xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage

Friday, 8 July 2022

Inequity in Australian education. Quick fixes don't work.

 The 2021 PISA results will be announced later this year. Since the early 2000s, Australia's PISA rankings in English, Mathematics and Science have been trending downwards.No one will be surprised if this downward trend continues.

A recent article by Annie Fogarty in the West Australian newspaper (7/7/2022) titled,  “Our poorest falling behind” reminded us that every Australian child deserves quality education. Ms Fogarty also  highlighted the growing achievement gap in Australian schools. The gap between the Have and the Have Not schools. 

Ms Fogarty said that children living in “disadvantage and dysfunction” suffer higher rates of mental illness which have a significant impact on school achievement. She echoes the words of respected US educator, Dr Diane Ravich, who participated in the US National Assessment programme. In this role she sacked many principals and teachers in under performing schools. By 2009, Dr Ravitch had changed her mind. In her bestselling book, “The Death and Life of the Great American Public School System,” she regretted having sacked so many hard working principals and teachers, saying “Poverty, not poor teaching, is the major cause of failure in schools.”

In 2008, Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd,  concerned about education standards, commissioned successful businessman, David Gonski, to investigate the situation. Gonski discovered what became known as the Education Gap. This gap was the huge difference in achievement outcomes between high and low achieving schools.  

In 2010, Gonski presented his review the the new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.  Gonski believed the education gap could only be closed by allocating additional resources to schools in need. The Gonski Review was sought to eliminate the gap between high and low achieving schools. It sounded too good to be true and it was. Politicians, who generally act for political reasons rather than educational reasons, soon changed Gonski’s focus. In the decade since the Gonski Review’s release, federal and state government spending on private schools increased fivefold in comparison to spending on government schools. Trevor Cobbold, an economist and national convenor for public school advocacy group Save Our Schools, says “Gonski didn’t fail. It is governments that failed Gonski, and thereby failed disadvantaged students,” he says. Some people say that Gonski failed. The fact is Gonski was never tried, never implemented.

As a result, the achievement gap in our education outcomes grew  wider. Our PISA ranking dropped. Many politicians and some in the media called for the problem of Australia’s falling PISA ratings to be fixed. How? Well, they all said, teachers need to work harder. They need to be much better trained. They need to be more highly qualified. Teachers should be paid according to performance. Those wanting to be teachers must be selected from the very highest achievers with ATAR scores in the top 10%. There were frenzied calls for "Back to basics." They wanted quick fixes. Hard working teachers have heard that sad song before.

 Unfortunately, amid all the tumult and shouting about how to fix Australia’s education problems, there is little reference to what actual educators think about the achievement gap in Australian education. Pasi Sahlberg is an educator. He was in charge of education in Finland when that country always appeared in the top four of the PISA rankings. He is currently a Professor of Education at the Gonski Institute for Education at the University of NSW. Speaking about the declining PISA results a few years ago, Sahlberg reminded everyone that Albert Einstein once said, ”We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Sahlberg made three points. Firstly, he said the inequitable distribution of resources in our education system was the major cause for the growing achievement gap. There was, he said, a need to revisit the Gonski reforms to ensure that school in need were better resourced, so that there would be “high-quality education for all, individualised support for those who need it and valuing whole-child development throughout schooling.”

Secondly, Sahlberg said we need to make health and wellness in schools another priority. He said the data shows “That the decline of youth wellbeing has happened at the same time as slipping PISA scores in Australia…a student who suffers from anxiety disorders, depression, sleep deprivation or suicidal behaviours is not likely to be successful in school.”

 All teachers know that most of the social, emotional, psychological and behavioural problems that they deal with on a daily basis, originate from outside the classroom. Low socio-economic status, domestic violence, drugs, alcohol, physical and sexual abuse all impact on a child’s school performance.

Finally, Professor Sahlberg warned against employing the quick fixes so favoured by politicians. He said quick fixes do not fix equity or student wellbeing. “It is the wrong strategy because it does not address educational equities and enhance students’ wellbeing, so that every student would have a fair chance to succeed.”

 The evidence is clear. Schools in lower socio-economic areas generally perform below schools in the “leafy green” suburbs. Everyone knows that. State Education Departments know it. They have known it for over fifty years. Those hard working teachers in those under resourced school  are like soldiers provided with inferior weapons and very few bullets being criticised by their superior officers for not winning the battle.

