the end of the book. And there is an index.]

13. The movement for the connection of the sciences, mathematics, the arts and humanities – STEAM – has been taken a step further by the publication of Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics, an anthology edited by Sarah Glaz and JoAnne Growney, published by A.K. Peters. Ltd, Wellesley, Massachusetts, 2008. The biographical details show how widely the work of poets writing about mathematics ranges, across so many nationalities, and millennia. Johannes Kepler is here. So is Einstein. So is Roald Hoffmann whose writing was the inspiration for a poem in Making a Stand, published by Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 2015. And there are so are many women! Here is Professor JoAnne Growney’s blog site. [She included my poem ‘Sculpture at Questacon’.] Professor JoAnne Growney was Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Bloomsburg University, Pennsylvania, until she retired. She now lives in Maryland. [The work of Australian poets included on her blog can be seen on the blogspot listed here.]

JoAnne Growney   Silver Spring, MD   @MathyPoems

For poetry-with-mathematics, visit

“Let’s enlarge matHEmatics to include HER:  Try MatHERmatics.”

14 Washington Post, February 24th 2016. Teachers are using art and drama to teach mathematics.Compare this with Professor Marcus du Sautoy’s realization in Oxford. See

15. The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics [JHM] can be read freely read on any computer anywhere.  JoAnne writes “So let your associates know where to read it.  They also would, I know, welcome submissions from you and others in Australia , , , ,” There are teachers at primary and secondary school level in Australia recognizing that mathematics and science cross the boundaries and connect with the arts and humanities.

A link to JHM is

16. Hope Jahren, Lab Girl: A story of trees, science and love. In paperback, published by Fleet, London, 2016. The clarity, honesty, beauty in openings like this “A seed knows how to wait” reveal a scientist who cares about every aspect of what she does. She even, as a young girl, read the work of Jean Genet!

17. Dan Falk, The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe, Thomas Dunne Books, New York, 2014. He is exploring the connections between the writings of the greatest playwright in the English language and the beginnings of the modern scientific revolution.

18. The influence of mathematics on creative writing – an article in the News India Times – making those international connections.

JoAnne Growney provides a link of possible interest to supporters of STEAM. Seshadri speaks of the influence of mathematics on creative writing . . .

19. How the humanities can improve understanding of mathematics from the Jamaica Observer. Here is a link and a paragraph from it, quoted here : “Additionally, the research found that there are several teaching strategies — such as co-operative learning strategies and humanistic methods — that may be employed when developing students’ problem solving skills. These include the use of technology, role play and poetry.” See the attached website.

20. Cathy O’Neill in her book “Weapons of Math Destruction: How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy.” Received from JoAnne September 24th 2016. I include the date to show just how much is going on in USA – and as JoAnne shows, in India and Jamaica as well –  encouraging people to see these important interconnections. The political impact of the abuse or misuse or ignorance about big data or meta-data is something we need to think about. And ponder the alternatives to democracy. The link to the review of Cathy O’Neill’s book by Evelyn Lamb in The Scientific American is here:

21. Roger Lewin was a recipient of the International Lewis Thomas Award for the quality of his writing about the sciences. If you check the index you will discover this is not a man who limits himself to the science side of the ‘two cultures’ divide. His book “Complexity: Life at the edge of chaos – the major new theory that unifies all sciences”, published by J.M. Dent Ltd., London, 1993, focuses on the connections between the sciences, their similarities rather than their differences …” You will find the Roman Empire, Plato and Goethe, William Golding, among others, in the index as well as Newton, Darwin and Einstein. This book, published 23 years ago, was a series of conversations with scientists in USA and the UK. It includes topics like ‘Explosions and Extinctions”, “Life in a Computer”, “Stability and the Reality of Gaia”, “Complexity and the Reality of Progress”.

22. Albert-László Barabási, Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science and Everyday Life, published by Basic Books, New York, 2014. He is focusing on networks. A reminder again of Joy Hakim’s statement:

In the twentieth century, we compartmentalized knowledge: in the information age that doesn’t make sense.”

Remember the statement from The Boston Globe about the author of “Linked which, it says, should be mandatory reading for academics as a primer in good writing. Barabási may be a scientist, but he did not neglect his liberal arts education; . . . He writes in understandable lay-speak, glittering with wit.” He is like the English author, Gavin Pretor-Pinney, whose book, The Wavewatcher’s Companion, published 2010, deals with nine different kinds of waves. This author connects fourteen different links in a new science, plus a last link – ‘Web without a spider’ – and an after-link – ‘hierarchies and communities’. The links include themes: ‘the random universe’, ‘six degrees of separation’, ‘small worlds’, ‘hub and connectors’, ‘Einstein’s legacy’, ‘the web of life’ and other links. [This is the direction the new contemporary Science  Galleries are taking in Dublin, London, Bangalore and Melbourne.]

Clearly this is not the work of a scientist limited to a linear approach to investigation. There is a very extensive index but there are too few women in it. The limited references to women that I have found too often is a reminder of the need to read Margaret Wertheim’s Pythagoras’s Trousers: God, Physics and the Gender Wars, this edition published by Fourth Estate, London, 1997.The She traces the ways that women were kept out of the sciences and mathematics from the earliest times. The story of Hypatia of Alexandria, the great mathematician, in the fifth century AD demonstrates the power of religions and of priests, as well as the sects within religions, when they see challenges to their authority.

23. Professor Sherry Turkle, the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT has written a trilogy of which Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, published by Basic Books, New York, 2011, is the third volume. In Australia, how many universities are researching this phenomenon? Which university has a department considering the social impact of science and technology? Again, the index shows how widely and deeply she has ranged in her research into this aspect of our potentially technologically-controlled future. Her research into robotics should be taken into account by researchers across disciplines. [Look at out current questions about drones.] In the index the different roles of robotics move through a wide range, even to a separate heading for ‘sociable robots’.

24. ***** Received October 3rd 2016 –  Information of value for Schools of Education focusing on early childhood development. I include the whole article because this is a key part of early childhood education And, if arts-integrated learning works so well in early childhood here, as this research is showing, why not keep it going at higher levels of pre-tertiary education?

New Research Analysis Shows Arts-Integrated Teaching Translates to Additional Month of Math Learning

Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts

Vienna, Va. (February 16, 2016) – Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts today released a new analysis from American Institutes for Research (AIR) that show arts-integrated teaching methods in early childhood education can increase students’ math achievement by providing the equivalent of more than a month of additional learning. This analysis supplements initial results from a study released in 2015, which revealed a statistically significant, positive impact on math skills for students in the classrooms of teachers who participated in Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts’ professional development program. Read the full research brief here.

The AIR study examined the effects of the arts-integrated teaching approach on teachers’ practice and students’ math knowledge through a randomized experiment. The Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts (Early STEM/Arts – STEAM) program adapted the Wolf Trap Institute’s established model for professional development to concentrate on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with a special focus on math. While numerous studies show links between arts-integration and positive student outcomes, this study is unique in that it examined early childhood arts-integration in particular.

***** “We have seen through decades of practice and research that integrating the arts into core subjects helps young students learn better,” said Arvind Manocha, president and CEO of Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. “This new analysis from AIR shows that incorporating music, movement, drama, and puppetry into early childhood education results in significant learning increases in mathematics – something that has been documented to be a key factor in improving life outcomes for young children. The arts are a powerful learning tool.”

According to the AIR study, students who were taught by teachers participating in Wolf-Trap’s early STEM/Arts program outperformed their peers on the Early Math Diagnostic Assessment (EMDA). The first-year impact is equivalent to 1.3 additional months of learning, or 26 additional days. In the second year, AIR found a sustained impact amounting to 1.7 additional months of learning, or 34 additional days, even though not all students continued to be taught by teachers participating in the program.

Previous research has documented that students whose teachers participated in Wolf Trap’s professional development program demonstrated higher levels of skill in initiative, social relations, creative representation, music, movement, logic, and mathematics compared with students whose teachers had not participated.

Other key findings from the AIR study include:   * Lessons taught by Wolf Trap teachers offered more opportunities for arts integration, and demonstrated higher levels of arts integration, particularly with respect to linking arts with math learning. * Wolf Trap’s Early STEM/Arts program demonstrated features of effective, high-quality professional development. In measuring Wolf Trap’s model against standards of effective professional development, research confirms that Wolf Trap provides high quality professional development by thoroughly integrating: form, duration, collective participation, content focus, active learning, and coherence.

Arts-integrated learning combines content and skills from the arts, including singing, dancing, role-playing, and storytelling, with core subjects such as language, literacy and math. To help build that skill set, the Wolf Trap Institute professional development model pairs early childhood educators with professional teaching artists—musicians, dancer, actors, and puppeteers—to train through classroom residencies. [****** In South Australia we had writers and artists in residence in schools until some one in authority decided they were too expensive and were not needed.]

In the randomized experiment conducted by AIR between 2010 and 2014, 80 pre-K and kindergarten teachers in Fairfax County participated in the study and 48 received eight days of professional development sessions at Wolf Trap’s Summer Institute, followed by a 16 eight-week residency in which teaching artists visited their teachers’ schools twice a week during the school year.

“Through arts integration, our teachers and teaching artists tap into children’s innate desire for active learning through the senses to inspire deeper, more meaningful learning across subject areas that will position pre-K students for higher achievement in kindergarten and beyond,” said Akua Kouyate-Tate, Senior Director of Education at Wolf Trap Foundation. “The Wolf Trap model prepares teachers with a variety of strategies to engage students in the performing arts in ways that become learning experiences and build foundational skills for literacy, mathematical thinking, and scientific inquiry.”

Teachers who participated in the Early STEM/Arts program received up to 101 hours of professional development, including ongoing coaching from Wolf Trap Teaching Artists. Students received the benefit of a teacher well versed in effective arts-integration strategies, as well as direct classroom experiences with Wolf Trap Teaching Artists in residence.

Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s “Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination” program, the randomized controlled trial took place over four years across 18 Fairfax County Public Schools. The same grant contributed to the replication of Wolf Trap’s program to 16 other Affiliate sites across the nation.


Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts presents and produces a full range of performance and education programs in the Greater Washington, D.C. area, as well as nationally and internationally. Wolf Trap’s education programs include the nationally acclaimed Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, which provides innovative arts-based teaching strategies and services to early childhood teachers, caregivers, and children from birth through Kindergarten.

Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


1. For related research on arts teaching strategies, see: Catterall, Dumais, & Hampden-Thompson, 2012; Upitis & Smithrim, 2003; Wilcox, R.A., Bridges, S.L., & Montgomery, D., 2010.

2. Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C.J., Classens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A.C., Klebanov, P., et al. (2007). “School readiness and later achievement,” Developmental Psychology, 43, 1428-1446

For more information, interview requests and images, please contact: Michelle Pendoley, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts

O: (703) 255-1917

25. The Institute for the Future [IFTF], in California, mentioned in reference to Alvin Tofler’s warnings in the 1970s, has now been in existence for 48 years. Notice their cross-disciplinary capacities!

The IFTF staff span a range of disciplines from the social sciences, public policy, technology, and the creative arts. This interdisciplinary team collaborates to bring cross-disciplinary insights to futures that combine complex challenges and require unconventional perspectives.

26. I must thank Professor JoAnne Growney for keeping me informed about what is happening, not only in USA. It is another reminder we need to connect with what is going on across the northern hemisphere.

She has alerted me to the annual international BRIDGES conference. This year it was in Finland in August. How many Australian educators have ever attended one of these cross-disciplinary conferences?

Look up the website of The Bridges Organisation. Webpage:

The Bridges Conference is the world’s largest annual interdisciplinary conference on mathematics and art. It was held at the University of Jyväskylä in August 2016. The conference has visited cities of North America, Europe and Asia and has attracted participants from over thirty countries. Finland is the first Nordic country to host the event.

In Finland the disciplines being connected were: MATHEMATICS, ART, ARCHITECTURE, MUSIC, EDUCATION, SCIENCE & CULTURE.

JoAnne has included poems about mathematics from Australians on her blog.

27. Consider this information from Empower Women through STEAM

Stories from

This information arrived in July 2016. It is not just a matter of advancing education by removing that artificial barrier of the “two cultures”, it is about the livelihood of women as well. Read about the opportunities offered and the analysis of possibilities in this article, “STEAM: The Opportunity Within The Challenge”  by Emad Karim, 4th July 2016.

The science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) sector offers growing opportunities to transform the lives of women across the world. However, women remain vastly under-represented in the sector. We explore the barriers and the ways to help women become more fully involved.

The Challenge

By providing a gateway to learning, improving access to services, enhancing connectivity, creating business opportunities, and changing the way people communicate and engage with each other and with governments, information and communication technology (ICT) can transform our world. However, too often women are left out of this transformation, without access to the Internet, much less the ability to contribute to its construction.

In the US, there is a huge disparity between male and female participation in ICT, one of the country’s most important and growing industries. In 2014, for example, Google reported that women accounted for only 17 per cent of its tech employees. A similar gender gap exists at Microsoft, Apple and Intel, where women account for just 24 per cent, 29 per cent, and 24 per cent of jobs respectively, according to the tech diversity scorecard, produced by online magazine The Verge in 2015.

These numbers are not surprising, given that only 20 per cent of people taking the US AP Computer Science course are female, and that just 0.4 per cent of high school girls express an interest in majoring in computer science. Australia also has a chronic shortage of women graduating with computer science or coding skills. Since 2001, the proportion of women enrolling in information technology degrees has fallen from about one in four to just one in 10.

Alongside this gender disparity, an overall lack of trained professionals means most developed countries are forecasting an alarming shortfall in the number of skilled staff to fill future ICT jobs. The US Department of Labor, for example, projects that, by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings, yet universities are expected to produce enough qualified graduates to fill only 29 per cent of these jobs. Meanwhile, the European Commission (EC) is urging its population to learn to code, warning that a lack of basic coding skills could result in a shortage of up to 900,000 ICT professionals in Europe by 2020. According to the EC, more than 90 per cent of professional occupations require some ICT competence. The European Union calculates that, in 10 years’ time, there will be 700,000 more ICT jobs than there are professionals to fill them. Globally, that shortfall is estimated to be closer to two million.

The Opportunity

According to the 2013 Intel report Women and the Web, enabling Internet access for 150 million women worldwide would contribute an estimated $13-18 billion to the annual gross domestic product of 144 developing countries. The report also states that increasing Internet access in developing countries would improve education outcomes for more than 500 million women. The future of the ICT sector is promising. These are unchartered waters open to creativity, innovation and entirely new ways of working, interacting, and learning that should appeal to women and men alike.

Helping more women into STEAM fields is the right place to start addressing the gender disparity. There is a smaller gender-related wage gap in STEAM jobs: 14 cents in every dollar compared with the 21 cent gender-related wage disparity in non-technical industries.

However, experience from other sectors indicates that, even if women and men were equally represented in STEAM fields, this would not guarantee women’s access to decision-making positions, nor would it guarantee pay equity. Women now make up the majority of college graduates and approximately half of medical and law school graduates, for example. Yet only 21 per cent of partners at law firms are women and only about 10 to 20 per cent of medical school deans, full professors, organized medicine leaders and editors of powerful medical journals are women. According to the UNESCO Science Report: Towards 2030, women now account for 53 per cent of the world’s graduates and 43 per cent of PhDs but just 28 per cent of researchers. The report states that in the Arab region, female science and engineering graduates usually encounter a number of barriers to gainful employment, meaning many end up in low-level or informal positions. These barriers include ‘a lack of awareness about what a career in their chosen field entails, family bias against working in mixed-gender environments, and a lack of female role models’. Gender equality in the STEAM sector will not be achieved simply by ensuring that female graduates find employment. A combination of factors reduces the proportion of women at each stage of their STEAM career, as follows:

    * graduate-level environment

    * the ‘maternal wall’

    * performance evaluation criteria

    * lack of recognition

    * lack of support for leadership bids

    * unconscious gender bias

Teaching girls to code is a good start, but not knowing how to code is not the main reason girls are not becoming tech CEOs, venture capitalists, and/or equally paid employees. We need a new, more holistic approach that stimulates young women to be curious about ideating, coding, programming, designing, engineering and building products that solve problems and make the world a better and more inclusive place. It is in everyone’s best interests to make sure we equip them with the skills to do so.

28. Why STEM should change to STEAM AHEAD – including the arts. American scientists are realising that STEM is not enough. Look at the evidence here. “Science” is a most prestigious American magazine and has influence across disciplines. The author spoke to very well-connected American scientists. I thank Professor Dietmar Muller, recipient of the prestigious Vice Chancellor’s award for research at the University of Sydney. Like many in academe, he understands the value of interdisciplinary connections and has sent me this link to share with others. This magazine is published by the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science).

29. How STEAM is being encourages for very young students. Playdough to Plato. Notice the age range from 4 – 12 Postal address –

Playdough to Plato, LLC, PO BOX 1317, Maple Valley, Washington 98038, United States. It offers the STEAM approach for very young children.

Playdough to Plato provided this advertisement: “After our original STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activity eBook became an Amazon best seller, we started receiving emails asking for a Christmas-themed follow up. 

The team and I were excited to pull on our elf boots and hop to work. 

These 25 Christmas STEAM activities would even make the Grinch smile! They’re perfect for kids from 4 to12

[See also the Australian section for this reference. See Note 27.]

30. Another reminder of the value of the index. Steven Strogatz is the author of The Joy of X; A Guided Tour of Mathematics from One to Infinity, published in paperback, Atlantic Books, 2012. Looking at the organization of the different parts. Listen to this in Part Four “Change’. Chapter 21 ‘Stepping into the light’. A light beam is a pas de deux of electrical and magnetic fields, and vector calculus is its choreographer.”  You will not find poets in his index but you will find film, politicians, Barbra Streisand, Yoko Ogawa – mentioned in the Japanese section – a novelist, the film ‘My Left Foot’, Lionel Richie’s lyrics for a song, a restaurant in New York and much more. He uses a conversational style, brings in a story of his father wondering, in the informal way we do, about a problem he was facing when he was mending American bombers in the Pacific during World War II. Mathematics is not being separated from the mainly American world he is writing for. How many such connections are made by mathematicians in Australia? Jane Levin wrote of his book: “I loved this beautiful book from the first page – Strogatz disassembles mathematics as a subject, both feared and revered, and reassembles it as a world, both accessible and magical. The  Joy of  X is, well, a joy.”

31. Janna Levin, found through the American website ‘Brain Pickings’. says of Strogatz’ book. “Strogatz disassembles mathematics as a subject, both feared and revered, and reassembles it as a world, both accessible and magical.” But Professor Janna Levin is here in her own right. She is the author of Black Hole Blues and other songs from Outer Space, published by The Bodley Head, London, 2016. How many academics do we have in Australia with her approach? “Professor Janna Levin is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University and Director of Sciences at Pioneer Works, a centre for art and innovation in Brooklyn. She has contributed to the understanding of black holes, the cosmology of extra dimensions and gravitational waves. She was the first scientist-in-residence at the Ruskin School of Fine Art and Drawing with an award from the National Endowment for the Sciences, Technology and the Arts (UK) [NESTA], and recently named a Guggenheim fellow. Her recent books are How the Universe Got Its Spots, and a novel, A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, which won the PEN/ Bingham prize. She has also appeared at TED and contributes to numerous radio and television programs.”  She understands that the real world for the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics must include the arts. STEAM.

Established 1925, the Guggenheim fellowship is an acknowledgement those “who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts”. The roll of Fellows includes numerous Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer and other prize winners.

          The performing arts are excluded, although composers, film directors, and choreographers are eligible. The fellowships are not open to students, only to “advanced professionals in mid-career” such as published authors. The fellows may spend the money as they see fit, as the purpose is to give fellows “blocks of time in which they can work with as much creative freedom as possible”, but they should also be “substantially free of their regular duties.’ Australia has nothing like this!

32. No wonder USA is ahead of Australia in recognizing that the arts, and the humanities complement one another. The list of American universities that have Schools of Arts and Sciences is tremendous. Look them up.

I am listing here only a small representative number of them.

* University of Arkansas J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

* Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

* University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences

* University of California, Berkeley College of Letters and Science

* Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

* Cornell University College of Arts and Sciences

* Duke University Trinity College of Arts and Sciences

* Florida International University College of Arts and Sciences

* Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

* Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

* Howard University College of Arts & Sciences

* University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

* Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

33. National Science Teachers of America [NSTA] Conference, Los Angeles, March 2017. The following paper by Wendy M. Frazier and Kristen B. Murray of George Mason University, Fairfax, VA. Science Poetry in Two Voices: Poetry and the Nature of Science was on display  and available at a table in a “Share-a-Thon” at the NSTA conference.

Here is the abstract.

Poetry can be used during science instruction to foster interest, excitement, and wonder among elementary-level students. Children can read poetry, or have poetry read to them, as a way of learning about their world. They can also create poems to share their own science learning with others. We introduce two formats of the Poetry in two Voices form of (namely, Five Senses in Two Voices) that we use to help students in Grades 1 – 5 develop science observation skills and adopt a scientific approach during their science investigations. Integrating poetry with science is a historically accurate pedagogical approach in that poetry was at one time the language of philosophy and science. The purpose of this action research report is to share our experience and the results of utilizing these two poetry formats with elementary-level children.

34. Evidence for STEAM is an ongoing project. One of the important avenues to help students and citizens realize the problems of a STEM focus is Lapham’s Quarterly. Each issue deals with a theme, for example – in no particular order – Animals, Time, Ways of Learning, The Sea, States of War, Medicine, Book of Nature and many more and now the latest volume Discovery Volume X, Number 2, Spring 2017. Lapham’s Quarterly gives us views, attitudes, information, ways of seeing and deciding across millennia. Human nature has hardly changed, so his Quarterly invites us to read and respond to points of view and descriptions in the context of their time. There are always contributors across disciplines.

‘Discovery’ includes the poetry of Margaret Cavendish, a 17th century poet interested in atoms, Vera Rubin, Nikola Tesla, Galileo, Alexander von Humboldt, Bessie Head and many others.

Lewis Lapham’s introductions are always challenging, making a reader think about the world we inhabit in the light of so many different facets of lives across the planet we have been part of, some of us in Australia for 50,000 years or less. [See his map of the great migrations.] Like all fine writers, Lewis Lapham refuses to limit himself to one side, the STEM side of the ‘cultural divide’ that is still so convenient for those not willing to face the necessity for cross-disciplinary approaches that reveal our humanity. In this Introduction to ‘Voices that, in Tennyson’s Ulysses, are there TO STRIVE, TO SEEK and TO FIND, Lewis Lapham makes this statement.

“This issue of the Lapham’s Quarterly theme ‘Discovery’ suggests that we do nobody any favours to outsource the act of discovery to machines. The suggestion runs counter to the arrogant belief that machines are the salvation of the human race, technology the light and wonder of the world. The prophecy is false but the sales promotion is relentless. The data-mining dwarfs in Silicon Valley praise the glory of artificial intelligence and the internet of things, talk about attaching a human consciousness to a computer that lives forever. The Pentagon recruits drones to wage and lose its wars, Wall Street hires bots to mint and spoil its money; in the national schools, the curriculum known as STEM {science, technology, engineering math) sweeps the classrooms clean of improvised literary devices, downgrades the study of history and the humanities because they don’t get along well with tests administered by computers. At our colleges and universities, the oracles in residence complacently assume that man’s machines have vanquished nature, commodified the tribes of Palaeolithic instinct, will construct Elon Musk’s stairway to the stars (Los Angeles, page 23). The humanities they construe as exquisite ornaments meant to be preserved together with the alumni slush fund and naming opportunities, in the vaults of the endowment. Their piety recalls the lines of Archibald MacLeish.

            Freedom that was a thing to use

            They’ve made a thing to save

            And staked it in and fenced it round

            Like a dead man’s grave.

 To bury the humanities in tombs of precious marble is to deny ourselves the pleasure that is the love of learning and the play of the imagination, and to cheat ourselves of the inheritance alluded to in Goethe’s observation that he who cannot draw on three thousand years is living hand to mouth. Technology is the so arranging of the world that it is the thing that thinks and man who is reduced to the state of a thing. Machine-made consciousness, man content to serve as an obliging cog, is unable to connect the past to the present, the present to the past. The failure to do so breeds delusions of omniscience and omnipotence, which lead in turn to the factories at Auschwitz and the emptiness of President Donald Trump.” [pp 19 -20]***

*** One of the important things about Goethe is his connection of the arts and the sciences. He taught Alexander von Humboldt. Read Humboldt’s essay ‘1812 Paris’ page 80 and read Vera Rubin’s essay ‘Washington DC 1986’, page 51. In France opposition to increasing interdisciplinary elements in the French curriculum comes, in part, from teachers of German who fear their students will lose connection with Goethe and the German legend of Faust. How many in our world today sell their soul to the Devil to fulfill their ambition and feed their greed?

This current American and northern hemisphere list leaves out so much, including the essays of Lewis Thomas which could be a list on their own. IT needs to bring in further references to the themes that Lapham’s Quarterly explore. Reference to Lewis Thomas’s writing is in Challenging the Divide: Approaches to Science and Poetry. Its bibliography takes the interested reader further.The fact that the International Lewis Thomas Award for the quality of writing about the sciences that connects with poetry is in his name should encourage investigation by those who want subjects to be more than ‘silos’. Alan Lightman’s essay “Pas de Deux”, connecting physics with the movement of a ballerina, is also in the book I compiled. He is an Adjunct Professor of the Humanities at MIT and gave me permission to publish it. One of his mentors is Martin Rees. A physicist and a novelist, Alan Lightman’s collection of essays in A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit, published by Pantheon Books, New York, 2005, is worth reading. Writing of his collection, a critic says

Rather than finding a forbidding gulf between the two cultures, as did the physicist and novelist, C.P.Snow, fifty years ago, Lightman discovers complementary ways of looking at the world, both part of being human.

VII. From Asia

From  India.

1.Colleges of the Arts and Sciences.  NB. Bangalore is one city where the Science Gallery approach initiated by Trinity College, Dublin, with galleries in London already and, in 2018, in Melbourne is being established in India. [See the references to the Rose Hiscock address “Should STEAM replace STEM in Melbourne, 2016.]

