Schools, Australian History and the Garden Gnome of Kirribilli House

11 Oct

One small bit of Australiana: as a descendant of the Guringai my nephew is one of the original owners of Kirribilli House, just as I, if it is indeed the case that I am a descendant of the Dharawal, am one of the original owners of Sutherland Shire…

But all that aside…

I experienced a chill when I read the highlighted words in the Herald by Anna Patty. I am forced to transcribe from the print edition as this report online is quite different. They confirm the nature of our current Prime Ministership, the iron fist in the velvet glove, the protofascist* — I do not use such words usually — under the Aussie mate surface:

Schools will be forced to teach 150 hours of Australian history as part of a prime ministerial push for a radical change to the curriculum. John Howard will announce the Australian history requirement as a condition of federal funding to the states. It follows the recommendations of a hand-picked panel including the conservative historian Geoffrey Blainey and the political commentator Gerard Henderson, after Mr Howard sidelined the recommendations of the Monash historian Tony Taylor.

The NSW Board of Studies already requires schools to teach 100 hours of Australian history in Years 9 to 10…

The Federal Government commissioned Professor Taylor, who is head of Monash University’s National Centre for History Education [Please note the logo on the website! — N], to write the Australian history draft curriculum…


A number of historians told the Herald that Mr Howard was unhappy with Professor Taylor’s final draft and appointed another panel of experts to rewrite it…

It is also understood that Department of Education Officials told Professor Taylor that Mr Howard regarded his recommendations as “politically unreliable”.

Go to the National Centre for History Education site. They have done a good job, all things considered, and much of interest may be found there.

Mind you, 150 hours will squeeze out something from the school timetable, the simplest in some cases probably being Geography. It is quite common at the moment for half a year to be spent fulfilling the basic History requirement of 100 hours and half the year on Geography. At SBHS stand-alone elective history courses are offered on top of the mandatory ones, and these compete with other subjects outside the core of English, Maths and Science. Art and Music could go, of course… And languages could be marginalised even further.

For more visit The History Teachers’ Association of NSW — I was a member for years — and especially this page: NATIONAL HISTORY CURRICULUM NEWS. There you may find a link to this letter. Read it here by enlarging the thumbnails below.

hta1.gif hta2.gif


* Dr John Hirst of LaTrobe University, one of the panellists at the Prime Minister’s History Summit last year, thinks the real danger of the new syllabus is not “proto-fascism” but that it will bore students to death! Sad but true, Year 10 history, which has always dealt with 20th century Australia (at least since 1966 and here in NSW) has tended to be a yawn for most students, except for the WWI and WWII bits…

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Posted by on October 11, 2007 in Aussie interest, Education, Politics


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