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Memo to Pyne: you’re reading the wrong history curriculum

Yesterday I sent off to a US publisher the final draft of a book —  History Wars and the Classroom. The final sentence of one of my chapters, in dealing with history curriculum in Australia, reads as follows: “Of course, if a Labor federal government is replaced by a conservative administration, we start all over again.”

Little did I know that Coalition education spokesman Christopher Pyne would be on the case quite so quickly.

This morning, I’m reading The Age and there it is, the muesli-choking story. ”Coalition would scrap curriculum“ blared the headline, the story going on to say that if the Coalition gets into power it’s all change. This will especially be the case when it comes to history, Pyne added, criticising all that Asian and Aboriginal stuff and insisting, amongst other things, that classical civilisations Magna Carta, Christianity and (irony of ironies) the Bill of Rights/English Civil War should be highlighted and/or inserted.

The comments were taken from a speech to be delivered at the Institute of Public Affairs this morning (after I finish this piece) at the launch of an IPA review of the national curriculum with contributions by Chris Berg and Greg Melleuish. Berg wrote an op-ed article on this very subject for The Sunday Age a few weeks ago. I read it and dismissed it as someone who doesn’t know much about how education or history works.

As for Melleuish, a historian, it was he who was selected by the Howard government to design a national curriculum at the 2006 Australian history summit (remember that?) which was killed off by the summiteers within a couple of hours of its being tabled. And I do remember seeing Melleuish at two recent national curriculum forums where he was in a position to speak up loudly for the Magna Carta, etc.

As I remember it he remained silent throughout. When it comes to Pyne — lawyer, republican and politician — a couple of things. First, as a lawyer, it is always important to read documents carefully. My impression, from the reporting of his remarks, is that he must have been reading a different curriculum document from the one that I possess.

Classical civilizations (Egyptians, Greeks Romans) are dealt with in some detail in Year 7, together with some of that Asian stuff — mainly the ancient societies of China and India. As for that baron-benefiting beano to curb arbitrary rule of one (the king), the Magna Carta, it’s covered in Year 8 under the Feudalism overview and political features of medieval life in Europe.

Not that it’s explicitly mentioned but, as a teacher, you’d be daft not to spend some time on Runnymede, investigating a pioneering constitutional event, short-term dud that it was, but a long-term and major pan-European and pan-colonial accomplishment. Christianity is covered in Year 8 under “the spread of Christianity”, medieval Europe under the Crusades (not so good, that bit), the medieval dominance of the Catholic church and the Spanish conquest of the Americas (another not-so-good bit).

As for the Bill of Rights and the English Civil War, the former is covered in Year 10 under the optional “egalitarianism” and the latter is arguably just a series of confused and confusing localised squabbles that may have a special significance for UK history, but not for anybody else (unless they like dressing up in period costume).

By the way, in the current UK national curriculum Key Stage 3 program of study, where you’d expect to find Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights and the Civil War — they’re not mentioned.

It doesn’t mean they’re not studied because, as with the Australian curriculum, the UK design is concept-led, not fact-led. Note to Pyne: if we had a curriculum that was fact-led, we’d have a very, very, very, very long chronicle, not a history. Second, and final point, and it’s yet another irony.

Pyne mourns the alleged absence of the Magna Carta and is quoted as saying: “I am happy to go back to the drawing board and start again. Until I am satisfied the curriculum is an improvement on what we have now, I won’t be going ahead with it.” What was that again about the Magna Carta and arbitrary rule of one, Christopher?

*Tony Taylor teaches and researches at Monash University. He has just finished co-editing History Wars and the Classroom: Global Perspectives. The book contains chapters on Argentina, Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, UK and USA.

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  • 1
    Michael Wong
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    the English Civil War…. is arguably just a series of confused and confusing localised squabbles that may have a special significance for UK history, but not for anybody else (unless they like dressing up in period costume).”

    Tony! Dude! Better bone up on the relationship between the ECW and Westminster parliamentary democracy before making such a silly statement. Really buddy, you’re smarter than that surely.

  • 2
    skink
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    I heard Pyne on Newsradio this morning, saying that it was important to study these bits of Western history because ‘Australia adopted the Westminster system and we fought the Civil War to establish the rights of Parliament.’

    to which his interviewer replied; “Australians fought in the English Civil War?’

