Doomed Planet

Beware, Parents, Your Kids Are Being ‘Scootled’

When I noticed that a top-tier federal-state education body is providing lesson materials for teachers, I decided to take a look. The body is Education Services Australia (ESA), a company set up by federal-state education ministers. ESA provides free supplementary online materials for teachers via 20,000-plus pages on its Scootle portal. No mickey-mouse operation, it’s all keyed precisely to the curricula and used in 2019 by some 60,000 teachers, who chalked up 2.8 million sessions involving 18.8 million page views. From 2000-09 this on-line exercise chewed up about $130 million of taxpayer money.[1] Today ESA self-supports on revenue of $40 million a year from projects and subscriptions.

Scootle is just one of many third-party inputs to schooling. More than 90 per cent of teachers and 8400 schools, for example, use online lessons supplied by the anti-capitalist green-left Cool Australia outfit (See here, herehere, here). I fully expected that Scootle materials would be part of the Leftist miasma pervading education, which is so all-encompassing that even the 50 per cent conservative-voting parents long ago ceased to notice what their kids are being taught.

In the immortal words of Victoria’s one-time education minister and premier Joan Kirner, education must be reshaped to be “part of the socialist struggle for equality, participation and social change, rather than an instrument of the capitalist system”. This was consummated in 2008 when PM Julia Gillard and her Labor premiers brought in their “Melbourne declaration”.[2] Conservative governments don’t seem to mind that schools have been converted to breeding grounds for green-minded woke warriors.

ESA is supposed to promote “improved students outcomes” and classier teachers and schools. As we know, our kids’ performance is sliding down the international league tables, despite ESA’s best efforts. So, as an amateur auditor,  having logged on as a “guest user”, I had a look around.

“Paul Keating” gets 17 hits, virtually all laudatory; Gough Whitlam gets 56 hits, none hostile and most laudatory. Whitlam’s dismissal (1975) gets a dozen tracts. “John Howard” gets more than 20 cites, but sadly none are laudatory and most hostile.[3]

I got a surprise when I searched on “WWF” to check that green lobby’s input. Instead of cute pandas, I got a dozen propaganda film clips from the Communist-led Waterside Workers Federation of the 1950s, such as “Banners Held High, 1956: May Day”. Scootle tells kids this film is “honouring the achievements of workers across the world”. Actually, a few months after its May Day love-in, the WWF backed the Soviets as their tanks crushed the Hungarian revolt.[4]

Scootle’s asylum-seeker treatment is straight from The Greens’ playbook.[5] Search for “asylum seeker” and the request generates exactly 100 hits and ‘refugee’ alone 169 hits.  Scootle’s intense interest in the topic includes: Discussion paper – ‘Towards a fairer immigration system for Australia’, 1992.

This is the cover of a 55-page paper titled ‘Towards a fairer immigration system for Australia‘. It states that the current immigration system is unfair to some groups and discusses how to guarantee fair access to Australia’s immigration system. The paper was prepared by Andrew Theophanous and published in 1992… The dimensions of the discussion paper are 29.60 cm x 21.00 cm.

I’m sure it’s a lovely paper from 28 years ago for kids to study, being 29.60cm x 21.00cm and all, about fairness and victim support. Author Andrew Theophanous was MHR (Labor) for the seats of Burke and Calwell from 1980-2000. But as Wikipedia puts it, “He was later jailed for bribery and fraud offences relating to visa applications and other immigration matters.” Specifically, “he was charged with defrauding the Commonwealth by making false representations in relation to an immigration matter, taking an unlawful inducement and soliciting an unlawful inducement.” He got six years, and served two of them. Maybe Scootle should footnote that?

Another example is:

Anthem – An Act of Sedition, 2004: MV Tampa and September 11

This clip presents an interpretation of the Howard government’s response to the arrival of refugees in Australian waters on the MV Tampa in August 2001. The narration states that John Howard had often used scare tactics for his political advantage and that the refugees were now to be used in a ‘race election’. Views defending the refugees are juxtaposed with images of troops. Scenes of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York dramatise the narration, which states that the government used fear of terrorism to override international law and civil rights.

