Pyne and his jolly like-minded duo — and the report we all can predict…

The Pyne! What can I say? I have already vented on Facebook.

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The gall of the man! He seriously expects us to believe his mind is not already made up:

I’m getting people to objectively review the National Curriculum to ensure that it is robust, and to ensure that it puts students’ results first, that the priority is on outcomes and everyone in education, well everyone has been to school, everyone is an expert on education in one way or another, almost 40 per cent of many of the populations in capital cities have been to school, have been to universities, and they’re also experts on university education.

So, it’s not possible to appoint anybody to review the National Curriculum who doesn’t have a view on education. The important point is to appoint people who are going to bring an intelligent, considered approach to the review. And both Kevin and Ken have a long history, and experience in education. Not everyone will agree with my views about education, or anybody that I would have appointed. I am very confident that Ken and Kevin will bring a considered approach.

One of the criticisms of course, of the curriculum, has been that it has not sold or talked about the benefits of western civilisation in our society so I would be surprised if there weren’t people who disagreed with the need to have the benefits of western civilisation as part of our curriculum. I’m sure they will criticise people who share the other view.

But we’re part of a robust democracy. I’m quite prepared to have people put their opinions one way or the other about this review. But I’m very confident that its outcome will be objective and fair.

JOURNALIST: Is it your opinion that the curriculum is currently too left leaning?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

I don’t think it’s worthwhile getting into the particular views about whether the curriculum is one kind of curriculum or another…

Although that of course IS what this is about. A few of the jokes I have rendered in red.

I also want the curriculum to celebrate Australia, and for students, when they have finished school, to know where we’ve come from as a nation. Because unless we know why we are the kind of nation we are today, we can’t possibly know where we want to go in the future.

There are two aspects to Australia’s history that are paramount. The first, of course, is our Indigenous history, because for thousands of years Indigenous Australians have lived on this continent. The second aspect of our history is our beginnings as a colony and, therefore, our Western civilisation, which is why we are the kind of country we are today.

It’s very important the curriculum is balanced in its approach to that. It’s very important the truth be told in our history. So, yes, the truth of the way we’ve treated Indigenous Australians should be told in our curriculum. But also the truth about the benefits of Western civilisation should be taught in our curriculum. And I think that there is some fair criticism that the curriculum is balanced one way rather than the other.

JOURNALIST: You’ve said that you want to take politics out of the curriculum. But just going on from a previous question do you think you could have appointed people to take part in this review that come from more varied sides of things and opinions if you’re looking to take politics out of education?

Now to get an idea what balanced means to these turkeys, read How the national history curriculum sells out our Western heritage by the objective and balanced Kevin Donnelly. Guess what the report he co-authors will be like? See also Why no one should bother listening to Kevin Donnelly about education.  For a very thorough critique of Pyne’s announcement yesterday, go to “Everyone’s an Expert on Education” – Pyne’s Education Revolution of Two Men.

My sympathies are very clearly with one comment on that last post: “Sorry, I can’t read this. The very thought of Christopher Pyne’s having anything at all to do with the education of Australian children is so appalling that … words fail.”

While you can, before at some not too distant date the Memory Hole takes it, do actually read the National History Curriculum. I am also attaching a PDF of the essential content at the foot of this post.

I have been a history teacher, I love history, and I loved teaching it.  I have had plenty to say on my blogs over the years on related matters to the current idiocy and barbarism, in my view, Pyne represents. See culture wars, for example. Here are a few posts: That hypothetical Year 10 lesson on “White Australia”, Today Tonight on 7: Shock Crisis Scumbag Betrayal of OUR Kids Horror, Experimental history won’t change the Battle of Hastings – Opinion – smh.com.au, History debate rages over loss of narrative – Top stories – Breaking News 24/7 – NEWS.com.au, “The Disputed Curriculum” :: Alan Barcan :: Quadrant Magazine June 2005, INOCULATE YOUR CHILDREN AGAINST POLITICAL CORRECTNESS! (sic), Pell wants return to the good books – National – smh.com.au… and so on. We are back in 2005 with that last one.

And here are some clues about what good history teaching means, probably lost on C Pyne. From Canada: Promoting Historical Thinking and Critical Literacy.

  •      – Adopting an inquisitive and open-minded attitude toward the past and different ways of life
  •      – Establishing the historical significance of the past
  •      – Using primary and secondary source evidence to infer knowledge
  •      – Identifying continuity and change in history
  •      – Analyzing the causes and consequences of actions and events in history
  •      – Taking historical perspectives and developing historical empathy
  •      – Understanding the ethical dimension of history
  •      – Developing critical literacy skills

And from the USA: Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher, The Role of Critical Literacy in Citizenship.

