Group detention in schools: punishing well-behaved children is totally counter-productive.

THE AGE: The use of collective punishment in schools, whereby an entire class suffers when one student misbehaves, has been restricted in Tasmania and there is now pressure to ban the practice in Victoria.

The practice of punishing the whole class for the misbehaviour of one or a number of disruptive students flies in the face of all accepted theory about learning and behavioural change.

The most dangerous element of this practice is that it punishes well-behaved children and anybody who knows anything about conditioning and learning knows that this is totally counter-productive.

The punishment effectively discourages good behaviour which should in fact be rewarded.

B.F. Skinner (1904 — 1958): Skinner developed the theory of operant reinforcement theory which is the notion that how often a behaviour is executed depends on the events that follow the behaviour For example, if the behaviour is reinforced, the behaviour is more likely to be repeated.

It also follows that behaviour is not rewarded is likely to be extinguished and in the case of group detention this will be accelerated through group punishment.

The idea that to the class can bring peer pressure to bear on badly behaved children is based on the military practice of publishing groups of soldiers when one soldier fails to reach a given standard. This is designed to increase esprit de corps and group solidarity.

However, there is a huge difference between group of soldiers and a class of children. The group of soldiers have common goals: defeating the enemy and staying alive. Both of these are more likely if the group is highly cohesive.

School classrooms do not have these common goals and there is little that the children can do to ring misbehaving fellow pupils into line.

The practice is also an indication of the complete failure of the teachers to discipline the children in their charge. It is also a huge abrogation of responsibility.

There is a corollary to this.

It is a central tenant of reward policies in organisations that people should be rewarded for the outcomes over which they have direct control. There should not be group rewards for the success of individual members within the group. Such a practice rewards freeloaders and ultimately demotivates high performing individuals.

The same occurs with group punishments. Well-behaved children who are effectively punished for their good behaviour nd consequently are more likely to become demotivated and start behaving badly.

If such practices are still possible in Victorian schools, the government should move to outlaw the practice.

Let’s be quite clear about the implications of the tax cuts that the Coalition and Labor have just voted through

All taxpayers will receive a cash bonus of just over $1000 as well as enjoying lower tax rates.

However, people on government pensions will receive nothing further widening the gap between the rich and poor.

We have taken huge step towards a flat tax structure, where everybody the same rate of tax. And nobody has been questioning this principle.

This means moving away from a long held policy and philosophy: that people on higher incomes should pay a higher rate of tax than those on lower incomes.

It is worth remembering that the average MP is paid $.180,000 a year and Prime Minister Scott Morrison is paid ‎$527,852. So they all voted with a certain amount of self-interest.

One of the major beneficiaries of the recent tax cuts

After we, as a society, have ensured that everybody has enough to live well, the rest of their income is a discretionary surplus which can be spent on luxuries.The sliding scale (which when I was a boy in New Zealand was 95% at the top of the scale) is based on the principle that the more money you have the more you should be contributing to the greater good. You

There is a fundamental principle underlying are sliding tax scales: That is that certain amount of money that is necessary for people to live well in our society. Tax-free thresholds and sliding tax scales, in effect, guarantee this for lower income earners.

Flattening the tax structure means that people on higher incomes will now have a great amount of this discretionary income.

What Labor and the Coalition have done is sacrifice tax revenue to support Increased discretionary spending by upper income earners.

This means that this will be available to be spent on education, health, low-cost housing, police forces and infrastructure, foreign aid. et cetera et cetera.

The flatter tax structure is regressive in the same way as the GST

The GST rate on a Rolls-Royce Phantom which starts at about $450,000 is the same ss on a Hyundai Accent with a base Price: $15,915.

We accept this without question and it would appear that the Australian public is accepting the principles underlying the current tax changes without question was well.

Let’s be quite clear about the implications of the tax cuts that the Coalition and Labor have just voted through

All taxpayers will receive a cash bonus of just over $1000 as well as enjoying lower tax rates.

However, people on government pensions will receive nothing further widening the gap between the rich and poor.

We have taken huge step towards a flat tax structure, where everybody the same rate of tax. And nobody has been questioning this principle.

This means moving away from a long held policy and philosophy: that people on higher incomes should pay a higher rate of tax than those on lower incomes.

It is worth remembering that the average MP is paid $.180,000 a year and Prime Minister Scott Morrison is paid ‎$527,852. So they all voted with a certain amount of self-interest.