The tone here seems similar to what East German kids used to get. Scootle’s explanatory notes say the film argues passionately that PM John Howard cynically exploited Tampa and 9/11 “to create fear, undermine the rule of law and secure a win in the November 2001 election.” The notes say, “the desperation of the passengers led the captain to attempt to land under conditions of emergency”. In fact the Afghans effectively took over the ship by threats, which led to SAS troops storming the vessel.

Scootle cites Julian Burnside QC, most recently a failed Greens candidate, who “condemns the ‘Pacific Solution’ legislation as being a clear-cut infringement of international law, and another lawyer sees it as being undemocratic.”

In a mealy-mouthed way, Scootle says,

In this case no attempt is made to present the case for the Howard government, the narration puts its views strongly and the use of dramatic footage heightens the sense of crisis, reinforcing the filmmakers’ view that these events marked a serious attack on civil liberties and democratic processes.

Impressionable kids are treated to a tear-jerking film (aka “powerful account”) about an Australian family with four kids visiting an Afghan teen in detention in Port Hedland in 2004. The visiting mother describes ‘a heavy gate being locked behind’ them, the children ‘huddled together wide-eyed and silent’ and the guard ‘unlocking the third door’, with an echoing, sombre and “slightly fearful” sound track. The film, asserts Scootle, “raises questions about the government policy that imprisoned children in the name of border protection.”

Kids also get a poem, ‘When I think of Australia’ by Amelia Walker. Extract: “I switch on the TV and see wire with children behind it. If this isn’t their country it isn’t mine.” Images include chicken wire and “refugees’ children in detention camps”. There’s also a color cartoon provided from leftist New Matilda[6] showing

a dilapidated ship crowded with asylum seekers approaching a pier where an elderly woman stands with outstretched arms, saying: ‘I know it’s extremely unAustralian of me, but I’d like to welcome you to our shores …’

So where does Scootle offer kids the conservative government’s case? A search on “people smuggler” finds one hit from a 1990 incident, and none contemporaneous. Another search fails to turn up reference to the 1,200 asylum seekers drowned after Labor’s PM Rudd overturned Howard’s policy and encouraged people smugglers to ship 50,000 people south in those infamously leaky boats.

Among other role models provided for kids are Greenpeace-affiliated saboteurs. Under the heading “Greenpeace takes a stand against GM crops” kids are treated to Greenpeace propaganda via ABC-TV Education (2011): “Watch Greenpeace activists mow down a research crop of genetically modified (GM) wheat grown by CSIRO.” They used brushcutters to wreck a year’s CSIRO research and cost the agency $300,000. A personable young Greenpeace lady says all such trials need to be shut down because of risk to foods like bread. Scootle instructs kids, “Consider some arguments for and against GM foods and find out the number of GM crops being trialled around Australia.”

Virtually all Scootle material on GM foods is of the pros-and-cons variety, with one piece emphasising “Who funds GM research trials?” while waxing suspicious about commercial funding. The main bias is via omission: Scootle offers kids nothing about genetically modified “golden rice” and its role in saving 100 million-plus Third World kids from Vitamin A deficiency, possible blindness and death.

Scootle slaps woodchipping (yesteryear’s big villain) with a 1991 report on excess use of paper: “The footage is in fast motion and is accompanied by a compelling music score.” Inevitably, Greenpeace  gets a flattering mention. Kids are encouraged towards further Greenpeace worship via an ABC-TV feature — Four CornersFrench Connections, 1985: Connecting the dots — on the sinking of Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior back in 1985, before many of today’s kids’ parents were born.

Sometimes kids are (pro forma) advised to research the conservatives’ arguments but with no or minimal guidance. For example, searches of “Institute of Public Affairs” get no hits and “National Farmers Federation” generates only two hits, one from 2012.

