Barry Spurr is still trending

Yesterday Matilda published THE TRANSCRIPTS: The Partial Works Of Professor Barry Spurr. Poet, Racist, Misogynist.

New Matilda has been accused of quoting Professor Barry Spurr out of context. Here’s a partial transcript of his exchanges. You can decide for yourself.

The following is an edited transcript of some of the emails from Professor Barry Spurr which have beem leaked to New Matilda.

Professor Spurr is based at the University of Sydney, and served as a consultant on the Abbott Government’s review of the National School Curriculum.  

The emails were sent to friends and colleagues at the University of Sydney over a two year period, from September 2012 to late 2014.

Professor Spurr has maintained that the emails were a ‘whimsical linguistic game’, and that they were largely restricted to a bit of ‘oneupmanship’ between himself and an old friend.

New Matilda is releasing a partial transcript of the emails in order to allow readers to make up their own minds about the truth of Professor Spurr’s statements….

You may recall that I was somewhat kind about the “whimsical linguistic game” as I had myself, I thought, played analogous games in the past.

Having now read these transcripts I renounce that analogy. These are nothing like the games MJ and I played with Nuttall’s Dictionary of Quotations, nothing at all. They are an insight into a particular kind of conservative mind one finds in certain rather exotic settings. I have known some habitues of certain Oxford Street bars in the past whose discourse was not dissimilar, and I have met the odd bird or two in High Church circles ditto. I hasten to add that I am talking of a particular subgroup in both those (sometimes overlapping) subgroups, not necessarily even a majority. But they do exist and they have for years – and they are ugly.

Given my rather dim view of the Pyne Review I was fascinated by this one, which has not received as much attention as, for example, the appalling one about thoroughly meritorious Australian of the Year Adam Goode.

DATE: April 19, 2014
FROM: Barry Spurr
TO: Friend, Friend
Subject: Churchill in California

The Californian high school English curriculum has arrived (as Pyne wants me to compare ours with other countries). Another 300 pages of reading! Amongst the senior year texts for study are Churchill’s wartime speeches. Imagine setting that for the NSW HSC English. And whereas the local curriculuim has the phrase ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ on virtually every one of its 300 pages, the Californian curriculum does not ONCE mention native Americans and has only a very slight representation of African-American literature (which, unlike Abo literature, actually exists and has some distinguished productions).

[A fellow University academic] tells me that at her grand-daughter’s school – [in Sydney] – every day begins with an acknowledgement of the orignal [sic] owners of the land. No flag-raising or national anthem – just this, every day. On the school’s website, it proclaims that it prides itself on its ‘atheletics’ [sic] program.

If ever an education system needed a bomb under it, it’s ours.

Among the senior year texts in NSW 2009-14 we do have:

Non-fiction, Media or Multimedia: Speeches

  • Margaret Atwood – ‘Spotty Handed Villainess’, 1994
  • Paul Keating – ‘Funeral Service of the Unknown Australian Soldier’, 1993
  • Noel Pearson – ‘An Australian History for Us All’, 1996
  • Ang San Suu Kyi – ‘Keynote Address at the Beijing World Conference on Women’, 1995
  • Faith Bandler – ‘Faith, Hope and Reconciliation’, 1999
  • William Deane– ‘On the occasion of a Ecumenical Service for the Victims of the Canyoning Tragedy 1999
  • Anwar Sadat – ‘Statement to the Knesset’ 1977

The 2006-8 version included Socrates, Cicero, Abraham Lincoln, Emma Goldman, Martin Luther King, Denise Levertov, Vaclav Havel, and Mary McAleese alongside Attwood, Keating, and Noel Pearson — a crib on which (by Lloyd Cameron?) appears in Barry Spurr’s handy HSC guides.

But that is by the by. It does seem to me more than likely that much, if not all, in that “Churchill in California” email is unalloyed Spurr, not some persona of a grumpy old man. It also suggests, perhaps, a review process reaching for preset outcomes — “The Californian high school English curriculum has arrived (as Pyne wants me to compare ours with other countries).”

