Teaching Law

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Bring back the cane: revisiting patriarchy

The head of the government's curriculum review, Kevin Donnelly, said yesterday that corporal punishment in schools was an effective way of disciplining children. The conversation continued, leading to the implication that Donnelly is not averse to reintroducing corporal punishment into Australian schools.

Australia is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Australia therefore has obligations to protect children from violence or abuse, by their parents or anyone caring for them (article 19); and discipline in schools should respect children's human dignity (article 28). There is no overarching statute however that implements the provisions of this Convention and regulation of schools and criminal laws that may apply, are left to the states.

A number of news outlets have conveniently summarised the legal framework on corporal punishment in schools - see eg Crikey's explainer. There seem to be examples in both West Australia and Queensland where corporal punishment is integral to some schools' program - including in one reported case, the requirement for parents to accept corrective punishment as a condition of enrolling their child.

For a government appointee ostensibly holding expertise in education and charged with advising government on matters of education, these comments and their implication are concerning. This is so despite Minister Pyne's rejection of the idea. What these views really tell us about the state of play in Australia at the moment is the resurgence of patriarchal views and patriarchal control. These views are apparent, for example, in the government's discourse around 'lifting and leaning'. Donnelly's views play into this discourse.

I'm interested in this post to explore the way in which this patriarchal attitude underpins support for corporal punishment in schools, and the lack of logic in Donnelly's ideas.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Unsettled Great South Land? 'Um' indeed

Australia: settled? Unsettled?
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, in a speech concerning foreign investment is reported as having said 
I guess our country owes its existence to a form of foreign investment by the British government in the then unsettled or, um, scarcely settled, Great South Land.
Similarly, this week New Matilda reported on Rolf Harris' racism, noting his 2008 comments that
The attitude is that in their [ie Aboriginal peoples'] original way of life they would really wreck the surrounding countryside that they lived in and they would leave all the garbage and they would go walkabout to the next place.
Without addressing the implications of the Prime Minister's equating English acquisition of Australian territory with the benign sounding 'foreign investment', the allegation of a 'scarcely settled' land deserves correction. Like Rolf Harris' statement, it represents a misunderstanding of the nature of connection, occupation and use of land by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. While I cannot speak for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, I believe that I can point out the obvious mistake in these outdated notions.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Steps to generate (digitally enhanced) change in legal education

Information exchange the old way*
My last two posts have featured a developing argument in favour of designing legal education within a 'digital context'. Initially I argued that the degree requires a shift from the silos of disciplinary categories to a more contextual approach to teaching and learning law. I then suggested that the imperatives of contemporary (and future) digital technologies and their integration into the fabric of our lives demanded a re-imagining of law and legal education within a digital context. Others have articulated this in different ways. See for example Paul Maharg; the IT Countrey Justice; Kris Greaves; and Richard Grant and Marc Lauritsen in the US context.

So far these are justifications for changing what we do but without much direction in how we might go about it. I'm cognisant of the reality for many academics that a lot of change is just hard work. However I believe that it is our job, our responsibility to keep abreast of change, to evaluate, to experiment and to lead. In this post I suggest a few steps that each of us can surely take to kick off a more wide-ranging change within the discipline.