Scootle also dishes up four episodes of ABC Education’s worship of faux Aboriginal Bruce Pascoe and his nonsense about pre-colonial Aboriginal agriculturists living in permanent towns.[7] Scootle’s material falsely describes Pascoe as a Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian man, although he’s been rejected by all three groups and himself admits he’s “solidly Cornish”.

China’s Mao Tse-tung gets half a dozen mentions, including, of course, Whitlam-meets-Mao. The others include two on the Communist army’s 1934-35 Long March and one on the Cultural Revolution. They are reasonably balanced but there is nothing on Mao’s so-called Great Leap Forward (1958-62) leading to 30 million deaths by starvation. China’s current supreme leader, Xi Jinping, gets no mention at all, nor is there any discussion of how China has arrived at its world-power status.

Scootle gives “human rights” in general 471 mentions, some involving multiple lessons. I waded through 300-plus mentions of China on Scootle and only four related to China and democracy. They included a brave one on dissident Xu Wenli and another on the ‘umbrella protests’ in Hong Kong.[8] Ancient China gets about 20 mentions, 19th century and pre-1940 China get about 60. I counted fewer than 25 items dealing with contemporary China such as urbanisation, energy and pollution (including one that deliberately muddles CO2 with particulates). Not one dealt with our minerals/energy trade with China, as if our $235 billion annual two-way trade doesn’t exist. Although “engagement with Asia” is one of the three all-important “cross-curricula priorities”, kids will graduate from high school as full bottles on Chinese gold-rush diggers, circa 1860, and I reckon that’s about it.

Kids are coached to wallow in remorse about last early-century’s White Australia policy, with an ABC-aided documentary (from 1992) relating how we “tried to fill Australia with ‘pure white’ immigrants.”[9] The wallow includes “Sheet Music Cover for ‘White Australia’ 1910” with the song’s lyrics,  ‘Australia, the white man’s land, / Defended by the white man’s guns, / Australia! Australia! / For Anglo-Saxon race and Southern Cross’.[10] Scootle also cites much White Australia material from Canberra’s National Museum. That museum from the outset was a leftist workshop, and when I last visited (2017), it had a major exhibition fawning over the Communist Party of Australia.[11]

On the perils of global warming, Scootle pulls out all stops: “Personal activity — Make a pledge to halt climate change.” Scootle asks: “Has your influence on people increased since studying about climate change?”  Kids are supposed to make a list of all the people they influence, rather like for Tupperware sales. Parents are to be badgered about their carbon footprint. Consistency is not Scootle’s strong point. On one page, 6degC would melt the Greenland Ice Sheet. Next page, 3degC would melt it. The latter page, in a fit of candour, does mention that “it would not happen immediately and it is estimated that this would take a few thousand years.”

Kids are given three scenarios about emission cuts, with an obvious push towards the maximum-cut scenario. They are asked, “Has undertaking this activity influenced your decisions about how you will try to adapt your lifestyle in the future?” They’re exhorted to redesign their homes for “sustainability”, a typically utopian project. Kids might be better educated with lessons on how houses are designed, engineered, project-managed and built, which might encourage Jack and Jill towards tradie careers rather than Whiteness Studies or Lesbian Dance Theory at Big Six universities.

Talking of pie-in-sky, kids are presented by Scootle with maniacal projects like fertilising the ocean by “adding huge quantities of iron and other nutrients to encourage the growth of algae and phytoplankton”; “artificial trees: A machine like a tree which can act as a ‘carbon scrubber’ to capture carbon dioxide from the air”; and best of all, \

Building a fleet of specially designed wind-powered ships that would spray sea water particles into the atmosphere to create clouds to make clouds more reflective.

I’d like to see the environmental impact statements first.

Scootle provides kids with (stale) material from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The authority “educates” about “ocean acidification”, a non-problem, using a cartoon movie about “Hermie the hermit crab” (2009). The Scootle-endorsed Authority is brazen about its propaganda:

This is a highly complex topic and this animation does not explain the process in detail, rather uses a characters [sic] experience of this phenomenon to illicit an emotional understanding that ocean acidification will alter life on coral reefs.” [My emphasis].