What do you think of this comment on the New Matilda thread?

Initially I had concerns about whether the disclosure of theses emails violated Spurrs privacy. However given his involvement in the review of the national education curriculum I believe discloure was warranted in the public interest. Spurr has been exposed as a person who holds racist, sexist and other views unacceptable to most Australians. However the time has now been reached where the focus should not ot on Spurr but on Minister Pyne. In particular Pyne needs to be asked whether he agrees that Spurrs views are unacceptable and if so whether he believes Spurr was an aapropriate person to be involved in the review. Finally Pyne should be asked whether he accepts that given Spurrs extreme views the review is hopelessly compromised and needs to be shredded. Any further disclosure by NM of Spurrs emails is likely to appear as persecution and lead to sympathy for him. Spurr is finished. Time to make Pyne accountable.

I partly agree, partly don’t – or would have expressed it differently. What do you think?

Note the built-in slant in this headline from The Australian:

Christopher Pyne backs school review despite Barry Spurr slurs

Labor says Professor Spurr’s contribution to a review of the national curriculum means it is now tainted.

But Mr Pyne accused someone of leaking the emails to sabotage the government’s school reforms.

“I don’t endorse the remarks that he made in those emails,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

“But it doesn’t mean that the review of the curriculum has in any way been traduced…”

Did he really say “traduced”? (PEDANT ALERT! Traduce: “Speak badly of or tell lies about (someone) so as to damage their reputation.”  Didn’t Mr Pyne just mean “affected” or maybe “devalued” or “damaged”?  A reviewer might be traduced, but not a review.)


Mind you, given the trend in our security laws lately this may not be so funny…

Again I refer you to my post Right-wing education critique is historically inaccurate and perpetuates myths (2007). Here it is in part:

…The real influence on the so-called New English was, and to a large extent still is, quite other than pomo. It really derives from an international conference on the teaching of English in 1967 at Dartmouth College. Why Johnny can’t write – teaching grammar and logic to college students by Heather MacDonald is a right-wing diatribe from the neocon mag Public Interest, but it at least gets a few things right historically:

Predictably, the corruption of writing pedagogy began in the sixties. In 1966, the Carnegie Endowment funded a conference of American and British writing teachers at Dartmouth College. The event was organized by the Modern Language Association and the National Conference of Teachers of English. The Dartmouth Conference was the Woodstock of the composition professions: It liberated teachers from the dull routine of teaching grammar and logic.

The Dartmouth Conference rejected what was called a “transmission model” of English in favor of a “growth model.” In a transmission mode, teachers pass along composition skills and literary knowledge. In a growth mode, according to Joseph Harris, a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, they focus on students’ “experience of language in all its forms” – including ungrammatical ones. A big problem with the transmission model of English, apparently, is that it implies that teachers actually know more than their students do. In the growth model, in contrast, the teacher is not an authority figure; rather, he is a supportive, nurturing friend, who works with, rather than challenges, what a student has to say. Dartmouth proponents claimed that improvement in students’ linguistic skills need not come through direct training in grammar and style but, rather, would flower incidentally as students experiment with personal and expressive forms of talk and writing.

That is parodic, as anyone who was around at the time knows, and while there were excesses, most teachers managed a paradigm shift without abandoning all that had gone before. My own approach and experience you can read for yourself, and I was far from atypical. I never stopped teaching grammar or spelling; I fancy, however, that I taught both better because I knew why I was teaching them, to whom I was teaching them, and what the advantages and disadvantages of such teaching were. I was not, as in my first year or two, blindly following a dodgy textbook and calling that a program….

Update 9.30 pm

The Sydney University professor suspended over racist emails has taken legal action against the website that published them.

The Federal Court has ordered online magazine New Matilda not to publish further details about Barry Spurr’s leaked emails, which referred to Prime Minister Tony Abbott as an “Abo-lover” and made references to “Mussies” and “Chinky-poos”….

