Beginning The Conversation


This is a post about new media and old stories.

Once upon time I would wake up most mornings and enter a kitchen where my dad would be reading The Age broadsheet while eating his porridge – my portion still in the pot waiting for me. Fast-forward to the modern day and my own children awake to a world where they do indeed see their dad preparing breakfast (and occasionally that is still porridge) but the paper is absent.

Instead they see me at my phone.

The Age still exists – just – only it’s now in tabloid format and on line and I don’t have the inclination to look through it anyway. These days I wake up, check the headlines on the ABC news app, get the breakfasts ready, and then check the latest education pieces emailed to me from The Conversation.

It’s here where I could make a grand pronouncement about how The Conversation is the future of media and how it will be a pivotal and positive revolution in the age of information. Well, I suppose it might be but to be honest I’d be guessing if I did. Personally, I’m inclined to favour it for a variety of reasons.

  1. It originates from my Alma Mater the University of Melbourne, was the idea of a media consultant who had come from ‘The Age’ and while this shouldn’t mean much it nevertheless appeals to my sense of loyalty.
  2. It takes out the middle-man so to speak and does away with journalists who are beholden to media moguls by tapping into the intellectual capital of professional academics who do in fact know how to write well.
  3. It’s been around now for about 4 years and in that time has expanded to include academics from the UK and now the USA.
  4. It doesn’t pussyfoot around with a false notion of objectivity. It is unashamedly subjective in favour of whatever the research suggests. Rarely will pieces suggest there are two equally valid viewpoints and give both their time in the sun. Pieces are expressions of professional opinion, and evidence based research.
  5. Articles are written like opinion pieces with one significant difference; every author discloses any funding or conflicts of interest that may be relevant to the piece.
  6. They email me the latest pieces on a topics I’ve asked for.

Which brings me to the reason for this particular post at this particular time. It turns out that The Conversation’s Education category has just turned 1 year old so they checked to see what pieces had attracted the most attention over that time. Here’s the top five.

  1. ‘Gentle parenting’ explainer: no rewards, no punishments, no misbehaving kids
  2. How to tell if your child has a speech or language impairment
  3. Private schooling has little long-term pay-off
  4. State school kids do better at uni
  5. Why some kids can’t spell and why spelling tests won’t help

What struck me most about the list was it’s clear link with one specific group of stakeholders in the world of education. Parents. Specifically the consumer kind that want or crave guidance in how best to support the education of their children. What I really liked about each article was the way it took a clear and unambiguous stand on topics that have been kicked around for far too long in mainstream media. I can’t speak for the world at large but I can confirm that Australia is a first world nation with an increasing obsession with how best to prepare it’s young for the rigours of the future. The parents of Australia know it’s important, they know education is the key, but they aren’t sure they know how to go about it. Should we have our child tested? What does testing show? Is a state education a disadvantage? et cetera, et cetera, et cetera

For years, in some cases decades, current affairs programs and other media of that ilk have raised these topics and gone nowhere with them. Even though I could take issue with bits and pieces of these articles and others published, it warms my heart to see decisive, evidence based opinion being expressed directly to the people in a way that might just put old issues beyond doubt.

I’ll leave it there for now except to say that if issues around education matter to you, I recommend you tap into The Conversation. For what it’s worth I’m convinced my dad would have approved of the work it presents (although he’d probably have preferred it came in broad sheet format with the milk every morning) and you’ll just have to trust me that there is no greater recommendation that can be given.

Catchy by line too.

Catchy byline too.