The lovable Hermie’s shell crumbles from the acidic seas and every time he finds another shell, it too crumbles from the acidic impact. Meanwhile nasty sea creatures aim to gobble up Hermie. Little kids would despair at Hermie’s fate (close to 50,000 kids have seen the video). In reality claims about the oceans now being 30 per cent more “acidic” are junk-science. Attempts to measure the “acidification” even over past decades are laughably imprecise [12], corals evolved when CO2 was multiple times today’s level, shellfish live happily around sub-sea volcanic vents spewing CO2 , and whatever “evidence” is around, comes from dunking acid into fish tanks, hardly analogous to oceanic forces. (For example, “In a lab experiment, a sea butterfly {pteropod} shell placed in seawater with increased acidity   slowly dissolves over 45 days.”)

Aussie kids are told they can “help the [Great Barrier] Reef in the face of climate change” by reducing their CO2 emissions with new light bulbs, shorter showers, biking and (somehow) offsetting their remaining emissions. Fact check: nothing Australia does about emissions will change the climate, let alone the Reef, as Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has confessed. Asia’s emissions dominate all.

It’s interesting that in 2013 the “Reef Scare” via Scootle and the ABC was about possible uranium exports from Townsville. It’s now all morphed into Adani coal-export scares. Surprisingly, “Adani” gets no hits on Scootle.

Scootle is happy to offer (stale) material from the Britain’s Royal Geographic Society (RGS), that bunch being over-the-top in their climate zealotry. RGS asks kids to speculate on

How will local places be affected by sea-level rise? Different scenarios can be examined. For schools close to sea-level, lower-impact scenarios of 1-5 metres will still have very significant implications. For schools further inland (for example on inland river flood plains), the effects of more extreme sea-level rise could be considered. [What? More extreme than 5 metres of sea rise, the height of a house?] If there is no risk the nearest threatened settlement could be substituted. ‘Create an opportunity for students and make a link with a different subjects like English and look at geographical data in literature, perhaps excerpts from a novel such Richard Doyle’s Flood [2002which anticipates a serious event for London and tells of a worse [sic] case scenario of inundation in the capital. Whilst this is not a scientific book it does make some predictions that may not be commonly anticipated. [My emphasis].”

‘As any fule kno’ (quoting Nigel Molesworth), the IPCC sea-level-rise estimate for 2100 is only from 61cm to 110cm, and that’s a scenario from computer models tailored to pump up the scare.  

The “1-5 metres” doesn’t seem a typo (e.g. for 1.5m); the author is just an idiot and abuser of schoolkids trust.[13] For what it’s worth (zero), here’s the recommended novel Flood and its “geographical data” (so useful for geography teaching):

Can fifty feet high gates be overwhelmed by a wave? Then there is an explosion the size of a small Hiroshima: a supertanker is ablaze in the estuary and most of the Essex petrochemical works are going up with it. The Thames catches fire and the wall of fire and water thunders towards Britain’s capital. This is the story of what happens next, and the desperate attempts to save the capital from destruction.

Even more ludicrously — indeed, reprehensibly — RGS material frightens kids with the 2004 Day after Tomorrow horror movie, which posits climate-change causing the warm North Atlantic conveyor currents to stall, plunging Britain and Europe to plunge into an Ice Age. “This scenario shows the implicit connectedness of human and physical processes on the planet,” the RGS writes, which and Scootle dutifully passes along without question.

RGS refers kids to the British Royal Society’s paper of 2005 (yes 2005), “Guide to facts and fictions about climate change”. It ignores the 43 Royal Society fellows who revolted over that paper being issued in their names and forced the Society to issue a revised paper with less activism and more uncertainties. Typical of Scootle’s erratic content, a search on “Australian Academy of Science” fails to turn up mention of that green-left body’s primers on global warming of 2010 and 2015. At least those primers look scientific, even if the AAS believes computer models’ output is “compelling evidence” of global warming.[14]

Scootle shoves at kids aged 9 to 11 (no kidding) a Jackie French book

about the possibilities from the greener world of tomorrow … where the future is filled with environmental hope — and practical solutions, such as common usage of solar and wind power. Lively, fun and positive, this book … shows them that a lot of environmental solutions are simple and relatively easy to put in place.”