Lawyers for Professor Spurr argued the publication of the emails breached the Privacy Act, and the court granted an injunction preventing publication of any more details before another court hearing on Thursday.

New Matilda editor Chris Graham said Professor Spurr’s legal team was also fighting to have the emails returned, the articles deleted and the source of the leak revealed.

“Hell will freeze over before the last bit happens,” Graham said.

“There’s no way I will ever reveal the source, regardless of how it proceeds. Obviously, ethically, I can’t do it.”

ABC News

Surely the damage has been done and cannot really be recalled?

Update 22 October 9.45pm

Meanwhile, the federal government’s National Curriculum Review found what it was set up to find, namely that students are not being subjected to sufficient quantities of Western civilisation and edifying Judaeo-Christian values – though the good news is that it’s nothing a good dose of Bible studies won’t fix. No sooner was the report released than Barry Spurr, Professor of Poetry at Sydney University and one of the experts appointed to advise the reviewers, Dr Kevin Donnelly and Professor Kenneth Wiltshire, about the English curriculum, gave us a remarkable demonstration of the refining and civilising effects of a lifetime’s immersion in poetry and religious literature. In emails published yesterday in New Matilda, Professor Spurr uses a variety of uncomplimentary epithets to describe Indigenous Australians, Muslims, Chinese people, persons of colour in general, and women. For good measure, he also derides ‘bogans’ and ‘fatsoes’, and singles out Desmond Tutu, Adam Goodes and Nelson Mandela for special attention. Professor Spurr has sought to characterise these emails as satirical and ‘whimsical’. Whether this is indeed the case, or whether he is merely exercising his right to be a bigot (though, to be fair, he does at least seem to be something of an equal opportunity bigot), I think it is fair to conclude, on the basis of the evidence to hand, that humour is not Professor Spurr’s strong suit. Certainly, his employer Sydney University has failed to see the joke and has now moved to suspend him. His comedy stylings did, however, bring to mind Gandhi’s response when asked what he thought about Western civilisation: ‘I think it would be a good idea.”

— Right on, James Ley: Sydney Review of Books.

23 October 2014

Specifically on the “Churchill in California” email and Spurr as consultant see Max Chalmers, Barry Spurr’s Curriculum Wage Revealed As Dept Stands By Pyne.

…Spurr was one of the two consultants tasked with examining the English curriculum, and the only one asked to examine the full syllabus, including the year 11 and 12 courses.

But in response to questions from Senator Wright, members of the Department downplayed his impact on the review.

Paul said the review had been “robust”…

A series of questions about the timing of Spurr’s hiring and which reviewer had suggested him were put on notice.

Wright said Pyne should reconsider the review’s English recommendations in light of the Spurr emails.

“Minister Pyne has been at pains to suggest that his curriculum review, with his hand-picked reviewers, has not been an ideological exercise – but he cannot substantiate this any longer,” Wright said.

“This rushed and premature curriculum review was Minister Pyne’s idea from start to finish. He cannot distance himself now.”…

For a much broader take on the way education is thought of these days in the USA – and here, including under Rudd/Gillard – see Why To Change The Way We Talk About Education.

…Since the passage of No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002, the nation’s schools have been dominated by a regime of standardized testing that started in two grade levels – 4th and 8th – but eventually rolled out to every level for the vast majority of school children. Then, the Obama administration took the policy obsession with testing to extremes. Race to the Top grants and other incentives encouraged school districts to test multiple times throughout the year, and waivers to help states avoid the consequences of NCLB demanded even more testing for the purpose of evaluating teachers, principals, and schools. The latest fad is to test four year olds for their “readiness” to attend kindergarten.

An increasingly loud backlash to the over-emphasis on testing has been growing and spreading among parents, teachers, and students for some time, resulting in mass public rallies, school walkouts, and lawsuits….