“A number of independent institutions, almost entirely postsecondary, also refer to themselves as a college of arts and sciences. These include the following from India.” From Wikipedia.

* Alpha Arts & Science College

* Dr. MGR-Janaki College of Arts and Science for Women

    * GTN Arts & Science College

    * Ideal College of Arts and Sciences

    * Arts and Science College, Karwar

    * KG College of Arts and Science

    * Kongu Arts and Science College

    * Arts and Science College, Honnavar

    * Mar Gregorios College of Arts and Science, Chennai

    * Mary Matha Arts & Science College

    * MES’s M. M. College of Arts and Science, Sirsi

    * MVM Arts and Science College

    * PSG College of Arts and Science

    * R. Shankar Memorial Arts and Science College

    * Rathinam College of Arts and Science

    * Shri Nehru Maha Vidyalaya College of Arts & Sciences

    * T S Narayanaswami College of Arts and Science

    * V.O.C. Arts & Science College

    * Aditanar College of Arts & Science

    * University Arts and Science College, Warangal

2. The New Indian Express has an article about the impact of a Waldorf curriculum inspiring a learning centre teaching language and mathematics using music, arts and drama. [Check Google].  The Waldorf schools are known for their holistic approach. See also the Australian section.

From Japan

1. Yoko Ogawa, The Housekeeper + The Professor, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder, this edition published by Vintage Books, London 2010. ‘He is a brilliant maths professor with only eighty minutes of short term memory. She is a sensitive and astute young housekeeper who is entrusted to take care of him.’ As someone considered a ‘non-mathematician’ to find pleasure in ‘amicable numbers’, ‘perfect number’ and to see a numerical problem changed into algebra in such a way that I stay engaged tells me that this novel has a cross-disciplinary value. No one should fail to recognise the connection being made in this beautifully told story.

2, Tadao Ando – architect of Osaka – documentary heard on Australia’s SBS November 23rd 2013. This architect, acknowledged by great European architects, insists on the connection of architecture and culture. What he offers in spite of his use of rigid lines is always light and his insistence on the necessity for the connection with Nature. His process demands engagement with a nation’s culture and with the people. Human relations matter. And he has come to this understanding not through academic training. The narrower academic approach could have perpetuated the treatment of architecture as a ‘domain’ or a discipline with few interdisciplinary connections. It would be interesting to know more about the teaching of architecture in Australian universities.

3. Take note. There is a college of the arts and sciences at a university in Japan.  It is the College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo (Komaba campus) in Tokyo.

From the Philippines

The Colleges in the Philippines tend to follow the system in USA. America has had an Academy of the Arts and the Sciences since its inception. America bought the Philippines from Spain for $20 million in 1899 as part of the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War. The Americans held the Philippines until independence was given in 1946. These are some of their higher education Colleges of Arts and Sciences.

* Cavite State University, College of Arts and Sciences

* Cebu Normal University, College of Arts and Sciences

* Central Philippine University College of Arts and Sciences

* Far Eastern University – Institute of Arts and Sciences

* Manila Central University, College of Arts and Sciences

* Polytechnic University of the Philippines College of Arts

* University of Asia and the Pacific, College of Arts and Sciences

* University of the Philippines Manila, College of Arts and Sciences

VIII. Now to the southern hemisphere – Australia

Arguing the case for connections. Check the article in The Conversation on June 24th 2013. We are moving so slowly and failing to recognise just how much STEAM offers. [I began working on these connections from the 1970s as a teacher and later as Deputy Principal Curriculum to Brian D. Hannaford, FACE from 1981 at Marion High School.]

1. The former Vice Chancellor of Macquarie University, Professor Steven Schwartz, set out to make these connections for undergraduate students, requiring science-oriented students to undertake the study of one of the humanities and vice verse. In an e-mail February 2011, he wrote:

Dear Erica (if I may),

                                  What a generous gesture–sending me copies of your book Challenging the Divide. I will look forward to reading it and sharing it with others. 

Needless to say, I strongly agree with the points you made in your letter, especially about closing the divide, but do not despair. 

Governments and employers want students to be trained for their first job while academics want to educate students for a lifetime of fulfilment. Fortunately, for all of us, students want both! 

Sincerely yours, 

 Steven Schwartz, Vice-Chancellor


Professor Schwartz also asked me to write on the subject of interdisciplinary connections  for his ‘blog’. He became the Chair of ACARA in 2015. I do not know whether his hopes for Macquarie eventuated.

2. Professor David Christian, Professor of Modern History, President of the International Big History Association, Macquarie University wrote Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, first published in 2003 by the University of California Press, Berkeley. Listening to his conversation on ‘Saturday Extra’ on the ABC’s Radio National with Geraldine Doogue, I discovered that his expansive book was connecting the whole of our history and the increasing speed of scientific discoveries together with the changes in the context of their times. He was re-establishing the connection between science and the humanities. Moreover he was developing a middle school syllabus making the connections so that students would be able to see where the pace of change increased and why. Nine schools in New South Wales were piloting his syllabus. He was then at Macquarie University. In response to my letter, he wrote:


        Thank you so much for sending me a copy of your book, ‘Challenging the Divide’.  As you clearly picked up from the Geraldine Doogue interview, this is one of our central goals, in the belief that an education in silos creates a sense of loss, of disconnectedness, even of intellectual homelessness.  Many flee to religion because there they can find coherent, unifying stories; what science educators seem to miss is that modern science also contains such a story.  The great French sociologist, Durkheim used to say that embedded within all religious traditions were cosmologies, by which I think he meant unifying stories of the kind I’m trying to teach.

           By the way, you should not think I am allergic to the poetic.  The first words any reader of my book, “Maps of Time” will read are from what I think is a gorgeous translation of a verse from the Diamond Sutra:

‘Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:

A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,

A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,

A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.’

That was my way of trying to create a sense of dislocation about time and space to help readers deal with the story that follows.

               I’ll be very interested to look more carefully at your book when I get out from under a huge stack of marking, dissertations to read and lectures to prepare!

                Many thanks for sending your book which looks wonderful.  By the way I am a fellow fan of both Robyn Williams and Richard Fortey (I used his book in “Maps of Time”).

David Christian

Maps of Time establishes ‘thresholds’: first ‘The Inanimate Universe’, next  ‘Life on Earth’ ‘Early Human History’: ‘Many Worlds’, ‘the Holocene’: ‘Few Worlds’, ‘The Modern Era: One World’, ‘Perspectives on the Future’. David Christian has also produced a series of CDs of Maps of Time. The programs are one of The Great Courses. David Christian explains ‘Big History’; ‘The Big Bang’; ‘Life on Earth’; and ‘the Rise of Humanity’. San  Diego State University is The Great Courses programs’ corporate headquarters.

3. Dr Robyn Arianrhod is an Adjunct Research Fellow in mathematics at Monash University. Her book, Einstein’s Heroes: Imagining the world through the language of mathematics, published by the University of Queensland Press, 2003,has been written to share her love of mathematics with the general reader. It is written in a way that shows Robyn Arianrhod speaks each other’s language. She understands what Professor Marcus du Sautoy asks of us. She begins with David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon, is ready to make the human rather than the abstract connection first to help us, other mathematicians and those with an interest in crossing subject boundaries, feel what the loss of a language can mean.

Her love of literature is there as well. We recognise it when she compares the beauty of James Clerk Maxwell’s equation connecting Michael Faraday’s field theory in his mathematical connection of electromagnetism with a quatrain by William Blake. Later, writing of number, she reminds us that Cassio in Othello is interested in number. Robyn Arianrhod has offered us the work of a great Australian novelist, a mystical English poet and a character in a Shakespearean tragedy in such a way that we know this mathematician has not segregated herself in mathematics as a ‘silo’. Her book can be found on Amazon

In an e-mail she made clear her rejection of the notion of ‘two cultures’. Robyn Arianrhod wrote:

Dear Erica

What a wonderful surprise to receive your kind and interesting letter, together with “Challenging the Divide”. Thank you so much.

As you say, “Einstein’s Heroes” shows that I share your interest in bridging the “Two Cultures” – done so beautifully by the essays in “Challenging the Divide”. Congratulations on producing it – but how disappointing to hear of the reluctance of educators to take on your idea of introducing science to the non-fiction English curriculum. When I was doing my Matriculation (Year 12), the English Expression reading list included the biography of Marie Curie, and it was hugely important to me, as one of the few girls doing science at that level, to have science as the subject of one of our English texts. (Of course, it was in the “acceptable” literary form of biography, but I would have loved also to read books or essays by scientists writing about science – such as those by Bertrand Russell, which I discovered when I was an undergraduate.) It’s not that I wanted even more science in my curriculum – rather, I was excited about blending my two loves, literature and science, instead of feeling as though the English course was cut off from the science course, and vice versa.

In July 2016, at the Informa Conference in Melbourne about STEM for science teachers, where Rose Hiscock, the Inaugural Director of the Science Gallery being established by the University of Melbourne, posed the question – and answered it in the affirmative – “Should STEAM replace STEM?”, Dr Arianrhod was included as a Hero of Mathematics, and a mentor for girls interested in mathematics. She has also published the stories of two great women mathematicians in Seduced by Logic: Emilie du Châtelet, Mary Somerville and the Newtonian Revolution, published by the University of Queensland Press, 2011.iscockHiscock

4. Associate Professor Robert Phiddian, Flinders University, in 2011 as Chair of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas and member of the International Humanities Consortium, included poets at the beginning of lectures during the Festival of Ideas that year. Such a move had not previously been considered. So many people, thanks to the separation of the cultures since the 1950s, are used to the exclusion of poetry from the world of ideas. But here, poets with their commitment, like Judith Wright, to ‘the feeling world of ideas’ were being welcomed. I was honoured to be invited to be one of them and read one of my poems about Primo Levi, survivor of Auschwitz, industrial chemist, novelist and poet.

That initiative is being followed up this year by Ian Gibbins, the Chair of the 2016 committee in this year’s Adelaide Festival of Ideas. On October 22nd 2016 there will be more signs that ‘the times they are a’ changing’. A whole program of story-telling by poets will take place, starting at 6.30 pm in Adelaide’s Elder Hall at the University of Adelaide. The role of poetry in the expression of our humanity as an integral part of the world of ideas is being increasingly recognized in South Australia, the home of Australia’s original Festival of Ideas.

5. Dr George Aranda, in the School of Education at Deakin University, a researcher in science education, invited the members of the RiAus Book Club in the Adelaide Science Exchange to take part in a research project, since he wanted to set up a similar science-based book club in Melbourne. He was glad to include me. As a result I sent him a copy of Challenging the Divide and received this e-mail.

Hi Erica,

Thank you SO MUCH for the package that you sent me. It’s a wonderful book and I will enjoy reading it 🙂

He offered to take copies to the Science Communicators Conference in Sydney. I cooperated with him reviewing books being studied at the Adelaide Science Exchange’s Royal Institution-Australia [RiAus] Book Club throughout 2012, noting where it was clear that authors were crossing discipline boundaries. Among the reviews I wrote was one about Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s Wavewatchers’ Companion, awarded first prize by the Royal Society. I have mentioned him in the American list comparing his approach with that of the author of Linked.

            My review was sent, January 18th 2012, to Dr George Aranda – Deakin University. I should have liked to put the whole review here since it deals with the inclusive and imaginative ways he approaches those nine different waves that surround us. Its very thematic approach – waves across disciplines – is closer to the approaches now being chosen in the contemporary Science Galleries of Dublin, London, Bangalore and Melbourne where thematic approaches are being developed across all disciplines to encourage young people, put off by subjects/disciplines as ‘silos’, to consider the offering of the sciences. The arts are the ‘tools’ being used to attract their attention. I provide this introduction and my conclusion but a copy of the whole review is available if I am contacted by e-mail

About the Introduction – Wave Watching for Beginners

. . . . .By making the book personal and speaking directly to every reader, he is bringing to us everything he has brought together in his own approach, his knowledge of all kinds of books – history, classics, poetry, novels, essays. Samuel Johnson will be there, pop songs, films, television series, plus his walks with his daughter and he will tell stories – in this case – about wave watching.

And in conclusion I wrote:

As yet, I maintain, we are too utilitarian in our approach to schooling in Australia. We think of cost. Talk of ‘tax payers’ rather than enlightened citizens. We need books like ‘The Wavewatcher’s Companion’ to help us to think again about what we are doing in the way we prepare young people for the future. Where are books here that are like it? Are there any more written here with this capacity for interweaving so many aspects of knowledge? There are Peter Doherty’s essays in ‘A Light History of Hot Air’ and they are encouraging but, as Peter Doherty says, they are a ‘light history’. The depth to which Gavin Pretor-Pinney takes us is wonderful.

Erica Jolly

January 18th 2012.

 6. Nicholas Jose, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide sent me the following e-mail. We had been together on an Amnesty International platform to acknowledge Indigenous culture. [His reference to ‘pomegranates’ is to a collection of my poetry that has that title.]

Dear Erica,

It has taken me ages to track down your email address. I am touched that you sent the books and very appreciative. It was good to be on the podium with you and it’s good to find out more about you from your writing. ‘Challenging the Divide’ will be especially useful in the Creative Writing space here at the uni. You have riches of experience and reflection to draw on. I hope you’ve been enjoying some pomegranates this season.

Thank you again and good wishes


Nicholas Jose

Professor of English and Creative Writing

School of Humanities, University of Adelaide.

7. Professor Suzanne Miller, former Director of the South Australian Museum approved the connections I was putting forward since I had evidence that the South Australian Museum was connecting science and poetry in the lines from Tennyson’s “Kraken Wakes” up the stair-well around the lift space now housing a giant squid. She wrote:

Dear Erica

                 I realise that you are away at the moment, but I just wanted to let you know that the copy of your book has arrived. I have had a brief chance to browse through it and would like to congratulate you on a beautiful piece of work. I have passed the book on to our shop manager.

Kindest regards


In a later conversation at the Balaena Café we agreed that both of us value these connections which the Museum had been fostering through the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize. Professor Miller and her family later moved to Brisbane to become the CEO and Director of the Queensland Museums. After her departure, the SA Museum Board changed the title of the Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize. Did the Board feel the inclusion of the words ‘natural history’ undermined the focus on science? One of the great pleasures I had in London in 2013 was to go back and visit the magnificent Natural History Museum.

8. Professor Ian Gibbins, now Emeritus Professor of Anatomy and Histology, School of Medicine, Flinders University not only contributed to Challenging the Divide: Approaches to Science and Poetry, as neuro-scientist researcher, teacher and poet, but has now had his first volume of poems, ‘Urban Biology’ published by Friendly Street Poets. At Flinders University he arranged for the inclusion of an artist to work with students in the study of anatomy. His poems about science were part of an earlier South Australian Living Arts [SALA] event. Flinders Public Hospital had brought in artists and poets – one was Elzabeth Mansutti – to increase the feeling of humanity that can be lost in a sterile hospital atmosphere. Arts and Humanities in Health.

9. Dr Danielle Clode was appointed to the English and Creative Writing Department, Flinders University. Her writing connects the sciences and the arts. I sent her a copy of Challenging the Divide. In her reply, of June 2013, she wrote:

“Thank you so much for sending your book and other material to me.  I found it very interesting and I have no doubt at all that I will have cause to draw on it as a resource in the future.  It is reassuring to find others interested in crossing the arts/science divide. I am constantly astonished by how wide this divide is and surprised by people’s reluctance to even look at it, let alone attempt to cross it.  I know there are people who do this very successfully (I think medical practitioners are often a good example actually), but I don’t know that this practice has been embedded into Universities very well and it does cause problems for even very basic teaching practice. I spent many years trying to get writing skills into the science curriculum at Melbourne University (largely in demand from both students and staff), but could not because no single department would “take on” such a generalist subject and both the science and the arts faculties felt it was the role of the other faculty to promote it. So I was pleased that Flinders was able to accommodate my cross-disciplinary interests, particularly since my appointment is jointly funded by the science faculty and arts faculty”

Since we last spoke I have enthused a couple of students with interdisciplinary interests in science.  We have incorporated science writing into the first year university wide topic Academic and Professional Communication as well as into more advanced third year creative writing topics (which I have also opened up to science students).  So I think some genuine progress is being made!

Best wishes


Department of English, Creative Writing and Australian Studies, School of Humanities, Flinders University, South Australia.

Information received 10th October 2016. One of her creative writing students, a science major, has been short-listed for the Bragg science writing prize (Sue Double).

Dr Clode has been a contributor to Ockham’s Razor, broadcast on the ABC’s Radio National on Sundays at 7.45 am.

10. Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty contributed to ‘Challenging the Divide: Approaches to Science and Poetry’

In his contribution, he introduces the reader to Miroslav Holub, the immunologist who, in his poetry, can reveal what cannot be written in a peer-reviewed journal. Peter Doherty insists that “the more we can do to give our young people a solid acquaintance with both the sciences and the humanities the better our society will be.”

11. Professor Ian Chubb, Australia’s former Chief Scientist, when Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University, was pleased to receive a copy of Challenging the Divide. He told me of the work he was doing to foster interdisciplinary understanding during his time there. That commitment was reinforced again in the reply to the letter I sent to him, July 10th 2013. I had known him as Vice Chancellor of Flinders University in Adelaide. My letter to him is available if I am contacted. However, I think it is important for potential students and teachers, and those administering ACARA, to read the reply from his Senior Research Officer.

I had made clear to Professor Chubb that I care about this because I am concerned that the damaging depth of ignorance and unwillingness to learn about what is involved in scientific approaches stems, in fact, from the elitism and segregation fostered for so long.

The reply on his behalf by Dr Phillippa Smith, his Senior Research Officer –

On October 17th, following my return for the UK I opened the letter sent at his direction by his Senior Research Officer, Dr Phillippa Smith, Office of the Chief Scientist, dated October 3rd 2013

Dear Ms Jolly,

              Thank you for your letter to the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb. Professor Chubb has asked me to reply on his behalf.

In July this year, the Chief Scientist released a position paper Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the National Interest: A Strategic Approach to urge a strategic approach to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in Australia.  This paper was developed after a consultation process, which included the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Australian Academy of Social Sciences. Consistent with your views, the position paper calls for STEM to operate within a broad societal context where investment in STEM must “ . . . relate to [the] valuable work of the social sciences and the humanities.”

Additionally, a key message of this paper is the need for a renewed Social Compact between science and society, which articulates the responsibilities and obligations of the government, the community and STEM practitioners. The paper includes a key quote from the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. “Science doesn’t replace moral judgment. It just extends the context of knowledge within which moral judgements are made. It allows us to do more, but it doesn’t tell us whether doing more is right or wrong.”

The Chief Scientist is acutely aware of the need for interdisciplinary approaches to find solutions to the long term challenges that we face. In June 2012, the Australian Government announced Securing Australia’s Future, which is a series of strategic research programs selected by the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) and the Chief Scientist. Coordinated by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA), Australia’s four Learned Academies are working together to deliver research-based evidence to support policy development in areas of importance to Australia’s future. The initial research topics for this program include examining solutions to the STEM skills shortage in comparable countries; and, exploring the natural, social, geographical, economic, cultural and scientific attributes and capabilities needed to thrive as a nation.

The Chief Scientist has commented numerous times on the lack of women pursuing STEM study and careers and the need to tap into the widest talent pool. This requires a cultural change. Indeed Professor Chubb has called for cultural change with respect to attitudes towards STEM across all aspects of STEM – from government and business to schools and Australian society at large. The need for this change is an underlying theme of the position paper.

After further consultation, a suitably amended version of the paper will be presented to the next meeting of PMSEIC for review and discussion. Following necessary endorsement by PMSEIC and the Australian government, relevant departments will develop detailed implementation plans.

Thank you for taking the time to write to Professor Chubb.


Dr Phillippa Smith.

12. From the University of Sydney, via an article in the on-line journal ‘Conversation’, June 25th 2013 the focus on interdisciplinary approach was reinforced.

Benjamin Miller is a coordinator of a single three-year degree that combines both arts and science – the Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science (BLAS) degree.

Fiona White receives funding from the Australian Research Council and Office of Learning and Teaching. She is also a coordinator of a single three-year degree that combines both arts and science – the Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science (BLAS) degree.

“The arts and science are often thought of as polar opposites. Traditionally, students and universities view them as separate entities – you pick a degree in one or the other and stick to your side of the fence. Increasingly though, this way of doing things is not enough to prepare students for the data-drenched and volatile workplace of the twenty-first century.

Combining arts and science in the curriculum could be the answer. From science, students learn about sound methods for testing hypotheses, and about interpreting and drawing valid conclusions from data. From arts, they will also learn about developing arguments, and about understanding, moving, and changing the minds of diverse audiences.

There are double and combined degrees already on offer. But there is a great potential for them to be better – improving students’ employment prospects and fostering new skills in “the space between” speciality areas.”

13. Dr Karl Kruszelnicki on ABC Radio 891 in Adelaide. Interviewed by Ian Henschke on Wednesday 11th December 2013, Dr Karl told him that his interest in science had been sparked by the Greek philosopher, Plato. In his book, Science is Golden, published by Harper Collins, Australia, 2008, Dr Kruszelnicki brings in history and anything he thinks will spark an interest in the science underpinning whatever he is dealing withThe book is a collection of bite-sized pieces using alliteration, anecdotes, the language of advertising, the language of the Australian idiom to engage the reader who, some fear, might not be interested in or willing to read longer works.

Look at some of the titles in the list of contents: ‘Plane truths’, ‘Sweat Like a Pig’, ‘Finger Lifting Good’, ‘Fraudulent Flipper’, ‘Fuelish Car – Engine Idling’, ‘Maritime Marriage’ to see the range of topics he has considered in what is an amusing, engaging book for browsing. I particularly like the metaphor in ‘Moth to a Flame’ with its subtitle [‘Let bogongs be bogongs’]. English, as our mainstream language, deals with words in all kinds of ways in all kinds of disciplines. English teachers might ask why ‘Ring a Rosie’ is here.]

14. The role of Elizabeth ‘Ella’ Finkel in the development of Cosmos. From Wikipedia – “Elizabeth “Ella” Finkel AM[1] is an Australian science journalist best known for her books Stem Cells: Controversy at the Frontiers of Science and The Genome Generation. She is editor-in-chief of COSMOS magazine[2] and previously worked as a broadcaster for ABC Radio National.[3] Her awards include the Michael Daley Award for Best Radio Feature Broadcast, the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award (2004), Analytical Journalist of the Year (Publishers Australia, 2010) and Higher Education Journalist of the Year (National Press Club, 2011).[4][5] She is married to Australian neuroscientist and entrepreneur, Alan Finkel, now Australia’s Chief Scientist.”

Elizabeth ‘Ella’ Finkel’s contribution to education is a reminder that some of the most valuable developments in the process of encouraging greater understanding of the sciences and their connections with us is coming from outside the realm of formal schooling.

Film, radio and television and electronic newsletters/newspapers that are independent and not controlled by any commercial organization are important informal avenues of education. So many programs are on the ABC’s broadcasting networks. For example there is “Catalyst” on television. On Radio National “The Science Show”, presented by Robyn Williams and they are coming through SBS. Now the non-commercial electronic news brought by academics through “The Conversation” is not only being followed in Australia. I do not know about ‘Apps’ that make these connections – or iPods – but I should like to hear about them. They are part of the future.

15. The Best Australian Science Writing 2013, edited by Jane McCredie and Natasha Mitchell, with a Foreword by Tim Minchin. He wrote the music and lyrics for Matilda, with its recognition of libraries, librarians and books, including the work of poets! At least in this publication by New South Publishing, the days of the segregation of the sciences from the humanities appeared to be over. Ian Gibbins’ poems demonstrate that a scientist can be a poet and the poem by Gareth Roi Jones of Friendly Street Poets in Adelaide enjoys juxtaposing quantum physics and classical physics. In the music and the lyrics of the musical, ‘Matilda’, Tim Minchin provides a lesson for all those parents who dismiss books and insist all that counts are ‘looks’. Tim Minchin’s Foreword to this collection should be read by all who want to maintain the separation of the arts and humanities from the sciences and mathematics in neatly self-contained domains. And that is an important reminder of the vital role of music and lyrics in the process of learning across disciplines.

16.In  2013 the establishment of a Science Poetry Prize by Australian Poetry

Poems entered must have a theme which explores scientific understanding.

17. Prior to the establishment of that prize, The Poets’ Union [now Australian Poetry] in 2010 sought to celebrate ‘Science made Marvellous’ in National Science Week. Three volumes of poems were published, edited by Brook Emery and Victoria Haritos: Project Editor: Carol Jenkins.

Holding Patterns: Physics and Engineering poems. My poem, ‘Sculpture at Questacon’, was in it. The other two volumes were Law & Impulse: Maths & Chemistry poems, and Earthly Matters: biology and geology poems. The biographical notes at the end of each volume show clearly the range of poets who contributed to the different volumes.

18. In 2015, Professor Ian Chubb launched Making a Stand, poems by Erica Jolly, published by Wakefield Press. The preface is by Dr Jennifer Strauss, poet and academic of Monash University, Melbourne. In my poem Humanity in Science there is acknowledgement of Roald Hoffmann. I consider the role of conflict in attitudes towards science in All’s Well that Ends Well.  

                          “ In All’s Well that Ends Well

                the challenge of the new.”

Note: All’s Well that Ends Well was probably presented at the Globe in 1604 or 1605 and Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum was published in 1620.

19. In 2015, a surprise. Poetry and mathematics. The approach of Mark Tredinnick, poet. After I attended his workshop about poetry and mathematics at the SA Writers’ Centre. I was impressed by the approach he took that included mathematics and wrote a response to it. I sent that response to Robyn Williams and was asked to reduce it to a specific time as a potential contribution to an Ockham’s Razor program.That paper ‘Mathematics, Metre and Metaphor’ was recorded at the ABC in Adelaide, November 2015.