Actually, Australian taxpayers are subsidising green energy to the tune of $13 billion a year, but that’s a bit advanced for Grade 3 kids.

You may be curious by now about Scootle’s parent, ESA, as a Melbourne-based woke outfit. Apart from disseminating Stasi-style facts, ESA’s been rolling out an online version of kids’ NAPLAN testing. The teachers’ unions detest any measures to make teachers accountable, but unions’ description of ESA’s 2018 NAPLAN rollout as a ‘debacle’ and the 2019 NAPLAN roll-out as a ‘disaster’ seem close to the mark. Mercifully for ESA, COVID-19 scotched further rollout this year.

From chief executive Andrew Smith’s 2018-19 report:

The second transition year to NAPLAN Online saw over 2.17 million tests successfully completed by 670,000 students using the assessment platform infrastructure. ESA is proud to play a significant role in delivering these adaptive tests, which students find more engaging, and which provide richer data that helps teachers tailor their teaching to student needs.

The first day of testing saw the disruption of many student test sessions. The cause of the incident is within ESA’s responsibilities and we sincerely regret the distress caused. I commend our staff for their calm and systematic handling of the incident on the day, their ability to keep focused on delivering a successful assessment program for the remainder of the testing period, and their work and resolve to avoid a recurrence of the issue.”

The fortitude of Mr Smith’s 120 staff may stem from ESA’s unique conditions of employment. Apart from “competitive remuneration”, staff enjoy

regular fruit supply, fun activities and competitions [sack races?], and much more – all aimed at building a culture supportive of healthy lifestyle choices.

Maybe a banana diet is augmented by rotten tomatoes from the NAPLAN users.

Notwithstanding its sedentary workplace, ESA remains convulsed by efforts to curb its own CO2 emissions. Last year it tracked emissions from 3,678km of staff commutes by car and public transport to work. All staff have been provided with a personal keep-cup for coffee. Recycling facilities are on hand for Expressi coffee capsules, dental floss containers and contact lens packs. Sadly, these savings pale before the team’s 666,364 km of CO2-spewing air trips for vital meetings.

ESA’s carbon-neutrality tickets have been won by carbon offsets supporting things like the Guohua Wulate Zhonggi and Hebei Chongli wind farms in China. Talking of China, its emissions of 14 billion tonnes CO2-equivalent rather swamps ESA’s emissions of 824 tonnes last year. But I guess every recycling of a contact lens pack helps save the planet.

ESA’s report is seriously unhelpful about its top people’s pay. All we learn is that combined, they pocketed $2.008m.

Tony Thomas’s new book, Come To Think Of It – essays to tickle the brain, is available here as a book ($34.95) or an e-book ($14.95) 


[1] The Federation absorbed $74m from taxpayers in 2001-2006 alone  for on-line “learning resources” for teachers at all levels. It budgeted for a further $55m from 2006-09 to broaden its offering by 4000 elements, which seems a tad expensive.

[2] The declaration introduced cross-curricula priorities of Aboriginality, sustainability and Asia relations.

[3] Many links have become broken over time, making the Scootle reference useless, and others now merely point to the ABC Education TV home page rather than the specific video in question. Much material is ridiculously out of date. Items from 2000-2007 are common and many are from the previous century.

[4] Asked when Australia would become socialist, WWF leader Jim Healy replied, ‘When fifty-one per cent of the people think as we do’.

[6] New Matilda’s website today features rabid journalist John Pilger as “an eyewitness to the agony of Julian Assange”.

[7] Australia’s finest historian Geoff Blainey debunks Pascoe’s thesis: “I think I have read, in the last 50 years, every book written by an early European explorer of Australia. They do not support Pascoe in any way.”

[8] “Uyghur” gets no mention.

  • [9] Scootle: “The final chapter in this sad story of prejudice and discrimination came with the reforms of the Whitlam Labor government in 1973.”

[10] Scootle had the guts to mention Labor coming to power in 1910 on an explicitly racist platform.

[11]At the time of the 1967 referendum, the Communist Party of Australia gained support from indigenous rights campaigners for their vocal stance against racially discriminatory policies.” The poster was “donated by Mr Peter A Murphy, Sydney District Committee, Communist Party of Australia.”

[12] “The Royal Society pH estimate for 2100 is thus consistent with a linear extrapolation of the eighteen years of data from Ocean Station Aloha. Such an extrapolation would appear to be unwarranted or questionable at best…the eighteen years of Ocean Station Aloha or similar data appear to have been linearly extrapolated out to 2300. This is even more questionable than a linear extrapolation to 2100.”

[13] Elsewhere, Scootle offers obsolete IPCC dogma: “By the mid-2090s, for instance, global sea level could reach 0.22 to 0.44 m above 1990 levels.”

[14] “Together with physical principles and knowledge of past variations, models provide compelling evidence that recent changes are due to increased greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere …”

8 thoughts on “Beware, Parents, Your Kids Are Being ‘Scootled’

  • gareththomassport says:

    Another great article Tony.
    How sad that the only push back against this tripe is in these pages, Mark Latham in the NSW parliament, and the Spectator.
    I’m waiting for the 3 part Four Corners special.

  • ianl says:

    This war was lost well over a decade ago:

    Virtue signalling against this overwhelming “vibe” achieves no purpose.

    Amongst many tactics from the AGW zealots, probably the most effective has been: “We do not debate scientific detail in public”. Essentially a deplatforming exercise.

  • Stephen Due says:

    Many thanks Tony for yet another exhaustively researched and meticulously argued essay. Conservative Australians ought to be working hard to oppose the state school system. State schools are a socialist device for mass indoctrination. The revolutionary idea that education should be ‘free, compulsory and secular’ is pure Marxist doctrine. At the very least conservatives ought to be developing policies to encourage and protect home schooling and private schools. The parent, not the government, is morally responsible for the child’s upbringing and education. The parent should be in control.

  • McRoss says:

    What kids are taught doesn’t matter so much as how they are taught, and today’s method – child-centred education – is the real game changer. When teachers don’t rule, kids do. The result is the sort of bullying and vigilanteism that dominates so much public debate and social policy nowadays. For the moment, it favours the Progressive Left, but these kids are going to get older and crankier, and then the boot could well be on the other foot.

  • cinemagic says:

    Is this quote,- and spelling – about ‘ocean acidification’ really
    “This is a highly complex topic and this animation does not explain the process in detail, rather uses a characters [sic] experience of this phenomenon to ILLICIT an emotional understanding that ocean acidification will alter life on coral reefs.” God help us if an educational resources program does not know the difference between “elicit” and “Illicit”! Or are they being honest for once about the aim of all this propaganda?

  • petroalbion says:

    If you google kids climate – you get dozens of sites all selling the same old same old ‘look what capitalism has done to our earth’ eg the benign sounding Twinkle Where this all is in the curriculum I Know not – but their products are spectacular
    And this has been going on behind our backs for years; no wonder the young vote for net zero carbon

  • Tony Thomas says:

    Yep it’s verbatim, I must confess I overlooked the ‘illicit’. These days spell-checkers can corrupt correct English but I doubt spell check was as pervasive in 2009

  • DG says:

    Let’s not use the word ‘capitalism’, it is a Marxist epithet and used to paint the picture of the ‘evil robber barons’, itself a falsehood to scare children. Our ‘system’ is a non-system. It is ‘open choice’ economy, or free markets, or individual choice. Its about not interfering with people’s economic decisions. This approach (that’s the word, it encompasses a number of facilitating systems) has delivered sufficient wealth to sustain a welfare system, provide funds for medical and industrial, let alone scientific research, and is underpinned by laws derived from democratic, participatory processes that invite public involvement and scrutiny to address imbalances of power and information as well as malfeasance.

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