And finally on this post – 2.50 pm 23 October

From the last one:

For academics, the Spurr Affair is a reminder that all email on a university network – along with records of your browsing – is open to scrutiny by university managers. It is not truly private: if you want “real” privacy use a non-academic account. It is also a reminder that some managers will assert that the email is university rather than personal property, irrespective of whether you’re a pottymouth or a puritan.

Barry Spurr trending on Facebook

Currently the topic University of Sydney is absolutely dominated by the unfortunate Bazza. Honi Soit reports:

A rally titled ‘Sack Barry Spurr, Professor of Bigotry’ ended with an announcement that Professor of Poetry and Poetics Barry Spurr has been suspended from teaching and banned from campus.

Over the last two years Spurr used his university email account to send messages littered with racist and sexist slurs, New Matilda revealed yesterday.

“Professor Spurr is suspended, effective immediately, from teaching and engaging in any other University business and is precluded from attending any University campus, while the matter is investigated and dealt with in accordance with the terms of the University’s Enterprise Agreement,” Vice-Chancellor Spence wrote in an email to students.

“Racist, sexist or offensive language is not tolerated at the University of Sydney. The expectations for our staff and affiliates in respect of their professional and personal conduct are clearly set out in the University’s Code of Conduct.”…

USyd staff and students were shocked by revelations of Spurr’s private correspondence.

“Barry’s reputation is for conservatism, not the kind of shocking prejudice and racism there is in these emails”, Dr. Nicholas Riemer, a senior lecturer in the English Department, told Honi.

“It’s important that natural justice be observed in this case just as in any other, but the first priority has to act unequivocally against racism and sexism in the university.”

“I had a great deal of respect for [Spurr],” said Bryant Apolonio, a fifth-year law student, who majored in English. “I’m appalled and angry and what he’s done.”

When asked whether he thought Spurr’s recently discovered views informed the content of his teaching, Apolonio said: “Unsurprisingly every poet he taught was a white dude.”

“I guess you could dismiss that by saying that almost every Modernist poet was a white dude,” he said. “But then he co-ordinated Reading Poetry, every poet was still white and a dude.”

Chris Warren, a first-year arts student, called Spurr a “dinosaur” who lacked “the ability to relate to his fellow human beings.”…


Cartoon from Honi Soit

I participated in some of the Facebook and Twitter responses. For example:

  • Neil James Whitfield I really think he has tipped over the edge, Adam — if the reports are accurate. He was always a reactionary, but this? Weird! 16 October at 21:19 ·

     Adam Aitken He liked me enough to invite me to St Pauls College to have dinner with him and a few of his student friends. I must say I felt a bit ‘out of place’, and am not sure if that had something to do with my ethnicity and the way they talked about me, and talked to me. It’s all a long time ago. 16 October at 21:22 ·

  •  Neil James Whitfield Perhaps he hoped you would join his Latin Mass coven…

The last refers to Church under attack for ‘fifth-rate trendiness’ (2003):

…Dr Spurr bemoaned the way the Church has jettisoned much that was beautiful – the ancient Latin Mass, the Gregorian Chant, graceful architecture, dignified ceremonial – in exchange for “fifth-rate trendiness, social and political correctness, and infantile worship accompanied by badly-strummed guitars”.

The result, all in the name of capturing a younger generation of worshippers and revitalising the Church’s role in the modern world, has been the destruction of the liturgy, the collapse of religious orders worldwide and dwindling congregations. All these factors combined to produce a spiritual life “dumbed down to the level of the consumeristic bread-and-circuses junk culture of modernity,” he said.

He also managed to direct a barb at two favourite Spurrian targets, TV and sport: “Television is the principal transmitter of this gruel-like diet, vomiting endless sport and soft porn … to fill the vacuum where the pro-active imagination and heightened sensibility of the mutely-receptive, ever-sedentary viewers should be.”…

Barry Spurr has mounted a defence on the grounds the offending emails did not represent his real views but were a joking linguistic role-play adopting a kind of Alf Garnett persona and competing with his intended reader to see who could be most outrageous,

Believe it or not I am actually willing to believe that because I once did something analogous with a colleague, though certainly not racist, and not by email! See Still trawling through archives.