20. The Informa Conference about STEM for science teachers held in Melbourne July 2016. The keynote address by Rose Hiscock, Inaugural Director of the Science Gallery being established by the University of Melbourne, to be opened in 2018, asked the question: Should STEAM replace STEM? The answer was and is ‘yes’, since she sees in the arts the ‘tools’ that foster creativity in the sciences. They will excite the visitors who come to the gallery to explore the science theme in the current exhibition. These galleries will focus on different themes. The first in Dublin is focusing on “Collapse”. In London at the Science Gallery near the Shard the theme is “addiction”. The Science Gallery in Melbourne will collaborate with the one in London. Both will focus their next exhibition on “blood”. Melbourne is collaborating with similar international science galleries in Dublin, London and Bangalore. [A copy of my response is available if I am contacted by e-mail.]

21. A reminder of the role of Australia’s public broadcaster the ABC. On Q & A, 2016 – Professor Brian Cox, particle physicist, and presenter of televised documentaries about the role of mathematics in nature, was asked about his love of music. He replied, “the separation of the arts from the sciences is a ‘false separation’.” That was a worrying yet hopeful program since, on the one hand, we saw a new One Nation Senator in action. On the other hand we heard the common sense from Linda Burney, the first Indigenous woman to represent an electorate the House of Representatives in the Australian parliament, speaking about the future to the young who will be living through it.

22. Poetry can bring to life the many aspects of the life of a scientist. That is what Emily Ballou has done in The Darwin Poems, published by the University of Western Australia Press, Crawley, WA, 2009. It is a verse portrait of Charles Darwin’s life. Professor Dame Gillian Beer, author of Darwin’s Plots, and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge wrote: “These rich, wry poems bring us extraordinarily close to Darwin’s life and mind . .  [Ballou] encompasses so much in her long-breathed lines . . .I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them.”

23. I have made frequent references to Challenging the Divide: Approaches to Poetry and Science. I compiled this collection that was published by Lythrum Press, Adelaide, 2010, and launched by Robyn Williams at the SA State Library in March of that year. The short essays were/are directed to young senior students and their English teachers – and the teachers of the sciences – by scientists hoping to help students feel why their particular science matters to them and where there are connections with the humanities. Each contributor set out to speak directly to young people.

         The Australian scientists who contributed include: Janine Baker, marine biologist of South Australia, Emeritus Professor Marcello Costa of Flinders University, Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty, Dr Susannah Eliott, whose love is slime moulds in cell biology, Tim Flannery – with a contribution from The Weather Makers, Ian Gibbins – neuroscientist, poet and composer of electronic music, Dr John Lowke – internationally acknowledged for his understanding of the physics of lightning, Oliver Mayo – statistical geneticist, David Paganin and Marc Rogerson – exploring quantum physics through sculpture, Dr Scoresby Shepherd – marine ecologist, Elizabeth Truswell – palaeontologist and artist, Dr Juliette Woods using her PhD in Applied Mathematics in ground water studies – yet another reminder of the connection of sustainability and mathematics.

The scientists from the northern hemisphere include Lewis Thomas writing in the 1970s and 1980s about the possibilities in computers and on the possibility of cloning a human being! Alan Lightman is there. And prose and poetry from Roald Hoffmann. Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell connects poetry and astronomy. Chapter Five was/is ‘Perspectives from American, English and European scientists and poets.

The range of poets in the collection embraces those who write in different styles so students can accept the diversity of approaches. The late Dr John Bray, former Chancellor of the University of Adelaide and Chief Justice of South Australia, for instance, is a classicist so his poem “Hymn to Chance” took that form.

The students of the Australian Science and Mathematics School contributed from their first Anthology The Poetry of Science: Comets, Conical Flasks and Conundrums, published in 2007 in Chapter Six. The late Dr Stephen Lawrence, whose early death denied us more work from an outstanding poet who cared about science, contributed the Appendix with its focus on contemporary poetry-science literary connections in his essay The Sounds of Science.

24. ***** Very important news  –  Science News from Australia’s ABC. Of value to the teachers of mathematics and a reminder that Indigenous culture is connected with mathematics. I have published the whole article for teachers of early childhood education and for the parents of young children. It brings to early childhood education an arts-integrated approach to mathematics.

****** Maths, story and dance: an Indigenous approach to teaching.

ABC Science by Anna Salleh. Posted 15 Aug 2016 via Google.

Understanding a child’s culture is important when teaching maths (Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers). A new method using culture-based storytelling to teach maths to Aboriginal children is reaping results.

         Aboriginal school children on average lag two years behind their non-Indigenous peers when it comes to maths, but according to one expert we can bridge the gap by paying better attention to culture.

         “Maths and science are very much seen, from an Aboriginal point of view, as a white fella thing,” said Dr Christopher Matthews, of Griffith University, who is just one of a handful of Aboriginal people to earn a PhD in mathematics.

         Dr Matthews is from the Quandamooka people of Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island), but grew up in Toowoomba.

         “I actually got caught cheating on my two-times table when I was in grade two,” he laughs.

         However, that attitude changed when he discovered algebra.

“It was like an epiphany. I remember sitting there one day and thinking ‘Why is this so easy?'”

         Dr Matthews excelled at maths, and headed off to university, eventually gaining a PhD in applied mathematics.He decided to help his people learn maths when he observed how often maths is relied on to make environmental decisions affecting Aboriginal land.

         “We need the capacity to engage in this decision making and to review the scientific papers,” he says.

And so Dr Matthews set out to develop a new way of teaching maths at school.

Chris Matthews has done a lot of soul searching about the relationship between maths and culture (NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group)

Teaching maths as storytelling and dance – A reminder of the roles of  rhythm and music

Dr Matthews realised you could help children struggling with maths by linking it to their own stories about the world.

 “Maths involves creating symbols and putting them together to represent the real world,” he said.

Most students only experience maths in the abstract form without getting to relate it to something meaningful to them, Dr Matthews said.

“As people we all want to understand the world around us and we do that through our own cultural lens.

“But fundamentally, we are looking at ways of understanding the world and that’s pretty much what science and maths is.”

Aboriginal children dancing to learn about maths Photo: Children are encouraged to make up stories, sometimes in the form of dance, to learn mathematical concepts (Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers). Brolgas, kangaroos and storm clouds.

Dr Matthews’ approach to teaching maths involves Aboriginal children making up stories about equations — sometimes in the form of dance.

The numbers in the equations become characters who take certain actions resulting in a particular outcome. The actions either bring things together (addition and multiplication) or take them apart (subtraction and division).

For example, Aboriginal children turned the equation 4×2 = 8 into a dance about flying brolgas. A group of two children, acting as brolgas, flew together, and then linked up with another group of two, and then two more groups of two to become a group of eight. Or to illustrate 7-3 = 4, a group of seven kangaroos went out one day when three were hunted, leaving four behind.

In another equation, children grouped together to create a cloud that moved over country, and then some of them dropped off as the rain.

“The subtraction was the loss of rain from the cloud,” said Dr Matthews, who now now heads up the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Mathematics Alliance (ATSIMA).

Dr Matthews is heartened to see children linking their Aboriginal identity to maths given the racism he himself experienced at school. “I was the only Aboriginal kid in the class.” Ironically, it was this tough school experience that led Dr Matthews to bury himself in the geeky but “safe” world of maths.

Mathematics educator Caty Morris, of ATSIMA, helped Dr Matthews evaluate the maths as dance trial and says it transformed the children’s view of maths.

“They realised that maths was more than all those equations on the blackboard in the classroom. It really opened their eyes to the potential of mathematics,” she said.

“I think it’s a fantastic whole new way of looking at how mathematics can be taught. For one thing, you’re getting the kids to ‘be’ the mathematics themselves.”

She says Dr Matthews’ approach has enormous potential in the classroom, and this potential was already starting to show — and not just for Indigenous children. Maths for all.

According to Professor Tom Cooper, the head of the YuMi Deadly Centre for maths education at the Queensland University of Technology, the principles involved in Dr Matthews’ approach to maths as storytelling are “very powerful”.

“It’s the basis of our teaching now,” he said.

The YuMi Deadly maths program aims to improve maths education for disadvantaged students, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, by adapting to the specific needs of the children. Since 2010, a total of 250 schools have adopted the program. [We need to ask if this program is known by teachers on the APY Lands of South Australia or in the other States and Territories.]

“You’ve got to look at your kids and you’ve got to get to know their culture. You must always start your teaching from something that interests them,” Professor Cooper said.

“Children must be encouraged to make up their own symbols,” he says, “and relate them to stories about their own world, before being expected to acquire more generic symbols used in the world of mathematics.

Children use their bodies to represent a number 7 Photo: Children using the YuMi Deadly Maths program use their bodies to represent different numbers (Tabitha Jos/Kingston State School)

Professor Cooper says movement is also a key feature of the program. “All mathematics must be taught with the body,” he said. “So if we’re teaching distance, then we run distances. If we’re teaching numbers, everyone lies on the ground and makes numbers with their body.” He said the results of the program spoke for themselves.

“So many schools tell us that it’s changed the way they teach and improved dramatically the learning they have … We have evidence that it has improved NAPLAN.”

And it is not just the obviously disadvantaged that can benefit. Professor Cooper said some elite schools had taken on the program.

“It may simply be people who don’t learn well by sitting in rows and being given symbols — people who learn better by acting out,” he said.

Dr Matthews believes his early failure in primary school was because his maths teacher demanded rote learning and quick recall. “My brain just doesn’t work like that,” he said. “I get anxious.” It is no surprise to him that many children find maths as storytelling a preferable approach.

“We all carry our own cultural understandings and I think if you allow kids to be creative within that they can actually bring that to the table.”

Hear more about Dr Christopher Matthews and his approach to teaching mathematics on RN Life Matters.

Resources …

 * YouTube: Tom Cooper from YuMi Deadly Centre at QUT explains the Matthews approach. [Queensland University of Technology]

    * YuMi Deadly Maths a hit in Hughenden for students at different levels

    * Make it Count

    * National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)

    * NAPLAN: Would you pass the test?

25. Young leaders imagine Australia beyond 2020 in The Future By Us Beyond 2020, published by Hardie Grant Books, Victoria, 2009. Foreword by Kevin Rudd. Why does this matter? The disciplines form the interdisciplinary connections. That is why the quality of that interdisciplinary approach matters. However, when we look at the future, the different disciplines are not just what we concentrate on. Our thinking goes further, making connections. So, when young leaders write about their concerns, they focus directly on those concerns.

         I should like those who influence our directions in education to read these articles by young leaders of our nation. Edited by Hugh Evans and Tom O’Connor, I’d like readers to begin with ‘Communities: The Search for Connection’ by Simon Moss and Nick Bearlin-Allardyce [pp 145 – 163] and take it from there. Of the fourteen contributors five are young women, leaders in the Australian community in different ways: Chloe Adams, Katie Dunlop, Samah Hadid, Christina Hobbs, Anna Rose. 

26. Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story, Elizabeth Tynan, published by Newsouth, UNSW, Sydney 2016. The thorough documentation in this story is a reminder of what happens when the sciences are seen to have no connection with, and no responsibility for or to, the people of the nation. It is also a story of the danger of the power of decisions like this, to hand over so much Aboriginal land for atomic testing, being in the hands of one man, in this case the Prime Minister, Robert Menzies. And, an important reminder. At this time, this was ‘White Australia’ and the Aboriginal owners of the land were seen as among the ‘fauna’ of the continent in the Constitution of Australia of 1901.

27. How STEAM is being encourages for very young students. Playdough to Plato. Notice the age range from 4 – 12. A teacher in South Australia is using this approach for the students with dyslexia she tutors. She values the inclusion of Art in STEM. We need, at a young age, to get rid of that divisive narrow approach and here is evidence that in USA they are making an effort to do it.

Playdough to Plato, LLC, PO BOX 1317, Maple Valley, Washington 98038, United States offers the STEAM approach for very young children.

Playdough to Plato provided this advertisement: “After our original STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) activity eBook became an Amazon best seller, we started receiving emails asking for a Christmas-themed follow up. 

The team and I were excited to pull on our elf boots and hop to work. 

These 25 Christmas STEAM activities would even make the Grinch smile! They’re perfect for kids from 4 to12

28. An important reminder from Richard Gill – Australia’s foremost musical educator. He understands the central role of music in learning. STEM leaves it out. STEAM is essential. Follow this link. Teachers and all interested inn  the futre for our children need to look beyond the changes in the latest version of the Australian national curriculum which has tended to bring back subjects as ‘silos’ and discount the value of cross-over, interdisciplinary approaches.


29. Memoirs of a Thinking Radish: An Autobiography by Peter Medawar, published by  Oxford University Press, 1986. It has an outstanding index with, to my mind, a significant omission and that is the reason he is here. Sir Peter Medawar, Nobel prize winner with Sir Macfarlane Burnett for work in immunology, is meticulous in acknowledging those to whom he owes an intellectual debt, men and women! It might be the initial spark that helps him to think about an issue. It might be the support of fellow scientists allowing him to go on doing research after he recovers partially from a stroke. He is equally determined to castigate the pompous and self-centred intellectual snobs, the incompetent and the malicious.

His wife’s family hated the idea that she should marry this naturalized Briton whose father was Lebanese, and these outsiders had early lived in Brazil! What if she had a black baby! It was the 1940s. To reinforce the argument that Jean Taylor, the daughter of a family belonging to the English intellectual elite, should be saved from him, one malicious doctor even made the assumption that an illness he suffered from was the result of syphilis.

Three Australians matter so much in his development as a scientist. Two of them originally from Adelaide. The impact of burns during World War II, often of airmen, encouraged the focus on skin grafts. As a fine scientist, he is not afraid of admitting and learning from mistakes. He writes: “What then was so special about cattle twins. We came upon he answer not through any exertion of our own but by browsing in an exciting-looking book newly-published by Frank Macfarlane Burnett and Frank Fenner — The Production of Antibodies (1949). Burnett and Fenner described some remarkable findings made by an American agricultural geneticist Ray D. Owen, working under Dr. M.R. Irwin in the Department of Agricultural Genetics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.” [p.112]. It was Macfarlane Burnett’s theory about the ‘self and the non-self’ and his collaboration with Frank Fenner, who would become one of Australia’s national treasures, that set Peter Medawar, knighted 1958, and his team on the track that led, in 1960, to a joint Nobel Prize for himself and Macfarlane Burnett in Medicine or Physiology’ for their work in ‘acquired Immunology tolerance’.

The third Australian, cited again and again in his index, was Professor Howard W. Florey. He supported Peter Medawar in so many different ways, I think without him, this naturalized Briton would have been in much greater difficulties. Howard Florey and Frank Fenner were born in South Australia. Frank Fenner was sent by his brilliant father, Dr Charles Fenner – despised by the Adelaide establishment because he came from Victoria and had been in a trade – to Thebarton Boys Technical High School for the first three years of his secondary education to learn resilience and self-reliance in a school working on the basis of the Dalton Plan. [See A Broader Vision: Voices of Vocational Education in Twentieth Century South Australia.] Howard Florey was born in Adelaide. His father was a boot manufacturer. He was sent to St Peter’s College. In 1998 Frank Fenner contributed the biographical article written about him in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, set up by a former senior lecturer in history at the University of Adelaide, Douglas Pike, who introduced me to Jeremy Bentham who had such an impact on our prison system.

As I said, Peter Medawar’s index is meticulous. He mentions the nationality of colleagues from other countries. Czechoslovakia is there. So is Russia. So is the United States of America. Why then is the nationality of these three vital contributors to his life and work not mentioned? I am convinced, since Canada and New Zealand are not there either, that it is because they were seen as British, as part of the British Empire and Commonwealth. In Australia, it was “White Australia” after all. Our concentration on history in schools was on Britain. We read “!066 and All That”. A Eugenics Society had been long established in the University of Melbourne.

What was central for Peter Medawar was their significance as fellow scientists. Florey was in Oxford. Macfarlane Burnett and Fenner, he knew first through the book they produced together. In Australia, in those years from the 1920s to the 1960s, we too could have looked at the potential birth of a black baby as, to say the least, unfortunate. After all, we were willing to keep ‘non-whites’ out, if need be, through a dictation test in Gaelic. The referendum of 1967 would begin the process of changing that. I don’t think it occurred to him that their nationality mattered. Their places of birth were merely former colonies. His own perspective was sharpened by his awareness of the assumptions that being part Lebanese – his mother was English – made him an outsider.

But he is here for another reason. I have to ask how many scientists do we have who are like him. He loved music, was in love with Wagner’s ‘Ring Cycle’. Reading the index we see we are in the presence of a living, breathing human being for whom there was not such thing as C.P. Snow’s “two cultures”. Philosophers – Karl Popper was friend -, novelists, poets, filled his life and he learnt from them.

Jean’s brilliance in languages complemented him. She collaborated with him on The Life Science and Aristotle to Zoos and she is given due acknowledgement. Comments on Aristotle to Zoos include this statement. Aristotle to Zoos: A Philosophical Dictionary of Biology – “In the spirit of Voltaire and occasionally in the spirit of P. G. Wodehouse” P. B. and J. S. Medawar have crafted for the life sciences a source of reference” which sound to me like just the kind of book we need as a counterweight to what some might see as the bland and mundane material published in the name of school resources.

Lady Jean Medawar is not just, as Florey’s wife was, an appendage. In fact an unhappy one.  Medawar is here because he is prepared to go Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility and Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow in his final section ‘On Living a Little Bit Longer’ when he is discussing longevity in the past. And in The Limits of Science – see the British section – he went to Shelley’s Defence of Poetry.

Peter Medawar is here because he needed these Australians and because he is an example of the kind of scientist we need: one who is not limited by the tunnel-vision in our current, narrow focus on STEM. We need men and women, not cocooned from life, with this same breadth of vision for the future being created.

His autobiography is an argument for STEAM, for the connections to be made across the sciences, technologies, engineering, mathematics through  their connections with the tremendous range in the arts and the humanities. In part, the terrible cost in burns as a result of war started the focus on skin grafts and immunology in Oxford. How to give those disfigured by fire some semblance of normality as they made their way in the post 1945 world, a world for ever changed by those irreversible steps with the use of fire bombing as weapon of war and those atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I knew that his book The Limits of Science, praised by Lewis Thomas, was important as an example of the evidence for broader interdisciplinary connections. I thank Professor Colin Stirling, Vice Chancellor of Flinders University, for introducing me to his autobiography, Memoir of a Thinking Radish.

Commentary on this autobiography

Erica Jolly CUniv [Flinders University] MACE

December 3rd 2016.

30. Two Australian novels worth inclusion in a secondary school library.

Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living, by Carrie Tiffany, Picador, 2005 was her first novel. She was nominated for a number of international awards and won the Premier of Western Australia’s 2005 Literary Award. “it is 1934, billowing dust and information, the government ‘Better Farming Train’ slides through the wheat fields and small towns of Australia bringing expert advice to those living on the land.” How well was science helping the main characters to improve the land? The human interactions that affect everything have their impact here. Carrie Tiffany works as an agricultural journalist. Her second novel is Mateship with Birds.

Loving Richard Feynman by Penny Tangey, University of Queensland press, 2009 is another first novel. Its heroine is Catherine, a science-loving fifteen-year old who is dealing with life in all its complexities by writing to Richard Feynman, the Nobel prize-winning physicist who helped to build the atomic bomb and, incidentally, he got the idea for nanotechnology at a dinner party. She knows something of his track record with women and of his loving commitment to his dying wife. He is dead but she can talk to him about everything. Penny Tangey won the Victorian Final of Triple J’s Raw Comedy Competition in 2001. She has appeared on Stand Up on ABC TV. Her show Kathy Smith Goes to Maths Camp won the 2006Brian Macarthy Memorial Award (Moosehead).

31. Why are not Departments of Education waking up to the necessity of connecting the arts and humanities with the science, technologies, engineering and mathematics when the private organizations are? When will the curriculum make these connections and be funded as they should be?

While we wait, this is happening

Three private funds are offering a A New Approach

“Australia lacks a public, expert, independent voice championing investment and return in arts and culture. Defending and promoting the benefit of intellectual and creative life as a critical crucible of the national future is proving to be increasingly difficult. Australia needs an informed, independent entity which has the necessary resources and public authority to advance a coherent, comprehensive policy position from which we might build better political and institutional settings and allied public commentary.

The Myer Foundation, the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation and the Keir Foundation are now seeking expressions of interest from applicants capable of delivering a program to meet this need.”

32. Storytelling as an avenue of entry to different sciences. And a way of gaining the technical vocabulary at the same time in a friendly, inclusive way! “A Snail’s Story” is the work of a ten year old girl in a New South Wales Catholic primary school.  Her teacher, Dr Markus Powling, attended the conference on giftedness in Vienna in March 2016 where their focus was on wisdom. [See the reference in the European section – Austria where Dr Powling was delighted to hear that “Dr Sternberg believes we need to look for wisdom rather than only high intelligence or cleverness in gifted children and adults.”] Consider the story-telling approach he encourages here towards observation of the life of a living creature. This approach here involves the role of story-telling in expanding a child’s understanding of the life of the snail as well as acquiring the technical language to describe the garden snail – (helix aspersa). – This active engagement ensures that the process of learning will take hold in the young girl’s felt response for the future. [The snails were in the children’s class room.] {[I still remember the process and the technical details gained through the observation of an experiment we did in 1944, in Grade Six, when we observed how a seed – a broad bean seed – developed its downward root – radicle – and the shoot growing up  into the air – plumule.]

A Snail’s Story

I don’t understand why I’m stuck on the same piece of lettuce everyday, do you?

I’m a gastropod, which means a belly-footed creature. I walk, well slide, on my foot that’s connected to my body. I have to stay moist, so I don’t dry out. The big monsters ( I think they’re called humans) spray me with water, but sometimes it can be too damp,

Ahh! I nearly dot stepped on!

Anyway, if you don’t mind, I’m going to start talking about my life as a hermaphrodite. The definition of that long, long word is both male and female.

Even though us snails look exactly the same as a slug with a spiral-shaped shell,

we are the same gender. (Human girls and boys are so different.)

I have to tell you some interesting facts about my body.

As I move, I leave mucus along where I travel. You want to know  how I make mucus? If you do, keep on reading.

I have something inside me called a radola that helps grind up my food such as

carrots and lettuce and the mixture somehow turns into mucus.

Tentacles help me to detect food and if I didn’t have my tentacles then I wouldn’t know where I am. But I am slow ans slimy, not fast and speedy.

We snails are so special, it’s actually great being a snail.

But I didn’t understand why I’m stuck in this white-coloured prison. What did I do wrong? Am I a prisoner now?

Sorry, I’m just a bit homesick.

I’ve got my mate, my eggs and —

Oh, yeah, I need to tell you about my eggs. Snails like to bury their eggs in soil, so that no predators can get them. Our predators include birds, lizards and even humans. But humans only eat us in restaurants. Wait a second, is there a

restaurant in North Sydney?

Oh no, I’m too worried to write now.

I’ll write to you later, I promise  . . . if I’m eaten, I think I’ll have to break the promise a little. Then I won’t promise, I’ll write to you if I’m still alive.”

There are over 1000 species of native Australian snails and slugs. However, most of the snails and slugs we find in our gardens are not natives.

Dr Powling also found value in encouraging students to interpret observations in the form of cinquains.
A cinquain is a five-line poem that was invented by Adelaide Crapsey. She was an American poet who took her inspiration from Japanese haiku and tanka. A collection of poems, titled Verse, was published in 1915 and included 28 cinquains. Following the invention of this form, Adelaide Crapsey made changes to the form and included a certain number of syllables per line.

In March 2017 Dr Powling delivered a paper to the Science Education Conference in Florence on his approach to STEM. He then attended the National Science Teachers Association of America [NSTA] in Los Angeles where a paper was delivered on the subject of Science Poetry in Two Voices: Poetry and the Nature of Science by Wendy M. Frazier and Kristen B. Murray, George Mason University Fairfax, VA, USA. I have copies of their paper and can make them available to teachers, schools and universities that are moving beyond the narrow culturally-divided approach to STEM

33. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra preparing to perform at Dark Park Dark Mofo, Mona’s midwinter festival of large-scale public art, food, music, light and noise, draws crowds on an annual pilgrimage to the freezing southern island of Australia. Dark Park is Dark Mofo’s industrial art wonderland at Macquarie Point on Hobart’s docks. We meet artist Michaela Gleave and composer Amanda Cole who have worked together on a new work called A Galaxy of Suns. The pair have transcribed constellations into a musical score that is being sung live by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Chorus, following the stars as they cross the night sky.

This story was first broadcast on Radio National’s Books and Arts, Wednesday 15 June 2016.

34. A significant movement towards STEAM. The cross-disciplinary responses by 50 members of the Flinders University community in Speak To Me: Conversations with the Flinders University Art Collections, published by the Flinders University Art Museum [FUAM] in commemoration of the Flinders University’s Fiftieth Anniversary, October 2016. The Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint wrote in his Foreword to this exceptional outstanding cross disciplinary collaboration, with fifty works of art of the amazing Flinders Art Museum as the catalyst: Above all the collections are a unique and extraordinary intellectual resource, not only for the study of art but as a tool for teaching, learning and  research across topics and in myriad disciplines.

We are discovering across the northern and now the southern hemispheres that scientists are recognizing the role of the arts and humanities in the expansion of scientific understanding. See the report on the keynote address to the STEM science teachers conference in Melbourne July 2016 by Rose Hiscock, the Inaugural Director of the Science Gallery being established by the University of Melbourne. [My report on her keynote address “Should STEAM replace STEM?” is part of the evidence of the move away, at least at the level of higher education, from the ultimately narrowing reductionist tendency that can occur, as Nobel Laureate Professor Roald Hoffmann wrote, if we – the scientists – forget “our friends in the arts and the humanities”. See the American section Note 3.]

In my letter of congratulations to the Flinders University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Colin Stirling, as a former member of the Council and the Senate I wrote the following:  

“. . . So many areas of the university that speak directly and certainly to the past, present and future of human existence are well represented. I note in his Foreword that the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research), Professor Saint, says “Above all the collections are a unique and extraordinary intellectual resource, not only for the study of art but as a tool for teaching, learning and  research across topics and in myriad disciplines.

