Tag Archives: education

LGBTQ+ Safe-Sex Education Needs a Place In Our Schools

Hello, in the midst of my winter holidays, I have got into studying Japanese and Mandarin and leaning some theories and principles of Syntax in preparation for my unit next semester called Syntax (yes, quite anti-climactic).

HOWEVER, today I am going to be taking (or more specifically, writing) about something which hits a lot more personally and closer to home for me, something which concerns the safety and rights for LGBTQ+ people.

I have been considering this over in my head for a while, and I think it is quite an important issue. Even more so from the widespread acceptance of same-sex relationships and marriage equality and rights for LGBTQ+ people. The important issue being the education and acknowledgement of LGBTQ+ sex in high schools and the incorporation of STI prevention, safe-sex procedures for LGBTQ+ people, and HIV safety into sex education.

All you have to do is look onto a website about STI statistics and HIV statistics to know that both of these are much more concentrated among the LGBTQ+ community than the heterosexual community. I took the liberty of making a google search and found these two pages in thirty seconds.

http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/
http://www.bilerico.com/2010/03/us_gay_mens_astonishing_hivstd_rates.php

As a 19 year old gay man myself, this is a statistic that spreads discomfort and fear across me. Why? What are we doing wrong? What is society doing wrong? How can this be fixed?

Perhaps teaching LGBTQ+ safe sex practices, and making it an imperative to teach LGBTQ+ safe sex practices within high schools is one way to reduce this statistic.

I remember back in my years of schooling in Australia when sex education was taught (Years 6-10, which is 2006 to 2010 for me), we were quite rightfully taught about contraception and safe sex procedures, and even had to place the condom on the banana.

That was all though. There was nothing about safe sex procedures for those who were non-heterosexual. For men it was just learning about a condom, and how to place on a condom. For females it was contraceptive devices such as the pill and female condoms.

Even if some people think that 4-5 years is a long time difference and that it may have changed since then, I have had a friend in NSW who is in year 11 tell me that when they were taught sex-ed last year, same-sex safe-sex procedures were brushed over and it was not discussed.

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So therefore, being gay myself, and soon moving to the city and coming across more gay guys and performing certain acts with them (if you want to have visual details I’m sure there’s some lovely comparative videos on redtube), I did not know about the safety procedures for two men, and how to prevent STIs that could come from male-on-male action, and I have learned what I can from other men who have had experience and have picked up on this from other men.

This is why I want to start pushing and finding ways for LGBTQ+ safe-sex practices to be educated in our schools. I want to start an online page where people can sign for LGBTQ+ safe sex practices to be taught in Australian high schools. I would implore other people to do so too. I feel that this is something that straight people also need to fight for, too, as a majority can be helpful in transforming ideas. It is an imperative that all high school students have access to this kind of information, regardless of their sexuality.  Even if it is a 10 minute talk alongside heterosexual safe sex practices, and awareness about HIV. An important minority should not have to miss out in this modern world, and it also ensures that LGBTQ+ people will know and be prepared of what is ahead of them when they enter the sexual world.

This also potentially serves another purpose of breaking down prejudice. There is still a taboo on the discussion of sexual acts performed by two people of the same gender, even in a professional setting where it could be discussed, and should be discussed. If this is discussed, then it will educate those who may have uncertain false ideas about LGBTQ+ people, and make those acts perceived as less of a taboo topic, and more readily accepted and embraced into society. It is human nature to be cautious of things we don’t know.

And on that topic, even now, from not knowing, I feel like I am suffering. Even though I have gained experience with men, I still feel a bit vague and not 100% about what is safe, and what is not.

Ignorance breeds fear, and through education, we can reduce fear, and also help to reduce any existing prejudices.

Thank you for reading. This is something I’ve considered for a while, and something I am prepared to fight for.

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Lectures: One Size Fits All?

I do apologise for the lack of blog posts on my page lately, but I have been busy with my exams, and then taking a break and sorting things out like getting a much needed haircut and fixing out this ingrown toenail that got deliciously infected (not really actually that delicious).

In that time, I reflected back  on the time which I had spent in my classes, and got into a discussion with one of my friends, which ended up having us talk about university lectures and how useful they really are. The ideas from this discussion and the subsequent ideas which have formed in my head is the issue which I want to discuss in my blog post today.

Are university lectures really an effectively universal form of learning across all departments/faculties?