Critical literacy is the practice of challenging texts through an analysis of the roles that power, culture, class, and gender play in the message. Texts are approached with an understanding that multiple perspectives exist and can be influenced by the author’s and by the reader’s experiences. McLaughlin and DeVoogd (2004) have reminded us that “critical literacy helps us to move beyond . . . passive acceptance and take an active role in the reader-author relationship by questioning such issues as who wrote the text, what the author wanted us to believe, and what information the author chose to include or exclude from the text” (p. 6). Educators in Australia and new Zealand have pioneered this construct since the early 1990s, and there it has grown to be an integral part of literacy education from kindergarten through the twelfth grade. The Tasmania (Australia) Department of Education describes critical literacy extensively in its content standards and frameworks, reminding teachers of three questions readers should consider:

• In whose interest?

• For what purpose?

• Who benefits? (Tasmania Department of Education, 2006, ¶ 4)

Students become critically literate through exposure to and discussion of readings that address social, political, and cultural issues. Critically literate students examine the beliefs and values that underpin texts, question the purpose and the message, take a stance on issues, and formulate action steps when needed. Luke and Freebody (1999) describe four “families of practice” necessary for every reader to assume:

• Code breaker—understanding the text at the surface level (alphabetic, structural);

• Meaning maker—comprehending the text at the level intended by the author;

• Text user—analyzing the factors that influenced the author and the text, including an historical grounding of the context within which it was written;

• Text critic—understanding that the text is not neutral, and that existing biases inform calls to action.

It is this fourth practice that we will explore further. We hope to ensure that students develop an understanding of the bias that exists in all texts. To put it another way, an African proverb states, “Until lions have historians, hunters will be the heroes.” Using critical literacy, readers actively seek to understand what the historians say, consider what the voiceless lions might express, evaluate both messages to achieve a more nuanced understanding, and then use the information to take action.

What Is the Relationship between Critical Literacy and Citizenship?

Critical literacy skills are vital for citizens of an increasingly “global village” (McLuhan, 1962). The instant availability of information and misinformation from all corners of the world requires that readers sort through the barrage of messages, analyzing them for truth, authenticity, and integrity. Critically literate citizens are less vulnerable to propaganda because they understand the role of values and beliefs, and consider the sources from which these messages emanate.

The National Curriculum admirably embodies such pedagogical principles.

I just found a rather interesting application of such skills from a US evangelical: Stephen Mattson, I Hope We Never Become a ‘Christian Nation’ Again.

You might also look at one of my older Anzac Day posts.

It is simply NOT TRUE by the way that the National History Curriculum ignores Gallipoli. In addition, commemoration of 25 April is so embedded in our culture and school life that it is inescapable. It is on the other hand perfectly proper to discuss the significance of that particular day and campaign, as we have been doing as a society for decades. Remember Seymour’s The One Day of the Year 1958?

Undoubtedly one of Australia’s favourite plays, The One Day of the Year explores the universal theme of father son conflict against the background of the beery haze and the heady, nostalgic sentimentality of Anzac Day. It is a play to make us question a standard institution – Anzac Day, the sacred cow among Australian annual celebrations – but it is the likeability and genuineness of the characters that give the play its memorable qualities: Alf, the nobody who becomes a somebody on this day of days; Mum, the anchor of the family; Hughie, their son, with all the uncertainties and rebelliousness of youth; and Wacka, the Anzac, with his simple, healing wisdom.

26 January also should be critically studied in any History curriculum that values our country but wishes to rise above propaganda.  Looks like one opportunity is coming up: “88″ A March That Changed A Nation is coming to ABC1 on Thursday January 30th. See also First Nations Telegraph and from the Museum of Victoria  Indigenous Protest, 1988 Australian Bicentenary. Even C Pyne, of course, does say:

There are two aspects to Australia’s history that are paramount. The first, of course, is our Indigenous history, because for thousands of years Indigenous Australians have lived on this continent. The second aspect of our history is our beginnings as a colony and, therefore, our Western civilisation, which is why we are the kind of country we are today.

It’s very important the curriculum is balanced in its approach to that. It’s very important the truth be told in our history. So, yes, the truth of the way we’ve treated Indigenous Australians should be told in our curriculum. But also the truth about the benefits of Western civilisation should be taught in our curriculum. And I think that there is some fair criticism that the curriculum is balanced one way rather than the other.

But we rather know what “balanced” means to the Holy Trinity we met yesterday. “Balanced” could turn out to be remarkably like the balance displayed in this area by the editor of Quadrant.

See also Christopher Pyne: curriculum must focus on Anzac Day and western history, Maralyn Parker, Pyne’s Review of National Curriculum will be a shambles and Education wars: what the curriculum actually says about Australian history.

  • history <== PDF of the National History Curriculum content.