It is for this reason that i list here so many of the areas of the university that took part in these conversations, showing that they recognise the vital connections across the disciplines that the divisive and destructive ‘two cultures’ notion set out to destroy to the disadvantage of all. Art is the unifying element. It is the catalyst here and I am so grateful that Flinders University has made it possible for so many of its members to contribute to the conversations. One must buy the book to read how each person responds to the work he or she has chosen. One discovers in this way what each contributor brings to her and his role as part of the Flinders University community. That is what is here for me in “Speak to Me”.

As a former member of Council and the Senate to see so many connections across the disciplines, in these lateral ways, gives me hope for the future. Medicine is here. Anatomy and Histology. Health Sciences. The Humanities and the Creative Arts – English, Creative Writing and Australian Studies. Hydrogeology and Ground water. Environment. The Adelaide College of the Arts. A PhD candidate in Law.  The School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics. Psychology. Project Officers. Tjilbruke Teaching and Learning. Oasis – fostering intellectual as well as spiritual well being across all disciplines for everyone, [I was there, as a secular humanist, at its inception so I feel I can give here what Oasis means to me.] History and International Relations. Flinders Business School. Archaeology. An Administrative Officer – Policy and Secretariat. Australian Studies. Social & Policy Studies, Politics & Public Policy. School of Biological Sciences – Palaeontology. The Grounds Operations Supervisor. The Collections Manager. The Office of Indigenous Strategy and Management. The National Institute of Labour Studies. The Caretaker – Facilities and Property Management. Exhibitions Manager Art Museum & City Gallery. Special Collections Librarian, Central Library. Manager -University Records & Archives. Tourism in the School of Humanities and Creative Arts. The School of Education. A Research Fellow conversing about ‘Data and Art’ and Yunggorendi Student Engagement. Department of Screen and Media. And Shakespeare is here in a conversation about Macbeth.

I should like this response of mine to go into the Alumni newsletter. I think the Alumni of the university and others should read and feel the special qualities each contributor brings in his and her response to the work chosen and what it indicates about their contribution to their place in the university. Art awakens emotional as well as intellectual responses. This is an outstanding contribution to Flinders University’s 50th anniversary and complements “Investigator Transformed” in a most important way as Flinders  moves into its 51st year. 

Yours sincerely

Erica Jolly CUniv [Flinders] 

Published in the February edition of eEncounter, the newsletter of the Flinders Alumni.

35. A STEAM conference in Brisbane 2017. Three conferences in one. Principals. Teachers. Students. The focus is on middle school students.

“Adolescent Success (formerly MYSA)” <>

36. A special reason the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of Western Australia is here.  This is its STEAM role:

“The Institute of Advanced Studies plays a key role in the life of The University of Western Australia. Fostering cross-disciplinary and collaborative research activities of the University are the hallmark of the Institute. The Institute of Advanced Studies provides a wide range of programs and activities across all disciplines. The Institute serves as a focus for the wider dissemination of ideas through encouraging new research, hosting visits from scholars and distinguished professionals outside of the academy, including artists and public intellectuals, who can contribute to research and stimulate public debate on contemporary issues. The Institute also provides programs for post-graduate students and early career researchers. The Institute’s commitment to community engagement and public humanities provides an avenue for sharing research activities with the community at large through public lectures and forums. The Institute offers visiting fellowships in conjunction with areas of strategic importance at UWA. The Institute collaborates with a number of key institutional partners and is a member of the International Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) and the University – Based Institutes for Advanced Studies (UBIAS) http:/ UWA is a member of the World University Network and the Matariki Network and IAS regularly participates in activities with these networks.

Here is the special reason IAS – UWA is here.

In 2013, the IAS of UWA played host to Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, the authors of Merchants of Doubt, when they prepared the original version of their book which became The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future. It was first an essay of the same name, originally published in Daedalus (Winter 2013), the journal of The American Arts and Sciences. They had been enabled to work their because of “The Institute’s commitment to community engagement and public humanities provides an avenue for sharing research activities with the community at large through public lectures and forums.” It was published as a book by Columbia University press, New York in 2014. The Institute of Advanced Studies of UWA recognizes the significance of the humanities in the whole process of research across all disciplines. [The name Daedalus for the journal of The American Academy of the Arts and Sciences is significant. Craftsman, inventor, artist. Not to be confused with his son.

37. Elizabeth Blackburn, born in Tasmania, is among the Women of Science: 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky, published by Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 2016. They come from all over the world, many of them showing the diversity of their interests. Their backgrounds matter. The situations they were faced with, the advantages they had, attitudes of parents, unless they – as one was – were early made orphans. The element of chance, luck, the impact of racism in some cases. This matters very much in 2017. Those setting up the new senior physics course in the new HSC physics program in NSW have removed any human connection. They see that as irrelevant in the study of physics. Heard on “The Drum” ABC2 Tuesday, February 21st 2017. They consider humanizing it to encourage the involvement of girls, seen as ‘feminisation’, has ‘dumbed down’ the physics being taught. I wonder what evidence they have for that. EAJ 21/2/17] I would also have all young people and their teachers see the film “Hidden Figures” about the African American women who could not be ignored. They were too clever to be dismissed just as the ‘colored’ dispensable workers in America’s competition with the then USSR in the ‘space race’.

38. Reinventing the classroom for the digital age in Victoria.

Lauriston Girls’ School’s FabLab. Image: Lauriston Girls’ School.

21 July 2015   Long reads. Reinventing the classroom for the digital age. Tags: STEM, STEAM, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, student engagement.

How can we engage girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths?

It is a hot topic of discussion amongst academics and educators alike at the moment, with The Australian Council of Learned Academies recommending that ‘Australia needs to grow its pool in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and expanding this talent pool requires increasing the proportion of young women as well as low socioeconomic students, resources that are at the moment under-utilised’ (Marginson, Tytler, Freeman & Roberts, 2013, as cited in Thompson, 2015).

But there is one Victorian school that is tackling the issue full steam ahead with the introduction of a fabrication lab that can be used across all disciplines.

Lauriston Girls’ School’s FabLab has been set up to reinvent the classroom for the digital age. For 18 months, students in all year levels have been learning how to use tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters in order to fashion new inventions and solve problems.

Principal Susan Just discovered the FabLab concept for the first time at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, in the US. She then started work at Catilleja Girls’ School in Palo Alto, California – the first school to have a FabLab.

‘[Then I was fortunate in] 2013 to actually go and visit Paulo Blikstein [Assistant Professor of Education and, by courtesy, of Computer Science] at Stanford and spent time looking at the FabLab … and really felt that this was something that we could establish very successfully here at Lauriston.

‘[I felt] it would cover a number of my goals, which essentially were to focus on STEM, to engage girls in STEM, and to look at some really exciting creative ideas where they could integrate design thinking with using equipment; and making it a very cross-disciplinary approach so every subject could go in from Prep right through to Year 12.’

Still, she just prefers to say that they utilise a STEAM approach, rather than a STEM approach at the Victorian school.

‘We think that STEAM is a much more accessible term for what we are endeavouring to do,’ the educator tells Teacher. ‘It’s not one that’s well-used at the moment, and it has a couple of different morphs, it can be ‘the arts’ and it can be ‘and anything’. We particularly want to involve our students in understanding that technology and fabrication equipment can be used in any subject, including the arts.

‘What we’re trying to do is look at how Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths, the Arts, can blend together across disciplines. … If you’re a student who’s studying Art, or Drama, or Media, or Visual Communication, you are in fact using many disciplines. … You’re using your knowledge of Technology, you’re using your knowledge of Maths, you’re using your knowledge of Science, and you’re using your knowledge of the Arts.

‘Our [Preps] this year … are learning about pyramids. And so we started using iDraw on the Apple iPads to start drawing pyramids – which were not very familiar [to] the girls. Those drawings were moved over to the laser cutter, and the laser cutter cut out their pyramids for them. Then the girls started putting the pyramids together and started seeing where things were going wrong, which is exactly what we wanted them to do.

‘They’re actually looking at this thing from a two-dimensional perspective, and they’re actually seeing that things aren’t right. So now they’re going back and they’re looking at their design process again and they’re re-thinking “How can I make this pyramid come together?” So [a] very simple … inquiry unit was taken to another level, because we were actually able to include the fabrication lab.

‘Go to Year 11 Psychology … girls wanted to actually build an eye to see all the parts of the eye and how we actually view the world. And so they used the fabrication lab to actually build their own eyes,’ explains Just.

‘You then take that to Year 12 Art. The girls [studying the International Baccalaureate and the Victorian Certificate of Education] are doing their portfolios for their final pieces of work, and they’re looking at how their particular art pieces can be enhanced through using the equipment in the fabrication lab. So, we’ve actually had girls who have integrated things they have done on the laser cutter or the lino cutter into their pieces of art. Then we start to see cross-disciplinary approaches.’

The principal says that while there aren’t any measurable results at this stage, a number of classes from different faculties are seeing the benefits of using the fabrication lab in their unit of work. ‘The next measurement will be actually looking at how we’re enhancing girls’ understanding of [STEM].’


Thomson, Sue. (June 2015). Australian Students in a Digital World. Policy Insights, Issue 3. Melbourne: ACER.

38. 2017. The World Science Festival is in Brisbane this year. See ( “WHEN SCIENCE MEETS ART: AN ENDURING ENTANGLEMENT Flinders Distinguished Professor and Professor of Neurophysiology, Professor Marcello Costa has been invited to be a discussant. With Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty and Nobel Laureate Professor Roald Hoffmann and Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, he is a contributor to Challenging the Divide: Approaches to Science and Poetry, Lythrum Press, Adelaide, 2010, launched by Robyn Williams.

39. For Australian educators looking to the future. Since we are part of the Pacific, we need to share with potential teachers and people interested in the world for our children Pacific: The Ocean of the Future by Simon Winchester, paperback edition published by William Collins, London 2016. Like all who understand the artificiality of the ‘cultural divide’, Simon Winchester knows we cannot neatly separate knowledge into subject ‘silos’. In the Prologue ‘The Lonely Sea and the Sky’, he writes: “For all its apparent placidity, the Pacific seems today positioned at the leading edge of any number of potential challenges and crises – whether they relate to politics or economics, to geology, to weather, to the supply of food, or to the most basic question about the number of people that this planet can support.

The future, in short, is what the Pacific Ocean is now coming to symbolize. For if one accepts that the Mediterranean was the inland sea of the Ancient World , and further, that the Atlantic Ocean was, and to some people still remains, the inland sea of the Modern World; then surely it can be argued that the Pacific Ocean is the inland sea of Tomorrow’s World. What transpires across these sixty-four million square miles of ultramarine ocean matters to all of us. Hence the need to write about it.” [p 22]. The Author’s Note on Carbon [pp 30-37]should be read by all those insisting that the sciences have nothing to do with the humanities. Winchester calls the Pacific Ocean the atomic ocean and makes us aware that atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs in the Pacific from January 1950 was only banned in 1963. Winchester sees the beginning of the modern Pacific on January 1st 1950. “Before that date the Pacific was ‘radioactively pure’. “After that date it was fouled by bomb-created-isotopes” [Carbon 14]. He asks, at the end of the Prologue about Australia. “Australia is an overwhelmingly non-Pacific nation on the western edge of the Pacific Ocean. Does it fit? Can it fit? Will it exert a regional force for good, in the short term or the long term, or ever?” [p 28]

 I’d have this book made available in libraries, in university libraries and school libraries, to all involved in education and for all who are interested in the future for our children. They will need a knowledge and understanding about where they live even more, I suggest, than the narrow focus on a perhaps idealized western civilization now required in the 2015 revision of the Australian National Curriculum.

40. Students are offered so little in the narrow STEM approach that will connect them as people and future citizens with the world they will live in. Although it was published in 1985, Aristotle to Zoos: A Philosophical Dictionary of Biology, by Peter Medawar and Jean Medawar, published by Oxford University Press does just that.  Yes, it is now 2017 but the work of this Nobel Prize winning pathologist and his much valued wife and collaborator – she is here in her own right – is remarkable for the quality of its language. We focus so much on literacy, we need outstanding examples of good clear writing in the sciences. Not oversimplifications. Clarity of intention. And this special dictionary is seen as ‘a rewarding exercise in biology as a humanistic endeavour.’ Look at ‘Hypothesis and Theory’ [pp 148 – 151]. How many potential teachers really understand them. The Medawars’ judicial approach to ideas is evident in their conclusion about ‘holism’, seen by some as the answer to ‘reductionism’. “Holism owes some of its popularity to the widespread belief that it is a bulwark against reductionism. However that may be, our judgment upon holism must be that if it has not advanced our understanding of biology, it has not to any important degree impeded it. [pp 144 – 145] Look up, for  example, ‘lungfish’ – living ‘fossils’ that appeared to be under threat in the Mary River -, ‘viruses’, ‘vaccinations’ – for their fascinating history-,‘toxins’, ‘poiesis’ – back to Peter Medawar’s recognition of the connection Shelley made between poetry and science. They give a detailed consideration of ‘reductionism’. Look also at their dictionary entry about Richard Dawkin’s ‘meme’ and get a taste of the rigour of their thinking and humour. Think too about the role of mnemonics in learning and life. There is a connection with this entry.

41. News from the Australian National University. Undergraduate students are being encouraged to do a flexible double degree. The university is aware, and was when Professor Ian Chubb was Vice Chancellor,

of the need to connect the sciences and the arts, particularly where ecology and the environment are concerned. Now we have this positive move.

42. Leaders in school development should be taking note of this approach in the accompanying link. It is being put forward by industries. It is much more interdisciplinary than the revised 2015 Australian National Curriculum, implemented by ACARA, which undermined much of the interdisciplinary options in the previous curriculum.

“Picking up STEAM: How the arts can drive STEM leadership”

“The liberal arts provide a tremendous background for a huge range of technical skills.” – Rob Hillard, managing partner, consulting, Deloitte

Bonnie Gardiner Bonnie Gardiner (CIO) 28 September, 2015 10:57

This link was referred to at Westminster College in South Australia when the school was speaking to parents about the avenues for the future for their children in 2016. The school is following this approach.

43. Bringing the writing of Janna Levin to Australian libraries. She is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University. She was the first scientist-in-residence at the Ruskin School of Fine Art and Drawing with an award from the National Endowment for the Sciences, Technology and the Arts (UK) [NESTA], and recently named a Guggenheim fellow. See mention of her story of the fifty year development of LIGO in the American section. We have too few Australian women writing about the human side of science and mathematics; the people, their characters, their lives in Australia and their contributions to the future. The book recommended here is Janna Levin’s novel A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines, published in paperback by Anchor Books, New York, 2006. She is writing about two of the twentieth century’s giants of mathematics and philosophy: Alan Turing and Kurt Gödel. We meet them as rather tragic human beings. Janna Levin is said here to capture “not only two radiant, fragile minds but also the zeitgeist – defined as ‘the spirit of the age or spirit of the time; that is, the dominant set of ideals and beliefs that motivate the actions of the members of a society in a particular period in time’ – of the era.” So often we forget the impact of the history of the time on what eventuates. Alan Lightman of MIT, author of Einstein’s Dreams, who provided two essays, gratis, for Challenging the Divide – read ‘Pas de Deux’ – calls her novel “a wonderfully imagined book.”

44. A response, in 2014, to a Q & A in which Professor Nalini Joshi, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Sydney showed that her view of the capacity of mathematics moves beyond STEM. She sees mathematics in music. My response in poetry is in Making A Stand, published by Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 2015. She is a Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellow in mathematics and the Chair of Applied Mathematics at the University of Sydney. She appeared in a Q&A episode Time Travel, Teaching and the Meaning of Life with Matt Covell (360), Brian Cox, Richard Gill and Miranda Tapsell.

         I seem to feel a hunger

A Q & A program on our

beloved ABC without

a single politician.

27th October 2014.

I seem to feel a hunger

a longing in this audience

a desire to take in all they offer.

Five of them on that panel.

A rapper, a young Aboriginal actor,

Professors of particle physics, maths and music.

Tweets come in from those amazed.

Science and the arts are at last together

but only on this channel, only on our ABC.

The rapper offers his view of life.

He’s grown up, has learnt education

is the way to put an end to ignorance.

That wonderful fighter for music

shares with the young man a new truth

the first rappers were 12th century troubadours.

As for the Indian mathematician, she sees

mathematics already in music, tells us this and

finds problem-solving in the quest of an avatar.

The young singer, one of the Sapphires

steadily explains our Australian identity remains

incomplete without full recognition of their culture.

And through it all, responding to questions

the English particle physicist, willing to share

discoveries and teach, tells all who hang on his words

we must have a broad not a narrow approach to learning.

                                                                                              Erica Jolly

45. An important reminder from our ABC – Australia’s – 4 Corners, March 20th 2017.

Interdisciplinary thinking is essential in the 21st century.

This program brought us the top minds in American military intelligence. As military experts they have to think about the likelihood of success when they spend billions of dollars, let alone the lives of all in military actions. Considering all the factors that will have an impact in an area of conflict, they had to take in climate!. They had to take in climate. What the decline in water supply does? Where people move to? The pressure on towns. Drought – not just one year’s drought. Their conclusion? Climate, politics and economics are connected. That means the humanities, social sciences, environmental situations as well as technology, engineering, mathematics and the sciences must be part of the whole package. [Unfortunately not in the minds of the reviewers of the Australian National Curriculum in 2015. Our children are being encouraged to go on seeing subjects, too often, as ‘silos’. Most particularly in secondary schools.]

46. In Brisbane, March 2017. The World Science Festival. Dr Brian Greene, Co-founder, was interviewed by Richard Fidler and heard on the ABC’s 891 in Adelaide. [Alan Alda supported the development of the World Science Festival.] Connecting art and science, one paper is about the science behind the work of Degas. Another is about Science and Art: The Eternal Entanglement. The home of the World Science Festival is New York. Looking at the details of past programs, it is clear that the humanities come into the picture. Among keynote speakers has been Joyce Carol Oates, a major American novelist. In fact, they are bringing STEAM into their festival. [I have included the following information from their first festival. ‘What it means to be human’ is to be connected. Look at the connections made here.]

Panel discussion “What it Means to Be Human” at the 2008 World Science Festival in New York City.

A science festival is a festival that showcases science and technology with the same freshness and flair that would be expected from an arts or music festival. Events can be varied, including lectures, exhibitions, workshops, live demonstrations of experiments, guided tours, and panel discussions. There may also be events linking science to the arts or history, such as plays, dramatised readings, and musical productions. The core content is that of science and technology, but the style comes from the world of the arts.

47. ****** Where some universities are going in fostering trans-disciplinary skills. Universsity of Sydney, UNSW and the ANU. Notice the change in language  – trans-disciplinary skills, not just interdisciplinary skills. Look back to Item 12 under the University of Sydney.

Here is the article from The Conversation referred to at the beginning

“Look at changes at the University of Sydney, the University of NSW and the ANU.

Statement by the editors. MATHS AND SCIENCE EDUCATION: We’ve asked our authors about the state of maths and science education in Australia and its future direction. In our final instalment, Benjamin Miller and Fiona White examine the benefits of transdisciplinary skills.

The arts and science are often thought of as polar opposites. Traditionally, students and universities view them as separate entities – you pick a degree in one or the other and stick to your side of the fence.

Increasingly though, this way of doing things is not enough to prepare students for the data-drenched and volatile workplace of the twenty-first century.

Combining arts and science in the curriculum could be the answer. From science, students learn about sound methods for testing hypotheses, and about interpreting and drawing valid conclusions from data. From arts, they will also learn about developing arguments, and about understanding, moving, and changing the minds of diverse audiences.

There are double and combined degrees already on offer. But there is a great potential for them to be better – improving students’ employment prospects and fostering new skills in “the space between” speciality areas.

The untapped potential of combining curricula

In their study into the popularity of double degrees, higher education researchers Wendy Russell, Sara Dolnicar and Marina Ayoub suggested that:

    double degree programs have significant untapped potential in preparing graduates for employment.

The potential benefit, they argue, is that graduates develop “transdisciplinary skills” that are highly valued by employers.

Transdisciplinary thinkers take a unique approach to solving problems. They draw information from diverse sources and seek collaborations to produce “socially robust knowledge”. However, the way most combined and double degrees are established does not foster transdisciplinary learning.

This is because the combination of degrees tends to create an administrative rather than pedagogical structure. This means that an arts-science student, for example, simply has access to subjects from arts and science faculties. Upon graduation, graduates would be able to perform skills essential to both speciality areas. But they have not necessarily developed transdisciplinary thinking.

The rare double degrees that are pedagogically designed can unlock the potential of a combined curriculum. In such cases, arts-science graduates can also imaginatively develop unique research methods, or ethically interpret information systems, or persuade non-experts to change their behaviour based on scientifically informed debate.

Model degrees, modern times

Universities are increasingly considering different degree structures. The Australian National University (ANU) claims that their new flexible degrees improve graduate employability in a way that “suits your head and your heart”. Students complete any two degrees in four years from arts, social sciences, business, or science. The University of Sydney offers a similar option with a four-year Bachelor of Science and Arts.

Such degrees expedite a student’s completion. But they are administrative combinations that rarely push students to experiment with approaches and practices from both degrees.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) has attempted to equip graduates by creating a general education program. In introducing their program, UNSW claims:

    employers repeatedly point to the complex nature of the modern work environment and advise that they highly value graduates with the skills provided by a broad general education.

UNSW students must complete between two and four subjects from outside their faculty. For example, a science graduate must have completed subjects taught by non-science faculties, such as education, arts, business, built environment, or law.

Such a program appears to be more pedagogically driven than the standard double degree. Students in “GenEd” subjects draw on their existing knowledge to solve problems in unfamiliar disciplinary locations. The learning promoted here is a valuable kind of creative disciplinarity, but it is not transdisciplinary.

We coordinate a new degree at the University of Sydney which has been designed to promote transdisciplinarity. The three-year Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science (BLAS) offers students the administrative freedom to study in two faculties while mandating the completion of core units in critical thinking, ethics, and communication.

BLAS students complete a major in arts or science, including up to 12 subjects in their chosen field. A further six to eight subjects are chosen from the other faculty. That is, an arts major must also complete six to eight science subjects. Finally, six liberal studies subjects must also be completed. Here in the physical and intellectual space of liberal studies subjects students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds collaborate to address problems of research, writing and ethics.

And the University of Queensland has a double BSc/BA degree but it was not mentioned in this article.

48. The University of South Australia is developing a Museum of Discovery that is very much based on the STEAM approach in which the arts and humanities complement or speak to the sciences, mathematics, engineering and technology.

49. Further evidence of increasing recognition of the value of the double arts/science undergraduate degree in Australian universities [As of 2/4/17]

The University of Southern Queensland is offering such a double degree.

In 2017 Monash University, which has an agreement with Warwick University, will begin offering a double Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science degree.

Deakin University has a double degree for domestic students.

Flinders University in South Australia is offering a double arts/science degree.

Check out Curtin University and the University of Western Australia.

50. It appears to me that the kind of thoughtful approach we need to education often does not come out of the Education Council. After all, it endorsed the 2015 revision of the Australian National Curriculum that separated the sciences from opportunities to connect with the humanities, arts and social sciences [HASS]. Some times we need to hear the voices of those not in academe. Look at Tim Minchin’s 2013 Occasional Address to the graduates of the University of Western Australia. Politicians have not helped us.

“Back in 2013, with Abbott as PM, Tim Minchin, composer and lyricist of that musical in praise of learning, offering ways to deal with bullies – Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” which tells us how often children lead the way – gave an Occasional Address to the graduates at the University of Western Australia. In 2017 America has a President who called climate change a Chinese hoax. Trump mouths words we have heard from our Minister for Energy and the Environment. So-called ‘clean coal.’ Australia is less blatant but both undermine environmental protection. Australia’s 2016 Prime Minister has chosen to forget his recognition in 2009, of human influence on climate change. Why? Turnbull’s residence in the Lodge depends on climate change deniers! For a change, let’s take in these words by a fine young man living in the real world. Tim told the new grads. “Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege. . . .[And] “By the way, while I have science and arts grads in front of me: please don’t make the mistake of thinking the arts and sciences are at odds with one another. That is a recent, stupid, and damaging idea. You don’t have to be unscientific to make beautiful art, to write beautiful things. If you need proof: Twain, Adams, Vonnegut, McEwen, Sagan, Shakespeare, Dickens – for a start. You don’t need to be superstitious to be a poet. You don’t need to hate GM technology to care about the beauty of the planet. You don’t have to claim a soul to promote compassion. Science is not a body of knowledge nor a system of belief; it is just a term which describes humankind’s incremental acquisition of understanding through observation. Science is awesome. The arts and sciences need to work together to improve how knowledge is communicated. The idea that many Australians – including our new PM and my distant cousin Nick – believe that the science of anthropogenic global warming is controversial, is a powerful indicator of the extent of our failure to communicate. The fact that 30% of this room just bristled is further evidence still. The fact that that bristling is more to do with politics than science is even more despairing.” That was 2013! Turnbull from 2016. Trump in USA from 2017. Politics is still coming first! Another musician put it clearly. After Q & A, on 27.3.17, Mark Seymour sang of ‘masters of spin taking us down the road to nowhere’.

51. Another reminder of the role of women in scientific discovery. So many girls were kept out in secondary scientific education when, in too many public and private secondary schools, only the brightest girls were wanted on the science and mathematics side of C.P. Snow’s ‘cultural divide.’ Dava Sobel has done so much to remind everyone of the role of women – see Galileo’s Daughter. Now there is The Glass Universe: The Hidden History of the Women Who Took the Measure of the Stars, published by 4th Estate, London, 2016. Among the women in the dedication to ‘the ladies who sustain me’ is Diana Ackerman, poet.

I have added this book to the Australian section for two reasons. We are told Australia is one of the best places in the world for watching the stars. We have a new complex telescope covering a square kilometre in WA being developed. We have women who are astro-physicists here. One was recently discussing the universe with Professor Brian Cox who, importantly, said on Q & A, when he had to deal with that climate denier in Australia’s Senate, that the supposed cultural divide was “a false separation.” [PS. I also found this book through the website ‘Brain Pickings’ which is

‘an inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness, spanning art, science, design, history, philosophy, and more.’ It is worthwhile to read the poem ‘The Mushroom Hunters’ that brings a new light to who were the first scientists. Who were the people who were most observant in the earliest human efforts to survive? The women!  ‘The Mushroom Hunters’ Neil Gaiman’s Feminist Poem About Science, is read by Amanda Palmer on Brain Pickings.]