  • 3
    Holden Back
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    You’re making teh eror of assuming he wants to read the document accurately. Why should he let facts or heaven help us, concepts get in the way of making 51% of the population think he’s saving them from whale-hugging indigenous lesbians? For the purposes of his exercise it is precisiely the straw man with which he wishes to wrangle.

    And I’m not talking about Guy Fawkes night.

  • 4
    Holden Back
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    You’re making the error of assuming he wants to read the document accurately. Why should he let facts or heaven help us, concepts, get in the way of making 51% of the population think he’s saving them from whale-hugging indigenous lesbians? For the purposes of his exercise it is precisiely the straw man with which he wishes to wrangle.

    And I’m not talking about Guy Fawkes night.

  • 5
    Lorry
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    What history is written is irrelevent given the fact that the students are not capable of reading it. That alone suggests that Pyne in part is correct - scrap the curriculum and get back to basics - assuming you can read this comment of course.

  • 6
    James Hunter
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Mister Pyne to me is a mistery. I cannot believe that a person with his background can produce such vacuous ,inaccurate statements as he does with such astounding regularity.
    I become embarrased just listening to him. Thank (deity of choice) that he is on the opposition.

  • 7
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    This is yet another example of the coalition being happy to mislead the Australian public. They know very few journalists let alone the general public now the specifics of a topic so they make statements that play to people prejudices and fears (the history taught is going to be all about asians and commies and not you or flood victims are going to be forced to pay the flood levy) to get the talk back and news ltd readers phoning/writing in. In this way there lies become a sort of truth and they force the govt to defend issues they shouldn’t and then they just say “but can you trust this govt” (eg “I don’t know if the levy will ever be removed”).

    Good journalists should skewer Pyne with the facts but instead they give him not just the headline but almost the whole article with just a line at the bootm stating that the creators of the cirriculum state that his claims are false.

  • 8
    thirdborn314
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Well I had blissfully and totally forgotton about Pyne up to this point in the new year, I wish it could have endured for longer. Dammit.

  • 9
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I find Associate Professor Taylor’s analysis very helpful and it is good that it is on the record.

    However, I regret that Holden Back and Jimmy are correct. Pyne (and many others in the Coalition) distort the government’s position just for the sake of scoring some political point. So the question is, beyond correcting the record as Taylor does, what is Labor’s political response? P’raps Minister Evans should direct Pyne’s attention to the analysis of primary sources, if that is included in the curriculum.

  • 10
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Sure, teach the English Civil War. Christopher Hill’s ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ should be the required reading. I’m sure Pyne would be happy with that.

  • 11
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    The arrogant, dismissive tone of this article is almost as appalling as the ridiculous statement that the English Civil War is “arguably just a series of confused and confusing localised squabbles that may have a special significance for UK history, but not for anybody else (unless they like dressing up in period costume)”.

    Understanding the English Civil War is crucial to understanding the principles of modern parliamentary democracy in Australia. It was that war that set in stone the idea that the Executive may not tax without the approval of Parliament. Without understanding that principle, one cannot understand, for instance, the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis. Parliamentary control of taxation and budgets, and the right of Parliament to act as an electoral college to choose the Government, all ultimately come from the Parliamentary victory in that war.

    It’s fascinating that the author could construe Mr Pyne’s threat to change the curriculum if he is part of a Government elected by the Australian people as the “arbitrary rule of one”. There is much to criticise about the Coalition’s approach to history, especially their unwillingness to admit that great death, and destruction of Aboriginal culture, accompanied the European settlement of this country. However, would the author truly say that an elected government has no right at all to attempt to set a curriculum it approves of? If so, what process does the author propose to ensure that such a curriculum would be accountable to the people of Australia?

    If the author represents the sort of person who draws up our curriculum - if those people are as unwilling to accept any sort of outside criticism as the author is, and if they dismiss any criticism as non-expert and therefore by definition wrong - then our democracy is in great trouble. This article reads like that of a technocrat who is angered by the idea that his work may be disrupted by the foolish masses. Funnily enough, that’s just what King Charles I thought in his struggles with Parliament leading up to that English Civil War whose influence the author rubbishes.