 Sahlberg suggests it is more rational to get back to the real basics. Instead of indulging in teacher bashing and school bashing we need to inform ourselves of the educational research and implement equitable resourcing policies that will close the achievement gap by providing equity and wellness for all students.

Sadly, Pasi Sahlberg pointed out how to solve Australia's education gap three years ago. But nothing has changed. His advice was not heeded by those politicians with the power to do something about it. We still have politicians saying we need to recruit teachers in the top 10% of ATAR. We still have politicians saying we need more highly  qualified teachers. We have still have politicians saying we need to start teaching formal literacy and numeracy skills at a younger and younger age. It is no good pointing out to these politicians that PISA high flyers, like Finland and Singapore, do not start formal primary school education until children are seven. Pasi Sahlberg has given them the solution but our politicians are still sprouting quick fixes that they feel are political vote winners. That is no way to run an education system.

During the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, politicians and the media deferred to the wisdom and knowledge of the health experts. Likewise, it is critical for the future wellbeing of our students, our schools and our society that principals, teachers and other education experts, like Pasi Sahlberg, be listened to and their sensible advice be implemented

It’s pretty basic, really.

 

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Bradman Bashing…and a Keith Miller myth, or two!

I have written three blog articles about the great Sir Donald Bradman. “My date with Don Bradman”, 21/4/2016) was an excerpt from my book, “LEON: A backward glance at boyhood”.The second blog  story, “Don Bradman and me…and Stephanie” (6/3/2017) tells again of some of Bradman’s remarkable batting performances and of a young girl’s Bi-Centennial school project about The Don.The third Bradman blog story, "Don Bradman. Was he any good?" (5/12/2019) is a recall of just how good The Don really was. This blog is basically about how Bradman Bashers used Keith Miller in their unrelenting efforts to besmirch the great man's memory. As Richie Benaud said at Don Bradman's funeral, Bradman was no saint, he had the same faults and foibles as all humankind. Some cricketers disliked him intensely. Others loved him dearly. What is undisputed by anybody is that Don Bradman is the greatest batsman who ever played the game of cricket. A game he loved.

Bradman has been dead for over twenty years but there are still those who take every opportunity to belittle him as a person and sometimes as a cricketer. Bradman’s total domination as a batsman in his first tour of England in1930 tour caused Douglas Jardine, and others, to design a Bodyline bowling attack to blunt his brilliance. Officially known as Fast Leg Theory , Bodyline had the bowler directing thunderbolts at the batsman’s body. Bodyline did curb Bradman’s brilliance but, in four tests he scored more runs than the  other Australian batsmen who played in five test matches. Bradman  actually scored more runs than all the English batsmen, except for Suttcliffe and Hammond, who played in five tests and scored marginally more runs than Bradman. Of course, they did not have to face Bodyline bowling.

Bradman’s average in the Bodyline series of 1932/33 was 55. This was well below his usual average but still better than anybody else’s average, on either side, for that tumultuous series. Usually, if a batsman  finishes a series with an average in excess of 50  he is considered to be a great success. For Bradman, it was deemed to be a failure.

Jack Fingleton was an Australian batsmen in those days. He became a respected journalist, author of several cricket books and an affable raconteur who told very funny stories. He also had a pathological hatred of Don Bradman and took every opportunity to belittle the great man in his writings and in his public speaking. Although he disliked Bradman, Fingleton was not stupid. He knew that writing a book about Bradman would always be a best seller. Fingleton made a lot of money writing about Don Bradman.

In more modern times, former Australian captain, Ian Chappell, has carried on the Bradman Bashing tradition of his grandfather, Victor Richardson. Richardson played in the Bodyline era. After the retirement of popular captain, Bill Woodfull, the veteran, Victor Richardson was appointed captain of the Australian cricket team that toured South Africa in 1935. Bradman did not go on that tour as he was still recovering from an illness that threatened his life on the tour of England in 1934. However, a bombshell exploded after that 1935/36 South African tour. When  the selectors picked the Australian Test team to play at home against England in 1936/37, they appointed the younger Don Bradman as captain. Victor Richardson and his family took it as personal affront. These days, whenever Ian Chappell speaks of Don Bradman he mocks him with a thin, nasal twang of derision.

Even the celebrity TV host, Michael Parkinson, had unkind words for Bradman. After his retirement, Parkinson lamented in his memoirs that he had not been able to obtain interviews with Frank Sinatra or Don Bradman. Parkinson then went on to write that Bradman had a “win at all costs” attitude to cricket that contrasted sharply with the devil may care, cavalier attitude of another Aussie cricketing icon, Keith Miller.