One of the major beneficiaries of the recent tax cuts

After we, as a society, have ensured that everybody has enough to live well, the rest of their income is a discretionary surplus which can be spent on luxuries.The sliding scale (which when I was a boy in New Zealand was 95% at the top of the scale) is based on the principle that the more money you have the more you should be contributing to the greater good. You

There is a fundamental principle underlying are sliding tax scales: That is that certain amount of money that is necessary for people to live well in our society. Tax-free thresholds and sliding tax scales, in effect, guarantee this for lower income earners.

Flattening the tax structure means that people on higher incomes will now have a great amount of this discretionary income.

What Labor and the Coalition have done is sacrifice tax revenue to support Increased discretionary spending by upper income earners.

This means that this will be available to be spent on education, health, low-cost housing, police forces and infrastructure, foreign aid. et cetera et cetera.

The flatter tax structure is regressive in the same way as the GST

The GST rate on a Rolls-Royce Phantom which starts at about $450,000 is the same ss on a Hyundai Accent with a base Price: $15,915.

We accept this without question and it would appear that the Australian public is accepting the principles underlying the current tax changes without question was well.

Modelling policy leverage points in the Victorian prison system.

Image

This blog is a continuation of an earlier blog entitled

State government modelling of Victoria’s prison population may over-estimate numbers

In this blog, I discussed how Victoria’s prison population has increased by 80% in the last decade, primarily as a result of a “tough on crime” approach by both sides of politics

This is a simple system dynamics model of the prison population used in that blog.

System dynamics models such as this one allow decision-makers to vary certain policy levers and understand how the system functions over a given time as a result of those changes.

The model produced two sets of data which indicated that the government may have overestimated prison numbers.

The projection of rates of Incarceration, Release and Recidivism.

The projection of the prison population to 2023..

While this simple model yields some insights into the problem, it provides no insight into the potential policy leverage points in the system. To do this requires simulation with a larger and more sophisticated model.

This simulation models the individual courts (Supreme, County, Magistrates) and their outputs.

It would also model people being held in remand awaiting trial. This element of the model is extremely important as, according to the Victorian Ombudsman, they represent 50% of the prison population. In addition 50% of this group is not convicted despite having been held in remand.

The model would also capture the feedback effect of recidivism which is particularly important with the rising prison populations.

The model of the Prison Sector would include length of incarceration for each one of Victoria’s prisons.

This would also model the impact of variations in release rates, such as early release as result of rehabilitation programs, from various Victorian prisons.

The power of such a model is that it allows decision-makers to identify and evaluate policy delivery points. Policy delivery points are located in the flows in and out of the stocks.

The following diagram indicates a set of policy levers relating to remand and diversion programs.

In this case the policy levers are

1 the rate at which bail is granted or not granted,

2 the rate at which individuals are put into diversion programs and

3 the rate at which they complete these programs

Each one of these can be varied in the model and the impact of the variation on the total system evaluated.

A separate model could also be developed to simulate the financial implications of the variations in the court and prison models.

Film review: Never Look Away

This is a terrific film. It combines a broad sweep of history from before World War II to the immediate postwar period in Germany. In addition to this, It is a wonderfully erudite discussion about ideas about the artistic creative process.

It is the story of the childhood and artistic career of Kurt Barnert (inspired by Gerhard Richter) and played by Tom Schilling.

It is also the story of his aunt Elizabeth played by Saskia Rosendahl and her influence on his art. 

Elizabeth is the victim of the Nazi euthanasia program and she dies while Kurt is still young boy. Kurt becomes a successful artist in postwar East Germany where he falls in love with Ellie Seeband (Paula Beer ).

Unbeknownst to Kurt, Ely’s father, Professor Carl Seeband, was the director of the Nazi euthanasia program and directly involved in the death of his aunt Elizabeth.

Kaur becomes a successful artist in East Germany painting in the Social Realism style.

But his heart was not in it and soon he and Ely escape to the west following Carl Seeband who has become fearful of having his role in Nazi Germany discovered.

Once in the West, Seeband becomes a famous and highly influential doctor. Because he has steadfastly and successfully denied that he had ever met Dr. Burghart Kroll, the architect of the euthanasia program, he has enjoyed success in both East and West Germany.

Kurt studies at the Düsseldorf Art Academy where his artistic talents are discovered and encouraged. His attendance at the Academy allows the film to explore the ideas behind social realism and the more liberated ideas of Western art.

After a series of false starts at the Academy and with the tutelage of his Professor, Kurt is able to find his medium of artistic expression. It involves montage paintings from old photographs.