  • 12
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Gavin - it is not so much Labor’s political response as New Ltd’s interpretation of that response, if the govt states that the Magna Carta etc will be taught it will probably be reported as a “backdown” or “the govt struggling to sell” or more than likely it will be ignored, Pyne pops up tell’s a few fibs get’s his article then the media go on to the next issue before even listening to the response and the huddled masses down at the pub say “Did you hear they are oly going to teach asian history?”

  • 13
    Phil Kyson
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Once again Pyne’s ignorance on display, just as most rightwing conservatives do very time they open their mouths. Especially on the subject of history, it’s very telling why conservatives fear and fight so hard to subvert the subject. How sad it is that the only guide you have on your political existence is a continuously fear of the truth.
    I read this quote posted on Crikey last week it needs repeating again here.
    “The timeless quest of conservatives everywhere – to find a higher justification for selfishness” (JK Galbraith)
    Describes Pyne and his band of kernels in a nutshell, thankyou JK

  • 14
    John Ryan
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately its a bit late to be going back to the bits of the map coloured Red are ours and bits not are heathens,which seems to be Liberal Pyne’s view,the English civil war is important for what reason.
    The 1975 crisis was the doing of the Liberal Party and its running dog Murdock,how the English Civil war got involved I dont know

  • 15
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    John Ryan - Yeah, Pyne seems to think that history should just be “the history of white Australia”. Even if we were 100% Anglo Saxon in this country our future lies in Asia and knowing the History of your trading partner/ally/opponent is vital, so even if it was heavily biased towards asia I don’t see it as a major issue.

  • 16
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    John Ryan, the Coalition based its entire strategy in 1975 on withholding Supply (that is, approval to raise and spend money) to the Whitlam government.

    When Governor-General Kerr dismissed Whitlam as PM, it was based on that exact principle - that the Government could not get Supply.

    The idea that a government that cannot get Supply must resign comes directly from the principle fought over and established in the English Civil War, that no taxes shall be raised or spent without the approval of Parliament.

    The English Civil War continues to deeply affect the political culture of Australia (and other Western democracies) to this day. To ignore it is to fail to understand the basic principles of our polity.

  • 17
    The Pav
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Dear Lorry

    I hope you are not holding Lone Pyne up as an example of the good “old education system” given he clearly lacks the ability to read.

    It really puzzles me why people want the old system. I’m not saying the new one works but I surely know the the old way of beating the three R’s into pupils didn’t

  • 18
    mook schanker
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    David, there’s nothing wrong with criticism as you just had a crack yourself amongst other bloggers. Pyne is quoted stating “I” by the way, not “Coalition policy”….

    People like myself however are waiting for the Coalitions considered and articulated policy on national curriculum….ho hum….

  • 19
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Lorry, you are a truck! You can’t read!

  • 20
    ronin8317
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    To say the English Civil War as a fight over the principle of “executive may not tax without parliament” is an oversimplification. It suits the ‘Tea Party’ to paint the event as a tax revolt, however the underlying reason is far more complex and messy. Of course, there is also Cromwell and Ireland, which had nothing to do with tax policy at all..

    In regard to the complaint about the Bill of Rights : we don’t have one in Australia, so where’s the beef? :-P

  • 21
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Pyne is a nitwit yapper who drives everyone nuts and is desparate for relevance somewhere, anywhere.

    Strange he should babble about the bill of rights though.

  • 22
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Mook Schanker, criticising the Coalition’s plans, if any, for a curriculum is not the same as dismissing all outside criticism (“I read it and dismissed it as someone who doesn’t know much about how education or history works.”) or making clearly absurd statements about the historical importance of the English Civil War.

    FWIW, I reject Pyne’s apparent idea that the destructive nature of European settlement of Australia should be ignored, or that the history of Asia is not important (how many Australians know even the basic history of Indonesia, even the 1965 killings of half a million suspected Communists?)

  • 23
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    So, Ronin8317, do you then agree that the principles, causes and events of the English Civil War are important and should be discussed in today’s schools, so that one might understand (for a start) the Irish war against British occupation and the emotional and political appeal of the Tea Party?

  • 24
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Mook - Ye yet another well worn Libs strategy, a minister spouts off some rubbish but that’s just his opinion not policy.