And finally, for the time being:

30 December 2001. Childish… but it was fun at the time.

For the past several years a colleague, Max J., and I have amused ourselves at work with a copy of Nuttall’s Dictionary of Quotations that happens to be in the staff room. A product of the early 20th century, Nuttall features hundreds (probably thousands) of quotations from the Greek and Latin, as well as other European languages–and English, of course. Max and I began “translating” some of them, combining in equal parts: some knowledge of Latin, French, German or Greek; sheer perversity in punning and word association; evil. Here are some samples, from a very limited “collected edition” I made several Christmas Holidays ago:

1. Vitae philosophia dux, virtutis indagatrix.
The dux lived for philosophy, but found virtue in doggy tricks.
2. Qui non proficit, deficit.
He who does not make a profit will be shat on.
3. Nec vulta destrue dicta tuo.
Your penis is like the neck of a dead vulture.
4. Sardonicus risus
An erection is a touch comical.
5. Formosa facies muta commendatio est.
In Taiwan, silence at stool is highly prized.
6. Nullum est sine nomine sexum.
Nothing is sinful if it is done in the name of sex.
7. Sumo petit livor.
The Japanese wrestler is looking for a flatmate.
8. Est naturae hominum novitatis avida.
It is natural to show passion towards novices.
9. Fama crescit eunda.
Celebrity makes the nether parts longer.
10. Justitia virtutem regina.
The queen has the power to moisten nipples.
11. Forma bonum fragila est.
An ant’s erection is very delicate.
12. Non obstante veredicto.
Do not oppose a real dickhead.

Well, it was funny at the time… 😉 A couple of my regular readers will be amused at least, if only to see in what aberrant ways teachers may relieve their boredom and/or stress.

Dear me!


In passing, I am delighted to find Nuttall is available online.

That Barry Spurr was one of the reviewers who helped give the Review of the National Curriculum the outcome Christopher Pyne desired is not surprising. I noted Dr Spurr’s form ages ago: The HSC English moanings of Miranda…

…and her mate Barry Spurr.

From the esoteric mind of a Latin Mass Catholic HSC crib writer and a right-wing Catholic newspaper columnist comes this “objective” analysis of the 2009–2012 NSW HSC prescribed texts

Go and read the list for yourselves, carefully. You will see that the real objection may be that some of the texts appear a touch “politically correct”, at least to people like Miranda Devine. If the collected columns of Miranda were set for study, I am sure she would not have complained in the least.

Meantime, HSC students from 2009 will still be able to read Shakespeare (in fact a very large number of students — those doing Advanced — have to) and Jane Austen and, for the first time I can remember, may even read Banjo Paterson. (In the past it was usually the more left-friendly Henry Lawson.) I see John Donne is back too; Professor Sam Goldberg (English Dept Sydney University mid 1960s) would be pleased! But so am I about that one…

There is not one complaint being made about this new list that was not made by the same people in precisely the same way seven years ago about the first set of prescriptions for 2001-2008 when that appeared in 2000. Experience has taught me that the reservations I had about some of it myself in 2000 were unjustified, except I still feel the course is too ambitious, but Miranda and Barry would find that very odd..

Barry managed to adapt his crib empire to it and has no doubt prospered, and will no doubt continue to do so, and despite all I have said I have made good use of Barry’s cribs myself.

Links in that post may not work any more.

See also my post Right-wing education critique is historically inaccurate and perpetuates myths (2007). This is a very substantial entry which is worth rereading, even if I do say so myself.

Big claim? Yes it is, and it is also true.

I have come to this conclusion after reading Shelley Gare’s often entertaining Triumph of the Airheads (Sydney, Park Street Press, 2006) — especially Chapter 7, “How to Educate a Goldfish”, which purports to explain the decline of education at all levels in Australia since the 1960s. In that respect it parallels Kevin Donnelly’s work.