One night, Kurt is is having dinner with his father-in-law when a newspaper announces that Seeband’s direct superior In the euthanasia program, Dr. Burghart Kroll, has been captured and will be tried for war crimes. This means he would quite probably implicate Seeband.

Even subconsciously or by accident, Kirk produces a montage that combines a passport photograph of his father-in-law, a newspaper picture of Burghart Kroll and a photograph of him and his aunt Elizabeth.

One of the very satisfying moments in the film is when Seeband sees this painting in Kurt’s studio and thinks that his son-in-law, whom he despises, knows of his Nazi past. He rushes out of the studio, leaving Kurt and his friend Günther rather perplexed.

It is one of the fascinating aspects of this complex film.

Was this work simply the functioning of Kurt’s artistic subconscious or had he made the connections between his aunt’s death and his father-in-law?

There are certainly psychological connections between his relationship with his father-in-law and those surrounding the death of his aunt.

The viewer is left with the impression that it will only be a matter of time before Kurt is able to make conscious connections between his father-in-law’s response to the painting and his Nazi past.

The film was based on the life of the German painter Gerhard Richter widely regarded as one of the most important contemporary German artists.

Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck explained extensively that Never Look Away, while a work of fiction, had been inspired by an article by famed German investigative reporter Jürgen Schreiber about  Gerhard Richter.

Details of the agreement between von Donnersmarck and Richter are subject to debate with Richter claiming that he told Donnersmarck clearly that he would not approve a movie made about him. (Wikipedia).

So why is Never Look Away such a great film?

The film combines the deeply personal histories of people who lived in Hitler’s Nazi Germany and how the totalitarianism of the Nazis was continued under the Russian occupation. These personal histories are intertwined with a discussion about the nature of Art and the creative process particularly in relation to social realism.

Social realism was art designed to extol the virtues of communism and the heroic values of the proletariat. There is a wonderful scene in the film where Kurt and his aunt go to an art gallery to see an exhibition of The 1937 exhibition of Degenerate Art featuring artists such as Kandinsky and Picasso.


Kandinski “Yellow-Red-Blue,” 1925,

The young Kurt is fascinated.

The Nazi tour guide is absolutely scathing of the works on display in the Art Gallery. This early scene sets up the tension between the idea of art serving the state against that of being a matter of individual expression.

It is also a deeply moving story of the triumph of the creative spirit over the oppressive restrictions of totalitarian regimes. It’s also a wonderful love story.

It’s also a profoundly moral film because it is about what Hannah Arendt termed “the banality of evil” but also about possibility of justice and retribution In the face of incredible suffering.

Time for some realism about the Morrison/Turnbull coup

Malcolm Turnbull seems determined to keep the debate about the legitimacy and morality of his loss of the prime ministershipI alive.

Most of the agitation arises from conflicting views of the role of the various protagonists Turnbull himself, Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and a group of senior cabinet ministers on whose loyalty Turnbull was relying but by whom he was ultimately betrayed.

One of the interesting aspects of leadership coups, in all political parties, is that, while they are in progress, the major pretender to the leadership position and their supporters publicly deny any knowledge or any participation in the coup.

This is to give themselves an aura of purity when it comes to the dirty work of political assassination.

The reality is that politics is about the acquisition and exercise of power. All politicians are ambitious for their own careers and as Napoleon Bonaparte observed “Every soldier carriesmarshal’s baton in his pack”

There is a simple dynamic at work when you have lost 40 opinion polls (often regarded as an indicator of the chances of political success) in a row.

This is a reinforcing loop which means once the chances of political success begin to decline, this dynamic gains a momentum of its own.

In this situation politicians should follow the advice of Niccolo Machiavelli “The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.” 

Turnbull’s problem was that he was neither lion nor fox and his opponent Scott Morrison was both.

Yuo of it he good

Turnbull did not understand that a fundamental principle of staging a coup is not to let the victim know that it is about to take place. This involves a high level of dissembling and dishonesty on the part of the plotters but, without these two fundamental elements, no coup would ever succeed.

Political assassination by coup is a dirty business, anyone who has read Julius Caesar will understand this.

It would be refreshing if a politician who had been engaged in or was the beneficiary of, a coup had the honesty to say: “Yes, political coups are a dirty business that involves betrayal of principles and friends but that’s the price of success. I keep a copy of Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince on my bedside table. I advise all aspiring politicians to become familiar with this work.”

Both Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese would be naïve to believe that the beginnings of the next coup are not already hatching in both their political parties.