  • 25
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Pyne is just a run of the mill, boring Whig. History is just a onward procession towards liberty and parliament blah blah blah.

  • 26
    Jackol
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    David Jackmanson,

    I think you are drawing too long a bow to ascribe the ‘emotional and political appeal of the Tea Party’ as being connected to the English Civil War. I don’t believe for a second that a fraction of the Tea Party’s adherents could describe anything about the English Civil War; they feel aggrieved for a variety of reasons, and the American Revolution is a touchstone for all things that Americans want to justify. That the American Revolution had a political/social basis in the outcome of the English Civil War is entirely irrelevant to the modern Tea Party.

  • 27
    baal
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Poochy Pyne is following his Master T Abbott and Barnaby Joyce. To get attention tell a lie. If you are caught say you are quoted out of context. If that doesn’t work say you didn’t mean it.

  • 28
    The Pav
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Dear Baal,

    Maaaate!

    You’ve got it wrong.

    Under Misty Rabbits moral compass if you’re caught telling a lie that’s OK because you’re allowed to because then you can admit lying which shows how honest you are and therefore a good bloke who should be put in government because that’s your right( puff puff)

  • 29
    baal
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    You’ve definitely got something there. Trouble is a geezer like Pyne probably doesn’t know other from tother until someone tells him

  • 30
    The Pav
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, but nobody will tell him as (please pardon the pun) he alone pyne

  • 31
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Cromwell has a posse

  • 32
    Bilbo
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Speaking as a History teacher I get a bit frustrated that people place so much emphasis on what is in the curriculum at the expense of how it is taught - that is to say which skills the students are learning that will allow them to understand, analyse and debate the past. It is impossible to teach everything - even when you do a topic like Rome or the English Civil War the nature of the timetable means time is limited and not everything can be done in detail. And one has to be realistic - 14 year olds are not going to understand the broader undertones of a lot of topics. I remember very seriously trying to impress upon my year 8 students the importance of the Magna Carta (for I do agree it is important) in my first year of teaching. But simply standing up and saying something is important will not make it meaningful for students on its own. I now approach it with a lighter hand and it is less of an ordeal for both teacher and students. Unfortunately I think what Pyne really wants from History teaching is that a government approved list of dates and facts is memorised and tested, without curosity, comment or contention (or any of the things that make History fun!)

  • 33
    Niall Clugston
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    I agree: the comment on the English Civil War was absurd. Especially as Tony Taylor considers it less important than the Magna Carta.

    I think there are two main problems:

    (1) The significance of historical events is fundamentally a matter for historical debate, and therefore there can’t be a universally agreed-on series of events that must be included in the curriculum.

    (2) With regard to the study of history relevant to Australia, there are two opposing approaches. One is treating Australia in isolation, in which case English constitutional history is important. The other is explaining the world in which Australia exists. In this case the history of Asia, including the history of Islam, is important. Frankly, I think world history is more crucial, and I would definitely include the history of the British Empire because it was fundamental in the development of so many modern countries, including Australia!

  • 34
    The Pav
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Dear Bilbo,

    That’s the rub.

    People like alonePyne want to reduce history to dates, numbers & names then they can have an absolute test of what they regard as learning.

    If you can recite the kings of England 100 per cent in order then you’re “educated” & it can be proved with a test. This appeals to the simple or lazy minded.

    Education is somewhat more complicated.

    Reminds me of a cartoon I saw many years ago where the tag line was the king of Id saying

    ” Stop the education..The people are revolting”

  • 35
    ronin8317
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I believe that the English Civil War is worthy of being taught, however I would not say it is crucial to the understanding of Australian history. Pyne is merely blowing a racial ‘dog whistle’ with his attack on the curriculum.

    What I do find discomforting is the ‘white elephant’ in the room that nobody bothers to mention : religion. It was and continues to be the major cause of conflict between people, and you cannot understand world history without it. However it is always left out in order not to offend religious groups.

  • 36
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Pyne may not be all that bright, but many of the commentators have done their unintentional best to make him appear (relatively) brilliant. W.with enemies like them, I’m sure he’d welcome more enemies. Enough enemies like them and we could start to mistake him for Nobel Prize material, which I wouldn’t really want to see happen.