That is not surprising as her “evidence” is largely anecdotal,  based on conversations with Kevin, of course, several advisers to George Bush, Luke Slattery, a Canadian called Catherine Runcie, cognitive scientist Max Coltheart (who in common with several in this list was not in Australia between 1969 and the 1980s and seems to have little idea what actually was being discussed here among teachers, especially English teachers), Barry Spurr, and others. The most reputable figure cited, in my opinion, is writer/critic Pierre Ryckmans (Simon Leys) whose work I do respect for its courage, clarity and subtlety. He is head and shoulders above the rest of that lot….

Minor coda: on Thomas’s old blog I found this comment from The Rabbit, whereby does hang a tale or two that I will leave hanging….

I tried reading Paradise Lost once. I think I was trying to impress The Evil Doctor Spurr (of study guide fame). Since then I’ve decided to read what I like.

Neil, Thomas is going to become a public school teacher — BA BEd (Syd). Muhahahahaha!

On the Catallaxy Open Forum is an article from the Oz that represents the second part of Barry Spurr’s defence – and this is worth pondering.

So a couple of Alinskyist wreckers (Graham/Bacon) have found an unscrupulous useful idiot in IT to help execute political enemies. Unless this is quickly upgraded to a police investigation, University of Sydney will become an outlaw badland where anyone can have email accounts hacked and confidences can’t be kept:

Professor Spurr said his email account had been illegitimately accessed and he suspected it was “payback” for his participation in the curriculum review.

“I allege that my account, my emails, have been illegitimately accessed,’’ he said. “Somebody has gone into my university email, which is password sensitive. I don’t give my password to anybody, ergo someone has got into it illegitimately.

“This is being investigated. This is payback for the curriculum review … they decided to go after the messenger.”

When asked whether he was certain the emails were not leaked by others in the chain of recipients, he said he was “absolutely certain.” He said most of the emails were sent to an old friend, with whom he has an ongoing mock exaggerated exchange of language. While New Matilda claimed emails had been forwarded to a dozen university recipients, Professor Spurr said some of the emails obtained by New Mat­ilda had never been forwarded.

“Some of the emails they quote were only sent to my friend,’’ he said. He was positive the friend had not leaked the mat­erial: “I am absolutely sure. He is my oldest friend and he has been assisting me in this matter.

“I don’t know how they got into my email account and trawled through it, but they did.’’

A spokeswoman for the university confirmed “the allegations of email hacking would be investigated and an investigation is under way”. That would form a separate investigation to the one into Professor Spurr’s conduct.

Still, what possessed the man to write things like these? Even in jest?

Line from Spurr’s emails:

“One day the Western world will wake up, when the Mussies and the chinky-poos have taken over”

“He [Australian prime minister Tony Abbott] should have put his foot down and said, ‘No more Abos’. But he’s as gutless and hypocritical of the rest of them”

“No Abos, Chinky-poos, Mussies, graffiti, piercings, jeans, tattoos. BCP [Book of Common Prayer] in all Anglican chruches [sic]; Latin Mass in all Roman ones. Not a woman to be seen in a sanctuary (church) anywhere. And no obese fatsoes.”

I find the jape far from jolly, I’m afraid. And how silly to email the stuff as well! Even the Daily Terror characterised the events in headline as Nutty professor’s bizarre racist rant… What makes me particularly uncomfortable is that some of the views expressed by Alf Garnett Barry are not a hair’s breadth from the known views of Professor of Poetry Barry – on the churches and women in worship in that last quote, for example.

Is it time to save the world again?

Or set you all on the right path? Or shirtfront you even?


Mister Bogan Slogan was in good form yesterday, wasn’t he? Mind you, the potential shirtfrontee in this case is even worse…

I took the trouble to download the Report on the National Curriculum, even if it is hardly worth reading since it merely rehearses for 300 or so pages every conservative cliche we have heard in the past twenty years or more. Furthermore we had heard the key findings from Christopher Pyne and Dr Donnelly even before the Report was written. To that extent the Abbott Government is adhering to its “no surprises” mantra.