Drawing back on my previous experiences of classes, I have to say that having lectures for a lot of departments is not an effective mode to have students properly learn the content of a subject. Although I am a student studying a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Linguistics and Asian Studies, I did spend my first year taking Psychology and Biology units, so I have a few different disciplines to draw my experiences from.

Firstly though, I am going to talk about the Japanese units I took at university. I am taking a break from Japanese for a semester to teach myself the language without the obligations of having assessments for it, but that point aside, the Japanese units have lectures. A. Language. Had. Lectures. And to make it even worse, the lectures were marked as attendance (probably because they knew everyone was asleep during the lectures or on the internet on their laptops not even paying attention, or just dying inside).

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Now I can imagine these lectures are important for presenting house-keeping messages about the department to students. BUT. This is the digital age where a lot of things are done online (including most of my university learning). If something is THAT important to be presented to students, then a post will be made on the university’s online learning area. And if people aren’t directed towards their student enough to check the online learning area to receive a message, then that’s their own fault.

I remember in first year in biology I would sit in my lectures taking notes, but in a scientific setting it was more appropriate for me to attend the practicals and spend a couple of hours hands on, using all of my senses to learn about how this part of the body worked, and the chemical reactions involved.  In the lectures I would just end up staring blankly at a wall for 20 minutes (or playing temple run 2), trying to absorb all these facts that barely even strung together properly. THEN when it came to genetics and the lecturer was trying to explain how to solve genetics question problems by having a projected screen up, and not writing things down whilst going through that example, I just cringed. Lectures are certainly not a good way to learn if you have to solve problems (I can only imagine what it is like for those taking engineering who are learning advanced calculus from a lecture….). Furthermore, if you are remembering a list of facts or a process like the Krebs cycle, it is also not an effective way.

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One of my highly intelligent (and pretty awesomely fabulous) friends who I caught up and spent time with this semester ( Her blog – http://eternalwayfarer.blogspot.com.au/) who is studying medical subjects (e.g. biochemistry, pathology, immunology, anatomy) has mentioned to me that lectures have not been the most effective way for her to learn the content in her subjects. In her anatomy subject she was just bombarded with a lot of information that could not be easily connected and were not ready connected. She purchased a colour-in anatomy book, and that was a much more effective way for her to remember places of structures inside the body. Furthermore, she also stated that in subjects on biochemistry, pathology and immunology, there are a LOT of processes to understand. To best understand these processes and how they work interconnectedly, mind-maps and self learning are a much more effective method than dot-points being presented a lecture.

She also agreed on lectures being useless for languages. She had taken Japanese in first year, and took German this semester (from what I’ve seen she’s pretty well spoken at German), so has had some experience to draw from. As aforementioned, Japanese had lectures, and they were an atrocious way to “learn” a language. Taking German though, it did not have lectures; only tutorials. And in those tutorials the learning was much more interactive with movies and discussions (we never do that in Japanese!!! *hmph*), and she commented, and I’m sure all of us agree, that it was a much more effective way of learning. Lectures have no places in learning a language. (Languages are a skill, you learn a language through constant USE of it, not just sitting there absorbing a bunch of slides in a second language like a sponge)

HOWEVER, a different story can be made from the Arts subjects I have taken this semester (Phonetics, Language and Power in Asian Societies, Chinese Studies: Culture and Empire). In these subjects which are humanities and social science subjects (except for probably Phonetics, which is a linguistics subject), the lectures can be told like a story and stringed together much more effectively. And in subjects like these, the assessment is based on the expression and cohesion of original ideas rather than the memorization of facts. So therefore, in a lecture in these subjects, you have a larger body of students’ ideas to consider and bounce off of and it is much easier to form a debate with someone else if necessary (which I’ve heard happen a lot in philosophy lectures). Plus, the way these lectures are formatted can keep you engaged and interested.

An alternative to this problem for science subjects could be replacing lectures with a 1-2 hour concept building class with 15-25 students. In these classes all that dry factual information can be presented in a way that is free from the constraints of a large theatre and powerpoint slides. A group of people can collaborate together and give to others their way of how they have connected a bunch of facts together, and are forced to engage to remember these ideas, instead of latently sitting in a theatre. Either that, or place more focus on the practicals, or provide appropriate resources for people to self-learn these facts outside of class.

In the case of language subjects; just get rid of the lecture.
New Year's Bang
It is not necessary. If the time in tutorials is used effectively where students practice their language and are engaged, then that’s good enough.