  • 37
    baal
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Ah, Norman, the pedagogue’s pedagogue handing out lines to the terrors of the Remove. When will the fools learn?

  • 38
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Norman Hanscombe. I count 19 comments so far that are little more than smug assertions that Pyne and the Coalition are dumb/evil.

    What will you do when the Coalition gets anywhere near power again and implements its “white blindfold” view of Australian history? Judging by the debate here, the majority of opponents will sit in the pub whingeing about how stupid the Libs are, and do nothing to stop them over-running history teaching for another 11 years.

    Niall Clugston, surely there are *some* things that must be taught, as absolute basics so that by Year 10 or so students are ready to take part in that debate 0ver what is significant and what isn’t? I also think Australian history should be taught, not in isolation but in *connection* with the great currents of world history.

    Bilbo, is it possible there are ways you have not tried yet that can make students realise the significance of historical events? I admit I’m not much use here; I had a taste for history very early at school so I have no idea what it’s like to not be interested in it.

    Jackol, I don’t think the English Civil War is entirely irrelevant to the Tea Party, although there are of course other more important factors. The idea of “English liberties” which drove the American Revolution was hugely driven by the English Civil War, which proved a King could be killed and that he must rule according to Parliament, not according to his own whims.

    Ronin8317, I can only speak for my school education, but I spent a total of a year studying English and European history from the 1300s to the late 1600s, including the rise of Lollardy, the struggle for Bibles to be printed in English, the Reformation including Luther, the formation of the Church of England and the Puritan/Anglican/Catholic struggles of the 1600s. So I certainly got a big dose of understanding of how religion affects politics - and this at a religious school.

  • 39
    4ZZZ
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    To quote from Going to the Wars: The Experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638-1651 by Charles Charlton (highly recommended reading I might add)

    Over the years much has been written about the wars to which Lovelace went, because historians as distinguished as G.M. Trevelyan have argued that the cataclysm which engulfed the British Isles in the middle of the seventeenth century was the most important happening in our history. At the time Edward Hyde, the Earl of Clarendon, described it as the Great Rebellion in which a few extremists duped the mass of decent moderate men. While this view prevailed during the eighteenth century, in the first half of the nineteenth Thomas Babington Macaulay challenged it by arguing that the civil wars were essentially a Herculean struggle between liberty and despotism, which the former won, thus making possible the glories of Victorian England. Towards the end of the century S.R. Gardiner portrayed the turmoil as a Puritan Revolution, in which Godly Protestants resisted the counter reformation of pseudo-catholic royalists. In more recent times Karl Marx and his followers have interpreted the crisis of mid-seventeenth-century England as the first great Bourgeois Revolution. During this period the gentry supposedly rose “or at least the mere gentry came to the top” as the aristocracy experienced a crisis. Others have turned this thesis on its head by arguing that the aristocracy was behind the revolution all the time. Recently revisionist historians have stressed the short-term, even accidental nature of events, in which the acts of individuals played a more important role than the seemingly inevitable and impersonal forces that the reformation set in motion a century before. John Morrill, for instance, has suggested that the civil wars were essentially Wars of Religion.”

    All well and good but we are talking about a curriculum for 12 to 16 year olds. Bilbo is right about “making it fun” Churn that by Charlton out to the average student and they will lose interest. Tell them about Henry VIII getting married 6 times and having a couple of wives heads chopped off and invariably they find it exciting.

  • 40
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    4ZZZ, perhaps if we had a more ambitious attitude towards the abilities of 12-16 year olds, they would respond.

    If we assume they are too dumb to understand at least some of that, then they will surely repay us by proving us right.

  • 41
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    I found that with virtually any aspect of history [if the teacher had the relevant abilities] it could be made interesting, and this could be achieved without trivialising the process with ‘interesting’ appeals to heads being lopped off.

    Current problems arise from such things as the lowering of teacher entry standards [which began in NSW Government Schools with a combined Department/Union decision to end scholarships more than four decades ago.]] Then there were the decisions to end the practice of providing different levels of history courses, which used to enable the more competent students to be challenged, while the less competent students could be given courses which while still challenged them, weren’t unreasonably difficult. A third problem is the way courses became the victim of political correctness and the flight from even mediocrity, even if such ‘new’ standards did help make students’ results appear ‘better’ and made their parents happier. Naturally, these outcomes must mean it was a good thing?