52. Connecting science and poetry in an unexpected way in a Second Year Geo-science lecture at the University of Sydney. The result of a special invitation to attend. I thank Professor Müller for letting us sit in and Dr Adriana Dutkiewicz for taking us there. She was recognized during the lecture as a recipient of the prestigious Dorothy Hill Award for her scientific achievements. {[Dorothy Hill, AC, CBE, FAA, FRS, (10 September 1907 – 23 April 1997) was an Australian geologist and palaeontologist, the first female professor at an Australian university, and the first female president of the Australian Academy of Science. She fought to protect the Great Barrier Reef.]. Dr Dutkiewicz is currently contributing to the Earth Byte project giving us pictures of the situations at the depth of the planet’s oceans. I was fortunate to be shown how this project, EarthByte, is developing. Check the website of EarthByte group at the School of Geo-science at the University of Sydney.. ‘EarthByte is an internationally leading eGeoscience collaboration between several Australian Universities, international centres of excellence and industry’. In 2016, Adriana Dutkiewicz, Dietmar Müller, Andrew Hogg, and Paul Spence received congratulations for their recent paper published in Geology.Their paper, Vigorous deep-sea currents cause global anomaly in sediment accumulation in the Southern Ocean, revealed an enormous stretch of the Southern Ocean where sediments are building up at a rate that dwarfs other deep ocean locations. The work has attracted the attention of media internationally.

I had not expected the surprise I received when I attended this lecture. Clearly there was no sense of a cultural divide here.

 I have written my response to that experience in the form of a poem.

At a Second Year Geo-science lecture

at the University of Sydney given by

Professor Dietmar Müller April 5th 2017.

Four days on what remains?

I’ve discovered photosynthesis in the sea

I have moved beyond the green in leaves on land

where carbon dioxide and nutrients of iron,

nitrogen and phosphorous make food

for every plant in sunlight, giving off oxygen –

waste, a molecule they don’t want, our lungs must have.

I have moved beyond the startling opening

with space-satellite-driven photographs of Mars

and the differences found across its surface.

I’m beyond the drama of that introduction

and its telling contrast with what we know here.

I’m discovering how deep our ignorance is

about the ocean floors circling our own planet

sending up from the very bottom of the sea bed

elements brought down as dust or from mouths

of rivers when ocean currents allow them to rise.

It’s called ‘upwelling’ when cold water lifts

from below to a warm surface where phytoplankton wait

for nutrients they need to make food in sunlight.

We got their name from Greek – ‘phyton’ –‘plant’

and ‘planktos’ ‘drifting’, drifting around our seas.

Drifting on well-lit surfaces of lakes or oceans,

happy in places offering sunlight and no turmoil,

they’re at home in what for sailors were ‘The Doldrums’.

I’m thrilled. This professor brings in that great poem,

Samuel Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Four, now four days on, I breathe in new knowledge.

                                                                                                  Erica Jolly

53. Waldorf schools in Australia. A recent article in the New Indian Express commented on the inspiring impact of  Waldorf curriculum inspired learning centre in India teaching maths and language using music, art and drama.

Australia has 52 Waldorf or Steiner Schools based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. They clearly are able to meet the requirements of the Australian National Curriculum implemented by ACARA which separates the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics from Humanities the Arts and the Social Sciences [HASS]. Yet they are able to use an interdisciplinary, holistic pedagogical approach that rejects the C.P. Snow ‘cultural divide’. The following is a teachers’ resource book by John Blackwood, ‘who worked in mechanical engineering design for nearly thirty years, taught at the Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School in Sydney where he designed a maths course for Classes 11 and 12.’ Mathematics in Nature, Space and Time, published by Waldorf Educational Resources, published by Floris Books, Edinburgh, 2011. Of interest to readers of poetry might be the collection by Paul Matthews – The Ground That Love Seeks, Five Seasons Press, UK 1996. He worked at the Steiner based Emerson College in the UK as a poet and a gymnast.

54. Another reminder that informal avenues of learning may be helping to develop the understanding of people about the interconnectedness of life. One such program is the Sunday ‘Naked Scientist’ with Chris Smith of Cambridge on the ABC’s Radio National. On Sunday, April 30th 2017, we were made aware of new information about the structure of our bodies – the micro-bio – as its name suggests the tiny biological elements within us that influence how we respond so often according to how we eat and drink. The problems of the pressure of advertising, assuming for example that all microbes are ‘bad’, increasing the amount of dental decay. How much are we prepared? As adults some would under-fund Australia’s ABC by $600 million? But our young people have to gain the knowledge and understanding they will bring into their lives as adults and into the lives of their children. When the 2015 review of the Australian national curriculum separates humanities, arts and social sciences from science, technology, engineering and mathematics, they undermined the process of interconnected learning. Thanks to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s approach, we have avenues of learning there for us across the nation. Look at Sunday April 30th’s Radio National program, ‘Future Tense’. This is STEAM in action. It focused on the need for architecture to be designed in such a way that it provides comfort and happiness for those who use and/or live in the structures. ‘Bad’ buildings constructed with no, or minimal, concern for their inhabitants undermine the productivity of those who life and/or work in those buildings. Architecture has to work across disciplines. See the reference to the Steiner or Waldorf Schools.

55. Recent information from the University of Sydney. The Bachelor of Sciences and Arts.

The combined Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts may be undertaken full-time over four years or part-time over eight years. Full-time students will enrol in units of study to the value of 48 credit points (cp) in each year.

The combined course allows you to complete both a major in science and the humanities and social sciences. You will complete a minimum 12cp of mathematics, plus 24cp of junior units in science, a minimum 96cp of units in science including a major with the Faculty of Science, and a minimum 72cp at senior level from subject areas offered as majors in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The range of majors is impressive. This clearly shows that STEAM is an acceptable approach in higher education.

56. Cross-curricular avenues arising from the initiative of the Marine Discovery Centre, Henley Beach, South Australia. On Monday May 29th 2017 teachers were invited to come and enjoy a day that enabled them to learn about Aboriginal culture and the links to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Entitled Connecting Culture with STEM, the program offered links to ACARA. This was the initiative of Catholic Education SA through the Director of the Marine Discovery Centre,[MDC], 333Military Road, Henley Beach SA 5022. He is clearly aware that the separation of Indigenous cultures from these STEM areas in the 2015 review of the Australian National curriculum had undermined a process of connection that had been being established in the one this latest iteration has replaced. Here is the link to the for any teachers and members of the community who were not able to attend. Their phone number is 08 8115 7402 and the Director’s e-mail is

The Marine Discovery Centre was awarded the 2015 Highly Commended Coastcare Award for South Australia.

57. From the UTS Newsroom  – STEAMpunk girls.

It appears to be “the new counterculture revolution teaching female high school students how to take charge of their careers and lead innovation in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM)”

IX. From New Zealand.

The reasons for the BASc – Bachelor of Arts and Science – at the University of Otago. Potential students are asked to apply through the Dunedin Campus in 2017. Read the overview.


Most universities encourage students to specialise in either the sciences or the humanities, doing either Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees. But the world in which we live needs people whose expertise spans this divide.

Modern science is rapidly changing our lives. But these developments also require us to think carefully about their implications. Our new-found abilities in fields such as artificial intelligence and genetic manipulation may enhance human welfare, but are not risk-free. Problems such as climate change are difficult to solve because the practices that give rise to them also provide great benefits.

There are no straightforward answers or simple solutions. So it is essential that our best graduates have an understanding not just of science and technology, but of the opportunities and costs that scientific developments can bring.

At Otago, students have long been able to include humanities papers in a science degree and science papers in an arts degree, each normally taking three years. They can also complete a double degree programme, which would normally take five years.

The Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) adds to the range of options available. It enables graduates to present themselves to employers and the world at large as people who have real expertise in both the sciences and the humanities. But it takes less time than would be required for a double degree.

The BASc requires students to complete two major subjects: an arts major subject and a science (or applied science) major subject. Although the BASc is normally a four-year degree, students who are prepared to take on a higher workload can finish in three and a half years. Students can also include a minor subject in the programme.


X.  From South Africa

At the Graduate Women International [GWI] triennial conference held in Cape Town in 2016, the delegates from the 76 affiliated national member nations heard a key note address from the Vice Chancellor of Witwatersrand University. In an e-mail to me, Dr Jennifer Strauss, President of Graduate Women Victoria [GWV] and a Vice President of GWI, told me I would have been delighted to hear the holistic approach of its Vice Chancellor and of his concern for his students.

X1. Back to the northern hemisphere.

From Canada

1. The University of Saskatchewan has a College of the Arts and Science.

The untapped potential of combining curricula.

2. Developments in curriculum in Canadian Education Systems 2012/2013.

Australia is being encouraged now to follow these developments in the Canadian systems of education. This approach has an interdisciplinary, student-oriented focus. As the education/health liaison person for Graduate Women-SA I received the following information, June 2013. But the 2015 revision of the Australian national curriculum moved away from the interdisciplinary developments that had been taking place in the previous curriculum.

2012/2013 Future Tense: Adapting Canadian Education Systems for the 21St Century

report available at:

‘Canadian education systems rank among the best in the world, resulting in a highly-skilled labour force and competitive industries. However, the challenges associated with the twenty-first century have placed new demands on Canada and, by extension, Canadian education systems. In particular, these systems are now tasked with educating a generation that faces an unprecedented pace of social, economic, and technological change.’

In an effort to equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to prosper in such an environment, provincial governments across Canada have begun to implement education strategies that focus on developing specific competencies which collectively fall under the rubric of 21st century learning. The objective of 21st century learning is to build capacity in areas that promote a resilient society capable of effectively adapting to rapid change. It represents a shift in emphasis from the instruction of facts to a model which focuses on competencies such as critical thinking, character, creativity, innovation, as well as digital and computer literacy.

Australia was moving in the direction of these competencies, crossing disciplinary boundaries, first in the Mayer competencies and next in the ‘key competencies’ set out by the Federal government in 1993, with expectations there would be pilot programs in schools by 1995.

A change of government in 1996, with the beginning of the Howard regime, was the end of that. In 2017, it is clear that we have been set back twenty years by the Coalition’s refusal to recognize that an approach, promoted by a Federal Labor government, could have been worthwhile. And Howard, Abbott and Turnbull have also set out to undermine the less formal educational roles of different branches of the public organizations. Just as they set out to undermine the Institutions of Technical and Further Education by bringing in private-for-profit organizations, in too many of them focus was on profit not on the quality of education they were providing their students.

They undermined the role of the Double Helix organizations in schools as part of CSIRO’s contribution to science education in engaging Australia’s young people. The undermined the role of the national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and have made that worse by not fighting for the retention of short wave for so many isolated groups in the Northern Territory in January 2017 – to save $3 million and use it for the advantage of capital cities – Hobart, Adelaide, Darwin.

Equally terribly has been the loss of community radio and television. Australia’s community radio stations in remote and regional as well as metropolitan areas gave avenues of engagement, learning and employment opportunities for potential careers to those who kept them going as volunteers. These radio and television stations spoke to different groups who were not necessarily part of the ‘mainstream’. As Minister for Communications in the Abbott government, Malcolm Turnbull, with his focus totally on business, got rid of them to sell off the bandwidth to a commercial operator. He did the same to community-based television. And now, as well, Australians have lost the shortwave wireless, still used overseas to connect people across different continents. [Latest information May 1st 2017 on Radio National’s Books and Arts about ‘Documenta’ – the international contemporary arts program taking place in Athens. Two of Australia’s Indigenous artists have work being exhibited there.]

Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, as of March 6th 2017, had not shown any interest in what it has cost remote and regional communities by losing information about health, about the needs and interests of local communities. A recent announcement, on May 2nd 2017, by the Prime Minister of his concern for the quality of education across Australia will need to be followed up by his recognition that, for remote and regional communities in particular where services are few and far between, health and education go together. If children cannot hear, if – for example – otitis media has not been diagnosed early enough, their capacity to take advantage of the education on offer is significantly limited.

 Critical thinking is not just the province of the sciences, just as creativity is not just the province of the humanities and the arts. ‘Competencies’ cross disciplines!

XI1. In 2017 what educators, politicians and voters need to think about.

People interested in power to pursue either their ideological beliefs and/or their corporate ambitions only foster collaboration where and when it suits them. For them it is always divide in order to conquer. We need to recognize that we need each other. Wide ranging knowledge, and with it the capacity to care about others, is essential for a democracy to move with understanding and a sense of connection into the future. Sir Lawrence Bragg saw that it was needed when he wrote the Foreword to The Apple and the Spectroscope. And educators have an essential role in the achievement of this goal.

At this stage of the project you may not find material evidence here of the role, for example, of music and film. Please be aware that music of all kinds, in all cultures, even if only the human voice, encompasses different sciences.

For example, take any instrument and you will enter the world of sound and sound waves Take any instrument and it will involve craft in the making. [See the documentary Highly Strung made by Scott Hicks.] Technical knowledge and mastery of some kind is essential besides the joy in making music. Take any instrument and engineering will come into the story. Remember ‘engineering’ comes from ‘engine’ and the sources of the power – be they the human breath, strings or percussion, cylinders of wood or metal, or electronic machines – are an integral part of making music.

Remember the multiple roles of film and radio. The tendency has been to see them just as ‘tools’ or ‘extras’ in a school’s curriculum. Lists of credits will remind us just how much the different sciences, the engineering, the different stories of different cultures and the mathematics of it all are brought together. They are part of a holistic production, relying on people grounded in different disciplines, but in which the ideas and the writing comes first, And the conclusion is always more than the sum of its parts when it is a great film, imaginative in the way it brings humanity into the minds and hearts of the audience.

And, in addition, we will be able to see award-winning films from the SCINEMA International Science Film Festival 2017 in Adelaide, at the Palace Nova, Wednesday, June 7th 2017. “They celebrate the power of moving image to tell stories about the world, how it works and our place in it. Now in its 14th year, SCINEMA showcases science features, shorts, documentaries, animated and experimental films from filmmakers around the world.” Supported by BBC Earth.

Theatre has always understood the importance of connections. Street theatre, the amphitheatres of ancient Greece, the shadow puppets of Indonesia. In our treatment of ‘the arts’ – the visual arts, drama and music – as ‘extras’ and not part of the spirit of the core of a school’s curriculum, we have shown our failure to recognise the centrality of the arts and the humanities in everyday life. And humanity, central here, contributes to the spirit of the humanity Elizabeth Blackburn reminds scientists they need to connect with.

The Introduction to Making a Stand  concludes with these words that I heard on the ABC Radio National’s ‘Science Show’.

 “. . . I recently listened to Robyn Williams talking to Lisa Jardine, daughter of Jacob Bronowski, at the Festival of Science in Birmingham. He asked her if we had begun to make the lateral moves to close the gap between the cultures? She thinks the young have begun closing the gap. She wants all of us to share our gifts and our talents.” [p xxiii]

I should be glad to hear from anyone with information for the next edition. I’d like to hear from schools and universities engaged in these cross-disciplinary approaches connecting the sciences and the humanities and arts. And, most particularly from those working in the wider more informal avenues of learning. Countries in the northern hemisphere are way ahead of Australia. I will continue to gather evidence in the hope that we will not continue to be the ‘Sleepwalkers’ Barry Jones tried to wake up thirty years ago. Thank you for making an effort to get this far.

Remember Marcus du Sautoy’s words:

 “The more we learn to speak each other’s languages, ask each other new questions, the more hope there is of finding answers to the problems that have stubbornly eluded previous generations.”


Question for all educators in 2017. – Where is the new senior High School Certificate [HSC] for NSW taking schooling when it is focusing on depth in senior subjects as silos and where the History of the First Nations of Australia before 1770 is to be included in an ‘Ancient’ history section with Ancient China? This is the oldest living culture in the world. [“The Drum” ABC2 February 21st 2017. The spokesman for the NSW Educational Standards Authority – check its title – considers ‘breadth’ can be found via Google. He dismisses lateral connections as unimportant. He considers there is no need for these connections at the pre-higher education level.] There appears to be no consideration of the contribution of vocational education. Practical approaches have no place. For contrast, look at the development at Lauriston Girls’ School in Victoria where a fabrication laboratory, its ‘Fab Lab’ – the idea coming from Stanford – has been set up as an integral part of their STEAM approach covering disciplines in the sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics and the arts – drama, visual art, media, visual communications. They “particularly want to involve [their] students in understanding that technology and fabrication equipment can be used in any subject, including the arts.” 

Second edition closed May 31st 2017.

Erica Jolly CUniv [Flinders University], MACE.

Letter to the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, 2013.

I was still the advocate on the South Australian Chapter of the Australian Federation for University Women [AFUW-SA]committee for education/health in the advancement of women. I had been on Flinders University Council 1990 – 1996 and the Flinders Academic Senate 1997 – 2002. I was also a member of the AFUW National Standing Committee on Education, connected with IFUW, now Graduate Women International [GWI]

30 North Street,

Henley Beach SA 5022

July 10th 2013

Professor Ian Chubb,

Chief Scientist

GPO Box 9839

Canberra, ACT 2601

Dear Professor Chubb,

                                    I wrote to you in 2010 when you were Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University because I had heard on Radio National that an interdisciplinary approach was being encouraged at the ANU. It was an approach that brought students together in the arts, environmental studies and with local communities to consider the impact of changes to environmental flows in the Murray- Darling system on riverside communities.

            I was unable to listen to the Live Symposium recently set up by ‘The Conversation’ but I sent a contribution quoting Professor Marcus du Sautoy’s concern about the ‘silos’ mentality of traditional disciplines. I am assuming that, as you saw value in my presence on the Flinders University’s Academic Senate, you might see some value in my concerns about the narrowness of the focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

            My background in the humanities has taught me that we need to connect across disciplines. Teaching in schools that were based on attitudes of segregation of the sciences and mathematics from the humanities confirmed that. So often, unless they were very able, girls were discouraged from tackling the ‘hard’ sciences. That attitude became entrenched from the time of the Cold War. There developed an attitude that girls were suited for the ‘soft’ subjects.

That attitude found its way further into schools even after they were made comprehensive when too many student counsellors encouraged girls to see science and maths as hard. They could make their ways into universities by easier pathways. Some teachers of maths and sciences perpetuated that view. Luckily I worked with a few who did not see the ‘hard’ subjects as a male preserve. As a curriculum deputy principal, two of the best, most demanding, inclusive and successful teachers I worked with in mathematics were women who were resented by their male colleagues.

            One of the results of that segregation, and attitudes in homes, in business, in different disciplines meant there was a gender divide that discouraged girls from engagement in technology and engineering as well as maths and science. That attitude in my view has also been fostered in ACARA’s national senior maths syllabus that omits any reference to great women mathematicians. The focus needs to be on the people involved and the quality of their humanity as well as the capabilities they bring to their engagement with disciplines that need now to recognise what Professor Marcus du Sautoy sees: that is, we need a more holistic approach and less isolation is essential as we face the future.

Leonard Mlodinov in Feynman’s Rainbow: A search for beauty in physics and life, published by Vintage Books first in 2003, this edition 2011, reports Richard Feynman’s view: The goal of science may be to describe reality, but as long as science is carried out by human beings, human qualities will affect the description. [p 109]. And human qualities bring in the emotions, the senses, the ambitions, the prejudices as well as the intellect. I am reading Eureka!: Scientific Breakthroughs that Changed the World by Leslie Alan Horwitz [John Wiley & Sons, New York 2002] – all men unfortunately but nevertheless I feel the characteristics of their personalities, not just what they achieved.

   I care about this because I am concerned that the damaging depth of ignorance and unwillingness to learn about what is involved in scientific approaches stems, in fact, from the elitism and segregation fostered for so long. Great writers about science like the late Roy Porter and the still alive, well and invigorating Margaret Wertheim have no place in English syllabuses which pay scant attention to outstanding non-fiction writing by scientists – it’s why I collected the contributions I did in Challenging the Divide which also contains the reminder that scientists can be poets and that poets can and do tackle the sciences which are an integral part of our lives.

We have undermined the quality of engagement by discouraging connection and STEM is perpetuating that narrowness. I’d rather, as a minimum, see a different acronym, if we must concentrate our attention on acronyms. My preference would be ESTEEM with English/Australian literature – not just literacy, it is too limiting and unimaginative – and education, scientists, technologists/technicians, environmentalists, engineers, mathematicians.

The faculties involved, in higher and pre-tertiary education, need teaching approaches that foster engagement by girls and women across the disciplines. You can imagine I would add history if I could since all learning and all developments take place in some political context and there is no getting away from the impact of political, economic, social, cultural and geographic elements in our lives on decisions made about the future.

I do hope you do not mind this intrusion on your time. I believe if we do not bring back those relegated to what were seen, and too often treated contemptuously, as the ‘soft’ subjects, we will perpetuate a society that can be easily manipulated by those who for one reason or another wish to discourage both creativity and critical thinking.

Yours sincerely

Erica Jolly

PS. There is a move in education to make lecturers in the Schools of Education either ‘teacher trainers’ or ‘pedagogic technicians’. In Ancient Athens the ‘pedagogue’ was a slave who walked the boy – they did not educate girls – to the school. He was there to ensure that the boy arrived safely and returned home safely. The great teachers, not the sophists, encouraged their students to question. This latest move to ‘trainer’ and or ‘ pedagogic technician’ is going to turn those in Schools of Education into slaves of the machines. It is already the system in New Zealand where the Ministry for what was ‘education’ is now focused on ‘training’. In Eureka! Leslie Horwitz begins with the sentence ‘ Scientific progress comes in fits and starts’.  In 1909 E.M. Forster wrote ‘The Machine Stops’. We need to be asking ourselves what kind of humankind do we want to follow us in this century and beyond.

Science as Human Endeavour  8/5/14

Ideas for SASTA  –   ‘In the same tent’

South Australian Science Teachers Association.

In response to discussion with Ian Maynard who was asked to contact me about specifically how I should like to connect with SASTA, I put these ideas forward.

One of the important aspects of the science curriculum is ‘Science as human endeavour’. All knowledge comes to us through human endeavour and it is so good to see this connection being made with the science curriculum. It means, for example, we recognise the connection of the sciences with sustainability.

I should like to contribute to your newsletters – e-mail or otherwise – with short items that pick-up connections focusing on science as a human endeavour. They might show connections with aspects of life that might not have been seen as significant, in the past, for science. Then, again, some will have recognised them. But time and all the pressures on teachers could mean that they are not at the forefront.

I would be pleased to offer a segment for the newsletters or e-news – short ones – inviting connections that could be taken up by students, teachers, not only in science. After all Professor Ian Chubb wants us to be in the same tent to help one another.

Would you consider this as a heading.

From Erica Jolly – Science as a human endeavour.

Here are a number of items for the Board to consider, that you can choose from if you decide you are happy to have my contributions. I am sending them to Ian Maynard for his perusal.

I suggest you let me provide small items for the newsletters or e-mails you share with members. They would be relatively short. [You can see some of them in the collection I have provided for each of the educational systems of examples of multi-disciplinary approaches to the sciences that I am finding and recording.]

I do not know how copyright affects such small items. Some might be of value to potential teachers of the sciences, the arts and the humanities who are ready to value the possibilities in cross-over learning. This regardless of what Donnelly and Wiltshire decide about the national Australian curriculum.

These are not in order. They are included here as I think of them. You may, in the light of developments in the stages of schools’ syllabuses, decide one item is more appropriate than another for your newsletter and or any other way you decide to share, or not to share, ideas,

In my view, science does not exist without scientists with their strengths and weaknesses, preoccupations and prejudices. Being human, not one of them is perfect. It is the same for all of us. However, too often, the stories of scientists are stories of men and too often we only get highlights. Science as a human endeavour opens up all kinds of possibilities.

First series of examples :

For the consideration of students and teachers interested in physics and astro-physics

1. Why not find and read the story of Vera Rubin in ‘Dark Matter’, an essay in A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit by Alan Lightman of MIT, published by Pantheon Books, New York, 2005. What might it help you to understand about scientific investigation from a woman’s perspective? Could it help you in your approach to your future? Why did Alan Lightman decide she mattered?

2. Rebecca Elson, astronomer and poet, was studying dark matter before she died, much too young. The Estate of Rebecca Elson holds the copyright to her poems which include ‘We Astronomers’, ‘The Expanding Universe’, ‘Explaining Relativity’, ‘Let there always be Light’, ‘Dark Matter’, ‘Theories of Everything’, ‘Some Thoughts about the Ocean and the Universe’, ‘Devonian Days’, – my favourite ‘Evolution’, ‘The Still Lives of Appliances’. And her essay ‘From Stones to Stars’ at the end of the book is a cautionary tale for teachers of science. I would have copies of this collection of her work in every school library and resource centre. A Responsibility for Awe, Oxford Poets, Carcenet Press Ltd., Manchester, 2001.

3. In 1992 Alan Lightman wrote Great Ideas in Physics, published by McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York. In this book he covers ‘The Conservation of Energy’, ‘The Second Law of Thermodynamics’, ‘The Relativity of Time’, ‘The Wave-Particle Duality of Nature’. He begins Chapter 3, ‘The Relativity of Time’ with a poem by Edgar Allen Poe, The Bells 1849. Edgar Allen Poe was noted for his interest in science. We get ‘Relativity in Brief’, ‘Science leading to the theory of relativity’, – the relativity of electricity and magnetism, the work of James Clerk Maxwell – who was also a poet by the way. It is a massive chapter. However, Alan Lightman deals with ‘The influence of relativity on literature’ in work by Nabokov and Borges and ‘Relativity and Sculpture’ making that cross-over connection with the sciences, the arts and the humanities that would appear in his later work.  Alan Lightman is praised for this ‘interdisciplinary text in science for the non-scientist, centred on a small number of ideas that have changed our world view.’ He explains the importance of mathematics and it is probably a useful reference to expand the understanding of potential teachers of physics. Why should we be afraid of interdisciplinary connections when scientists of his calibre are not ?