Parkinson quoted how in a 1948 tour match against Essex, Australia made 721 runs in a day’s play. Keith Miller was dismissed for a duck when the score was 2 for 364. The myth, which Parkinson reinforced, is that Miller was disgusted at the run feast against the county side. He strode out, did not take block and was clean bowled first ball. The myth says that he then turned to the wicketkeeper saying, “Thank God that’s over,” and then strode back to the pavilion. Bradman was batting at the other end. Later in the day Bradman  reminded Miller that he needed to use the county games to acclimatise himself for the Tests. Parkinson says this contrasted Bradman’s stern  ‘win at all costs’ approach to Millers’ more relaxed, debonair attitude.

Well, a couple of things. Bradman obviously played to win, as we hope all Australian cricketers and test captains do. Bradman loved and respected the game of cricket and always played hard and fairly within the rules of the game.  Of course, Keith Miller also  played to win. After that Essex duck and his little chat with Bradman, Miller made a double century against another county. In fact, in his career he made several double centuries against county sides and test sides. As a bowler, he certainly played to win. Miller knew that the English captain, Len Hutton, had injured his arm during the war and that this inhibited his ability to play the hook shot. Miller delighted in bowling lightning fast bouncers at Hutton. Perhaps, not so Cavalier after all. Perhaps Parkinson’s perception of The Don is wrong?  Maybe his perception of Keith Miller is wrong, too.

I say Miller’s tale of his lackadaisical  dismissal in that Essex match is a myth, based on the writings of well known cricket writer, Colin Frith and of Arunabha Sengupta, a dedicated researcher and writer on a cricket website, Cricket MASH. This website boasts that it is “a cover of the cricket world where tinted glasses are removed and returned free of rosy effects, repetition, biases and illusions. Where there is no place for myths.”

Colin Frith is quoted from his  article which appeared in the “Between Wickets” periodical. Frith admitted he was a self confessed fan of Keith Miller and claimed him as a friend. However, according to Arunabha Sengupta, Frith said the Essex story of Miller’s dismissal was a myth. Miller wrote an  account of his ‘cavalier’ dismissal in that Essex game which has been copied and repeated verbatim by such noted cricket writers as Dick Whittington, Jack Fingleton and Mihir Bose.

The myth holds, as Mihir Bose describe it, that  “ Miller came in to bat when the score was 364 for 2. He took guard perfunctorily and to the very first ball that was bowled to him he lifted his bat, flung his hair back and was walking  towards the pavilion even before the bails had hit the ground. If ever a single situation could be said to epitomise the man, then this was it. Runs were there to be had, the Australians were to score another 357, but the idea had no appeal to him” Australia made 751 runs that day.

Miller wrote a whimsical biography in 1956 entitled, “Cricket Crossfire” in which he described the Essex incident. “During that game I walked in to bat, did not take guard, made a sleepwalking stroke and was bowled. I turned to the wicketkeeper and said, ‘Thank God that’s over’ and walked away.”

David Frith begs to differ. He points out that Miller ‘Was not averse to indulging himself against ordinary bowling”, scoring double centuries against Leicestershire and Worcestershire. Frith also examined footage of an amateur  film of that Essex match. According to Arunbha Sengupta, that film does not show the actual dismissal. It does show Miller striding to the wicket, looking around the field and, “ contrary to his claim that he did not take guard, between 4.59 seconds and 5.01 seconds of the film, Miller can be clearly seen asking the umpire for his guard. That is taking a lot of trouble if he wanted to throw his wicket away.”

According to Frith, “The vital clue is the facial expression as the batsman turns and walks back to the pavilion. It is fairly blank…Not smiling mischievously or deceitfully...his return to the pavilion reveals if anything, the sort of disappointment and acceptance that most batsmen display when done first ball.”

Years later Frith contacted the Essex wicketkeeper in that game who had no recollection of Miller making his famous “cavalier’ remarks on his dismissal. Arunabba Sengupta also notes that if Miller was walking back to the pavilion “even before the bails fell” he would have had no time to make comments to the wicketkeeper.

Arunabha Sengupta also refers to contemporary press reports of the dismissal which report  that “Miller played over a yorker from Trevor Bailey which knocked out his off stump.” Sengupta says playing over yorker is a long way away from throwing your wicket away. Malcolm Knox, another respected cricket writer, in his reconstruction of that 1948 Invincibles Tour said that, “ Miller is a self mythologist, not to be trusted.”

