Short & Sweet - week beginning June 18

As the Prime Minister Julia Gillard fronts the G20 summit in Mexico and makes her case (medium-term fiscal discipline, decisive new measures and realistic strategies) off the back of a credible economic report card, The Australian continues its probing coverage of the Australian education system, one of Gillard's key prime ministerial calling cards.

"Suspending students from school for bad behaviour is counterproductive, with students who have been suspended twice as likely to be excluded again in the next 12 months," reads the introductory paragraph to Justine Ferrari's front-page story, 'Suspend judgment: keep kids at school'.

Researcher Professor Sheryl Hemphill tells the paper, "Kids who are suspended just keep getting suspended. It doesn't stop the behaviour that resulted in the suspension, it almost sets them on a pathway more likely to lead to suspension. The risk for students who are having trouble maintaining engagement and staying at school is that suspension starts to help them move out of school."

Based on a study by The Australian that shows suspended students are 50 per cent more likely to engage in antiscocial behaviour, and 70 per cent more likely to commit a violent act in the next 12 months, Hemphill points out the contradiction in the message sent to recalcitrant children: "suspension is potentially a way of cutting off students."

Peter Chalkley, head of a school program that deals with suspended and expelled students, and believes in "a redemptive element, offering young people a way forward, would get on well with the gents from the Old Boys Gospel Band, who fronted up at my church over the weekend and frequent goals in order to share their own message of hope and creating a new life through classics by the Doobie Brothers and Rick Price.

They reminded us that in Queensland two-thirds of male prisoners and half of female prisoners are repeat offenders, making a sound economic and social argument for better rehabilitation programs, as well as early intervention, particularly with kids who suffer abuse and neglect in the home (and many are homeless to start with). Of note: most women released from prison have just a garbage bag and nowhere to go.

The majority of Australian prisoners come from the most disadvantaged sections of the community (the Indigenous, underprivileged, those suffering mental illness). Shaking off stigma, getting a second chance, finding some new clothes... there's lots of work to do. And we can help by supporting the people who are in there doing it, including prison chaplains and post-release support programs, and the teachers and families who help keep kids on the right track, and give them chances when they stray.

The Word for the Week: "But before the time of faith came, the Law kept us all locked up as prisoners until this coming faith should be revealed. And so the Law was in charge of us until Christ came, in order that we might then be put right with God through faith. Now that the time for faith is here, the Law is no longer in charge of us." (Galatians 4: 23-24
Quote for the Week: "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." ― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom word of the week: ec·u·men·i·cal \ ek-yoo-men-i-kuhl \ adjective
1. general; universal.
2. pertaining to the whole Christian church.
3. promoting or fostering Christian unity throughout the world.
4. of or pertaining to a movement (ecumenical movement), especially among Protestant groups since the 1800s, aimed at achieving universal Christian unity and church union through international interdenominational organizations that cooperate on matters of mutual concern.
5. interreligious or interdenominational: an ecumenical marriage.
"In his essay, Restorative Justice: Working toward healing, peace and forgiveness, for the ecumenical journal Justice Reflections, Rod Carter contends that, 'a correctional system driven only by statistics and research eventually fails because it ends in polarization and academic debates, which in themselves are forms of violence and exclusion of the offender, victim and community." 

Girl With a Satchel