But there are bits I agree with, such as the curriculum being overloaded and more attention being needed to those doing less well. Mind you, implementing Gonski properly would have helped provide conditions for doing better on the latter, wouldn’t it? OK, so I downloaded it as PDF and guess what? It won’t open. Is that a security thing? Has some spybot told them I am not the sort of person who should read it?

I’ll try again. (This time it worked. I will return to it when I have fully read it, if I can be bothered.)

Meanwhile, enjoy this morning’s flowers here in West Wollongong.


Illawarra Flame




Update on the pseudo-review of the National Curriculum

Jim Belshaw posted The Pyne curriculum review – results yesterday, finding it “a moderately useful discussion”. But western Sydney secondary teacher Thomas nailed much in a great comment which I venture to copy here:

Wish I was around for the January discussion/debate that you and your regulars had! Given that I actually have to comprehend, apply, teach, and review the curriculum on a day-to-day basis, I probably could have given a bit of insight!
Just a general comment about the whole process: The overwhelming opinion (albeit in my sphere only) is that there is just a want for stability. ‘Everyone’ got over the ‘issues’ of the curriculum in the draft phase, and then when it was released as the national curriculum, and then adopted for NSW (more on that next). We had 3 years or so to rewrite and rework whole faculties around this document. Now, as the final roll-out (so to speak) comes into effect, we are looking down the barrel of MORE changes.
PLEASE! For the love of everything, I wish the government could just let be for a few years and see what the issues are. There needs to be stability to get results and performance – surely even the non-schooling minded can see that!
As for the NSW adaptation, I feel as though this comment could have helped in your earlier discussion: In NSW, we don’t teach the national curriculum as it appears on the ACARA website. It has been adapted and modified (subtly in some areas, explicitly in others). Yes, there are still the cross-curriculum priorities HOWEVER the depth and manner in which you approach them is left up to the school. You could build your units of study around them OR you could touch on them in passing lessons. Indeed, some may not even be more than an activity in some situations.
If you look closely at the website (, you can see that the NSW BOS has actually integrated the cross-curriculum priorities for teachers and that by simply following the syllabus, you are fulfilling the requirements anyway.
Why do I take the time to mention all this? Because the review group/Pyne have picked ONE area to discredit this whole document which – I would argue – has been a GREAT thing for schools as is!
If this isn’t politicisation, then what else is it?
Yes, there is a right to review things – especially in terms of education. But to review something that hasn’t even been rolled out!? Something is fishy.

I may indeed post myself  later if I can stomach doing so. I say that because I have found the whole thing quite fatuous from the get-go. Aside from the fact that I am no longer a player, having retired some time ago, I could scream every time I hear The Pyne or Dr Death or various media hacks repeating as if it were divine revelation some dubious argument about, say, literacy teaching in terms that I really did think we had been rehashing again and again for probably at least half a century. Some of the arguments were around at the beginning of the 20th century when my grandfather commenced teaching. This has been from the start an epic self-indulgence by inveterate culture warriors, and that is all it has been.

Some of the matters raised by the review I dealt with as far back as 1998 at some length – and even then they were rather old hat. See Literacy and Why I reject Kevin Donnelly’s educational analysis.

Another of those teacher moments…

Today’s email delivered this from the University of Oxford:

I think you taught me English in 4th form at WHS in 1975; a long time has passed and all I remember about those lessons is Evelyn Waugh’s  ‘The Loved One’, a book which I didn’t much like at the time and still haven’t read properly to this day.  You did, however, encourage me to read books by serious authors and for that I’m very grateful; since then I’ve read many; Aldous Huxley’s are still my favourites.

I went on to do PhD in Maths, in Australia, take a post doc position in the Mathematical Institute  at the University of Oxford and then a lectureship there. I’m still at the University of Oxford.