Of course, memory is an unreliable research device. In 2005, in the Foreword of my book, “LEON a backward glance at boyhood” I said I had done no real research on my biography as the people who knew the stories of my early life had all passed away. I  relied on my memory. I warned that Memory often presents things as bigger than they were, better than they were and sometimes, never as they were.” How true!  In LEON I had a few misremembered moments. I referred in several chapters to my experiences in Number 8 Platoon  during my National Service at Campbell Barracks. I actually was in Number 6 Platoon. Maybe the dashing Keith Miller misremembered his innings that day against Essex when he was bowled for a first ball duck.

One other Keith Miller myth that he wrote and spoke about often was that he was the cricketer who made 87 the Devil’s number for Australian test batsmen. Well,  intrepid researcher, Arunahba Sengupta, again provides confronting evidence to the contrary. According to Sengupta, “The story was penned by David Frith in the November 1990 edition of Wisden Cricket Monthly. Miller, by then 70 and suffering from cancer, told Frith that he was the one who gave birth to the ’87 nonsense’. The roots traced way back to the winter of 1929.

“That day, according to Miller: 'I’m just a kid in the outer, watching The Don bat … Christmas 1929 I think it was … So, I’d be what, 10? Anyway, Don’s seeing the ball as big as football. But suddenly ‘Bull’ Alexander bowls him! I’d looked up to see his score just before ‘Bull’ got him, and that score —87 — stuck in my mind. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Every weekend I’d look through the club scores, searching for more 87s. It became a sort of fixation.

'Even a few years after, when I began to play for South Melbourne alongside Ian Johnson, I was still conscious of this 87 thing. I always tried to avoid it when I was batting, but Johnno got out for 87 once and I said to him, ‘That’s bloody funny. I saw Bradman get out for 87 once.’ It was a sort of cult, a superstition.

"Anyway, after the war. Into the early 1950s, Richie Benaud and Alan Davidson, and some of those blokes picked it up, but they didn’t really know what it was all about. And more years later I heard Paul Sheahan on the radio talking about this superstition being based on 87 being 13 less than 100. What a load of hat!' ”

When it was later pointed out that the records show  Bradman was dismissed for 89 in that Melbourne innings, Miller blamed a slow scoreboard for his belief that he was dismissed for 87. However, Arunahba Sengupta went to the newspaper accounts of the day. According to the newspapers Bradman went to lunch that day on 84. In the first over after lunch he hit a four to go to 89 and was bowled out on the very next delivery. Bradman had scored 89 in 125 minutes of the 127 runs scored while he was at the crease.  There was no slow scoreboard. The score had ticked over from 84 to 89 before Bradman was dismissed.

Bradman was a batting sensation who attracted attention wherever he went, even though he was a very private person and did not relish being a public celebrity. Miller was a flamboyant and charismatic character who likewise attracted great attention. Writer, Malcolm Knox, said, he was also “a self-mythologist”.

Miller, when asked  in a TV interview about pressure in cricket famously answered, “Real pressure is “having a Messerschmitt on your arse. Cricket is not.” This was a reference to his war service in the air force and gave rise to the dashing cricketer also being a fighter pilot. Miller was a wartime pilot in the air force. He may have done some training as a fighter pilot but he flew Mosquito Bombers and took part in two bombing raids over enemy territory. However, his air force career, like his cricket career, was blighted by his dislike of authority. He was involved in several crash landings during his training and faced disciplinary measures for various misbehaviours, includings absenteeism and swearing at  superior officers.

Although Fingleton and others liked to play up the uneasy relationship Miller had with Bradman, in his cricket commentating career, Miller invariably referred to Bradman as the “Great Man”. Bradman respected Miller’s cricket ability and wrote about it in glowing terms. In fact, Bradman got on much better with Miller than did subsequent Australian Test Captains, Lindsay Hassett and Ian Johnson.  Miller derided Hassett and Johnson publicly and privately. He obviously felt that he would do a much better job in the  captaincy than they were doing.