Second – For those curious about mathematics

1. A novel by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder, The Housekeeper + the Professor, Vintage Books, London, 2010. ‘He is a brilliant maths professor who lives with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. She is a sensitive and astute young house keeper who is entrusted with the care of him.’ And there are aspects of Japanese culture in the story of the three of them, the housekeeper, her ten-year old son and the professor.

2. Did you know there is a connection between mathematics and the Declaration of Independence made by the American colonists when they challenged the authority of Britain in 1776? The author of the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson revered Euclidean geometry. He constructed the Declaration, with its ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident’, in such a way that ‘he erected an edifice of propositions and demonstrations, one truth linked to the next by unassailable logic.’ In The Joy of X: A guided tour of mathematics from one to infinity by Steven Strogatz, published by Atlantic Books, London, 2013. [p 94], the author goes on to say ‘Like composing music or writing poetry, geometry requires making something from nothing.’

Look at the index of his book. What has mathematics to do, for instance, with  Babylonians, Michael Jordan, a number of different films (movies), Barbra Streisand, and the Three Dog Night?

3. Dr. Robyn Arianrhod, of Monash University, in Einstein’s Heroes: Imagining the world through the language of mathematics. Oxford University Press, has shown that it possible for a mathematician to care about literature. She begins this book, sharing with the general reader her love of mathematics, with reference to David Malouf’s novel Remembering Babylon, equates the beauty of James Clerk Maxwell’s equation proving Faraday’s field theory of electro- magnetism with a quatrain by Blake and knows Cassio in Othello is interested in numbers. A reviewer says: ‘Imagine you are fluent in a magical language of prophecy, a language so powerful it can accurately describe things you cannot see or even imagine. Einstein’s Heroes takes you on a journey of discovery about just such a miraculous language–the language of mathematics–one of humanity’s most amazing accomplishments.’  As a general reader, with a background in the humanities, I found it a most accessible book, enjoying it so much I go back to it.

4. In Challenging the Divide, Dr John Lowke, a physicist with an international reputation, whose focus is on lightning, in an essay written to be accessible to students as well as teachers, ‘Feelings of awe, imagination and inspiration in physics’ emphasises the wonder he finds in calculus, saying discovering it was like being taken to the top of the mountain. [p 64]. I remember a Professor of Mechanical Engineering telling me, when I produced a syllabus for Engineering Science I hoped would be used at Mawson High School, that physics without mathematics is like an artist, a painter, without a paint brush. I only wished I had been presented with that idea and image when I was studying mathematics at school, when memorising Pythagoras’s theorem was just a chore.

5. Thinking about sustainability and mathematics? In the Australian national curriculum students are expected to make this connection at this stage. Think about measurement. Is that significant in mathematics? Think about meteorology? Do we measure the impact of weather patterns? Think about levels of ground water. Do we measure whether they are falling and what that means for us? As a research project students could tackle the range of connections? Without the findings in mathematical terms of decline in ice for example, would we have the evidence we need of changes in climate? It could be an important interdisciplinary project.

6. In the Australian national curriculum, as it stands, there is a requirement to consider Asian cultures as part of subjects which might, unfortunately, become silos. Why not, as a research project look at playtime in connection with mathematics. While Alex Bellos, in Chapter Six, ‘Playtime’, covers a Mother Goose nursery rhyme and a thirteenth century riddle, he includes the story of Maki Kaji whose ‘business card has the words Godfather of Sudoku.’ And the story of the tangram takes those interested in the possibilities of mathematics to China. See Alex’s Adventures in Numberland: Dispatches from the wonderful world of mathematics, published by Bloomsbury, London, 2010. [pp 213 – 254]. Chapter Three ‘Something about Nothing’ will take anyone interested to India’s place in the development of mathematics. Since Australia sees itself now as part of the ‘Asian Century’, surely, this kind of cultural and mathematical cross-over should have value in the national curriculum.

7. Mathematics in Nature, Space and Time by John Blackwood, is a ‘teacher’s resource book for mathematics covering mathematics in nature, Pythagoras and numbers, Platonic solids, and rhythm and cycles.’. John Blackwood worked in mechanical engineering design and was inspired by Lawrence Edwards’ work with plant geometry. In the Steiner Waldorf education curriculum these subjects are taught in Classes 7 and 8 ( ages 12 to 14). This edition was published by Floris Books, Edinburgh, 2011. [I found his exploration of spirals particularly wonderful.]

8. What about the work of women in mathematics. In Challenging the Divide, Dr Juliette Woods describes her work studying the level of ground water in the Murray-Darling basin. Her work is essential in helping us to see the state of the ground water levels. She has PhD in applied mathematics and her work is important in the field of ecology. And water is the life blood of our nation. Read her short essay and follow it up with research into our artesian basins if you wish to connect this aspect of mathematics with the future of Australia. This kind of study has a close connection with geography, another valuable cross-over.

Third – For those curious about chemistry.

1. In how many chemistry classes is ‘the element’ of surprise brought in about this or that element? Did you know the rare element lithium is connected with the hydrogen bomb? In Nature’s Building Blocks: An A – Z Guide to the Elements, published by Oxford University Press in 2001, John Emsley of Cambridgehas given us the cosmic element, the human element, the medical element, the element of history, the economic element, the environmental element and the element of surprises. How often in the study of chemistry do students have this kind of depth and breadth of information, which can become knowledge if it is considered carefully, to help in their understanding of the roles of different elements? [pp 234 – 239.]  What does this extensive information help you think about?

2. Whether they have a place in the syllabus or not, why not consider a range of elements like, for example, iodine which has a place in the first photographs or iron, for which John Emsley provides many different ‘elements’, particularly its ‘element in war’ and, in ‘the ‘element of surprise’, an unexpected connection with the oceans. Carbon, as should be expected, has many different elements but, in the element of evolution, it is involved in a process that answers the ‘creationists’. What is it? You could find a connection between thallium and Agatha Christie! John Emsley has deliberately dealt with the elements in alphabetical order because he wants the information to be available to everyone, not just a select few chemists and chemistry students. This is one of the books that should be in all school library/resource centres for staff and students. He wants all of us in the same tent.

3. Who has not heard of Primo Levi? Industrial chemist, survivor of Auschwitz and acclaimed Italian writer in prose and poetry. His collection of short stories in The Periodic Table, translated by Raymond Rosenthal, with an essay by Philip Roth, this edition published by Penguin Books, 1984 includes the following elements: Argon, Hydrogen, Zinc, Iron, Potassium, Nickel, Lead, Mercury, Phosphorus, Gold, Cerium, Chromium, Sulfur, Titanium, Arsenic, Nitrogen, Tin, Uranium, Silver, Vanadium, Carbon. They are short stories full of humanity. ‘A chemist by training, he takes the elements of the periodic table as his inspiration.’ My favourite is ‘Carbon’. I should like teachers of English to include these stories among their references for students who might choose to read them as part of a research project. For students of chemistry, too, that connection with humanity will be valuable. Primo Levi has a connection with a scientist who worked in Adelaide but that connection would be for another item.

Fourth – Approaches to words

1. In 1944 E.A. Southwell wrote Working with Words: A Course in English Expression published by Longmans. This was the second impression published in Melbourne, 1947. In it, in Chapter XII, ‘How to summarise’, E.A. Southwell focuses on clarity and, while it is influenced by the culture of its time when in Australia’s Indigenous people were not accepted as citizens, it includes material on science. One piece of prose is ‘The Eagle in the Air’ by Sir J. Arthur Thomson in Everyday Biology. Following it is a poet’s view of ‘the same marvel’. It is ‘A Song’ by Mary Gilmore. [p 131]. The chapter concludes with ‘The Scientist and the Poet – transformation of energy – in  prose and  poetry.’

(a) ‘The green plant changes the energy of the sunlight into chemical energy; the animal changes the chemical energy of its food into locomotion and heat. A living creature, like an engine, is an energy transformer.’ Sir J. Arthur Thomson. Everyday Biology

(b)               It’s a very strange thing

  As strange as it can be.

That whatever Miss T. eats

  Turns into Miss T.

                                               Walter De La Mare  Miss T. [p 132]

Why has this item been included as a possible contribution to SASTA’s newsletter.? Published here in 1947, it was before the separation of the sciences and mathematics from the humanities and the arts had taken place in the minds of bureaucrats and academics following the publication of C.P. Snow’s ‘Two Cultures’. It was a time when, where words and their possibilities were concerned, we – students and teachers of all subjects – were in what Professor Ian Chubb wants again. We were in the same tent to the advantage of all disciplines.

2 Richard Fortey, the author of Life: A Natural History of the first four billion years of life on Earth, first entitled Life: An unauthorized biography in its English publication, has never allowed himself to be limited to one side of that man-made divide that developed in the 1950s. Reading this book by this brilliant senior palaeontologist, formerly of the Natural History Museum of London, I am made aware again and again that he refuses to be pigeon-holed, hates reductionist tendencies of over specialisation, and feels free to mention Agatha Christie, myths, Chekhov, Sherlock Holmes, Dean Swift, W.B.Yeats, Noam Chomsky and others.

For scientists and students of the beauties as well as clarity of language of whatever discipline, I offer this work for its information, its knowledge and the generosity of spirit of the author. In Chapter 6, ‘Landwards’ he turns to the seventeenth century poet, Andrew Marvell, to give us a way that, imaginatively, we can re-enter the landscape in Silurian and Devonian times.

‘The mind, that Ocean where each kind

Does straight its own resemblance find,

Yet it creates, transcending these,

Far other worlds, and other seas;

Annihilating all that’s made

To a green thought in a green shade.’                                [p 138]

Richard Fortey gives Australia its place in the natural history of the planet and makes reference to the work of ‘Mr Sprigg in the Ediacara Hills of the Flinders Mountains in South Australia’. [p 76]. The book has an outstanding index and excellent glossary.

3. Professor Alan Lightman gave permission for his essay ‘Words’ in A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit, to be included in Challenging the Divide. Remember, he is a physicist and a novelist and his view of the use of words by people working in these different ways is meant to make clear why their use of words must differ. The physicist, he says, is concerned with naming things. He sees novelists avoiding naming ‘things’ because, he says, ‘In creative writing, you want to bypass the brain and go straight for the stomach, or the heart.’ [p 128 – 129]

In my view that description of what is wanted by creative writers leaves out how often imaginative writers, like Shakespeare in England, Molière in France, Goethe in Germany, Cervantes in Spain and poets like A.D. Hope and Judith Wright in Australia engage heart and mind. It is worthwhile, here, considering the views he gives as a physicist and a novelist. Too often these distinctions are not made clear.


I can put together many more examples covering so many aspects of the different sciences and mathematics showing where scientists and excellent scientific journalists make the cross-over into the humanities and the arts and reveal the influence of science as a human endeavour. If the SASTA Board finds that these items have value, they can be included, as items over time, in material sent out to teachers in the sciences and humanities, to the Schools of Education as well as politicians having an impact on education through the Parliamentary Committee on Education. I am happy to be involved if you wish.


And, if members of SASTA are interested in copies of Challenging the Divide: Approaches to Science and Poetry, they can contact me via my e-mail  address  I would like to see this book in school libraries or staff libraries, since I have the support of two Nobel prize winners and the discoverer of pulsars in the science section, interesting poets, often Australian, the poetry by science and mathematics students in the second part as well as  ‘The Sounds of Science’ by the late Dr Stephen Lawrence as an appendix.

The interdisciplinary aspects of the South Australian Certificate of Education [SACE] foster connections across disciplines. The index in my book could be useful although I am discovering much more all the time. The challenges in the intellectual and emotional aspects in the study of the sciences and the humanities could be interesting for students and their teachers since, in the information age, the segregation of knowledge narrows the focus when we need both linear and lateral approaches to learning.

Thank you for asking Ian to contact me.

Erica Jolly

May 7th 2014

30 North Street

Henley Beach SA 5022


I launched these poems by Juan Garrido-Salgado, a Chilean poet who was one of the victims of Pinochet’s dictatorship but who escaped to Australia. We met in 1996. He, Patti Cadiz and their children live in Adelaide where they work with the Romero Community.. I saw Marcel Marceau in Adelaide and then, in 1967, in Paris.

Thinking too much and feeling too little is evident in the separation of the sciences from the humanities.

Launch of Eleven Poems, September 1973 by Juan Garrido-Salgado

Thursday September 27th 2007

At the weekend the greatest mime artist the world has known since Chaplin died. His name is Marcel Marceau. Explaining his role in life to English-speakers, he said, ‘We think too much. We feel too little.’

            It is with those words of his in mind, I now approach Eleven Poems, September 1973, by Juan Garrido Salgado, translated for English-speakers by Stuart Cooke and published by Picaro Press. Poetry has the power to take us to places we have never been, to feel what others feel, to leave our comfort zone behind, to enter the lives of others, to enter the essence – the essential in what makes us human, the quality of the human spirit.

            When I first read this collection of poems and talked to Juan about them, I was full of where they had initially taken me. They had taken me to Guernica, to the painting by Picasso. In his silent evocation is that earlier betrayal of the democratic right of the people to elect their chosen government, when the Catholic Church, Nazi Germany, with the complicity of Stalin, decided to bomb the people of Guernica to get rid of a democratically-elected government of which they did not approve. And, as a result, Spain lived under the heel of the Fascist government of General Franco for decades. Fine, perhaps for the middle class and moneyed lot. Not so fine for others, one being the poet Garcia Lorca.

            It took me to Henry Kissinger, that exponent of ‘realpolitik’. As a footnote to the poem ‘The National Stadium’, I read his words: ‘I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its people.’ Those were the words of President Nixon’s ‘national security’ adviser. I went further and found other words of his: ‘It is the firm and continuing policy that [the democratically elected government of] Allende be overthrown by a coup … We are to continue to generate maximum pressure toward this end utilizing every appropriate resource. It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG [United States Government] and American hands be well hidden.’. That was an October 1970 cable to CIA operatives in Chile from Henry Kissinger’s ‘Track Two’ group.

            And that brought me home to the clandestine role of the CIA in undermining the first Federal Labor government since 1949. Whitlam’s government only lasted from 1972 – 1975. Free education – that was too much! Education for all. Priority Projects to lift the disadvantaged out of poverty. And the agreement with Vincent Lingiari, the recognition of Aboriginal ownership of their land. That was definitely too much! And no longer all the way with USA in Vietnam. That was absolutely too much.

It brought me home to the legislation passed by our Commonwealth government in the name of ‘national security’ which can deny the accused the right to know the evidence being presented against him or her. It brought me home to Richard Flannagan’s novel The Unknown Terrorist, a novel he felt he had to write to help us feel the weight of the injustice in this legislation. That first reading made me think of the film John Pilger has produced to try to wake us up – ‘The War Against Democracy.’

How dangerous that first reading was. It allowed me to wallow in my own concerns, safe from the reality of what it means to be living, giving birth, raising children in a country where the democratically-elected government is not approved by a powerful neighbour and can be subject to every kind of physical, psychological, economic and emotional intimidation. I was not with Juan. I was not in Santiago. I was not hearing or feeling those bombs falling or crouching in fear, wondering where they might fall. I was not hearing Salvador Allende’s terrible foretelling of his own assassination. I was not hearing ‘the voice made into a poem [that] liberates and entraps us,’ as the Editor-in-chief of La Hoja Verde wrote. I was not hearing the absence of ‘peace in the cemeteries’. And that determination ‘in the child of fear in the North’ to get back its

                                    ‘. . . long narrow playground

            where the transnationals [could] frolic freely

            in the free market ‘

Slowly I began to feel the enormity of that September 11th 1973 when in ‘Government House in Flames’

                        Birds of steel

                        stunted history,

                        made their nest within eternal flames’

Intellectually, we know what is meant by the ‘burning of books’. It has happened in this last decade in the Northern Territory when a Principal, opposed to bi-cultural education for Aboriginal children, took all the material, bi-cultural books, developed by teachers convinced of its value, as well as related computer software to a rubbish tip to burn it.

But to feel what it was to have been one of ‘the buds of spring’, the youth of the land, idealistic, believing in free education, believing in the right and necessity to think through issues, to appraise policies, condemned, tortured because they dared to think’, that is so hard for us. We, non-Indigenous Australians, until recently so safe, so relaxed and comfortable – until climate change made itself felt – that exposure to the depths of cruelty, some of us have never felt.

And the danger is that we don’t feel it. We don’t hear

                        ‘beneath the earth the screams made roots’, or see

                                                            ‘In the streets

                        the books smouldered like dry wood’

Unless you have worked in a school set alight by arsonists, you cannot know what that wilful attack on learning does to the hearts and minds of those engaged in that great endeavour. The smell stays with you for months.

Add to that, the ‘great democracy’, the American nation, the ‘Land of the Free’, using tax-payers’ money to train men in torture techniques to terrorize people into submission. Add all of that to ‘Made in USA’. This is what Kissinger and Nixon did to ensure that, under the military Dictator, General Pinochet, Chile returned to being a ‘long narrow playground where the transnationals [could] frolic freely in the free market’. And the price of that profit? Autocratic power of a military ruler who could say

              ‘Not a single leaf moves in this country if I do not move it.’

And he could have been brought home to face his crimes, face the mothers, the siblings, the disappeared but he was protected in London by legislative delays. Ironic – as always – the cruel, the dictatorial, when it suits them will use the opportunities in law that, in their own country, they would dismiss, undermine or ignore. Kissinger had said it ‘The illegal we can do right now; the unconstitutional will take a little longer” – and this is the man awarded the Nobel Peace Prize!

Poetry, I said, should be able to take us to the essence – the depth of the pain, so that we are changed and able to empathise with those ‘wounded birds’, recognize the depth of the betrayal, the capacity for barbarity and what the death of the poet meant – here Victor Jara. We need to feel the pain. We need to have the capacity to weep, to share the sorrow because we, who have not lived through the horror, do not feel deeply enough. We need to feel outrage that all those who speak of what is ‘practical and pragmatic’, can justify sleep deprivation, intellectually argue the case for torture – as is happening now here – and put out of their minds what it means to destroy beauty, youth, innocence.

Our failure to feel what it means will ensure that we continue to have a great albatross hung around our collective necks and we will be condemned to the nightmare ‘Death-in-Life’ – with no music, no love, no beauty. Ultimately we will allow ourselves to be ruled by those who rely on fear and greed to keep us in line. This is where Juan Garrido Salgado’s ‘Eleven poems, September 1973’., and Stuart Cooke’s translation, have taken me. I hope everyone who reads these soul-wrenching poems will have the courage to go where these poems might take them.

Erica Jolly

Submission – Vocational Education

Submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment
Inquiry into the role of Technical and Further Education system and its operation.

I make this submission as a former teacher, senior, Deputy Principal/Curriculum and Principal who worked in single sex boys and girls technical schools as well as comprehensive government schools in South Australia, as a former member of the Flinders University Council and Academic Senate and as the author of A Broader Vision: Voices of Vocational Education in South Australia in the Twentieth Century published by Lythrum Press, Adelaide 2001 – 886 pages. In addition I have had a State-based advocacy role for Graduate Women-SA since 1993 and have been a member of the Australian College of Education since 1972.

Question 1. The development of skills in the Australian economy

One of the problems we face in considering the development of skills in the Australian economy is our failure to consider the impact of history on the point that we have now reached. The past impinges on the present in so many ways but politicians, current employers and even administrators in education would rather not look back.

In Australia, we fail all the time to learn from the past. It is about time we did take note of the impact of innovation and changes in educational philosophy on the structures of and the interaction between the vital pre-tertiary and post- secondary educational institutions. The 1970s saw the beginning of a movement away from a society where one stayed in the one job for life, and where women had few options besides being wives and mothers. The development of ‘the pill’ gave women effective birth control and many were interested in taking up different career opportunities that such freedom offered.

In the 1980s the Technical and Further Education Colleges were set up, in the views of teachers at the time of the change to comprehensive schools, ‘to pick up the pieces’. [A Broader Vision: Voices of Vocational Education in Twentieth- Century South Australia’, collected and edited by Erica Jolly, published in 2001, p 485]. Theoretically, we had decided in the 1970s to connect theoretical and practically based education in comprehensive schools. In practice, through timetabling and attitudes of administrators in schools and Departments of Education that connected approach did not happen.

From the 1970s on, most secondary schools concentrated, and still concentrate, first on the academic aspects of subjects too often treated as ‘silos’. At the same time, since unskilled labourers were earning much more than apprentices, able young men chose that road. At Brighton Boys

Technical High School in the 1970s we found great difficulty in convincing the most able students to take up apprenticeships.

We were not then thinking of women moving into non-traditional trades-based areas. Private companies found apprenticeships an interruption to profit making. The public-based industries, such as the railways, were not encouraged to carry on their apprenticeship programs in so many of the trades, for example furniture making, related to that form of transport.

Al Grasby, as Minister for Immigration, began the process of solving Australia’s problems of insufficient skilled craftsmen and tradesmen, and potentially women, by a broader multi-cultural immigration policy, a skilled immigration policy we have found useful ever since. While lamenting the absence of the changing skilled labour force we need, we have taken the skilled workers – usually men – in all professions, trades and crafts from other countries without any consideration of what their loss has meant to those developing countries. That has been the cheaper, less demanding way to operate, requiring less commitment to local Australian skill development from so many private industries, many of which are owned by foreign companies with no commitment to the quality of Australia’s skills base.

Even then, we were not thinking of post-secondary education as a public good. Al Grasby’s solution was utilitarian. It may have had advantages in terms of effecting the removal of the White Australia Policy, but it undermined the process of the skills-development in the education of Australia’s own trades and crafts population, the inventive section of the population used to being innovative as needs arose, not necessarily bound by theoretical considerations. [It is a pity that the ABC removed ‘The Inventors’ from television, since that program made so many Australians aware of the ingenuity of men and women faced with practical problems to solve.]

My point is that we have failed in educational forward thinking regarding the skills required for the future of Australia’s changing industries ever since. Unfortunately, given the short-term thinking of Australia’s politicians, employers, power-brokers and the commercial media concentrating on the here and now, I expect we will fail again. And I consider, the limitation of the questions from the AEU demonstrate this weakness.

Look at

Question 2 The development of opportunities for Australians to improve themselves and increase their life and employment prospects.

Where is there evidence that we have looked at and sought to learn from the examples of nations with broader visions? We have had examples of advanced thinking about future developments in a nation’s economy from Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries, whose educational systems support learning for all. Where have we worked in a forward thinking way to develop opportunities for Australians to improve themselves and increase

their life and employment prospects? Where, in that question, is there the sense that the deprivation of the un- and under-employed has an impact on the quality of community interactions?

And we have developed a managerial approach in the TAFEs as well as the universities, which impedes imaginative and thoughtful examination of issues and focuses more on corporate success than extending our knowledge and skills base. We could have been developing solar-based industries decades ago.

For example the CSIRO, established in 1926 as one of the most forward thinking developments by an Australian government, was doing serious research in the area of solar energy but we did not follow through, except for telecommunications in desert areas. Recently, however, the CSIRO developed ‘Windfall’ – a Wi-Fi Patent – but had to fight American wealthy technology companies that tried to steal its invention, the result of their hard work and ingenuity. But the CSIRO fought and won.

The CSIRO, for example, employs men and women with all kinds of skills and knowledge, some are trades-based, others with higher education qualifications, some with both! They have to look to the future in the way they operate, not to some short-term gain. And if the Coalition wins government we can expect to see the undermining of the CSIRO as a public good, set up to consider the wide range of scientific and industrial developments needed for a sustainable future, as they will privatize more and more of it. Then profit, not public good, will come first.

We could have been making advances to lessen the degradation of our environment but it has taken major droughts to force those in agriculture to face the terrible impact of the salination of great swathes of agricultural land. Recently I saw just how much of Western Australia’s agricultural land is now covered with the red blotches of saltbush. That lack of forethought has brought with it a decline in the opportunities for those skilled in a range of trades, including technologically advanced extensions of traditional trades, to make a life for themselves and their families in rural areas.

Partly, this has happened because managers in this country tend to be cautious and more concerned with data than personal development. Look at reviews of managerial practice in Australia. See how often the fearful hand of managers and accountants, with no feeling for anything other than ‘the bottom line’, discourages innovation. We have had major businesses in mining and manufacturing geared to the demands of the owners whose primary concern is with their own survival. What happens to their subsidiaries in other countries does not matter in the long run.

We chose to stay tied to America’s oil-based car industry, when it was clear in the 1980s, that there was a need to move away from the petrol-driven engine. We chose to stay tied to a dinosaur. [I was in America in 1967 when there

was talk of the need for an electric car or a more fuel-efficient car. What happened? An American company bought the Sarrich orbital engine and that was the end of that. Nothing was going to impede America’s car manufacturing giants and the oil industries they were connected with. They opposed anything that might increase their costs or decrease their profits.]

There was a time in the 1980s, when industries were making connections with secondary schools and students were discovering the range of opportunities on offer either through TAFE-based qualifications or through apprenticeships. [For example, that was the relationship Marion High School developed with Mitsubishi, waking up administrators in that company and in the school to the fact that innovation with potential profit resulted from the creative engagement of both. According to Heather Rideout on Radio National’s ‘Saturday Extra’ with Geraldine Doogue April 13th 2013, that valuable industrial/school cooperative, collaborative, creative, imaginative connection with its wide range of possibilities for both was discontinued. I do not know by which governments.]

Too often we have preferred horizontal barriers between the different sectors in education with those at one level knowing nothing, and happy to know nothing, about those below them in the hierarchy of educational institutions.

The Trade in Schools development can complement the more complex, demanding, practically oriented approach to learning that the TAFEs, at their best as post-secondary educational institutions, promote as a public good. The cooperation between teachers in Trade in Schools and their local TAFEs can enable older students who resent the confinement of secondary schooling to stay in education.

We need to remember that age alone should not be the basis of decisions for where a student fits. She and he might have life experiences that make them emotionally old before their time. For them, the narrow, linear aspects of so much test-driven schooling may be irrelevant. They may be ready for a more practically oriented vocational approach where they are treated as adults. They may, in fact, then move on at the point of readiness to further qualifications.

