NCWQ Arts and Letters Adviser Report – August 2016

By Jennifer Ann-Davies, NCWQ Arts and Letters State Adviser

Please note that the information and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the National Council of Women Queensland, but are those of the Adviser, and a range of researchers, educators and writers.

The first Computer Programmer was born 200 years ago. SHE WAS A WOMAN!! Born in 1815, Ada Lovelace, mathematician and daughter of poet Lord Byron, is credited as the world’s first computer programmer and her association with Charles Babbage (The Weekend Australian, August 6-7, 2016. P11 Rewire).

Today, however, there exists a notable skills gap in science and mathematics, in Australia, and the gap is worse for women! Today only about 15% of engineers and computing professionals in Australia are women. Journalist, Elanor Huntington, asks: ‘WHAT’S GOING ON?” (The Weekend Australian August 6-7 2016,p.14, Rewire).

Many researchers, writers, scientists and educators are aware that the nature of the job market will continue to change over the next decades – and they warn, repeatedly, that today’s and tomorrow’s jobs all demand high levels of social intelligence – as well as technical ability and creative intelligence!

Whilst deep concern and debate surrounding the knowledge and use of Language and Literacy has continued, the deep concerns and debate surrounding the use of Numeracy are now etched on the communal, national psyche!

STEM – studies of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, is currently claimed to provide the keys to future literacy, numeracy, social and communicative skills, and future jobs, some of which may not even have evolved yet! Tony Peake, Rewire, p.7

It has been obvious to many, for many years, that a significant proportion of teachers lack the expertise and confidence to teach both Language and Arithmetic! Sad though this may seem and defensive as many will want to be, this, then, leads to a lack of literacy and an inability to develop numeracy. Asked recently to assist a small group of tertiary students, I was disturbed by the question ‘WHAT is Arithmetic?’ Very simply, it is the science of numbers in increasing or decreasing order = addition, subtraction, multiplication and division! When the kids don’t have knowledge and abilities in Arithmetic, the leap into mathematics is exceptionally difficult. However, it has been clear to those in our education systems and those on the peripheries, for many decades, that this absence of knowledge and abilities exists – just as it has been clear that so many ‘educators’ were not genuinely literate.

Additionally, Tony Peake, who has a leading, strong and professional focus on the educational sector states that less than 3% of total primary school teaching time is devoted to science in Australia, whereas, in Western Europe, the average is 9% of total teaching time. Increasing the total teaching time for STEM subjects will not necessarily be effective unless and until teachers genuinely receive professional development which can translate into knowledge, skills and abilities in the classrooms! – This is a time when rhetoric needs to be honest, useful and when communication, collaboration and interpersonal skills are vital!! THIS is the time when we need to develop our social intelligence, for a future where congruence, truth, and blatant realities are not overwhelmed by nonsensical, contrived and empty statements…..we have already, almost, run out of time, as the absence of Language and the absence of Mathematical intelligence overwhelms our communities……..and as we perpetuate misunderstandings about achievements, outcomes, data and mislead an entire nation! Changes demand bravery.

Elanor Huntington claims that STEM is not just an acronym – that “…engineering, and much technology, is all about people…p.14 Rewire Aug 6-7 2016.

In addition to defining precisely what people need and want; applying scientific, mathematical and technical solutions, Huntington also writes that what is needed is “…the bravery required to check whether your solution actually solved a real human need….” P.14

Writer, Penny Durham, expands horizons and links the elements of STEM with the world of Arts! – “Artists have a research role in designing potential uses, and they also make discoveries easier to understand…” p.11.

Australian women have been at the forefront of establishing spaces for collaborative research, forming partnerships between science and the arts. Professor of experimental arts and director of the National Institute for Experimental Arts in NSW, Jill BENNETT, remains intent on liaison between these formerly ‘contained’ worlds! Artist, Eugenie LEE, collaborated with doctors, neurologists and neuroscientists, to formulate her exhibition: ‘Seeing is Believing’. Rose HISCOCK, director of Science Gallery, Melbourne, encourages women and young adults, hoping for both the funding and the inspiration to enthuse a new generation involving both science and the arts!

The direction, the GIFT, from our Australian women, in this debate, in these concerns, is Hope…..Hope for new honesty, new practices, new acknowledgement, new viewpoints, new opportunities and new possibilities!


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