Keith Miller may have resented authority and occasionally lacked the self-discipline required to always perform at his best. He may even have been a ‘self-mythologiser’. Like Bradman his career was affected by the war. He was 20 when war broke out and 26 before he played his first test match in 1946. He also excelled at Australian rules football, playing for St Kilda in the VFL. In 1947, when living in NSW, he played in the NSW state team that played in the 1947 Australian Rules Football Carnival in Hobart. He was also  among the very best cricketers in the world at batting, bowling and fielding, especially in the slips. Bradman Bashers, like Jack Fingleton and others, loved to use Miller’s sometimes rocky relationship with his Test captain as a weapon in their war against The Don.. However, Miller, in his writings and media commentaries was not Bradman Basher himself.

In 1949 Miller was omitted from the Australian team to tour South Africa. Bradman Bashers had a field day blaming Don Bradman for Miller’s omission. Bradman  was not the sole selector but he copped all the blame. When opening bowler, Bill Johnston, was injured in South Africa, Miller was named as his replacement. He arrived in South Africa and had two months of practice before the first test.

After the war Miller became a well known and respected journalist. He lashed out in  an article in his Sydney newspaper in November, 1949, complaining about the people who said his omission from the touring side was all Bradman’s fault and “part of some hill-billy feud” between Bradman and himself.

Miller wrote in that article that   “Don Bradman is a remarkable man apart from his cricket. From various aspects. Bradman's life must be something of a nightmare. His life is hardly his own. He reminds me of a mannequin. All eyes are focused on him. He can't make a move without someone noticing it. Considering his greatness as a batsman, it may be said that, when dismissed, he finds little reason, as some batsmen do, to blame conditions when he fails.                                                      Many people imagine a tour by a team to another country as a life of luxury, a glamorised Cook's tour. But they forget moods vary and to handle a band of sports men, continually in one another's company for six months, requires tact and judgment above the ordinary. One false move from him becomes front page news. No wonder he is careful what he says.”

These latter comments reflect Miller's appreciation and admiration of Don Bradman's leadership of that 1948 Invincibles tour of England. The team arrived in London in mid April. After a week practising at Lords they embarked on a tour that saw them play Test and County Cricket matches six days a week, every week until mid August. They never lost a match. The Invincibles!

As a boy I idolised Don Bradman and Keith Miller. I saw Miller play Sheffield Shield cricket at the WACA ground several times. On day, when I was about 12 years old, I arrived at the WACA about an hour before play. The NSW team was having a hit up in the nets, which in those days were actually situated on  the ground, in the southwestern corner. I took up a position behind the nets. There were only about two or three people in the ground at that time. As the practice session was winding up, Miller was batting and going for huge slog  hits over the bowlers’ heads. He looked magnificent. With film star looks, the body of an athlete and an imperious manner that made him appear invincible against all comers, he was enjoying himself and just  flogging the bowling.

 I called out, “Hit it out of the ground, Keith.” Well, a few balls later he hit a ball over the bowlers’ head, across the ground, past the centre wicket area and into the sightscreen just in front of the Old Farley Stand. It broke one of the wooden slats in the sightscreen that remained broken for the remainder of the Sheffield Shield season. The NSW players all yelled out and applauded the awesome hit.

“Was that one good enough, sonny?” said my idol as he trailed  his bat along the practice wicket,  walking with his teammates back to their dressing rooms. I shouted out my approval, thrilled that the greatest Australian cricket all-rounder had acknowledged my presence. He may have been a "self mythologiser" but he was magnificent cricketer...and not a Bradman Basher!

 

 

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

I have said it before..volunteering is really good for you..

In The Great War, 1914-1918, as it was called before we started numbering our World Wars, Australia, with a population of around 5 000 000 stunned the world when 416,809 of its citizens volunteered to fight overseas. Among those volunteers were 2,861 nurses. The statisticians tell us that almost 40% of Australian men between the ages of 18 and 44 years of age volunteered to serve in the Australian Armed Forces.

Australia has a proud tradition of mateship and volunteering. In summer our hundreds of beaches are patrolled by volunteer surf life savers. In the bush our country regions rely on volunteer firefighters during the bushfire season. In our schools, great work is done by volunteers. There are teachers who volunteer to spend a week away from their families to take children on camps, where they will be on duty 24/7. Teachers who volunteer to provide after school, activities, to coach, train and manage children in after school sporting and cultural events. Great work is done by many parents who volunteer to work for the Parents and Citizens Association to provide resources for the benefit of children in schools. Our hospitals rely on volunteer workers to operate gift shops, libraries and visit the sick and the lonely. There are volunteers at the Perth Zoo, on Rottnest Island, Kings Park and many other tourist places who assist and inform visitors. In every local sporting club there are volunteers. St Vincent de Paul, The Salvation Army, The Good Samaritans and a host of other service organisations rely on volunteers to assist those in need and provide important community services.Our society would not function as it does were it not for people who volunteer their time, energy and expertise for the benefit of others.