We can expect that kind of collaboration to decrease when TAFEs are merely ‘commercially-oriented’ as separate entities. Profit will come first. Costs for students will increase. The recent short-sighted draconian financial cuts to TAFEs by Liberal and Coalition State governments demonstrate how little those political parties recognize what must be done in educational skills- based terms to ‘value add’ to our nation’s capacity to compete across the globe.

Let us not forget that the Coalition’s Treasurer, Peter Costello, when asked about developing computer designing capacities here to ‘value- add’ in this essential twenty-first century technological industry,

dismissed the need for us to do anything that might cost ‘tax payers’ ‘when we can import them’. The idea of an Australian investment in the future through the extension of our skills base did not enter his head.

The point I am making here is for the need for attitudinal changes in both major political parties.

At Noarlunga TAFE, for example, those wishing to enter administrative roles in the different aspects of the medical and health professions study to get the knowledge and the qualifications/ certificates needed to be effective in what is a major industry as well as a necessity to maintain the health of the Australian community. Where would the ‘medicos’ and other health professionals be without a quality support structure? This is a complementary program essential for the health services. This TAFE-based course will be needed for the public good as well as for the provision of opportunities for their students to earn a living.

Education is not central as a ‘public good’ in the minds of those committed to the idea of a market-driven economy. However, in the past, the Trade Unions did not help. The preservation of male power and the exclusion of women for so long as significant in the approaches to the collective bargaining process was meant to perpetuate the dominance of men in trades-based occupations. Women in the workforce were not considered significant. Even today in the hospitality industry, for example, the key figures in the development of chefs are men.

However, after the 1970s, the TAFEs did provide an avenue for women, formerly encouraged to feel that higher education was not for them, to move into post-secondary education.

Before 1970s, and after and still, if we look at the impact of advertising, girls were encouraged not to see themselves as having a right to the access to further education. Vocational education, with its initial practical orientation, was of value in the schools and even more value in the TAFEs. For many women this post-secondary avenue was a pathway to higher education. For others it gave them entry to vocations and careers that expanded their horizons beyond teaching and nursing, valuable as those professions are.

But, recently TAFE administrators have made it difficult for women seeking to re-enter the workforce to succeed. In SA, for instance, the TAFEs at Mt Barker and Victor Harbor removed the women’s studies because women, getting jobs mid course, were not completing their courses. TAFE administrators or the government were more concerned with the data of the completion rates than seeing the women’s movement into employment as

TAFEs are an essential part of the collaborative, inter-connected stages in education. They are not just a separate part with little connection to secondary or higher education.


Question 3 The delivery of services and programs to support regions, communities and disadvantaged individuals to access training and skills and through them a pathway to employment.

The move to ‘commercially-oriented’ TAFEs is guaranteed not to provide services and programs to support regions, communities and disadvantaged individuals. Every thing will be ‘user-pays’.

Consider, for example, the needs of disadvantaged communities – not just individuals – in remote regions. In South Australia, for the TAFEs on the remote First Nation APY Lands, the separation of the State-based, regional TAFE-based provision of lecturers, from the Federal-based provision of the proper infrastructure and working conditions that have the health and safety requirements for the lecturers who fly in and out, can be an impediment to learning. What lecturer can work successfully with students in a hazardous situation? There are political opportunities for shifting blame with these split funding responsibilities when the TAFE lecturers are unable to do their work properly.

There is need for interstate cooperation. For example, the TAFEs on the APY Lands need to collaborate with Western Australia for an on-line course to enable students to qualify for a driver’s licence. That licence is not just needed to enable a man and woman to drive a vehicle, given the immense distances they must travel, if they are employed or if they need to travel for health or family reasons, It might provide a legal identity if that person, because of where he or she was born, does not have a birth certificate. How often do businesses consider these additional roles of TAFEs in remote areas? How often do tax payers encouraged by commercial media to berate governments for waste in educational inefficiencies know or care about how the TAFEs, like all educational institutions, cater for the needs of students who may not be coping for a personal reason. Educators are not just there to increase the skills-base.

But, in South Australia the legislation to set up independent TAFEs is expected to pass both Houses: a Labor government is moving South Australia’s TAFEs further down the competitive rather than cooperative and complementary path.

Another factor ignored where the delivery of services and programs is concerned is health. The health of a community will demand the presence of appropriate health workers in TAFEs where they are situated in areas remote from centres of assistance.

Online learning is going to have real value but it must always be seen as complementary. In practically based courses, hands-on, face-to-face practical engagement matters. [Sir Norman Foster, one of the world’s greatest

architects, still keeps a model room. He has found that computer-generated images do not reveal the three-dimensional problems that the models provide. Architecture will need to change considerably in the 21st century. The documentary on his life and work is very useful for a world where we need to be moving toward zero-carbon producing cities with a skilled workforce able to maintain them.]

A major problem in terms of delivery of services and programs to support regions has just arisen. A bi-lingual approach is of value for Indigenous students who need to have the competence in English to be part of the mainstream. They need avenues of learning through websites and radio and television that are culturally appropriate and that help them to learn English as a second or third language.

In South Australia the NBN has proved very valuable on the APY Lands. But if the Coalition’s NBN plan of rollout to street-based nodes, using copper to the residential areas is put into practice, what will that mean for Indigenous remote areas? The Labour vision of covering 90% of the nation has the added value of enabling health and medical information to be shared across all areas. We need to remember the connections of health and education if we are to deliver services and programs to remote communities, which will have their share of individuals with disabilities requiring support to gain the educational qualifications they need for employment.

Electronic connections are vital for the remote areas. How many of the remote areas have the requisite electronic connections? We need to see the NBN as a public good, not just an avenue for individuals to have access to the Internet and for businesses to connect across the global at a faster rate.

Question 4 The operation of a competitive training market

TAFEs were meant to be more than just providers for a ‘competitive training market’. Howard began to undermine them when he set up the technical colleges in competition, taking from the TAFEs lecturers needed to provide courses in his user-pays colleges, which for too long lacked quality control of what some of them were offering.

Governments of a market-driven persuasion have not helped the TAFEs to fulfill the vocational functions we need to develop a more skilled and more knowledgeable society.

Those who see welfare as undermining the capacities for Indigenous people to become self-reliant and independent members of the Australian community ignore the fact that the institutions to teach the skills, the TAFEs, might not be set up in their regions to do the work effectively. I have considered this problem in the previous question.

I fear that political infighting and refusal to consider the educational value of

the practically-oriented approach of TAFEs as first a public good will mean that we will continue to lag behind developments in other nations and it will continue to be the reason that so many of our ‘best and brightest’ will leave Australia’s shores. We can guarantee that market-driven politicians will prefer private companies and will cry to the fearful voters about the cost to TAFEs, rather than seeing their role as an integral part of our interconnected educational investment in a future that, like the world that changed us at the end of the 19th century, we hardly envisage.

Considerations arising from a Radio National program today.

On ‘Saturday Extra’, with Geraldine Doogue today, April 13th 2013, I have just listened to two business-based experts dodge the question she asks of ‘how’ we are to provide the workforce needed for the ‘Future Focus’. Heather Rideout, now on the Board of the Reserve Bank, and Phillip Bullock who formerly was CEO of IBM were interviewed about this report.

This is what concerns them. They say that 50% of our people have levels of literacy too low for the future workforce. They say that 40% of our people have numeracy levels too low for the same reason. Too few as yet have an adaptive capacity, the capacity that will be needed when people have to change from one kind of job to another. They see quality independent career advice as essential. So far it is only in schools and often is outdated. They say 50% of the working population will change jobs after five years. Heather Rideout made reference to the loss of the connections between industries and local school in an imaginative collaborative way. [Some of us might have some concern about some industries that are making connections with schools.]

We are going to need 14 – 15 million workers in the three major sectors, one of which was health and social care – the interview can be downloaded. There will be more skilled jobs than unskilled. 70% of the working population will need post-secondary qualification and qualifications from the vocational sector. Even plumbers, an example used by Phillip Bullock, might find their knees give out and they’d need an alternative set of qualifications to move in another direction. People are likely to need double qualifications, vocational and/or higher to We needed to develop a complementary skills base with Asian countries. Heather Rideout said ‘our vocational training was seen as the best in the world.’ Was? Is that before the TAFEs were undermined by private training colleges of variable quality, given John Howard’s belief that private, profit-based competition is preferable to viewing education as a public good?

Heather Rideout sounded appalled when she described what is now happening in Canada where companies are outsourcing jobs and asking Canadians to train their foreign, cheaper replacements. Where was she when companies here decided that maintenance was too expensive? TAFEs were discouraged, for example, from continuing to train instrumentation measurement engineers who maintained the quality of infrastructure in

regional and remote areas. Businesses preferred to let equipment run down and then fly in expert consultants to make repairs rather than have on hand qualified people trained in TAFEs and in universities to carry out a regular program of maintenance. To my knowledge a course has now been established at the University of Melbourne but this process of dismantling an importance maintenance capacity for infrastructure appears to have begun before 1988.

Both agree there must be a minimum increase in State and Federal funding of three percent to bring about the growth in the capacities of educational institutions to help our future workers cater for the changes they will face. They did make the point that 30% of the skills employees have now are under utilized in industry.

No one mentioned women in the discussion. No one mentioned those with disadvantage. No one mentioned those in remote communities. Much as I have admired Heather Rideout as a spokesperson for business, she showed how limited is a business-based approach to providing those skills. Neither answered Geraldine Doogue’s question of how we would meet the future they anticipate. Perhaps if they had had an educator or two on the program, they might have offered a range of answers because one size will not fit all.

Neither considered the rest of the population. What of the others? What of older people who might have to wait until 70 for a pension? What of those who still want to work and can do so in different ways, given the possibilities provided by electronic connections? We do not want Aldous Huxley’s ‘soma- controlled’ Brave New World for Australia’s people.

Older people seeking employment today are often discounted if they mention their age. We will not want to lose their experience and their capacity to contribute to the society and to earn income. A commercial training market, in my view, is likely not to have that kind of long-term vision, or the capacity to provide the stimulus needed to enable the older generations to gain the skills they need for the new work they might want to do.

Only TAFEs, there for the public good, providing new courses often vocational courses, having the assistance of older people experienced in the changing aspects of their trade or industry as practically-oriented tutors, working with these more mature aged students, charging reasonable fees, will have the capacity to provide these avenues to enable the older generations to live more satisfying lives. [Sir Norman Foster is 76 and no one is thinking of trying to stop him thinking and working.] But, if the Howard government’s push to privatized ‘technical colleges’ is followed by a Coalition government, we may not have these technical and further educational institutions there to provide the expertise needed.

In conclusion

Reducing these national tertiary institutions to acronyms, we have forgotten

why they were established to ‘pick up the pieces’ and now to contribute to the future good of Australia and Australians in all their diversity.

They are as important as higher education but they have suffered from a level of intellectual snobbery that has discounted the importance of their role in the education of Australians.

Rather than support the TAFEs, rather than take a longer view, Registered Training Organisations [RTOs] and private colleges, with little quality control, were expected to be less expensive options. In fact, in many instances they created problems; such the ‘colleges’ set up to attract Indian students with promises of easier access to permanent visa status here. They lowered the quality of training in Australia.

The TAFEs are like the glue that connects the theoretical and the practical in education. Closer to the practical aspects of the lives of people in their local communities, they have provided community support when centres of higher education have been more remote. Until now, the TAFEs have been also been more affordable, while being responsive to both local and national skills and knowledge needs.

TAFEs must be made affordable again. And government, as Heather Rideout and Phillip Bullock insist, must provide the extra funds, the additional three percent. It is ironic that business, which so often prefers private profit-based approaches in education, is calling for government support. For these business experts presenting the ‘Future Focus Report’, as for all Australians the technical and further education sector is a vital investment if we want a ‘value-added’ approach that brings with it self reliance for our nation and moves Australia beyond the unsustainable, environmentally-damaging, short- term, profit-focused attitudes of those encouraging Australia to rely on the extractive industries.

Erica Jolly

April 14th 2013

30 North Street
Henley Beach SA 5022 (08) 8356 7716

Hard Times for ACE 2012

Provided for the Australian College of Educators December 4th 2012
Charles Dickens’ contributions to education through consideration of his novel Hard Times and comparing it with approaches to Australian education
in the twenty-first century.

What is education for? What is it about? When does it begin? What form does it take?

Possible answers to each of these questions will appear as I develop the theme in this essay.

Charles Dickens believed in education. He was forced by the bankruptcy of his father, who ended up in the Marshalsea Prison for debtors to give up his schooling while made to work in a blacking factory. He went to school later but always felt deprived. Dickens supported the ‘Ragged schools’. A friend of his, Angela Burdett-Coutts gave large sums of money to the Ragged Schools Union which helped to establish 350 ragged schools by the time the 1870 Education Act was passed. Charles Dickens had written to Angela in January 1853 so we know of his engagement with them and, as it is now, so much depended on the approach of the teachers.

He was concerned with the cruelty, the exploitation, the greed, making it quite clear in Nicholas Nickleby with Do-the-boys Hall and Squeers and in David Copperfield with Mr Creakle, the Headmaster of Salem House. However, in Hard Times he was forensic, dissecting just what a bad system of formal and informal education, rather ‘schooling’, could produce. Hard Times was published first as a serial in his weekly magazine Household Words and then as a single volume in 1854.

Chapter Two, ‘Murdering the Innocents’. Mr Thomas Gradgrind is inspecting a class to see how well they are being taught. We know the principles on which he operates. We have been told in Chapter One of ‘The One Thing Needful’.

‘Now what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals on facts: nothing else will ever be of service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts sir!

That was the statement of principle. See how it plays out in practice in the classroom. Gradgrind does not know ‘Girl number twenty’. She has a nickname. ‘Sissy’. Her father calls her that. Her father is a member of the ‘Horse-Riding’, an ‘objectionable calling’. Gradgrind demands that she be called Cecelia Jupe. The attack goes further when Girl Number twenty is ordered to give her definition of a horse. She can’t.

Girl number twenty possessed of no facts in reference to one of the commonest animals! Some boy’s definition of a horse. Bitzer yours.

The answer comes immediately.

Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty four grinders, four eye teeth, and twenty incisive. Sheds coat in the spring: in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in the mouth.

The Public Commissioner joins in and asks Girl number twenty if she would have flowers on a carpet. She would. They are pretty. She likes them. Again she is wrong. Flowers have three dimensions. They cannot be reduced to two. What’s more Taste is based on Fact. Next they watch Mr M’Choakumchild begin his first lesson. Trained according to the syllabus of 1846, he will do everything he can to remove the ‘robber Fancy’ from the little ‘vessels’ in front of him. They see no difference between fancy and the imagination! Gradgrind is outraged by Sissy’s answers. The name given to her with love by her father, a member of Mr Sleary’s Horse-Riding, has no value in his view of the world. That outrage is intensified as he walks home to Stone Lodge. Sleary’s Horse-Riding are performing on the edge of town. Two of the ‘young rabble’ are peeping at the performance through a gap in the tent. The two are his two eldest children, Louisa and Thomas. He is infuriated, takes them home with Thomas coming ‘like a machine’. Reprimanding them he asks ‘What would Mr Bounderby say?’ as if that is the ultimate disgrace! He is most concerned. If that young girl remains in his model school, others will be contaminated. There must be no connection with the Horse-Riding. Her father must be ordered to take her out of Mr M’Choakumchild’s class.

With his friend Bounderby, the industrialist of nearby Coketown, he visits Mr Sleary’s Horse- Riding. Mr Jupe is missing. Sissy is tearful. She is worried but feels sure there is a good reason. The story of how Sissy, now Cecelia or just Jupe, becomes a servant in the Gradgrind household is too long to tell here. Enough that it is a story of love, of the bond between father and daughter, that makes her decide to stay where her father might find her.

But she is entering a household where love has taken a peculiar form. Gradgrind’s children are being schooled to base every decision on facts. Weighing one fact against another, being disciplined, not giving in to emotion, ensuring the separation of head from heart – with absolutely no poetry – is the way to live. Theirs is to be a life based on what he calls reason.

So, nurture in those very early years takes a very different form for the Gradgrind children. Cecelia has known laughter, tears, affection from her widowed father doing his ageing best for her: it is the reason he has sent her to school. She has cared for animals, has had contact with different people in this extended family others might despise as misfits. The Gradgrind children, living in cold square Stone Lodge with a nervous ailing mother, fearful always of correction, have a collection of fossils, shells and objects in glass cases for their companions. They will not be reading ‘fables’ as those unenlightened common men and women might be doing after ‘fifteen hours of work’. To Gradgrind’s consternation they would be taking De Foe to their bosoms, instead of Euclid and seemed on the whole more comforted by Goldsmith than by Coker, a seventeenth century author who had written a treatise on arithmetic!

The mid-nineteenth century was full of facts. Geologists were uncovering signs of a past well beyond the 4004 BC year of the creation of the Earth decided by Bishop Ussher. Botany was flourishing. Those with some wealth had a mania for collection. Read the story of The Flower Hunters by John and Mary Gribbin. Sir Joseph Banks had realised in 1770 just how much value

there might be in exotic plants from distant lands. Explorers were sent everywhere to bring them back. Wealthy middle class families developed hothouses for them. The Crystal Palace, built to house the Great Exhibition in 1851, was proclaiming Great Britain the ‘workshop of the world’, the most advanced nation in scientific and technological discovery. Measurement was much more important than poetic metre. European nations could not match British progress. Many nations had been embroiled in what some called ‘the Springtime of the Peoples’ when workers and middle class rebelled in the abortive revolutions of 1848. Britain was supreme. There had been no structure like it. Made in cast iron and glass, the Crystal Palace was there to remind the British and all foreigners that no one could match what the Industrial Revolution was achieving in Britain and for the British Empire.

The aristocrats sent their children to exclusive ‘public’ schools where many still received a grounding in the classics. In 1828 Dr Thomas Arnold became the headmaster of Rugby and changed the British ‘public’ –meaning private – education system. He wanted to produce ‘Christian gentlemen’ able to lead in the new age that Britain was entering. He exercised an unprecedented influence on the educational system of the country, introducing history, mathematics and modern languages, while still basing his teaching on the classical languages. Consider this statement he made. “I assume it as the foundation of all my view of the case, that boys at a public school never will learn to speak or pronounce French well, under any circumstances”, so it would be enough if they could “learn it grammatically as a dead language”. However physical science was not taught since, in Dr. Arnold’s view “it must either take the chief place in the school curriculum, or it must be left out altogether”.[1] –[ Found on Wikipedia.] Dr Arnold died in 1845.

His son, Matthew Arnold, appointed H.M Inspector of schools in 1851, a poet and critic as well and passionate about education, would later express, in Culture and Anarchy, his concern for the absence of ‘sweetness and light’. As a side line, it is interesting to note Dr Arnold’s concern with the potential for ‘the physical science’ to take the chief place in a school’s curriculum. In ‘Dover Beach’, a poem that reflected his fears of the changing times Matthew Arnold would write of ‘ignorant armies [that] clash by night’. Among other concerns would be the developing conflict between the authority of the Church and authority based on scientific discovery.

The 1832 Reform Act had given the vote to propertied men in the House of Commons. One in six men in a population of 14 million could vote and the industrial towns were included. The ‘rotten boroughs’ of the 18th century were removed. Gradgrind was ‘looking about to make an arithmetical figure in Parliament’ since he had retired from the ‘wholesale hardware trade’ that enabled him to establish his family at Stone Lodge. In 1833 the abolition of slavery in the British empire did have a moral motivation. The fight to end it had begun in the 18th century. However, economically it was convenient.

By 1850, I suggest that what was called education for the poor would have brought to the fore those requirements needed for the new industrial technological age that was flourishing in Britain and that was beginning to flourish in the northern states of USA. Michael Faraday had invented the electric motor, the dynamo and the generator. American manufacturers in the northern states were interested in his discoveries. So there was a mechanistic approach to ‘schooling’ evident in this concentration on facts. Further, it was supported by the

Utilitarian philosophy and given political encouragement through the ‘laissez-faire’ economic approach which opposed legislation that could limit what was seen as the advancement of the nation through individual effort. M’Choakumchild had had to master ‘volumes of head- breaking questions.

Orthography, etymology, syntax and prosody, biography, astronomy, geography and general cosmography, the sciences of compound proportion, algebra, land surveying and levelling, vocal music and drawing from models, were all at the ends of his ten chilled fingers.

And when the catalogue is complete Dickens writes: ‘If only he had learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more.’. This focus on quantity to the exclusion of quality would have its place, through Jeremy Bentham’s philosophy, on the establishment of the South Australian colony on Aboriginal land. So, the schooling was meant to create a society the new power brokers – industrialists, merchants now vying with aristocrats – needed to exist if they were to profit from the revolution. For the poor, numeracy and literacy, were both in the service of Facts.

Dickens takes us into Coketown, the ugliest of towns where the sun, when it shines, must make its way through layers of thick pollution that contribute to the respiratory problems of the workers, men and women, working fifteen hours a day. This is Josiah Bounderby’s domain. He is a sycophant and a bully. The discussion between father and daughter when Gradgrind tells Louisa that Bounderby has asked for her hand in marriage is poignant. Gradgrind does love his daughter. She is his proof that the system works. She is the supreme model. Obedient, willing to make decisions based on what he considers reason, she has shown that a woman can be useful, ‘reasonable’ and able. Feelings have no place in such important decisions. Feelings have no place at all.

There is a moment when the reader is aware of the presence of love and pride even if the love is misdirected. Louisa will marry the man her father wishes her to wed even if she has no affection for him. She will marry him to sacrifice herself for the brother, Thomas, whom she does love. Her brother needs her at Bounderby’s bank. It’s his escape route from the discipline and control of his father. Life will be easier for him if his sister is his employer’s wife. Sissy sees the concern in Louisa’s eye. Louisa takes Jupe’s unspoken sympathy for pity. She refuses to be pitied by this girl, decides not to confide in her and, in silence, faces the prospect ahead.

Many critics of Hard Times have focussed on the evils of barely regulated conditions in factories. The worst excesses of child labour have been removed by legislation but working conditions are still appalling. And the factory owner is the master of everyone’s fate. A worker needing help might appeal to the owner and hope that the response is both honest and disinterested. [It might have been if the owner had been Robert Owen!] Stephen Blackpool knows wealthy men are able to divorce their wives. Can he be freed from the dipsomaniac who has been destroying him again and again? He is at the point of committing suicide. Bounderby insists self-righteously that marriage is for life.

For Blackpool there is almost no light. Sweetness is there in the friendship of the gentle kindly Rachael and the promise he gives her is sacred. That promise will put him at odds with the

union. Slackbridge, the organiser is rousing the down-trodden workers with ‘violent heat’. Stephen cannot join. He explains his reasons but the honest worker has no place on either side of the divide – capital or labour. To be trusting and open, as Stephen is, is to become lonely and isolated and potentially the victim of the callous and indifferent.

That is Thomas Gradgrind Junior. We cannot know whether this self-centred, dishonest, manipulative young man, using his sister’s love to serve his ends, would ever have been different. What we can know is that this schooling – formal and informal – has not helped. He resents the discipline at home, wants excitement, wants to live the life of a bon viveur on a clerk’s wage, gambles, is easily gulled by Harthouse when he comes to Coketown, expects Louisa to speak for him and frames Stephen when, finally, he decides to rob the bank to pay his debts. But he is being watched. Bitzer, that prize pupil, like young Gradgrind, is employed by Bounderby. He, too, sees Bounderby as an avenue of escape, this time from the worst of life in Coketown. He is the epitome of the effectiveness of the Gradgrind model of schooling. Recite the answer required and gain top marks. He has learnt the unspoken lesson that goes with this interpretation of reason.

For young Mrs Bounderby there appears to be no escape, no release through tears, no release through shared talk of her situation with a friend. She has grown to despise her husband. Her silence, her dignity, her lack of deference to this supposedly self-made man speaks of her disdain. It is noted by Mrs Sparsit, related to ‘the Powlers’, reduced but still connected with the lesser nobility, living as a dependent on Bounderby’s charity. And Louisa’s treatment by Harthouse alerts her to the possible denunciation of the woman who now heads the Bounderby household.

Louisa has no experience to help her judge the quality of this or that personality. She has never been in a position to meet others outside the milieu her father and now her husband have created for her. Unlike Sissy who had known the wider world as she and her father travelled and worked with Sleary’s Horse-Riding, Louisa had no basis for comparison. So, James Harthouse Esquire, a dilettante, bored in the Dragoons, bored with his role in the train of an ambassador, with an older brother indifferent to the suffering of those in a railway accident and delighted that the owners of the railway had got off scot-free, had been advised by that brother to join ‘the hard Fact fellows’ and ‘go in for statistics’. He makes no bones about his commitment to nothing but his own pleasure. Gradgrind is impressed. So is Bounderby. Thomas finds him stylish and is easily duped by his ‘friend’. But Louisa is his target.

Unused to kindliness, to deference or charm, Louisa is enthralled. At the same time she is terribly aware of what she can lose if she allows herself to give in to the unexpected emotion she feels. Fearful of losing her honour, she flees in the storm back to Stone Lodge, begging her father to protect her.

Life at Stone Lodge has imperceptibly softened. Cecelia’s presence, her capacity to imagine another’s feelings, her desire to understand, her pleasure in beauty, her smile and her gentle presence have eased the process of schooling the younger Gradgrinds have undergone. And Gradgrind, now an MP, has often been away in London so his children and his wife have been released from his inflexible, domineering presence.

Louisa is ill. Bounderby demands that she return immediately as his wife. If not now, then never! Gradgrind cannot send his daughter back. But he can do little to ease the burden Louisa feels. It is up to Cecelia – Jupe, the despised Sissy – whose ‘soft touch’ begins to bring about change. Aware of Louisa’s feelings of resentment, Sissy, careful not to intrude, offers to go away if her presence is unwanted. Louisa is brought to cry out for help. ‘Forgive me, pity me, help me! Have compassion on my great need and let me lay this head of mine upon a loving heart.” This young woman, considered ineducable, also has the strength of mind and the courage to face Harthouse and force him to make the only reparation possible by leaving town.