People are going to be asking me now, but what about my other obligations in life if I now have to attend another class?
Well, when you think about it, it is not really that much of a difference. At the worst, having an extra tutorial running a few times will give you some more flexibility with your timetable of being able to choose when to have that one to two hours. Furthermore, most science and biomedicine students who are studying full time have classes that make them have to go into university atleast few days a week anyway. And those running the class could find ways to make the content easier and interactive to memorise.

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I know I haven’t yet considered in this blog post how it is cheaper for the university to just have all the students forced together into one lecture theatre with only one staff educating all the students. But, I can’t imagine the alternatives provided would cost too much more. Especially if it is just a group of postgraduate students taking a few Concept-Building classes each.

I know this blog post is a bit shorter than my other ones, but thank you for reading.
Effective learning is based on how we accommodate our available time just as much as how much time we accommodate.

So You Want to Start Learning a Language?

Hello, I am sorry for not being online lately to post on my blog. I have been busy with my exams, a couple of them being essays, so I’ve had a lot of reading to do (and have had a lot of procrastinating to do, too). ‘

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Whilst studying for my Japanese exam, I have come to think, what kind of learning methods are involved in learning a language?

I started to get the language learning bug when I graduated from high school at 17 and moved to Melbourne, and consequently, I have been learning Japanese at university for a little over a year now, and I have been learning Mandarin outside of university for around a month.

Starting to learn a language independently, and having not learned a language before that, it has taken a while for me to actually get used to knowing what is involved to learn a language effectively. It’s not to say that I am an A grade student at learning languages, I just know and have myself experienced a lot of mistakes that can be made whilst learning a language. So therefore, I hope this guide will be able to help you learn measures to take when learning to speak and write in a different language.

Starting Out:

If you are learning a language to some degree of independence then I strongly recommend that you get a textbook. There are a lot of textbooks out there, some better than others, so I recommend you look at some forum boards or websites online to find out which textbooks are good, and which textbook will be good for you kind of language learning. For learning Japanese, I am currently using these books.

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I am currently up to the green Genki II textbook, but if you are starting from scratch, get the orange Genki I. At university you go through one of those textbooks in a year. I’ve found the Grammar Dictionary quite handy, as it gives more depth to the grammar explanations found in the textbook, and also has more grammar definitions. It is definitely convenient if you want to extend you learning. Also, the vocabulary is book is convenient as it explains when to and when not to use certain words, has common words, and you will start finding these words and phrases all the time in anime.
For Mandarin, I have these books:

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The New Practical Chinese Reader textbook and workbook are quite handy for an overall learning of the language, and people on forumboards have said that it is probably one of the best Mandarin learning textbooks on the market at the moment, BUT my complaints, and other people’s, have been the grammar explanations and the vocabulary is not that appropriate. So I ended up getting another textbook, the blue one, which has good vocabulary lists and puts the grammar into nice rules.

But at the end of the day, the books you get should be oriented towards the way that you learn. So if you find any books that you think will also be quite convenient and beneficial, then get them.

Phonetics, then Morphology/Syntax, and then Semantics/Pragmatics:

As a linguistics student, these words make sense, but you may have not studied Linguistics before, so I will explain the heading for you. Often, you will find when you are learning a language and the concepts within a language, you first learn how to pronounce and say something, such as a consonant sound. This is called phonetics. When you first learn a language, even though this may sound redundant, and it will become tedious for a while, I cannot stress enough how important it is to get the phonetics down. Because, how are you going to be able to read grammar and sentences in the language if you don’t know how to say it, and if you don’t know what it sounds like in your head?

So for the first month or so, I just recommend spending half an hour of time out of your day just to practice the new unfamiliar sounds of a language. It may be the ‘retroflex’ sounds of Mandarin, where the tip of the tongue is curled slightly backwards, which in pinyin are zh, ch, sh and r. Also, languages may also contrast sounds that you may not be able to pick up on without practicing.

Then, once you have got that down good, and whilst you are learning those sounds, it is important to start learning the grammar of the language; the morphology and syntax. The morphology of the language is the modification that happens in words which serves a grammatical purpose, like in English, happen becomes happened, establish to disestablishment. This includes what you’ve probably heard as inflection (inflectional morphology). English doesn’t have much of this compared to some languages, and in languages like Japanese, morphology plays a heavy grammatical role. Then, there are also grammatical functions which involve the syntax of the language, such as how words are ordered in a sentence. (For example in English, it is a subject-verb-object language – I-eat-McDonalds).