  • 42
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    P.S. You’re right, D.J., but we mustn’t encourage higher achievement — - unless, of course, it’s something important, like sport, and there we even need to stream teams/players/etc, because, well, because sport is important.

  • 43
    4ZZZ
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    I did leave a reply David and Norman but it seems to have disappeared. FWIW I do no think that the coalition is evil and I have voted them at Federal level several times in my long life but I think that they, and your good selves for that matter, need to read the Australian History Curriculum and what it offers in full. There is a passage “Consulting on draft curriculum areas” that needs to be read. Just perhaps you and others could contribute to what is essentially an organic curriculum.

  • 44
    Bilbo
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Re: David and Norman - I like to think I teach to a fairly high standard and push my students to consider primary and secondary sources, weigh up evidence, connect past events to present realities (such as understanding Islam and the Crusades in the context of contemporary events) and do so from a young age (12 years onwards.) Sometimes it clicks, sometimes it doesn’t. But for those of you outside the school system be aware that the humanities in general have a very low timetabling status - David I envy you your full year of English and European history! Prior to VCE History (I can only speak of Victoria) you would be very lucky, even in private schools which traditionally have maintained stronger discipline departments, to study more than a semester of History in a given year. Normally humanities/SOSE would be allocated between 3-4 45 minute periods a week at junior levels (years 7-10). So for example I try to squeeze into half a year in year 8 the fall of Rome, Vikings, Battle of Hastings, Medieval England (including the ol’ Magna Carta), the Crusades and the Black Death. Trust me it is a lot to do well. And for those who pontificate on the beauties of the Magna Carta - please tell me why this is more inherently important to know than the Black Death, which effected the feudal system, changed agriculture (enclosures anyone?), challenged people’s beliefs in the Church and resulted in some haunting artworks (all of which we study in about 2 weeks.)

  • 45
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Incidentally, 4ZZZ, why do you take the name of a BrisVenice community radio station?

  • 46
    4ZZZ
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Been listening to it since the first day Gavin. First thing that came into my head when I signed up.

  • 47
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Monday, 31 January 2011 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    4ZZZ, having seen curricula destroyed so many times, and observed how the process works, and how unlikely it is that any pre-ordained new approach will be any more mutable than were the laws of the Medes and Persians, I’m unconvinced that much which is worthwhile can be achieved by tokenistic involvement in the ‘discussions’. The intellectually-challenged long ago took over the education madhouse.

    Bilbo, regardless of whether any individual teacher might, “teach to a fairly high standard and push — - students to consider primary and secondary sources, weigh up evidence, connect past events to present realities”, when we talk of the quality of a State School system [[which after all is the one which caters for the bulk of our students]] it’s the quality of the bulk of its teachers which matters most, not the small group of top performers who are doing a superb job, often under extremely difficult circumstances.

    History isn’t helped by the abysmally poor literacy standards which mean students are no longer able to handle work at levels history teachers once took for granted — - but we’re not supposed to even mention that problem, are we?

  • 48
    4ZZZ
    Posted Tuesday, 1 February 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Norman your reply means that you have made your mind up on this issue and accept without question that “the draft history curriculum ignores the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights and the English Civil War between Parliament and the king “rather like an embarrassing relative at Christmas Day lunch” when demonstrably it does not. This is a disappointing dismissal on your part. The student can if they so wish study the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights and the English Civil War between Parliament and the king etc etc.

    I am staggered by the ease of dismissal of the draft curriculum. Opposition for the sake of it.

  • 49
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 1 February 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Cromwell foresaw what would happen even when, apparently, triumphant. As always, the trimmers & shysters emerge when they deem it safe and, hey-ho, the Restoration, complete with torture and abuse of the erstwhile victors that make the infelicities of AQbu Ghraib, Bagram & Gitmo seem like love-taps.

  • 50
    baal
    Posted Tuesday, 1 February 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Alas, poor @NORMAN, despite his elevated tone and haughty disregard for his intellectual inferiors doesn’t really have the brains or wit to make the cogent case such a posture needs to command respect. Sound and fury, wind and piss. Clearly needs a hobby

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