How did I find your blog? It turned up after a Google search for Christopher Pyne; I regard Christopher Pyne with complete and utter contempt and I’m *very* angry about what he’s doing!!!

For example and for heaven’s sake, how can someone come out with “If an elderly person passes away with a HECS debt, they wouldn’t be able to say to the bank, ‘we’re not paying back our mortgage’”  and expect to be taken seriously! Dead people can’t talk and what has a mortgage got to do with HECS? Beyond belief.

I will forgive him about Evelyn Waugh: Year 10 may have been too soon for that, but  it being 1975 and my first year at Wollongong High I may have drawn the short straw in the textbook room!

So long ago!


Wollongong baths 1975 – linked to source

Jeff may be amused by this, as I was. The school in the video may be Figtree High; I know it isn’t Wollongong High.

See also on Wollongong High Time travel (2013) and mais où sont les neiges d’antan? (2012).

Breaking news

Looks like the view from my window is about to change! The elderly Coral Tree is for the chop, it seems. Chainsaws buzz as I write.


Did you see La Pyne on 7.30 last night?

“You’re trying to fluster me…” He didn’t look good. And from his mouth the Party LIne sounded even more hollow than every other time it has been trotted out in the last few days.

And that line? See Google:

Search Results

News for states are grown-up governments 

Premiers in uproar over federal budget  Ninemsn ‎- 15 hours ago The federal government will be out in force on Wednesday trying to … of Australia expect is grownup adult governments in the states, just as …

Tony Abbott unmoved by fury of premiers over cuts to states The Guardian‎ – 14 hours ago

We won’t horse-trade on co-payment: Labor‎ – 48 minutes ago

More news for states are grown-up governments

Hospitals and schools $80bn clawback in budget angers  www.theguardian.comNewsWorld newsAustralian politics  17 hours ago – “What the people of Australia expect is grownup, adult governments in the states just as they’ve now got a grownup government in Canberra; ….

Or, “Youse can all get stuffed!”

From my post 28 September 2013

What a patronising, nasty line it is – even more so out of La Pyne’s gob!

State premiers have reacted angrily to an $80 billion federal budget cut to schools and hospitals funding, accusing the Commonwealth of trying to “wedge” them into pushing for a hike to the Goods and Services Tax (GST)….

Labor’s Gonski school funding plan will be dumped in 2017-18, saving about $30 billion from the federal budget.

Hospital funding agreements, agreed with the states and territories under former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd, will also be wound back from 2017, saving a massive $50 billion over eight years.

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird says the Federal Government is trying to fix the budget bottom line by shifting the burden to the states – and the states will not cop it.

“When we got our house in order, we didn’t send the bill to Canberra,” he said.

“We got our house in order, we took the actions required and got our budget back onto a sustainable path.

“What we had last night from the Federal Government is a flick pass; it is cost shifting and it says to this state, ‘we have a problem, you work it out’.

“Our message back to Canberra is no, we’re in this together. You cannot outsource your problems to the state.”…

It remains to be seen what happens to all this in the Senate.

It could well be a double dissolution is not far off – despite this:

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Prime Minister Tony Abbott will not be brave enough to call a double dissolution election if the Senate refuses to pass the government’s budget bills because voters will desert him.

Mr Shorten said Mr Abbott would not pull the trigger to go to the polls because his budget was “bad for the country” and “ridiculously unpopular” with the Australian people.

On Higher Education policy I was rather taken by Jamie Miller this morning: Christopher Pyne ends generations of equitable university education.

So we have the brave new world of Christopher Pyne’s controversial higher education reforms. Release cap fees. Let the market decide. An Australian Harvard is within reach.

But if only we knew what will be the effects for the whole of Australia’s tertiary education system years down the track. Fortunately, we do. I teach history at a private university in the dysfunctional and falsely worshipped American system, which has provided much of the inspiration for the government’s plans. We can see the future in the American present…