… but so is NSW Minister for Education John Della Bosca’s response to it. See Expert barred from history panel.
A NSW bureaucrat has been barred from helping recommend what year 9 and 10 school students should be taught about Australian history.
Jennifer Lawless, a Board of Studies inspector who has taught history for 20 years, was named by the federal Minister for Education, Julie Bishop, yesterday as one of several experts who would help overhaul the history curriculum.
The group also includes the historians Geoffrey Blainey, of the University of Melbourne, and Nicholas Brown, of the Australian National University, and the political commentator Gerard Henderson, from the Sydney Institute.
The NSW Minister for Education, John Della Bosca, said the history reference group was a political stunt and he would not let Ms Lawless take part.
Of course that is a stacked deck, as representative of Australian historians as a gathering of card-carrying Liberal Party supporters would be of the Australian people as a whole. You will note for starters that aside from the predominance of conservative voices there are conspicuous absences in the group. In the original History Summit, for example, you at least had Jackie Huggins on board, but not in this group. Perhaps she is unavailable, but perhaps too she was never asked. So no Indigenous voice, for a start.
Where Jennifer Lawless stands was made clear last year:
…John Howard declared the “phoney and divisive” debate over national identity was finished but argued for “root and branch renewal of the teaching of Australian history in schools”.
“Too often, Australian history has fallen victim in an ever more crowded curriculum to subjects deemed more relevant to today,” Mr Howard said in a speech on the eve of Australia Day.
“Too often it is taught without any sense of structured narrative, replaced by a fragmented stew of themes and issues. And too often history, along with other subjects in the humanities, has succumbed to a postmodern culture of relativism where any objective record of achievement is questioned or repudiated.”
Mr Howard said he would prefer history was taught with a strong emphasis on pivotal dates and events such as the Battle of Hastings and the European discovery of Australia. More students needed to study history, Mr Howard said, to help prepare them to become informed and active citizens.
The NSW Board of Studies’ history inspector, Jennifer Lawless, said the Prime Minister’s criticisms did not apply to the NSW history syllabus, which was “very rigorous and content-driven as opposed to theme-driven”.
She described the ability to memorise dates as “a fairly lower order skill that students acquire early on. We move on from that and teach more sophisticated historical skills, like using historical sources appropriately, questioning those sources, analysing and interpreting, looking at perspectives and interpretations.”
NSW is the only state where history is taught as a separate, mandatory subject from years 7 to 10. All year 9 and year 10 students must learn the history of Australia from Federation to the 1990s.
If I were John Della Bosca I would much rather have had Ms Lawless on the inside than on the outside, even if the balance of the group is outrageously weighted to favour one side in the debate on Australian history.
Readers may also like to examine Australian History, Geography, Civics and Citizenship Test Scope Statement and Test Specifications from 2006 from the NSW Board of Studies.
Meanwhile, in relation to the
armed intervention in the Northern Territory, Jim Belshaw’s posts continue to be as careful an examination of the issues as any you will find, strengthened too by the fact he has attracted some first-rate comments.
I have put my own lament in the form of a supplement to my Indigenous Australia Page: see Some thoughts on the events of June 2007.
I think The Cinephile should have been called on by Julie Bishop. Why? See the videos…