What does she have that has been lacking? First, in her life with her ageing widowed father, love. With love and affection for the other members of Sleary’s Horse-Riding has come awareness of poverty, of the uncertainty of tomorrow, of differences in personality that are to be recognised and valued and the recognition of the need for cooperation to survive. Despite the lack of formal schooling, she has imagination and intuition. She has the capacity to feel another’s needs. Empathy. And she does not automatically assume that others are inferior to herself.

The existence of these feelings does not mean that she cannot think. Her mind is alert. We know that because she becomes a valued member of the Gradgrind household. She is able to learn while she waits, in hope, for her old, worn-out father to come for her. She can act when Gradgrind is impotent. Ultimately, faced with the knowledge that his son and heir is a cheat, a liar, a thief, causing an innocent man to be hounded, he is helpless. Statistics are not going to solve this problem. It is Sissy who finds a safe place for young Thomas to hide among the despised horse-riding fraternity. Sleary is prepared to help because ‘Thquire hath helped Thethilia’. To escape the law young Tom must become one of the black servants in a sketch being performed in the circus ring.

Gradgrind has been slow to learn. Wedded to his system of schooling that reason, the separation of mind from heart, must be based in Facts, it is only agony that makes him wake up. It is as if he has been sleep-walking. First it comes through the dreadful unhappiness and sense of emptiness in his much loved daughter. Next it is in the realization that his son is a criminal and a cowardly one who has brought about the death of Stephen Blackpool who was returning to Coketown to clear his name.

But the system he favours is still in existence. It has its successes and Bitzer is one of them. Compassion has no place in his world. It’s as if he says, or would say, ‘Don’t take it personally, it’s just business.’. He has followed the Gradgrinds, finds Thomas, captures him and no amount of begging or bribery by Gradgrind for his worthless son will shift him. Not even when Gradgrind begs for mercy, in the name of the school Bitzer attended, will he give in. He will take Thomas back, claim the reward and climb up another step on the ladder of success. For Bitzer, reason is whatever brings about his individual advancement. It is worthwhile considering the business-like basis of that schooling in the light of our preference for the ‘user pays’ attitude today and the market driven focus on ‘brands’ in schools. His actions are without malice. He tells Gradgrind:

‘I don’t deny,’ added Bitzer, ‘that my schooling was cheap. But that comes right, Sir. I was made in the cheapest market and have to dispose of myself in the dearest.’

Dickens makes Gradgrind learn the hard way not to despise the equivalent of the ‘Hands’, those worse in fact than the ‘Hands’ because they provide entertainment. They are strollers, cannot be easily controlled. They bring music, laughter, story, pleasure and none of it based on statistics, except when age might mean a member of the group might be unable to continue. Even then such decisions are not taken lightly. No one is just a Number. Mr Sleary provides the lesson Gradgrind now needs: look to the best and not the worst.

Bounderby is revealed for the blustering liar he is. To set up his image of himself as a man who has pulled himself up from the gutter, often hungry, without a mother’s care, able to come to this high position where he need have no manners, no courtesy and defer to no one, he has deliberately hidden his mother, on a pittance, in a town far enough away from Coketown to ensure his façade in secure. He has forgotten about the development of the railway. How is that for irony! This technological advance lets his loving mother come unobtrusively occasionally and look at him and feel proud of the heights to which he has risen as a result of all the efforts she, Mrs Pegler, has made for the son she loves.

But Bitzer is alive and well, utterly convinced by the Gradgrind philosophy on which the system in that school was based, that every thing is to be paid for. ‘Nobody was ever on any account to give anybody anything, or render anybody help without purchase. Gratitude was to be abolished and the virtues springing from it were not to be. Every inch of the existence of mankind was to be a bargain across a counter. And if we didn’t get to Heaven that way, it was not a politico-economical place, and we had no business there.’

Not stated quite so baldly today, how far does it coincide with the market driven approach to education today? Do you hear – ‘You get what you pay for?’ This ‘brand’ is better than that. Emotion is an impediment to advancement. It is a sign of weakness. Remember this was the schooling for the poor. They would not need the classics and mathematics that Dr Thomas Arnold’s young ‘Christian gentlemen’, theoretically, were getting at Rugby. There was, if we believe Tom Brown’s Schooldays, in practice through the power of the prefects, little concern for the ideal of human perfection sought by Dr Arnold.

Matthew Arnold in Culture and Anarchy would describe quality in education as ‘an inward spiritual activity having for its characters increased sweetness, increased light, increased life, increased sympathy. These poor, if they rose to the heights Bitzer hoped to reach, were being prepared to be ‘Philistines’ who saw no need for the arts and music, art, literature, drama which were to be excluded from the curriculum. History was to be there to reflect British successes. In Australia today a potential alternative Federal Minister for Education would like the ACARA Year 12 history syllabus just to reflect what he values, Australia’s so often male- oriented Anglo-Celtic background. The draft I saw left out the impact of the scientific and technological revolutions, the role of the arts, the role of women and the role of women in the Indigenous fight for recognition. [I hope they are there when history becomes compulsory for the national curriculum in 2013.]

Britain’s industrialists, hand in glove with the merchants and empire builders, were the new power brokers of the mid nineteenth century. Education was moving away from the select few, there by right of family connections or wealth, to mass education since factories required ‘Hands’ who could read, write and number. More were gaining the right to vote. In 1867, only thirteen years after Hard Times was published, the Second Reform Act ‘enfranchised 1,500,000 men. All male urban householders and male lodgers paying £10 rent a year for unfurnished accommodation got the right to vote.’ [Wikipedia]. The Act all but doubled the electorate increasing involvement of those in larger industrial towns. Before 1850 the Chartists, basing their cry for ‘The Great Charter’ on the anglicised variation of the 1215 Magna Carta, had been fighting for manhood franchise. Their great outcry in 1848 had been crushed by the authorities.

Dickens had no time for politicians. He was scathing about Gradgrind as an MP and loathed the rabble-rousing rhetoric of men like Slackbridge fomenting the ostracism of anyone who, like Stephen Blackpool, dared to be independent. He saw them as parasites. Dickens wanted a society which contained the good-natured, like Rachael and Sissy and Sleary’s Horse-Riding, the kindly, the truly humble – certainly not the Uriah Heeps of this world – willing to learn and share, those able to contribute to the formation of a more humane society. Heaven knows, there were plenty of the others. His novels are full of them. In schools he wanted teachers like Nicholas Nickleby who, appalled by the brutality at Dotheboys Hall, had the courage to stand up for the victims of bullies. Nicholas Nickleby would rescue Smike. Nicholas was capable of empathy. Dickens identifies so much intolerance and so much hypocrisy and wants to make us wake up to the impact of both the formal schooling and the informal home- based schooling that can go on in the very early years of childhood. He knew the power of their impact for good or ill.

However, the Elementary Education Act brought in by W.E. Forster in 1870 did not deliver the kind of society Dickens wanted. It was for all children from the age of 5 to 13. The power brokers behind the Act ‘identified a need for Britain to remain competitive in the world by being at the forefront of manufacture and improvement. Religious instruction was an integral part of the school curriculum but was not compulsory. These schools were to be non- denominational.’ School boards could include women although they would not get the vote in Britain until after 1918. ‘Board men’ checked attendance. These ‘state’ schools were not meant to replace the ‘public’ schools. They provided the second tier of education. The first tier remained exclusive. Does that fact ring a bell today?

So much is the same today. Given the increasing sophistication of electronic technology and the pressure through advertising for us to be up there, wherever ‘there’ is – and we are now in the Asian century – we have warnings of ‘massive school-tech funding gap’.

Look at the Launch Issue of the Education Review’s Tech Guide, August 2012. We are being told that so much is different. We are being told by some in charge of schools and Departments of Education that there is no need for libraries and alternative avenues of study, despite the fact that these computers are likely to be out-of-date in about every three years and add another burden to parents striving to do their best for their children, because ‘built in obsolescence’ has been part of the commercial picture in technology since at least the 1960s. However, while students’ technology had changed from slate, paper and pen to iPad,

indicated by a boy on the front of The Professional Education – Volume 11, Issue 3, May 2012 – in one way, things remain the same.

Whatever the study it will involve pleasure and/or pain, laughter and/or tears, delight and/or distress, success and/or failure. If the experiences contain both, with sufficient on the side of the positive emotions, there will be hope for the quality of engagement by students now and in the future, as young people and as adults. [Remember support for self-help in adult education actually began in the 18th century. Samuel Johnson approved of it. Public libraries were established in Britain in 1850.] But if the process of study is based on the separation of mind from heart with the continued contempt for ‘Hands’, shown too often by those who do not want their children to earn their living getting their hands dirty, we are in trouble. Why? Because there is no respect for one another and fear and anxiety become the drivers in the fulfilment of the demands of the curriculum.

Wordsworth wrote of his childhood in The Prelude: Line 305

Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up Foster’d alike by beauty and by fear;
Much favour’d in my birthplace, and no less In that beloved Vale to which, erelong,

I was transplanted.

What of the ‘products’ of the mechanistic system Gradgrind believed was right for his time? Of Thomas Junior, Louisa and Sissy, only Sissy knows beauty. Louisa might sit gazing into the flames but she has no outlet for the expression of her delight or wonder. Gradgrind fears wonder. Look at his concern for those reading in Coketown’s public library. Both are afraid of their father, Louisa less so but for Thomas to fear is added resentment, overwhelming resentment. For Bitzer, satisfaction – for he says he takes no pleasure in his intentions to hand Tom over to the ‘law’, which could result in his hanging or transportation – is in his success, no matter at whose expense or how it is won. And the environment at home is significant. Only Sissy is fortunate in her early life, in that it is alive with interest and, despite the death of her mother, a place where she is happy. Stone Lodge has been thoroughly described in all its squared angularity. It is not only the presence of both beauty and fear that creates the balance Wordsworth finds of value for ‘the seed-time of [his] soul’, it is the environment that nurtures him as well.

Those factors still matter today. Clearly learning, for good or ill, begins early. We know that now with our focus on early childhood education. And learning takes many forms and many pathways and the quality of feeling and thinking matters, as does the guidance. And with those factors comes respect. If that is not there, if politicians and power brokers, the new multi-nationals, the new industrialists, the stockbrokers, denigrate some, jeering at them as non-aspirational, or use them for cheap labour, then we are perpetuating feelings of resentment and distrust that will inevitably have an impact later on.

Do we value the different pathways? Are some of our teachers, and those responsible for curricula, still seeing the engagement of minds as the be-all in learning? Is that why the humanities with their vital role in the developments of minds and hearts are considered of

lesser importance even though history will be in the national curriculum? We talk about compassion, encourage community engagement but in examinations the focus is always on grades? Do we think now, given our fascination with stem cells that we can solve some of the problems of children born with different needs and make children ‘normal’ by genetic intervention in utero? Never forget, to all intents and purposes, Thomas and Bitzer are healthy and ‘normal’. And Bitzer is doing nothing wrong when he insists he will bring the young thief back to Coketown. He is behaving like a good citizen.

There is another way of seeing Hard Times to consider Charles Dickens approach to education. The central image in this novel is the horse. Charles Dickens would have known Greek myths and fables. John Keats had read a translation by Chapman of Homer’s Iliad. In Greek mythology the horse is significant. Horses drive Apollo’s chariot across the sky. Bucephalus, Alexander the Great’s horse is one of the most famous in antiquity. Pegasus, born of Poseidon and Medusa, is the divine winged horse of ancient Greece. In the Middle Ages Pegasus becomes the symbol for wisdom and, in the nineteenth century, this white horse becomes the symbol for poetry and the sources of poetic creation. There is beauty in the equine form, dignity in its presence and a connection with nobility in all the pictures of ancient China, India, Arabia and Europe. There is purity in its form, a purity that can be harmed – lost. The spiritual element, almost soulful, is in its gaze.

That living, vital creature, so reduced in Bitzer’s definition, might be the soul of society. In Hard Times Sleary’s Horse-Riding, with its extended family, its capacity to show mercy, its acknowledgement and acceptance of individual differences, its recognition of different talents and its tolerance of people whatever their background is the spiritual heart of Dickens’ novel. Only Sissy has known that ‘seed-time’. She has known beauty, fear and love. And her early childhood has been spent with a community and her understanding has been enhanced by that connection of thought and feeling. And perhaps the loss of the spirit Matthew Arnold sought through increased light, increased life, increased sympathy is one of the problems we face today.

Sometimes it can be novelists, playwrights, poets, and today filmmakers, who wake us to the disturbing imbalance in our education. Peter Shaffer is such a contemporary playwright. In Equus, for example, he focuses on his greatest fear, that we have lost the soul and lost the gift it gives us of awe and wonder. If you know the play, or have seen the film, you can hear young Alan’s puritanical Christian mother, Dora Strang insisting, at a time when he is becoming sexually aware, that sex is dirty, disgusting and engagement in it is the ultimate sign of depravity.

His father is an atheist and the boy is disturbed by their conflict. His father, Frank Strang, pulls down a violent crucifixion from the foot of his bed and Alan replaces it with a picture of a horse. Alan Strang becomes passionately attached to horses, worships them, finds in them the nobility and purity he does not find in Christianity. In fact he worships the god ‘Equus’ through the horses in the stable. He is seventeen and has picked up enough of his mother’s preaching to see Equus as ‘a jealous God’ and he is in awe of him. He makes love to a young woman in the stable and perhaps, to protect Equus or protect himself from his god’s anger, he blinds six horses.

The act is so terrible. It seems unexplainable. The boy must be insane to have carried out such a seeringly awful action. He spends a long time with a psychiatrist whose job it is to make him ‘normal’. And we are invited to consider what ‘normal’ means? Is it the absence of passion? Is it the absence of awe and wonder? Peter Shaffer is preoccupied with what he sees as the loss of the gift of awe and wonder and we are left to think about the whole issue. He develops that theme in The Royal Hunt of the Sun’ in which the Spaniards destroy the Inca civilisation. And this playwright brought us Amadeus where mediocrity sets out to triumph over genius.

Is Charles Dickens afraid of such a future? A soul-less world of self-serving individuals like Bitzer? Is that to be the norm? Is that to be considered ‘normal’? That stone in Gradgrind lodged in his mind is destroying his capacity to broaden his vision by delighting in the possibilities that might come through awe and wonder. Remember Gradgrind feared that readers in the public library in Coketown would be being encouraged to wonder about the world because they might prefer Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Oliver Goldsmith’s poetry – his most famous poem was The Deserted Village – to a treatise on arithmetic.

This capacity for wonder is there in great scientists who know that what might be considered ‘writ in stone’ today need not be so tomorrow. They have true humility. Some are poets. But in the mechanistic, utilitarian approach to schooling – what others might call education – there is a lack of concern with the connection of body and mind, in fact the trinity of mind, heart and hand. There is preference for linear to lateral approaches. The either/or separation of mind from heart, thought from feeling is still there in the attitudes of the power brokers, the digitally-powerful and technologically-influential who have an impact on directions in education. [Remember Thomas goes with his father, after he is found looking through the peep-hole at the horse-riding, ‘like a machine’.] And I am left asking myself how many Bitzers, now male and female, will be the ‘products’ of our 21st century approach to education?

Today, every school is likely to have mission statement. One school might assure parents and potential enrolments that it values ‘cooperation, excellence, fairness, integrity, respect, responsibility’. Who is able to cooperate in Hard Times? Sissy. Who has respect for others? Sissy, who has known sorrow and joy in life. Can you identify what is missing from that 21st century list and what is there in Hard Times? Curiosity is missing. Imagination is missing. Compassion is missing and empathy is missing. All aspects of Sissy’s personality and character.

Today, some psychologists talk of ‘emotional intelligence’. In the mid 1990s some thought the notion was a fad. Others thought it ‘refer[ed] to the capacity to perceive emotions, assimilate emotion-related feelings, understand the information of those emotions, and manage them.’ All I know is that Sissy becomes emotionally mature, not afraid of feelings, able to think through issues and work positively and effectively in such a way that she need not hurt the feelings of others.

Despite the ideals expressed in the Melbourne Declaration of the Millenium Goals in Education for Young Australians, which were inclusive and interdisciplinary in much of their focus, the reality is otherwise. Look at the language of this 2009 four year agreement by COAG. Consider the questions I ask.

The MCEETYA Four Year Plan (‘Four Year Plan’) supports the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians and outlines the key strategies and initiatives Australian governments will undertake in the following eight inter-related areas in order to support the achievement of the educational goals for young Australians:

* developing stronger partnerships – with whom and where? with commerce – so that private public partnership can be used to obscure transparency?

* supporting quality teaching and school leadership – how? by performance marks? or Pyne’s ‘value added’ approach to NAPLAN?

* strengthening early childhood education – in what ways?
recognising the impact of health and family life and uncertainty in employment on engagement?

* enhancing middle years development – through integrated approaches that have almost no extension into the senior school?

* supporting senior years of schooling and youth transitions- how? through cross-curricular engagement? or through the same old subject as silos approach? to where? and what is valued in those directions?

* promoting world-class curriculum and assessment – just by percentages? or by ensuring that teacher training – teacher education rather – connects heart, mind and hand both in and across disciplines?

* improving educational outcomes for Indigenous youth and disadvantaged young Australians, especially those from low socioeconomic backgrounds – in such ways that they feel valued? recognising the impact of housing, health and feelings of adults in children? making sure that the funds are not siphoned off by bureaucracies? doing everything to help them enter, with a strong sense of their culture, into the mainstream?

* strengthening accountability and transparency – that is what Gonski wants, particularly the transparency? Was that all the Gonski Report wanted?

Relationship to COAG Productivity Agenda – notice the link with the productivity agenda. What is this language telling you?

The Four Year Plan has been developed in parallel with work undertaken through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) on the national productivity agenda, and is closely aligned with relevant COAG activities.

At the COAG meeting on 29 November 2008, a number of activities referenced in the plan were formally agreed by Chief Ministers, including:

* Low socioeconomic status school communities national partnership
This partnership will address the needs of disadvantaged schools, while giving greater discretion to those school leaders and local school communities facing the greatest educational disadvantage to employ strategies that address the particular issues they face ($1.5 billion over seven years). What has it meant in

real terms since 2009?

* Smarter Schools – Teacher Quality national partnership
This partnership will deliver ambitious, nationally-significant reforms to target

critical points in the teacher ‘lifecycle’ to attract, train, place, develop and retain quality teachers and school leaders ($550 million over five years). Are ‘smart’ schools going to produce ‘clever’ Australians? See the advertisement with its masculine focus. Have they considered the difference between mere cleverness and wisdom?

* Literacy and Numeracy national partnership
This partnership will focus on: achieving sustainable improvements in literacy

and numeracy; improving literacy and numeracy for primary school students, especially Indigenous students; and developing a national understanding of what works and a shared accountability for the achievement of Australian students ($540 million over four years). Will that partnership be undermined for Indigenous children by the ‘Intervention’?

* Early Childhood Education national partnership
This partnership will focus on giving all children the opportunity to access

quality early childhood education ($970 million over five years).

* Greater transparency and accountability
Through COAG, all jurisdictions agreed to a new performance reporting

framework and agreed that the new Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority will be supplied with the information necessary to enable it to publish relevant, nationally comparable information on all schools to support accountability, school evaluation, collaborative policy development and resource allocation.

I thought this reminder of what was signed on to in 2009 could be valuable. Look at COAG’s concentration on a ‘new performance reporting framework.’ The new Australian Curriculum and Assessment and Reporting Authority would become known as ACARA, be responsible for the national curriculum development and for NAPLAN. What is missing? It is all third person, impersonal, bureaucratic and abstract. There is no reference to character. That old-fashioned word might sound too mid-Victorian. In the Millenium Goals there is no reference to music, art, drama, the humanities. ACARA has included history because there is seen to be a need for a multi-cultural society to have a feeling of connection. ACARA has included the arts because Peter Garrett insisted that the arts matter but how they will be brought in will tell us how much the curriculum writers understand about the three-way-connection in all the arts of mind, heart and hands as well as the time needed for satisfying involvement. It is a three- way connection equally of value in the sciences.

The focus is on what the Commission sees as ‘productivity’, what some educators call ‘human capital’ and bureaucrats call ‘human resources’. We get no feeling for what will be involved in ‘quality education’ except that it will ‘seek to improve literacy and numeracy for primary school children’. Not literature, poetry, plays and prose and mathematics with the imagination and wonder required, just literacy and numeracy. No pleasure, no emphasis on engagement in discovery, no connecting emotion with mind in the process of learning.

So, where is the evidence of what the 21st century power-brokers really value today? We hear employers crying out for ‘multi-skilled teams of workers with leadership potential’. What kind of leadership? Will it be leadership that concerns itself – notice the neuter gender – with the quality of feelings as well as the intellect of students? Will it recognise the value of interconnection? Will it recognise the value of teachers able to empathise with students? Or will teachers be ‘judged’ on the basis of a school’s ‘performance’ in quantitative terms for the ‘products’ they produce?

There were certainly idealists, those committed to improving education at that Melbourne conference but we can only guess at what they meant by ‘quality education’. It is not spelt out for us. Unfortunately, just as in Gradgrind’s model school, what we obviously value is number, measurement and percentages and the commercial market-driven bargain of which Bitzer sees himself as a ‘product’, an ‘outcome’, not as a person.

Our national system of testing, based on what was initially expected to be diagnostic to help children within schools, was hijacked and now concentrates across Australia on numbers, percentages and grades. Regardless of what a politician might say about NAPLAN’s purpose, when a teacher in a school of 1500 students, with almost one third of them requiring some form of extra assistance to be successful, warns a visitor that the school is low down on the NAPLAN totem pole, the impact of the atmosphere NAPLAN has created is clear. Such unspoken ‘lessons’ have the same kind of impact that they had in 1854 and it makes me realise that we still live in hard times.

In Sydney, at the National Conference of the Australian College of Educators statisticians were to the fore. Governments could not be effective in educational terms without the numbers. They needed data and they needed it quickly. Otherwise improvements could not be costed. Note the concern with ‘cost’. I felt the pressure and I am no longer a practising teacher!

Non-government schools and many government schools – selective and/or government schools in more middle class areas – advertise the scores being achieved at the upper level in university entrance scores by a significant percentage of their students. So they encourage enrolments of those who can afford their fees while a few considered potentially credits to the school get scholarships. Numbers again. Every day and every night in our 21st century powerbrokers watch the figures on the Stock Exchange to see the directions in which the numbers and the money are going. ‘My School’, run by ACARA, enables potential ‘buyers’ to consider the ‘statistical’ evidence and its context in thousands of different schools across Australia.

Now the new powerbrokers I mentioned earlier have realised our students need literacy and numeracy and the capacity to speak, do deals, trade with our Asian neighbours, and need an understanding of their languages and cultures if we are to have a solid base for profitable engagement in the economic opportunities of the Asian century. Hopefully we will not be seen in the different nations of Asia, with their languages and cultures, as ‘the deputy sheriff’, with our universities intellectually hamstrung, because of the Defence Treaty the Australia government, supported by the Opposition, is signing with USA. All the warnings about its

potential impact on our educational independence in thought and action appear to have been ignored.

It is all quantity. It is all utilitarian. There is no mention of delight in learning for its own sake, no mention of the value of making errors and learning from them in an atmosphere that is not punitive. Delight in discovery, the eye-opening effect that wonder provides, the questions it prompts, the searches we decide to undertake that constitute the impetus that so often takes us so much further. Ask me now how far we have come from the world Charles Dickens depicted in Hard Times?

In conclusion, I hope this essay provides a reason for teachers to consider Victorian novels. On the front page of The Professional Educator – Volume 11, Issue 4, June 2012 – we have the picture of a young girl holding open a hard-backed, thick book – looking weighty in contrast to the boy’s iPad – and the title is ‘Hard times for the teaching of Victorian novels’. I agree that ‘Dickens’ characters and settings have much to offer students in any educational setting.’

[p 15]

. I hope I have shown here that the novels of the nineteenth century have much to offer. In this instance, through consideration of Hard Times however I want to appeal to those making decisions that are affecting the structure of schooling and approaches to education being put in place for the rest of this century. These structures are hard to remove once they solidify. And a utilitarian basis for considering education will always put pragmatism before philosophy.

I agree, having taught in different kinds of schools from 1951 to 1992, with those who see NAPLAN as ‘an expensive mistake’. The article by Darragh O’Keefe in The Education Review June 2012 should be a wake up call. However, I am not an academic and have no pretensions to that title. I have been a teacher. I know what we do and have done to try to help children jump the hurdles that examination boards put in front of them. When it was expected, and we had to for so much of the time in the post 1945 world of secondary education, we would ‘teach to the test’. At one school, in one year, I taught boys doing PEB English on Sunday afternoon because the science, maths and tech studies teachers had made the students feel that theirs were the ‘real’, important subjects. Some times, if we thought students were not ready and, incidentally, might bring down the school’s percentage of success in public examinations, we – the administrators and teachers – might encourage students not to sit. In very wealthy schools, students might have a thirteenth year to enable them to develop the emotional as well as the intellectual maturity needed for self-reliance at university.

In South Australia a recent effort to develop students’ capacity to work in cross-curricular ways appears to be being challenged. The SACE required Year 12 ‘research project’, meant to be interdisciplinary to help students recognise the artificiality of discipline boundaries and to enable them to think and work in lateral as well as linear ways at a senior level, is being undermined in some schools and by some teachers, parents and students led to believe, by their schooling, that such interdisciplinary, cross-curricular engagement is not worth while. Only ‘real’ separate subjects are worthwhile. This connective approach is thought to be too hard, demands too much and gets in the way of ‘real’ study. The Bitzers of the world do quite well in the kind of set up that denies the value of the lateral, interconnected approach to feeling and thinking. However, it should be clear from Hard Times that such a rigid, narrow approach to study is not the best for a society facing the uncertainties we face. Students

groomed in such a system might be ‘clever’ but they are likely to lack the emotional maturity and capacity to go on learning and, when necessary changing direction, that Dickens finds in Sissy, that wise young woman.

Erica Jolly, BA (Hons. History), MA (English Literature) MACE December 4st 2012.