Home' Teacher : September 2009 Contents WANNA BE A ROCKSTAR ?
Look at the billboards in Hong Kong and
you'll see the usual glam, with a difference:
beside the models, pop singers and movie
stars are cram-school tutors like Richard
Eng, the Lamborghini-driving co-founder
of one of HK's biggest cram schools, Beacon
College. According to a New York Times
report, about 300,000 of HK's 800,000
students regularly attend cram schools,
each paying about HK$1,000 or $155 in
monthly fees. Terence Lee, Annie Yeung,
Johnathon Kwok, Winnie So, Wister Chan
or Oscar Tam can help you with the maths.
According to a 2005 sur vey by research-
ers at the University of Hong Kong, 70 per
cent of HK high school students and 50 per
cent of primary school students had hired
tutors at some point. Beacon College is one
of the four big cram school chains, but there
are about 800 smaller ones: hence all the
billboards and ads and cram-star groom-
ing. One of Richard Eng's students told
the NY Times's Yuk-Hang Ng he liked the
fact that his teacher was stylish. 'He looks
like a pop star.... That makes him differ-
ent from regular day-school teachers, who
look more boring and worn- out.' Changes
to the HK education system that reduce the
emphasis on high-stakes university-entrance
exams that come into effect this month may
dampen demand in an industry that turns
over more than $500 million a year.
THE GENIUS OF CHARLES DARWIN
Don't hold your breath waiting for The
Genius of Charles Dar win, a three-part
television documentary written and pre-
sented by evolutionary biologist Richard
Dawkins. At this stage, according to Parker
Bourke, from ABC Audience and Consumer
Affairs, 'The ABC has not purchased the
rights to the program.' Never mind that this
year marks 150 years since Darwin pub-
lished On the Origin of Species, the exciting
news is it's still actually possible to argue
over evolution. Anyone care to argue over,
say, gravity? Put your hand down, please,
Professor Alan D Sokal, author of the spoof
article, 'Transgressing the boundaries:
Towards a transformative hermeneutics of
quantum gravity,' published in Social Text
in 1996. Evolution, apparently, is an argu-
able social construct; gravity is not. Maybe
a transformative hermeneutics of broadcast-
ing commonsense might get The Genius of
Charles Darwin onto ABC TV's broadcast-
ing schedule. Maybe we ought all to forget
about hermeneutics and just hope for the
evolution of broadcasting commonsense.
Please, ABC T V, just broadcast The Geniu s
of Charles Dar win.
THE GENIUS OF CHARLES
'I love books as much as anybody, but I love
reading more.' So wrote Ann Kirschner,
dean of William E Macaulay Honors Col-
lege at the City University of New York, in
a review of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit in
the Chronicle Review. In truth, Kirschner
wasn't reviewing Little Dorrit, but the rela-
tive merits of paperback, audiobook, Kindle
and iPhone editions. Kirschner moved
between her old Penguin edition, a down-
loaded audiobook, where she was 'stuck
with a competent but uninspired narrator,'
and her iPhone, using eReader, which gave
her the option of the same Penguin edition.
And what about Kindle, the Amazon.com
device, which is only available in the United
States and depends on Whispernet, also only
available in the US? Kirschner abandoned her
Kindle edition almost as soon as she'd read
a chapter on her iPhone. 'Kindle, shmindle,'
she wrote. 'It does almost nothing that an
iPhone can't do better.... With free software
like eReader or Stanza, iPhone readers have
the same capability for customisation and
a more-elegant interface.' Worse, 'The only
time I relied on my Kindle was on vacation,'
Kirschner admitted, when 'all the grown-
ups on beach chairs seemed to have one,
as if we all had obeyed some secret com-
mand to buy Kindles and wear sunscreen.'
As Kirschner observed, the bad news is that
Kindle's largest market is over 50. 'Middle-
aged readers think that the dimension of
the screen is critical,' she wrote. 'It's not.
The members of the generation that grew up
playing Game Boys...will have absolutely no
problem reading from a small screen.' And if
Dickens were alive, he'd surely have experi-
mented with all the new formats.
WHY NOT GREEN?
The Dusseldorp Skills Forum (DSF) Y
Green program is gaining lots of interest.
DSF's first Y Green site will involve a group
of Year 10 students from Central Coast
Youth Connections in New South Wales,
who commenced their training this month.
If your students are interested in running Y
Green in 2010 or want to attend a free train-
the-trainer course for schools or TAFEs in
NSW, register you r interest by emailing
The Grapevine is w ritten by Steve
Holden, Editor ofTeacher.
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