05 July 2006

Brighter future for "traditional Australian history"

Today The Australian reports that Ms Bishop, the federal Education Minister, will be applying pressure to her state counterparts to strengthen the teaching of "traditional Australian history".

"Every school child should know when and why Captain James Cook sailed along the east coast of Australia, who was our first prime minister, why we were involved in two world wars and how federation came about" she says.

The Australian adds

She has commissioned two papers from leading historians that will map the current status of Australian history in schools. These will form the basis of a "gathering of minds" - a summit involving historians, teachers, commentators and community representatives.

I am favourably disposed towards these moves though I'll be interested to see the papers she's commissioned and who participates in the gathering of minds.

Mr Bob Carr, the former NSW Premier and sometime schoolteacher, supports her. He says "I support any initiative to have history rescued and taught as a distinct discipline and to relegate cultural studies". He would know that there is more to the discipline than simply listing facts and dates, though as a former history teacher I agree that students should be taught when and in which sequence certain events took place. It is the "how" and the "why" which have the capacity to stimulate thought and in some circumstances produce responses which challenge the interpretations which Ms Bishop and presumably Mr Howard's "pivotal facts and dates". I'll be watching developments with interest.

Update 6 July

Today's Australian prints a fuller version of Ms Bishop's address about history teaching.

No comments: