July 17, 2013

ALNF update: my panic attack wasn't for nothing

I recently wrote a detailed post that was critical of the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation's use of a statistic that falsely claimed that 80% of Indigenous kids in remote communities can't read. It was a post that had been festering in my mind for six months and I was so relieved to finally get my gripes off my chest. But writing that blogpost was just the start.

Initially, I wasn't confident about publishing it on Fully (sic) but after running it by a few people I decided to publish a version there too, knowing it would get a lot more readers and attention. So it went up on Crikey and I immediately noticed it getting read, Facebooked and tweeted, including by reasonably well-known people like Helen Razer and economist Rory Robertson. I got some good feedback - in particular I was totally chuffed to get a personal email from one of the country's top Indigenous academics thanking me for the piece(!) - but I got a few negative comments too. The attention didn't make me feel good at all. I actually became really quite anxious, partly because it recalled two bad experiences I had last year when online articles I wrote got negative attention (including a random bullying phone call) which was really not nice. Online, I can be outspoken and opinionated but in real life I'm actually not very assertive so knowing lots of people were reading my criticisms of the ALNF was tricky to handle. Then, my anxiety hit a whole nother level when I saw that Mary-Ruth Mendel, the Founder and Chair of the ALNF, had responded to my post! Reading her comments, I felt pretty rotten that I'd upset her (but the fact that she called me Mr. Wilson kind of alleviated some of those bad feelings). After I pulled myself together, I responded to her, standing by what I'd originally written. It was a pretty crazy and worrying few days for me.

But I'm not wanting to just boast about how much attention my article got. I'm writing this to boast because it looks like my piece has actually caused the ALNF to adjust their marketing strategy and their use of that statistic! I looked at their Wall Of Hands website today and gone is the image with "Only 1 in 5 remote Indigenous kids can read" plastered over it. And on the Facts page, they have changed the way they present the statistic so that it's much fairer and accurate (pictured right). It's heartening to see and I'm actually kind of impressed that they've made this adjustment following my pretty harsh criticism. Kudos to them.

You know, I started blogging really quite innocently eight years ago mostly because I was too slack to send individual emails to friends and family while working at Ngukurr. I realise that I'm not Mia Freedman or anything and I realise that by the ALNF altering their marketing strategy doesn't actually mean I've done anything to reduce Indigenous disadvantage but maybe my blogpost has made a few people think about things they hadn't thought about before and that's nice. It really does surprise me that my little blogposts - which really haven't changed much over the years - sometimes find a decent audience and occasionally carry some weight and influence.

Oh! And the most remarkable thing the ALNF have done because of my article? Six months after they blocked me on Twitter, they unblocked me! Ha!


Unknown said...

but the fact that she called me Mr. Wilson kind of alleviated some of those bad feelings.

Well, I'm glad her mistaking you for me brought you comfort! I was quite amused, personally.

Blex said...

Good result!
You were right to make that criticism and I share your concerns about the way that statistic was being used by ALNF.