Lastly, you then learn the semantics or pragmatics in the use of language. Semantics being the meaning of a sentence not concerning context, and pragmatics, the meaning of the sentence relating to the context. So, you’ve probably learned how to say a grammatical function, where it goes in a sentence, and then you will usually learn what it means in a sentence (semantics), and then in which situations it is appropriate to use it (pragmatics).

You will find a lot of language textbooks use this method anyway. So you don’t really have to focus on this too much, but it is nice to be aware of this.

Language is a Skill, not an Academic Discipline:

Even if you learn a language in an educational institution, using a language is a skill. Therefore, your best chance of learning a language is to view it as one, and not to see it as a subject that you read a book on and suddenly you can bullshit an essay and get a high score (Most of my university course has been that, woopsies). So therefore, to improve a skill, you practice a skill, right? Yes. You are not going to master a language by spending an hour on it every month or so. You have to study for a language, bit by bit, every, damn, freaking, DAY.

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You’re going to have to spend that half hour in the morning learning vocabulary, and an hour at night answering questions and trying to use the language, as a skill.

Exposure is Important:

Sorry sluts, I don’t mean summer skin exposure to put on Instagram. What I am actually referring to is situations where your senses are having to react to the language, and then your brain is having to process it and try and make sense of it.

In the sense of Japanese, I usually watch anime (Yaoi specifically *licks lips*),

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I also read manga in Japanese from time and time, and I also read websites that are in Japanese. In Mandarin, I listen to music (EXO-M anybody) in the language (I also listen to K-Pop too, so I should start learning Korean x.x). This is a good methods in the respect that it makes your senses used to what the language sounds like, and if you are wanting to remember things like vocabulary, it gives those words meaning. They aren’t just a bunch of sounds that you are trying to remember; they have context. It is easier to remember things when there is a context given to them. I cannot stress this enough when you start to learn a language; make it a part of your life.


Think in the Culture and Language:

As language is a way for someone to express their thoughts and ideas, it is important to know the way that the language functions and how it affects the way people think. For example, a society more focused on hierarchy may have levels of politeness which you have to take note of when speaking to someone.

Don’t Neglect Vocabulary:

Possibly the biggest hurdle for those who are learning a language is the vocabulary. Especially for those who can’t properly put the context into the words to remember it. And the annoying thing is, vocabulary is key in speaking a language. You may know how to say the grammar and the morphological changes that take place to a verb or adjective, but it means nothing and the sentence you are constructing in your head falls to pieces if you don’t know how to say all the words.

So don’t neglect your vocabulary. What I do is I make palm cards with the Japanese/Mandarin reading on one side, and the English reading on the other side, making a story based on what the word sounds like. So for the word ‘train’ in Japanese, which is pronounced ‘Densha’, I just imagine an old lady on a train having her dentures fall out (Yes, I’m quite diabolical indeed).

I also have a cute Anki (memory sentences) books with cats on the cover, which helps me to remember words! ❤

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 And also placing post-it notes on household objects with their different names in the language you are learning is a good way to learn new words, too.

Find a Native Speaker! Use Your Skills!!!

If you can find a native speaker for the language that you are learning, then that is amazing. It is very helpful to have someone who is a native speaker of the language to practice with, as they can intuitively know when you are making an error, and then correct you on it, and you are using your skills in an interactive environment. Plus, it also allows you to connect to someone on a deeper level if you are speaking to them in their own language.

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It may be hard for people who don’t live in a diverse setting to actually find a native speaker of the language that they are learning. That’s why there are websites like SharedTalk. Just sign up there, and there are always people willing to add you to skype or to have conversations with you whilst you both learn each other’s language. And it’s definitely a rewarding experience.

Mistakes I Have Made:
Not studying a language for a couple of weeks.

Thinking “OH, I will just remember this vocabulary if I do nothing.”

Thinking that I could cram for a language.

Not putting myself in a situation where I am using my skills

Not being interactive with my language learning

In Conclusion:

Everyone learns differently, but I hope what I have outlined helps to give you a better standing in the first part of learning a language. I will probably make another advice post on how to learn Kanji and Chinese Characters, and what happens when you hit a more intermediate level. But for now, if you just use your language learning every day and practice a bit more every day and are not afraid to challenge yourself, then you should be fine! Good luck!

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