Of course, there are volunteers and then there are volunteers. People have various reasons for volunteering. During the Great War some men volunteered because they feared receiving a letter containing a white feather, a sign of cowardice. Some signed up because they actually did receive a white feather in a letter. The wives, mothers, sisters  and sweethearts of those men who had voluntarily enlisted, often used a lot of emotional blackmail against able bodied men who had not enlisted.

Some people volunteer because the enjoy the camaraderie and excitement of being involved in voluntary work with a group of other enthusiastic volunteers. We have all heard of the rogue Volunteer Firefighter who starts a bushfire so that he can be with his mates, fighting the fires and earning the admiration of the general populace.

Having spent about 45 years in and around schools I know from experience the valuable work of volunteer teachers and parents. However, I also have observed one or two parents who joined the P&C  Executive Committee in leadership roles because they felt it would give then some authority in the school community which they could then use to their own advantage or the advantage of their children.

So, volunteers come in all, shapes and sizes. Thankfully, the vast majority volunteer because they have seen a need and have decided to do something about it. Our society relies of the work of so many volunteers in so many ways.The really good news is that volunteering is good for you. In the 1970s a team of psychologists visited two Fraternity Hoses at a university in the USA. We will call them Frat A and Frat B. ( I have referred to this study in a blog story before. So, if you know what is coming you may wish to fold up your tent and decamp in the direction of Off.)

Each student was tested for stress and anxiety levels and their general well being. Students in both Fraternity Houses, on average, registered  around  same levels of anxiety and well being. The psychologists gave the students in Frat B a specific task to do. Frat A was to carry on as usual. They said they would return in six months to do follow up tests.

Six months later they returned and administered the same test again. The researchers found that students in Frat A had slightly higher anxiety levels and slightly lower levels of feelings of well being. This was understandable as the university year was in full swing and students had exam and money pressures affecting them. However, the Frat B students had reduced anxiety levels and increased feeling of well being. The team of psychologists attributed this enhanced score to the specific task they had given each of the students in Frat B.

What was this magical task that made Frat B students feel better about themselves, even under the pressures of academic life? Each of the  Frat B students was asked to do their roommates laundry.      That was it. The simple task of doing their roommates laundry once a week had made all of these Frat B  students feel good about themselves.

Volunteering does wonders for our society. It also does wonders to those who volunteer.                          It is never too late to volunteer .                                                                                                                                                                                         A BIG THANK YOU to those who do.

Friday, 10 December 2021

A little bird told me!

"A little bird told me, " is a very common expression. People often say, “A little bird told me” when they do not wish to divulge the source of the information. It is also used by some  Smart Alecs who wish to give the impression that they know everything about everything.

I heard somebody say it just the other day. It reminded  me of an incident that occurred when our eldest daughter, Jane, was attending  Kindergarten. Jane had become friends with another young girl, named Shirley. When I arrived home after work,  Jane would usually be riding her  tricycle around the paved area of our large back yard. I would ask her questions about her day at Kindy, in what I thought were great Father-Daughter bonding occasions.

One afternoon when I arrived home, my wife told me that Jane was very upset. Taryn had had an accident at Kindy and her mother had to be called to come and take her home.                                         I walked out into the back yard and said, ‘Oh, Jane, I am so sorry that Taryn was hurt at Kindy. I am sure her mother is caring for her and she will be back tomorrow”

Jane stopped pedalling her tricycle. She looked up at me. Puzzled.

“How did you know Taryn was hurt?” she questioned.

“Oh, a little bird told me,” I said, with that patronising smug tone that adults often adopt with children when trying  to impress them with their omnipotent adult knowledge of the Universe. Jane looked at me for a few seconds and then started pedalling once again.

When I arrived home the next afternoon, my wife told me that Jane had had a good day at Kindy and that Taryn had come back, as right as rain, after her accident.

I walked out into the backyard. Jane was pedalling in a wide circle on the paved area. Wanting to give her every opportunity to be in charge of the conversation, I said, “Hello, Jane. Was your friend Taryn at Kindy today?

Without stopping Jane looked up at me and said, “Ask the little bird, why don’t you!’